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Are Millennials Saving Marriage?

by Leesa Poag, Attorney

As autumn begins to creep across the Triad, it seems that the temperature isn’t the only thing dropping. According to a study done by the University of Maryland, the number of divorces in the United States is also on the decline. And the reason being attributed for the impressive drop, eighteen percent over the past ten years, might surprise you.

Millennials. It’s not a term that’s often meant as a compliment. In fact, it tends to be associated by many with attributes like entitlement and laziness. But this oft-maligned group of twenty and thirty-somethings seems to have figured out how to make marriages work in a way that older generations never seemed to master.

So what exactly are millennials doing differently that’s allowing them to dodge the divorce bullet? One factor that has a major effect is that millennials are waiting until they feel more financially stable before walking down the aisle. Its often said that money is the root of all evil, and it tends to be the root of many divorces as well. Struggling to pay the bills, keep the lights on, and keep food on the table when incomes are limited, or even nonexistent, can cause a tremendous amount of stress, and often this stress can put a major damper on a couples’ wedded bliss. By delaying marriages until they feel they are able to stand on their own feet and live comfortably, millennials are eliminating this major stressor from their marriages.

Millennials also tend to cohabitate with their future spouse prior to getting married at a higher rate than previous generations ever did. While your grandmother might not approve of this idea, allowing a “trial run” of what life will be like after getting married may allow millennials to work out the kinks in their relationships before they say “I do.” Aside from the money that can be saved by sharing expenses, there is no surer way than moving in with a potential spouse to determine if you can’t live with them, or can’t live without them.

Likely the most significant factor in the falling divorce rate, though, is the fact that millennials don’t feel the same pressure to get married and settle down that other prior generations have felt. Long gone is the idea that a person must have a spouse, children, a dog, and a house with a white picket fence before they turn twenty-five. Millennials are more prone to enjoy the “single life” phase, a time when their only responsibility is for themselves, and they have the time and opportunity to pursue their own interests and passions. Furthermore, starting a career has become as important, if not more important, than starting a family to many millennials. As more women pursue Masters degrees than “Mrs.” titles, weddings tend to take at least a temporary backseat to other educational and professional pursuits. All of these experiences allow millennials to become more well-rounded individuals themselves and have a better understanding of the characteristics that they value and desire in a future spouse, which seems to be leading to marriages that last.