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Why Young Americans Are Souring on Marriage

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Why Young Americans Are Souring on Marriage

To understand the future of this institution, we must look at where marriage came from: God’s Word.

Learn the why behind the headlines.

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Times are changing. A man and a woman promising to spend their lives together had been a cornerstone for societies worldwide. But more people have now come to see marriage as outdated and even limiting their freedom.

Axios recently featured observations from Andrew Cherlin, a sociologist at Johns Hopkins. He pointed out, “It used to be a basic institution that everyone had to buy into in early adulthood…You got married, then you moved in together, and then you got a job.” He emphasized how this order has shifted, saying, “Marriage is now becoming the last step into adulthood.” The article added, “And it is an optional step.”

Additional data supports this change. Before, people got married and then focused on education or careers. Now, it is the opposite. The American National Family Life Survey highlighted that in 2021, men on average married at 30.4 years and women at 28.6 years. Compare this to 1972: men married at 23.3 years and women at 20.9 years.

Clearly, society’s priorities are shifting. Marriage still exists, but it is not the milestone it once was. Why is this happening?

Shifting Priorities

If social media feeds and friend circles are to be believed, young and middle-aged adults are enjoying a carefree, event-filled life of singlehood. From posts highlighting the joys of filling their lives with plants and cats instead of spouses to websites selling solo vacations, more people are putting marriage off as a threshold into adulthood.

Clever Real Estate recently conducted a study on the state of marriage, and the results indicate that a significant portion of Americans are souring on marriage: 1 in 4 Americans (25 percent) think marriage is an outdated concept.

One major generational shift relates to not only why people get married but also why they stay single. In the U.S., priorities have shifted. Younger generations prioritize mental health (49 percent), physical health (44 percent), personal growth (31 percent) and even remaining debt-free (25 percent) over marriage.

“Single influencers” are now a staple on TikTok, Instagram and other social media outlets, detailing their lives without a spouse. One such individual, who coined the phrase “relationship minimalism,” said: “For where I am right now, a relationship is not my priority. I have limited time and energy, and I can only allocate so much of it each day. I am trying to get rid of everything that doesn’t give me true satisfaction.”

Many young people are also putting education or careers ahead of marriage. According to Pew Research: “Today’s young adults are much better educated than their grandparents, as the share of young adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher has steadily climbed since 1968. Among Millennials, around four-in-ten (39%) of those ages 25 to 37 have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared with just 15% of the Silent Generation, roughly a quarter of Baby Boomers and about three-in-ten Gen Xers (29%) when they were the same age.”

While getting a degree or having a good job is perfectly acceptable, education can take a lot more time and effort than in previous years. Many of today’s jobs require higher education, forcing students down long, arduous paths of education, with some still going to college into their 30s. Once a person has chosen that path, it becomes very hard to break away to get married and start a family.

But is it any wonder why people are becoming perpetual students in today’s economy? If education provides the best path toward earning a proper living and paying the bills, are the younger generations really to blame for not seeking marriage? These financial factors have made it very difficult for Millennials and Gen Zers to “leave the nest.” Not being able to find a job—or one that pays enough—has many putting off marriage by necessity. Rising costs of rent, groceries, gas, car payments, insurance, taxes and so much more have left many feeling they are unable to afford going out on their own.

Divorce’s Devastating Impact

Aside from a shift in priorities, younger generations have grown more cautious and skeptical of marriage in general. The Clever Real Estate study helps reveal why by showing how different generational groups view matrimony.

Baby boomers are 397 percent more likely say nothing is more important than marriage, when compared to their Gen Z counterparts. Despite this, the older generation has a divorce rate of nearly 35 percent.

The most common reasons cited for ending a marriage are infidelity (37 percent), too many arguments (32 percent), falling out of love (27 percent), and abuse (25 percent).

Take infidelity, the cause of over one-third of all divorces. Research produced by the University of Utah shows that “between 20 and 25 percent of married men cheat and between 10 and 15 percent of married women cheat.”

While these statistics are high across the board, how do they break out generationally? The Institute of Family Studies Research showed in 2018 that Baby Boomers top the list among other generations for infidelity. Those born between 1946 and 1964 have higher infidelity rates and thus higher divorce rates.

Younger generations see all of this and do not want to fall into the same painful outcomes. Seeing so much divorce—over one-in-three couples their parents’ or grandparents’ age—leads them to become hesitant or skeptical of marriage and either delay it or forego it altogether.

