by Alan Hunt II
At a recent dinner with friends, all of whom happen to be Millennials, we got on the topic of dating and, for us at least, dating’s ultimate goal: marriage. Despite having desires of what age we’d be married by when we were younger and, perhaps,more naive, none of us seemed to be in a rush currently, despite our ticking clocks.
The conversation then turned to the marriages we have experienced first-hand; that of our parents. Although love was present, all of us admitted we wouldn’t want to follow the precise mold of our parents’ example. In fact, the consensus was that love was a good foundation, but marriage requires more than that now more so than before.
I know what you’re probably thinking. Children not wanting to be like their parents is not an anomaly. However, when it comes to how Millennials view marriage, parents are one influencing factor of many. Research conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau shows Millennials are getting married later in life than generations prior. The median age of marriage is 27 for women and 29 for men. Even if they have found the right partner, Millennials are still waiting. A 2017 Bridebook study reported those who had found their prospective spouse waited nearly five years before tying the knot.
Societal demands have increased over time. Thus, Millennials feel the need to securely commit to themselves before committing to a soulmate. The requirements for work, for example, are the highest ever. Our grandparents may have lived fine not completing school and getting an assembly line job. Even our parents may have fared all right with a high school diploma. Yet many Millennials find themselves having to achieve more. Many are first generation college graduates due to necessity more than desire. Most job applications today require a bachelor’s degree minimum in addition to some form of work experience.
While gaining their career footing, Millennials are simultaneously trying to improve finances. Paying off student loans on an entry level/mid-tier salary is not the easiest of tasks. This juggling act can become a lot for one person, so it’s no surprise we’re not in a rush to legally take on that burden along with whatever a potential spouse is bringing to the table.
Data indicates marrying later, after establishing a career and good financial foundation has proven effective. After peaking in 1981, Cosmopolitan reports experts have seen a 24 percent drop in the divorce rate. University of Michigan professor Justin Wolfers told Cosmopolitan “hookup-loving, debt-ridden, career-obsessed Millennials are responsible for bringing down divorce.”
Millennials’ opinions on marriage benefits are starkly different compared to generations prior. Before, marriage was used as a license to sleep together, cohabitate or start a family. A lot of Millennials today don’t view marriage as a requirement to do any of those things. They have seen enough to know that marriage does not validate family.
Nevertheless, I don’t want you to get the impression that Millennials devalue marriage altogether. If anything, you should be encouraged. Unlike prior generations, Millennials aren’t considering pregnancy, enlisting in the army, or even love by itself as sole reasons to get hitched. Instead, they are using lived experience both alone and with a partner as a compass to evaluate their readiness to jump the broom. Millennials still view marriage as sacred, so sacred that we want to make sure we are ready even if it takes us longer to recognize than those that came before us. So, at the next holiday gathering ease up on the “so when are you gonna settle down” questions. What you must know is that although we take a different route, for many of us marriage is still a destination.