Marriage is a big deal, everyone knows that. But millennials are having a pretty drastic effect on marriage as a whole. Two of the biggest changes that have taken place are that we do it later and more successfully than our predecessors. Based on what I have read and seen first-hand, I think it is fairly obvious that these changes are due to shift in societal pressures. Here are 5 reasons that millennials are shaking up the concept of marriage.
- Reduced Pressure To Get Married: There was a time, your grandparents will tell you, when it was frowned upon for you to be single in your late twenties. People would start to assume that something is wrong with you or that you were, god forbid, a (*old person whisper for fake political correctness*) homosexual. You got married because you were supposed to, it was as simple as that. You found the best available option when your time ran out and did your best to make it work. This became an issue in the 80s and 90s when those responsible baby boomers decided that they didn’t like being ostracized for getting divorce. All of that has now faded away. Some of the older generation will let out a sigh of relief when you finally get engaged at 29, but for the most part there isn’t as much pressure to get it done anymore. Getting rid of the pressure to get married reduces the amount of times someone marries the “wrong” person or get married before they are ready.
- Stigma For Single Women: It is undeniable that women always got it worse than men did on this front. You couldn’t be a single woman in the 40s or 50s unless you were a widow. You needed a big, strong man to save your poor existence (*rolls eyes*). Again, society started to wise up and realize that women can in fact survive without a man. Women don’t need to get hitched and stay at home. They’re getting advanced degrees and careers and letting their love life fall in place as it may. But again, it is amazing how much more you can enjoy life when your grandma or aunt isn’t nagging you about finding a nice man. Nice is weak, now you get to fulfill your love life in whatever way you choose.
- Children Of Divorce: If you’re a millennial then you or your SO or your best friend is probably a child of divorce. Our parents pushed the divorce rate to its limits which had a direct impact on all of us. Maybe you find it harder to trust someone, so it takes longer to open up or commit. Maybe you’re afraid of them leaving, so you always leave first. Maybe you’re afraid of losing someone, so you give up everything and latch on. Everyone is impacted in a different way when dealing with divorce so a lot of it depended on when/how your parents got divorced and where you were at in life. The plus side is that we learned a lesson from them, for better or worse. The divorce rate among young couples is the lowest that it has been in a very long time. I think this may be due to younger people waiting to find a suitable mate and not wanting to repeat their parents’ mistake.
- Cohabitation: Another effect related to the divorce rate of our parents, mixed with a shift in spiritual/philosophical beliefs, is that people are opting to just not get married. A lot of millennials subscribe to a more general spirituality vs a specific religion, which erases the religious pressure to get married. And I get it. How does a big ceremony in an extravagant church make you any more married than committing to your partner completely and submitting a few legal papers? I get the logic there. And some of us saw how ugly divorce can get so we figure we’ll just find someone to love and stay with them. If we split up it will be heart-breaking but maybe it will save us some nasty divorce proceedings. Also, in many states only men and women can get married but we’re well aware that not all millennial couples are straight old fashioned couples. It is also worth noting that couples are living together for a long time now, and the ones who do choose to eventually get married have a significantly reduced divorce rate.
- Shift In Life Timeline: This one isn’t talked about much but I find it the most interesting. It is a pretty safe bet that we will live much longer than our grandparents. I’m not talking about just a year or two. We also don’t have to grow up as quickly as they did. Average marriage age increased about 7 years for both men and women. For many of our grandparents, getting married between 19 and 22 was nothing because the husband might have been going to college but the wife was not going to. If the husband wasn’t, then he was either going to war or starting a career. Houses cost practically nothing, it seems like everyone was poor-ish, and there was no binge watching Netflix. You just grew up sooner, maybe sociologists or anthropologists can explain it better, I can’t. But I believe it to be true. Now, it is taking 4-7 years to get your degree or advanced degrees and it is common for both husband and wife to have the same education. So already we’re backed up by a few years. Then, thanks to crippling student loan debt, many of us have to move back home which doesn’t really look good on the old Tinder profile. We travel, we start careers, we switch jobs, we try to figure out life for a little bit. It’s pretty easy to see how the average marriage age has shifted.
There are a lot of factors here that I over-simplified for the sake of brevity. Marriage and the psychology of young adults are very complicated topics. But, much like everything else we get our hands on, millennials have changed marriage to better suit their needs and lifestyles. Full disclosure: I got married at 24, I know I’m sort of the exception to the rule here. But I fully appreciate the impact our generation is having on marriage as a whole. I also had been dating my wife for about 6 years and knew her since kindergarten, so…kinda slow played it.