- Are Millennials Better at Marriage Than Their Parents?
- Divorce rates are low – why?
- Two factors of low divorce rates
- Other ways in which millennials change marriage
- Why millennials are truly better at marriage
- Put a Ring on It? Millennial Couples Are in No Hurry
- Why More Millennials Are Choosing to Not Get Married
- What We Can Learn From the Dramatic Dip in Divorce Among Millennials
- Community Can Offer a Cure to Our Technology Addictions
- How Gen Z Is Solving America's Crisis of Isolation
- Generation Z Isn't Defined by Technology
- Is Gen Z Nostalgic About Nostalgia?
- Gen Z'ers Are More Cautious Online Than Previous Generations
- Why Generation Z Should Give Religion a Second Chance
- How Gen Z'ers Are Remaking Religion to Suit Their Values
- Gen Z Is the Least Religious Generation. Here's Why That Could Be a Good Thing
- How Millennials Are Redefining Marriage
- Millennials place personal needs and values first
- Millennials question the institution of marriage
- Millennials have a strong sense of identity
Are Millennials Better at Marriage Than Their Parents?
Millennials can pride themselves on many different things, from technological know-how that far surpasses that of their elders to having new, innovative job opportunities that didn't exist decades ago. Now it seems millennials are winning again in a totally new and all-important category: marriage.
According to a recent analysis from the University of Maryland, significantly fewer millennials are getting divorced than their parents and grandparents.
In fact, the overall divorce rate in the United States has gone down a whopping 18 percent between the years 2008 and 2016 alone.
Does this mean that marriage in the 21st century is more stable than it was in the 19th and 20th centuries, or does it mean that millennials today are better equipped to handle the challenges and obstacles brought on by the union of two human beings?
Relationship experts believe that these statistics are the result of the fact that couples are waiting until they're well established in their life and career to get married.
This gives millennials an advantage in terms of stress-their levels are generally lower than the couples in generations before them, explains Michele Moore, licensed professional counselor, certified coach, and relationship expert at Marriage Mojo.
“This is not to say that they are less stressed overall, but that they don't face the same conflicts or pressure in the areas that tend to pull couples apart).” This delay of matrimony has a “domino effect” in numerous ways, according to Moore.
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One has to do with finances. “By waiting to marry, millennials are typically more educated and financially stable,” she says. By removing the financial burden generations past experienced, millennials are more ly to remain in happy marriages. “Of course, this stability is sometimes offset by a large amount of debt (e.g., student loans, vehicle loans, personal credit cards, etc.
) so it's certainly not true in all cases,” Moore adds. Financial stability also means that millennial couples are more ready to face financial challenges brought on by children.
“Disagreements about parenting issues and discipline are probably the second or third reason couples divorce, so this readiness also gives them a boost that couples in other generations do not have,” adds Moore.
Waiting to get married also means getting married at a later age than generations past-and usually with age comes more wisdom. “Today the average male is 33 and the average woman is 31 compare to 23.2 and 20.8 in the 1970s, 24.7 and 22 in the 1980s, 26.
5 and 24.5 in the 1990s and 27 and 21 in the early 2000s,” says relationship coach Matt Morgan.
This not only gives individuals time to get to know themselves and what they're looking for in a mate, but also allows them more time to enhance their education.
RELATED: 6 COMMANDMENTS OF A SUCCESSFUL MARRIAGE
Another important factor that supports why millennials might be better at marriage is that they're more ly to live together before saying “I do.
” “What once was largely taboo in religious environments is now the norm for couples in the US. Couples take the time to 'try before they buy,'” says Morgan.
“Cohabitation and education, creates not just a lowering divorce rate, but a lower marriage rate as well.”
It's important to note, however that millennials are also faced with challenges that generations before them were not, such as social media and technology.
“As the first generation of couples to face issues regarding electronic addiction, it's important to note that it can cause couples to 'connect' to devices and 'disconnect' from each other,” says Moore.
That's why her main tip for millennials is actually the same as it is for couples in other generations and that is to learn to communicate and argue well so that they can negotiate any topic.
“If they can learn to do this, they can resolve their own set of unique challenges, including, in many cases, outside pressure from family or peers, disagreements about whose career comes first, and where to live.”
