What’s driving the perceived increase in youth marriages, and should you get hitched too?
Is it just us, or are a lot of people getting married recently? Like, in their early twenties. Some are even having kids… on purpose?! For some like ourselves, who can barely commit to the level of ice and sugar they want in their bubble tea, this type of commitment seems incredibly daunting. Is there something in the air that’s driving people to get married? Is that thing Covid? Is there really enough time outside of student life to plan a wedding and be a loving spouse? Being the investigators that we are, Craccum tried to find out about this phenomenon, calling on psychologists and people with lived experience to comment.
It’s important to note that, according to Psychology PhD candidate Nina Waddell, we actually don’t have any evidence that more people are getting married at the moment compared to any other time. Our perception of the situation could simply be the manifestation of our biases, personal anecdotes, or the fact that the pandemic delayed several relationship milestones. Hence, people seem to be getting engaged and married at the same time. Nevertheless, as the experts highlighted, there tends to be a spike in marriages, divorces, and birth rates after natural disasters or other major stressors, like pandemics.
Dr. Jessica Maxwell referred to therapist Esther Perel when she explained that Covid “acted like a relationship accelerator”. She said that if peoples’ relationships were going well, the pandemic might have strengthened them further. Likewise, it also had the potential to exacerbate cracks in relationships. Dr. Maxwell mentioned that Covid left a lot of people with a craving for stability. She could see that people in satisfying relationships might be more inclined to get married to guarantee themselves a person to rely on in challenging situations.
The perceived increase in young people getting married could partly be explained by the pandemic’s aftermath. It could also be explained by “a backlash and a dissatisfaction with hookup culture”, said Dr. Maxwell. By getting married, a person does not have to deal with the negative aspects of dating and being single. Some young people may also just want to make a formal and public commitment to their partner, and marriage is a way to do that.
The young people we talked to about getting married said they felt ready to take the next step in their relationship. Emily, who was 23 when she married, said that she and her partner were “ready to spend every day with their best friend”. MacKenzie and her husband married when they were 21 and 23, respectively. She said they “dated with the intention of finding a life partner, so it felt like the natural progression of our relationship.”
Suppose you’re in this situation, and your partner is just the perfect amount of ice and sugar for your bubble tea. What next? What are the characteristics of successful intimate relationships that defy age boundaries? And what should you know before you say “I do”?
According to Dr. Maxwell, meta-analyses have highlighted the importance of commitment and communication in successful marriages. People who are committed to their relationship do things like plan for the future and can’t imagine ending that relationship.
“When you’re committed to your partner, you tend to see things through rose-coloured glasses, you tend to make more benign attributions for your partner’s bad behaviour. You tend to be more willing to sacrifice and a host of other motivated strategies that really help your relationship flourish.”
Dr. Maxwell says that good communication predicts relationship success because it can show your partner that you understand them. Contrarily, poor communication does not promote relationship satisfaction because it increases the likelihood of engaging in hostile behaviours like “being neglectful of your partner and withdrawing from conversations”.
According to Nina, some of the most important characteristics of a successful relationship include perceiving your partner to be committed and responsive and appreciative of you, and experiencing low conflict and high sexual satisfaction.
“Being responsive means giving your partner what they say they need, not what you think they need”. Nina says all these characteristics are in our control, can be developed over time, and need constant practice.
In addition, Dr. Maxwell emphasised that you and your partner should ensure that you’re not just “sliding into marriage”. You shouldn’t be getting married because of inertia or because you think that’s what people expect you to do. Instead, getting married should be a “thoughtful decision” that comes from a feeling of personal commitment. This means that you want the relationship to continue and the thought of getting married is not just a result of feeling “locked-in” in your relationship. One way to avoid this, Dr. Maxwell offered, is that if you are unsure about getting married but want to move in with your partner, move into a place you can afford on your own (if you can). That way, you’re not “locked in” to the relationship and tempted to stay with your partner out of convenience.
Emily and MacKenzie recommend that before getting married, you and your partner might want to seek professional pre-marital counselling or take a marriage course. These services can help bring up aspects of marriage you might not have thought of before, such as your expectations of each other regarding finances, housework, and life goals.
For Emily, MacKenzie, and their partners, their friends and families supported their decision, were excited, and helped them organise their weddings. For MacKenzie, some of her friends found it difficult to understand her decision but eventually came around. She said it probably helped that they get along well with her husband. Whatever your relationship status, Emily says, don’t be afraid to follow your heart. Live, laugh, love (in marriage or not).
The Craccum team will expect their invites for any upcoming weddings promptly at firstname.lastname@example.org. We would make beautiful bridesmaids and groomsmen.