By: Jonelle Henry

A few months ago, a friend emailed me an article discussing the state of marriage. She thought it would make a perfect topic for one of my monthly town halls in DC. At first, I couldn’t imagine a gathering of mostly DC professionals discussing marriage, but then I reconsidered when an explosion of articles and research began to surface regarding this issue. It wasn’t the same old “divorce rates are high” or the “glamorous Hollywood wedding” story, but there seemed to be a new trend of single people delaying marriage. Huh? I thought every female wanted to get married, like right now?! Yes and no. Many of us do desire the trip down the aisle of marital bliss but we’re also waiting longer for several reasons – mostly economic and cultural reasons according to one study. Okay, I was sold. This was definitely worth a town hall discussion.

So on Monday, June 24 at the Mt. Pleasant Library in Northwest Washington, DC I moderated a panel discussion entitled “Why Should I Get Married?” I was pleasantly surprised at the turnout and most importantly–the massive interest in this social topic. According to a National Marriage Project study, delaying marriage has helped to “bring down the divorce rate in the U.S.”. Apparently, couples who marry in their early twenties and teens were more likely to divorce than older couples. And by older, I mean your thirties. That makes some sense to me. I am a different person now at 36 than I was at 25. I imagine I would also view marriage very differently too. Even more interesting is the age at which men and women decide to tie the knot these days. Back in 1960, aka our parent’s generation, the average age for women and men to get married was 20 and 22, respectively. Compare that to present day figures where the average age of a first marriage is 27 for women and 29 for men.  Notice the “first marriage” reference. That’s another article. So why the delay?

Off the top of my head and based on conversations with friends, I knew it would come down to a few reasons: 1) finding the right mate was getting tougher and tougher these days, 2) the economic conditions and financial realities of life were proving to be too much for one person to handle, 3) the textbook “fear of commitment” that grips some single people and of course, 4) the breakdown of the two-parent family structure. I asked the panelists and audience to chime in before and during the town hall. One town hall attendee said “Commitment is no longer the “cool thing” to do. Some would much rather have the freedoms to go and come as they please, from jobs to bedroom partners.” Another audience member questioned whether living in bigger cities, like DC, made a difference in how single people viewed marriage. Great point. Trust me. Living, working and side-hustling in Washington, DC, you begin to see the same trends: Young professionals moving to the nation’s capital to pursue lifelong dreams of working in government, law, communication, non-profit, you name it. We also apparently pursue advanced degrees and certifications at a much faster pace. Bottom line: Many people in major cities have fun on the dating scene, but also look for opportunities to grow individually – whether academically, professionally or socially before they “settle down”. The average 25 year-old in this town could easily be found at a networking happy hour, applying to law school or starting up their own business.

Other factors mentioned were the increase in co-habitation between dating couples. An older Black gentleman attending the town hall said co-habitation was actually a good thing and could help some couples know each other well enough to tie the knot. I was pretty surprised by his comment because cohabitation may not be a new phenomenon but it’s certainly more acceptable these days. One panelist disagreed and told the audience “You don’t need to live with a person to figure out if you want to marry them.” Another reason that came up for delaying marriage is for religious reasons. Some single people admitted that they are not delaying marriage but waiting for God to send them the right mate.

The town hall ended on a high note. It was clear that people still desired marriage but everyone agreed it had to be with the right person and under the right circumstances. There are factors, lifestyles, values, goals, foundational issues that all need to addressed and considered. As one panelist put it, “If you desire to get married, your desire for it should be purpose driven.”

Original article: http://www.empowermagazine.com/why-should-i-get-married

Jonelle Henry is the founder & host of Districtly Speaking. She is also an editorial board member for emPower Magazine.

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