Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Food for thought

Having reached an age where a fair number of my friends and acquaintances are divorced, some for the second time, I've talked a lot with various women about marriage. . . . when it's best to marry, why some marriages don't last, how children affect marriage, etc.

The majority of my friends who married younger than 25 and are now divorced seem to be of the opinion that marrying before 25 is a mistake for most people. (I have had some people say marrying before 30.) Quite a few of my still-married friends believe this as well, and a quick look at statistics shows that, in fact, over 64% of divorces involve marriages in which the wife was under 25 when she married.

[I must say here that I have some friends who married young who have been together for a long time and are still quite happily married. I'm not sure if they are in the lucky 36%, or if there is something fundamentally different about their personalities or relationships that has made their marriages lasting and happy while others' marriages have failed. I think very few things are true for absolutely everyone.]

Having attended at least some college and earning over $50,000 are also correlated with a lower divorce rate. So if a woman wants to avoid divorce, it seems that her more prudent course is to spend her early 20s going to college and preparing for a career which will pay fairly well. Even if she doesn't care about preserving her marriage, she will need the higher earnings to raise her child(ren) alone, should her marriage end in divorce.

On the other hand, based on the latest research, it likely isn't prudent for a woman to wait until after age 30 to start having children. We now know that female fertility begins to decline around age 27, though it does not drop dramatically until after age 35.
Putting all this together, basically, in order to maximize her chances for a lasting marriage and children, a woman today needs to find the right man to marry and have at least one child sometime between ages 25 and 27. She also needs to stay focused on her career (or education), though, because she will just be starting out and building the foundation for her professional and financial future.

An alternative, I suppose is to have kids younger, with "the wrong guy," either someone you don't marry or someone whom you know you will likely eventually divorce, and hope you can either raise them on your own or find a man who doesn't mind marrying a single mom.

Or to do what I did: wait until after age 35 to marry and TTC and hope for the best.
Does anyone else see something wrong with this picture? Sure, we are equal to men. . . . we just have a much more limited opportunity to reproduce than they do.

I sometimes wonder if I would have lived my life differently had I had a clear perception of these facts at a younger age. I doubt it, though. No, I think even if I had read these articles and known that there was a POSSIBILITY that I would be unable to conceive after age 35, I still would have gone blithely on believing that I, of all people, would still be ultra-fertile into my late 30s. I never wanted to "settle" in marriage, and I never wanted to be a single mother. There is no chance I would have neglected education and career in exchange for motherhood.

Even though this information would not have changed MY choices, though, I wonder if there are women out there who would choose differently, if they knew the greater risk of infertility that comes with waiting until after 35 to TTC.


  1. This is a thought-provoking question. I guess if I knew I would be confronted with the challenges I face in order to conceive I may have started a wee-bit earlier but not much. I did start dating my husband at an early age but marriage and babies were NOT on our radar at all.
    I tend to agree that it is better to marry later, I advocate for 30ish with a few years on either side. Having a child because you are uber-fertile is NOT the right reason to have a baby.
    I would like to believe that with our medical advancements and healthier lifestyles more women can continue to have children later in life. I know this may not be the case but it lends itself to my eternal optimism. I know there is data to support the decline in fertility but there are more women who conceive well into their 30's than ever before.

    One of my co-workers who struggled with infertility for 3 years in her 20's told me "36 is the new 26 for having babies" and that she knows just as many woman who have babies in their mid-thirties as in mid-twenties". I need to hold onto hope that WE will conceive! And we get to stay married :)

  2. I don't know...I got married at 26 (but met him when I was 21), and was divorced at 31. I was 27 when my ex-husband and I started ttc, and while it's possible that I was already "too late," the RE I saw then didn't think age was a component of the problem.

    Now, I'm remarried, and at almost 36, have been ttc already for well over a year. Age could be the issue now, but it's just a guess. Either way, I don't wish that my ttc efforts from my previous marriage were successful. It would have created a very complicated and difficult life now, and I probably wouldn't even be married to my current husband, who I love dearly.

    I've been with the "wrong guy," and it was not an easy - or enjoyable - life. I think having children with the wrong person would be worse than not having them at all. The other issue is that you never know who will stay ultra-fertile into their late 30's and who won't...so it's a gamble either way.


  3. That's such a hard question. It's reflection and experience that give us this wisdom that we didn't have in our younger years. I think we do the best we can with where we are at in life and hope the rest works itself out. And to some extent it is easier to think that things "won't happen to me" until it does.

  4. Great post. I've given this a lot of thought as well. I think I'd rather be where I am today, with the man I've married struggling to get pregnant rather than to have "settled" earlier on. Although, if I knew then what I know now (we've been together since I was 30, but didn't start trying 'til I was 36) I'd have pushed to start trying much earlier in our relationship.

  5. I think this woman must read your blog. ;) You should get credit for this!



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