Is marriage dead just a few years after marriage equality? As we approach a culture that’s post-sexuality, post-gender even, isn’t the idea of committing yourself to another person forever seem kinda… lame? It’s tougher to think about than you’d expect, considering the institution. Progressive ideologies on relationships and marriage aren’t really new, we’ve been questioning marriage for ages. But what is new, relatively, is the current right to marry who we want and the weird, constant threat that right is under. Are millennials like me scoffing at marriage just after the LGBTQ+ community fought so passionately for the right? That could anger some, and it’s forced me to think inwardly.
Thinking inwardly as a ‘millennial’ is oftentimes an exercise in futility. Yes, we frequently can offer a unique perspective on the world and culture. Perhaps that perspective is a tad more radically different than any previous generation before! Every generation is a little edgier than the last! Frequently, though, it’s not enough. The internet, modern media and a huge shift in cultural attitudes have swept the 21st Century into a nearly fundamental rewiring of how we see the world. Everything’s happening all at once in all directions, and we’ve never been more aware of it. Of course, there is no shortage of millennials, especially queer ones, so what makes my perspective any different? Are we that dissimilar from generations before? It turns out, not really.
A study from Stanford University concluded this past February that millennials actually do hope to reach traditional life milestones by the same age as previous generations. Marriage, home ownership, children; these are all still aspirations of ours— don’t be mistaken. The reality though is that these cornerstones are happening later and later in our lives, and we’re delaying it begrudgingly. We’re expecting to live longer (life expectancy has gotten about 30 years longer in the past hundred years), which allows for some wriggle room, but our clocks are still ticking. There’s a constant pressure to stabilize because stabilization is what’s truly scarce in a world destabilizing and deconstructing on a per-tweet basis.
The economy and the various financial situations of millennials play a much bigger factor in our resistance to marriage than our progressive, anti-monogamous ideals. Creating a home and a happy life with a partner forever is always going to be enticing, but owning a home and being happy with even yourself seems far-fetched in 2018. Until we can loosen the leash held by student loans, a debilitating housing crisis, and a job market that’s chief innovative goal is to build an Artificial Intelligence that makes me obsolete, dropping thousands of dollars on a wedding that will trigger anxiety in all my equally-broke family and friends seems kinda selfish.
Personally, I’ve grappled with the prospect of getting married often. Despite the poor examples set by our parents and other countless divorced couples, lifelong contentment in marriage doesn’t just seem plausible, it’s beautiful. Devoting yourself to a constantly conflicting but forever endearing presence in your life, and another person doing the same makes it all seem worth it. I’m ready for the ups, I’m ready for the downs. But as a twenty-something, finding financial stability and contentment in my micro-community of loved ones just ironically seems like a more pressing matter than who I might be with ‘forever’.
I don’t mean to be harsh, but it’s a reality many are facing. Read any headline regarding millennials and you could swear we somehow really have it out for industries like diamonds, Applebee’s, and lavish weddings, but the fact of the matter is that we just can’t afford them. As we begin to fight for equality in other areas than our sexuality, I sincerely hope marriage equality doesn’t become a casualty. Every day it feels like some new right or reality is being infringed upon. The people we’ve trusted in government, in culture, and in faith to reassure us that there was a certain tract to a healthy, happy life have let us down. That is the millennial mindset. Now what? Do I want to get married?
Yes. Absolutely. Even in these tough times, especially in these tough times, the idea of committing my life to another and building a love that is founded on mutual trust and understanding is the most beautiful thing I can think of. The rulebook is ripped in half, we’re officially post-modern. I’m looking forward to my wedding day because it will mean something. Not because I’m meant to, but because I want to. I’ll look into my partner’s eyes and understand the gravitas of trusting and committing my life to them, and love them. For better or for worse.
Tyler Scruggs is a writer and musician living in Atlanta with his partner Mark. When he’s not churning out internet content, he’s paying too much for coffee and buying movie tickets week in advance. Feel free to validate him on Instagram (@Scruggernaut), Twitter (@TylerScruggs), or on Scruff (you’ll know it when you see it).