I recently had the opportunity to attend an LDS Influencers Conference. Designed to help members of the Church with influence on the online community, numerous topics are discussed, from statistical data on recent Church campaigns to how we can better share goodness through social media.
Out of everything that was shared, one statistic about marriage left a lasting impression.
“Millennials are playing it safe,” the presenter said. According to the information they had gathered through surveys, millennials weren’t necessarily eschewing conventional marriage because it was old-fashioned or they were more focused on careers and money. Quite the contrary. Many millennials listed marriage as an important priority and goal. The problem? They’re scared.
But it’s not just the typical “afraid of commitment” argument. Millennials commit to plenty, from a tough job market to decades of student debt. We’re willing to commit. We just don’t want to commit to the wrong thing.
We want to be madly in love. We dream of the total package. We long to marry with complete assurance that we’re making the right choice. We want to reduce the risk of watching our marriages fail, a scene most of us have likely seen all too often. We scrutinize every possible choice until there seems to be no choices left. We want to be sure.
As noted above, this is compounded by the fact that most millennials also face a higher probability of having past negative experiences with marriage. I did a little personal experiment and gave myself a minute to see how many people I knew had gotten a divorce. I was able to name nine couples, half of which were from my own peer group. While I would never judge a person who has gotten a divorce or the reasons behind it, the fact remains: many millennials have grown up with divorce as a fact of life.
Combined with the advent of social media and texting, pressure from all sides, and a righteous desire to find the right person and start a happy marriage, it’s no wonder millennials feel the need to play it safe. Who we marry is one of the most important decisions we will ever make; we need to place great weight on the choice and choose carefully. But when we swing to the extreme, paralyzing ourselves in an effort to stay emotionally safe, we are likely missing the opportunities we are so desperately seeking for.
So what can we do? Here are five things you can implement to jump-start your heart and help cast your fears behind you.
Work on Building Emotionally Vulnerable Relationships
Risk and vulnerability are essential to any relationship, platonic or not. We take a risk by being vulnerable with another person, sharing our secrets, our fears, our dreams. Ideally, they respond by risking as well. You develop a strong bond of honesty, which leads to emotional safety. You come to learn who will stand by you and who will walk away.
Focus on building these types of relationships with the people in your life. It will teach you how to find a spouse you can feel emotionally safe with.
Prayerfully Evaluate Your Standards
Chances are you’ve had someone in your life question your dating standards. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked, “Maybe your standards are just too high?” It’s a bothersome question, but sometimes, honestly, they are. This occurs mostly because we are looking for a finished product.
Prayerfully go to the Lord and determine what qualities are most important to you in a spouse. Don’t use the world’s standards or the three-page list you made as a teenager. You want a spouse who sees your eternal potential and will help you get there. Give the people you date the same courtesy.
The Lord’s Method
Remember: the best way to determine what you want and who you can fall in love with is by dating. Dating is the formula given to us by the Lord. Date frequently and date many different types of people. Don’t put unnecessary pressure on a first date. Don’t wait to ask someone out until you’re sure they’ll say yes. Boys ask girls, girls say yes. Girls ask boys, boys say yes. Let’s show the world we can be adults and just spend time together without the angsty subtext and pressure.
Dating can be the complete opposite of the play-it-safe attitude millennials favor. Jump in. See what happens.
Study Good Examples
It can be hard to believe in the possibility of marriage when you’ve had negative, even tragic experiences. Follow the counsel of Church leaders by diligently seeking good examples in your life. From your close married friends to the marriages of General Authorities, learn what they do that you want to implement in the future. Let their righteous examples strengthen your faith. Study the doctrine of marriage and understand the Lord’s plan for your life.
Seek to Make Yourself Whole
When looking for a spouse, many people seek with an attitude of dependence. You see yourself as a half, and you are looking for another half to make you whole. Others are too independent, taking their one and never truly adding it to another. These are dangerous paths. Seek to make yourself whole through Christ and by living a fulfilling life. Then, as you seek another whole person, the equation won’t equal one or two. It will equal three. You take two whole people and create something new entirely.
No matter what happens in your dating life, never stop the process of progression.
While not every millennial will experience these things or find them relatable, it is important for us all to have hope in the eternal perspective of the gospel of Jesus Christ. No matter what you do or what relationships you build, there is no more important relationship than yours with the Savior. Doing so is the best dating advice that exists.