Choice Overload: Why Millennials Delay Marriage

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June 9, 2017
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June 10, 2017

Good marriages result less from choosing the One, and more from remaining committed to the one you choose….

Liberty McArtor is a Staff Writer for The Stream, June 9, 2017

Many millennials delay commitment in the hopes of finding a more perfect partner.

Liberty McArtorWhat she intended to be a fling turned into something more for Lauren Petersen. The college student fell for a boy she’d met on Bumble, a dating app. She’d “broken the rules” by admitting it to him. Since he wasn’t interested in monogamy, and she was no longer interested in limiting their time to weekly hang-outs, she broke it off.

In her recent essay for The New York Times, Petersen ponders how difficult it is for someone who desires monogamy, like her, when there are thousands of potential partners readily available on dating apps.

“Out of all these people, there’s got to be someone better than the person I’m seeing right now,” she writes, giving us a glimpse into today’s dating mindset. “Which means that monogamy requires more sacrifice than ever.”

It’s a sacrifice many millennials don’t want to make — yet. This 2016 Scientific American article explores the dampening effect of “choice overload” on dating. The author cites a 2000 study revealing that the more choices one has, the less likely one is to choose. The phenomenon is a major reason millennials are delaying marriage.

And I get it.

Fear of What Could Have Been

When I unexpectedly fell for a friend as a college freshman, I panicked. He wanted commitment. So did I — but I was afraid of a mistake. How can I know if this guy is the One? I wondered.

I just want to know if this is God’s will, I told my pastor over Christmas break. He asked if there were any spiritual “red flags,” and I said no. My friend was a godly man that I trusted. He treated me and others with respect.

I’ve never forgotten what my pastor said next.

Go for it. There might be several men I could build a happy life with, he explained. But marriage is about choosing to love somebody. Whether it was my college crush or a man I met years later, eventually I’d have to choose. Throughout our marriage, I’d have to keep choosing.

So I chose my friend, and he chose me. Today we are married and couldn’t be happier.

Perhaps there are several men in the world I could have married. Men who share my disdain for sushi (unlike my husband) or my affinity for cowboy boots (unlike my husband). It doesn’t matter. I don’t worry about who I could have fallen in love with. I fell in love with him. I chose him when we said our vows. And for the rest of our lives, I will continue to choose him.

The Beauty in Choosing

Millennials can’t stop chasing what they could be missing out on. The chasing prevents them from finding what they’re truly looking for.

What are they looking for? Sixty-nine percent of millennials want to get married. After all, the desire for commitment is embedded in our brains, according to anthropologist Helen Fisher. But if you’re accustomed to chasing, how will you know when you have found the One?

For today’s single-and-lookings, marriage is “not about finding someone decent to start a family with” as it was for past generations, explains actor Aziz Ansari’s bestselling book Modern Romance. “It’s about finding the perfect person whom you truly, deeply love.”

The problem is that you’ll never find a “perfect” person. No matter how well you mesh, there will be days when you just don’t get along. That doesn’t negate real love.

Ansari compared today’s romance to boiling water:

In the past, people weren’t looking for something boiling; they just needed some water. Once they found it and committed to a life together, they did their best to heat things up. Now, if things aren’t boiling, committing to marriage seems premature.

Those looking for something boiled will probably be disappointed. Even if things boil at first, there’s no guarantee they will continue to boil.

The Beauty of Marriage

The beauty of marriage is in the commitment. Commitment lasts. It transcends feelings that falter over days, years, or decades. When you both commit to stick together come hell or high water, you’ll enjoy feelings more profound than any “boiling” passion can provide.

Liberty McArtor is a Staff Writer for The Stream. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Patrick Henry College and previously worked in Washington, D.C. as a radio producer for WMAL’s weekend talk show and at First Liberty Institute in Plano, Texas. Liberty resides in the Dallas-Fort Worth area with her husband and their beloved cat. Follow Liberty on Twitter @LibertyMcArtor.