Millennials Are Getting Bad Marital Advice
Since no one needs to marry anymore, it’s time to help young people create the kind of union that fits their goals and values
Millennials have become a much maligned generation — they’re either living in their parents’ basement, or spending too much time playing video games, or unable to buy a home because they’re spending too much money on avocado toast or delaying marriage, aka “failing” to reach the traditional markers of adulthood (hey, maybe those markers need to be changed?) or all of the above. And now, evidently, the one positive thing millennials who actually are tying the knot are doing — protecting their assets with a prenup — is being dissed. And, boy, is that bad advice.
In a recent article for Verily, Why Happy Couples Don’t Get Prenups (Even Though Divorce Lawyers Say It’s a Millennial Trend) with the tagline “Don’t buy into the prenup trend!,” relationship editor Monica Gabriel Marshall quotes Joslin Davis, president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, who observes that millennials are “particularly choosing prenups as the best option to cover separate property holdings, business interests, anticipated family inheritances, and potential alimony claims.”
Then she acknowledges that it makes sense, given that people are remaining single longer and thus having more time to build their own assets. But then she quotes two people to switch her thinking to convince young people that its wrong to get a prenup: Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project — an unabashed pro-marriage advocate — and Mia Adler Ozair, a therapist who advises to never mention the word “divorce.”
If you are serious about wanting to build a long-lasting, loving relationship, then this word can simply not enter the vocabulary in a relationship … Trust is built by knowing that regular marital issues that arise during the course of all relationships will be met with a true desire to communicate. … threats of leaving are not acceptable where trust and love are desired.
Sure — no one should use divorce as a way to threaten your spouse. But — and such a huge but — that isn’t the only way for couples to address the potential reality of divorce.
Missing an opportunity
No one goes into a marriage hoping to get a divorce, but anyone entering a marriage without acknowledging the fact that marriage often ends in divorce would be missing an opportunity to discuss — yes, communicate, the thing every advice columnist, relationship expert and therapist keeps blabbering about! — what might make one or the other consider ending the marriage — or, more positively, what each person would be willing to do to keep the marriage happy and healthy. In other words, addressing the obvious — expectations.
Which is why I worry about all the advice that’s thrown at everyone — especially single women and women about to tie the knot. It’s not that men don’t get their share of advice — they do — but relationship advice is overwhelmingly geared toward women. We read the columns, buy the self-help books and are generally more attuned to a relationship’s temperature than men are, which is why women overwhelmingly file for divorce.
And because of that, some of the advice that’s out there is questionable at best, dangerous at worst. Gabriel Marshall’s article falls into the latter category, because it’s attempting to convince women that getting a prenup is a trend (it’s not, but even if it were, so what; it’s a smart trend!) and that it’s better to “opt for giving of ourselves completely — assets and all — to someone who is willing to give in this same way in return” than to create a plan that would better reflect the couple’s values and goals.
Is any advice good advice?
So how do you know whose advice to take — if any — when you’re bombarded by articles declaring This Marriage Advice Should Be Required Reading For Newlyweds or articles about couples who’ve been married 50 or 60 years offering the “secret” to their marital longevity (which is usually some inane thing like “we laugh a lot” or “we have a weekly date.”)? Even advice from divorce attorneys, who are on the front lines of marital splits, won’t necessarily offer much help.
The truth is, what works for one couple may not work for you. You and your partner have different backgrounds, different love languages, different world views and expectations. Wouldn’t you rather figure out what you want, have your partner figure out what he or she wants, and then talk about that with each other and have that shape your relationship?
That’s what a prenup — or marital plan — does; it helps you shape your future together. I just can’t see any downside to that.
Want to learn how to create a marital plan? (Of course you do!) Then read The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels (Seal Press). You can support your local indie bookstore or order it on Amazon.