Is there biblical guidance on a minimum age for marriage?
Despite society’s whims, marriage is for life (Romans 7:2). Such a commitment, upholding such a high ideal (Ephesians 5:31, 32), demands maturity. The unselfishness that marriage requires (1 Corinthians 13:5) comes with maturity. When a couple marries too young, a crisis often comes later; one of the partners feels he or she would have chosen differently if given more experience.
An inordinate haste to be married may indicate personal problems that will produce lethal weaknesses in a marriage. This may include escaping an unpleasant family situation, filling an inordinate need for approval from the opposite gender, seeking financial independence, managing lust, fearing singleness, having unrealistic expectations for marriage, rebelling against parents, reacting to undisclosed abuse, or evading the consequences of immoral behavior.
Willingness to listen and evaluate the differing viewpoints of friends indicates maturity (Proverbs 12:15). A person who stubbornly insists he is sufficiently mature to marry, despite the disagreement of trustworthy friends, proves his immaturity. If a couple is willing to be patient, wait on the Lord, and demonstrate the wholesomeness of their relationship, their spirit may silence those who oppose them. Proverbs 3:5 & 6 is good counsel.
Rather than intervening when emotions are inflamed, parents will be more effective by forestalling such a crisis. During children’s early teen years, family discussions regarding choosing wholesome friends and marriage partners are invaluable.
Does a difference in age matter for believers considering marriage?
“The husband is the head of the wife” (Ephesians 5:23) and is therefore responsible to provide leadership in this relationship. The wife, while submitting to this leadership which God has established, is her husband’s “helpmate” (Genesis 2:18, JND) or “counterpart” (YLT). She is not subservient, for a wife and husband are equal partners, “heirs together of the grace of life” (1 Peter 3:7).
If the woman is several years older, her greater emotional maturity and wisdom, developed through the experiences of life, make it more difficult for the man to lead. If the man is considerably older, his leadership may become controlling, inconsistent with the relationship of a husband and his “counterpart.” Admittedly, the initial difference in maturity is not always as great as the difference in age, especially when the younger person is over 40.
When a relationship begins to develop between a couple whose ages differ considerably, they should give special attention to the way in which leadership develops between them. If the difference in age causes them to assume roles outside the boundaries God has designed (the man as leader, the woman as counterpart), the couple is wise to quickly discontinue their relationship. Violating God’s design produces a troubled relationship.
It’s fair to consider that later a sizeable age difference may cause the younger spouse premature aging, bereavement, and loneliness.
What should a married couple do if their parents interfere in their marriage?
“Honor thy father and thy mother” applies lifelong. Overbearing parents should be treated with respect and love. Adult children honor their parents, not by obeying them, but by upholding what they value.
If patience and prayer don’t resolve the issue, a first response could be a gentle, perhaps humorous, reminder by the wife or the husband, depending on whose parent is overbearing. If that makes no difference, a kind, but more direct plea could follow. If this is ineffective a different course is indicated. By continuing to cultivate a relationship of mutual respect between themselves and the overbearing parents, the younger couple will be better able to handle the problem effectively.
Marriage forms a new relationship. “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife” (Genesis 2:24). The wife leaves her father’s headship for a new head. The man leaves his parents to establish a new home and headship. The husband is responsible for this new marriage relationship. He is responsible to lead in protecting this relationship and, therefore, in dealing with overbearing parents. Both partners should be open and caring in discussing the problem between themselves and should make every effort to extend understanding to the offending parents. This cannot be allowed to come between the husband and wife and they must remain united in arriving at a way to confront the issue. If his parents are the problem, it’s appropriate for him to speak to them both by himself. In this way, he protects his wife and confines the problem to the ones directly involved. When he expresses the problem and the proposed solution to his parents, he indicates that “we have this concern” (not “she has…”), and “we are asking you to…” (not “she wants you to…”). If the wife’s parents are the problem, the husband should speak with them in the same spirit, but should take his wife with him, so the parents know it is a united stance. While being direct and firm, it’s important to affirm the intention of keeping an enjoyable and loving relationship with these parents.
Postponing dealing with the problem only makes its impact worse and makes dealing with it more difficult.