Marriage in America looks very different than it did decades ago, according to a 2019 Pew Research Center report. More than ever, people are marrying for love, which is a wonderful thing! Even better: the divorce rate is down 8 percent since 1990—and one of the main reasons why is because Americans are waiting to get married later in life when they are more well-established and have a better grip on their individuality. According to the research, the median age of a first marriage is at its highest point ever: 28 years for women and 30 years for men. So what is the reason for this cultural and social shift towards marrying later in life, many getting married in their 30s?
“In previous generations, there was a sense that you grew up when you got married, and that that’s when life would begin,” explains matchmaker, Hope Rike, from It’s Just Lunch Denver. “However, in today’s society, people are waiting to commit to a lifelong partner until they establish themselves—by building a career, becoming more financially stable, and figuring out who they are as a person.”
Whether you’re in a serious relationship or still living the single life as you turn the corner to 30 (or beyond), here are some reasons relationship experts say getting married in your 30s is a good thing.
You may have had relationship experience.
If you’re getting married in your 30s, chances are you’ve been in a serious relationship before that didn’t work out. This can be helpful, according to Lexa Bender, MA Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern and Registered Marriage and Family Therapist Intern. “Through the experience of dating, you learn what does and doesn’t work for you in relationships and can solidify your values and what you’re willing to compromise on and accept from a partner,” she says.
Your education is likely behind you.
Most people have completed college as well as any master’s program, by the time they reach their 30s, which is a great thing to do before you say “I do.” “In the past, more men than women were pursuing higher education; however, there has been an increase in women in higher educational settings,” explains Bender. “Now, both female and male identifying partners may be in college and/or a graduate program for a good part of their 20s, which can limit time or commitment to a relationship during the person’s early to mid 20s.”
You don’t feel as much pressure to have children.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more and more women wait until they are between age 30-34 to have their first child. “This trend toward waiting longer in life to start having a family could also explain why someone might not be interested in getting married until their 30s,” says Dana McNeil, MA, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in San Diego, California. “We also no longer live in a society that expects women to have children if they don’t want to and encourages life experiences as an alternative to being parents, so there is less pressure to get married and start the process in the early 20s.”
You’re already financially stable.
While there’s nothing wrong with saving to buy a house or have children with a significant other, establishing your own financial security before you partner up can allow you to move forward in your partnership faster. “Many people want financial stability before they can feel secure enough in their life to get married, which does not mean people are not in relationships—it just means that the next step may come after the loans are paid or a steady, long-term career has been established,” adds Bender.
You have a stronger sense of identity.
We learn a lot about ourselves in our 20s. In fact, many people say it’s the decade where they grew the most as a person. While many stay in relationships through this transitional period, those who’ve waited to get married until their 30s note that they had a better sense of self when they married. “More and more people are experiencing life before marriage rather than waiting to experience it with a significant other,” says Rike. “This is how we become better communicators, more confident and stronger individuals.\”
Living together before marriage is socially acceptable.
Decades ago it was looked down upon to move in together before you were married, but now it’s commonplace. “Many couples are completely comfortable living together without taking the step towards getting married and don’t perceive themselves as any less committed because they have not performed a public ceremony,” says McNeil. “Many individuals have also grown up in homes with single parents and/or have witnessed some nasty divorces during their formative years.”