Divorce rates are low – why?
It seems that millennials are setting a record in the lowest divorce rates since the 1960s.
After decades of being bombarded with the eerie depiction of destruction of marriage, just hearing this warms the heart.
Marriage is an institution residing in the very foundations of our society, so saving it brings consolation.
However, in the case of millennials, it’s hard to argue that the reason behind this fact is in their return to the traditional family values.
There are alternative explanations, some more and some less likable.
One thing is for sure – millennials are changing the face of marriage, and they’re molding it to fit their other values and tendencies.
Two factors of low divorce rates
The first important factor is another statistic, and that is that millennials are waiting much longer to get married.
A typical millennial couple also usually lives together before they decide to tie the knot.
These changes in lifestyle psychologically ensure that marriage is a much more thought-through decision made by two responsible adults.
The not-so-likable factor in decreasing divorce rates revolves around finances and economical issues.
Millennials are often burdened with different loans (especially the dreaded student debt) and mortgages. Millennials have less accumulated wealth than their parents did, and they less often own their own houses or apartments.
It is possible that these circumstances cause significant fear of getting a divorce, given its financial burden for the divorcee.
Other ways in which millennials change marriage
Millennials still meet their future spouses mostly through their friends; however, more and more millennials also meet online.
Some researchers believe that this online dating scene also contributes to Generation Y being reluctant to get married. Being flooded with the awareness of so many available singles out there seems to postpone the marital commitment.
Another praise-worthy change in how a modern marriage looks touches upon many sensitive social issues.
Millennials are more open to interracial marriages, to same sex marriages, and to interfaith marriages, compared to any prior generation. In fact, many of such marriages were even legally forbidden until recently.
Another significant change is that millennials are waiting much longer to have children compared to their parents.
They also have fewer kids.
These facts can’t, of course, be viewed as separate from those we discussed before – being burdened financially does not contribute to one’s desire to have children – and have many of them.
Why millennials are truly better at marriage
In short, marriage has changed – a lot – between the Baby Boomers and Generation X, and the Millennials.
It can be expected to keep changing. Is it for better? It might be.
The reasons for what seem to be stronger and more steady marriages are intertwined, and the psychological ones are inseparable from more material ones. But, here’s how millennials are possibly better at marriage than their parents.
Maturity – be it their focus on careers, their later financial establishment, or whatever reason it might be, Millennials are getting into the marital union older, thus, much more nature. Being psychologically mature has a positive effect on a relationship that will probably result in a more enduring bond.
Tolerance – in their openness to differences between people, and in the declining prejudice among millennials, they have gained a trait that is much needed in marital life – tolerance.
Equality – one thing that has changed significantly over the last few decades is the equality among people regardless of their gender, sexual orientation, race or religion. All of this contributes to a much more harmonious and even relationship of the married couple, resulting in a more stable and healthier union.
Family – by waiting longer to have children, millennials are ensuring that they will be more mature and responsible as parents.
Parenthood isn’t any longer inseparably associated with marriage.
But, when there are children, they will probably have more settled and responsible mom and dad that have thought having the child in the first place very well through.
The right reasons – although the financial stresses we mentioned cast a shadow onto this final reason, it’s also a fact that millennials who do decide to get hitched don’t do it for lack of freedom, opportunities as individuals, or for the sake of a custom and tradition – they do it for love!
Want to have a happier, healthier marriage?
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Put a Ring on It? Millennial Couples Are in No Hurry
Continue reading the main storyImageCredit…Errol F. Richardson
The millennial generation’s breezy approach to sexual intimacy helped give rise to apps Tinder and made phrases “hooking up” and “friends with benefits” part of the lexicon.
But when it comes to serious lifelong relationships, new research suggests, millennials proceed with caution.
Helen Fisher, an anthropologist who studies romance and a consultant to the dating site Match.com, has come up with the phrase “fast sex, slow love” to describe the juxtaposition of casual sexual liaisons and long-simmering committed relationships.
Young adults are not only marrying and having children later in life than previous generations, but taking more time to get to know each other before they tie the knot. Indeed, some spend the better part of a decade as friends or romantic partners before marrying, according to new research by eHarmony, another online dating site.
