Is Marriage Dying Or Just Being Reborn?

Is Marriage Dying Or Just Being Reborn?

There’s been far too much blather about the death of marriage. It’s true that there a more single people than ever before. It’s true that equality in the workplace has negated the financial need for women to find husbands. It’s true that the stigma of being single has gone way down since the ’60’s.

Yet the vast majority of people eventually get married – just at a different pace than before. According to my favorite expert on this subject, Stephanie Coontz, “Today the average age of first marriage is almost 27 for women and 29 for men, and the range of ages at first marriage is much more spread out. In 1960, fewer than 8 percent of women and only 13 percent of men married for the first time at age 30 or older, compared with almost a third of all women and more than 40 percent of all men today. Most Americans still marry eventually, and they continue to hold marriage in high regard.”

There’s been far too much blather about the death of marriage.

All the talk about smart, strong, successful women pricing themselves out of the market? Also untrue. “New research by the sociologist Leslie McCall reveals that while marriage rates have fallen for most women since 1980, those for the highest earning women have increased, to 64 percent in 2010 from 58 percent in 1980. Women in the top 15 percent of earners are now more likely to be married than their lower-earning counterparts.”

It’s no surprise to me. With education and upward mobility comes self-esteem, more options, and better decision making. A woman making $100K is less likely to marry a bad man simply for stability than a woman who has no education and two kids out of wedlock.

Finally, the old statistic that living together hurts your prospects of marriage? It’s history – at least for professional women.

“Two-thirds of couples who marry today are already living together. For most of the 20th century, couples who lived together before marriage had a greater chance of divorce than those who entered directly into marriage. But when the demographer Wendy Manning and her colleagues looked at couples married since 1996, they found that this older association no longer prevailed. For couples married since the mid-1990s, cohabitation before marriage is not associated with an elevated risk of marital dissolution.”

Any suggestion that marriage is a dying institution or a recipe for failure is based on your own experience, not on the actual facts.

As always, if you don’t want to get married and you’d rather be single, that’s your business. But any suggestion that marriage is a dying institution or a recipe for failure is based on your own experience, not on the actual facts.

Click here to read the article and share your thoughts on marriage below. Do you believe in the institution?

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  1. 1
    Jackie H.

    I’m getting married for the first time at 39 years old 9 days from today…older brides/grooms are where it’s at….

  2. 2

      I was married once have no desire to be married again.  IMO marriage will continue to exist there are financial benefits to being married and for those who want to reproduce/build wealth it makes sense.  Some need the legal security that marriage offers. 
    I was reading something about the marriage rate being the lowest it’s been in many years.  This seems like a good thing to me fewer marriages/fewer divorces.

  3. 3

    These quotes do not really provide any evidence that marriage is not on the decline.  To play Devil’s Advocate:  simply showing that people get married later in life, that the highest-earning women are more likely to be married, and that folks living together before marriage are no longer more likely to get divorced doesn’t speak to the overall rate of marriage.  
    It is interesting that the highest-earning women are more likely to be married, though.  However, one must always get behind the numbers when statistics are presented.  For instance, it’s worth considering how old the highest-earning women were in 1980 compared to today.  It is possible that they were much younger then than today because the generations of women prior to the generation that worked back then were largely homemakers.  The highest-earning women today are more likely to be over 40, and therefore, more likely to be married.
    Something to consider.

  4. 4
    Tom T

    I think it’s on the way out. Seems to be the trend. A hundred years ago you had to be married, no matter how you felt. Then you had to be married, but you also had to be in love. Then you probably would get married, but you wouldn’t stay if you weren’t in love or if it was bad. Then you didn’t have to get married, you could just be in love. And now there is active antipathy toward marriage, or just not caring about it at all. I doubt there’s going to be a big resurgence of marriage socially. I can’t imagine what would drive such a trend reversal.
    Most of the teenagers and 20 year-olds I know aren’t really into coupling up the way my parents were. As time goes on they’ll have to figure out whether marriage is a viable and sustainable institution for the world they live in. One of the kids I mentor (14 yr old) is talking about living to be 150. Whether this will happen or not, this is the concept that informs his future. His mom, on the other hand, is talking about how he’s going to be married and a dad in his 20s. This is a concept that informed her past.
    I very much doubt that he’s dreaming about being married to the same woman for 120+ years. A major disconnect between the generations there.

