Millennials have adopted a “fast sex, slow love” approach to romance that upends decades-old traditions. Avoiding exclusivity and delaying commitment in relationships may seem like reckless behavior to older generations, but the result has been a stunning upset in divorce trends. Experts give millennials credit for a 24 percent decline in divorce rates since 1981. Making marriage the culmination of a relationship instead of the launch seems to be working as protective strategy against divorce.
Millennials may be quick to hook up, but statistics show they are wary about making their relationships legally binding. They’ve made living together part of the pathway toward marriage, and they’re in no hurry to reach the altar. A study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family says the number of couples living together before getting engaged has increased. When they get engaged, millennial couples delay almost 5 years before marrying and they are older when they marry. The median age for a first marriage in the U.S. is now 27 for women and 29 for men.
You learn a lot between the sheets.
“Singles want to know every little thing about somebody before they get serious with them,” says Helen Fisher, PhD, a biological anthropologist and senior research fellow at The Kinsey Institute. ”And you learn a lot between the sheets. Not just how they have sex, but whether they’re patient, kind, humorous, and a good listener.”
“Millennials don’t want to ‘catch feelings’ until they’re positive that the person they’re with is someone they could be with long-term. Marriage used to be the beginning of a relationship—now, it’s the finale,” Fisher tells Cosmopolitan.
Money also plays a role in the way millennials approach marriage, with statistics showing marriage is more popular among wealthier millennials. Delaying marriage until they’ve paid off student loans and landed jobs indicates millennials recognize financial security is a top priority for marital success. Finishing college, marrying after age 25 and establishing a career are three big factors that fend off divorce, according to Philip Cohen, PhD. The sociology professor at the University of Maryland has done research on divorce and is the author of The Coming Divorce Decline.
Millennials are practical about legal problems.
Once a millennial couple has reached those goals, they’re less likely to see money woes that can stress a marriage. Fighting over money is a common cause of divorce and a leading reason why couples seek marriage counseling.
Millennials are also concerned about holding on to the money they’ve accumulated before saying, “I do.” Because they have more assets to protect when they get married, more couples are signing prenuptial agreements. And since the average expense of divorce runs about $15,000, reluctance to pay the high cost of splitting may discourage millennials from giving up on marriage.
“Most Americans think millennials are just reckless—that they are not going to marry at all—and that’s simply not true,” says Fisher. “They really do love love. They are eager to fall in love, and 89 percent believe that they can remain married long-term. It’s just that they’re practical about the legal problems that come with divorce.”