By Jacqueline J. Holness
By the time you read this column I will be 40 years old (September 7) and married for the first time (August 10). I was speaking with a friend, a minister, about my demographic changes a few months ago. He asked if I thought that I was getting married for the first time at a later age because of me or because of the lack of men to date. After contemplating my storied dating history for a few seconds, I realized that I am probably the reason it took longer for God to answer this particular prayer in my life.
A Growing Trend
However, my personal story aside, according to “Knot Yet: The Benefits and Costs of Delayed Marriage in America,” the latest report from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, and the RELATE Institute, I am part of a new cultural trend. According to the report, the average age of first marriages is now 27 for women and 29 for men, higher than ever in America.
As I approached this milestone age and planned my wedding at the same time, I wondered how the church is responding to this cultural shift. One of my best friends (who was married in 2010) joked with me that she and her fiancé were the oldest couple in their church’s premarital counseling classes. At a bridal show I attended as I planned my wedding, a limousine vendor asked if I was inquiring for a teenage child going to the prom instead of realizing I was just an older bride-to-be! Although it would have been easy to be offended in either case, getting married at a later age for the first time does present some unique circumstances that marriage ministries need to consider as they serve their congregations. Here are a few of the unique questions I have pondered as I have approached this double milestone in my life.
How does submission and loving your wife as Christ loved the church work for an older couple? For women and men who have lived independently for as long as 20 years, both concepts are particularly hard to grasp. I imagine it is much easier for younger first-time married couples to be malleable in these areas.
Questions to Consider
How do older couples merge their finances? When you have lived as a single person for a lengthy period of time, you develop a financial personality. For older couples who have acquired individual assets and liabilities in their single years, it takes more faith and patience to merge your finances with another’s.
How do older couples approach having children? For many of my friends who were married for the first time as older adults, infertility is an unfortunate issue. How do churches minister to couples that desperately want to have kids but whose advanced age may prevent them from having biological children? Adoption presents another set of challenges.
How does an older first-time married person relate to the child or children of a spouse who was previously married? Some of my friends who have recently married for the first time are married to people who already have children. It must be difficult to go from being single to being a stepparent.
How do older couples approach forsaking all others? For older couples, leaving mother and father is not as much of an issue as leaving their friends. Many older singles have developed an extensive network of friends and this may present some difficulties in the new relationship.
How do older couples leave their dating histories in the past? If you’re single past a certain age, you may have dated several people. How does this affect marriage?
How do older couples deal with aging parents? If a couple chooses to get married at a later age, their parents have aged as well. For younger married couples, dealing with aging parents may not be an issue for decades; however, that is likely not the case for older couples.
In Genesis we are told it is not good for a man to be alone; but when you have been alone for a long time, marriage must be considered through the prism of aging. And as the average age for first-time married people continues to increase, the church can be a powerful resource to address this cultural shift.
Jacqueline J. Holness, a member of Central Christian Church in Atlanta, Georgia, is a correspondent for Courthouse News Service,
an online, national news service for attorneys. Contact Jacqueline at afterthealtarcall.com.