  5. 5

    I don’t necessarily think marriage is dying, I think the change indicates that our society’s values are changing.  Marriage used to be the norm and now we realize we have other  – either delaying or forgoing marriage altogether.  
    I’m one of those high earners, now in my mid 30’s.  Have always wanted to get married and still hope for that but at the same time I realize that my relationship status is not necessarily something that has to define me.  
    Make no mistake though, it seems most of us would still like to be married.  Gay marriage became legal today in my state and many loving couples are lining up to get married.  The ability to have that legal union is still very important for them.   Maybe the some of the rest of us have been taking that for granted? 

  6. 6
    Girl in the Midwest

    I read somewhere that marriage is actually increasing the inequality in America.  Since the educated tend to stay married, they accrue even more wealth.  But the uneducated tend to have a higher divorce rate, so they have even lower income (relatively to before).  It’s those from the lower SES who should be getting married and staying married, they’d benefit from marriage a lot.
    Myself, I will probably get married, though this is due to my personality more than anything else.  It makes me a little sad that we spend more of our adult lives not being married (though this doesn’t necessarily mean we’re not partnered up).  Makes me think there’s a lot of lonely people out there.  

  7. 7
    Brandon B

    I’ve never noticed anything resembling a decline in the rate or interest in marriage. In fact, most of the women in my life (family, friends, and relationship partners) seem to have the same sort of idea that Girl In The Midwest expressed above; for some reason not being married equates to loneliness. The judgment of a woman’s success in life (and to a lesser extent, a man’s success) still seems very much tied to marital status. For evidence, I submit the popularity of the swath of wedding related shows, some of which Google tells me are in their 10th season: A Wedding Story, Say Yes to the Dress, Bridezillas, Engaged and Underage, etc. I should also include the popularity of wedding-related internet boards like Wedding Bee and OffBeat Bride.

  8. 8

    I agree with [email protected] Marriage is never going to go away. People will always want to connect with someone. I know so many people who have been divorced and remarry right away, like within 5 years or sooner. And I am still waiting to get married once! I don’t know how these people who manage to get married once do it when I can’t seem to do it. I guess I am more particular and able to tolerate being independent because I don’t want to be that person that remarries. I want to find the right partner and that’s it. I know one person who is just a year older then me and has already been married 3 times and she is only 35. Hopefully 3 is a charm for her.
    I think on some level I feel I am not quite whole unless I am married. Probably more so the message our society sends us women. Definitely a woman’s value goes up if she is married. She is automatically seen as more responsible, especially if she has kids. But not being married and having kids doesn’t mean you aren’t responsible or have the capacity to sacrifice. People just perceive you differently whether you have kids and are married vs single. They think we always have fun but it’s not easy being on your own and having to do everything on your own resources.

  9. 9

    Interesting question!
    I do not think that statistics can predict future trends because the institution of marriage is rapidly changing in the USA, and I predict that alternatives are progressively going to be created and give similar rights. So who know what’s going to happen?
    I’m originally from a Europeean country where marriage seems to be losing in favor of cohabitations or domestic partnerships. My cousins and friends living there are not getting married. The main reason is that marriage does not offer that much more benefit whereas the divorce rate scares never-married people. In my country of origin, everyone gets free health care, you can visit your partner in the hospital, banks would give you mortgages even if you are not married, and custody laws will not penalize unmarried couples.
    If I had stayed in my country and partnered up with a compratriot, I would not have been that attached in entering a marriage. A public declaration of life-long commitment would have been sufficient for me to take that serious step in the relationship. However, living in the USA and knowing that I had 99% chances of ending up with someone of a different citizenship made me very attached in involving the state in the process of entering a life-long commitment.
    1. Having the possibility of adding the spouse to a health insurance plan.
    2. The right to visit the spouse at the hospital.
    3. Benefits for the spouse in my home country in case of relocation.
    4. Legal recognition of joint finances
    So basically I do not “believe” in the institution of marriage. I do not think it makes relationships stronger. It’s character, compatibility, and commitment that make relationships work. Therefore my opinion about marriage depends on where the marriage would be contracted (local laws) and what stage of life I would be in. Being in the USA and in my thirties, I’m all for it, but if I had been in another country and/or a later stage in life, I would have made a very different choice.
    However I would never had ended in one of those undefined long-term cohabitation where it’s the mortgage or the baby that “symbolize” the commitment. I would still have wanted to receive a personal statement of intent. Promises to the bank or to the kid would not do it for me : )

    1. 9.1

      That sounds like marriage to me.

