Four years ago I wrote an article “Why My Generation is Not Getting Married...and what can be done about it”.
The article caused quite a stir in christian and conservative circles. I was pleasantly surprised by the number of parents who appreciated what I had written. The reaction from peers was mixed: some agreed with my assessments, a few did not. I had fathers asking me to write their daughters words of encouragement. The article even inspired a few men to propose marriage. I received my fair share of the proposals.
That article sparked one of the first conversations with the man that I would later marry. I had no idea that God would continue to weave our lives in such a way that we would become best friends for life. I vividly remember the conversation. His background was slightly different than mine. I was homeschooled; he wasn’t. I was writing to a more targeted demographic; he had a broader perspective. And, he came at the issue from a guy’s point of view, while I didn’t.
Now four years later, I have been encouraged to see many of the single friends in my life get married. God has been faithful in providing spouses. Still many who inspired my first article are single and waiting. Some of my generation are getting married, but I don’t believe the trend has changed significantly. A lion share of the first generation of homeschool graduates is not getting married. Meanwhile the dynamics of the Christian, conservative homeschool sub-culture is changing rapidly.
This topic is still one that is heavy on my heart. I continue to pray daily for God to provide Godly spouses to those that are waiting. And, I continue to keep my eyes and ears open, observing what is happening and what can be done about it.
I know that what I say may be controversial, but I believe it is true.
So, WHY is my generation STILL not getting married?
I propose eight reasons.
It’s easier to Complain than Get Married
There are a LOT of young people 35 and under who are complaining. Constantly complaining. Social media has made this easier than ever. It seems that young people have bought in to a mindset of complacency - better to complain about all the problems in your life than do something about them. I know people whining that they were raised too strictly, or without friends. Young adults griping that they don’t have enough money saved for marriage, or that their dad was too patriarchal and their mom too matriarchal. They weren’t socialized enough, or their parents were too overbearing. The list goes on and on. Complaining is a byproduct of our human nature. And, it eats up our time. It sucks our mental and emotional energy. It distracts us from spiritual discipline.
This reminds me of the Israelites. They were constantly complaining about how life was not perfect. Instead of being grateful that they were no longer slaves, they complained about everything. My generation of homeschool graduates has chosen far too often not to look at their upbringing through eyes of gratitude. We must accept that our parents were not and are not perfect, but let’s be grateful for leading us out of the wasteland and to a place where we have a foundation to build on. Perhaps my generation needs to read more of the Pentatuch. We must remember that God’s patience with murmuring and complaining is only so long, but that He is faithful when we are obedient and walk in faith.
Obsessed with fixing our life
I know many young people who are spending their time and money - their life - trying to abate their inner anger for a deprived childhood. They are so blinded by their bitterness and obsession to fix their life that they aren’t getting married. This self-obsessive perspective is a sad, sickening cancer fed by lives of ingratitude.
They are upset that they grew up in an “oppressive patriarchy”, and have become obsessed with toeing the line of feminism. If they were raised to dress conservatively, now they are obsessed with dressing provocatively and saving money for tattoos. Maybe they didn’t travel much and they are now obsessed with travel and entertainment. It’s a disease of extremes, and one that is very short sighted. I weep for those young men and women who are constantly pressing the rewind button on their youth. One day they will wake up old and alone, having missed all the blessings of adulthood.
My generation needs to be more obsessed with the gospel, and walking in covenant (including marriage) with others who are passionate about the gospel, and less concerned about all the perceived mistakes of our parents. We are all broken, and the only thing that can fix us is the gospel. Stop trying to rewrite your life, and let God write it.
Too Busy Being “Just Friends”
I am often asked one question, usually by a guy: “Should I marry someone who is my best friend, even if I’m not sure if I’m attracted to her sexually?” I used to be able to count how many times I’d heard this, but now I can’t. As our culture becomes increasingly sexualized, even Pastors, elders, and parents are telling young people not to get married unless they are sexually, chemically attracted to each other. That is the worst advice I think I’ve ever heard. And, it makes my heart break.
Don’t mistake me, I think it is good to be attracted to your spouse. I also think that it is good to be compatible.
But think of it this way. Is it likely that you’re best friends with someone you aren’t compatible with? Is it likely that you are best friends with someone you find repulsive, or not attractive? I didn’t think so.
I know that especially the younger men in my generation are discouraged. They are rebuffed by young women (often by her parents) at every turn. One young man recently asked me, “If the guys who have been trying to get married for 10 years keeps getting doors slammed in their face, why should I even try?” This is unfortunately the general consensus.
People are attracted to one another because of looks, yes. But people are also attractive because of the way they act. A person who acts lovingly is lovely. A person who is a good listener will steal your heart. A person who puts your needs before their own will remain your best friend when you are old.
This one bothers me more than most because it is so pervasive, even in our circles. The person you marry should be your best friend. And, if you are single and have a best friend of the opposite sex, you should marry them. With only a foundation of sexual attraction a marriage is likely to fail because someone more alluring will come by. If you are single, then go...find a best friend of the opposite sex, and marry them. When your heart can safely trust in that person you will know what true attraction is.
Marriage has been made unappealing
We live in a culture that is trying to redefine marriage. The profound has become profane. People fear divorce, and believe the lie that the only guarantee against divorce is not getting married.
Even in the church marriage is no longer seen as a life of adventure and teamwork for the Kingdom of God, but more as a stepping stone to inevitable divorce. Movements to legislate the redefinition of marriage are only the symptoms of a disease that is long left unchecked.
