The millennial wedding vow: I don’t — yet

The following editorial was originally published in the Chicago Tribune:

For years, people who married faced a grim statistic: Half of those giddy couples would divorce eventually. Maybe more than once.

But — happily — that is changing.

The U.S. divorce rate plunged 18 percent from 2008 to 2016, according to an analysis by University of Maryland sociology professor Philip Cohen. “All signs now point toward decreasing divorce rates … in the coming years,” he writes. “This is remarkable” because it is happening even while divorce is more culturally acceptable. (Exhibit A: Who’d have believed decades ago that we’d have a president who’s been divorced twice?)

Guess who’s driving this decline? Not the aging baby boomers. They’re still divorcing at relatively high rates even into their 70s. That trend has been dubbed — insert cringe here — “gray divorce.”

No, the heroes of the divorce reverse are people under 45. Specifically, millennials and their Gen X elders.

Unlike boomers, these young people tend to be pickier about whom they marry and at what age. They generally don’t rush into marriage just out of high school or even out of college, but instead wait until they’re established in careers and have money in the bank. They may live together as a couple, but they don’t feel the same pressure to tie the knot, possibly because they’ve seen the ruin of divorce in the lives of their parents and grandparents.

These younger people are “putting marriage on a pedestal,” Cohen tells us. “They don’t want to enter into it until they’re really sure.” For them, he says, marriage is “a signal that says you have arrived.”

This trend is, to borrow a word we learned from a millennial, clutch.

Don’t get us wrong. We’re not dissing marriage. A stable, loving marriage is good for your health, your bank account — and for raising children.

But science tells us that the human brain doesn’t fully mature until about age 25. Immature brains can make impulsive choices that they later regret.

This waiting trend may disturb older folks who followed a more traditional (rockier?) path and may be secretly, or not so secretly, wondering if there’s something wrong with their progeny. There isn’t. Remember: Unlike previous generations, many younger people have a ready supply of candidates at their fingertips in the era of Tinder and other dating apps. They can just keep swiping right.

Our advice for parents impatient to marry off a son or daughter? Relax. The older they get, the less likely you’ll be stuck paying for the wedding.

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