Is Marriage Dying Or Just Being Reborn?

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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.

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Comments:

  1. 41
    Clare

    Karl R
      
    I agree completely!
      
    I’m not one who believes in moaning that my partner doesn’t do enough of the chores.   If it’s something I enjoy doing (like cooking) I’ll offer to do it.   If I don’t like the way he does it, I’ll either look the other way or I’ll offer to do it (without criticising or commenting). If it’s something neither of us want to do, we’ll hire a maid every so often.   It’s something I used to get very uptight about in my first marriage, but in my current relationship we haven’t had a single argument, or even disagreement about it.
      
    I know how your wife feels about being particular about her laundry, I am too as some of my clothes are expensive! But this is something I see as my “thing” – because I am the one who is particular, I take responsibility for getting it done. 🙂

  2. 42
    Karl R

    John said: (#41)
    “I bet if you asked anyone over 45 who has never been married if they want to be married and they will say yes.”
      
    If you look at the people 45 and older, 91% are married or were married. Only 9% have never been married.
      
    That’s data from the 2010 U.S. Census. The New York Times poll comes up with a number that’s quite close to the numbers that can be verified. Furthermore, there are still people (not many, but a statistically noticeable number) who are still getting married for the first time over the age of 45.
      
    Even that 50% number is an exaggeration. If you count all adults age 15 and up, 49% of them are single. Talk about skewing the data. Most of the people under the age of 25 aren’t married, and most of them will get married during their lifetime.

  3. 43
    John

      
    Julia @32
    “What I do find puzzling is that a few men are said they believe marriage to be a drain on their financial resources. I guess I don’t understand why. Most states have no-fault divorce and unless your wife has completely quit her job to raise kids, alimony isn’t really a factor”
      
    Let me unpuzzle it for you. First of all, no fault divorce is defined as this as per Wikipedia:
    Under a no-fault divorce system the dissolution of a marriage does not require an allegation or proof of fault of either party. Since August 2010 (when New York Governor David Patterson signed no-fault into law), all fifty states of the United States have adopted no-fault divorce laws, with grounds for divorce including incompatibility, irreconcilable differences, and irremediable breakdown of the marriage.
      
      It does not mean that someone’s financial assets are safe from being taken away.   Alimony is just one example of being a drain on a guys financial resources. The other main drain is retirement and pension money. SO even though alimony may not be awarded, the woman is entitled to be considered for a percentage of the guys 401k and pension. That is up to the judge to determine   the percentage if the guy refuses to give it up voluntarily in the case of a contested divorce.
      
    So if  a guy has a job where he has a  decent amount accumulated in retirement, it can be chopped down on the whim of a judge- even though no alimony is awarded and even though it is considered “no fault”.   Hence the reason why marriage can be a major financial drain to a guy if he gets married and divorced, alimony notwithstanding.
      
      
      
      
      
      
      
      
      

  4. 44
    Chance

    @Julia
    John is right.   Also, you say:
    “So I would suggest if you are afraid of this situation that you probably don’t want a woman who needs to be financially dependent on you and look, there are plenty of women out there to compliment your finances.”
    You’re correct.   However, men who make good income have trouble finding similar women because they are more likely to choose career paths that aren’t as lucrative.   Also, even if a man does meet a woman who is financially compatible (for marriage, which = for mixing finances), the odds that she’ll be interested in the long-term aren’t terribly high because many women still expect men to make more than they do.     Of course, a woman’s income doesn’t really matter to me when it comes to being in a relationship, but if a woman wanted to get married (mix finances), then it would be an issue because of the risks involved.   At the end of the day, being married doesn’t enable me to provide a woman anything that I couldn’t provide within the context of an LTR, and it sure doesn’t get me anything.   So, when you combine that with the extraordinary financial exposure in the event of a divorce, more men are avoiding marriage altogether.
      
    …and we haven’t even addressed the issue of not being able to play an equal role in raising your children in the event of a divorce.
      

