Young People Waiting To Marry – Why? Top Reasons

According to the latest census data, the percentage of adults in the U.S. who have never been married hits an all time high. Specifically, new data shows that more young adults are waiting to marry. Why? There are various opinions as to why this is happening, depending on who you ask. This blog article addresses my theory from the lens of a Marriage and Relationship Therapist who has been working with young adults and older, both as couples and individuals for 20+ years. It is this real life experience talking to real people that has informed my perspective. Below you will find my top reasons explaining why many young adults are waiting.

Individual Role/Identity Within The Couple Unit – 2 People Work

Gender role/individual identity within the couple unit no longer holds definition and clarity. One’s role is blurred. It is within this 2 person working philosophical belief system, and often financial mandate that has led men and women to feel like they need to rely on their own self and not on another. Thus, leading men and women to feel they must be established financially independently before they are willing to merge as a couple.

In addition, women working outside of the home has left many men in relationships displeased, feeling like they are not the priority in a woman’s life. Men feeling like women don’t take care of them, thus, they ask themselves; why marry if I can take care of myself? Women working has also left many women feeling displeased in relationships for they ultimately feel that they work and still are expected to take care/”do it all”, as many young women explain. Therefore leaving both males and females to determine that the freedom of not being married, not being committed to having to meet the expectations of how to be with a spouse is ideal. And not until they are older and ready to have a family, then is marriage a requirement. And that is of course if they still believe marriage is a necessary step before having children. Which leads us into my next point.

The Re-Defining Of What It Means To Be A Couple/A Family

With the ever changing definition of what it means to be a family, as we as a culture become more accepting of the varied relationships that make up what is considered a family, of what it means to be a couple (e.g., more people accepting polyamory as a life choice, more people accepting infidelity), of what it means to be in a committed relationship, more young adults feel that marriage is not a pre-mandate to becoming a family, nor even the definition of being a family. For an example, living with another not married with children, without children, this has become more accepted.

Me-Me – It’s All About Me

There was a time in our culture that family was #1. Even if you were unhappy in your marriage, you remained and did what it took to work it out. There was a time in our culture that families would get together with their extended family regularly for holidays, or even simply lived close by and got together because they were family. There was a time when children helped with chores, because that is what it meant to be a part of a family. There was a time that family was the priority, the relationship system of the family was the priority and #1, even within dysfunction or function. Times have changed. Young adults have experienced that the priority is them. The individual self is #1, look out for one’s own self. Family is disposable has become the message. Families do not need to make the time nor take the effort to get together with their extended family. The family unit need not work together as a team. Rather, each man, woman and child for himself or herself as I am #1 and it is all about me. I want what I want when I want it, and if I don’t have what I want then life is unfair. This is the attitude that reins supreme. Thus, rather than enjoying the feeling of one’s partner needing your help, wanting your help and support, rather than that being a special feeling to receive, that is now viewed as suffocating and needy. But, on the flip side, if there’s something I want or need, my partner better be there for me because I want it. What the young adult has learned is that being in a committed relationship like marriage, that one’s mate may take one for granted because now he/she “got you”, “has you”. Whereas if you are not married, then there is always the feeling of possible loss of the relationship, therefore one’s mate will still do for me, because after all it is all about me.

My Money Is My Money

Whatever happened to what is mine is yours and what’s yours is mine, as a philosophical belief system? The attitude for many young adults is: my money is my money, rather than: what’s mine is ours. There used to be a time when the pattern for young adults when they married was to build a life together and having a shared bank account was symbolic for that. Nowadays many financial experts recommend separate accounts because what if… What if what I ask? So, if you go into a relationship already thinking: what if we get a divorce? What if my spouse spends inappropriately? Etc. The idea that I must have my own money, and I am not sharing it with you, is another piece of this puzzle that creates a theme in the young adult’s mind, creates a philosophical belief system which is: I don’t need you, because I have my own money. And, my money is my money Therefore, let’s take this philosophical thought further which leads the young adult to think: I am not going to take care of you financially by spending my money on you, you have to make your own money. You have to take care of yourself. This philosophy ultimately leads a young adult to not strive and yearn for marriage, because marriage serves no positive purpose. In essence, if you are not taking care of me, and I am not taking care of you, then why marry?

It is this lack of trust, rather than a you have my back and I have yours attitude, it is an; I have my own back attitude. This has been learned in our culture which creates and further exacerbates this “me-me” attitude.

Lacking Healthy Relational Tools And Unrealistic Expectations In A Vision For Perfection – I Must Be Happy

The lack of healthy relational tools to navigate the challenges of relationship ups and downs and life’s ups and downs as a team rather than as an individual, leads the young adult to feel overwhelmed by a partnership. Rather than seeking out therapeutic help from a couples counselor to learn tools for relational success, many young adults decide to accept what they are lacking and thus rather decide not to marry, since they do not have the tools for success. Thus, why enter into something that is not going to be successful?

The unrealistic expectations of what a relationship should be or must be due to a need for a perfect relationship, for anything short of all of my needs being met, since I am entitled to have all that I want, a long term relationship with the same person to be with them forever is simply too much work, so why be in one? Or at least, no reason to settle now. The young adult logically and intellectually knows that there is no such thing as a perfect mate. But, emotionally many young adults have decided that they want someone who fits most of their list of qualities desired, because anything short of that, well, why bother? Because, I don’t need that person.

For some young adults, their observation of their own parents dysfunctional relationship, or functional yet unhappily married, has led them to strive to do anything to assure they do not have what they saw their parents have. It is with this observation of marriage not being displayed as something to be excited about, and rather something that was hard, work, effort and did not seem to provide for much reward, in a culture where being happy is often focused on and expected, young adults make the choice not to enter into something that is not a guarantee of happiness.

For Some Young Adults

The lack of “needing” another person when one has learned philosophically that one can do it all on one’s own has played a significant role in the young adult not choosing marriage until they are older. Yet it is with this independent attitude that often they are not truly independent in that they are reliant on others (e.g., friends, parents). Then, in turn it is this reliance that leads one to not feel whole and completely independent, further leading them to feel they don’t want to marry until they can truly rely on themselves. This is a catch-22.


In conclusion, it is my observation that it is the lack of relationship role clarity and therefore feeling that one does not need the other person as a partner, the re-defining of what it means to be in a committed relationship/what is acceptable in a couple relationship and what it means to be a family, the me-me attitude, plus a lack of healthy tools to navigate the challenges of relationship and life’s ups and downs as a team – are the top reasons why many young adults are making the choice not to marry.

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