We know people are getting married later in life than their parents (average bride or groom is eight years older than in the 1970s), but did you know that dating and living together for years before marriage has now become pretty much the norm?
According to wedding planning app and British website Bridebook.co.uk's 2017 survey that polled 4,000 recently married couples, most of the couples lived together before getting hitched (a whopping 89 percent). Most married couples have very long relationships before walking down the aisle—4.9 years on average, to be exact. The app then broke down what happens during that 4.9 years: dating for almost a year and a half before moving in together and then living together for nearly two years (22 months) before getting engaged, then an engagement that lasts about 20 months.
This also isn't their first rodeo—many respondents had two serious relationships before finding their spouse. It makes sense seeing as the average age for a woman to get married is now 30.8 years old; for a man, it's 32.7—giving both ample time to have had other relationships.
People may also be putting off marriage longer for economic reasons. “When there's rough economic times, marriage rates go down,” Eric Klinenberg, sociologist and co-author of Aziz Ansari's Modern Romance: An Investigation told The Washington Post. “People don't feel comfortable committing to someone during hardships.” With student debt rates higher than ever—Americans owe over $1.4 trillion in student loan debt—paying those off or at least making a dent in them is something many would like to accomplish before saying “I do.”
With more women working than ever before and making more money than previous generations, it makes sense that they would also wait to walk down the aisle. A 2013 study found that women who put off marriage longer, until around the age of 30, often had higher salaries than their college-educated counterparts who married at younger ages. The women who got married before age 20 reported an average annual income of a little over $30,000, while those who married at 30 or later earned around $50,000.
Dr. Helen Fisher, an evolutionary biologist and leading expert on human attraction, said in an interview that the delay of marriage serves as a way of protecting ourselves from a lot of hardship. In previous generations, marriage came right at the beginning of relationships, which didn't always have the best results. We are now in a stage of "slow love" according to Fisher, meaning people are really ready when they finally decide to commit.
Though this does seem like a long time and definitely different than previous generations, according to the survey it may lead to stronger relationships. Eighty percent feel that since getting married the level of commitment has increased and 60 percent feel that since getting married, the level of happiness has increased. Over half also think the level of trust has increased as well as the love between them and their partner. A little over 40 percent also feel that since getting married they share a better mental well-being and over 30 percent feel that since getting married they have a better sexual relationship.
Hamish Shephard, the founder of Bridebook.co.uk, said, “Whilst living together before getting married, having serious relationships out of wedlock, or getting married when you are older were previously frowned upon, for the modern couple these can clearly be very positive steps to finding 'the one' and having a fantastic long-lasting marriage.”