In 2011, Kate Bolick wrote the Atlantic cover story “All the Single Ladies” where she talked about how the institution of marriage is outdated and that it’s time to embrace a new idea of what romance and family should look like. Bolick also talked about how it’s time to acknowledge the end of traditional marriage. This, of course, sparked a national controversy and conversation. Then in 2014, comedian Sarah Silverman tweeted, “Why would I want the govt involved in my love life? Ew. It’s barbaric.” Within the short span of three years, it became more acceptable to put off, or even completely reject, marriage.
In 1960, the average marriage age was 20 for women and 23 for men. This is a sharp contrast with today, with the average being 27 for women and 29 for men. This average is even higher in urban areas such as New York and Washington. One theory proposed by sociologist Eric Klinenberg is that we are in rough economic times and that, “people don’t feel comfortable committing to someone during hardships.” So many millennials are drowning in debt, and marriage is definitely a big financial investment. This has become a main reason why young adults in their 20s do not feel ready to tie the knot.
However, this issue does not magically disappear and can even keep millennials from “taking the plunge” well into their 30s. A Washington Post article by Gabriela Barkho refers to James Fay, a 33-year-old who works in advertising; because both he and his ex-partner were focused on their careers, neither made it to “I do.” Still, despite never getting there with his previous partner, he says that marriage is definitely not off the table for him. Some, however, have chosen to never go that route. Holly Dembinski, who is 28 years old, says that “being indefinitely single means you’re choosing happiness.”
Another reason why people are opting out of early marriage is that it’s no longer a “necessity” to live in this society. It has become far more acceptable for women to be independent and it’s far more affordable to survive without assistance from a spouse now than ever before. Having children used to be a huge push for people to get married but seeing as how contraceptives and abortions can delay childbearing for women, many feel that they have been “liberated” from the possibility of “getting trapped” into a marriage because of an unwanted pregnancy. Feminist women tend to put off marriage because of the idea that marriage is a misogynistic institution. Some even go as far as to say that marriage is sexist and is designed to oppress women and, as a result, choose to stay unmarried.
Another theory comes from MBG contributor Taneasha White, who says that it has become more acceptable for couples to live together without ever getting married. This, of course, plays a large role in why so many no longer feel the need to legally tie the knot. According to an article posted on Bentley University’s website, there is definitely some truth to this. Young couples are choosing to live together before marriage, and some choose to never even get married at all. In fact, about a quarter of unmarried young adults between the ages of 25 to 34 are already living with their long-term partners. The mentality surrounding this evasion of marriage is that a legal sheet of paper doesn’t define a couple’s relationship, and if they can already be together without it, there is not much of a point in attempting to acquire it.
Whatever the reason may be that young adults are choosing to put off, or reject, marriage, there are also many reasons why some still do choose to get married. A study done by NCBI suggests that those who get married between the ages of 22 and 25 have the highest chances of an “intact marriage of the highest quality.” Although they did not say that 22 to 25 is the ideal age range for everyone, a study does show that those who deliberately put off marriage do not actually gain anything from it. An article written by Margie Monin Dombrowski lists several reasons why getting married young is actually worth it. Some of these reasons include the fact that it can have a huge influence on your mental and even physical health.
Young adults in their 20s who are married actually have lower rates of depression and excessive alcohol consumption, as compared to their single (or cohabiting) peers. A great example of why this might be comes from 21-year-old Washington resident Christina. She shares, “you get to make a lot of great memories with the same person, you get to experience so many different firsts with them, they’re always there for you.” This supports one theory that marriages may be happier when a spouse is the “one and only” rather than “one of many.” Though some women opt to put off marriage due to independence and the availability of contraceptives and abortions, an article on Psychology Today actually suggests that casual sex has a poor influence on one’s mental health. Dr. Susan Krauss Whitbourne Ph.D. writes, “Researchers examining the mental health associations of hookup sex also report that participants who were not depressed before showed more depressive symptoms and loneliness after engaging in casual sex.” Perhaps Christina was on the right track when she said that sharing firsts with one person was a great way to build a strong bond in her marriage.
Another positive experience with getting married young comes from 22-year-old Anna from Oregon who says, “it’s nice to be able to grow together, and to share all of our milestones and achievements.” It’s truly fulfilling to be able to go through mid-life storms and learn from them together. Some believe that as the couple grows together, they can actually help push each other toward success and that it wouldn’t feel the same if they had met after establishing themselves in their own careers. Another thing that Anna loves about being married young is getting to be a young mom because it means she and her husband will have the energy to raise their kids and be involved in their lives. Though some may opt out of having children, it is no doubt that a healthy marriage is a great basis for becoming good parents.
The institution of marriage may seem to be “dying down” but that’s not 100% accurate. While the average age of marriage has gone up and the amount of people getting married has gone down, marriage is still a very strong part of many people’s cultures. It’s important to understand the reasons behind why some people may choose to put off marriage or reject it entirely, but it is also important to remember that some people want to choose this milestone for themselves. A person’s journey is their own and what is right for some may not be right for others.