“When the root is deep, there is no reason to fear the wind.”
– Chinese Proverb
Question: What does a millennial way of thinking have to do with a more loving, productive and joyful marriage?
Answer: The essence of the millennial soul is really all about transformation, a sense of wanting to be rooted in deep meaningfulness and valuing life experiences, especially relationships. Those who possess it not only see the bigger picture, they want to make a contribution, create value and be valued in return. Lifestyle, freedom and a commitment to growth drive this way of being and there is a dynamic equilibrium between personal and work life. This millennial mindset can exist in any generation and at any age. It is a way of thinking, perceiving and relating to self and others that is deeply enriching, relationship fulfilling and highly effective. I call it “soul” as it exists independently of the generational body we call millennial. For example, there are some people over eighty who have this “millennial soul”, this particular way of being in the world, while there are also some in their mid-twenties who do not, and are in fact rigid and less open in their approach to life.
Question: What does it have to do with an improved, richer marriage?
Answer: From my experience as a licensed marital and family therapist and three decades of organizational development and leadership coaching – with nearly a third of my client companies being family-run businesses – it has everything to do with it. There are five perspectives of the millennial mindset that have everything to do with having a deeply meaningful and vibrant marriage.
Commitment to living a life of purpose
A focus on the core WHY of living, relating and working that feeds into all aspects of life while serving to renew and nourish key relationships.
Valuing life experiences
“Working to live” versus “living to work” means valuing play/free time and refusing to give it up for the sake of more money or advancement. This creates a sense of greater spaciousness in life and all core relationships.
Cherishing key relationships more than status and money
Family, mates and friendships are prime areas of focus, thus feeding into a marriage by investing time and creating special memories together. This serves to renew bonds while making partners feel they are a priority.
Seeking personal mastery
Growing, developing, and “becoming more”, with an active bias towards learning.
Expressing one’s voice
The belief that all perspectives matter and everyone has something of value to share, so partners are expected to speak up and offer insights, concerns and ideas.
Question: Can you say more about the value of a commitment to “purpose”?
Answer: Focusing on the purpose or core “why” is essential to a sustainable loving and enriching marriage. When I was in private practice I never had a couple come to me and say, “Gee, Dusty, things are so good between us, we came to you to make them even better!” Every couple came for marriage counseling when there was enough pain and unhappiness that it was going to be: divorce, murder or marriage counseling, with seeing a therapist being the least evil path forward! What I found every time was a huge loss of perspective on the part of both individuals in the relationship. They had devolved into patterns of miscommunication, blame, hurt, anger and frustration.
Their very efforts to make things better had become part of the ongoing state of dissatisfaction and even serious dysfunction! When I could get partners to step back and remember the larger framework of their marriage – what had drawn them together, shared values, appreciations, the larger WHY behind their union – we could always work it out to an improved pattern of connecting and relating.
For example, when my wife Christine and I became engaged, knowing the importance of this larger framework, we sat down and wrote out the core purpose of our marriage: what she wanted from it and needed from me and what I wanted from it and needed from her. We put our joint statement of purpose on the piano. It was then used in our marriage vows and we often referred to during the first ten years of marriage, until it became almost second nature to us. I know that at several critical junctures in our thirty years of marriage, it has been a vital perspective that kept us united and helped us move back into grace with each other.
Question: OK, that makes sense, how about the perspective of valuing life experiences?
Answer: Joseph Campbell, the great scholar of mythology and human meaning, said, “What people really want is a profound sense of being alive.” When you remember this perspective you make sure to invest time in experiences with your spouse, with your loved ones and cherished friends. By doing so, you make sure to care for your soul and open yourself to deeply enriching life moments. This nurtures not only the part of you that needs variety and to feel more alive, it also weaves the lives of loved ones together in shared experiences and memories that feed both heart and soul.
Question: Yes, cherishing key relationships is probably central to a healthy marriage. Is there anything more you want to say about the third millennial perspective?
Answer: This is about always keeping what is truly transformational in focus. By transformational, I mean what is most precious, deeply meaningful, lasting. It is all too easy to get lost in the transactional realm of tit for tat, of the day-to-day things, of getting and having, of status and what is momentary. As a leadership and organizational consultant, I have now worked with several hundred companies and more than ten thousand executives. I have seen all too often the devastation to marriages and families when relationships were sacrificed on the “altars” of career advancement and higher status when working always came first while feeding one’s soul and investing time in key relationships came last.
A true millennial is not willing to make such a devil’s bargain. Marriage, after all, requires time together, investing in the union through shared experience. It also requires recommitting multiple times in the face of stress, challenge, temptations and mistakes. My wife and I have been married now for thirty years and in that time we have had at least thirty marriages: reworking, reconnecting, renewing and revising in alignment with perspective number one, our core sense of purpose in the union.
Question: Can you say more about why expressing one’s voice is important to a healthy marriage?
Answer: This perspective of the millennial mindset is really about the sense, “I deserve to be heard. Hearing each other matters.” Expressing yourself is vital to having a healthy, sustainable marriage. When one is silent, not speaking up, then resentment grows, connectivity diminishes and love suffocates. Sharing what is on the mind means that partners will have to face some difficult feelings, thoughts and perspectives. Yet only when we are sharing our voice and hearing that of the other can we truly be connected and intimate.
With the challenging times of rapid change in which we live, it can help to keep in mind James Baldwin’s eloquent statement, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” Facing issues, needs, desires, concerns and differences in viewpoint with your partner is one of the essential factors in creating and sustaining a vital, productive and enlivening marriage.
Question: OK, this is helpful. Do you have any last advice for our readers?
Answer: I know from first-hand experience in my own marriage and work with many others, that the five millennial mindset perspectives above are critically important in all key relationships, especially in marriage. I have found it helps to periodically ask yourself and act on these tips:
What is the purpose of your marriage? Take the time to reflect along with your significant other what each of you wants from the marriage and the reason for being and staying together. Outline and then commit to a larger sense of purpose for your union.
Are you taking the time to weave meaningful experiences together? Plan for and make time together to both nourish and be nourished by your relationship.
Are you expressing your voice and making room for that of your spouse? Make time every week to sit down and simply share what is most alive, most present in your heart. Invite your beloved to speak from her/his heart and ensure that all that is most vital and important is shared and discussed. Practice active listening and checking to make sure you have accurately heard each other.
There are 3 powerful questions that I recommend:
What is the one thing I am doing that you want to make sure I keep on doing that feeds you in this relationship?What is the one thing I could do differently that would make the biggest positive difference, what is the one thing I could do to help you feel more supported or loved?
Create indelible experiences together through mutual discovery, adventure and play. Cultivate the millennial mindset to enrich your marriage.