"'Til death" is a much longer time than it used to be, and millennials are taking note. According to a recent poll of 1,000 adults, nearly half of the millennials surveyed expressed that they would be in favor of a trial period for marriages, which would effectively allow couples to get married for a little while and then, after a set period of time, decide that maybe they don't want to stick with it. For a generation that's grown up with technologies that are updated almost constantly, and with myriad choices in so many aspects of life (go stand in the cereal aisle of an average American grocery store for a most banal example of this), the skepticism and anxiety twenty-somethings have expressed about marriage makes sense.
So maybe they're actually on to something -- maybe trying out a marriage before getting married, or beta-testing if you will, is a better idea for this new generation of adults. According to Jessica Bennett at Time, there's really no reason not to revamp the institution in many millennials' minds, although they're not the first to come up with the idea:
In the 1970s, the anthropologist Margaret Mead predicted the growing popularity of “serial monogamy,” involving a string of monogamous marriages. Helen Fisher, the biological anthropologist, has advocated for much of the same: she believes humans aren’t meant to be together forever, but in short-term, monogamous relationships of three or four years. Stephanie Coontz, the author of Marriage: A History, has advised a marriage contract “reup” every five years — or before every major transition in life — “with a new set of vows that reflect what the couple has learned.” ...
And, why wouldn’t they? The United States has the highest divorce rate in the Western world. The data show clearly that the longer we wait to get married the more successful our marriages will be. And it’s not like we can’t move in together in the meantime: the rate of unmarried cohabitation has risen 1,000 percent over the last four decades. Not all of our marriages will work, no — but when they do, they’ll work better than at any other time in history, say scholars. And when they don’t, why not simply avoid the hassle of a drawn-out divorce?
Bennett goes on to point out that divorces might often be seen less as signs of failure, but rather of dealing competently with inevitable marital strife, especially for a generation that is less religious than previous ones. On top of that, choices -- especially those with long-term consequences -- are still something with which many millennials struggle, with good reason:
While we have among the highest standards when it comes to a partner – we want somebody who can be a best friend, a business partner, a soul mate — we are a generation that is overwhelmed by options, in everything from college and first jobs to who we should choose for a partner. “This is a generation who has not had to make as many long-term commitments as previous generations, so the idea of not having an out feels a little stringent,” says [researcher Melissa] Lavigne-Delville. “Divorce has happened for a long time. Maybe we should rethink the rules.”
Indeed, maybe we should.