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Where Have All the Married People Gone?

Marriage rates are at an all-time low. Are people overthinking it?

By Holly-TheNest.com Dec 14, 2011 8:06PM

I'll admit it: I always wanted to be married. I happened to find "the one" and tie the knot for love. But I'm not one of those married women. I know that a good man (or woman) is hard to find. In fact, a new study reveals that only 51 percent of adults in the US are married. That's just half of the population, people! And it represents an all-time low: The marriage rate has dropped from 59 percent in 1960 to a mere 20 percent in the present day. And this cooling trend isn't expected to end anytime soon. I'm not sure why, but that scares me a little.

Yes, many people have perfectly good reasons for staying single. Women can support themselves, so they can be pickier about whose socks they choose to pick up off the floor for as long as they both shall live. And, as the article states, women are no longer shunned by society for raising children alone. But, if given the choice, would most women choose to be single moms? I don't think so. So that theory doesn't hold water for me.

And let's not forget about cohabitation: According to the Census Bureau, twice as many couples are living together now than they were 20 years ago. Both men and women -- but mostly men -- are putting off getting hitched until they feel they're economically stable. And with the recent recession, there aren't a whole lot of moneybags out there looking to put a ring on it. It's a bummer, but it brings up a valid question: At the end of the day, is marriage really just a business agreement? With singlehood an increasingly viable option, people are free to think long and hard about whether this whole marriage business is right for them.


But are they overthinking it?


To me, getting married is sort of like watching a science fiction movie or even a romantic comedy. There has to be some suspension of disbelief, or you're not going to buy it. Marriage is not a romantic comedy. It's hard -- and sometimes it can flat-out suck. It's messy but enormously rewarding. It's not a Hallmark card; it's the foundation that family is built on -- and whose family is 100 percent functional? Our grandparents seemed to grasp this concept better than we do -- and look how happy they always were.


I can't help but wonder what this steady decline in marriage means for society at large -- and the future of the family unit. Are technology, equal rights, education -- all the amazing things we're so privileged to enjoy in the modern world -- changing the face of relationships and family? What will society look like 50 years from now?


Let me know your thoughts on the current "marriage crisis." Do you think it signals the demise of a cherished institution -- or an opportunity to restructure our lives for the better?


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Dec 14, 2011 9:36PM

First of all I would like to point out that technology has little to do with how a marriage functions or why people would choose to wait to get married, if anything at all, "I can't help but wonder what this steady decline in marriage means for society at large -- and the future of the family unit. Are technology, equal rights, education..."

This article does not take into account that fact that both men and women are waiting later in life to get married a first time. If you look back at records people from the same cohort as our grandparents were married earlier in life. Their social standards for what a marriage was supposed to be differs greatly from what our standards are today, not to mention that many of them did not seek higher education (which plays a huge role into why people are postponing marriage, or deciding against it all together). The information available to us today shows that marriage rates vary depending on years of education, race, class, SES, and many other factors. So while marriage rates are lower than those of lets say our grandparents, it has also been on the rise since the early 1990's. Shocking that nobody ever writes about that!

Dec 14, 2011 9:35PM
My boyfriend and I have lived together for almost eleven years now. We have been together through the good times and bad. We aren't against marriage just our relationship has lasted longer than most without the law getting involved. 

I think with or without it being 'official' we just need to be able to hang in there and foster longer and lasting bonds rather than jumping ship at the first big fight. I'm 28 and it's sad to see so many people on their second or third marriage already. 

I can't help but think if couples only put as much thought and consideration into their relationship as they do the wedding party planning they might actually be 'until death' instead of until I meet an old crush on facebook..
Dec 14, 2011 9:35PM

I wonder how single parent children feel about not having a father.

Dec 14, 2011 9:32PM

      Definitely not a good thing for the future.  The 'Family' unit brings a stability (both social AND emotional) that we are obviously loosing in american society.  Not to mention the seeming loss of understanding of the idea "respect for authority". 

      A friend recently said she divorced her husband because she thought he was being too stern with the son.  Now, a single parent, she realizes he was right to be as firm as he was and she was wrong for not supporting him as head of the household.  Now her son has AIDS, and the father says, "Oh no, don't come to me now for help!  Now YOU have to teach him how to be a man".   

Dec 14, 2011 9:32PM

I have not understood the desire of gay people to want the right to marry -- an institution whose time has come & gone. This debate is a  perfect opportunity to abolish what it's become and start over, giving ALL people (gay, straight, single, coupled, etc.) a chance to design a new cultural paradigm. I think "marriage" should confer religious or spiritual meaning only, and legal "marriage" should be done away with in favor of domestic contracts. That way, ALL people could technically get married and all people could technically go into a financial/inheritor/, etc. relationship with whomever they choose. Marrying (so to speak) the 2 concepts together no longer works and hasn't for a long time. Single people are the most discriminated-against population because they have no special legal rights that are automatic for those who couple, no matter the sexual orientation.

Dec 14, 2011 9:31PM

WHY would anyone want to get married? It has become a financial agreement and has nothing to do with how you feel about a person. I mean back in the day it actually meant something but not anymore. If your a man or women who has been divorced you already know you give up half your estate. Who wants that? It should be " A five year term with an option to renew" Without harm or penalty. I of course can hear it now all those people out there thinking it is a cold hearted approach, really is it? With the divorce rates at around 50% for men and women and well who are they cheating with, oh yeah each other. It is really self evident that if it mattered that much and was so important people would do it but as it is nothing more than a financial agreement then treat it like one.

Dec 14, 2011 9:30PM
If a hunter wants to catch prey, he/she can do it with mere isolation. Once that is accomplished, it's just a matter of time of time before the big kill. If the prey were to stay together with a group, a partnership, marriage contract, etc.,  then the prey would be much better off. The pack, family, or flock, herd, etc. would see to it. Marriage is a good thing. It would be sad to deprive yourself of something out of economic woes. Two can whoop it much better than one, as long as both are committed to working on it and lifting up each other's endeavors. Why would anyone want to tackle the world alone?  Everyone needs a cheering section.
Dec 14, 2011 9:29PM
It is an issue about economics and taxes.  1) Divorce is expensive for the higher earner. 2) The "marriage tax" has discouraged many to marry.

I had a serious conversation with my wife about divorce to lower our collective tax liability.  If I recall correctly, I think if we were single filing separately we would save $4k - $5k per year.  She wasn't going for it but then I asked, what amount would make it worth it? $20k/yr $25k/yr?  At some point the tax advantage is too good to ignore, and staying married becomes expensive.

Saving $5k/yr for 20 years in taxes puts an extra $100k in the couple's pocket.  It adds up in the long run.

If the tax code swung the opposite way and gave the married couple the advantage for sure the marriage rate would go up.  It is known fact that people respond to incentives.

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