Jennifer Murff, President of Millennials for Marriage, talks about her organization’s work to shift culture, change perceptions and reintroduce the beauty of dating and marriage to the millennial generation.
INTRODUCTION: Thanks for joining us this week for Family Policy Matters. Our guest today is Dr. Jennifer Murff, President of Millennials for Marriage. We will be talking with Jennifer about her organization’s work to shift culture, change perceptions, and reintroduce the beauty of dating and marriage, particularly to Millennials in our culture, in a relevant and authentic way. Jennifer has been a college minister, conference speaker, and is presently a university professor and facilitator in leadership development, and she has conducted years of research, looking at the emerging leaders of today and the families they will produce tomorrow. Jennifer, welcome to Family Policy Matters. It’s great to have you on the show.
JENNIFER MURFF: Thank you so much for having me on today.
JOHN RUSTIN: We’re delighted to have you on Jennifer. You have managed, interestingly, to combine two big current hot topics into a single organization: marriage and Millennials. Introduce our listeners, if you would, to the Marriage for Millennials organization and share your vision and mission with our listeners.
JENNIFER MURFF: Absolutely. My husband and I are both Millennials, and we have seen our fair share of those who have either chosen to delay or abandon marriage altogether. While getting my doctorate, I began to wonder how is this going to affect society and how is it going to affect our church and the family. So I began my research and what I found was actually pretty astonishing. Out of this research Millennials for Marriage was birthed. We wanted to see the perception of marriage change among my generation so that family values would be revived within our nation by shifting culture and reintroducing dating and marriage in a relevant way.
JOHN RUSTIN: Wow, what a great vision! Now, before we talk about the solution, I think it’s important for us to discuss the need that you see in society today. You mentioned the current perception of marriage among Millennials, but what is that perception, and what are we seeing with respect to the approach of Millennials to relationships, to marriage, and to family life that is different from the generations that preceded them?
JENNIFER MURFF: In the past, marriage was the starting point for young people. They got married, they started a career, they had children, and they built a wonderful life together. But Millennials have done things a little different, and it’s not that Millennials do not want to get married or have a family; they’re just not in a hurry to do it. And they’re going about it very untraditionally. So, you are probably asking yourself, what does this look like? What do you mean? They’re abandoning marriage altogether or delaying it? So, I was wondering if we could talk about why they’re doing this; and so here are some reasons: The first reason why they’re delaying or avoiding marriage is because of fear or bad experiences. Thirty percent of Millennials today come from divorced homes and that has really skewed the way Millennials view and approach marriage. So they’re really cautious as they’re moving toward the altar, if they’re even approaching it at all. So, they don’t want their marriage to end in divorce and this has caused them to wait much, much older, until they get married—which is not a bad thing but we’ll talk about that later. Another reason that they’re avoiding or delaying marriage is because the incredible high amount of debt that they have incurred throughout their education. So Millennials do not feel financially stable. In fact, there is not another generation in modern era that has higher levels of student loan debt, poverty, unemployment and lower levels of wealth and personal income than the Millennial generation. On average, $26,000 of debt are coming from the undergraduate degree alone. In fact, many students are getting graduate degrees. With the economy being so hard for baby-boomers, they didn’t leave the workforce, they stayed. So that hole that was supposed to have gone is not there anymore. So, Millennials are going to get more education and they’re incurring more debt. And so that is very difficult as they are looking for a spouse, as they’re trying to date, so they’re focusing on their career, or getting more education. Rather than getting married, they’ve chosen to cohabitate. In fact, nearly 40 percent of Millennials believe that the vow, “till death do us part,” should be completely abolished from wedding vows altogether. Marriage has become so irrelevant to the Millennial generation that almost half support a marriage model that would involve a two-year trial, at which point a union could either be formalized, dissolved, no paperwork, no divorce required. In other words, they would rather test the waters by cohabitating than entering into a legally-binding committed union of marriage.
JOHN RUSTIN: The National Center for Family and Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University recently released a report showing the divorce rate actually was at a 40-year low in 2015. You talked about this a little bit already, but what impact has divorce had on Millennials’ views of marriage and also their views or perceptions of their likelihood of experiencing success in marriage?
JENNIFER MURFF: Remember earlier when I said that delaying marriage may not be too bad of a thing? This is also the reason why there’s a 40-year low. It’s because they’re waiting until they’re a little bit older to be married. They are the ones who are getting married, are a little bit more financially stable. There was a time where you know if you had sex outside of marriage, you had to get married. If you had a child out of wedlock, you had to get married. This kind of put a stigma in young people’s minds that the community didn’t come around them and they had to walk through those issues of maybe having a child or getting married and they just had to deal with it. You know, you did this, you have to deal with it. And they ended up getting divorced, which broke the family unit. That’s not the mindset of Millennials. For one, they’re not getting married if they have a child out of wedlock. They are not in a hurry to get married. But the ones who are getting married a little later, they have more established careers, are financially stable, they know themselves a little bit more. They’re not 18 years old, right out of high school and found the love of their life and now they’re eloping somewhere. There’s nothing wrong with eloping, but it’s just the mindset of marriage is a lot different.
