Millennial Trend Forecasting: Beta Testing Marriages


“We’re in beta right now,” may one day be used to describe a newlywed couple instead of a new app. Time, on a roll this week in the love department, argues that millennials may change the game when it comes to how we approach marriage.

This comes from a survey given in conjunction with the new USA Network drama, Satisfaction (so not exactly the Brookings Institution). Led by a team of trend researchers, the survey asked 1,000 millennials about their feelings towards, and expectations for, marriage. They also provided a number of “marriage models” and surveyed the millennials on which options they might consider. The models, which would essentially be contract agreements between couples, include:

Presidential: Vows last for another four years, but after 8 years you can elect to choose a new partner.

Real Estate: Marriage licenses are granted on 5, 7, 10 and 30 year terms, after which the marriage must be renegotiated to be extended.

Beta: The union can be formalized or dissolved after a two-year trial period.

Twenty-one percent said they would be open to the Presidential option and 36% agreed with the Real Estate model. The most popular option was the Beta model with 46% of those surveyed saying they would being willing to consider the option. One of the arguments is that since millennials are used to having many options in every other area of their lives, why would marriage be any different?

This is a generation that is used to this idea that everything is in beta, that life is a work in progress, so the idea of a beta marriage makes sense,” the study’s author, Melissa Lavigne-Delville, told me. “It’s not that they’re entirely noncommittal, it’s just that they’re nimble and open to change.”

Time‘s Jessica Bennett also notes that with one of the world’s highest divorce rates, American millennials want to avoid making mistakes.

“Millennials aren’t scared of commitment — we’re just trying to do commitment more wisely,” says Cristen Conger, a 29-year-old unmarried-but-cohabitating podcast host in Atlanta. “We rigorously craft our social media and online dating profiles to maximize our chances of getting a first date, and ‘beta testing’ is just an extension of us trying to strategize for future romantic success.”

Marriage has obviously evolved throughout history, so it certainly makes sense that a new generation would have a somewhat different approach. However, as with many issues surrounding millennials, they might be overthinking this a bit.

The larger takeaway seems to be that in a changing world, millennials will be able make decisions about marriage that are right for them with less stigma. It’s not like anyone is stopping couples from drawing up their own beta marriage contracts right now, but it would probably be met with some skeptisim. Millennials are already much more chill about things like gay marriage and premarital cohabitation so it stands to reason that eventually, a situation like a beta marriage might be more widely accepted.

Basically, like every other generation, millennials are going to approach marriage with their unique goals and expectations in mind. Marriage is already a lot of work, no need to make it complicated as well.

(Image via Milaphotos/Shutterstock)

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