I remember having a conversation with my sister years ago about marriage. She was 28 at the time and she had that marriage itch. "I thought I would have been married by now," she said. "Like mom was."
Apparently, she was a little stressed about the whole wanting-a-husband-thing, so I reminded her that things were much different back then.
"People aren't getting married like they used to," I remember saying. And a new report released by the National Center for family and Marriage Research (NCFMR) explains why that is.
The report finds that the U.S. marriage rate is 31.1, which is the lowest it's been in 100 years.
Dr. Susan Brown, co-director of the center, said women have way more options these days, so marriage isn't a must for them. Plus, a lot of couples want to test the waters before they get married, so they choose to stay in relationships longer.
"Marriage is no longer compulsory," said Brown. "It's just one of an array of options. Increasingly, many couples choose to cohabit and still others prefer to remain single."
Let's just wait
Stephanie Coontz, who teaches history and family studies at Evergreen State College, says a lot of people are fine with not getting married these days. And if they do get married, they'll just wait until they're much older.
"One of the things that you have to bear in mind is that 1960 was probably the most atypical year in 150 years," said Coontz in a TV interview. "The age of marriage was at an all-time low. Half of all women were married before they got out of their teens. And the rate of marriage was at an all-time high. So, what happened since then? Primarily what's driving this is the rise in the age of marriage."
Brown says people are getting married later on in life because they want to pursue more education.
"Increasingly, young adults are spending more time in school as they pursue college and advanced degrees," she said. "This tends to delay family formation -- whether childbearing, cohabitation, or marriage -- as most people aim to achieve financial security prior to starting a family."
But Coontz says just because the marriage rate is going down, it doesn't mean that people view it negatively -- it just means there are more people who are fine with being single.
And the overall flow of life has changed too, she says. There was a time that women were looked at strangely if they didn't get married. But that isn't the case anymore.
"Most people will marry in America, but most people will spend substantial portions of their adult life outside marriage," said Coontz. "It's a more fluid situation than it used to be. They will move through. They may cohabit for a while. They may get married. They may get divorced. So these are the sorts of things that our social policy and even our emotional expectation of family life have to catch up with."
Not just women
But it's not just women who aren't too excited about getting married -- a lot of men aren't excited either.
A poll conducted by the Pew Research Center shows that only 29% of men between the ages of 18 and 34 plan to get married. Writer and researcher Suzanne Venker, who wrote a Fox News article entitled "The War on Men," said a lot of men feel today's marriage roles are too blurred, so they rather stay single.
"Men are tired," she wrote. "Tired of being told there's something fundamentally wrong with them. Tired of being told that if women aren't happy, it's men's fault."
But getting married and raising a family is still considered the most normal thing to do in the U.S., says Coontz.
"Just look at work family policies that just assume that it's only married couples who are going to have children, or just ignore the fact that signals also have responsibility for aging parents," she said.
"There are so many ways in which we are still acting as though, American families are like 1950s sitcoms, instead of the tremendous diversity."