When God has given us a profound desire for adventure, excitement, companionship, and love, but every marriage we look at seems lackluster, boring, hard, and weak, then it is no wonder why my generation is simply not interested.
And then, our subculture has the audacity to discourage from marriage for a hundred different reasons. It’s time for those who are married to encourage those who are single by being vulnerable about the good and bad in our marriages. Let’s be real, but also encouraging. Young people can always find a reason not to get married. Let’s give them a reason to pursue it.
A Word about the Men
The conservative, christian homeschooling subculture has done young men a disservice. Young men aren’t encouraged to be men. The culture has become double minded. If he opens a door, we’ll say he acts superior. If he doesn’t, we’ll say he isn’t a gentleman. If he is friendly, we’ll call it flirting. If he isn’t friendly, we’ll call him standoffish.
I think it’s about time we obliterate the litany of unsurpassable expectations, and start looking at young men with a Biblical standard. Does he love the Lord? Does he have a good work ethic? Is he trustworthy and honest? Humble and kind? If so, then he is a man worthy of consideration.
Isn’t it about time the good men get a break? Allow them the opportunity to pursue a worthy woman, even if we aren’t sure they meet every one of our preconceived expectations. I think we would be pleasantly surprised at the manliness that would manifest to meet the challenge.
A Word to the Women and the Parents
Stop looking for Mr. Perfect. He doesn’t exist. Really, he doesn’t. I am so tired of all the young women who won’t even consider marrying a young man that doesn’t look, talk or act like Josh Harris (or whoever their ideal is). This is a problem of both young women and parents alike. It seems far too often if a young lady likes a man, the parents must disapprove. Or, if the parents like a young man, the young lady must disapprove. It is pure idolatry to hold an unrealistic standard. One must see each young man as a son of God.
Of course, if there are real and serious problems with a man, then the relationship shouldn’t be pursued. But, if the disagreement is over something like “who should have won the war between the states?” then maybe it’s time to get some perspective. Perhaps we have forgotten that people grow and change - even after marriage. And, we have to adapt to those changes when we are married to them. So, maybe, just maybe it’s ok if someone doesn’t perfectly match your perspective of an ideal spouse.
Pornography is eating the strength out of men and women
Pornography is everywhere. Women can find it in romance novels. Men can find it on the internet. All we have to do is turn on our phones, kindles, ipads, or walk in to a grocery story to be bombarded with pornographic images.
You wonder why men and women aren’t getting married? Because pornography is eating the substance out of women and the strength out of men. This isn’t a new problem. Proverbs 5:3-5 says “For the lips of a strange woman drop as an honeycomb, and her mouth is smoother than oil: But her end is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps take hold on hell.” That is very serious warning against pornography. Later in the chapter Solomon tells us of a better plan: “Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth.” (Proverbs 5:18)
As our generation gets older and more discouraged, the opportunity to fall in to the trap of pornography and other cheap substitutes for love and marriage is ever increasing. As this happens, young men especially begin to lack the energy, aptitude, and fortitude to pursue a woman.
Courtship & Respect
Last, but not least, I must address the new movement that proposes that courtship is fundamentally flawed. I agree, and I disagree. Courtship is fundamentally flawed because families are humans are fundamentally flawed - due to our sin nature. So, yes, in a sense, courtship is fundamentally flawed.
The flaw occurs the moment we obsess more about “doing courtship right” than we do about honoring Biblical principles of purity and guarding one another’s heart. It’s just like modesty. A woman with an immodest heart will never appear modest no matter what her outward apparel. In like manner, courtship will appear to be flawed when those who are participating aren’t doing so in a respectful, God-honoring manner.
There seems to be a false assumption that if you believe in courtship your heart will never get hurt. That’s simply not true. The purpose of courtship is to put up safeguards for young people, providing structure and wisdom.
If there is a flaw I see in the practice of courtship today, it is this: a lack of respect, often on the part of parents. I see many young men discouraged because they aren’t taken seriously, either by their parents, or the parents of the young lady they wish to pursue. It’s as if her parents forget they are talking to the man who may end up being the father of their grandchildren, or the son who cares for them in old age. This is a problem that the Church has in general. It seems that the people who are to be known by their love for one another aren’t very loving.
I believe that any young man who pursues a woman ought to be treated with respect, simply for having shown respect himself. There is more than one fail-safe set up to ensure the heart of the woman is guarded, but we have forgotten to treat the man’s heart with care. Remember, parents, that this man is young, but he is seeking to be the leader of his own home. He will not have everything figured out. He won’t be polished. But, that doesn’t mean that he should be treated with a lack of respect. Far too many young men are ready to throw in the towel on relationships entirely because they have been treated poorly. This reminds me of the warning to parents in scripture of guarding against provoking children to wrath. I’m afraid that some of the unnecessary expectations parents have placed on young people may have done just that.
I agree with those who are calling out the problems that they see. It’s time that we all step back and realize that somewhere along the path we have lost our way. Parents have suffered from comparing themselves to other families. Children have suffered from parents who can get caught in extremes. And, in the midst of chasing a life that looks good on the outside, we’ve missed the heart of the matter.
As parents, do we truly believe that God has given us the unique privilege of raising up men and women who will soon be married and parents of their own? If so, let’s encourage them to that end instead of throwing road blocks up.
As young people, do we truly believe that God will provide us with a spouse who will encourage and challenge us in our walk with Him? Then, don’t allow yourself to be distracted from this calling. God will be faithful to provide in His time!