Remember that joke that goes, “What’s the best way to lessen your chances of getting a divorce? Never get married.”? Well apparently, millennials took that advice to heart and are all the better because of it. We may be busy being entitled and overly-sensitive, but it turns out millennials are winning at one thing in life that our parents must have missed the memo on: Marriage. According to an article posted on Brit.co, data released in late 2016 from Bowling Green State University’s National Center for Family and Marriage Research’s 2015 family profiles show that for the past three years in a row divorce rates have been dropping. As of 2015 the divorce rate was down 25 percent compared to 1980. And researchers believe the generation gap has a lot to do with that.
The reason why researchers think millennials are killing it at matrimony? It may be because they’re actually taking these types lifetime commitments more seriously and therefore making them at a later time. In other words, we’re getting a lot more life experiences up under our belt before making major commitments allowing us to use a bit of better judgment (Yayy us!). Samantha Daniels, relationship expert and founder of The Dating Lounge app, also credits pickiness and lack of marriage pressure with this trend:
“The societal ideals of getting married and starting a family in your 20’s are fading fast, thanks to millennials.”
“This generation is less likely to settle down immediately post-college, since the time is ripe for career development. At this point, [millennials] have a strong sense of self and are ready to find someone who accepts them as they are.”
We’re also navigating our way to success and happiness one Google search at a time. According to wedding planner Bianca Ricks, millennials are more likely to research and plan major decisions and make them when they’ve fully considered their options:
“Millennials are taking their time. They’re college-educated, get a job after school, and are living at home longer. They believe they’re taking the time to get to know one another and live together. They do research when it comes to making major life decisions.”
For me, when it came to marriage it was important for me to have my life in order, independent of a partner first. I wanted to be with someone who enhanced my life, not defined it. I think taking time to take girls’ trips to different countries, having a couple of crazy nights followed by a few hangovers, getting to know myself sexually and just generally having a life where I didn’t have to balance making myself happy with the needs of someone else made me better prepared to be a wife one day. I think that for me, not having those experiences would have left too much room for “What if’s?” and resentment, after spending my life always having to consider someone else.
It was also important to me that I spent time dating and getting to know and grow with someone over sometime. I didn’t get married until I was 30 (my husband was 32 at the time) and like I always say, it was long after I had met “his crackhead relatives”. OK, I have never actually met anyone in his family that has abused drugs, but it is a metaphor I often use for not just taking the time to know an individual, but also how his/her life functions as a whole and how all of the people, places, things, backgrounds and bad habits function within it.
In fact it’s no secret that many millennials are waiting longer to make that kind of long-term commitment, if they ever even actually make it at all. 2016 Census data reveals that the average for a first marriage has been steadily increasing over several decades with the average women walking down the aisle at 27 and most men carrying their spouses over the threshold at 29. I can’t speak for everyone, but I get the general feeling that my generation doesn’t consider marriage as important as our mothers and fathers used to. I have friends that had parents that were legally married and witnessed a range of unhealthy behaviors in their childhood homes that were as serious as trauma and physical abuse and as “simple” as just being unhappy and unfulfilled with your spouse. Some internalized that and began to associate marriage with unhappiness before swearing it off. Others realized that a marriage certificate doesn’t necessarily make or break your quality of life with your partner, and if anything is more about the legalities of your union.
More importantly, I think millennials are living their life less on the “American Dream” checklist and more on what makes them happy as individuals. Even more so, maybe that American Dream is being redefined completely. My mother has always been about her business and instilled in her daughters the idea of maintaining independence while choosing someone who enhances your life instead of completing it. To this day, she and my father are a great example of enjoying being in a marriage and not just being in a marriage to be able to claim a spouse (for both taxes AND public appearances). But for women like her mother, my grandma, finding a spouse was more about finding security and fulfilling some “perfect life quota” than about being happy. And until this day I see women from her generation who glorify men that in all reality were disrespectful, selfish and abusive. So maybe millennials’ success at marriage isn’t as much about declining divorce rates as much as it is about a generation taking true ownership about what they want out of long-term relationships and life in general.