As a grateful mother of two millennials, and a counselor to an ever-growing number more, I'm so often inspired by them. Take their unrelenting passion for diversity, equality and basic rights for all living things; or their out of the box views on love, work, gender, institutions ... basically everything. And in spite of the tech-dominant reality, or maybe because of it, I especially appreciate the outspoken desire for acceptance and authenticity—and a life lived aligned with one's personal values.
That being said, we live in a reality where there is always a mix of good and bad. While we have much to learn from this next generation, millennials as a whole face some unique challenges, especially when it comes to love and intimacy. In an era of dating apps and blended families, social media and FOMO (fear of missing out), the diverse relationship concerns for many in their 20s and 30s have built great momentum as they roll into therapy offices nationwide.
Dr. Glik Discusses Millennials and Relationships on Fox2 News
Huffington post recently published The 6 Relationship Problems Millennials Bring Up Most In Therapy. They include:
- Is there someone better out there for me?
- What’s the point of getting married?
- What does this text from my crush or significant other mean?
- Why am I not dating anyone?
- I don’t want to be financially tied to my partner.
- I’m ready for the next stage of life. My partner needs to grow up.
When I asked our son about love in his generation, he didn’t miss a beat sharing the unique barricades. “You should see the trouble our friends give Jason,” he told me. “Why?” I asked. “He met a girl, asked for her number, took her on a date and they’re together.” “You mean this isn’t normal anymore?” I gasped. Jeremy explained that many use dating apps heavily now—starting in college and even in high school—scrolling through a constant flow of instant, customized prospects. He went on, “It’s not uncommon to have 10 conversations going on at the same time.” While dating apps can bring like-minded people together, I can’t help but wonder, are these real human conversations?
One of my biggest concerns for those in the millennial generation is the decreased opportunity for real-time dialogue and safe spaces to gradually open up, be vulnerable, share and listen. Furthermore, the digital world has seriously weakened the muscle for resisting instant-gratification. As our 25-year-old daughter shared with me today, “It’s a hard era to be emotionally intelligent in. We have the ability to check out of our lives so easily. Dating apps, and feelings of 'who else is out there,’ this just shows how much harder it is to be mindful or in the moment."
Andrea’s insight demonstrates another positive side of the pole for this generation, an openness to introspection. She made sure to share with me how people her age talk about psychology and are better educated about emotions and therapy. Coined as “Generation Therapy," recent research has shown that millennials are helping to normalize mental health issues and counseling. They are open to marriage counseling more than any other generation and seek it sooner. I am delighted to see the truth in this almost every day in my office.
WHAT’S THE POINT OF GETTING MARRIED?
Each of the 6 relationship concerns mentioned above deserves its own blog, but the moment I read, 'What's the point of getting married?' I knew I wanted to dig deeper. As a 2016 Gallup analysis shows, "Millennials are clearly delaying marriage longer than any generation before them." And while evidence suggests that many millennials intend to marry at some point, the question of whether to marry at all certainly comes up more than ever before.
It’s Good To Question Why
As already mentioned, many millennials bring us a gift for breaking out of norms, for asking tough questions. Their “Why Marry” question ranks as one of their best. In part because of the number of failed marriages this generation has seen, their unwillingness to follow an "expected" course in relationships I think is a good sign. Whether it's the delaying of commitment or the altogether questioning of it—this can create an opening to learn and evolve, to make choices from a more conscious vantage. When many of the couples I meet with go back to the seed of why they married, too often I hear, “Well it’s what everyone was doing, so I thought I should too.” Robotic “should” decisions disconnect us from the source of lasting fulfillment, ultimately turning a succulent meal into cardboard. I'm hopeful that many millennials want something more.
The "What's the point of getting married?" question can also be a dangerous one. That is, when it’s not a real one, but rather a decision or doubt borne from hopelessness or fear, or an especially strong dependence on instant-gratification. Commitment is a difficult necessity, like the boundary lines on a playing field. To extract all the benefits a deep relationship affords, the power lies in our effort to get better and stronger--on the field. The lines actually can set us free—but it's a different kind of freedom, that of our own ego (more on this below). For millennials, it seems that commitment has become scarier than ever, and easier to avoid. I truly hope those in their 20s and 30s keep questioning but make the “Why Marry” question a real one.
The first step I suggest is to do your homework. Keep asking the tough questions, but really ask. Learn from people in your life and teachers wiser than you. Couples and pre-commitment counseling have grown more important than ever. I learned the hard way that winging it just doesn’t fly here. Looking back to the challenging times in my own marriage, I have no doubt, it was the wisdom-seeking steps we took, coupled with commitment and effort, that brought us to where we are today. WE CREATE OUR RELATIONSHIPS. Thirty years ago, I thought the most important thing was finding "the right man." And yes, choosing our partners wisely most definitely matters! But I learned first hand that the real work comes after—especially working on myself.
Here’s Why I Believe In Marriage
Those who know me wouldn’t be surprised to hear that my belief in marriage is not at all because I’m a traditionalist or “it’s what's always been done.” Though I’m not a millennial myself, I tend to walk on the non-conforming side of the street. I believe in deep, committed relationships because they provide a most effective path to become the best version of yourself. While marriage is not the only way to grow, I've come to call my spiritual and practical approach to couples counseling The Growth Model. The personal transforming that a conscious, fulfilling relationship demands become our ladder for reaching higher levels of our potential. This benefits us, but not only us. We make the world brighter as we grow. And through the mutual growing process as a couple, we gain an appreciation and a bond that opens us to the deepest chambers of love, and laughter.
Commitment to a relationship is a commitment to growing; to learning how to love and share, to grow closer to the perfected self we inherently possess. As Michael and Monica Berg say so well, "Love is the nourishment to fulfill our greatness." This kind of love requires a level of spiritual maturity that makes our own personal growth, and our selectivity in a partner, especially important. The biggest trap we fall into with our relationships, or anything really is when we listen to that loud voice of short-term, need-gratification. That’s not wrong—but quick fixes for the self alone just don't last. The smart choice is to aim higher—that is, desiring to commit not because of what marriage will “do for us," but by the person, we can become through it—for ourselves and for the world. Paradoxically, this is when we receive the most, time after time.