Lisa Anderson asks her young adult listeners why they aren’t pursuing marriage, questioning their dating styles, their cohabitation and their infatuation with their careers, trying to give them a vision for marriage and help them understand that it is critical to their future.
Anderson sees her role as encouraging her 39,000 listeners to move beyond “adultescence”, an ambiguous developmental stage between adolescence and adulthood. Along the way she is challenging parents and churches to define the point at which the child needs to take on responsibility, especially for marriage.
As Director of Young Adults/Boundless at Focus on the Family, she hosts The Boundless Show, a weekly internet podcast that discusses issues relevant to young singles such as allowing career to define one’s marriage plans, why dating today is dysfunctional, weathering rejection, the effects of pornography and answers to dating questions submitted online. Nothing is held back.
She graduated from Trinity International University in Chicago and lived and worked everywhere from Paraguay to Capitol Hill. Lisa says she knows a disproportionate amount of hip-hop lyrics for a white girl, and loves Jesus, people, ideas and guacamole, in that order.
You can relate to your audience because you are single. What happened to marriage for you?
I say jokingly that I blame my singleness in my 20s on myself and in my 30s on men. In my 20s I did exactly what everyone told me. I went and got my education. I started pursuing a career. Employers had me moving all over the county. I wouldn’t get plugged into a community long enough before I would uproot and move for the next job.
I woke up one day and I was 30 and I said, “What happened? I thought I was going to be married.” And I thought it was going to happen to me and that I would just know. It would hit me on the side of the head. It really made me step back and look at some of the patterns in my own life.
I found that I was so busy on that hamster wheel doing what I thought was good. Even in ministry I was an overachiever. I was involved in the church, I was volunteering places, and I thought I was doing great things, and I was, but I wasn’t living like I was planning to marry.
What we’re doing here at Boundless is giving young adults a vision for marriage and family by inspiring and growing that desire within them. Then showing them how marriage is critical to their future. If you really want to change the world, you start a healthy marriage and a healthy family. You plant yourself in a community and you allow your family to grow.
Are they looking for something that somehow prevents, or excludes marriage?
No, but they’re often doing things that will sabotage their path to it. For example, there’s a “hanging out” phenomenon among so many young adults. No one wants to call it a date or make any kind of commitment. The dynamic is that one of the two, usually the woman, is hoping for something more to develop. “If I just hang out with this guy indefinitely he will see how great I am. He will realize that he can’t live without me.” Meanwhile the guy is feeling, “No, we’re just friends.”
I call this a “friendlationship.” The couple’s not intentional about the relationship and it’s a recipe for disaster.
I had a friend who spent seven years in one of these waiting for the guy to come around. He never had any intention of dating her. He just loved that she was always available when he wanted to get pizza or talk on the phone. He was just using her for attention, to be a buddy when he needed someone to hang out with.
We’ve allowed this period of time between the teen years and adulthood to be a wasteland. There’s no timeframe for it. We allow kids to “find themselves,” have fun, do what they want while they’re single and we say, “Don’t worry, marriage will come along down the road.” Well, sometimes it doesn’t.
What caused the diversion away from dating and marriage?
Today’s young adults inherited divorce, fatherlessness, hyper-feminism and more. What they didn’t inherit are good marriage role models. Churches have been distracted trying to address many of these issues, failing to see the trend and provide guidance to their young adults.
I think everyone has told them, “Okay, we’ll make sure you are getting those degrees, then the advanced degrees, then you’re going to get a home, then you’re going to get financially stable, then you can consider marriage.”
We’re not seeing the accountability and mentorship that is so necessary for young adults. Instead we’re kind of relegating singles and young adults to generational peer groups, you know the blind leading the blind, whether it’s in relationships or life in general.
A great number of key life decisions are made during this period of life. We know they will find a mate, choose a career and get an education; most young adults are being left to their own devices to do that.
Well at that point you’re 30, 32, 35 years old, meanwhile we’re giving them the message “but stay sexually pure.” So they are supposed to make it from 18 to 35 remaining sexually pure? Those two goals are diametrically opposed and it’s just not working.
The idea of getting married at a young age and maybe living on those apple or orange crates for a few years, you know it’s not even heard of in this generation. It’s have a great job, fill your home with Ethan Allen furniture and if you can’t have that story it means you’re not ready for marriage. When are conditions going to be perfect?
For the women especially it is hard for them to realize that there is a certain struggle at the front end of a marriage and when you marry young, you’re going to have that struggle. We’ve actually seen in the research that that kind of experience of the early struggle is actually more strengthening to a marriage. Ultimately if young adults can get through those first few years of struggle, their ultimate marriage success is much higher.
‘The most extraordinary thing in the world is an ordinary man
and an ordinary woman and their ordinary children.”
— G.K. Chesteron
This interview was adapted from interviews by Marian McNamara for Better Off Wed, a film on marriage by the Oregon Family Council.
Guy’s and Girl’s Guides to Marrying Well (free download from Boundless)
Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations
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