I just wrote a personal take on millennials and our fear of marriage here. But right now, I wanted to take the time to discuss why millennials aren’t getting married. This is in no way an extensive list; I can think of a few more points of why marriage isn’t happening in my age bracket, but these are the main contributors I’ve seen.
Before I continue, I wanted to give you a short disclaimer so you don’t get the wrong idea about this article. I went with a communal tone of “we” and “our” instead of “them” and “they” because, hey, I am a millennial. But by no means have I fit every category on this list, nor am I under any sort of impression that every millennial fits these trends. These are generalizations, and generalizations certainly have their handicaps, so simply see these reasons as observations from looking at a group from within:
1.We’re terrified of losing ourselves and our personal identity. The thoughts go something like this, “If I marry_________ I’ll be lost in this nuclear family unit and miss out on building my own identity. Unfortunately, many of us were never taught what we can gain through marriage.
2.We saw how fast marriages eroded away from our parents or parents’ friends. Divorce culture was the norm for many of us growing up. So instead of walking down the altar, we avoided it altogether.
3.We could possibly love ourselves too much. Studies show the “me culture” began with the Baby Boomers 1 and steadied along with the trend in my generation. We were infiltrated with self-help books, self-help gurus and with it came their talk about the highest love being the love of self…Except, it’s not. The greatest love of all is when we sacrifice ourselves.
4.We may be too cautious. Our generation is shown to be more cautious than our GenX counterparts, having less sexual partners than the two generations before us overall. 2 Our parents watched as the world grew more dangerous and ensured we knew to be cautious. With all of this caution, though, we have managed to become cautious towards even the good- like marriage.
5.We are disconnected from a faith system that would direct us to the need of marriage. Many of us went to church when we were younger, you know, because our parents forced us to wear scratchy panty-hose or clip-on ties as they scurried us out the door on Sunday mornings. There was some curriculum with illustrated Bible figures that we may have paid attention to but was lacking any true depth for us to have a working knowledge of a Biblical worldview. Or we may have visited church because of a cute guy/girl in a prayer group invited us and heck, there were powdered doughnuts! But we took the doughnuts and the orange juice and never came back. Our worldview never meshed with a Christian one, explaining that sex is its most enjoyed in marriage. We just had some basic semblance that God hates sex (He doesn’t) and wants to kill our joy.
6.We’re simply not as rooted as other generations or cultures. Maybe you could call us the vagabond generation because we certainly can’t boast highly in long-term rooted commitments. Studies have shown that millennials switch jobs faster than previous generations.3 Before we go on a rant session, it’s important to remember that there aren’t too many incentives for newer, working generations to stick it out with a company. 401k’s? They’re almost extinct. It makes more sense for millennials to gain job skills and then, continually transfer to better jobs, climbing the ranks of salary more so than long-term perks. But this line of thinking can potentially transfer over to our personal lives as well.
7.We feel like we deserve to have fun. There’s certainly nothing new under the sun. Old philosophies simply become repackaged with a new name. I think we have all heard of YOLO, right? (Short for: You Only Live Once.) Really, it’s just a return of old ideas like epicureanism4 meshed with other ideologies. We only have one life to live, so why not have the most fun possible before we become worm food? This is certainly a departure from my grandparent’s generation that had a touch of stoicism5 in their philosophy. (Though this is making a comeback in the business world.) 6 If you go to nursing homes today, you’ll still hear their mantra of “buck up” “don’t let anyone see you cry” and other semi-harsh sentiments. With what they faced through the Great Depression and WWII, you can’t blame them completely for their line of thinking. But you also can’t blame their children who largely rebelled against their harsh sentiments and decided to reject their “tough as nails” parenting, and in extreme reactionism, decided to coddle their kids. With all of this coddling, though, we were not told that life is tough. Life isn’t a bed of roses, where we play with play-dough and therapy dogs when our happy bubble is burst. Suddenly, marriage doesn’t look too fun from the YOLO paradigm.
8.Cultural norms have shifted. You have watched Netflix, right? We both tried to watch the return of Gilmore Girls, but man, was it lacking in story development and anything remotely hope-filled for the characters! Case in point: we return eight years later to find two main characters who we watched fall in love still not married. I looked for reviews on the show, hoping I wasn’t alone in feeling this inner depression towards the show. I wasn’t. And one of the main complaints? Why the heck isn’t Luke and Lorelei married? Are we supposed to believe they just forgot to talk about marriage and kids these past eight years?7 Yes! They got it! A culture without marriage is depressing. It means people can come and go as they please. That we bought the lie that commitments are simply an archaic tradition to pin us all down.
Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis tried the friends with benefits routine and found it just didn’t work. In Kunis’ words, “If we just paid attention to these movies [we did], we should know s**t like this does not work out in real life.” 8Now they’re married with babies.
Can we too, come to the conclusion that it doesn’t work? One can only hope.
You may be reading this and thinking, what do we do about millennials rejecting marriage? Clearly, complaining seems to be our default (I’m not immune myself), but in backlash, just like other generations before us, an entire generation will walk away. The only way this trend can be changed is by making loyalty, commitments, and the uniqueness of marriage shine in all its attractiveness.
1Henderson, A. (2015, October 15). “When It Comes To the Baby Boomers, It Is Still All About Me?”. Retrieved December 23, 2016, from http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/when-comes-baby-boomers-still-all-about-me-180953030/
2Dotinga, R. (2015, May 6).”Millennials More Tolerant, Less Promiscuous Than Their Parents.” Retrieved December 21, 2016, from https://consumer.healthday.com/women-s-health-information-34/abortion-news-2/millennials-more-tolerant-less-promiscuous-than-their-parents-699181.html
3Meister, J. (2012, August 14). “Job Hopping Is the ‘New Normal’ for Millennials: Three Ways to Prevent a Human Resource Nightmare.” Retrieved December 21, 2016, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/jeannemeister/2012/08/14/job-hopping-is-the-new-normal-for-millennials-three-ways-to-prevent-a-human-resource-nightmare/#7547fa245508
4“Philosophy 302: Ethics Epicurus Epicureanism.” (n.d.). Retrieved December 23, 2016, from http://philosophy.lander.edu/ethics/epicurus.html
5Mastin, L. (2008). By Branch / Doctrine > Ethics > Stoicism. Retrieved December 23, 2016, from http://www.philosophybasics.com/branch_stoicism.html
6Ferriss, T. (2013, July 28). “5 Ways Stoicism Can Make You A Better Entrepreneur.” Retrieved December 23, 2016, from http://thoughtcatalog.com/tim-ferriss/2013/07/5-ways-stoicism-can-make-you-a-better-entrepreneur/
7Tiffany, K. (2016, Nov 28). “The new Gilmore Girls is Weirdly Hostile Toward Fans, Women, and Storytelling in General.” Retrieved December 21, 2016, from http://www.theverge.com/2016/11/28/13765088/gilmore-girls-year-in-the-life-review-netflix
8Guglielmi, J. (2016, July 19). “Mila Kunis Reveals the Night Her Relationship with Husband Ashton Kutcher Turned Romantic.” Retrieved December 21, 2016, from http://people.com/movies/mila-kunis-talks-about-her-marriage-to-ashton-kutcher/
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