For some reason, there has been a bevy of reports about the decline of marriage in America lately. I guess some of the findings shouldn’t come as a surprise considering that even married folk unceasingly warn us, “Marriage is hard work.” Whether that’s the reason or not, people are avoiding the institution in increasing numbers.
Recently, the census and a number of researchers have put a bit of quantitative weight behind the idea that marriage isn’t exactly utopia. A few months ago, NPR reported that around 65 percent of never-married singles surveyed still desired to marry. Conversely, only just over 20 percent of singles that had experienced marriage said they would never do it again. Hmmm. Interesting. Last week, my hometown paper, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC), ran a three-part series on relationships. AJC reporter Gracie Bonds Staples’ findings are also captivating.
Staples notes that a marketing communications survey concluded that 45 percent of never-married women surveyed actually found long-term, committed relationships preferable to marriage, and 68 percent of men polled agreed. Surveyor Ann Mack noted, “The share of 30- to 44-year-old Americans cohabitating (without marriage) has more than doubled since the mid-1990s.”
This anti-marriage trend is not limited to the young. Overall, almost 50 percent of Americans are unmarried, up from 22 percent in 1950. A related New York Times article points out that “a growing number of men and women in their 50s and 60s are opting out of marriage and venturing into their later years on their own.” During the past 20 years, the divorce rate among baby boomers has risen more than 50 percent. About a third of adults ages 46 to 64 were divorced, separated or had never been married in 2010. Only 13 percent belonged in this category in 1970.
Multiple variables influence this trend. Social mores have shifted. Being single or a single parent no longer bear the marks of shame they used to. Women are self-sufficient and no longer have to depend on marriage for financial stability. In fact, many women now out-earn potential mates. Happiness also matters. Some divorcees reported that they understand people are living longer and they are simply unwilling to “stay the course” and spend their final decades in drab, unfulfilling marriages.
All these reports lead to a seemingly obvious conclusion: Marriage must really, really suck! Maybe it’s a just a jacked up, flawed institution. And, maybe not …
I have another theory. Maybe marriage isn’t necessarily flawed. Maybe some people are just getting married for the wrong reasons. There is no doubt that despite the above realities, there is still a significant cohort of people (mostly women) who are “marriage-obsessed.” Get pissed if you want, ladies, but we all know our share of women who are hell-bent on having “their day” (wedding day, that is) no matter what. These bunny-boilers (and the men who appease them) think very little about “being married,” they only fixate on “getting married.”
Some of these women want to get married so badly that they may even leave a quality man who doesn’t live by their “matrimonial clocks” for the next available option willing to offer the “I do” ASAP. This fairy-tale approach to marriage is immature and off-putting. These people think marriage is an Rx for everything that ails them. They are wrong, of course, and never consider the fact that marriage gone awry can just as easily destroy lives. Make no mistake, these women are dangerous, and the men who cater to them are fools.
As usual, The Jones knows what the problem is here. Disturbingly, marriage-obsessed people worry more about marriage than they do about love. That’s right, L-O-V-E. With all due respect to the Beatles, love may not be all you need, but it’s an essential building block. Seriously, the rest of your life is a long-ass time. If you’re going to spend every day of that long, long life with one person, you’d better fit like puzzle pieces and love them madly!
Maybe I’m a hopeless “love romantic,” but I’m with the people who don’t think marriage is essential … but love is. So, my advice is to try love. If it leads to marriage, fine. If it doesn’t, keep the love, baby. Nothing beats it.
Remember: Right person, right time, right reasons, and everything will be fine. MAINTAIN!