The eHarmony report on relationships found that American couples aged 25 to 34 knew each other for an average of six and a half years before marrying, compared with an average of five years for all other age groups.
The report was online interviews with 2,084 adults who were either married or in long-term relationships, and was conducted by Harris Interactive.
The sample was demographically representative of the United States for age, gender and geographic region, though it was not nationally representative for other factors income, so its findings are limited.
But experts said the results accurately reflect the consistent trend toward later marriages documented by national census figures.
Julianne Simson, 24, and her boyfriend, Ian Donnelly, 25, are typical. They have been dating since they were in high school and have lived together in New York City since graduating from college, but are in no rush to get married.
Ms. Simson said she feels “too young” to be married. “I’m still figuring out so many things,” she said. “I’ll get married when my life is more in order.”
She has a long to-do list to get through before then, starting with the couple paying down student loans and gaining more financial security. She’d to travel and explore different careers, and is considering law school.
“Since marriage is a partnership, I’d to know who I am and what I’m able to offer financially and how stable I am, before I’m committed legally to someone,” Ms. Simson said. “My mom says I’m removing all the romance from the equation, but I know there’s more to marriage than just love. If it’s just love, I’m not sure it would work.”
Sociologists, psychologists and other experts who study relationships say that this practical no-nonsense attitude toward marriage has become more the norm as women have piled into the work force in recent decades. During that time, the median age of marriage has risen to 29.5 for men and 27.4 for women in 2017, up from 23 for men and 20.8 for women in 1970.
Both men and women now tend to want to advance their careers before settling down. Many are carrying student debt and worry about the high cost of housing.
They often say they would to be married before starting a family, but some express ambivalence about having children. Most important, experts say, they want a strong foundation for marriage so they can get it right — and avoid divorce.
“People are not postponing marriage because they care about marriage less, but because they care about marriage more,” said Benjamin Karney, a professor of social psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Andrew Cherlin, a sociologist at Johns Hopkins, calls these “capstone marriages.” “The capstone is the last brick you put in place to build an arch,” Dr. Cherlin said. “Marriage used to be the first step into adulthood. Now it is often the last.
“For many couples, marriage is something you do when you have the whole rest of your personal life in order. Then you bring family and friends together to celebrate.”
Just as childhood and adolescence are becoming more protracted in the modern era, so is courtship and the path to commitment, Dr. Fisher said.
“With this long pre-commitment stage, you have time to learn a lot about yourself and how you deal with other partners. So that by the time you walk down the aisle, you know what you’ve got, and you think you can keep what you’ve got,” Dr. Fisher said.
Most singles still yearn for a serious romantic relationship, even if these relationships often have unorthodox beginnings, she said. Nearly 70 percent of singles surveyed by Match.com recently as part of its eighth annual report on singles in America said they wanted a serious relationship.
The report, released earlier this year, is the responses of over 5,000 people 18 and over living in the United States and was carried out by Research Now, a market research company, in collaboration with Dr.
Fisher and Justin Garcia of the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University.
As with eHarmony’s report, its findings are limited because the sample was representative for certain characteristics, gender, age, race and region, but not for others income or education.
Participants said serious relationships started one of three ways: with a first date; a friendship; or a “friends with benefits” relationship, meaning a friendship with sex. But millennials were slightly more ly than other generations to have a friendship or a friends with benefits relationship evolve into a romance or a committed relationship.
Over half of millennials who said they had had a friends with benefits relationship said it evolved into a romantic relationship, compared with 41 percent of Gen Xers and 38 percent of baby boomers.
And some 40 percent of millennials said a platonic friendship had evolved into a romantic relationship, with nearly one-third of the 40 percent saying the romantic attachment grew into a serious, committed relationship.
Alan Kawahara, 27, and Harsha Royyuru, 26, met in the fall of 2009 when they started Syracuse University’s five-year architecture program and were thrown into the same intensive freshman design studio class that convened for four hours a day, three days a week.
They were soon part of the same close circle of friends, and though Ms. Royyuru recalls having “a pretty obvious crush on Alan right away,” they started dating only in the spring of the following year.
