The pros, cons of marrying young

Mduduzi Tlou, 18, and his lover, 16, were suspended from school in Tsakane, on the East Rand, for getting engaged.
Mduduzi Tlou, 18, and his lover, 16, were suspended from school in Tsakane, on the East Rand, for getting engaged.
Image: Veli Nhlapo

The classic saying goes that age is nothing but a number, but is it really? When it comes to getting married, does that number suddenly matter?

In South Africa, minors can get married provided that their parents give consent, but the truth is that not a lot of parents are queuing up to do that.

In September, Sowetan broke a story of two high school pupils who got engaged at school, only for the school management to break off their engagement and suspended the two learners.

Eighteen-year-old Mduduzi Tlou and his 16-year-old girlfriend had gotten engaged after eight months of dating and both expressed how they wanted to get married in two years' time.

The school, however, was not happy, and after suspending them, Sowetan spoke to Gauteng education spokesman Steve Mabona, who said that the pupils acted indecently by kissing and touching in front of their schoolmates, and that such behaviour would not be tolerated.

Surprisingly, the parents of both the pupils were very supportive of the union, with Tlou's grandfather Jacob Xaba expressing that he was even willing to give his grandson his entire savings for lobola.

ABSENCE MAKES THE HEART GROW FONDER

Actress Brenda Mhlongo has been vocal in the media about still being madly in love with her husband, Edmund Mhlongo, after 20 years of marriage. This despite having married him when she was only 18 years old.

Speaking to TshisaLive, the Generations: The Legacy actress said the secret to making it work through decades was a healthy dose of space between them, as she says the travelling they both did turned out to be both an advantage and disadvantage.

She was quoted as saying: "Each time we saw each other, it felt like our honeymoon. I think that contributed to keeping the fire burning between us.

"Because I missed my family so much, every time I saw them I appreciated them even more. So the distance kept the marriage going."

Mhlongo also expressed that her husband was fully supportive of her craft as an actress and allowed her to spread her wings, even being her trainer when it came to perfecting her acting skills.

When it comes to young people getting married, the masses seem to be polarised. Some people believe that one can only handle the responsibility of marriage in their late 20s, while some people believe that the early you get married, the better.

Clinical psychologist Mampho Mofokeng says being married at a young age carries both advantages and disadvantages.

"Many experts agree that an adult's brain fully matures at around the age of 21. This is the reason why most states will only allow a person to enter into a lawful contract at that age; because you are a fully fledged adult and are cognisant of the decisions you make.

"Without even getting technical, think about it: we are not the same people we were today when we were 16. Some of the things we deemed important are seen as trivial now.

"Also, some of the people we thought were 'the one' turned out to be nothing but puppy love in our journeys of self-discovery. So it can be a bit of a challenge to find yourself in an institution like marriage, which, ideally should be till death do us part, and at that young age, most people are not really thinking that far.

"Having said that, there is something about growing with a person that brings about an incredible bond in the sense that all the life experiences, mistakes and momentous stages were shared with that one person that you are married to, and have been from a young age.

"Will it be difficult? Absolutely, especially because the young couple may have no point of reference when it comes to how to handle and navigate a lifelong commitment like marriage. But if a young couple can look at it with a sense of adventure and a journey together, then they may just have hope of survival," she says.

Mofokeng adds that if a young couple chooses to take this big step towards a holy matrimony, they would need a lot of help along the way. "A young couple will need a strong support system, which can be found through close family ties or even counselling."

She says that a willingness to learn and be patient with each other will also be vital.

"It will be very important to keep the lines of communication open, and to be honest about your feelings. If you feel that you are struggling with certain aspects of marriage, like the massive responsibility that comes with parenthood for example, it would be immensely helpful to not only communicate with your partner about it, but also be willing to both seek help professionally."

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