  10. 10

    Marriage as a state registered partnership may be in decline but there are plenty of unregistered partnerships that endure.  In the UK, about half of births are to unmarried mothers but in the great majority of cases, the father registers the birth.  Social security in the UK discourages marriage and cohabitation.  This has weakened marriage amongst the generality of the poor and their middle class emulators.

  11. 11

    I think it’s changing and although the trend seems to be that marriage is dying I think it will come back.  I’ll tell you my experience.
    In my 20’s and early 30’s I had a hard time dating.  I’m above average in looks.  College educated.  Earn a good living.  But the type of women I wanted to be with had options.  Can’t blame them for taking advantage and not ‘settling’ with me.
    Now just hitting 40.  I can tell you.  From about mid 30’s things have completely reversed.  It’s easier and easier to date the type of women I’m attracted to.  And therein lies the dilemma.  Until I find someone that blows my mind or I notice dating NOT becoming easier each year.  I don’t find the urgency to marry anymore.  I don’t blame the women years ago for not ‘settling’ with me.  I don’t see why I need to settle when things are constantly IMPROVING on my end.
    But the power, for a long time, was with women.  I think stories like mine if they become common will just mean women will prioritize marriage and not put it off so long and expect men to just be there when they are ready.(Especially when all the sudden dating is becoming easier for the type of men they want.)  And when that happens marriage will start to pick back up.

  12. 12

    @ Morris
    Your experience sounds pretty superficial…..

  13. 13

    Forgot to mention, it’s also worth noting that an increasing number of men, particularly young men, are avoiding marriage because they see it as taking a huge risk without any benefits.

  14. 14
    Brandon B

    @Chance 13: Where are you getting the idea that an “increasing number” of men are avoiding marriage because of perceived risk? We’ve known about the risk/reward ratio for some time now.
    @Morris 11: Since you’re being accused of having a “superficial” experience, I’ll step in and say that I had a very similar experience, except the turn came right around 30 for me. Dating was incredibly difficult in my 20s and all of the power was with the women who were choosing men who weren’t long term material (IMO).  But right at 30 — as the first wave of divorces were getting finalized, and the PhD’s started graduating and getting a foothold in the workplace, and as women tired of play-dating idiots finally decided to take things seriously — my dating stock jumped exponentially. As a well-educated nice guy with a good job, I was, for the first time in my life, in shockingly high demand. 
    When that reversal happened, I almost immediately found the love of my life (…it works people), which was a huge blessing, but a little bit of a curse as well. I never had much time to go out there and “play the field” like I would have wanted to. And as you said, things were constantly improving on my end, with me dating women who wouldn’t even glance at me 5 years earlier.
    So although I think that experience is more common than some people, like Michelle, would believe, I don’t think it speaks much to whether men desire marriage any more or less. Sure, some will be jaded, kinda like Morris, and will resist settling down partially because of it. But others, like me, might be jaded but will still view marriage as a good goal and won’t shy away from the perfect partner, even though it will cut short their time to shine on the dating scene.

  15. 15

    It’s  true that one’s thirties and forties can be very good times for dating,  We stil look good, we’re financially stable, we’re more confident. However, I would caution that it’s a also a very good time to at least consider something more permanent. Time flies so quickly once we’re in our early forties.
    I know there’s a belief that it may be different for men, but I don’t see or hear from lots of men in their fifties saying what a wonderful time they are having casually dating.
    Of course we can find love at all ages but if I could have a do over I would think more long term at the age you are now.  It may be better to marry before it becomes urgent! Not to say we should rush, that never helps,but it’s good to have intentionaility I think.

  16. 16

    Chance @13. There is loads of data that show that men benefit far more from marriage then women so it would not make sense for a man to not get married. Get regular sex, partnership, a maid (since most women end up doing all the work) and reduced expenses. It’s a win for men.