After graduation, when Mr. Kawahara landed a job in Boston and Ms. Royyuru found one in Kansas City, they kept the relationship going by flying back and forth between the two cities every six weeks to see each other. After two years, they were finally able to relocate to Los Angeles together.
Ms. Royyuru said that while living apart was challenging, “it was amazing for our personal growth, and for our relationship. It helped us figure out who we are as individuals.”
During a recent trip to London to mark their seventh anniversary together, Mr. Kawahara officially popped the question.
Now they’re planning a wedding that will draw from both Ms. Royyuru’s family’s Indian traditions and Mr. Kawahara’s Japanese-American traditions. But it will take a while, the two said.
“I’ve been telling my parents, ‘18 months minimum,’ ” Ms. Royyuru said. “They weren’t thrilled about it, but I’ve always had an independent streak.”
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Why More Millennials Are Choosing to Not Get Married
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Long ago, marriage was, for the most part, an economic arrangement. This later evolved into a way for people to express their love and commitment to each other. Marriage may be shifting again as Millennials (those born in the 1980s and 1990s) are either not marrying at all or marrying much later.
At this point in time, the median age at first marriage is 27 for women and 29 for men. This is up about 7 years since the 1960s and may be slowly climbing.
According to a recent report the Urban Institute, an unparalleled number of millennials will remain unmarried through age 40. Furthermore, the marriage rate is predicted to drop to 70 percent. This is around 10 – 20% lower than the last three generations.
In fact, a 2014 paper the Pew Research Center reports this is the biggest drop in the marriage rate in history.
Marriage offers several benefits: tax-related pluses, reduced lihood of poverty, economic security, and children do much better when raised in stable two-parent households. There have been numerous studies that demonstrate that men in particular benefit even more in other ways.
One of the primary reasons for these trends is that millennials are facing many challenges when it comes to having a firm economic foundation. They often view marriage as a “capstone” rather than “cornerstone” of one’s adult life. However, research shows that the capstone approach may, ironically, lead to worse preparation for marriage, resulting in less marital satisfaction.
A second possible reason is the discouragingly high divorce rate. This is a phenomenon that has ly touched their lives in a profound way. They read about it online, they are products of their own parent’s divorce and they have many friends with divorced parents.
A 2013 Gallup survey revealed that more young singles still aspire to get married than not, despite the declining marriage rate. Authorities of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia concur that this assertion is accurate.
It seems who gets married and who stays married is changing a lot. But, the desire to marry in and of itself has not changed much.
Perhaps this means that the challenge is to eradicate both the real and perceived blocks in our country to achieve that goal.
Has marriage as an institution lost its modern appeal? Maybe marriage, as it is traditionally defined, is no longer acceptable? We already have redefined who can marry as it is no longer only between a man and a woman. We may have even further to go to improve what might be viewed as an “image problem” in the eyes of the Millennial generation.
Some with strong opinions on the topic believe marriage should be redefined. For instance, there should be alternative options that are also embraced by society. No one has come up with any viable ideas as of yet.
What is happening most often is that millennials cohabitate and may even cohabitate with multiple partners (serial cohabitating). There is much evidence that cohabitating does not yield more positive marital outcomes.
Some of those who do not live with a partner are often still living with their parents, again due to financial hardship.
Millennials might have deeper more personal reasons to delay marriage. There may be a mindset among this age group that you don’t need a partner to be happy. It’s also hard to be in a relationship with a group of people that clearly recognize themselves as being rather self-absorbed.
There are also more choices than ever now. With the use of technology, Millennials can view loads of singles online quite easily. There is a mentality that someone is easily replaceable. This paradox of choice can lead to inertia.
Finally, this group is on the slow path to commitment as a whole. They are taking their time to have sex with multiple partners (even a few friends with benefits) or see if they can tolerate living with someone. This isn’t viewed as reckless behavior. It’s a way to “test drive” their partner before committing to “buy.”
Millennials may have it right. They may be learning from the mistakes of generations past. There are much more socially acceptable options with respect to relationships today. But, what if the pendulum has swung too far? We ly will not for sure until the post-millennial Generation Z is in their 20s or perhaps even the generation after them.
