Millennial Think Tank: Relationships, Traditional Values & Gender Roles

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This week our hangout focused on relationships and marriage for the second time, but this time with a focus on Traditional Values and Gender Roles. Last week we heard a lot of ‘equality talk’ from our Millennial panel when we asked them to define marriage as they see it. I was extremely curious to find out if, when pressed, they held to the ‘teamwork’ concept in relationships. I wondered if we were finally seeing an honest to God shift in gender roles within relationships.

I was suspect; as a Gen X-er I’d also heard a lot of equality talk from my generation about marriage, but my real life experience saw most of my peers fall back into the ‘traditional’ roles within marriage when it came down to work outside of career.

This week our panel participants were as follows:

    • Samantha Estoesta, a young Millennial working in Public Interest Research
    • Judy McCloskey, an older Millennial, actor, director at 2nd City, and social media Community Manager.
    • Albert Qian, a young Millennial working in Silicon Valley.
    • Helen Androlia, an older Millennial working in Social Media.
    • Rachel Gall, an older Millennial, blogger, and freelance graphic designer.
    • Kiernan McGinnis, young Millennial, 2nd year student at Lehigh University, English Lit. Major

Watch or listen the entire broadcast below, or read on for the recap:

The Statistics

In order the frame the discussion, here are some essential facts:

  •  Right now in the US, 20% of older Americans have never married. That is up from 9% in 1960.
  • 25 – 54 Men are not working at the all time highest rate in US history.
  • The most important trait women name when looking for a mate is stable employment.
  • For every 100 women in the US, there are 65 working men.
  • 33% of Millennials say that a successful marriage is important to their long term happiness.
  • 44% of Millennials say that marriage is obsolete.

The reality is that the Great Recession must be impacting the rate of marriage for Millennials.

Who should pay for the first date?

After reading an article that said 77% of people think the man should pay for the first date, I had to ask our panel. Here’s what we got:

Judy has a traditional perspective, expecting the man to pay for that first date. After being burned before, she wants to make sure that the man is willing to put down $40 or so into their “relationship.” After that everything’s split evenly. Albert goes Dutch on all of the dates he goes on; his cynicism about whether he’ll see the person again is the primary reason. Kiernan, our resident college student, is pretty traditional and pays for the first date. Ideally, he’d like it to be split.

Helen believes that the person who asks for the date should pay, no matter the gender. She’s often been the primary breadwinner, and has no problem being the primary spender on a date if she’s in a better financial position than her date. Rachel agreed, and thought that ‘going Dutch’ creates a lot of ambiguity about what type of date it was.

Albert brought up the fact that Millennials are very vague when it comes to the language of dating. They use very informal terms like ‘let’s hangout,’ or ‘let’s grab a coffee,’ creating all sorts of undefined areas in a potential relationship. The “D” word is rarely used.

The entire panel agreed that in long distance relationship the traveler should not be expected to pay.

How are the finances handled?

We wanted to hear how Millennials handled their money within a relationship. Were there separate bank accounts? I went right to Samantha, who has organized her marriage in a very contractual, business like way. She and her husband have separate checking accounts and a joint savings account. Because he out earns her, they put in proportionally to their income, and they each pay separate bills. He has to pay more bills than she does because he has more money.

In her last relationship Judy and her partner had their own accounts, and then a joint ‘ours’ account that was for the bills. In Helen’s now defunct marriage, she had been pressured by both sets of parents (who had long, successful marriages) and by her husband to share their money and finances. She deeply regretted that as her income increased, his didn’t, and he controlled most of the spending. When they  split, separating the finances was a total nightmare. She will never repeat that decision in a future relationship.

I asked ‘who pays the bills physically,’ because, as a long time salesperson, I know that historically women have made about 85% of all purchasing decisions in the US. We definitely saw a change there, where our panels primarily shared the duties of physically paying bills.

Whose career is more important?

I’ve read so much about how important career success is to the Millennial view of happiness, I had to take a poll. I asked our panel – which was most important, career or relationship success? Here’s where we ended up by votes:

Career Success more important: 4

Relationship Success more important: 2

Then I needed to find out: whose career is really most important to the relationship? Of course Samantha and her spouse have already discussed this, and because she’s in her graduate studies she’s more flexible at this point in their lives. When she continues onto her PhD, that will be the primary focus for both of them.

