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Young Marriage and Cohabitation in Oxford

Eden and Jordan Jones
Eden and Jordan Jones. Photo by Nep Castillo Photography. 

The Millennial generation is known for many things, but one it is not known for is commitment. Many in this generation of young people are choosing to marry much later in life – a record 29.5 for men and 27.6 for women, according to the United States Census Bureau. This, compared to the median married age of 20 for women and 23 for men in the 1950s, shows an intense decline of young marriage. Many are choosing to wait for marriage, if they get married at all, as the idea of cohabitation becomes more common and less taboo.

Eden Jones, a senior elementary education major at the University of Mississippi, has been married to her husband Jordan for just over a year.

“I was supposed to be done with school earlier,” Jones said. “And Jordan was already done with nursing school. We thought it would be the best time because we had been dating for five years and at least one of us had a career going.”

Though Jones’ plans for graduation did not go as planned, she does not regret getting married young. She does, however, have an idea of why young people are waiting longer and longer to get married.

“I think women feel like they have to have a career before they have a family and children,” Jones said. “This generation of men isn’t making it any easier. They are so immature; they are waiting in to their thirties before even considering a serious relationship, much less marriage.”

Jones also said that she thinks the idea of cohabitation is one reason that many may be waiting to make the jump into marriage.

“In older days, it was really looked down upon to live together before you got married,” Jones said. “Now that’s a really common thing, because I feel like it gives people a way out. They can get a taste of what it’s like to be with someone forever, but you don’t have to put up with their quirks or weird things. They can walk away if they don’t like your morning breath. If they were married, they’d have to work that out instead of walking away.”

Jones said that she and her husband did not live together before getting married.

Jordan Brown, an exercise science master student at the University of Mississippi, said that living together with her boyfriend, Seth Howe, has worked out great for them. Of the three years that Brown and Howe have been dating, Brown said that they have lived together for two-and-a-half years.

Jordan Brown and Seth Howe
Jordan Brown and Seth Howe

“Seth is almost six years older than I am,” Brown said. “And it worked out great for us to live together. He’s been through his party phase, and I was never really into the whole thing. I’m not ready to start a family yet, but I don’t have time for games either.”

For her, Brown says that cohabitation was like a glimpse into marriage without rushing things.

“Cohabitation is like looking through a window into marriage,” Brown said. “You get to learn a lot about the person and how you mesh together, without rushing in to a commitment you may not be ready to make with that person. I know who I am, and I know more about who Seth is than I ever would without living with him. But we both are treating this relationship with a lot of dignity and respect, and I know that this wouldn’t work for everybody.”

Brown said that getting to spend that time with Howe and work through their issues has led them to become both best friends and lovers, which Brown believes is key to a long and happy marriage.

“It could have gone so wrong,” Brown said. “You learn so much about yourself in your 20s. At 18 years old, living with my boyfriend at the time would have been a terrible idea. But now that I’ve gotten more grounded in who I am as a person, I feel like it’s okay. I know that I’m committed to Seth and that he’s not going anywhere either. He’s become my best friend and my lover, and that’s all I could really want.”

Jessica Keough, age 22, just married her boyfriend, Zack, about a month ago. They lived together for four years before getting married, and Keough said it worked out great for them as well.

Jessica and Zack Keough
Jessica and Zack Keough

“Personally, I think people live together now to see if it will work before they consider marriage,” Keough said. “I know of a lot of people who have done that, and it seemed to work for us. I wouldn’t want to marry someone and move in with them and it not work. Times are definitely different than they used to be.”

Unlike Jones’ belief that the fear of commitment stems mostly from immaturity, Keough believes that the pressure to settle down causes problems before marriage ever enters the picture.

“I think people just aren’t finding the right person,” Keough said. “People are rushing into things and it just doesn’t work out. They will do everything with that person, except marry them. Have babies, live together, build this life and then it doesn’t work out. So then they have to start all over with all of this extra baggage and it makes it harder for them to find that special person to really start their life with.”

Keough does agree, however, that this generation is more immature than their predecessors.

“I think it’s about who and what you get involved with,” Keough said. “People can have a huge impact on you, as well as the situations you put yourself in.”

Jones and Brown both agreed, saying that the closer young people get to commitment, the more they realize they are not prepared.
“So many parents are babying their children in to adulthood,” Jones said. “I think it’s causing a huge problem. They don’t want to commit to anything serious with anyone because they come to the realization that they can’t even take care of themselves. They’ve always been given whatever they wanted or needed, and now they don’t know how to make it on their own, much less support a partner.”

Brown echoed that sentiment, saying that the more someone grows up and has to be independent, the more they realize how little they really know.

“I think once you start to grow up, you realize that you really don’t know what you’re doing,” Brown said. “When I figured that out, it scared me to death. I could try to get all my things in order, but it never fails that something goes wrong or isn’t the way it was supposed to be. And I think that’s the scariest part for most people. They think ‘If I can’t get myself together, why would I think I could also handle a partner for the rest of my life?’”

Shelby Nelson is a senior print journalism major at the Meek School of Journalism and New Media. She can be reached at slouwere@go.olemiss.edu.

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