Millennials Repair the Errors of Their Parents’ Generation —One Marriage at a Time

Millennials Repair the Errors of Their Parents’ Generation —One Marriage at a Time May 30, 2019

Two of the most talked about sociological topics of the day collide in Hannah Smothers’ article “Young Marrieds Are Staying Married, Thanks To Our Divorced Parents,” in the most recent of Cosmopolitan. Diving into the data and picking apart the latest research, Smothers takes a long look at marital success among the most maligned generation — millennials.

With more millennials entering the ranks of marriage, the article challenges the notion that younger generations are creating a throw away culture. While Smothers humorously makes mention of the great many things millennial are all too happy to relegate to history — according to Smothers, “plastic straws, mayonnaise, Hooters restaurants, fabric softener, [and] the existence of middle children” — she posits that when it comes to the big, meaningful, and emotional stuff of life, millennials are very much interested in preserving the stable, long-lasting marriages of earlier generations.

Citing new research from Philip N. Cohen at the University of Maryland, Smothers points out that divorce rates are down 24% percent from their peak in 1981. And she effectively quotes Prof. Justin Wolfers of the University of Michigan, who is hoping to expose as untrue the oft-uttered “50% of marriages end in divorce” stat that many are quick to drop in conversation.

And perhaps most interestingly, Smothers’ analysis of these experts’ research takes a view of millennials that is kinder, more nuanced, and inextricably tied to those common, critical refrains from the previous generation — that millennial marriages are lasting longer precisely because many grew up in households where divorce was so common, perhaps it giving rise to the “50%” cliché.

Coming of age in families coping with the trauma of divorce, Smothers suggests that millennials are trying to right the wrongs of their parents, practicing a more measured approach to marriage. Not only do millennials take a long view of marriage and seem more committed to “making it work,” they also tend not to rush into commitments at the same age or for the same reasons as their parents.

On average, millennials are more wary of settling down and don’t feel the same societal pressures to  avoid pre-marital sex, for example. This resistance to rushing into commitment is made possible by a host of factors, from social mores to the societal acceptance and prevalence of birth control options, but it’s also an effect of technology in the form of dating apps. When there are “a lot of fish in the sea,” it seems millennials don’t want to rush into catching a fish.

Whether this trend will continue remains to be seen, but it’s clear that the dynamic nature of social conventions and social media, along with a bit of good old-fashioned hindsight, has young married couples trying to repair the errors of their parents’ generation — one marriage at a time.

Follow Terry on Twitter, Facebook, and Terry’s award winning book Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy A Happy, Long-Lasting Relationship was published in January of 2016 by Sourcebooks.

I’d love to hear from you and answer your questions about relationships, divorce, marriage, and remarriage. Please ask a question here. Thanks! Terry 



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