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What We Can Learn From the Dramatic Dip in Divorce Among Millennials
The latest census figures show an 18 percent drop in the divorce rate among Millennials compared with earlier generations at the same ages. It's the first decline in divorce rates in more than a century. To a sociologist me—I study marriage and divorce patterns—this is stunning news.
But it shouldn't be.
Millennials act differently from their parents—and, sometimes, that's because of their parents.
The Baby Boom generation has had the highest divorce rate in recorded American history, but it's also the only generation that has increased its divorce rate as the Boomers aged into their 60s and beyond.
A large number of Millennials experienced household and emotional instability growing up, and they didn't it.
In fact, they disd it so much that other trends have followed. Women began marrying later. And, looking at the sudden impoverishment of their mothers after divorce, women decided to become much more economically self-sufficient.
They increased their number of years in school or in vocational training partly so they could take care of themselves. Men, too, married later and extended their years of schooling. And everyone faced a daunting economy as they left high school or college.
This became the era of the unpaid internship and middle-class and upper-middle-class kids taking low-wage jobs they would have scorned in another economy.
Young people have also seemed to stay young longer, as more school and less compelling jobs have combined with a desire to spend longer having fun. There has been less dating and more hanging out or hooking up.
Job traction was evasive until their late 20s and early 30s.
They delayed marriage and childbirth until their late 20s and early 30s—in fact, now is the first time in history that more American women are having babies in their 30s than in their 20s.
What's more, college-educated women are now far more ly to get married than women without a degree, another departure from prior norms. As a result, Millennial women have been more mature, and the economy has often been better, when women finally decide to look for a spouse. They can thereby be more professionally established, and less dependent on their husbands' incomes.
Un women in the 1970s, who were sometimes disadvantaged in the marriage market if they'd experienced unusual success, these women are sought after because women's stock as equal partners has risen.
Yet, even with these favorable shifts for working women, studies show some division on the sort of work-and-home balance that young men want in their wives: A 2017 report released by the Council on Contemporary Families found that the youngest Millennial men (aged 18 to 25) favor stay-at-home wives over wives who remain employed once married.
Older Millennials and Gen X’ers, on the other hand, continue in the vein of Boomers by preferring two-income families.
The jury is out on why these generational differences exist, but it seems—to me—that Millennials are seeking old and new answers on how to make their marriages “divorce-proof” after witnessing the difficulties that their own parents' dual-income households had encountered. The retrograde views endorsed by some young men today more ly represent a sort of nostalgia for the 1950s bread-winner model of family life, rather than a realistic aspiration.
Add to all this the fact that Millennials, having witnessed divorce, were frightened about the fragility of marriage in ways their Boomer parents were not. Many Boomers grew up with parents who stayed married no matter what.
And Boomers went on to critique the marital model that required submission by wives and permitted husbands much greater power.
Criticism of traditional marriage was a central focus of the women's liberation movement, and many women and men divorced as roles and relationships heaved under clashing ideologies.
I remember the dialogue in the opening salvos of the women's liberation movements, when many women regarded marriage as a trap that allowed the replication of those patriarchal norms that their fathers, and their fathers' fathers, had presumed as a natural right. Boomer women formed “consciousness-raising groups” to rebel against a system where husbands could subjugate their wives with impunity. Women left marriages, or were left by husbands, in anger but without always having the economic wherewithal to weather the transition.
Nonetheless, many Boomers saw divorce as salvation from a bad deal, so, after marrying in their early to mid-20s (often recklessly and ambivalently, given the upheaval of gender norms and behaviors at the time), they were emotionally prepared to leave disappointing marriages.
Millennials did not have to go through the same kind of culturally chaotic period. They inherited changed gender roles but not the critique of marriage as an institution. They deferred commitment because they wanted to experience individual development and fun for longer. And they did not want to replicate the fractured households they grew up in.
Independent living had its positive and negative consequences for marriage, as serial cohabiting or dating made it harder to find spouses when people peeled off and started to wed by their early 30s. This has created a crunch for women in their mid-30s if they wanted to reserve child-bearing for marriage.
Some women who wanted to marry did not, and some women who wanted children did not have them. Men who waited later did not, for the most part, have the same biological limits or dating disadvantages.
Still, because later fertility can mean less fertility, childbearing for the Millennial generation has been, for the most part, reduced.