    1. 16.1

      @ Paula, that is total BS.


      Women aren’t supporting men, paying alimony, child support, and being incarcerated.

      There are about 2 million divorces a year in the USA alone.  At least 1.5 million are initiated by the women, so you’re left with 1.5 million men getting obliterated financially and emotionally, annually.



  17. 17
    Karl R

    Paula said: (#16)
    “There is loads of data that show that men benefit far more from marriage then women so it would not make sense for a man to not get married. Get regular sex, partnership, a maid (since most women end up doing all the work) and reduced expenses.”
    If you’re going to say that men get more benefits than women, then you need to look at the benefits that both receive:
    Regular sex: Husbands and wives and both receive that benefit equally (unless you’re trying to argue that women don’t see that as a benefit).
    Partnership: Husbands and wives both receive that benefit equally.
    Reduced expenses: One party will typically benefit more than the other from this arrangement. In my marriage, my wife saw a much greater reduction in expenses than I did. Do you have evidence that shows that men’s reduced expenses exceed women’s reduced expenses on average?
    A maid: Based on the studies I’ve seen, women end up doing more work than their husbands, but not all of it. I haven’t seen any study that compares the housework/yardwork men/women did as singles to the work they do as a couple. (As a bachelor, I was able to tolerate a far messier living environment than my wife can.)
    Health: On average, marriage increases a man’s health. Women receive only a tiny health benefit.
    Parenting: If a person wishes to be a stay-at-home parent, that practically requires someone (typically a spouse) to provide financial support. This is more frequently a goal for women than men. There are certainly exceptions. In either case, the benefit goes to the person who has that goal.
    More importantly, marriage isn’t a competition. I didn’t decide to marry my wife because I was going to benefit more than her. (I’m not sure I will.) I decided to marry her because I wanted to, and because it was to my benefit. Unless she also sees a benefit from our marriage, our marriage is unlikely to last.

  18. 18

    I think that every state that passes gay marriage and there are lines of couples waiting to get married the next morning proves that marriage endures, it’s still desirable for most Americans. 

  19. 19
    Tom T

    Marriage may be a win for men in terms of so-called services described in #16 (if you get them), but divorce isn’t. If marriage is merely a business deal it’s far easier and less complicated just to have a regular lover for sex, buddies for partnership, and a maid for housekeeping. I think most men can manage these kinds of relationships. No need for a “full-service” woman.
    Of course, some of us don’t see relationships as transactions.

  20. 20

    @Brandon B

    You’re right, men have known about the risk-reward ratio for some time.  However, in the past, they still got married (at a much higher rate).  I’m getting my idea from what I witness in life:  more men do not want to get married (myself being one of them), especially younger men.  That doesn’t mean that most men don’t want to get married, and for the ones that do, more power to them.
    1.). What are your sources?  2.). All of the benefits that you described can be enjoyed within a loving, committed LTR.  You don’t need to be married for that.  Also, it’s far from a sure bet that you’ll enjoy those things while being married.  In fact, many would argue that those benefits decrease and/or disappear when you get married.  3.). I’ve seen marriages where women did all the work, marriages where men did all the work, and marriages where the man and woman were equal partners.  You must be around a lot of really awful men… or you could just be seeing things from only your perspective.  4.). How is having a maid a benefit?  I think most men just want a partner.  Besides, that would be one hell of an expensive maid.

  21. 21

    Yes Karl, women do benefit from marriage but my point is men benefit far more then women so you would have to be stupid to not be married if you were a man. The benefit for women just isn’t much in comparison, although there are some benefits. Mainly financially but that is changing and depends on what kind of job you get. I think the facts seem to be suggestive that men need women far more then women need men, especially since women have been able to work in the world. The old days of needing a man for money are gone (well some women still use or rely on men but I won’t go into that). That’s why the whole dating field has changed. I honestly think women are smarter then men and we are obviously seeing more women move into science and math because culturally this was not something women were encouraged to do. It’s only a matter of time that women start wielding equal power on the political level and having more CEOs.
    Chance, google the data. Evan has posted many articles that say the same thing I do, namely that marriage benefits people. Anyways, yes it would probably apply to living common law but in my country you are considered married if you have lived together for 1 year so whether you get a paper or not, you are married in my country if you are living together for more then 1 year. So your distinction is not relevant because most long term relationships are for more then a year and usually involve living together.
    As a single woman who wants to get married, I think my life would be better (economically mainly since I have returned to school) and that I would be happier. I know Evan has posted about the same sentiments. I am fairly happy with myself but I think being married with the right man would add to my existing happiness so I am not desperate for a man. I do want a family and that’s not something I want to do on my own. I could but it would be probably very difficult. So women need men in this way because to raise a child on your own in this culture is far too much work. Historically the responsibility has always been shared and I think that makes sense because it takes a lot of energy and resources to raise a child.

