When my 29-year-old daughter, Simone, told me she doesn’t think she and her long-time boyfriend, Noel, have to marry (even if they become parents), I wasn’t shocked. Mone is a pretty unconventional young woman. But after reading the results of a Pew Research Survey, I realized she’s apparently not as unconventional as I thought. Only 26 percent of 20-somethings were married two years ago, compared to 68 percent in 1960, the survey revealed. Forty-four percent of young adults think marriage is headed for extinction. Overall, only half of US adults are taking a walk on the aisle side, down from 72 percent in 1960.
Our sons and daughters watched half of our marriages fall apart. No wonder they feel differently.
But we married when we were kids. We played house; we didn’t create homes. We fell in love before we quit exploring, experimenting and arguing. Then we grew one way while our mates grew another.
The percentage of couples that cohabit today has more than doubled since 1990. Forty-four percent of the 2,691 people participating in the Pew survey said they’ve lived together at some point. If a couple has cohabited successfully for a few years, and knows each other well, I bet their marriage will thrive. I wish I had had the chance to do that. But I think it’s a mistake for couples to let lax exit strategies define their relationships.
We had kids before we stopped being kids ourselves, which didn’t always make us perfect parents. Assuming young couples today are more mature when they become parents, marriage will help assure that they stay responsible, especially if they break up someday.
We were ambitious and didn’t always have the time or energy to work on our young marriages. Young people today are establishing themselves before making permanent romantic commitments, which gives them greater opportunity to make marriage work.