While we are in an era of greater marital stability (and, we hope, more happiness), we need be cautious about forecasting the future of divorce for the Millennials.
We must take into account that Millennials marry later, and some demographers have calculated that about a quarter of all Americans will never marry.
The lower divorce rate may reflect the fact that marriages happen later, or that fewer people are marrying.
Still, it looks a new trajectory for marriage. These figures allow us to think optimistically that perhaps divorce has finally dipped in a significant and lasting way. Divorce rates had inched up from the turn of the 20th century, then zoomed upward from the late 1960s to the '80s before leveling off.
Now it seems to have taken a new direction for the first time in more than a century. The Millennials may be proving that coming to marriage a bit later in life, with less rigid roles and with more egalitarian unions, will have realized the kind of marriage that Boomers envisioned but were not always so successful at creating.
(Photo: Pacific Standard)
Understanding Gen Z, a collaboration between Pacific Standard and Stanford's Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, investigates the historical context and social science research that helps explain the next generation. Join our newsletter to see new stories, and let us know your thoughts on , , and Instagram.
Understanding Gen Z was made possible by Stanford University's Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (CASBS) and its director, Margaret Levi, who hosted the iGen Project. Further support came from the Knight Foundation.
See more in this series:
Community Can Offer a Cure to Our Technology Addictions
The solution is not to turn off our phones; it's to develop social, economic, and political structures that address deeper issues of social disconnection and overwork. Read more
How Gen Z Is Solving America's Crisis of Isolation
Gen Z is remixing and repurposing old spiritual practices to maintain a sense of community. Read more
Generation Z Isn't Defined by Technology
Digital platforms don't define Gen Z—but young people's use of technology is helping them create new communities. Read more
Is Gen Z Nostalgic About Nostalgia?
With access to seemingly unlimited social archives, young people still understand nostalgia. It might just be a bit different from their parents' version. Read more
Gen Z'ers Are More Cautious Online Than Previous Generations
They grew up with phones in their hands—and learned early not to blindly trust the Internet. Read more
Why Generation Z Should Give Religion a Second Chance
If our generation looked more closely at religious communities—inclusive, loving ones—we might be surprised by the care that we'd find there, no strings attached. Read more
How Gen Z'ers Are Remaking Religion to Suit Their Values
Many are no longer passing on the old sacred teachings, but they are imparting a new one: that everyone has not just a right but a duty to choose their own worldview. Read more
Gen Z Is the Least Religious Generation. Here's Why That Could Be a Good Thing
The trend toward non-religiousness in this generation is probably here to stay. The upsides include increasing levels of tolerance. Read more
How Millennials Are Redefining Marriage
With a shift in personal goals, values, and roles that differs greatly from previous generations, more and more millennials — those born from 1981 to 1996 — are tapping the brakes on marriage.
Led by their desire to focus on their careers, personal needs and goals, forming a substantial financial foundation upon which to create a family, and even questioning the meaning of marriage itself, this current generation of young couples is redefining marriage.
According to a study from the Pew Research Center that compares millennials to The Silent Generation (born roughly from 1925 to 1942), millennials are three times as ly to never have married as their grandparents were. Reasons why millennials have postponed marriage include:
- 29% feel they aren’t financially ready
- 26% haven’t found someone with the right qualities
- 26% feel they are too young to settle down
Compared to previous generations, millennials are marrying — if they do choose marriage at all — at a much older age. In 1965, the average marrying age for women was 21, and for men, it was 23.
Today, the average age for marriage is 29.2 for women and 30.9 for men, as reported by The Knot 2017 Real Weddings Study.
A recent Urban Institute report even predicts that a significant number of millennials will remain unmarried past the age of 40.
These statistics indicate an important cultural shift. “For the first time in history, people are experiencing marriage as an option instead of a necessity,” says Brooke Genn, a married millennial and a relationship coach. “It’s a fascinating happening, and an incredible opportunity for marriage to be redefined and approached with more reverence and mindfulness than ever before.”
Millennials place personal needs and values first
Many millennials are waiting and planning to be more strategic in other aspects of their life, their career and financial future, while also pursuing their personal values politics, education, and religion.
