The decline of committed marriages in America is no secret. So it’s no wonder the millennial generation continues to marry later and later — and has branding themselves noncommittal and indifferent toward long-term romantic pursuits and partners.
Google the term “millennial marriage” — and you’ll see headlines containing the phrases “latest mistake,” “bleak future,” and “never get married.”
“To those who say millennials don’t care, I’d say our generation has a deep desire to create a meaningful life,” said one young married woman.
The Pew Research Center backs up these depressing claims. Its studies show that 26 percent of millennials were married between the ages of 18 and 32 in 2013, versus the 48 percent of baby boomers who married within the same age range.
But many millennials who are religiously inclined are concerned for their generation’s outlook on marriage.
Elizabeth Andrews, a 26-year-old from Dallas, Texas, got married the summer after college and has been married for three years. Andrews believes millennials want to succeed in their careers and pay off their debts before even conceiving of marriage.
“This new expectation of stability and success before marriage is a difficult thing to achieve,” Andrews said. “High amounts of student debt and the difficulty of finding entry-level jobs [both] contribute to millennials putting off marriage.”
Many factors, however, contribute to how millennials feel about marriage.
[lz_table title=”Percentage of Married People, Ages 18 to 32″ source=”Pew Research Center”]
Andrew and Stephanie Calis are both 28 years old and live in Rockville, Maryland, with their two small children. Andrew Calis is finishing his Ph.D. in English while his wife works as an author and a Catholic wedding blogger.
“From what other friends share, modern dating is more like, ‘We like hanging out, there is some attraction, some physicality, but we’re not sure where it’s going. We’ll keep watching and waiting to see,'” said Andrew Calis. “Both people are left guessing, unwilling to fall too quickly for someone else.”
Millennials are navigating changes in the economy and technology as they try to maintain stable relationships. Aziz Ansari’s new book “Modern Romance” notes that millennials have more options for romantic partners than ever before, due to the growth of online dating and dating apps — and they have more mobility as well.
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People “now get married later in life than ever before … [and they’re] turning their early 20s into a relentless hunt for more romantic options than previous generations could have ever imagined,” says Ansari in the book, describing this scenario as “a recipe for romance gone haywire.”
Millennials, said Andrews, have a “fear of being hurt or hurting others so intense that it can sometimes freeze us into inaction or keep us from diving into something [as] radical as the lifelong commitment of marriage.”
Stephanie Calis also spoke of the intense passion for life that millennials possess.
“To those who say millennials don’t care, I’d actually counter them by saying our generation, like nearly every other group of young people, has a deep desire to make a mark on the world and create a meaningful life,” she said. “[This] can be seen in large numbers of millennials pursuing non-traditional careers like entrepreneurship, and in [their] palpable sense of hunger for love.”
With only 30 percent of millennials identifying as affiliated with any religious belief, according to the Pew Research Center, millennials who have chosen to establish a faith life within their marriage do so with fervor.
Garrett Fetty, 26, recently married Hannah Fetty, 22, this past January; the couple are from small towns in West Virginia. Garrett Fetty said he was able to ignore the stereotype of a commitment-phobic generation due to his faith.
“We seek out concrete sacrifices we can make for each other.”
“I was unfazed by the stereotype of my peers because my view of marriage is the same as my relationship with Christ — unconditional,” Garrett Fetty said.
The Fetty couple, along with Elizabeth Andrews and Stephanie Calis, spoke of sharing scripture as well as praying together as a source of spiritual intimacy within their relationships.
“The biggest way we share our faith is to habitually offer the difficulties of our day for each other and to constantly seek out concrete sacrifices we can make for one another,” Stephanie Calis said.
These couples are going against societal norms by marrying in their early 20s, yet they provide a faith-filled example for their peers. Instead of allowing the struggles of the world to cripple their relationships, these couples thrive on their commitment as married couples — rather than as individuals.
“We realize that even as the honeymoon phase fades, our commitment to each other drives us to keep strong our efforts at a good marriage,” Andrew Calis said.