- Six reasons that Millennials should consider getting hitched sooner rather than later (instead of cohabiting indefinitely). Tweet This
- No person or marriage is perfect. Rather than holding out for some unattainable ideal, it’s better to focus on finding someone who perfectly complements you, flaws and all. Tweet This
Every generation thinks they know better than their parents. Of course, even as a Xennial, who’s just barely older than the oldest Millennials, I often marvel at how differently they view the world than the rest of us. Case in point: what anthropologist Helen Fisher calls Millennials’ “fast sex, slow love.”
Thanks to cultural shifts and apps like Tinder, sex is casual and ubiquitous for Millennials. However, marriage, love, and commitment are not.
As reported recently in The New York Times, an eHarmony study “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.” So, why are Millennials waiting longer to put a ring on it?
Clearly, cultural norms and expectations have changed. According to Andrew Cherlin, a sociologist at Johns Hopkins, marriage has become a “capstone” to adulthood. “The capstone is the last brick you put in place to build an arch,” Dr. Cherlin said in the Times article. “Marriage used to be the first step into adulthood. Now, it is often the last.”
That shift is a recent one. Consider, as recently as 1970, the median age of marriage was 20.8 for women and 23 for men. Of course, along with the sexual revolution, that was also right about the time divorce became more common, which undoubtedly impacted subsequent generations’ willingness to commit. The increasing prevalence of cohabitation has also played a part. The CDC recently reported that 17.1% of women and 15.9% of men ages 18 to 44 were cohabiting in 2015.
Americans are unlikely to revert to the 1970 model any time soon, especially college-educated Americans. So, here are six reasons that Millennials should consider getting hitched sooner rather than later (instead of cohabiting indefinitely):
1. Cohabitation Can Extend Weak Relationships. It’s increasingly common for couples to move in together after dating for some period of time. However, couples that move in together without a prior shared commitment can end up staying together out of what Scott Stanley has dubbed “inertia.” In other words, relationships that should dissolve are more likely to outlast their “sell-by date” if there’s cohabitation.
2. Marriage and Happiness Go Together. Married people are more likely tell pollsters that they’re happy. When the General Social Survey asked American adults about happiness, 54% of poor respondents, 56% of working-class respondents, and 65% of middle- and upper-class respondents reported being “very happy” in their marriages.
3. Delaying Marriage Isn’t Divorce-Insurance. What’s the sweet spot for marriage age-wise? Looking at data in the National Surve of Family Growth, University of Utah sociology professor Nicholas Wolfinger found “that prior to age 32 or so, each additional year of age at marriage reduces the odds of divorce by 11%. However, after that, the odds of divorce increase by 5% per year.”
4. Waiting Creates Fertility Pressures. Biology doesn’t care about our personal or professional preferences. So, while it feels unfair, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ professional judgment is that “The fecundity of women decreases gradually but significantly beginning approximately at age 32 years and decreases more rapidly after age 37 years.” For any woman who wants to have a family, that means the longer she delays childbearing, the harder it can be to fit in her preferred number of children. Who wants or needs that pressure?
5. Perfection is like a Unicorn. In the era of Instagram and Photoshop, it’s easy to believe that everyone else’s life is picture perfect and to want the same for yourself. However, no person or marriage is perfect. Rather than holding out for some unattainable ideal, it’s better to focus on finding someone who perfectly complements you, flaws and all. Once you’ve found the person you can’t imagine not having in your life, you both learn as you go, working to make the marriage great.
6. Life is Short. If you love someone, make sure they know it. Celebrate that interpersonal connection, and don't put off opportunities to celebrate and share your joy with others.
Melissa Langsam Braunstein, a former U.S. Department of State speechwriter, is now an independent writer in Washington, D.C. She frequently writes about culture, religion, and issues affecting families. She shares all of her writing on her website.
Editor’s Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or views of the Institute for Family Studies.