  22. 22

    @Michelle #12 – When women don’t want to settle it’s ‘more power to you.’  When men don’t want to settle it’s ‘superficial’?  It’s not like my stock is going down and I’m refusing to settle… that’s sad and pathetic.  My stock seems to be improving and I feel I would regret not finding out exactly how high it can get before I settle down.  What’s wrong with that?  Plus my relationships have all been good except for one.  Matter of fact I’m still friends with the majority of my ex’s.  It’s not like I was being an a-hole.  It just didn’t work because I haven’t been blown away.  And it keeps getting better.  With that knowledge why would I settle?

    @marymary #15 – I’ll take that to heart.  I understand things can’t continuously improve or that I can’t just expect to keep dating the rest of my life.  But I’m also the type of person that regrets not trying things.  And right now I feel I’d regret not trying to see just how good of a relationship I can find.  I fully know I might miss out on something.  But with that mentality I would have settled for someone when I was 35.  Knowing what I know and have experience now I feel that I’ve dodged a bullet.  At 35 I would have settled for a 6.(1-10 with 5 being average)  Now I feel like I’m dating 8s.  So even if I end up with a 7 I’m better off trying see where things go.  And I’m not talking just looks either.  They are smart, attractive caring women.  They’re just getting smarter, more attractive and caring… and sometimes younger.
    @Paula – The benefits thing is so outdated.  It’s relative.  Since this site is catering to the successful people.  Let me tell you.  Those ‘benefits’ don’t really apply to men like me.
    Sex – Yeah, I have no problem dating and having sex.  And I get to have that ‘honeymoon’ phase over and over again.  You make it sound like people like me don’t have married male friends.  Believe me they live vicariously through me for a reason.
    Partnership – In the case of parenting I can understand that.  Although see below.
    Maid – Believe me it would be cheaper for me to hire a maid.  Matter of fact I do.  And if I end up adopting I think I might get out ahead.  A nanny and a maid would still be cheaper from my point of view.
    Reduced expenses – Again.  I make good money.  Chances are a wife will just mean MORE expenses for me to continue living my current lifestyle.

  23. 23
    Karl T

    Your ideas are whacked.  Men benefit far more than women from marriage??  Where the hell does that even come from???  You also say that you think women are smarter than men??  Biased much????  I would never make such a comment.  Different individuals are smarter than other individuals and sometimes they are NOT smarter in every aspect!!  You have some pretty whacked out ideas. 

  24. 24

    @Morris 11
    Your sentiments are common and understandable amongst men: you didn’t want me when you were young and hot, so why should I want you now that you’re getting old? Here’s the problem with it, its bogus and disingenuous to act like you would have married at 19, 20, 21 if ONLY you had an attractive girl your age who wanted to. It irks me to no end how men act like they were SERIOUSLY willing and ready to marry young to any one of their young female counterparts, but were having their proposals rejected or their fantasies of being able to propose shot down by disinterest and rejection. Get REAL. If you could have gotten a lot of  girls when you were younger, you would have done what men of any age do when they have options, and you would NOT have settled, likely embittering a few nice girls in the process who were looking to you for real love and commitment. 

  25. 25

    Morris: It isn’t that you started suddenly getting the hot women from your youth as you got older, it’s that the “unattractive” women from your youth got hotter. Hotness is merely about packaging, and it’s very easy to learn how to use packaging to attract a guy. You know what isn’t easy to do? Finish law school and pass the bar. Who wants to deal with some crazy dating thing when you’re working on your smarts? There’s a time for everything, and once all those women earned their bona fides they got a makeover and started dating the guys who wouldn’t have looked twice at them before.

