Deciding to move in with a partner or committing to marry them, is seen as a major life decision and milestone. However, feelings surroundings these decisions vary greatly by generation. A Pew Research Report from 2019 finds that younger individuals (ages 18-29 and ages 30-49) are more inclined to believe that couples will fare better in their relationship by living together before marriage (63 and 52 percent) compared to their older counterparts.
Younger individuals having strong opinions regarding cohabitation and marriage may seem surprising for two generations defined by their online dating/ hookup culture. However, Generation Z, those born in 1996-2012, has recently begun to come of age and embark on cohabitation and or marriage with a romantic partner. While marriage rates have declined, with a 2018 Pew Research Center survey finding that only 53% of adults are married compared to 1995’s 58%, Generation Z has not shown any inclination towards resisting marriage. A 2018 YPlus survey conducted contends that only 2 in 10 Gen Z teenagers agreed with the statement “I don’t ever want to get married”. This is less than millennials, with 3 out of 10 millennials agreeing with the statement.
Additionally, Generation Z is not looking to exclusively meet their future spouse online. The Knot’s 2020 Future Relationships and Weddings survey found that many 18 and older Gen Z individuals believe that they will meet their future spouse through friends (23%), in school (14%) and other social settings (17%). Moreover, an unspecified majority of The Knot’s adult Millennial and Gen Z respondents, believed they would be getting married in two to five years.
Today, Generation Z falls between the ages of 9-29. A 2017 Pew Research Report found that 44 percent of 18-29-year-olds had coinhabited with a partner, while 23 percent had been married. Cohabitation rates being nearly twice as high as marriage may be indicative of Generation Z’s beliefs on the importance of living together. The Knot’s survey found that 53 percent of Generation Z and young Millennial respondents “anticipate living together before marriage” and 30 percent “anticipate purchasing a home together before marriage”.
This concept is echoed by Grace Cholden, a 21-year-old college student, who is in a relationship but is not engaged. Living together before getting married is important to Grace for the health of her relationship: “What’s the rush in getting married at 21? Let’s move in together first [and] get a pet.” To Grace, this is an obvious requirement in her relationship that is based also on personal growth: “I feel like I still have a lot to learn about myself and I could do that by living with [my boyfriend] first.”
Personal growth may be one motivating factor for Gen Z and young Millennials to postpone getting married, but finances seem to be a contributing factor as well. The same survey from The Knot found that 50 percent of respondents wanted to achieve financial independence and “build a successful career” before getting married.
The desire for a successful career was important to both men and women who participated in a Pew Research Center study in 2019. 57 percent of men and 46 percent of women said that “having a job or career they enjoy” was of more importance than “being in a committed relationship” or “being married”.
This rings true for 22-year-old college student Bernard Snyder. While he has been in a committed relationship he is not looking to cohabit with his partner or get engaged to be married at this time. These reasons are based mostly in financial concerns as Snyder says “between student loans and looking to enter the workforce, it does not seem financially responsible to take on a lease right now as well. I’d rather save some money for a while so I don’t feel the pressure of being unable to afford where [we’re] living”.
The importance of establishing a career taking precedence in one’s life is a feeling Jayden Harlon, 21, understands well. As she and her partner look to move across the country together after graduation, she is most concerned with her employment opportunities.
However, in looking at marriage patterns a new trend may be emerging. In interviewing Gen Z college students, many had anecdotal evidence of their fellow Gen Z friends and family recently getting engaged or married, much younger than their millennial counterparts.
Famous Gen Z athlete Trevor Lawrence recently marrying fiancé Marrisa Mowry and celebrity Brooklyn Beckham proposing to his girlfriend Nicola Peltz are just some of the recent Instagram-worthy examples of this potential phenomenon.
How does this fit with the current trend of adults getting married later and later? According to millenialtype.com, the average age for a millennial to get married is 32. When surveyed, on average, Gen Z individuals anticipate themselves getting married at the age of 27.
There seems to be a slightly higher acceptance and anticipation level for Gen Z when it comes to marriage that contradicts the generation’s public image as a social media-addicted, always-looking-for-better, narcissistic subset of the Millennials.
But only time will tell.