In England and Wales a young couple can marry from the age of 18, or at the ages of 16 or 17 only with parental consent. Quite shocking that they can tie the knot, but have to toast the marriage with a glass of sparkling grape juice because the drinking age is 18 in the UK.
Granted, we rarely witness modern teenagers deciding to officially wed on a regular basis. The fact remains, however, that borderline adolescents still do tie the knot around the world – and what we are probably less conscious of is that some of these young individuals have already been divorced. In the family law blogosphere there is plenty written about so-called “silver splitters”, and the social phenomenon of those in their middle-aged years parting ways has practically become as humdrum as gloomy weather in London, but wait a minute: what is going on with the young adults?
It isn’t just about the relative infrequency of separation among this age group. There is an intuitive sociological explanation for why slightly older couples would undergo marital breakdowns more routinely, from statistical probabilities to cultural norms. But what about the young and newly hitched? A freshly cut fruit is not supposed to lose its juices that fast. A newly bloomed flower is simply not meant to wilt so soon. Not yet, at least.
As a young person, the first thing that comes to mind is indulgent ambition. Not necessarily immature impulsiveness or carefree childishness – it is, more accurately, a particularly eager optimism, an energetic sense of purpose, an unwavering kind of tenacity. And yes, these are powerful attributes that should be embraced. Cut us some slack for our bright-eyed tendencies: after nearly 2 decades of already overwhelming existence, we are far from discouraged. This part of the population by its very nature always feels ready to start a new project or commence a new endeavor, yet the reality is most people this age have naturally have not yet reached enough serious milestones to know themselves as well as they can – not endured enough suffering, not fathomed enough failure, not felt enough disillusionment – to master the elusive art of cautiousness. That precise amount of prudence. That healthy level of risk aversion. That appropriate degree of circumspection.
For others they marry, not through recklessness, but with a view to feeling loved where they are not, creating a family where they have none, and in desperation to make a “perfect” life, often choose one of the first available partners, rather than waiting for the best available.Of course, not all those who marry young are doomed to divorce. Many live happily ever after with their teenage sweetheart – but many don’t
As unsuspecting victims of the fairytale promise, it understandably hits the hardest when divorce is inevitable. Arguably the immediate aftermath might be more emotionally charged. But I can see how young divorcees emerge stronger than ever once lessons of autonomy and introspection are learned. And besides, in an era of generational gaps, for purposes of universal solidarity it is important to be reminded once in a while of our shared human susceptibilities, whether we are silver splitters or spring chickens.