Failure to launch

recent study from American Enterprise Institute surveyed 5000 adults, 18 years and older about dating and marriage and the findings are quite instructive. A lot of things are the same as they have been for a while – young people are prioritizing education and careers, while delaying marriage and starting a family. But there has been a dramatic rise in singleness which presents fresh challenges.

According to The Hill, more young men are unattached than young women, with a proportion of ladies choosing to date older men or each other (yes, that’s the world we live in..) “Nearly half of all young adults are single: 34% of women, and a whopping 63% of men.” Both men and women say they would rather not date at all than risk a bad experience. 

We can blame the internet for a lot of things and in this case, there is good reason to suspect that virtual lives are impacting real ones. Men swamped with internet imagery expect women to be like the porn stars they see, while women want tall, muscled men, able to emote as they do (with six-figure salaries to boot). Dating apps have made it easier to be picky, with religious beliefs, political affiliations, and earning power now potential deal-breakers, especially for ladies.

Men seem to be hardest hit by these trends. While women report that time with besties is just as fulfilling as dating, many men say they have few or no close friends. Suzy Weiss writing at The Free Press nominates a few factors that have contributed to this bleak picture. especially the fear of being #meToo’d which keeps a number of men from approaching women at all. She also blames “snowplow parents” who cleared “even the tiniest of obstacles” for their sons, robbing them of the ability to learn how to navigate life on their own. 

Possibly the most poignant moment in Weiss’ piece is her interaction with a 26 year-old man in London. He sees the internet as “simultaneously a lifeline and a noose. Between social media and porn and podcasts and video games, you can live a low quality simulation of what a fulfilling life would be.. The lowest possible quality of life you can have, with the internet, is still kind of tolerable. It’s not absolutely awful. You can sort of exist in that, and there’s nothing to give you a kick up the butt because it’s not the worst thing.” 

No doubt this is not every young man’s story and we thank God for his mercy. Indeed, one YouTube life coach took exception to the idea that finding a mate should be trauma-inducing, insisting there are still wonderful partners to be found. As he advises, if you want to find a spouse, then become a quality candidate yourself.

But the internet epitomises a lot of the worst things about modern life – it’s just distracting and convenient enough to stop you from seeking anything deeper. Like Huxley’s soma, it anaesthetises into feeling that you’re purposeful, when in reality you’re at home in a wasteland. Or worse, in the devil’s sandbox. 

The enemy would seek to chip away at the family, to undermine the comfort of marriage by sowing hurt and indecision and complacency. But the counterfeit is obvious when the good, true and beautiful are revealed, whether broken men acknowledge it or not. Like the woman at the well, the rich young ruler and Pontius Pilate, distracted by sex, power and earthly goods, an encounter with Jesus revealed their need for living water. 

So, Christian, wherever you are in this decaying age, your godly marriage is a witness, your steadiness in prayer is testimony, your love for the saints is inspirational, your daily dying to self is evidence that a frictionless life is not the haven the world makes it to be. That is found in the comfort of a baptised Christian, pressing towards the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. We may struggle on the narrow way, but he is risen and he is coming quickly. 

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