Looking for Love in All the Write Places

A new web initiative helps young adults articulate and commit to lasting love.

By Mitch Boersma Published on March 7, 2015

By almost any measure, and for any number of reasons, traditional marriage and family culture in America is on the rocks.

The scene seems particularly bleak for those of the Millennial generationwho are now entering adulthood yet are getting married, staying married, and starting families in fewer numbers than ever before.

Enter iBelieveinLove.com (iBiL)—a new web initiative clearing the path to lasting love by inviting ordinary young adults to share their hopes, worries, triumphs and struggles on the journey to marriage and family life. By engaging young adults into the writing process to better understand their personal stories, they hope to re-write a better story about love and marriage in America.

I recently sat down with Meg McDonnell, editor-in-chief of iBiL, to learn more about the uphill battle towards marriage and family life faced by young adults today, and how writing about their experiences can help them understand, appreciate and commit to a love that lasts.

 

Mitch: Our culture is saturated with slogans on love: “All you need is love”, “Love is love”, and on and on. What makes iBiL different?

Meg McDonnell: iBiL believes that love is more than just a feeling or something that “just happens to you.” The idea of a soulmate — one person you’re destined to be with — has penetrated young Americans beliefs so deeply that they often fail to realize love is deep and powerful but also takes work, commitment and a non-passive attitude.

Our articles are stories that are inspiring and hopeful, and they also point out practical decisions and actions which help us to develop and keep love. At iBiL, we recognize that love is a journey — sometimes it will feel great and other times we’ll be unsure or restless in love — but there are things we can do to sustain our relationships and to remain truly in love.

 

Mitch: How is iBiL different from a typical relationship blog? 

Meg: Instead of “talking at” young adults who are dating and trying to get to marriage, we’re talking with young adults. By inviting young adults to share their stories — their successes and failures, their hopes and their worries about dating, marriage, sex and parenting — we’re providing them with an opportunity to think concretely about their lives and make better decisions.

 

Mitch: So it’s as much for the writers themselves as for the readers?

Meg: Exactly. Research suggests writing can “change our perceptions of ourselves and identify obstacles that stand in the way.” In other words, our experience is that through writing at our forum and in collaboration and friendship with our editors (who meet with young adults in person) a dating young adult will see their life more clearly and make better decisions for themselves. And a recent article in the New York Times supports our intuition about the impact of writing on behavior.

 

Mitch: Can you really write your way to lasting love?

Meg: In addition to the research I just mentioned, additional studies have shown that those who give back to the community are often more successful in changing and sustaining change behavior. For example, the most successful curriculums for curbing teenage pregnancy all include a service component where teens are given the experience of doing good, thus having more meaning in their life and choices.

So, at iBiL, we invite young adults to be leaders in their communities and for their peers across America. By writing what they’re learning about love, dating, sex, cohabitation and marriage, young adults are helping themselves, but by sharing their articles online, they’re helping their peers in these decisions too. The result is a greater sense of empowerment and more motivation to keep reaching for lasting love, marriage and stable family in their life.

 

Mitch: Who is iBiL most for

Meg: iBIL is for any dating young adult, but we’re specifically trying to reach young Americans who have a high school degree but not a 4 year degree (commonly referred to as working class). This group constitutes the majority of America, and the reason we’re trying to reach them is because they are the group who has seen the highest increase in unmarried births alongside a significant delay or failure to marry.

For perspective, among women in their twenties, 52% of women with a high school degree but not a four year college degree will have their first child outside of marriage. Only 12% of women in their twenties with a four year college degree will have their first baby outside of marriage.

Since these working class young Americans aren’t in our universities and often aren’t in our churches, they’re often missing out on meaningful experiences and encouragement to help them reach stable marriage and family life, so we are creating one for them!

 

Mitch: Do young adults even want to get married anymore? Why should they?  

Meg: Yes! Repeatedly in surveys and polls, young adults say marriage is an important life goal. And most want to stay married to the same person for life. They want it most especially for the desire to love and be loved, to have a person and then people–children–who fill their lives with purpose and meaning. But they should also want it because of the health, psychological, and financial benefits it provides.

The Knot Yet report has great data indicating that married twentysomethings are happier and healthier than their unmarried (including cohabiting) peers. Additionally, married men in their twenties especially have greater earning power than their unmarried peers.

 

Mitch: Okay, so why aren’t young adults getting married? What’s holding them back?

Meg: Young adults today often express fear of marriage mostly due to lack of models. In the communities we’re targeting with our website, divorce is prevalent. Most of these young adults have experienced divorce in their home and observed it in their friends’ homes, many even had at least one parent who was entirely absent for the majority of their life. Most seem to only be able to point to their grandparents as examples of a marriage that lasted.

We are trying to overcome this lack of models by providing young adults with models of young married couples and single young adults who are dating with marriage in mind. We want young adults to know that even if lasting love and marriage wasn’t possible for their parents, it is still possible for them!

We have married writers who are sharing how they got to marriage and how they are keeping it. But we also are sending married and dating young adults into these working class communities to befriend and live life alongside these working class young adults.

We have one married couple in Ohio, and we’re working with three other towns to get more married couples into working class communities. By accompanying these young adults in their fears and their hopes and through their obstacles, and by truly sharing life with them, we’re hoping to develop communities which will give hope and direction for working class young adults. We hope experience in these communities and at our site will help them realize marriage is possible, and we can still thrive in lasting love and stable family life.

 

Mitch: Can anyone write for in iBiL? 

Meg: Any young American (18-35) — dating, engaged, or married — can write for us. They can send an email to [email protected]. And if you’re interested in the community initiative — to have married and single young adults befriend and accompany working class young adults — you can write us at that same editor email address.

 

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