Many of my Massachusetts friends are surprised to know that I will have been married for almost six years when I turn 30. (The value of marriage, and pressure to marry in Southern evangelical Christian circles supersedes any kinds of romantic pressures most New England millennials face. That’s another blog post. Or five.) In fact, the average American man gets married at my age, and the average American woman gets married at 27.
Stephanie Coontz, author of “Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage”, describes that though most Americans still get married, marriage no longer organizes people’s lives. Men and women make significant career choices and life transitions independent from the opposite gender. Coontz writes in the Times: “Many alternatives to traditional marriage have emerged. People feel free to shop around, experimenting with several living arrangements in succession. And when people do marry, they have different expectations and goals. In consequence, many of the “rules” we used to take for granted — about who marries, who doesn’t, what makes for a satisfactory marriage and what raises the risk of divorce — are changing.”
The Commitment Project seeks to evaluate potential benefits and costs of modern relationship trends. For example, what are the social implications of the fact that two-thirds of newlyweds cohabited before marriage? How do race and socioeconomic status affect the ability to maintain a relationship? Generally my comments will promote exploration and avoid value statements, but one of the current terrifying relationship trends is in 2011, over one third of reported births were to single mothers. 62% of women aged 20-24, in the middle of my target “millennial” audience, gave births in unmarried relationships.
More importantly, I hope to develop a qualitative research project discussing how millennials define relational commitment. Have our values toward relational commitment changed, as have the venues for expressing relational commitment? What outside resources have shaped our understanding, as well as fears of commitment? I hope that, as more information gets shared, you will be interested in joining me in this project.