One thing shines through Clever’s study: More people are shrugging off the knee-jerk marital obligation in favor of taking a more considered approach to this commitment.

Cultural Shifts

Until recently, sex before marriage was generally considered disgraceful. Having children out of wedlock brought a certain shame to the family name, disincentivizing such actions. This has largely changed as sex before marriage has become more normalized. Wholesome television shows like “Leave It to Beaver,” “I Love Lucy” and “The Andy Griffith Show” have been replaced with titles that glorify and promote pre-marital sex. Many shows feature sex as the main subject.

According to data from the National Survey of Family Growth, 95 percent of Americans under age 45 have had sex before marriage. Virtually no one in the United States abstains from having sex until marriage. This trend is common among other Western nations as well.

While some indications show that fornication (sex before marriage) is on the decline among younger people, advancements in technology have made up for the decrease in physical sexual acts. Pornography, while not seen by society as sex before marriage, is viewed by God as a form of such. The horribly destructive bombardment of porn in today’s technological world has left youth without a fighting chance.

According to PR Newswire, 73 percent of teens age 13-17 have watched pornography online, with 54 percent first seeing pornography by age 13. Nearly every young mind has been exposed to sex by their teenage years.

Marriage’s Origin

If we were looking for the origins of the internet or computers, we would search an encyclopedia. If we sought out the origins of a word, we would look it up in an etymology dictionary. If we wanted to know more about the origins of our family, we would look up our genealogy in a family tree. So where should we look to find the origins of marriage?

The first book in the Bible is called Genesis—meaning the book of origins! This is where we find the institution of marriage described for the first time. When God created man (Adam), He said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a help meet for him” (Gen. 2:18).

God’s purpose from the start was that a man and woman work together, helping and benefiting one another throughout their lives.

After both Adam and Eve were created, verses 23 and 24 say, “And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.”

Marriage was created by God and has been on His mind since the beginning of man’s creation.

Satan hates everything that God does. He looks to undermine all of God’s institutions, especially marriage and family.

Here is why the devil wants to destroy marriages: The physical family types the God Family that He is building into eternity, which will include everyone who diligently follows His Way and lives according to His Word.

While most never consider that God is building a Family, it should not be hard to grasp, seeing He is called the Father all through the Bible. Similarly, Christ is known both as the Son of God and our elder brother. We, as children of God, should be working toward the awesome goal of entering God’s Family for eternity. This is why there is no greater institution on Earth than the family unit—and precisely why Satan wants to destroy it. Marriage is the first thing in his crosshairs!

So, if marriage is on the decline, might we see a similar decline in religion? The answer is a resounding yes—and is the greatest reason for marriage decline.

Modern forms of Christianity and Judaism are being crowded out by growing numbers of agnostics, atheists and even many fringe belief systems. A headline from NBC News says it all: “Why paganism and witchcraft are making a comeback.”

Pew Research shows that Gen Z, those born between 1997 and 2012, are the least religious generation—with one-in-three believing there is no God. This is a sharp contrast to Baby Boomers, of which only 17 percent are atheists.

Another Pew study comparing religious affiliation by generation shows young Millennials are more than three times less likely to identify as Christians than their Baby Boomer predecessors. Over the last 50 years, this precipitous drop in religion parallels the dramatic drop in marriage.

With religion on the decline, is it any wonder marital priorities have shifted in recent decades? Is it any wonder that examples of divorce and infidelity have turned young people off to marriage? Is it any wonder that fornication has become normal and even encouraged?

Truly, is it any wonder?

Where Is It Headed?

When Paul spoke about marriage in Hebrews 13:4, he called it “honorable”—meaning “valuable, costly, honored, esteemed and beloved.” As the years have gone on, marriage and much of its honor and value have been eroded. What was once treated as something very special and highly desired has been reduced in importance.

What will marriage look like in the future? If today’s statistics and trends continue for generations to come, would the concept of marriage simply go away? What does the Bible say?

While there are many forces fighting against this wonderful institution, we can know marriage will never be destroyed. Remember, marriage was established by God, picturing His expanding Family. The Bible shows we can look forward to the ultimate marriage yet ahead!

Revelation 19:6-8 says: “And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigns. Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to Him: for the marriage of the Lamb [Jesus Christ] is come, and His wife [the Church] has made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.”

Never forget why physical marriage holds such importance—it types the great marriage between Christ and the Church in the Kingdom of God! To learn more about the Bible’s teaching about marriage, read The Purpose of Marriage – Ever Obsolete? and You Can Build a Happy Marriage.

This article contains information from The Associated Press.

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