Millennials & Marriage: Put a Ring on It?

If you’ve followed my stories on Instagram, you know I’ve been documenting the process of writing this cover story for a while.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, let me fill you in.

I received a letter from a Santa Barabara Sentinel reader about my column, I Heart SB. I write the column under a pen name, Elizabeth Rose. So, Elizabeth, in fact, received the letter.

The reader responded to the column called, What’s With the Ring? I published in the Sentinel in May of this year. The following is his letter and my response. Can’t wait to hear what you think!

Are you a Millennial or can you relate to this in some way in your generation? Would love to know what you think! Please send your comments to or leave them in the comments below!

woman silhouette pink heart says I Heart

Millennials & Marriage

First Published in the Santa Barbara Sentinel.

Put a Ring on It? Millennials are redefining marriage and Baby Boomers are questioning why. But Columnist Elizabeth Rose may have the answer.

by Elizabeth Rose

The Letter

I received a letter from a reader named Chris King from Ojai, and his thoughts on marriage and Millennials touched on many great points that I had to share with you. I speak as a thirty-seven-year-old woman, born on the cusp of the Millennial generation in 1982. If you’d like to read the I Heart column in which Chris refers, please visit or request at The following has been edited for length.

Dear Ms. Rose,

I finally got around to reading your column in the Santa Barbara Sentinel (Vol. 8, Iss. 3, What’s With The Ring?). I must say it confirms my conviction that there is a critical difference between the attitude of people like me, who got married fifty years ago, and young people today. Put over-simply, people of my generation believed it was their destiny and duty to get married and raise a family, so we went out to find a compatible person to share that journey. In the process, we often found someone we loved deeply and remained attracted to for decades.

Young people today seem to turn it the other way around. My joke is that today’s role models hook up and go at it hot and heavy for a while, have a kid or two, move in together, decide that they love each other, and (sometimes reluctantly) commit to marriage (while writing vows that neither should step on the other’s toes). They may yet divorce, and repeat the previous pattern.

Decades ago, I took a course with Margaret Mead, the anthropologist. She defined marriage as the joining of families, an agreement to raise children, and an agreement to share money. Good love and good sex were less important, but more than bonuses. Perhaps the reason many arranged marriages succeed is that other people have made it their business to make sure Mead’s three elements are in place and that the couple shares background and education and thinking as much as possible.

So, my advice to you, and to anyone of marriageable age these days is, Don’t get married until you are willing to be ‘married to marriage’. A man may be very happy with the ‘us’ that just includes him and a mate. For a woman, even in this age of double incomes, the prospect of marriage probably means the gift of a home to play with, kids to fulfill her need to brood, and the prestige of becoming ‘Sadie, Sadie, married lady,’ the relief of being cared for.

My last bits of advice: Try to make the romance fade. Share a bathroom. Dare to share some uglies, because that’s the baggage you’re sharing for the next fifty years. Imagine your spouse and yourself old and grumpy because that’s when you need a companion. When it’s important to you stake out a room of your own, as Virginia Woolf did, and get your mate to commit to that early. If you are going to have kids, look forward to adding little people to your life who will have all the joys and all the deviltries that you and your spouse have. Talk. 

Thanks for the spark, 

Chis King

Hot off the press! Cover stories begin on page 5. I wrote the piece under my pen name, Elizabeth Rose for my column, I Heart SB.
The Adult Store ad to the right of my column was my first big “get” when I was an editor at the paper and the revenue is essential to keep the Sentinel in print (and to pay me). I told their PR guy to market this particular ad to an older audience since the reader I respond to is a man in his 70s.

The Response

Dear Chris, 

Your letter touches my heart deeply. Congratulations on your wonderful marriage and thank you for returning the spark! I want to start by thanking you and the generations before us. Because as you’ve created the best life for yourselves, you’ve created new opportunities for Millennials to evolve and grow. 

