4 Ways Marriage as a Millennial is Different From Generations Past

Millennials approach marriage a little differently.

couple in desert collage

Art by Tiana Crispino

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist or, better yet, a relationship expert, to recognize that marriage has come a long way since the days of our parents and grandparents. The millennial generation has brought about an entirely new way of looking at love and the union of marriage in and of itself. We acknowledge the importance of offering equal rights to all genders, as well as those who identify as non-binary, and have tossed out so many notions of gender stereotypes that have long plagued the marital system. 

It’s safe to say that we millennials have put our own spin on what it means to be married and, for the most part, it seems to be serving us well. Although, there’s always room for improvement. “Millennials are more attracted to 50/50 partnerships as opposed to what we are more familiar with,” says Dr. Jacqueline Del Rosario, relationship expert and certified premarital course provider. “For my generation, the staple of being a woman entails cooking and cleaning. But millennials have shifted normative gender roles to the point where men too cook, clean, and take paternity leave.”

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How Marriage Has Transcended Through Time

The concept of marriage has long predated any of our relatives, dating all the way back to biblical times. But, the biggest changes that took place were during the feminist movement of the 1960s. “This period of time set the platform for the modern marriage to launch and evolve to what it has become today, changing day by day in how people mate, marry, and create families,” explains Lisa Bahar, L.M.F.T. and L.P.C.C., of Marriage and Family Therapy, Inc. “As a result, gender roles are more fluid, having children is an option, workforce roles have shifted, and expectations are moving into uncharted territory.”

Especially now, in our post-pandemic world, an entire restructuring of marital roles is in progress. “Child rearing is now on both parents who may be working from the home as they transition to the work place if still employed,” says Bahar. “Stress impacts all members of the family, which creates an egalitarian balance between spouses in the marriage, which may be embraced or resisted.” 

What Marriage is Like For a Millennial

Even though we all know that the marriages of today look a whole lot different than the marriages that our parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and beyond experienced, we might not quite realize how lucky we are to be living and be married in modern times. Here’s a close look at some of the ways marriage as a millennial is distinctly different from generations past. 

You May Have a Child Out of Wedlock

Nowadays, hardly anyone even uses the phrase “having a child out of wedlock." But, it’s happening today more than ever before. In fact, in 2015, an estimated 40.3 percent of women who gave birth in the United States were unmarried, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This is starkly up from 1974, where only 13.2 percent of women who gave birth were unwed. 

Couples are realizing that a mere piece of paper does not dictate whether or not they can or should take the next step in their relationship, notes Paulette Sherman, psychologist, relationship coach, and the host of The Love Psychologist podcast

You May Marry and Have Kids Later in Life

When couples decide to have kids has also changed drastically. Many are waiting longer, which gives them more opportunity to enjoy their marriage without the duty and distraction of childrearing. This can be quite beneficial to the relationship itself. Research has shown that the transition to parenthood can place a great deal of stress on a couple. 

When you do decide to have kids, chances are, you’re better grounded in your professional lives. This can ease up on the stresses that ensue when it comes to early parenthood, notes Dr. Sherman. As such, she points out that you may be more likely to play equal roles in your children’s lives when it comes to raising and caring for them. 

You Are More Open to Economic Roles

In millennial marriages, it’s not uncommon for the woman to be the primary source of income. But, you better believe this was near-unheard of a mere 60 years ago. According to Pew Research Center, 3.8 percent of women earned more than their husbands in 1960. Today, 30 percent of women do. With so much more economic opportunity for women now, couples are more likely to both have jobs and contribute to their household income.

You Are More Likely to Come From Different Ethnicities

It’s an unfortunate part of our not-too-distant history that interracial couples were more than just frowned upon. In fact, miscegenation laws, which outlawed interracial marraiges in the United States weren’t entirely overturned until 1967 with the Loving v. Virginia trial. “Nowadays, couples have multiple weddings for their different cultures and need to learn about and respect each other’s customs, background, and traditions,” says Dr. Sherman. 

How to Make a Millennial Marriage Work

As we can see, there are countless fundamental ways in which millennial marriages have far exceeded marriages of the past in terms of equality, fairness, and overall happiness. However, with this new equal backing comes new pressures that millennials must overcome, such as both partners working full-time. 

To succeed in a millennial marriage, it’s vital that both partners work to respect their differences, learn how to communicate, and share responsibilities, notes Dr. Sherman. “Rather than slipping into old gender roles, you can discuss your strengths or preferences as individuals and share tasks,” she says. “Being able to be partners at work and at home allows you both to feel well-rounded and supported.”

Additionally, Dr. Del Rosario recommends that couples see more than just the surface of their marriage and relationship. Instead, hone in and know about your partner's traumas, defensive mechanisms, and triggers. “Learn their history and how they were raised. [This] information will help [you] navigate the waters of life even when they become turbulent. [It also can] give you additional perspective that will enable you to communicate effectively, compromise, and develop a strong foundation by addressing issues that will avoid entanglements.”

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