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Every generation faces unique challenges, including in marriage. So what are those unique challenges for a millennial marriage?

Tim Elmore is a millennial expert and the founder of Growing Leaders. He’s an international speaker and best-selling author.

Interview with Tim Elmore

Tell us a little about your organization.

I worked for John Maxwell for 20 years—working with corporate America, pastors and ‘grown’ leaders. I really wanted to take the timeless leadership principles to the next generation, and John wasn’t focusing there. But he told me I should do it, so I started Growing Leaders with his blessing in 2003.

How did you become a millennial expert?

We try to keep our ear to the ground and understand what’s going on in culture. As we were addressing students, we realized that they would never grow into leaders unless their teachers, coaches, and employers were better at leading them. A lot of our customers are older who are leading millennials and are frustrated. We’re teaching them how to tap into what’s there.

What makes a millennial a millennial?

Depending on what researcher you read, the timeframe of millennials is different. But I basically say that it’s the kids born in the ‘80’s and ‘90’s. And 1991 is the year that most kids were born in our history!

How have you seen some of the millennial generation change over time?

The millennials were the generation where change happened more rapidly than other generations. The early millennials born in the ‘80’s are slightly different than those born in the ‘90’s. The ‘90’s kids grew up with even more technology.

I think as time goes on we’ll see change happen even more rapidly. Gen Z has a totally different mindset. There are sub-populations within millennials but they are now young adults—entering their careers, starting marriages and having babies.

What are the strengths of millennials and where are they more vulnerable?

I love the socialness of millennials. They are connected. The meeting of people is not difficult, but sometimes social media is inefficient at building authentic relationships. They’re high energy and feel empowered with data at their fingertips.

It’s the first generation that doesn’t need adults to get information. They feel empowered, which is good news and bad news. They want to change the world, but what they may not realize is that it’ll take longer than they think. Falling in love is awesome but marriage is more work than they may think.

When I teach older generations I use the SCENE acronym:

  • Speed: Our world is full of speed. If I grew up in a world of speed, I’d tend to think slow is bad.
  • Convenience: Everything is a quick click. But if I grew up in a world of convenience it’s easy to think hard is bad.
  • Entertainment: it’s in our hands! But if I grew up in a world with entertainment that accessible, I can assume that boring is bad.
  • Nurture: Have you notice how safety obsessed we are? In a world with unending nurture, risk can seem bad.
  • Entitlement: We can feel entitled to things just because we’re here. If I grew up in a world of entitlement it’s so easy to think labor is bad.

Are you saying these things are different for millennials?

I think all generations have been affected by these things. I would just say it’s slightly different when that’s all you’ve grown up with. My dad grew up in the great depression, where things were hard and slow and he always said to be grateful to have a job.

Those negative words—slow, hard, boring—are the things that helped me grow into a good adult. So we have to be more intentional to build some of these things into our kids.

What’s unique about millennial marriages? Are they divorcing quicker?

Breakups do seem to happen quicker, because hard is bad. They assume that it must not be right if it’s hard. But those of us who have been married a long time know that’s normal. Millennials have also seen a lot of divorces, so they’re waiting longer to get married. The waiting isn’t necessarily bad.

Here’s what’s interesting—marriages 100 years ago seemed to make it. Kids were doing age appropriate chores. I’m not saying we have to go back to that, but we do need to challenge each other. My wife and I have been married 37 years and we’ve had to reinvent our marriage a few times.

If you’re willing to reinvent a little bit and still be committed, I think it can work. I also think we get confused between ‘feeling’ and ‘experience’. I can have good feelings on a honeymoon, but experience happens week after week.  I believe good marriages are a combination of events and experience. The wedding is an event; the marriage is a process. The birth of a baby is an event; the parenting is a process.

How have you noticed millennials are parenting in a unique way?

Oftentimes by the time millennials have kids, they’re deciding to be different than mom and dad. The first bit of data is showing that they’re not hovering over their kids. I often talk to parents and it seems like the ‘parenting report card’ changed with millennials.

I think that when millennials were being raised, parents risked too little, rescued too quickly, and raved too easily. All three of those are well intentioned, but I don’t think they were thinking long term. The further out I can see in the future, the better I do.

In the ‘90’s, Jack Welch introduced reverse mentoring at GE. When their new employees would start fresh out of college, he’d pair them up with an older worker and let the new employee teach the older about what they knew. It helped both generations have dignity by pouring into each other. What would marriages look like if we did this with couples at different ages than us?

Talk a little about how millennials function as adults.

I began to think about this when I started hearing university deans tell me that 26 is the new 18. But most millennials do want things like to get married, even if they’re pushing it back. The jump from backpack (school) to briefcase (career) is a big one. Some millennials are pushing back marriage as they figure out their career. And some are choosing career over kids.

What’s the danger in waiting until later to get married?

Social scientists say one danger is that we need babies to replace the existing generation. When you consider the economy, social security, etc. we need to replace the previous generation.

What would want every millennial to know?

I would say a handful of things:

  1. Think long term. Whenever you make a decision, think about the ramifications.
  2. Think big picture. What are the other angles of this?
  3. Think high road. We’re always better people when we take the high road, not the low road.

Are there specific areas you notice millennials struggling to take the high road?

I don’t think millennials are any worse than any other generation. I think our culture today doesn’t teach those things.

Your one simple thing for this week.

Pick one of these things: ‘Think long term’, ‘think big picture’ or ‘think high road’ to focus on.

Show Closing

Thanks for joining us for the Married People Podcast. We hope you’ll subscribe to the podcast on iTunes and leave a review – they help us make the podcast better.

We want to hear from you. Share with us on Facebook, Instagram or our site.   If you want more resources, check out Your Best Us. You can find more from Tim Elmore you can find him at his Growing Leaders website.