Does the “Goldilocks” Theory for Marry Age Still Apply?

Remember the “Goldilocks” theory of marriage? According to an analysis from the Institute for Family Studies in 2015, tying the knot too early or too late can put your marriage at risk of divorce, but marrying at the Goldilocks age (your late 20s and early 30s) will increase your odds of a successful marriage. Just how well is that theory holding up today? When is the best age to marry now?

The Goldilocks Theory

The 2015 Goldilocks study was divided into five different age groups. The author who analyzed the data said those who married under the age of 20 had a risk of divorce around 38 percent. Those in the 20 to 24 age range showed a 27 percent divorce rate, while ages 25 to 29 had a divorce rate of 14 percent and ages 30 to 34 had a divorce rate of 10 percent. However, those waiting to marry until over the age of 35 had a 17 percent divorce rate. The study showed that before age 32, each additional year of age at marriage reduces the odds of divorce by 11 percent. But after 32, the trends of divorce increase by 5 percent each additional year.

The Marriage Age Is Climbing

Recent statistics indicate that newlyweds are still heeding the advice. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2018, the median age for women at their first marriage was 27.8 years. For men, it was slightly older at 29.8 years. With the trend toward older marriages, we can expect the media marriage age will move into the 30s for both men and women in the next few years.

To put this in perspective, in 1980, the median age of marriage for women was 22; by 1990, it had climbed to 23.9. Back in the 1950s, it was only 20.

Living Together Without the Wedding Keeps Rising

Getting married later in life doesn’t mean we have given up on committed relationships. People are choosing other ways outside marriage to show their devotion, with the numbers of non-married couples living together on the rise. According to the Pew Research Center, in 2016, around 18 million non-married Americans were cohabitating. That’s a 29 percent increase in fewer than 10 years since 2007.

Is There a Magic Number?

According to licensed clinical marriage and family therapist Weena Cullins, the best age for women in the U.S. to get married is 28; the best age for men to recite their vows is 32. Waiting until 28 means a bride has had time to develop confidence in her choice of a mate, explains Cullins. Most women have had opportunities to discover the qualities they desire in a life partner and learn from previous relationships.

Men who marry at age 32 have spent enough time living on their own and dating to develop socially and emotionally. Experience allows them to make an informed decision about entering married life. They also tend to have a sober perspective about having children and their role in co-parenting. These opportunities for women and men benefit the overall health of the relationship.

Find the Time that Works for You

Some relationship experts say experience is more important in a successful marriage than age. “There isn’t necessarily a best age to get married, but there definitely is a best time to get married,” says April Davis, founder of LUMA Luxury Matchmaking. “The best time to get married is when you feel comfortable and confident in your job and personal life. If you were to give yourself an exact age, you might find that you settle for whomever you’re with at that age.”

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