One of the big stories out of this last election cycle is the changing demographics of our country. There has been a lot of talk about growing Latino population, the women vote, etc. One thing that hasn’t been talked about is the fact that there are a lot less married people. 49% of America is unmarried right now. Only 20% of those aged 18-29 are married. That’s a crazy number. So when they talk about the youth vote they also mean the single vote.
I don’t bring this up to talk about voting. Someone else will have to do that research (and if they are smart they will do it). What I want to do is write a few posts about why I think it’s the way it is out there right now. Why is it that marriage has been delayed or even ruled out as a way of life? What the heck is going on? There are a lot of contributing factors but today I want start with one that is our fault.
We have become more self centered.
Now when I say this, I don’t mean that we have become more selfish, although maybe we have. Really we’ve always been selfish. What I’m talking about is that our whole culture is about individual accomplishment and choice. It’s about gaining success or gratification instantly. Even our faith has become all about a “personal relationship with Jesus”. Now don’t get me wrong, I think we need a personal relationship with Jesus and I love that we have choices and freedom. But is it any wonder that in that society people are by themselves?
We don’t know how to be in relationships – of any kind – let alone a marriage. All of our relationships revolve around what they do for me. Have an argument in your small group? That means those people don’t get me. Disagree with how things are at church? Shop for a new one. Not growing? That must mean that people aren’t feeding you. Not being treated right at work? Time to look for the next job.
Relationships take work. It’s just easier not to. And after a while, it’s habit. We live in a world that has more opportunity for connection to more different people than ever before, and because of it, we are more lonely and empty.
Everything is about self. Self help, self improvement, self motivation. We hire “coaches” (this is unbelievable to me that it’s an actual job) to hold us accountable – we actually pay for friends. It’s all about us.
This translates into dating. We are always looking for the perfect person or in other words, the person who meets our needs. And when someone doesn’t, well then it must be wrong. We think that because we have the chance to choose a spouse that we should have one that perfectly meets our needs.
What’s funny about this of course is that if you are going to have a strong marriage then the opposite has to become true. Like any covenant it requires sacrifice. It’s not a contract where we sign up based on what the other person will do for me. It’s a covenant where I promise what I will do for them – no matter what. And most people don’t want anything to do with that.
I had a quasi-mentor many years ago say that college was the most self centered time of life. The idea was that it was all about finding yourself and everything was about you, figuring out what you want to do, who you want to be etc. I think in our youth worshiping culture we’ve decided to extend that way past college.
All of this is often subconscious and in a many cases not all our fault. We’ve been told by the world to live it up and by the Church to “take advantage our our singleness and be focussed on the Lord.” So why leave for sacrifice? We are conditioned to view it this way.
Here’s the truth. A whole lot of us, in a whole lot of different areas of life, need to get over ourselves. It’s just time. We need to own that we naturally think this way and that it affects how we view of life, including marriage and singleness. We need to learn how to have actual friends including ones we can argue with. We need to learn how to come to a small group, meeting, church, or job asking what we can offer not just what we can take away from it. We need to quit looking for who can meet our needs and start looking for someone that we want to be in it with, no matter what. We need a singleness and/or a marriage that is bigger than self.