How Millennials Are Killing Off the Concept of Marriage

Marriage, one of the oldest social institutions left standing, is at risk of going extinct as we speak. The culprit? Millennials. While you may be worried about your marriage’s health, many young adults are worried about if they’ll ever be married at all.
We’ll explore why millennials are marrying later in life, why some may never tie the knot at all, and some of the reasons they don’t feel the need to commit (page 9).

Millennials are getting married later

People are waiting to get married. | Kzenon/iStock/Getty Images

Statistics show that the amount of women who stay single through their 20s, 30s, and 40s has increased nearly twofold from those born in the 1940s to those born in the 1980s.

Men are following suit. Twenty-seven percent of men born in the 1950s were still single at age 33, while it’s projected that over half of men born in the 1990s will still be single at the same age.

Next: The staggering number of millennials who will never marry.

A third of them will never marry

Serious woman sitting on patio

More people are staying single. | Sam Edwards/OJO Images/Getty Images

Olin College professor Alen Downey reviewed data from the National Survey of Family Growth. He predicted that unless millennial marriage rates increase drastically in the near future, more than a third of them will never marry.

A Gallup study found similar results: in 2014, 64% of men and women 18-29 years old labeled themselves single while only 16% were married.

Next: Millennials don’t necessarily want to stay single…

Millennials still want relationships

There are a lot of committed unmarried couples out there. | iStock.com

Millennials actually admit to wanting commitment more than older generations ever have. While they’ve gained a reputation as “commitment-phobes” who just seek casual sex, data from YouGov reveals that over two-thirds of people 18-34 are interested in a committed relationship or marriage.

Some argue that millennials want the “idea of a relationship” or a “placeholder” rather than a person. It’s human nature to seek a partner, and others claim that millennials are simply redefining how this partnership looks, which we’ll explore next.

Next: The surprising thing millennials do want.

They’re redefining long-term commitment

Couple with dog and pizza

Commitment looks different today. | Katie_Martynova/iStock/Getty Images

Downey drew some intriguing conclusions with his research. “With everything from hookup culture to poly lifestyles and open relationships, there’s an emerging expansion of views on what partnerships can look like. This has led to a desire to exploring more than the outdated ‘one method for all’ that is marriage.”

Millennials started a “sexual revolution” of sorts, engaging in open relationships reminiscent of the hippies and swingers that emerged decades ago. However, this time, many are fighting to break down the taboos surrounding open relationships and redefine what monogamy can be.

Next: How our technology-driven culture influences relationships.

They rely on apps to find love

Young woman using smart phone

More people are finding partners via apps. | iStock.com/Poike

Plenty of people rely on dating apps and social media like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook to help them meet a potential partner. Bumble and Tinder, the two top competitors, have nearly 70 million registered users between them.

And while many take to dating apps to find a partner, even the users remain cynical of how well they work, giving millennials a relationship catch-22. Justin McLeod, the founder of Hinge, the self-titled “Relationship Dating App,” said the Hinge team “realized lots of people were looking for a serious relationship, but most apps aren’t designed for this.”
Next: Millennials spend six hours weekly unknowingly “consuming relationships”

Social media itself promotes the facade of a relationship

Friends In Fast Food Restaurant

Social media dictates what a lot of people are looking for. | iStock.com/Dangubic

Other social media, in addition to dating apps, promote the idea of a relationship more than the relationship itself. Millennials spend an average of six hours a week on social media like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter.

A millennial may long for a relationship when they see their married friend post their honeymoon photos to Instagram or their newly engaged friend change their Facebook relationship status. However, The New York Times cited this dependence on a social media-filtered world as one of the reasons fewer millennials are getting into committed relationships.

Next: The difference in priorities.

They prioritize differently

Young traveler businessman wearing white shirt and necktie making call

For millennials, career is more important than marriage. | iStock.com/fizkes

Older generations call millennials “lazy,” and claim they won’t work hard to keep a relationship afloat. However, more millennials than ever are giving their jobs higher precedence. As a result, they shift romantic relationships to the back burner.

While Generation X and the baby boomers were prone to marry while in school or as they climbed the corporate ladder, millennials take the opposite approach. Fifty-five percent of young Americans feel that marriage and children are “not very important,” while the large majority cite education and economic accomplishments as “extremely important parts of adulthood.”

Next: The possibilities are both endless and terrifying.

They’re over-saturated with possibilities

woman using cell phone

Possibilities can feel endless on social media. | iStock.com/diego_cervo

Millennials have dating apps and can find nearly anyone in the world at the click of the button. This fosters both a social media culture and a world with endless dating possibilities. The sheer multitude of options raises millennials’ standards for a SO.

