‚ÄúWHEN you know, you know.‚ÄĚ That‚Äôs what they say. And they‚Äôre right.
Perhaps that‚Äôs why there‚Äôs been a rash of recent lightning-quick celebrity engagements. Nick Jonas and Priyanka Chopra are betrothed after a two-month courtship. In June, Pete Davidson proposed to Ariana Grande with a $93,000 ring after less than a month of dating. In July, Justin Bieber put a ring on Hailey Baldwin in the Bahamas, formalising their relationship of similar length (though the two have known each other for a while).
Now who knows ‚ÄĒ it‚Äôs Hollywood ‚ÄĒ things could change. Maybe these entanglements won‚Äôt work out. And fast engagements undoubtedly earn publicity for celebrities.
But, even so, this kind of decisiveness is exactly what millions of millennials need more of. The median age for a first marriage is now 27 for women and 29 for men; an increase of seven years for women and six years for men since 1960.
In 2014, an Urban Institute study predicted an unprecedented portion of millennials will remain unmarried through the age of 40, with the marriage rate potentially dropping to 70 per cent, a significantly lower rate than for boomers (91 per cent), late boomers (87 per cent) and Gen-Xers (82 per cent).
Fewer millennials are marrying, and the ones who are do it much later than their older cohorts. Marrying later doesn‚Äôt just impact family planning but also couples‚Äô overall levels of happiness.
‚ÄúThe research suggests marrying in your mid-20s is actually best for marital happiness, whereas marrying in your late 20s or early 30s is best for marital stability. Waiting, somewhat, translates into stability. But those who wait longer tend to be less happier, perhaps because they are less likely to forge a common life and have more baggage from past relationships,‚ÄĚ according to W. Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia.
‚ÄúMillennials ‚Ä¶ want to have a strong financial foundation and give their relationships long test drives before marrying,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúThe upside to waiting a bit is that they are more mature before tying the knot. The downside is that young adults can end up cycling through lots of relationships that end up making them more cynical about the possibility of lifelong love, more likely to compare their spouse unfavourably to a previous partner and more set in their ways.‚ÄĚ
Furthermore, giving relationships a long test drive before tying the knot often makes it harder to break up with that imperfect partner down the road. The social acceptance of cohabitation means that today‚Äôs young couples can spend years living together, trialling a relationship that in past generations would have been jettisoned after a few months of dates.
The most quintessential millennial, Lena Dunham, is the perfect example of this. The Girls star dated musician Jack Antonoff for six years and split in January; a source close to the couple told Us Weekly ‚Äúit took them forever to break up‚ÄĚ.
What Lena and her fellow millennials don‚Äôt grasp is that dating is an audition. If you can‚Äôt see yourself marrying the person, it‚Äôs time to move on to the next candidate. And it shouldn‚Äôt take years to figure it out.
Throughout her relationship with Antonoff, Dunham said she dropped hints about wanting to marry but stated that she wouldn‚Äôt wed until gay marriage made it legal for everyone.
In 2015, she wrote a now heartbreaking essay for The New Yorker about how she envisioned a potential wedding in her future. She said: ‚ÄúWhat followed [the announcement of the ruling] was a remarkable display of emotional acrobatics on my part. As soon as Jack woke up, I informed him that he ‚Äúbetter not make a fool out of me,‚ÄĚ followed by a quick ‚ÄėLOL‚Äô and then, ‚ÄėBut seriously. I‚Äôm going to look like a real idiot if we just sit here like losers and keep dating.‚Äô Then I tweeted, ‚Äė@jackantonoff get on it, yo,‚Äô followed by my immediate and all-consuming regret.‚ÄĚ
There‚Äôs another reason not to spend a year or more in every relationship: When you waste time with the duds, the good ones get away. Every time you come up for air after another failed multiyear relationship, the dating pool is even more shallow than when you left it.
Scott Stanley, a psychology professor at the University of Denver and co-author of the book Fighting For Your Marriage said: ‚ÄúI like to think about some aspects of [dating] as a big game of musical chairs. Some people are undoubtedly staying in the dance so long that the options for where to sit get thinner over time. Many people comfort themselves that ‚Äėthe one‚Äô will surely still be available later and later into the dance, but that is naive. Their best option got taken while they were hanging out at the big dance. Their best partner already left.‚ÄĚ
A seemingly infinite choice of mates on Tinder and other social media platforms isn‚Äôt helping either.
‚ÄúThere are a lot of alternatives out there for many people. One of the secrets to commitment really working is getting the alternatives off the table and out of one‚Äôs mind,‚ÄĚ Prof Stanley said.
In the final scene of the movie When Harry Met Sally, a couple that spends far too much time in the ‚Äúfriend zone‚ÄĚ rushes to the altar after they realise their bond is romantic.
Harry famously says: ‚ÄúWhen you realise you want to spend the rest of your life with someone, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.‚ÄĚ
The movie may be almost 30 years old, but its wisdom is timeless.