Gen Y, born in the 80s to the mid-90s, is the first generation to believe that marriage is optional. The marriage rate among young people is the lowest in history, while cohabitation and partnerships are on the rise.
Researchers predict more under 35s will be single forever
But contrary to popular belief, 91% of Americans ages 18-34 say they still want to be married someday. So why is it estimated that 25% of Millennials will be single by 40?
Gen Y has new priorities
While a small fraction of Millennials never want to be married, those who do may find that new priorities get in the way. Work and personal achievement come first place with this generation. In one Utah study, 65% of adults said that having a fulfilling career was essential. This was double the amount of those who thought marriage was essential (31%). Building solid careers become more important than finding a lifelong relationship.
Similarly, Gen Y may also be delaying marriage in search of personal fulfillment. Many young people devote their time to pursuing personal values, like education and gender equality. There is a widespread idea that your 20s are about being “selfish.” In this new era of freedom, young people are being advised to work, party, travel, and have casual relationships. With this kind of attitude, it’s no wonder that more young people are staying single.
The fear of commitment
While marriage rates drop, the number of cohabiting adults is quickly rising. One reason Millenials prefer cohabitation could be that separation is relatively simple. The generation that grew up watching their parents’ messy divorces may be hesitant to enter into binding legal contracts. Psychologist Jennifer B Rhodes says, “This lack of formal commitment, in my opinion, is a way to cope with anxiety and uncertainty about making the ‘right’ decision.” While it’s a choice for some, many Millennials who avoid marriage are struck with analysis paralysis.
The generation that grew up watching their parents’ messy divorces may be hesitant to enter into binding legal contracts.
Marriage is becoming “old-fashioned.”
Many young people think marriage is an outdated institution. The least religious generation, Gen Y prefers secular partnerships with minimal government influence. Marriage simply isn’t cool anymore. Sociologist Andrew Cherlin says, “If you get married in your 20s, and you’re part of a college-educated crowd, it might feel old-fashioned or even embarrassing to admit that you’re married.” Young people are increasingly rejecting terms like husband and wife in favor of “partner.” Jennifer Siebel Newsom, California’s new “First Partner”, has adopted this name to show her commitment to gender equality.
Millennials who do choose marriage or long-term partnerships take this concern for equality into their love life. A study done on 3,000 daters revealed that the primary thing millennials want in a relationship is equality. Young couples want equal workloads, equal power, and even separate finances.
Healthy relationships aren’t always equal
While it sounds ideal, the idea of the 50-50 relationship is a myth. Strong relationships thrive on mutual giving and sacrifice, not keeping score of who does what. Couples therapist Brandon Santan says, “Trying to obtain a 50-50 balance in roles and responsibilities can lead very quickly to the highly toxic elements of resentment and negativity because it’s too competitive.” For long-term success, couples have to orient themselves to give more than they get.
What does this mean for Gen Z?
Gen Z, the oldest members being just 21 years old, will soon be facing significant relationship and career choices. This generation has similar attitudes about marriage, according to Micheal Wood, president of generational research company 747 Insights. He says, "Gen Z will likely follow suit with Millennials, who have postponed many of the traditional milestones such as buying a home, getting married, and even having children.” In the future, As younger Gen Zs witness their Millennial counterparts miss out on marriage and family, they may reconsider their priorities. Ultimately, it’s up to Gen Z if marriage is out, or here to stay.