What marriage means to Millennials these days

An aversion towards marriage as a principle is a little misguided. Thankfully there’s been a cultural attempt to re-contextualize its worth.

I’ve observed a gradual reframing of the concept of marriage within myself. In High School, it was pure derision. Marriage was an outmoded hinderance to the values and ethics we were all supposed to be striving towards (maaaan!) – full stop. Recently that sentiment has softened in favor of more practical considerations.

Strangely enough, This Be The Verse, the famous lyrical warning against procreation, has become a loose rubric for our generation’s wary leap over the broom.

An aversion towards marriage as a principle is a little misguided. Thankfully there’s been a cultural attempt to re-contextualize its worth – the institution is less an indication of personal value. These days, marriage is simply one of the many perks of economic stability.

“The women of today are not getting married for money,” says relationship coach Sami Wunder. “She’s financially secure and then she gets married for love or because she finds a man she knows she can share a life with. She chooses a partner who is a match to her.”

Wages are up and unemployment is the lowest it’s been in years. Unlike previous generations, wherein economic stability required an itch to marry and a pension to plop out offspring, Millennials are actually marrying less (25% say they will likely never get married). The ones that do, do so much later in life compared to previous generations and are having children much less frequently.

Average Marrying And Child Bearing Ages By Generation (The US Consensus Bureau)

1965/1970

  • Marriage: Men: 23; Women: 21
  • Children: Women: 24.6; Men: 27.4

2017/2018

  • Marriage: Men: 29.5; Women: 27.4
  • Children: Men: 30.9; Women: 28

Make no mistake; the desire for domestication has not subsided in Millennials, as Catherine Rambell corroborated to the director of the National Marriage Project: “Although there is now a growing class divide in who gets and stays married in America, there is virtually no divide in the aspiration to marry.” It’s just that, on mass, Millennials only choose to if they feel financially secure. Financial security additionally informs our decision to have children.

According to a survey conducted by the New York Times, 43% of Millennials say the number of children they have is directly factored by their financial status with 36% citing a struggle to balance work and their personal life.

This cautious approach to marriage has yielded lower divorce rates. University of Maryland Professor, Phillip Cohen, reports that between 2008 and 2016, the US divorce rate has dropped 18%. Cohen’s study also revealed that more women that get married have a B.A. and are older than 25.

Curiously enough, marriage evolving from a requisite thing any worthwhile human ought to do, into an indication of social status, has allowed the reasoning to return to more traditional values. “Marriage” as Brooke Glenn, puts it, “is no longer a necessity. It’s an option. Once our careers are on track, and we have achieved all the things we set out to do,  then we focus on finding partners that we are truly compatible with.

One of the ways Millennials have been putting potential soul mates to the test is moving in with them before tying the knot – a thing this generation does earlier than previous generations. When surveyed, this was found to owe itself to head as well as an attempt to stay above the poverty line. The two machinations just happen to serve each other fairly well.

Of course, it’s not just prudence that informs the rate and age my generation tends to marry. It’s also the existential anxiety that has become a favored summation from our detractors.  It stands to reason that the generation with the collective thought bubble that reads “What does it all mean?!” is in no hurry to shack up with their fellow aimless cornballs.

Speaking as an aimless cornball, I absolutely refuse to propose before I understand what 2001: A Space Odyssey is supposed to mean. The college myth has made us dually practical and quixotically reflective.

We want careers that afford us comfortably and the liberty to contemplate everything before we even think about devoting emotional effort to another human: the antecedent to stable marriages that last longer.

CW Headley|is a reporter for Ladders and can be reached at cheadley@theladders.com.