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Larry Washburn—Getty Images/fStop

The High Cost of Heartbreak for Modern Singles

Oct 03, 2014
Ideas

Almost one half of all Americans between the ages of 25 and 34 have never been married, while the majority of those say that they hope to marry one day (61% with absolute certainty). This suggests that there are millions of men and women in this age group who are working towards the goal of finding that one true love.

The road to marriage, however, is littered with broken hearts, as they say. This heartbreak is particularly severe for those who have been living with their romantic partner (24% of those in this age group), since those are the relationships that promise the most hope for marriage.

Heartbreak among unmarried young adults is common, with 36.5% of one study's participants aged 18 to 35 having experienced it at least once in the previous 20 months.

Experiencing disappointment in the search for true love is nothing new, however those in previous generations would have experienced it at a stage of their lives when those around them (parents, teachers, etc.) were likely to be sympathetic and there were few external costs.

This is much less true for modern singles, who often find themselves searching for love at the same time that they are also working hard to establish themselves in their careers. Broken hearts can't be left at home during the work day, and the evidence suggests that employers, managers and coworkers don't particularly appreciate them being brought to work.

In fact, it would be completely reasonable for a young ambitious single to fear the impact that a series of broken hearts could have on his or her career prospects.

Which raises an interesting point. The number one reason young singles give for not being married is that they are "not prepared financially" (34%). That justification for delaying marriage is a little difficult to understand within the context of modern marriage. Long gone are the days in which marriage meant that children would immediately follow, everyone would live on a single income and a house with a yard was the only acceptable living arrangement.

The reality is that individuals who are married are likely to achieve financial security much more quickly that those who remain unmarried, so delaying marriage for reasons of financial security doesn't seem logical.

What does make sense, however, is that singles are unwilling to allow the turmoil that romantic relationships often bring to interfere with their path to financial security; that they worry that the search for love will lead to a broken heart, or series of broken hearts, that comes with a professional price tag.

If we really care that so many young people aren't marrying, an argument could be made for bereavement leave for the broken hearted. Of course, for that to actually work people would have to be willing to phone in rejected and, frankly, I don't see that happening.

Marina Adshade uses research, human insight and economic analysis to unlock the mysteries behind our actions, thoughts and preferences regarding sexual relationships, gender, love and power. She shows that every option, every decision and every outcome in the realm of sex and love is better understood through economics. Dr. Adshade has a Ph.D. from Queen's University and currently teaches economics at the Vancouver School of Economics at the University of British Columbia.


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