Kiernan’s perspective is interesting, because marriage seems so very foreign. He said that his good friend wants to have a partner as career tracked as he is, and doesn’t mind if that means rarely seeing each other.

Albert is thinking of the financial benefits of having a two career marriage where each is equally important.

What happens when children come into the relationship?

With all of the talk about dual careers, I couldn’t wait to hear what our Millennials thought would happen when children enter the picture. Albert was quick to volunteer to be the stay at home dad as long as he could have an internet business or something ‘on the side.’ If his wife stays home, he expects her to have a business as well. The idea of self employment and the flexibility it lends came up.

Rachel, our only panelist with children, echoed Albert’s desire to have income generated by the stay at home partner. She talked about all of the different options Millennials have if they’re entrepreneurial, but also pointed to examples where existing career experience doesn’t lend itself to working from home.

Albert said that in Asian families the extended family regularly help with childcare, easing the pressure for one partner to stay home. That led directly to my next question:

How do you feel about multi-generational living?

With all of the talk about how close this generation is to their parents, I wanted to know if they saw themselves as the future caretakers of their fathers and mothers. Samantha immediately said that they would offer, but thought her parents would resist. Helen, who has older parents, has discussed it with them a great deal. She foresees herself taking care of them, but they won’t want that until it is absolutely necessary. Albert is certain that his parents would be taken care of within his own home.

Kiernan and his sister regularly argue about who will have to take care of each parent, and although they don’t agree, they do not expect to have them cared for in a facility or outside of the home.

None of our panel expected their parents to move in to help with child care, but they all agreed that the additional help grandparents could provide would certainly be welcome. And they categorically do not want to put their parents in any sort of care facility. In home care is a possibility, but to them, nursing homes as we know it are obsolete.

What about the chores?

In my own experience, the ‘equality’ fell apart when it came to household chores and responsibilities. I wanted to hear how our panel divided things up within their relationships. I asked about grocery shopping, laundry, cooking, cleaning etc.

Judy split the chores in her relationship equally, based on what each of them liked or disliked. In Helen’s marriage the responsibilities were split, but he did do a lot to make her life easier as she worked more than he did. Rachel’s marriage sees a pretty equal split as well, even though he works outside of the home and she doesn’t. Samantha’s marriage is similar.

So, from what our panel told us, they’re walking the walk. I couldn’t resist telling them that I was really interested to see how their relationships stood up in this regard as the years pass.

Who controls the remote?

I had to throw a bit of humor in, but my personal experience has always been that the man thinks he controls the remote. Not one of the Millennials had a gender issue within their relationship over the remote, and I thought “wow, this may be the single greatest point that we’ve reached a new level of relationship equality,” until I realized: We’re a 3 screen nation now. The remote hardly matters because each individual can watch whatever they want on their tablet, tv, or computer.

Racial and gender diversity?

In this area our Millennials were 100% true to stereotype; race and gender don’t matter at all once you fall in love.

My conclusion in the end is that things ARE changing, both as far as gender roles and equality in relationships go, as well as multi-generational living. It will be very interesting to watch how this generation progresses on these issues.

Photo credit: Davezilla was taken via photopin cc.

VP of Content & Strategy at ArCompany. She has an extensive background in Sales, and focuses on generational marketing and content. With Hessie Jones she founded ArCompany’s Millnnnial, GenX and Boomer Think Tanks and writes and speaks on those topics from an insights/strategy perspective.

2 thoughts on “Millennial Think Tank: Relationships, Traditional Values & Gender Roles

  1. JoeCardillo says:

    This was a really interesting one to go back and think about. We’ve talked before about how Millennials seem to value experiences over owning things, but there are deeper implications for brands / companies, too. One thing this episode of the think tank suggests to me is that companies are going to need to think about how to help their customers /audiences collaborate with people they are close to, and that matter to them. That alignment is going to be very painful for some co’s.

  2. AmyMccTobin says:

    JoeCardillo What I’m most fascinated about is watching how this generation and its concept and behavior within partnerships evolves.. because, as hard as I’ve been digging to find a flaw, it really does seem that a huge majority of Millennials have truly equal partnerships with their romantic counterpart.
    What does THAT mean to brands regarding how they sell in home products that have been, since their inception, targeted at women. It makes me think of Ragu’s horrible Dad campaign that backfired.

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