Why today’s millennials are saying ‘I don’t’

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By Christine Freeman

On May 16, I will sit among hundreds of my cap-and-gown-clad peers as George W. Bush delivers the commencement speech at Southern Methodist University’s 100th annual graduation ceremony. After four years on the Hilltop, I will receive a hard-earned B.A. in Journalism and one in Human Rights. But I will not receive my MRS. degree.

And neither will the majority of my peers. According to a recent Pew Research Survey, only 20 percent of millennials have tied the knot – a stark contrast to the 36 percent of Gen X’s, 48 percent of baby boomers, and 65 percent of the silent generation that were married by the time they were our age. At this rate, nearly a quarter of us will still be living the single life by 2030.

Our parents and grandparents find this trend, like most other things we do, alarming. Or at least my mother does – “Christine, I want to meet my grandkids!” But her whining really finds root in concern for the direction of society on a much grander scale. Growing up with access to the entire world just a click away, we’ve experienced unprecedented freedom in forming opinions, and evidently, disregarding customs. We never grew out of our rebellious years; we still question authority and consider our elders’ traditions just short of B.S.

Half of us register as political independents and three in 10 don’t practice organized religion. So it’s not surprising that we don’t want those institutions meddling in our relationships.

“Why would I want the government involved in my love life? Ew. It’s barbaric,” outspoken comedian Sarah Silverman tweeted in response to engagement rumors. Her sentiments garnered thousands of retweets and likes, clearly resonating with the 40 percent of millennials who regard marriage as obsolete.

That’s not to say the notorious “hook up culture” has taken over; plenty of us are in committed, long-term relationships. A large chunk of us live or even have children with our significant other, subscribing to the emerging trend of cohabitation – which is essentially marriage with an easier out.

And what’s wrong with that? With divorce rates hovering around 40 percent, according to the American Psychological Association, a melodramatic legal battle over child custody and who gets to keep the china seems archaic. Relationships should be about joint happiness and devoted companionship, not being bogged down with unrealistic expectations of a stagnant promise.

We’re a progressive bunch, a generation of innovators who are anything but stagnant. Today’s young women have more opportunities than ever, outnumbering men in universities and climbing to the top of corporate ladders. And with fertility wiggle room thanks to IVF and adoption options, there’s no need to sacrifice career goals for a family. We’ve eschewed the constraints of tradition for the freedom of following our dreams, whatever they might be.

“If you’re wondering which way to go, just remember a career will never wake up and tell you it doesn’t love you anymore.” – Lady Gaga

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