This week I learned about the first "Steubenville divorce" of people I knew before they were married.
Now, early marriage can be controversial, insofar as many people think it unwise precisely because it often leads to divorce. Unfortunately, those figures count "early marriage" as anything from 14 to mid-twenties. There's a lot of growth in those ten years; those figures are pretty skewed. (Here is a long but insightful defense of early marriage).
Then, of course, among those who desire an early marriage, there are many for whom that's simply not how the cards play out. Whether your focus is waiting for the one God has prepared for you or choosing someone based on practical qualities that will make them a good spouse and parent, the fact remains that we can't always get what we want.
Of these who are not able to marry as early as they'd like, there come, of course, the unmarried woes (in women, at least, these often begin in the late twenties; I've no experience of men facing such, though I'd imagine they do): a loneliness mixed with despair at an ever-shrinking pool of applicants (if you will) and fear because of decreasing fertility.
None of these fears justify "settling" in the contemporary mind: tying the knot with someone you don't /really/ love, just to have the security of being married (unless you're open to things like adultery, divorce, etc). Of course, it is possible to have a good marriage in such a situation, but it requires a lot of self-discipline, and pushing forward just as strongly as if one were "in love with" one's spouse in the first place. (This is entirely doable, cf. many centuries of arranged marriages, but very foreign to the modern mind.)
I didn't know the couple in question well at all. I knew her, mostly by association, and I had wondered that she had matured and been tamed so entirely as to be entering into marriage with such fervor and purity as they displayed (as most all engaged couples at Steubenville so piously display). Trouble is, some people are inspired to virtue by the fact that everyone around them is striving for holiness out there, but others lose discipline because they no longer have to fight for their faith, and still others seem to be completely oblivious to the campus-wide peer pressure to be holy.
So I can't say I'm any more surprised by their divorce than I was by their marriage, especially since I keep hearing that the divorce rate from Steubenville is the same as the divorce rate for the rest of the country (though usually those divorces are blamed on the couple's loss of faith that resulted from the loss of community upon graduation). And, from what little I know about them, he should have little difficulty obtaining an annulment, and should probably be able to win custody of their child.
But just imagining this poor man, whom I could hardly pick out of a crowd, divorced with a daughter after just two crazy years of marriage... he can't possibly be older than 27. I have a hard enough time being single and post-college, and everyone I know has had a hard time making that transition from college to adulthood. How much more difficult will it be for him!
Please pray all those involved in this sticky situation. Yet another reason to be careful before settling for someone who may not be motivated to work as hard as you to keep the marriage going.
And another reason to remember that marriages don't make themselves. Keep in mind, my fellow singles, that life does not actually get easier upon making those vows. What struggles we have just change.
Sancte Ioseph, ora pro eis
Sancta Maria, ora pro eis
Sancta Familia, orate pro eis