Marriage in the New Millenium – WOMEN in RECOVERY

Marriage in the New Millenium



The Millennial Generation in the U.S., the first generation to come of age in the new millennium, values parenthood and marriage “far above career and financial success,” according to a Feb. 24 report on a 2010 Pew Research Center survey. However, the Millennials are not “rushing to the altar” to get married, the Pew Center said.

Titled “Millennials: Generation Next,” the report profiles the roughly 50 million members of this generation currently ranging in age from 18 to 29. The often-analyzed Generation X, whose members today range in age from about 30 to 45, both resembles the Millennials and differs from them in noteworthy ways, it appeared.

While the Millennials value marriage and parenthood highly, they are “markedly less likely to be married or to have children than earlier generations were at comparable ages,” the Pew Center said. Three-fourths of Millennials “have never married,” the report said. That finding was not surprising in light of other studies showing that young people who marry today tend to do so at an older age than their elders.

And just one in eight members of the Millennial Generation, (12 percent), is both married and has children at home today, half the proportion of the Baby-Boomer generation at the same age, the report said. The Baby-Boomer Generation’s members were born between 1946 and 1964. To a large extent, the things that Millennials value in life mirror the things older generations value,” the Pew report said. “Family matters most, and fame and fortune are much less important.”

What the report said about marriage and family is the focus here. But I should note that the far-reaching survey also gathered information in areas such as the Millennials’ profound involvement with social-networking technology, how their attitude toward religion differs from their attitude toward prayer, their beliefs about government’s proper role and even their tendency to “cast a wary eye on human nature,” saying, ‘You can’t be too careful’ when dealing with people.”

The Pew report conveyed some information about the “personality” of the Millennial Generation that may well comfort their elders, while other findings may be judged disturbing or at least challenging. On the comforting side we hear, for example, that:

  • “Millennials have already distinguished themselves as a generation that gets along well with others, especially their elders,” and “they get along well with their parents.”
  • The Millennials are on track to become the “most educated generation in American history.”
  • “Millennials may be a self-confident generation, but they display little appetite for claims of moral superiority.”

However, the economic recession placed this generation’s entry into the job market on hold, and many Millennials have moved back home with their parents for the time being.

The Pew survey found that the Millennial Generation is “confident, self-expressive, liberal, upbeat and open to change.” But it was clear from the Pew report that the Millennials are complex, not all alike and not easy to pigeonhole.

For example, 52 percent of Millennials in the Pew survey indicated strongly that being a good parent is one of the most important things in life to them. At the same time, having a successful marriage was listed as a strong priority by just 30 percent of those surveyed, a difference of 22 percentage points.

The Millennials also “are more tolerant than adults in other generations of a wide range of nontraditional behaviors related to marriage and parenting,” the report said. But the Millennials’ receptivity to new trends in some cases “does not translate into outright approval,” it added.

In other words, an unwillingness on the Millennials’ part to judge a development as “bad for society” does not necessarily constitute a judgment that it is “good for society,” the report explained. Sometimes, a majority or plurality of those surveyed occupies a large middle ground on specific issues, declining to pass judgment or feeling that certain social developments make “no difference.”

Nonetheless, the Pew Center said that Millennials are “more accepting than older generations” of various “modern family arrangements,” tilting more to the positive than to the negative on them.

For example, 22 percent of Millennials said that “more people living together without getting married” is bad for society, while 14 percent said it is good for society. There may have been some general level of tolerance toward this development on the part of all the rest, though they did not pronounce it good for society.

On another issue directly related to the daily functioning of many families, just 23 percent of those surveyed took a negative view of “more mothers of young children working outside the home,” while 33 percent had a positive view of this social development, with the remainder somewhere in the middle, apparently tilting toward a positive view. On an issue such as this, the Pew report suggested that views among Millennials of “changes in the American family may be shaped, at least in part, by their own experiences growing up.” Presumably, that includes experiences of a mother working outside the home.

Just 62 percent of Millennials “say that their parents were married during the time they were growing up. That compares with 71 percent of Gen Xers, 85 percent of Boomers,” the report explained, adding that “roughly one-quarter of Millennials (24 percent) say their parents were divorced or separated, and 11 percent say their parents were never married.” Thirty-one percent of Millennials say “they lived with only one parent while they were growing up.”

Among other findings of the survey, 50 percent of Millennials overall either favored or strongly favored the legalization of same-sex marriage, making this “the only living generation that tilts positive on this question.”

But 59 percent of those surveyed judged a trend toward “more single women having children” as bad for society. Religion seems to be a factor on this issue, the report said. For, “Millennials who are atheist, agnostic or otherwise unaffiliated with a religious denomination are more accepting of single women having children.”

Also, 34 percent of those surveyed felt that interracial marriage is a good thing, while only five percent judged it negatively. In a Feb 1 news release, the Pew Center said that over the last several decades, the American public, and particularly Millennials, have moved toward accepting interracial dating and marriage.