Millennials have been getting a bad wrap lately, but I understand the urge to point the finger. (Must be how parents feel when children’ reverse the blame.) Here’s what it comes down to: we’re not perfect, but we’re doing the best we can.

In our youth, we’re taught to “fight the good fight,” as it applies to the values on which we were raised. And, as the world changed, we did too.

We grew up believing we could do anything, even become president! So, with that confidence, and little thing called the internet, we took those opportunities and freakin’ ran.

We work and travel. Sometimes, at the same time. The nine-to-five isn’t our only option anymore. We thrive in a “gig economy” to have freedom from being professionally tied down. Inclusivity of all people is expected, as well as recycling.

We pay taxes.

We fight for our country.

We get married and have kids, more often than not.

We repeat learned patterns while making new. We’re redefining what partnership and family means – no longer is the belief to find someone of the same sex, race, religion or educational background to start a family. And thank goodness for that, or I wouldn’t be here today: My dad, a West Point grad, fell in love with my mom who didn’t finish college; and between my fiancé Jason and I, I am the one with the Bachelor’s degree. Millennials realize education is not only found in expensive schools – that can leave you in major debt – but through life experiences to be enjoyed in our youth, not only saved for retirement.

With all due respect, I think you may have missed the point in my previous column: regardless of what our partnerships may look like, we ultimately want commitment.

Millennials are so ‘married to marriage’ that we do not“believe it is our destiny and duty” to find a partner by the time we graduate college in order to fulfill a societal expectation to have children right away.

So, with almost half of American marriages ending in divorce, and realizing that good sex fades, we’ve decided to take our time, and explore our sexuality in the process.

Using protection, of course.

To step into your shoes, I can’t imagine how exciting the world was the year you were married. 1969, was it? I am one of many Millennials who wish to have been alive back then. I heard there was a particularly exciting concert in Woodstock, New York that year. And didn’t some guy land on the moon? On that note, can you imagine what couples married in 1919 thought about couples who were married in ’69? Women wearing pants in public? Oh my!

After daydreaming of how life must have been, I’ve realized that the quality of life past generations fought so hard for is what Millennials are navigating today: We are the product of social movements such as “Free love,” Civil Rights, and Women’s Rights. Though we still have a ways to go, I think we’re doing a pretty good job with what we have.

I see how our lives can seem confusing to other people. It can be confusing to us, too.

Personally, one of the greatest joys in my life has been the opportunity to be a single woman in her thirties, busting her ass to become a writer in California while discovering what a strong, independent woman can mean.

As much as older couples with children shake their heads when I mention I do not want kids, I respectfully sigh at those who never gave themselves a chance to experience this kind of independence (though, some eventually do through in the form of a “midlife crisis”). As my mom once said, one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself is learning to be by yourself.

Find peace with being alone.

Alone does not mean, “lonely”.

In that, a Millennial woman is every woman: we have parts of “Sadie, Sadie, married lady” (hilarious, by the way) as well as Rosie the Riveter, and Wonder Woman, too.

Of course, there are some quirks to partnering up in your thirties.

By then, it can become challenging to combine a “room of one’s own” with another’s. So, when we marry, we honor that room by agreeing to love and support by not “stepping on each other’s toes,” through sickness and health or lack of wealth. We’ve learned through our elders that finding a passion separate from our partner is essential to a healthy relationship and personal sanity.

What you may see as creating distance is actually our way of sustaining a life partnership.

On a personal note, I fully agree with your advice to “share some uglies” – Jason and I shared a compostable toilet on a 34’ sailboat for three years. That means, we faced our “uglies,” quite literally, every time we when had to clean the loo. It’s easy to make romance fade in an 11’x 8’ living space for that matter, but thankfully our relationship became stronger and, God willing, we’ll have more time to explore.

I’d love to go on, but with limited space, but I must end with this: Millennials will continue to succeed, fall down, and pick ourselves up again just as generations have before.

