Why Are Couples Taking Longer to Choose to Marry?
by Caty Long
This Marriage Today article was originally published in 2017.
The path to marriage nowadays is longer than it ever has been. A recent poll of nearly 4,000 newlyweds in the United Kingdom from the Bridebook.co.uk website found that couples, on average, were in a relationship for nearly 5 years before getting married. In general, after 17 months of dating, they moved in together. These couples then lived together for 22 months before getting engaged and were engaged for 20 months before getting married (compared to the US, where couples are engaged for 13 months on average). By the time they finally married, only 26% of these couples hadn’t broken up their relationship at one point prior to marriage. The couples who do marry feel they know their “partner and relationship better than ever.”
While spending so much time with a person before marriage may lend itself to a more solid commitment, there are plenty of downsides to a break-up in the middle of this process. The emotional strain caused by the end of a 4-year relationship could make it more challenging to enter into another committed relationship. With the average ages of women and men marrying are on the rise (31 and 33 in the UK, respectively; on average, the bride is 30 and the groom is 32 in the US), motivation to start a long relationship may be lower.
On a positive note, 85% of couples who married said that marriage strengthened their relationship, and 95% would “recommend marriage to others.” Overall, there were more positive changes to relationships since getting married, such as feeling an increase in trust (57%), an increase in happiness (60%), and sharing better mental wellbeing (41%).
The main reason cited for getting married is to “demonstrate commitment.” With this stronger commitment to married life, once they do tie the knot, 82% of couples are willing to attend couples’ therapy if the need arises. Considering these reasons, it is not altogether surprising that Millennials in general are less likely to cheat on their spouses than those of previous generations.
Why does it take so long for couples to be married now? One reason could be the cost of weddings today; a longer engagement means more time to save up for the big day. Couples also may prioritize their job or career path over getting married. Additionally, most couples reported that they did not experience social pressure to get married, which is unsurprising with current cultural attitudes regarding marriage. The focus is more on personal, independent decisions rather than any communal influence. Despite the reasoning for when or why couples get married, these statistics are relevant for anyone working with singles, dating couples, or engaged couples.
About the author
Caty Long is a second-year Master of Theological Studies student at the Pontifical John Paul II Institute and currently an office assistant for the Secretariat of Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth at the USCCB.