Discussing living arrangements among the Millennials, the Pew report asked what has replaced the “married-with-children household” of earlier generations for them. The answer to that question is not found in “the single-person household, which is no more prevalent among Millennials than it was among Gen Xers or Boomers at the same age.”

Instead, the report said, “Millennials are more likely to be living with other family members (47 percent), such as their parents, than were the immediate two previous generations at the same age (Gen Xers, 43 percent; Boomers, 39 percent). They also are more likely than others had been at the same stage of life to be cohabiting with a partner or living with a roommate.”


Marriage Readiness

Having a successful marriage means more than FINDING the right person. It means BEING the right person. Sometimes, the FINDING part is easier. You can go to places where singles congregate. You can join clubs, pursue hobbies, or become active in religious or civic organizations. With any luck, you’ll meet the one you consider Mr. or Ms. Right.

BEING the right person can be tougher. Are you easy to live with, generous, flexible, and willing to put your beloved’s needs before your own? Above all, are both of you mature?

Maturity means knowing who you are:

  • Your talents
  • Your weaknesses
  • Your interests
  • The things you hate to do
  • The values that you will not compromise
  • The preferences that you are willing to bend on
  • What you want out of life and marriage

Out of this self- knowledge comes the possibility of giving oneself freely to your beloved.

Conflict Resolution Skills

Forgiveness Fundamentals

Every marriage has conflict and hurts; that’s a constant. It’s what we do with those hurts that varies. Christ desires that we forgive those hurts and allow the Holy Spirit to heal and bring new life into our marriages.

Here are some forgiveness fundamentals that we hope will be helpful for your marriage.

Forgiveness is a paradox

Forgiveness is tricky; it is both a decision and a process. It is a decision because it involves using our will and intellect to decide to forgive. It is not a feeling; we need to decide to forgive. Yet it is also a process because we have a right to work through the hurt with somebody who is helpful and will validate our feelings (a good friend, a priest, a therapist, etc). Do not wait to feel like you need to forgive because that may never happen. That said, if you have a very hard time forgiving, the very first place to start is prayer: ask God for the grace to decide to forgive as you process the hurts with somebody you trust.

Forgiveness does not excuse

Forgiving somebody does not, in any way, excuse the hurt that was done. It is a decision to let go of retribution and to allow God to begin to heal. When we let go of the hurt, God can start to redeem it and bring good from it.

Use rituals to forgive and heal

Many individuals and couples love to privately write down all their hurts and then safely burn the paper in order to grieve and let go of these hurts. If you choose to do this, watch the ritual. The ash is a different substance from the paper (a chemical change). And ash can be used as fertilizer! This is exactly what God wants to do with our hurts as well. God will turn our hurts into good when we give them over to God. But if we hold onto our hurts too much, God respects our free will and may not be able to transform them into the new life God wants for us.

You have a right to your justified anger

You do not have a right to take that anger out on yourself, your loved ones, or your spouse. Think of an “anger bottle” or “anger safe.” Place all your daily anger in this space and tell it that you will get to it later that day. Then when you are able, set aside time to journal your anger out, talk it out, exercise it out, pray it out, etc. When you exercise and start to sweat, that is when you open your “anger bottle” up and let go of the anger, harness the anger. As a member of the Body of Christ you have dominion over your anger and your hurt. You own it and you can use it for the good; it doesn’t own you.

Forgive and forget…not!

I am not sure who coined the phrase “forgive and forget” but only God is fully capable of that, and even God forgives and redeems (brings good from it). When it comes to understanding forgiveness it is good to understand how God made us. Women have larger hippocampi compared to men. The hippocampus is a structure in the brain that is connected to memory. Women remember differently (think 70 inch HDTV)! Men usually remember in much less detail (think black and white stick figures). As a therapist, Jim has heard this from so many couples over the years:

(wife): “Jim, I can’t forget this thing he did.” (husband): “Jim, I can’t remember what she can’t forget.” Both have been correct because of biology. Don’t even try to forgive and forget. It doesn’t work biologically.

Learn to forgive yourself

After you ask forgiveness from God and the person you offended, it can be very freeing to put your hand on your heart and tell yourself: “I forgive you.” If you do this use your first name and listen to your words of comfort. This has been a wonderfully freeing ritual for many people.

The Sacrament of Reconciliation

Catholics have the powerful Sacrament of Reconciliation, if they’re willing to use it. The wisdom of Father Pio (the twentieth century stigmatist) summed it up well: Even clean rooms need frequent dusting. Yes, our marriages need cleaning and dusting and the grace of the sacrament of reconciliation is a powerful way to open up our souls to the Holy Spirit’s in your marriage life.


By Maureen Otremba, M.A, and James Otremba, M.Div, M.S., LICSW (Maureen and Jim offer marriage workshops and retreats for parishes and dioceses.

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© 2010, The Foundational Intimacy: Eucharist as the Model for Marriage Workshop. Used with permission.

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