Much of the church’s discussion of marriage for the past few decades has focused on the difficulty of making a marriage work.
Trying to combat the prevalence of divorce and flippant marriages, Christians wanted to make sure young adults recognized that marriage took hard work.
Looking at the marriage rates of millennials, they’ve been listening. While there are many who long to be married, statistically they are putting off marriage longer than any previous generation and more of them are avoiding marriage altogether.
From Pew Research:
In 1960, some 12% of adults ages 25 to 34 had never been married. After 10 years, when that group was between the ages of 35 and 44, 7% of them still hadn’t wed. By 1980, when they were in their mid-40s to -50s, only 5% had still never married. The next cohort starting in 1970 followed a similar trajectory. However, each new cohort of young adults since then has had a higher share of never-married members than the cohort that came before it. If current trends continue, 25% of young adults in the most recent cohort (ages 25 to 34 in 2010) will have never married by 2030. That would be the highest share in modern history.
Much of that can be attributed to societal changes since the mid-1900s and cultural influences, but the way Christians have talked about marriage has done little to encourage young adults to tie the proverbial knot.
They have heard the church tell them how hard marriage is, how much work it will be, how they’ll never truly be ready for that level of commitment. Many simply agreed and decided not to get married.
Admittedly, focusing on extremes are easier. Simply saying, “Marriage is hard,” requires little to no explanation or investment in the lives of those considering marriage.
But the truth about marriage is more nuanced. It takes time to tell the full story. Yes, marriage is hard and requires sacrifice. But much like parenting—which millennials are also avoiding—marriage is beautiful, rich and rewarding.
Stop telling millennials are hard. Tell them it’s hard, but it’s worth every second.
Of course, those considering marriage need to know they will not be able to find the solution to all of their personal problems by getting marriage.
Having a spouse will not completely solve loneliness. It will not end sexual temptation. Marriage will not magically cause you to be content in life.
But it does not honor marriage as a God-given institution and quite simply as God-given to speak of it merely in terms of the difficulties it brings. Cynicism is not the solution.
Yes, make sure young adults do not have an overly-romanticized view of marriage, but do not give them an excessively dour view either. Give them a biblical perspective.
Marriage is hard, but marriage is wonderful. Make sure millennials know both of those things.