“I’m holding off on marriage as I grow to better find my place in a world that puts women in prescriptive roles,” says Nekpen Osuan, co-founder of the women’s empowerment organization WomenWerk, who is 32 and plans to marry later.
As she looks for the right partner to settle down with, Osuan is mindful of finding someone who shares her same values in marriage, religion, and politics.
“I am navigating how my ambition as a woman — specifically my entrepreneurial and financial goals — can fit in my goals as a future wife and mother.”
A shift in women’s role in society is also contributing to putting off marriage for a while, as women pursue college, careers, and other options that weren’t available or accessible for previous generations of women.
Millennials, compared to The Silent Generation, are overall better educated, and especially women: they are now more ly than men to attain a bachelor’s degree, and are much more ly to be working than their Silent Generation counterparts.
“I think millennials are waiting because women have more choice than ever before. They are choosing to focus on their careers for a longer period of time and using egg freezing and other technology to ‘buy time,’” says Jennifer B.
Rhodes, a licensed psychologist and relationship expert who runs the New York City relationship consulting firm, Rapport Relationships.
“This shift in the view of marriage as now a luxury rather than a necessity has prompted women to be more selective in choosing a partner.”
On the flipside, Rhodes says that men are shifting into a more of an emotional support role rather than a financial support role, which has allowed them to be more mindful about marriage.
The Gottman Institute’s research into emotional intelligence also indicates that men with higher emotional intelligence — the capacity to be more empathetic, understanding, validating of their partner’s perspective, to allow their partner’s influence into decision-making, all of which are learned behaviors — will have more successful and satisfying marriages.
Millennials question the institution of marriage
Other millennials are getting married later as they have shown skepticism towards marriage, whether that be because they witnessed their parents get divorced or because they think lifelong cohabitation may be a more convenient and realistic option than the binding legal and economic ties of marriage.
“This lack of formal commitment, in my opinion, is a way to cope with anxiety and uncertainty about making the ‘right’ decision,” says Rhodes. “In previous generations, people were more willing to make that decision and figure it out.
” Whatever the reason for holding off on marriage, these trends show how the generational shift is redefining marriage, both in terms of what is expected in marriage, when to get married, and whether or not marriage is even a desirable option.
By waiting longer to get married, millennials also open themselves up to a number of serious relationships before they decide to commit to their life partner, which puts newly married couples on different developmental footing compared to newlyweds from their parents’ or grandparents’ generation.
“Millennials today entering marriage are much more aware of what they need to be happy in a relationship,” says Dr. Wyatt Fisher, licensed psychologist and couples counselor in Boulder, Colorado. “They desire equality in overall workload and chores, and they desire both spouses having a voice and sharing power.”
For some millennial couples, they’d rather avoid the term “spouse” as well as “marriage” altogether. Instead, they are perfectly happy to be lifelong partners without the marriage license.
Because marriage historically has been a legal, economic, religious, and social institution — marry to combine assets and taxes, to benefit from the support of each other’s families, to fit the mold of societal attitudes, or event to fulfill a type of religious or cultural “requirement” to hold a lifelong relationship and have kids — younger couples may not want to give in to those kinds of pressures. Instead, they claim their relationship as entirely their own, love and commitment, and not in need of external validation.
Millennials have a strong sense of identity
Millennials also are gaining more life experiences by waiting to marry. In the career world — despite the burden of student loans — they are trying to climb the ladder and become financially independent. They are exploring their individual interests and values and gaining valuable experience, and they feel that is their prerogative.
“Waiting [until] later can mean that individuals have a more established individual adult identity prior to marriage,” says Rebekah Montgomery, a clinical psychologist in Boston, Massachusetts. “It also offers many strengths, including typically more financial stability, professional success, emotional development, and self-awareness.”
For millennials, this may be a very good choice — knowing who you are, what you want, and how to achieve it is a solid foundation upon which to build a lifelong relationship or to raise kids. For them, it seems to make more sense to figure out those important life values and goals prior to jumping into marriage and/or creating a family.
Millennials are certainly redefining not only when to get married, but what it means to them. While they may be waiting longer to get married, millennials are ultimately gaining valuable experience so that they can build stronger and more successful relationships with a basis of understanding, compassion, solidarity with one’s partner, and shared meaning and values.
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