I recently read an article about marriage that contained some concerning statistics about how this generation views the concept of marriage. According to the article, 53 percent of millennials (ages 18 to 34) think the “till death do us part” vow should be abolished.
A good portion also believed in marital “beta testing.” In other words, a “choose-your-own-adventure” kind of marriage in which you avoid lifelong commitment in exchange for the ability to jump ship if things don’t work out the way you expect them too. The majority of millennials surveyed believed that marriage shouldn’t be a permanent choice with one person for one lifetime, but a choice that you can “re-evaluate” every few years.
It’s not about commitment issues, they say, “we’re just trying to do commitment more wisely.”
As a professional counselor, my heart is pained when I see my own generation struggling so much with the concept of marriage. My heart goes out to them, because in one sense, I get it.
Anyone can take a quick look at our society and agree that we have painted a very poor picture of what marriage is supposed to be.
Many millennials look at their family of origin and see the crumbling love of their parents, who “fell out of love” as their marriage crumbled into an ugly divorce; or just as difficult, they watched as their parents held on to their toxic relationship out of duty and obligation.
I feel for this generation, but I also rebel against the mentality that the problem is in the concept of “I Do.” What is it about permanence that brings out so much fear inside of us? We are afraid to commit, afraid to choose, and afraid to enter into something that has lifelong implications. Why walk into the unknown of forever, when you can have the temporary peace and control of the here and now?
But I believe this is a lie that is robbing so many men and women of the joy, trust, companionship and oneness that comes from a relationship done right. Healthy relationships can and do exist. But unlike the passive approach we often take to relationships, we don’t “fall” into those kind of relationships by chance. We have to choose them. We have to create them. We have to commit to them. And true commitment is never optional.
As I read through this article, I wish I could share these counter-cultural-truths with every millennial who has been jaded and confused by the concept of marriage:
Marriage is not about lifelong happiness and fulfillment.
When we go into marriage with the idea that it is meant for our happiness, we will be disappointed every single time.
There is no human being on earth that has the capability to bring that kind of joy into our lives, because they weren’t made to have that role in our lives. Real marriage is not about being happy and fulfilled for the rest of our lives, it’s about becoming the best that we can be from this day forward.
The un-replicated commitment and intimacy of marriage allows for lifelong growth, maturity, selflessness, forgiveness and grace as we learn to unconditionally love another flawed human being—seeing their realness and loving them anyway. Harder yet, we learn to receive that kind of love for ourselves.
There is no greater love than one that’s unconditional. And no matter what our family background or story, I am thankful that Jesus models that kind of love for us.
At the end of the day, marriage is not about me, it’s about we. It’s about learning to choose another person over ourselves—because by choosing them, we are choosing to become greater in humility, strength, forgiveness and love. Marriage isn’t about becoming happier. It’s about becoming better. But ironically, in becoming better, we often find that we’ve also become happier.
A healthy form of beta-testing does exist.
I think a big problem with our society is that we rush into relationships, allowing the chemistry and romance to guide us, instead of balancing that with a healthy dose of logic, truth and compatibility. There are so many things that go into the creating of a healthy relationship, but sometimes we focus so much on the feelings that we forget to focus on the facts, too.
Obviously, you can’t learn everything about someone before you decide to tie the knot, but you can learn what you need to know.
Healthy relationships are made up of certain ingredients, and in dating, you have the opportunity to “beta-test” this relationship for what it is long before you have to say, “I do.” I believe that if we approached dating the right way, we would save ourselves so much heartache, pain and regret.
Relationships can be done right.
Often, we struggle so much committing to relationships because we haven’t ever taken the time to commit to ourselves. We get so caught up in trying to find the right one that we lose ourselves and our God-given identity in the process.
We’re plagued with confusion, doubt and guilt. And worst of all, we’re driven by fear: fear of commitment, fear of failure, fear of abandonment and fear of being alone. Because of this, we end up staying in relationships that were never good for us to begin with.
Understanding the kind of person who fits into our story requires us to first understand our story. Who are we, and where are we going? Where did we come from, and what parts of our lives are in need of healing?
We go into relationships with so much baggage and pain to begin with, hoping our pain will dissolve in the arms of another. But relationships can’t heal our wounds. Only God can. Knowing ourselves is the first step in knowing what we need in a relationship.
I believe with all of my heart (and with all of my marriage) that this life-long relationship—when done right—is one of the greatest blessings, joys and experiences on the face of this earth. And that’s how God intended it to be. It may be filled with questions, detours, U-turns, and bumps along the way, but the right journey with the right person won’t lead you to a dead end.
This article was originally published on truelovedates.com
Debra is a Licensed Professional Counselor, relationship expert, speaker and author of several books, including True Love Dates. Debra is also the creator of the popular relationship advice blog TrueLoveDates.com, reaching millions of people with the message that healthy people make healthy relationships. Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.