This over-saturation has led to an ironic romantic paralysis. Millennials have the tools to start a relationship at their fingertips, but rarely use them, subconsciously aware that something better could always come along. The book Premarital Sex in America claims 94% of millennials insist on holding out for a soulmate.

Next: Millennials don’t need marriage the way older generations did.

The decreased need for commitment

The concept of a family has changed a lot since the days of George Washington. | Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Before the late 20th century, marriage wasn’t just something people wanted: It was seen as a necessity, especially for women. If men wanted kids and a profession, they needed someone to care for their children. If women wanted guaranteed financial security without fighting the glass ceiling, they needed a husband to provide for them.

Gender obstacles are still real and rearing their ugly head, however, the “need” to marry has diminished for American women. N’ama Shenhav, Ph.D., discovered how closely women’s rising earnings correlated to the declining marriage rate. There was a 7% decline in women who married for every 10% increase in women’s wages (relative to men’s).

Next: Older generations’ influence, revealed.

The divorce rate has left millennials cynical

Divorce

A generation raised in divorced households is skeptical of marriage. | Krivinis/iStock/Getty Images

It’s widely accepted that “half of all marriages end in divorce.” Millennials who experienced their parents’ separation first-hand are likely cynical. According to the Pew Research Center, the baby boomer’s divorce rates doubled from 1990 to 2017.

Some millennials may have developed an aversion to marriage because of their parent’s divorce. It is also making those who decide to marry more cautious when choosing a partner. So far, millennial marriages have a lower instance of divorce than previous generations. A University of Michigan economist predicted only one-third of millennial marriages will end in divorce.

Next: An age-old concept millennials may not have a grasp on.

Millennials aren’t really ‘dating’ anymore

The old idea of a date is dead. | Innovatedcaptures/iStock/Getty Images

Shani Silver, a millennial social media and blog manager told The New York Times, “The word ‘date’ should almost be stricken from the dictionary,” at least for millennials. “Dating culture has evolved to a cycle of text messages, each one requiring the code-breaking skills of a cold war spy to interpret.”

Millennial couples rely on texting for 80% of their conversations and won’t admit to a relationship status until they have a Facebook status to prove it. “The new date is ‘hanging out,'” 24-year-old television producer Denise Hewett said. “I don’t like to take girls out. I like to have them join in on what I’m doing,” a male friend told her.

Next: Millennials don’t want to grow up.

They’re taking longer than ever to ‘grow up’

More people want to experience life instead of settle down. | Thinkstock

We’re in an “era of extended American adolescence,” and millennials aren’t growing up anytime soon. NYU sociology professor Eric Klinenberg found people “are spending a big chunk of their lives — much of the 20s and even into their 30s, increasingly — becoming a grownup.”

Millennials are increasingly concerned with the first steps of “adulthood” like landing an entry-level position. This hardly comes as a surprise considering the relentless job market they’re entering. “… they’re having a very difficult time moving into that next stage of what we’ve traditionally thought of as grown-up life,” Klinenberg said.

Next: They’re thought to be one thing above all.

Millennials are self-centered

a woman icing a cake wearing a hat and a feather boa

Focusing on yourself is important to young people. | John Howard/Getty Images

Some experts believe that millennials abundance of self-confidence is keeping them single longer. Jean M. Twenge, author and Ph.D., believes millennials grew up in a “self-esteem movement” where they were taught to love themselves above all else.

This may mean they’re focusing too much on themselves and less on how to love someone else. Millennials were taught to be an “army of one,” Twenge found. They learned how to fight for, fend for, and provide for themselves instead of learning interpersonal skills and how to form effective relationships. 

Next: They’re redefining family definitions.

They don’t need to be married to be a family

family watching football on the couch

Being a good parent is more important than being married. | Wavebreakmedia/iStock/Getty Images

Over 16 million millennial women are moms, but not all of them are married. Around 52% called being a good parent one of the most important goals in their lives while only 30% called a successful marriage an important life goal.

In fact, having children out of wedlock has the become the norm for millennial parents.

Next: Here’s what it means for the future.

The institution of marriage is constantly changing

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry attend Christmas Day Church service at Church of St Mary Magdalene on December 25, 2017

Biracial couples, like Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, are more common than ever before. | Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Millennials are more likely to live together before getting married and are more accepting of pre-marital sex. Around 85% of millennials say they would be open to a marriage with any racial group, while only 38% of people over 65 years old agreed.

The institution of marriage changed between the baby boomers and Generation X and continues to evolve as millennials begin to tie the knot or choose to remain single. While many find it “hard to imagine marriage being replaced anytime soon,” it seems as though millennials would be the generation to find a way to do so.

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