A ‘forever adventure’

Millennial-focused movement to create ‘marriage champions.’

I’m enthused to report the kickoff of a potentially invaluable project that aims to do for marriage in Minnesota what a brilliant and brave NYU political scientist, in a recent American Experiment essay, urges for the nation.

The Center essay is entitled “Restoring a Marriage Norm” by Lawrence M. Mead, an old friend who spoke at American Experiment’s first event ever in 1990. It is an uncommonly strong and assertive essay about what must be done if we are to reverse marriage’s fragmentation and its resulting ills. Here’s a quick sample.

“Marriage is still honored in theory, but this value is no longer morally binding. For marriage to recover it must again become a norm that young people feel they have to observe.” And making that happen, Mead argues, is politically more possible than most people assume. “A revival of marriage,” he goes on, “should seek a middle between today’s laissez-faire attitude and a blanket condemnation of all who offend the norm.”

As for the potentially invaluable project, I’m enthused and grateful that another old friend and colleague, Tom Prichard, who led the Minnesota Family Council for many years, is shepherding a new non-profit, Forever Adventure. Its goal is strengthening marriage in and via Minnesota churches and “sparking a marriage movement” across the state. “Forever Adventure is a Millennial-focused movement aimed to create Marriage Champions” who will talk “unashamedly” about the institution.

The project is undergirded and propelled by both survey and focus group research, conducted specifically for it, concerning what young Minnesota men and women in their 20s think about marriage, commitment, children, cohabitation and the like. Here’s another quick sampling, this time of findings from the telephone survey of 700 randomly selected people residing in Minnesota between the ages of 18 and 39, 62 percent of whom were not married at the time. It was conducted in 2015 by QEV Analytics.

The survey confirmed what was discerned in the two preceding focus groups: that marriage is, in fact, “regarded with a certain reverence,” as reflected in “fundamental attitudes” expressed by interviewees.

• “My marriage is/will be for life.” (96 percent) •

“I have a positive opinion of marriage.” (87 percent)

• “My kids deserve to have two parents” (meaning being married is the only appropriate situation for having children). (80 percent)

A good question at this point is how do strong results like these fit with the ways in which marriage has been battered?

The two earlier focus groups were composed of a total of 17 never-married, men and women, all between the ages of 24 and 29. Based on what those participants said, a particularly insightful QEV analyst wrote, “I do not think we need to spend our effort selling marriage in the abstract as a life goal. Rather [here’s the key] we need to focus . . . on messaging which will address the impediments, misconceptions, and hesitations we have identified.” Obstacles such as fear of divorce. And (jumping around again) how more than 70 percent of survey respondents concurred with the statement: “Marriage is kind of a scary prospect, because it means making a commitment which is supposed to be forever.”

If I were to critique what I’ve written over the years, one soft spot might be leaving the impression I assume finding someone to marry, and then actually marrying him or her, tends to be uncomplicated. No, I don’t think it’s simple for a second, as there is no 1-800-MARRIAGE out there, and not just because it’s one number too long.