Neil Clark Warren, the Internet matchmaking guru, interviewed 500 college students and found that over half of them had never observed a happy marriage. Is it any wonder that millennials are rejecting marriage in favor of serial cohabitation in record numbers? Ironically, in his numerous studies, W. Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, has found that young people still aspire to marriage. Young people still want lasting love; they want to “grow old together” with the “love of their lives” who is their “soul mate” and “best friend.
On Monday nights, many millennials are as emotionally invested in episodes of TV’s “The Bachelor” as sports fans are to the Super Bowl or the NBA playoffs. The lure of these shows is that they tap into the hope of finding a perfect mate that will sweep a girl off her feet into a passionate, loving dream-come-true relationship. Underneath the glamour, though, millennials are keenly aware that those relationships don’t last. They recognize their unrealistic expectations. They see that 26 of the 27 wannabees are going to be rejected and even most of the finalist don’t end up saying “I do.” That makes them really anxious about making a commitment and very worried about what their own future holds. In the current “Bachelor” show, one of the four finalists admitted to the camera that she could see herself “engaged” and “perhaps even married someday” to the bachelor – a not-so-subtle admittance that the odds are against today’s relationships actually lasting beyond a trial “engagement” to progress to a marriage.
Couples are listening to people like Susan Pease Gadoua in Huffington Post. Even though she believes that the lack of marriage is causing “mayhem,” Gadoua advocates “reshaping” marriage to suit individual couples instead of adhering to the “archaic one-dimensional institution that we continue to idolize.” She writes in opposition to Boston Globe columnist, Tom Keane, who calls the current non-marital trends “tragic.” Keane, citing the economic and social benefits of marriage, worries that marriage as an institute is becoming an “afterthought” instead of the goal and foundation for romantic relationships.
Other analysts observe that young people have watched the marriages of their parents and others shredded by bickering, anger and unfaithfulness. They have also been taught that financial security is necessary for marriage, but they’ve seen their parents’ savings wiped out, parents laid off, so, for the first time, a generation expects that they won’t do as well financially as their parents did before them. No wonder, as Juliette Fairley of MainStreet points out in Wealth Advisor, nearly half of millennials think that financial freedom is the most important factor for success. No wonder they believe success demands an income of $220,000, twice or three times that for an upscale lifestyle in California or New York.
In contrast to the really bad reports, there are other researchers who carefully analyze the trends and THEN shine a spotlight on the truth that marriage can STILL be all it promises to be. Nate Bagley in his excellen tarticle assessing the reasons for millennials to be afraid of marriage, notes the lack of mentors and a demise of a sense of community that prepares young people for marriage. He also notes that millennials are the progeny of the Baby Boomer generation – the generation with the highest divorce rate of all time – and he also notes that they were raised with warped expectations and a parade of “hot mess” celebrity romances. He acknowledges that there are plenty of reasons for young people to be afraid of marriage, resulting in them thinking they would be smart to “test drive” a relationship before committing to it; sadly they are ignoring the fact that cohabitation only increases the odds of divorce.
Still Bagley promises young people that if they prepare for marriage, they need not fear. He strives to motivate happily married couples to “start advocating for marriage more loudly than the marriage defectors argue against it.”
Bagley, writing in The Loveumentary (reproduced by The Good Men Project), longs for a return to the day when “marriage and commitment are celebrated and enjoyed as the norm.” He yearns for a day when married men “pull single men aside just to tell them how amazing their wives are, and how much they love being married.” He “would cry tears of joy” if married women would “gush to their girlfriends with genuine appreciation for their dedicated and loyal husbands.” “Real love exists,” he declares, and it is a “realistic” hope. He distills the experience of many when he writes, “Amazing love is not just a random anomaly. It goes to those who are relentlessly committed to the effort and practice required to create it.”
Popular blogger, Ammo Grrrll writes her thoughts as she and Mr. AG celebrate the 50th anniversary of their meeting as teenagers. “There are so many ways to almost ensure a life of misery: substance abuse, engaging in criminal behavior, failing to prepare for any kind of work.” They have “come to believe” that the single “most important decision you will ever make is not what school you pick, or what career you prepare for, but what life partner you choose.”