What marriage means to the millennial generation
They want long-term relationships, but may lack patience
About a year ago, we pitched a television show at M-Net. It was to be a feel-good talk and lifestyle show specifically aimed at marriage enrichment.
It was inspired by the spate of divorces the country was witnessing among many influential celebrity couples.
We were mostly irritated by the fact that to many young people on social media divorce had suddenly developed a cool factor. And marriage was, and still is, talked about as a primitive relationship that cramps everyone’s style.
During the pitch, we were presenting to a group of young people, all below 30 and none married. One of the commissioning editors asked us, “but guys, seriously now, who still wants to get married this day and age?”
Although we had answers prepared around the content and format of the pitch, we weren’t really prepared for philosophical questions that were framed from a defeatist position that marriage is obsolete.
It didn’t matter what motivation we gave for the show. It was shot down on the spot , not on the strength of the quality and purpose of the show, but merely, because in their eyes, South Africans would be bored to death watching a show that encouraged marriage commitment.
They preferred an intervention show that exposed couples’ problems and their fights. We passed on that.
But our egos and the confidence with which we approach our daily work around marriage were stripped that day.
And this was not because we were unsure of the subject matter, but because the audience we were dealing with seemed to have a strange view of marriage – certainly strange to us.
We resolved to engage on a deliberate learning process about the range of people we serve in our marriage ministry. We took keen interest in the 21st century view of marriage, and specifically what motivated millennials in relationships today.
Millennials is a generation that combines people that were generally born between the early 1980s and early 2000s.
Although the characteristics of the millennial generation vary, depending on social and economic conditions, the group is it’s distinctly marked by an increased use and familiarity with communications, media and digital technologies.
In fact, in many quarters they are referred to as the social media generation.
Depending on the point you wish to make, you may well call them lazy, individualistic, delusional, entitled and self-obsessed narcissists.
On the other hand, they’re also called open-minded, independent, liberal, self-expressive, upbeat, overtly passionate about equality and less tolerant.
Approach to marriage
The majority of millennials grew up with single parents, either by divorce or simply out of wedlock.
Access to technology, including dating apps that let them swipe right or left on pictures all day long, increases as they age. In their preparation for marriage, this generation epitomises the act of focusing on the wedding and its optics, rather than the life after the wedding.
They have no commitment phobia in relationships.
Actually, they are not scared of marriage but rather seek to enter marriage on their terms and redefine it to suit their liberal views.
Marriage as it stands in many of their eyes is an obstruction to progress, and progress generally means financial freedom and self-determination.
As a matter of fact, they delay getting married as they prioritise being financially independent first. According to a report on marriages and divorce released by Statistics SA in May 2018, the median age of bridegrooms is at 36, with 32 years for brides, a marked increase from previous research.
No wonder many young people today believe they first need to reach high levels of financial independence before they tie the knot.
Furthermore, the biggest concern is the fact that four out of 10 marriages today end in divorce before they reach the 10th wedding anniversary, according to the same report. This obviously speaks to the impatience which characterises this generation.
Routine is boring
Many of them look at marital rules that are set to govern spousal behaviour as confining, routine and tradition as boring.
This is in spite of the fact that marital rules, routine and tradition are the cornerstones of building stability and security in marriage.
Millennials are free spirited, intelligent and high achievers yet very impatient, generation prone to instant gratification.
They’re very clear about wanting successful long-term relationships, but may well be reluctant to pay the price of patience to build a long-term and committed relationship.
In some instances, they are referred to as a microwave generation. They know contraception as a vital part of women’s health and value the separation of sexual expression from procreation.
They view love as an emotional expression that should make them feel good rather than a conscious sacrificial expression that seeks the good of another.
They have been taught that responsible sex is an act that doesn’t necessarily require commitment.
They seem to have accepted and advanced the hook-up culture that’s characterised by one-night stands and unwanted pregnancies.
A passionate kiss to many of them may be as meaningless as winking at someone passing on a Gautrain.
We hope that unmarried millennials will consider breaking the stereotype and develop a godly, character-based approach to marriage as the cornerstone of stable societies.
The older generations should equip themselves with an appropriate skills set to meaningfully engage millennials on the importance of marriage as a God-construct in addressing the social ills that are ravaging our country.