Modern romance: Gen-Y is late to the wedding, but wants marriage
Gen-Y is is rewriting modern romance as the path to marriage gets longer but more certain: Young people want more certainty before the wedding.
San Diego, Calif.
When Amy Monticello and Jason Tucker got married, it wasn't the passionate act of two people who'd fallen madly in love. It was a far less romantic mix of love, legal protections, and health insurance. They met in graduate school, dated for a while, and began staying over at each other's apartments.Skip to next paragraph
"We were spending so much time together it just seemed silly to pay two rents," says Ms. Monticello. So the two moved in together in 2006, but she says she was wary: "I think I saw living together as a test run, in a way."
Four years later Monticello, age 29, and Mr. Tucker, 30 – both writers who teach at Ithaca College, in Ithaca, N.Y. – chose to marry because it gave their relationship legal certainty and other benefits, like next-of-kin status, community property protection, and the ability to share health insurance.
Much of Monticello's ambivalence about marriage, she says, is the result of her childhood in the 1980s and '90s spent watching her parents and their friends contribute to the highest divorce rates in US history.
That ambivalence is also seen in the whole new world of courtship created by her generation – Millennials or Generation Y generally includes those born between 1980 and 2000. This is the first generation to come of age with social media, instant – even constant – Internet and phone connection, and relaxed pressures to marry early. It is responsible for terms like "hooking up" (nonrelationships known to previous generations as one-night stands) and "friends with benefits" (a sexual relationship without emotional involvement).
While Millennial courtship rituals are distinctly different from those of previous generations, say those who study the scene, survey after survey indicates that Millennials do want to be married, they do want the house in the suburbs and the kids.
But they also want to be careful – they are postponing marriage longer than any generation before them.
"Millennials believe in marriage and lifelong commitment but are also more relaxed about sex, dating, and living together" than their Generation X and boomer parents, says Pamela Smock, a professor of sociology and director of the Population Studies Center at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
They don't wait for the phone to ring
Today, just 20 percent of adults ages 18 to 29 are married, compared with nearly 60 percent in 1960, according to the Pew Research Center. When Xers were the same age, 30 percent were married; for boomers it was more than 40 percent.