“Marriage weighs heavy nowadays. I don’t feel like trying it.” These are the words of Hannah Seligson, author of the book A Little Bit Married. The book deals with long-term relationships outside marriage. Her quote shows the attitude of millennials (18 to 34 years old) concerning marriage. Time magazine published a revealing study on this topic. Almost half - 43% and even a larger percentage among the younger ones - would choose a marriage pattern that involves a 2-year experiment, after which the union would be officialized or dissolved, without divorce or other papers. 33% said they would be open to trying a type of marriage for a period of 5, 7, 10 or 30 years, and then renegotiate the terms. 21% would go with the “presidential mandate" version, where vows are available for 4 years, but after 8 years you are free to choose a new partner. 53% say that marriage vows should be renewed, and only 31% still believe in marriage for life.
The implications of these statistics
Most millennials prefer a type of marriage where the choice of a partner does not have permanent effects. Instead they want the possibility to re-evaluate after a couple of years. Melissa Lavigne-Delville, the author of the study, states that, “This is a generation that is used to this idea that everything is in beta, that life is a work in progress, so the idea of a beta marriage makes sense”.
There’s a fear of commitment, a fear to choose, a fear to enter a lifelong union. Why choose the unknown, when you can have the peace of mind and the temporary control of the present moment? Fear is also a consequence of many millennials looking at their families for guidance. Many times, they see the failed love of their parents, ending with divorce. In other cases, marriage survives, but only because of a sense of obligation.
The core of the problem
Debra Fileta, a counselor specializing in dating and marriage, considers one of the main problems of society the rush to jump into relationships. Within these relationships, there’s no balance between passion and romanticism, on one side, and logic, truth, and compatibility, on the other side. Healthy relationships need to be grounded in maturity. It is mandatory to test the relationship a long time before entering a marriage that would lead to pain and regret.
Fileta argues that the marriage institution cannot become the source of all our happiness, as most of us wish for and imagine. Marriage is not about what each partner can get from the other. It cannot bring happiness and accomplishment for the rest of our lives. The commitment and intimacy of marriage create the framework necessary for developing, maturing, becoming more altruistic and forgiving people. The purpose of marriage is to learn to love unconditionally another human being, “warts and all”. The two partners discover each other as they truly are and choose to love each other despite their flaws. It takes genuine dedication because a lasting commitment is never optional.
Often marriage is the perfect example to reflect the type of love and long-lasting relationship God has with his creation. It’s a commitment based on forgiveness and acceptance, on millions of second-chances and on trust. Above all, marriage is about putting the ones you care about first, about sacrifice. Yes, love means letting go of your ego. The world we live in today is promoting selfishness on a daily basis. Don’t settle for other people’s standards.