Playboy Magazine, 2018
The last of my childhood friends just got married. I was never the person that daydreamed about my fairytale wedding, I fantasized about my career because ya know, your career will never wake up in the morning and tell you it doesn’t love you anymore. As someone who was born and raised in a town like Las Vegas—where they treat weddings with the same sanctity as a McDonalds drive-thru Big Mac—I never understood the obsession with getting married. Now, I’m 31, unmarried and still in pursuit of my own American Dream.
I grew up watching princesses find their prince charmings and before the credits roll, a voice remarks “And They Live Happily Ever After”—presumably that’s the end of the story. What this concept of marketing and marriage, messaged to us from a very young (maybe too young?) age, is that marriage is not the biggest challenge, staying married is the true test. Man and woman are instructed to grow up, get married and start a family. The Bible even mentions marriage multiple times, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24, NKJV)” If it’s in the Bible, then it must be legitimate..right?
But then why now is marriage at its lowest historical rate? According to Pew Research, “Adults are marrying later in life, and the shares of adults cohabiting and raising children outside of marriage have increased significantly. The median age at first marriage is now 27 for women and 29 for men, up from 20 for women and 23 for men in 1960.” Perhaps this is because the American Dream—the ideal that every US citizen should have an equal opportunity to achieve success and prosperity via hustle—has changed drastically. One hundred years ago, America looked different and so did the opportunities. Many of our grandparents have “rags to riches” stories that tell the tale of their struggle to their ultimate success. This isn’t the case anymore because so many of us are born into debt or are coming out of college in a financial crisis. In 2018, over 44 million Americans have student loans and Millennials between the ages of 25 and 34 have an average of $42,000 in debt each, if that isn’t a boner killer, I don’t know what is.
Our parents did not have access to Tinder, Bumble and Grindr to satisfy their sexual appetites, but can you imagine the stories they would tell us if they did?
Gender roles, expectations, and attitudes towards matrimony have also been forced to change. Millennials work just as hard as Baby Boomers—if not more—but we are paid significantly less, so why even try right? Who wants to marry someone financially unstable? I don’t even want to fuck someone who doesn’t have their shit together (or can’t afford a nice meal at Chipotle). Becoming financially independent has become more of a priority for our generation and, according to Psychology Today, financial disagreements are the number one reason for couples counseling and ultimately divorce.
And even if millennials still want to get married, we’re delaying marriage longer than ever before. Growing up, I witnessed many of my friend’s parents get divorced and it turned me off—and, I think, my friends off—to the concept of marriage. Over half of millennials remain unmarried or without kids according to 2016’s Gallup poll. In the 1950s, however, a family of four could survive off a working father’s salary while the mother stayed at home full time. Now that’s pretty much impossible…unless Dad is Jeff Bezos.
Dating apps have also changed the way we view relationships and connections. Our parents did not have access to Tinder, Bumble, and Grindr to satisfy their sexual appetites, but can you imagine the stories they would tell us if they did? This is what future generations have to look forward to; our online dating escapades. As millennials, many of us still had the inarguable expectation (from our parents) to go to college, find a good job, settle down, and get married just as the generations before us had done. Millennials were in the middle of college during the 2008 housing market crash that led to a major collapse of our economy and finding a stable job became the number one priority. The only problem was, there weren’t many jobs available that provided a steady income to afford the cost of living. Financial instability due to student debt is a major contributor to marriage decline.
Millennials still desire to get married. I wouldn’t even mind settling down someday and eventually getting knocked up and pumping out a baby or three, but it might not happen until later on in life. In fact, the reason people are postponing nuptials today is that they genuinely care about the concept of marriage and don’t want to screw it up. Andrew Cherlin, a sociologist at Johns Hopkins, calls these “capstone marriages.”
“The capstone is the last brick you put in place to build an arch,” Dr. Cherlin said. “Marriage used to be the first step into adulthood. Now it is often the last. (Cherlin, 2018 as cited in NY Times) It will be interesting to see how these new trends will affect marketing marriage to future generations. I’m not getting married in 2018 because i’m simply not ready, maybe I won’t ever be, and that’s ok too.
If you are an unmarried millennial, just know you aren’t alone, and it’s most likely not because of you—unless, of course, it is.