Gen X relationships

Increasingly over the past couple of years, our friends are getting engaged or married.  We were among the first of our friends to get married, which felt really weird to me considering that I felt like I had waited forever for that moment.  6+ years of dating will do that to you.

But as we attend the weddings of multiple friends and family members each and every year, I think back on all of that  and I realize that the waiting - and the waiting that many of these couples close to us are doing - was a really good thing.

It's increasingly common for couples to live together before getting married, before getting engaged even.  I also feel like it's incredibly taboo to talk about it, because societally it's hard to not feel like what we're doing it wrong. 

But why is that?  When I look around at these couples - particularly those who are in the same generation as DH and I, late Gen-Xers* and very early Millennials - I see a level of thoughtfulness about their relationships that can only be described as a good thing.  Our generation grew up in a society teeming with divorces, and we saw how hard that could be on those around us.  (I was fortunate to not be in this situation, but certainly knew many people whose parents were divorced.)   As teenagers we were jaded about relationships, and were more likely to question authority or to go against the norm.  We are also part of the most educated generation that history has seen thus far. 

So it only makes sense that as we become adults, we think about the troubled relationships that we saw during our teenage years and we try our damnedest to avoid making those same mistakes.  All around me I see other couples who have been together for what seems like forever.  People ask, "So, when are you two going to get married?" and these couples smile and give a coy answer and change the subject.  But, having been there/done that, I get it now.

Waiting - as hard as it is in the present moment, and of course, speaking with the knowledge of hindsight - is a good thing.  For DH and I, I believe that our relationship is stronger because of it.  We knew what we were getting into and we knew the challenges that we were going to face because we already experienced them.  We had arguments and fights and we learned how to get through together and so when we have similar arguments now, we know how to work through them.  We had been through the "honeymoon period" and then back again before we were even engaged, so our first year of marriage was just us, living our lives with each other and enjoying it, instead of struggling with learning how to live together and how to accept ones quirks and imperfections.

It's generational for sure.  Most of our peers - if not all of them - went through at least four years of college, and many of them went for much longer than that.  Researchers have been saying for a long time that educated couples are much more likely to delay marriage and start families later in life than couples who did not attend college.  We're also still ingrained with the memories of a world where 50% of the families that we knew were broken by divorce.  I believe that our generation - whether consciously or subconsciously - is going to change that, one relationship at a time.

Already, since it peaked in 1980, the divorce rate has been slowly declining and the average age that people are getting married has risen from between 20-23 in 1950 to 25-27 in the early 2000's.  I'm not saying that divorce is going to go away forever - not all relationships are going to last forever - but the statistics are real and the attitudes of late 20 and early 30 somethings is noticeable.

During our dating years, DH had always touted the benefits of a long dating period before marriage.  Now I can see exactly why he felt so strongly, and it's why I feel so good about our relationship.  We know we can get through anything because we've already been through so much together.  And I have that same faith for all of our friends who have been dating and living together for years and are now making the decision to get married.

For all of our grungy music, MTV beliefs, and rebellious attitudes as teenagers, our generation as adults is more thoughtful and dedicated to forging successful and life long relationships.  We're more committed to stability in all aspects of our life and I think that it can only mean good things for the future of relationships.  Rock on, Gen Xers, rock on.

*  Although different bodies of research will give widely different dates of births for Generation X individuals, it is generally accepted that the range is somewhere between 1961 and 1981.  I, being born in early 1981, definitely identify more with the characteristics of late Gen Xers over the characteristics of early Millennials but remember and was impacted more by the defining moments of the Millennial generation, since I wasn't around for most of the defining moments of Generation X.   

Individuals who were born around this same time period - basically who grew up during the 80's and were teenagers in the 90's - and who straddle the two generations are best described by the characteristics of the XY Cusp which is not a generation in itself but combines what I described above. 

If you have no idea what I'm talking about, click on the link above to read more about Generation X and definitely google "Millennials," "XY Cusp," or "MTV Generation" to read more about this fascinating body of research that I find to be ridiculously accurate.


Melissa said...

i have to disagree with you about some of this. i am so against living together before marriage & there is a high divorce rate for those who do. I'm happy you & your guy have an awesome marriage, though. That is great! But i think that the right length of a relationship pre-engagement/marriage is based on that individual couple's needs/desires.

I didn't live w/ or have sex w/ my husband before marriage & i am so glad we waited until that day. We have a GREAT marriage & there has not been ANY struggling to get used to living together or to accept each others imperfections. Maybe part of it is that we waited till later in life (30 & 33 when we married). But it has been nothing but joy!

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