Regardless of how it may look, we’re all striving for the same thing: a life with good memories to keep us company when our partners have passed on, a life fully lived, and a life filled with Love.

Yours always,

Elizabeth Rose

What are your views on Marriage and/or Millennials? Does this resonate with you? Let’s chat in the comments below!

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  1. Hi there I just wanted to thank you for your beautiful and engaging response to the letter that was written to you. As a millennial woman (I just turned 38), I too waited until I was in a solid place financially, professionally and personally before embarking on the next phase of my life…marriage. Like you, I do not want to have children because I love my freedom, independence, sleep and quality of life. I think there is a LOT of societal pressure for women to get married and have children. I also believe that sometimes people are under the impression that marriage is like an indefinite wedding celebration. In reality, a wedding lasts a day (it’s a pretty fabulous day), however, having a healthy marriage requires a lot of daily work and commitment on an emotional, psychological, financial and personal level. I strongly encourage those who want to get married to truly understand themselves, what they want, WHY they want to get married and how much they are willing to compromise in order to have a healthy partnership. Marriage can be an amazing experience and I feel blessed that I am married to an incredible person. What I am really happy about is that I took my time dating, figuring out what I wanted and did not want and stood firm on my non-non-negotiables until I met someone who shared the same values and goals as I did. I’m glad that I did not get married in my early 20’s when a lot of my girlfriend’s did because I took that time to get to know myself on my own terms rather than through someone. Thank you for sharing your story and shedding a positive light on your fellow millennials!

    • Pantea!
      First of all, your name rules. Second of all, thank you so much for taking the time to read and leave your insightful comment! I’m literally the crying emoji right now in the best way possible. I love what you said. Especially, “having a healthy marriage requires a lot of daily work and commitment on an emotional, psychological, financial and personal level,” and, “figuring out what I wanted and did not want and stood firm on my non-non-negotiables.” Yas, girl. YAAAAAAASSSSSS! Congrats on taking the time to know yourself before letting another person into your life in such an intimate and HUGELY BIG DEAL way. It always blows my mind when people say their relationships feel no different from dating to engagement to marriage. How? I mean, I feel pretty damn good with this ring on my finger because it represents love, of course, and a lot of scary talks I’ve had with myself and my finacé to even get to this step. It’s feels completely different because we’ve made sure both our needs are being met. Consciousness sounds unromantic, in the conventional sense. But the strong foundation we create is another type of romance that we give to our partners and ourselves. (We = women like us:) ) It’s so nice to hear your thoughts on the other side of a relationship = marriage. Especially, marriage sans kids. I feel we’re paving a way for relationships/no kids that many – even in our generation – find hard to understand. Thanks to high-divorce rates, strong role models, and Sex and the City (I had to), we’ve gotten to see what powerful women look like – which doesn’t always involve children or a man! Our particular generation is so diverse, too. The older Millenials like us are so much different than the youngins, and that’s ok. Once again, we’re navigating something not many have experienced before. And we’ll keep charging through. Congrats on becoming the woman you were meant to be and finding a gentleman that respects and loves you and your strong mind. You are a role model, whether you know it or not. And sharing your comment on this post is one way to show that women like us are out there and doing the damn thing without apologizing or feeling bad about it. I’m getting all teary-eyed again. Thank you for that. Hope this message finds you well and in love and living your best life! Sounds like you are. And you make the world a better place for it. xo

  2. Amen! If I would’ve married at 23 instead of 33, I’d be divorced. To each their own. Proud of y’all for navigating your own way! God speed.

    • Nice! Glad you agree! As you taught me, the single life is a gift that needs to be cherished when you’re young. It helps us make better decisions about who you want to SPEND THE REST OF OUR LIVES WITH. Holy crap, that sentence makes me sweat…in a good way! 🙂 Thanks for reading and commenting! It’s fantastic to hear a guy’s perspective. God speed to you and your sweet family, too! 🙂 <3