In a survey of over 1200 adolescents, 95% of them said that they would get married some day.1 But, I’m willing to bet that they weren’t ready to get married at the time they answered that question. Why? Likely because they’re young, and when you’re young it feels like you have a million things to take into account before you make a major life decision like getting married. In this post I discuss four things that people take into consideration when deciding whether or not to get married.
Entries in age (13)
In Hollywood, where a relationship lasting five years is an impressive feat, celebrity break-ups are predictable. Needless to say, when Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher’s 8-year relationship ended in 2011, it wasn’t shocking news. However, it was intriguing that Ashton began a new relationship soon after with Mila Kunis, his co-star from That ’70s Show. Will Ashton’s new relationship with Mila last longer than the 8 years that Ashton spent with Demi? On one hand, the outcome may not be all that different; Demi and Mila are fairly similar. Both women are beautiful celebrities/actresses who are famous, wealthy, have the same hair color and, strangely, both have one hazel and one green eye (apparently Ashton has a thing for mix-and-match eyes). But on the other hand, Mila and Demi have some differences that may make the Ashton-Mila pairing more likely to lead to happily ever after, or at least to last longer than 8 years (it is Hollywood, after all).
One of the more surprising things about the scientific literature on dating and marriage is that there are very few studies of the events that signify the “beginning” of dating and marriage relationships. For example, we still know fairly little (on the scientific front) about how relationships form in the real world. We can look at processes in the lab, and even simulate events (e.g., speed dating studies) that should, presumably, lead to relationship formation. But, for all our efforts, capturing real relationships as they develop has proven a formidable challenge.
When is the right time to get married? My boyfriend and I are currently in college and have been dating for 3 years. He talks about getting married and starting a life, but when is it too soon? Don't get me wrong, I love him and it's not that I don't want to be with him, but our career paths couldn't be more different, and in order for us to be together we would have to move, meaning one of us would have to give up everything (most likely me). He wants to become a physicist and has to attend many more years of schooling, while I'm going to graduate with a B.A in AD/PR. Either we get married and he'll be in school studying, or we wait until he gets his Ph.D. and is settled down.
Making a big life decision like this is not easy, and I am happy to see that you are looking at this practically rather than just romantically. When trying to decide when the “right” time is to get married, it might be useful to first consider what risk factors there are for divorce. Researchers have identified a number of socio-demographic factors associated with divorce that have remained stable over time, such as marrying too young, co-habitation before marriage, not having a religious affiliation, living in an urban area, and growing up in a household where there were not two continuously married parents.1 Other marital stressors also play an important role in predicting divorce, such as financial strains and career demands.
Most people will tell you that a woman's ability to get pregnant declines considerably after age 30. After age 35? Thank goodness for fertility clinics! But are these beliefs justified by the data? Turns out the link between female age and fertility isn't as clear-cut as some would have you believe. In a fascinating new article published in The Atlantic, social psychologist Jean Twenge breaks down what the data do -- and don't --- tell us about female fertility across the life-cycle. Yet another example of how it is important to rely on science, rather than prevailing public opinion, when making key life decisions.
According to a recent study published in Psychological Science,1 teenagers who wait longer to have sex experience different kinds of romantic relationships later in life compared to teens that start having sex earlier. This 15-year longitudinal study (beginning in 1994 and concluding in 2009) tracked teenagers’ sexual activity and long-term relationships into their late 20s/early 30s. Those teens that had sex before age 15 (23%) were considered “early” sexual bloomers. Most teens (60%) had sex for the first time between the ages of 15 and 19, which scientists consider normal for American teenagers (thus, “on time”), and 16% of teens reported having sex for the first time after age 19, and were labeled “late” sexual bloomers (8% of the sample did not report having sex at all in their lives).
When to get married is one of the most debated topics among my group of friends. It is becoming more apparent that most do not intend to tie the knot until they are in their late twenties or thirties, if at all. Indeed, the desire to postpone marriage is on par with the rising trend in the age of first marriage in the United States. In 2011, the average age of marriage for men and women is 28.7 and 26.5 respectively compared to 24.7 (men) and 22 (women) in 1980 (read more about age differences here). However, regardless of the reasons behind the delay in marriage, research suggests this may not be a wise move.
After getting engaged, there are practically a million decisions for brides-to-be to make. You need to pick a dress, a wedding singer, and decide on a honeymoon destination. Amidst all of these decisions, you also have to make what may be the most important decision of all (next to saying ‘yes’, of course): whether you will take your husband’s last name in place of your own. The decision is not trivial. Sure, a change in name necessitates a change in driver’s license, credit cards, passport, and even your signature, but it may also influence your self-concept (you know, that part of yourself that tells you who you are).
Online dating has become incredibly common since the mid-1990s. For example, a recent nationally representative survey conducted in the United States revealed that 17% of heterosexual couples and 41% of same-sex couples met over the internet. However, as anyone who has ever dated online can tell you, internet dating is a tricky business. People have a tendency to lie and misrepresent themselves in an attempt to maximize their appeal to potential partners. But just how common and serious are these lies, and what effect do they have on someone’s likelihood of getting a date?
A common rule of thumb, at least on the internet, is that it’s okay to be interested in someone “half your age plus seven” years. According to this rule, it would not be creepy for a 30 year old to date a 22 year-old, but an 18 year-old would be off-limits. Although this is a fun rule of thumb, what does research say about age preferences for potential mates?
Will sculpting your body to perfection help you to find a romantic partner? Perhaps, but it may not be as important as another part of your anatomy (no, not that part; get your mind out of the gutter!). A recent study suggests that both men and women actually pay more attention to faces than they do to bodies when looking for a long-term lover. When it comes to one-night stands, however, women still focus on the face, whereas men shift their priority to the body.
There was big news last week when 51-year-old actor Doug Hutchison, a former star of television’s Lost, married 16-year-old Courtney Alexis Stodden, an aspiring country music artist. In case math isn’t your strong suit, that’s a 35 year age difference. And yes, you did read that correctly: she’s only 16.
I will be celebrating my 30th birthday this year, and to put a positive spin on a milestone that can be met with some angst, my friend and fellow sex researcher recently began promoting 30 as the "XXX" birthday (30 in Roman numerals, a.k.a., "triple-X"). Although this was meant to simply put a fun spin on a sometimes-dreaded event, research suggests that 30 might really be a woman’s XXX birthday.