Millennial Matrimony: How 20-Something Women Can Stay Relationship Hopeful

by Dalila Thomas

It’s pretty safe to say that a majority of people at some point in their lives will want to be in a successful, long-term relationship with someone, and possibly even get married. It’s also safe to say that many of these “serious” relationships start in our 20’s and 30’s. Back in the day, it seems marriage and kids were something checked off a woman’s bucket list by age 30. These days, it seems that for African American women, holding down a lasting, committed relationship may be one the biggest obstacles we face. Why is this? I believe it has a lot to do with the examples and messages about successful marriages—or lack thereof—placed before us, as well as out-of-date notions about women’s roles.

Family History

In thinking about our own relationships, we have to think about what we’ve observed from others. Start with your family. How was your parents’ relationship? It sounds cliché, but that plays a big role in how we foster and approach our own relationships. Do you go into relationships thinking that they will eventually fail because that’s what you witnessed growing up? Or do you go into it with an optimistic attitude, regardless of what your childhood was like? Adjusting your deeply held beliefs about relationships is no easy feat—especially if you’re not fully aware of what they may be—but one must understand our attitude can ultimately determine our “relationship altitude.”

Marriage Slander

So you’ve gotten over your family’s history when it comes to relationships, and you’re willing to step out into the world with a new attitude. Then you hear this: Marriage is hard. Don’t get married. If I can do it all over again, I wouldn’t have gotten married. I’ll never marry again. You’re too young; live your life.

Those are just a few of the things I hear every so often about marriage—from happily married people, divorced people, and of course the media. I don’t know about you, but these cynical views scare me a tad bit. Sure, every relationship is different, but all that negativity can make an unmarried person worry about their future. If so many people hold these ideas, then why waste time on a relationship that will lead to demise? The problem here is not with marriage, but rather it’s other people projecting their own fears onto us. We have to learn not to internalize others’ pain or doubts as being the absolute truth.

Assumptions about the Independent Woman 

So, you’ve made peace with your family’s history and have tuned out all the naysayers, because you know having a fulfilling, healthy marriage is possible for you and your partner. But what about your career? For most Millennial women, we were raised to focus on our education and careers more than anything else. We were groomed to be ambitious, successful women. And we’re doing pretty good at it. Despite this, dominant social norms still put forth the notion that balancing a successful career and with a happy family is impossible for women. I mean, one will eventually suffer, right? However, people never seem to take into account that many single black women who have been triumphant in their careers are also willing to put in the same energy and dedication to ensure their relationships are equally successful.

The Technology Battle

Although there has been exponential innovation and advancements within the technology realm, I’m not sure this progress has benefitted romantic relationships. Texts, Snapchats, and instant messages have replaced the art of conversation. It’s easy for social media to turn partnerships into a mess. And it’s easier to keep track of and stay in touch with an ex. Not to mention all the thirst traps that seemingly exist on social media to ruin happy, monogamous relationships.

With all of these obstacles facing the Millennial hopeful for matrimony, is it still possible for us to achieve long-lasting wedded bliss? I believe so.

As with all relationships throughout history, it takes a lot of work to have a truly committed, healthy partnership where both individuals get what they need from each other. There will be constant hurdles and obstacles to overcome, but that doesn’t mean making it work is impossible. It will just require some effort and thoughtful considerations.
  1. Start new and start fresh. Kiss your history goodbye. If negative relationships are all you know, befriend some people in happy relationships and marriages. Talk to them about their journey and what has worked for them. You may also want to seek out the help of a therapist or coach, who can help you assess why you keep entering into these situations, so you can change your pattern of behavior.
  2. Ignore the Debbie Downers. Relationships are like snowflakes—none are the same. As the old saying goes, “Misery loves company.” People who have had failed marriages often try to comfort themselves by dumping their hurt and pain on others. Their story does not have to be yours.
  3. Set your personal relationship expectations. Determine what qualities are most important to you in a partner. Decide what your standards are for how you’d like to be treated (and vice versa). Figure out what you can and cannot compromise on. This way, when you’re involved with someone and they’re not meeting your core standards, you’ll know it’s time to end it and move on.
It is possible for Millennial women to “have it all.” If a relationship, marriage, and family are important to you, then have faith that the “right one” is out there. You just have to be open to having them come into your life, and willing to do the mutual work to make sure they stay.

Dalila Thomas is a regular contributor at For Harriet.

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