I’m a little surprised at the results of a Clark University Poll of Emerging Adults. The Huffington Post ran a story on it over the weekend and the poll showed that a whopping 86% of young people believe that their marriages will last a lifetime.
With today’s staggering divorce rates and the deluge of reality shows based on twenty-minute marriages and quickie divorces, I’m surprised to see so much optimism about having a lifelong, happy marriage.
Happy, but surprised.
Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, a research professor of psychology at Clark University of Massachusetts, says that the study polled people both single and married between the ages of 18 and 29. 86% of them agreed with the statement,
I expect to have a marriage that lasts a lifetime.”
Now, the Huffington Post focuses somewhat on the fact that, given today’s divorce rate, the majority of these young people are going to be disappointed. We, on the other hand, would rather focus on what we can do as couples and parents to help our kids and other young people to fulfill those expectations.
When asked why he thought so many young adults believed in lifelong marriage, Arnett said,
Well, I think because we still have a very romantic view of marriage as a society. Other surveys have shown that close to 90 percent of emerging adults say that they expect to find their soul mate as a marriage partner. That’s a very romantic ideal. It’s a sort of ideal person that’s just right for you.”
Don’t we want to nurture that ideal in our kids? Here are some ways we can do that by example.
1. Be transparent with your love for each other.
You may think that your kids are grossed out by seeing their parents as lovers, but the truth is that they’re comforted by knowing that their parents have a strong love for each other. Let them see you being affectionate, within reason, and make no secret of the reasons why you love each other. Brag about your spouse in front of your kids. Tell them stories that illustrate the principles of your marriage.
2. Be transparent about conflict and how you resolve it.
Young people need to have a realistic view about conflict in a romantic relationship or marriage. It’s unhealthy for them to think that what they see on a sitcom or in a fairy tale is real. Unrealistic ideals about how being in love with the “right” person means there will never be problems can set kids up for some very hurtful disappointment.
Be upfront about conflict when it arises in your own marriage and rather than waiting until you’re alone to resolve it, whenever possible, include your kids in the process. Allow them to see how conflicts can be resolved in a loving, respectful manner. You’ll be equipping them for handling issues in their own marriages and also giving them an extra measure of security about your relationship.
3. Be positive about marriage as a whole.
It’s easy to make comments about marriage or your spouse that have a real impact on your kids’ view of marriage, even when you don’t mean them to. Be careful with what you say when you’re frustrated or angry and be free with positive remarks about the pleasures of a strong relationship.
There are few things in life that bring as much peace, joy and fulfillment as a happy marriage. Let’s help our young people to remain optimistic and idealistic about their futures by role-modeling success.