Once upon a time, unmarried 29-year-old women were cast off as spinsters. Today, any woman married younger than 30 might as well be a child-bride. The average American is now waiting for their first marriage until they reach their early 30s, a massive jump up from 1960, when the median marriage age was 20 for women and 23 for men. But even as prevailing attitudes about marriage have changed dramatically, there are plenty of people who still believe in marrying young — and will yell at you about it on TikTok.
Just ask Denise Lee, a divorced entrepreneur who recently posted a TikTok explaining that if she could redo her 20s and 30s, she wouldn’t have gotten married when she did. “I met my husband when I was 24 and we got married when I was 29,” she explained. “At the time, I thought that this was, like, the ideal situation, the perfect age to get married. But what I realized was in the four years that we were married, I grew so much as a person. I graduated from business school, started my own business. I just became such a different person that I didn’t feel like he was the best fit for me anymore, and I don’t think I could have realized that at 29 when I said yes.”
Not that it’s any of my business, but I think Lee makes a pretty solid point. Nevertheless, a swarm of disapproving Karen-types swept into her comment section to call her out for being “selfish.” “Marriage is meant to be a commitment. Not a pair of shoes you outgrow,” one person wrote. “Both people change over the course of the relationship but you adjust to each other and keep moving forward. That’s how you build love.”
Some of the reactions were less feisty but still laden with judgment. “My wife and I went to high school together, dated at 24, married at 30, kids at 32. Turning 40 next year,” someone wrote. “I think growing together is key.”
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In her reel, Lee said that looking back, she would have allowed herself “to have so much more growth” before making a decision as big as marriage. “It’s really nothing against that partner specifically, but it was more about the direction that I wanted my life to take. My interests by 35 were unrecognizable to my younger self, and I don’t think it would have been fair of me to take him on this journey if I didn’t think that he was the right partner for the version of me that was to come.”
Another commenter chimed in with their hot take: “We are constantly growing and evolving. The person you are at 40 might not be the person you are at 50. Being able to love a person at every version or stage in your life AND their life is what will determine if a marriage will stand the test of time.”
Still, there were a few commenters who supported Lee’s viewpoint. “Yes. I met him at 21, married at 24 and divorced at 29. Different person completely,” one commenter commiserated.
“Unpopular opinion: marriage is an incentivized social institution,” another wrote. “A lot of people want to marry for the benefits that come with being legally recognized as spouses. Without the institution, relationships are simply a commitment, and it is OK for commitments to change.”
And finally, someone said what we were all thinking: “I can’t believe a simple video like this is sparking so much outrage from women and men. The projection, assumptions and anger because someone recognized they were a completely different person with different interests, so a relationship wasn’t working anymore.”
Traditional marriages and relationship timelines may be falling by the wayside, but through it all, one thing remains the same: the chorus of judgy internet commentators is as loud as ever.