JOHN RUSTIN: What do Millennials seem to do better in relationships and marriages than their elders and the generations that came before them, and do you see reason for hope for the development of a strong marriage culture among Millennials and future generations that follow them?
JENNIFER MURFF: We (Millennials) are trying to figure it out, but I also think that we’ve learned a lot from the people that have gone before us. Millennials, by our very nature, love mentorship and we love feedback. We want to be different, we want to change ourselves, we are very introspective in our approach to life. I was talking to a girl a few days ago. She’s a single young woman and I said, “What are you doing right now? Are you sad that you’re not married?” And she goes, “No way! I would like to be married, but I’m just going to take this season and figure myself out so that I know who I am, and I know how I can be a good spouse to my future husband.” Instead of feeling like you’re somehow wrong for not being married, she was looking at it, ‘Hey, this is a time for me to retool some character issues.’ But another thing that we’ve learned is, a lot of communications of the roles of spouses has changed a little bit. The traditional view, you know the woman who stays home, the husband works, it’s going to look different. They’re learning to figure it out. They’re working as a team. They’re communicating on the kids that they have a pigeonhole role like previous generations. So they really have looked at marriage as a team sport.
JOHN RUSTIN: That’s great and that is encouraging. Jennifer, Millennials for Marriage is very clued into the kinds of social media and social interaction that your target demographics, Millennials, engage in as part of their everyday lives. How important is social media in this conversation, and what role, if any, does technology and the increasing trend toward virtual relationships impact Millennials’ views on marriage and family?
JENNIFER MURFF: Relationships exist, not just fact to face, but fortunately and unfortunately they exist virtually. There are so many different sites that young Millennials can connect and get on and maybe find the love of their life. My best friend found the love of her life on some dating site. You just have to be careful; use discernment. But because Millennials have waited so long to get married, it’s kind of difficult to find your spouse these days. You’re not, especially if you went on, you started a career, your pool looks a little different now. You don’t have the plethora of eligible men in a university setting, and so using technology to find your spouse, it can be a great thing.
JOHN RUSTIN: Millennials for Marriage has been very successful in providing opportunities and venues for Millennials to talk about marriage, to be encouraged to pursue healthy relationships and consider marriage in a very positive light. Talk about some of the most successful programs and events that have been conducted by Millennials for Marriage.
JENNIFER MURFF: We have a blog called The Hitch Fix and we have people write in from all over the country, and some places all over the world, and talk about their story, give advice. And, it’s powerful! I have people write in after reading some of these stories about how this has helped their marriage, and how maybe it changed their perception of marriage. One of the articles in particular is a young Millennial. He’s divorced, and he says, “Marriage isn’t flawed; I am.” Marriage is not the issue; we are people and we have issues and we all need work, but marriage as an institution it’s not the issue. I would love for you guys to read that article if you’re struggling with that and see that marriage is so valuable. Another thing that we do is we do several events. We have a “Hitch Fix” seminar. It’s for couples; it’s enrichment. And then we also have a “One Night Stand” event and it’s a night where we encourage couples to go out and date and enrich their marriage. And we come to your location, your facility, and we put on the events. And so those are just a few of the things that we do. You can “Like” us on Facebook and Instagram, where we have gone out and done street photography interviews and asked people, “Give us your advice. Why is marriage valuable? What are you doing? What is your perception of marriage?” And we’re soon going to be rolling out some videos that will hopefully go viral and that we can reintroduce marriage and change the perception among our generation.
JOHN RUSTIN: Jennifer, in your view, what are the most important things we can do as a society to reach younger generations with a positive and compelling message about marriage and really prepare the way for them to experience successful relationships and marriages themselves?
JENNIFER MURFF: I always tell couples who are a little more seasoned than myself that you are in the modeling business. We’re not expecting you to be a Photoshop-ed model, but we are wanting you to model how it’s done. Remember 30 percent of Millennials come from divorced homes, so we need to see it done right.We need your advice. We need your encouragement, and most of all we need your mentorship. We need you to walk alongside young Millennial couples and help us through those difficult times. Teach us how to communicate, maybe walk us through some financial things, you know how do we handle our finances. Millennials are so financially illiterate, it’s hurting us in so many ways. So walk alongside Millennials and mentor and model the way.
JOHN RUSTIN: That’s a great word of encouragement. With that, Jennifer, we’re nearly out of time for this week but I want to give you the opportunity to let our listeners know where they can to go learn more about Millennials for Marriage and your great work.
JENNIFER MURFF: You can go to millennialsformarriage.org or find our blog @TheHitchFix.
JOHN RUSTIN: Dr. Jennifer Murff, I want to thank you so much for joining us on Family Policy Matters and for your great work in strengthening marriages and our culture.
– END –