Where have all the marriageable people gone? As we know by now, the statistics from the census found that there were more singles than “marrieds” in the USA. The percentage of households in the U.S. with a husband and wife dropped from 55% twenty years ago to 48% in 2010. This compares with the 1950 statistic where 78% of households were dominated by married people. The average age for men marrying is now 27 years-old.
There is another change that complicates the issue. There is a large increase in single parents, couples cohabitating or those living alone. Celebrities seemed to have set the pace in removing the sin factor of living together rather than marrying. Taking it one step further, they have legitimized having children without the state of wedded bliss.
The online article, As Marriage and Parenthood Drift Apart, Public Is Concerned about Social Impact; Generation Gap in Values, Behaviors from the Pew Research Center Publications, July 1, 2007. The findings are from a telephone survey conducted from February 16 through March 14, 2007.
In their executive summary they said: “A Generation Gap in Behaviors and Values. Younger adults attach far less moral stigma than do their elders to out-of-wedlock births and cohabitation without marriage. They engage in these behaviors at rates unprecedented in U.S. history. Nearly four-in-ten (36.8%) births in this country are to an unmarried woman. Nearly half (47%) of adults in their 30s and 40s have spent a portion of their lives in a cohabiting relationship.”
Okay, so people are marrying and having children later in life, if they have kids at all. They are also having more out-of-wedlock babies. Is this new morality good or bad for society? The more conservative element might tell you it is wrong and harmful for children. Some feel strongly that if you haven’t cemented your relationship by promising to love, honor and cherish with legal sanctification it isn’t a real or lasting commitment.
Some more liberal groups may feel that an atmosphere where the parents aren’t trapped by what they consider an outdated institution is much healthier and so children benefit. If things don’t work out the couple can split without huge legal costs – and still not desert the children.
There is also a belief that couples living together might be better behaved as opposed to those using the shield of marriage to be more verbal about frustrations. Knowing that divorce is so hard for people to endure, a spouse might criticize more within a marriage rather than they would in the courtship phase. The dirty laundry on the bedroom floor at one time didn’t incite anger but once married it may become fuel for contention.
Society appears to be polarized in how we feel about marriage. We really need to dig deeper to understand the undercurrents of these dramatic changes to what we thought was an unalterable tradition.
In some camps it’s felt that it’s the women, not the men, seeking marriage. The reasons given are that males can pretty much have sex on demand with little required in give-backs. Economics plays a part – so some men say. They want to be in better financial shape and even maybe own their own house before marriage. I find this reasoning curious. What happened to two can live as cheaply as one? Don’t working couples provide a household with more income?
On the flip side of the coin, some experts believe that women with demanding careers may be more responsible for putting off marriage than men. The average age for women getting married is now 25, and 27 for those college educated. Go one step further and we find that when a female goes to graduate school and/or becomes a professional the age jumps to 30ish.
Maybe women are no longer romanticizing marriages of yesteryear as much as they once did. Back in the day, marriage was vital for women, not always romantically charged. Overall, women in previous generations rarely had careers and marriage was simply a way to survive. They were dependent on husbands for everything – protection, supporting children and a lifestyle. In an unabashed patriarchal society, marriage was a means of survival. These women had little input into decision making. As a result, idealizing marriage has diminished greatly.
But now we have an interesting phenomenon that has made marriage unpalatable to many women. Even today, domestic responsibilities are still pretty much in a woman’s court. Add that to working a full-time job, as most women do, and it is not an appealing picture to many women. Marriage often means that a woman takes on two major careers – in and out of the home. Women may now be postponing marriage because so many more are able to support themselves and can make choices.
For some odd reason (for exploration in another article) marriage often changes the rules in a relationship. 50% plus of all marriages end in divorce, and that doesn’t take into account the large number of those who choose to remain together but are unhappy. Where once two people were carefree and madly in love during courtship, they find that marriage dampens the relationship with its prescribed rules and regulations.
I think that traditional marriages with its one-size fits all theory is outdated. The way the institution of marriage has been rigidly structured puts people in a box. Once that certificate is signed expectations may and often do change. For instance, no matter how modern we are, the old values of assigned male/female roles come into play because that is still how we are, to this very day, socialized. Without insight, we react to relationships in a traditional manner (granted it is more subtle) and wind up painting ourselves into a corner.
We have to look at marriage with a fresh, more realistic slant and get out-of-the-box. Also, it is not a panacea for curing all ills – past and present. Each individual must take on the responsibility of understanding where they are coming from on their own. If one is unwilling to self-examine, which takes lots of work, then watch out.
To have a healthy and successful relationship one must dissect their individual behavior. Each has to share tasks and make compromises. I believe these are key to keeping love and adoration alive. Unconditional love is not a password here. Everything is conditioned on what we bring to a relationship. Carefree doesn’t mean free. It takes lots of communication and work to achieve that state of mind. But the payoff is superb.
The direction I see for the more successful marriages is that couples have to make their own contract. And I am not referring to open marriages! We have to allow for changing boundaries so that couples can grow and deepen their love and commitment.
For example, if two people are offered jobs that they yearn for, but they are in different states, why does one have to sacrifice? True it is hard to make a long distance marriage work, but with frequently planned get-togethers it can be like a honeymoon. Who is to say geographic distance is not good for a relationship?
Communication is of the utmost importance – both before and after walking down the aisle. Know what you are getting into, what you are giving up and what the positive gains might be. This is especially true when it comes to having children. Many men are especially vulnerable to bad reactions when offspring arrive, probably because they are ill-informed about the emotional toll that being fruitful and multiplying takes. It isn’t for everyone and that includes some women.
Harmoniously working toward common goals can be a wonderfully exhilarating experience. A couple must understand their expectations and share them. Maturity is emotionally freeing. What is better than knowing that you and your beloved care and support each other? The impact of this will infuse every area of your lives – including the bedroom.