  26. 26

    @ Michelle and Paula
    Dear ladies, men do not need to be sold on the benefits of marriage. When they meet the right woman (the one they wish to spend their life with AND have kids with) they make sure she will stay.
    That is not to say I do not get annoyed by the guys on this blog  who brag about hot women flocking around them and how they are constantly upgrading to better versions :-). So, for them it is “I have not found the one and I am loving the search” whereas for the target audience of this blog it seems to be “I have not found the one and I hate the search”.
    There is one major unfairness with regards to serial dating – it does not diminish the perceived value of men, but is does diminish the perceived value of women. Women who develop a thick skin to this phenomenon can enjoy long years of upgrades themselves.
    With regards to marriage as an institution – I am not sure how young people (20s-30s)  look at it. Being 40 –  I do not see it as dying at all. A couple of years ago, there was a major wave of separations among my friends (early 40s). Today only one is still divorced, some of the others remarried, some went back to their spouse with whom they had separated, and my best friend remarried her first husband. Obviously, this observation does not cover the world, and statistics may show different… But to my mind, marriage is alive and kicking 🙂

  27. 27

    @Paula, knowing fully well of all the marital hazards that goes with being a married woman, i can’t seem to figure out why you would want any part of it. Seriously, why would you want to sign up for an institution that would be of little or no health benefit to you?  I can understand if it’s all about the finances. 

  28. 28

    Morris that is your pattern you like casual sex, causal relationships, and the honeymon period over and over. Those are all superficilal relationships as in they are not getting and deeper and turning into deep emotional connected love, they are based physical superficial lust which cannot last and always fizzles out. Failing to fully emotional connect on a deeper less superficial level where real  love develops and  gets deeper and deeper and grows and expands and lasts.
    Nothing wrong with that if that is what you want and you are happy and are open and honest with the women involved. So they then don’t then not don’t waste waste their time investing in someone who only wants casual short term superfical physical for now relationships or flings. If what they want and are looking for is more thanial superfical suface level physical connection and are wanting  a deeper emotionally intimate life partner or marraige and therefor makes you and them not compatible.
    As smarter attractive caring and younger are superficial surface level traits that do not tell me anything about who the real person is inside and their values. Those things are not good indicators that this person is a good bet or best person for me to pair bond and have as my life partner and father of my children.
    Felt a bit unerved by hearing about adopting a child and just having a nanny and a maid.
    Children need more than their physical needs met to thrive.

  29. 29
    Brandon B

    @Paula #21: The fact that you “honestly think women are smarter than men” should tell everyone here just how much credibility to place in your opinions. But that said, I’ll still address this idea that men would be “stupid” not to get married. It’s already been pointed out that the superficial “benefits” you mention are not tied to marriage…just a committed partnership. Nor are they exclusive benefits to men. But the major disadvantage to men, at least in the USA, is divorce. Divorce law seems to be heavily skewed towards benefiting women, regardless of the circumstances. I know ZERO women who lost anything that they didn’t have going into the marriage in a divorce. I know a dozen or so men who have lost their children, the belongings, and/or large chunks of their income because of divorce. And in some cases, the women were wholly to blame for the separation. Its ridiculous, and a huge downside to marriage for men. 
    @Michelle #24: you would have done what men of any age do when they have options, and you would NOT have settled, likely embittering a few nice girls in the process”

    You obviously didn’t read my first response here, or a couple of others that speak directly against that. Good men who are ready will commit to the right woman, even in the face of many options. I’m a good example, and I know a number of other men who are as well. I have options, yet choose to commit to one. It sounds like your personal experiences are blinding you to that fact.   

  30. 30

    Morris #22
    <<They are smart, attractive caring women.>>
    If that’s so, they are going to figure you out quickly, and move on. Anyone who thinks that they could replace their child’s mother with “a nanny and a maid” because it’s “cheaper”, isn’t to be taken seriously. Good for you, you’ve accomplished your goal of keeping things casual, but trust me, women don’t take you seriously either.
    Makes me wonder, at what point does “exploring my options” become commitmentphobia?

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