Nearlywed: The Trendy Dating Term That Riffs On 'Newlywed' In A Distinct Way

Wedding bells, the white dress, a romantic honeymoon getaway — the newlywed life is usually expected at some point or another for couples in long-term relationships, but it's not on the radar for everyone. Though marriage as an institution has been around for centuries, it seems to have lost its luster in recent years. In 2018, the U.S. Census Bureau found that fewer young adults were choosing to marry than in past decades. Moreover, a 2017 report from Pew Research Center discovered that one in seven American adults said they never want to get married, while 27% were ambivalent about marriage.


However, these shifts don't mean love is dead. Cohabitation — which was practically unheard of for unmarried pairs just 50 years ago — is on the rise among young couples, even if saying "I do" is becoming less and less popular. That's where "nearlyweds" come in. Here's what the trendy dating term means and how to know if you and your boo are part of the trend.

What does it mean to be a nearlywed?

If you haven't been a newlywed, there's a good chance you've at least been a "nearlywed." The term was added to the catalog in February 2023 and represents a relationship phase you're probably familiar with — and might even be in now. The official definition: "a person who lives with another in a life partnership, sometimes engaged with no planned wedding date, sometimes with no intention of ever marrying."


The term actually first circulated as early as 2013, when Glamour featured it in an article about couples who live like they're married, just without the rings and marriage certificate. As this style of relationship has become increasingly common of late, you're starting to hear the word thrown around more often.

According to data from Pew Research Center, Millennials are the most likely group to become nearlyweds, though this could change in the future as Gen Z-ers grow up and begin making their own decisions on relationships and family planning.

Wedded bliss may be overrated

Getting married has long been the standard in society, while cohabitating has carried a bad rap. Research, including a 2018 study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family, has argued that cohabitation before marriage increases a couple's chances of divorcing later. This might make the choice to be a nearlywed seem like a risky one, especially for partners who do eventually decide to tie the knot.


Data from the General Social Survey (via Institute for Family Studies) also reveals that married people are happier than their unmarried counterparts. However, wedded bliss may be more complicated than it seems. A 2019 study published in Demography points out that many couples choose to live together, without marrying, due to "economic and emotional strain" — and these strains likely explain the happiness discrepancy, not the couple's relationship status.

For some lovebirds, marrying when the conditions don't feel right, like when they're experiencing significant life changes or working to take control of their finances, might only cause more stress. And for what it's worth, stress is also a predictor of relationship problems. When it comes to being a nearlywed or getting married, the choice is extremely personal. So celebrate whatever kind of relationship you have — white dress optional.