We’ve all heard the many criticisms of millennials (defined as Americans roughly 22 to 37 years old). Typically referred to as “late bloomers.” They are the “failure to launch” generation who are likely to be still living in their parents’ basement apartments well into their thirties. They are spoiled and demanding and hard to integrate into the workplace. They are the “hookup generation,” prone to sporadic episodes of casual sex (“friends with benefits”) that don’t lead to real intimacy and closeness. Or, even worse than that, they are the “screen-obsessed” generation, isolated from colleagues at work, friendship, and genuine romance. They tend to live entirely on their computers, tablets, and smartphones.
IN IT FOR THE LONG HAUL
According to biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, we may have misjudged them. In fact, millennials may know something about love that the rest of us don’t. Divorce rates in the US are falling as the average age for a first marriage is rising. In 1980, the median age for a first marriage was 24.7 for men and 22 for women. By 2018, the median age had increased to nearly 30, 29.8 for men and 27.8 for women. Millennials tend to be less sexually active than previous generations and have, according to another survey, spent, on average, six and a half years with a partner before marrying.
Fisher, author of Anatomy of Love: A Natural History of Mating, Marriage and Why We Stray, recently collected data on more than 30,000 people related to current courtship and marriage. Fisher notes that people who date for three years or more before marrying are 39% less likely to divorce than people who rush into marriage.
Some of the advantages of marrying later are obvious. People approaching 30 are more likely to know who they are and where they are going than someone in his/her early 20s. Since they are now more self-aware, they are more likely to make a match with someone compatible and likely to remain so. They are also more likely to be on a sound financial footing, or at least, to fully understand the financial commitment involved in a marriage.
ELOPING AND MILLENNIALS
Although some are eager to celebrate with a long-delayed elaborate wedding, others may decide to forego the wedding extravaganza entirely. Many millennials are opting for less expensive celebrations. So many that a new business in New York City, called Eloping Is Fun, produces 60 to 70 small-scale weddings a year. Some couples “elope” with a small group of friends to a destination wedding in, say, Colorado or Iceland (!), or invite relatives and friends to accompany them to the courthouse and celebrate at a restaurant afterward.
What could be more sensible? Perhaps we could learn something from this new generation—that “slow love” and weddings that focus on the couple, and skip the ballroom rental and dinner for 200, maybe the best precursors to a happy life together.
Much of this blog entry is sourced from “Should We All Take the Slow Road to Love,” by Tara Parker-Pope, July 2, 2019, New York Times, and “For Millennials, Eloping Is the New Lavish Wedding,” by Beca Grimm, August 18, 2017, Glamour.