I was with my boyfriend for barely a year when my grandparents brought up marriage. I knew that conversation was coming: it was an expected step in life that everyone in my family before me had taken. I mean, I’d been obsessed with weddings as a toddler, after all. But a lot had changed since my grandparents got hitched — hell, I’d changed.
“We just want to make sure he’ll provide for you,” my grandpa said.
My grandpa furrowed his white brow. “Why?”
Great question, Grandpa. Unfortunately, it’s not a simple answer. I may have replied with a simple “I don’t want to,” — which should have been enough — but of course it was dismissed with the wisdom of old age. “You’ll change your mind,” he said.
In fact, Pew Research reports that 25 percent of today’s young adults will never tie the knot. My guess is that a lot of us probably just don’t want to — but I know there are much deeper reasons than that, too.
Why are so many millennials reluctant to get married?
We’re worried about money
Alright, so like most things, it can be boiled down to dollars and cents. Gone are the days when the bride’s father is prepared to foot the bill. Instead, this responsibility falls to the couple — and it’s no secret that weddings are expensive.
Thanks to one of the most successful marketing campaigns of all time, our society is convinced that only a diamond ring can signify true love — so even the engagement will put a dent in your pocketbook. And then after the ceremony — even if it is “small” and “intimate,” — you have the honeymoon. You and your spouse spend thousands of dollars on a wedding, then skip work to vacation for a couple weeks.
Of course, marriage has plenty of financial benefits, but it’s not all sunshine and daisies. Your partner’s past debts can make things complicated — particularly student loans, which millennials are especially concerned with these days. Depending on your interest rates, your joint income, and where you live, getting married can mean a larger monthly loan payment.
Now, I’m sure you need a vacation just as much as any young professional, and you and your spouse certainly deserve to spend time alone celebrating your love. But most millennials, especially recent graduates, can’t even consider taking on additional financial burdens.
We learned from our parents’ mistakes
That doesn’t mean that marriage is a mistake! Well, not all marriages. Let me explain:
Plenty of us experienced the unhappy marriages of our parents, or saw the effects of our grandparents’ divorce. We’re not about to repeat their mistakes by marrying too young or when we’re too financially unstable — not after witnessing our own parents grow apart or argue over skyrocketing mortgage payments.
We’re taking time to get to know ourselves and figure out what we really want — things that you can’t possibly know in your early 20s. Some people do really marry their high school sweetheart and live happily ever after — but most of us need a little more time to find our soul mates. That’s okay; there’s no harm in waiting an extra few years before linking our lives together with another person’s forever.
Every generation pulls away from the social norms of the previous one. Gender roles are becoming more fluid than ever. Women are perfectly capable of supporting themselves and take pride in being independent. More and more millennials are working from home and refusing to participate in the traditional 9 to 5. Many of us have rejected capitalism and religion — it only makes sense that marriage is next. We are forming our own world, one where marriage is not necessarily required. Even when millennials are getting married, they commonly reject “crucial” traditions.
These are just some reasons why we don’t consider “I do’s” a must-do. When we do tie the knot, it’ll be when we’re ready — financially and emotionally. That just happens to be a little later than previous generations.
Dayton Uttinger socializes for a living and writes for fun. Her rarely relevant degree gives her experience in political science, writing, Spanish, rugby, theater, coding, and spreading herself too thin. She will forever be a prisoner of her family’s business, doomed to inherit responsibility despite frequent existential protests. Follow her on Twitter.