"Marriage is like a deck of cards," reads the embroidery on a throw pillow in our bedroom. "At the start all you need are two hearts and a diamond. By the end all you need is a club and a spade." It's funny because it's true. No wonder more and more of us are folding early on, with marriage rates between men and women already at their lowest on record.
But according to new figures released on Sunday, Generation Z are planning to take the trend a step further. Rather than risk playing a hand that's increasingly likely to lose and could well lead you to experience GBH-levels of irritation, daily, this peaceable lot are forfeiting any interest in playing the marriage game at all. Which makes perfect sense – and might just be the biggest mistake their generation makes.
In the research compiled by think-tank The Marriage Foundation, just 57 per cent of girls and 55 per cent of boys currently aged between 13 to 18 said they planned to marry later in life. Of course, you may say. I had no more interest in marriage at 13 than I did in the prospect of spending eternity slipping coasters beneath critically hot beverages, wrapping presents for someone else's extended family, and bellowing "dinner time!" with increasing ferocity.
Plus the generation I prefer to call the Zzzzs, on account of them basically being Scandinavian in temperament (fair and right but ever so slightly dull) have all-consuming relationships with their phones that they'd have to devote less time to. Millennials – the generation before Z – were already three times less likely to marry than their parents (they like their options, the snowflakes, and sticking to things can be such a drag).
And if all that weren't enough to put you off, there's always the 42 per cent of marriages in England and Wales that now end in divorce. Which doesn't leave Burt Bacharach much to croon about.
But to give you some idea of how steep this decline is from previous generations, 91 per cent of Z's grandmothers and 86 per cent of their grandfathers chose to marry. And much as I'm sure the generation born between 1995 and 2015 enjoy what historian EP Thompson qualified as "the enormous condescensions of posterity," it's just possible that everyone who came before them wasn't either a dunce or a drudge.
It's also possible that with religion now ditched (another foolish foible of our forefathers) alongside the idea of "a job for life", and grit and endurance considered not just outmoded but potentially harmful concepts, marriage could be one of the only pieces of life scaffolding left to keep Generation Z upright.
I will have been married ten years next June, which makes me a newly-wed in some people's eyes, but is long enough both to do away with any flimsy romantic illusions I may have had and make me understand that what replaced them – the deeper friendship, understanding and loyalty – is far more important.
I can't lie: that first marital argument is weird. I walked out of the pub, ready to chuck it all in the way I always had – only to realise that he was walking beside me… all the way back to the house and life we were now supposed to share forever. And, oh: that's awkward. So I suppose we'll have to find a way to make up and move on. Because otherwise it'll just be the clatter of cutlery over breakfast, lunch and dinner for the next 50-odd years, which is even less appealing than saying "I'm sorry."
Sacrifice, compromise, selflessness: at a time when we're at our least altruistic, these things are more likely to save our secular souls than any amount of yoga and green juices. The responsibility you have to each other (financial and otherwise) prevents you from flaking in the way you might if you were alone, benefitting our all-important mental health to a greater degree than any therapist or truck load of Prozac ever could. And there's that sense of having a wing man or woman there to help you through failure, success, and all the tedious hamster-wheeling in between.
But if you're looking for your other half to be some kind of self-esteem greaser, as so many celebrities seem to – citing their husband and wife's failure to tell them how wonderful they were every hour upon the hour as one of the reasons their marriage fell apart – don't get married, get on Instagram.
Not that Generation Z need me to tell them that. They're already on Insta, Snapchat and Twitter, enjoying their sense of "global connection" – and eschewing the more personal kind. So no, perhaps they won't "lose" at marriage. But they don't stand any chance of winning, either.
To love and to cherish | Seven questions for a long, happy marriage
by Gretchen Rubin (25 years married)
1. Are you being romantic?
Act the way you want to feel: make a habit of kissing your spouse every morning. This way you will help create a tender atmosphere.
2. Are you being reliable?
Reliability is undervalued as a quality and hugely beneficial.
3. Is it really their fault?
When having resentful thoughts, present the opposite argument to yourself. Often there is no right or wrong.
4. How helpful are you – really?
We're all guilty of unconscious overclaiming, giving extra weight to our chores and failing to recognise what others do. Be grateful for all your spouse does for you.
5. Are you behaving like a best friend?
Married couples often treat each other with less consideration than they do friends or even strangers. Take an interest in their life.
6. When was the last time you booked a holiday?
Planning time alone together is a key component. It's about making the effort.
7. Are you expecting them to change?
If you are, give up! The only person you can really change is yourself.