I saw this article on The Daily Beast this weekend that reports on the various reasons young people (those under the age of forty) are giving for not getting married. The article, called “Why We’re Not Getting Married” dubs a new generation as The Little Bit Marrieds. What the heck does that mean?
Little Bit Marrieds are in committed relationships and often living together but aren’t legally married.
This is nothing new, in fact, my generation pretty much invented it. However, it is changing the marital landscape. Witness these statistics from the article:
The median age for a first marriage in the United States is the highest it’s ever been—27.1 for a man and 25.3 for a woman—and it skews even higher in many cities, giving way to more years of dating before marriage. In fact, 23 million adults are in unmarried committed relationships. Over 12 million unmarried partners live together, a trend that is being exhibited in a large part by the 25-to-34-year-old demo.”
As the article goes on to point out, even Prince William and Kate Middleton dated for six years before getting married. Of course, royals have a lot more invested in marriage than just their happiness. Some aren’t allowed to divorce and all of them have to do it very publicly when they are permitted to split. So why are the kids down the hall or down the street getting a little bit married?
In the article, the author cites experts as saying that career goals, fear of divorce and romantic ideals are part of the reason. But the most interesting (and sad) part of the article to me was this paragraph:
A Little Bit Marrieds are the ones that write a prenup on a piece of loose-leaf paper as they move in, detailing who paid for the Ikea bureau, who brought the flat-screen TV, whose parents gave them the bed. They don’t share the cost of anything “just in case.” They each have separate shelf units for their books and DVDs. Are they roommates or are they building a life together? Are they husband and wife, girlfriend and boyfriend, or roommates? They may have seen friends go through a whole lifecycle—dating, marriage, and kids—but they still don’t own a couch together.”
I think that’s the key to the whole thing.
They want the structure and the semblance of marriage without actually being married. But the truth is that without that commitment, all you really get to experience is a simulation. Living together is not the same as being married and sharing an apartment is really just playing house.
What makes marriage different is the growth, intimacy and excitement that comes from knowing you made a permanent choice in a partner and then watching your relationship evolve from there. I would hate to see this new trend become the norm, with Little Bit Marrieds outnumbering the completely committed. I think the best way to combat that is to give our kids and teens a role model that makes them not want to settle for a simulation, don’t you?