  5. 45
    Julia

    @Chance
    …and we haven’t even addressed the issue of not being able to play an equal role in raising your children in the event of a divorce.
      
    not sure how old you are. I have friends/acquaintances  in their 30s and 40s who are divorced with children. Literally all of them split childcare 50/50, either in the event of 4 nights here and 4 nights there or 2 weeks here and 2 weeks there. Obviously divorce or separation is not optimal but it sounds like you want to have children but feel like marriage gets in the way. What happens when you have an LTR that results in a child then you break up? You still need to figure out custody. Rather than fretting over all the terrible things that could happen if you divorce why not be proactive and discuss very important issues when you are dating? or you can simply relegate yourself to the tiny population of women who are disinterested in marriage.
    Either way, if I met a man like you irl I would run. Any man obsessed with divorce seems like a dating hazard to me.

  6. 46
    Chance

    @Julia
    God, I shouldn’t have even brought up the last little part about children.   I don’t even want children.   My mistake, as it obviously distracted from the whole point of the post.   Try focusing on the other 95% of my post, as in, the part that actually addressed your comment about being puzzled.

  7. 47
    Rose

    For any women who wants to be marrried with a family,
    healthy grown up adult masculine energy men who want a wife and children,who make the best canditates for a marraige partner are happy and want to profess, provide and protect for their wives and children.
    If a man isn’t wanting to do that he is not really good marraige material. So would feel best for me to not invest or take them seriously. And leave them to women who were more compatible who wanted casual realtionships, flings, or friends with benefits relationships with emotionally adolencent, or feminine energy men.

  8. 48
    Julia

    Chance & John I have two words for you:
    Prenuptial agreement.
      
    Now go sulk back to the MRA subReddit from which you came.

  9. 49
    Tom T

    EMK, sorry, buddy, but gotta disagree. I am quite familiar with the studies of marriage  and I stand by my statement that most of them are bogus.  

    1. 49.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      Tom T – Your statement that marriage studies are bogus is based on what, exactly? Your opinion. It’s not really debatable that over 90% of people eventually get married, which would indicate that despite all the assertions about the death throes of marriage, in fact, it still seems to be the end goal of just about everybody. This doesn’t change the fact that most people are selfish, myopic, unreasonable, poor communicators and doomed to choose unsuitable partners. It just means that marriage ain’t going anywhere since people want to believe in lasting love. Your feelings towards marriage (or marriage studies), Tom, don’t change the facts.

  10. 50
    Tom T

    Karl R, you kind of gloss over the “were married” segment when you cite the 91% figure, which you don’t break out into the implied subcategories. If they “were married” but are no longer they are single, yes? And from your earlier post you  state that bad marriages suck and that marriage is a high-risk undertaking. So perhaps you would agree that  a lot of people find that marriage does not make them happier, healthier, or wealthier.
      
    If a significant number of people do not find marriage beneficial, and we no longer have any forceful social or economic reason to marry, why is it a surprise that the marriage rate is dropping? I think it’s fairly predictable, especially given that this is what we’ve seen in other developed countries that are a little ahead of the US on the issue, and in even in undeveloped countries that are behind the US. In other words, marriage rates have dropped the world over, and there is not one country where the rate of marriage is on the rise.
      
    What I don’t understand is why anyone who finds marriage such a boon to their existence is threatened by this. If  anyone wants to be married he or she is certainly free to pursue that. But this insistence that everyone is doing it, or that everyone wants it, or that it’s so great for everyone is, quite frankly, just wrong.   

  11. 51
    Ruby

    Some stats about marriage:
      
    More than half of births to American women under 30 occur outside marriage. Nearly two-thirds of children in the United States are born to mothers under 30. Struggling single parents can also have a more difficult time creating a stable home, and a child’s education and emotional health are at greater risk when their world is more volatile. If these kids are struggling in life, that reinforces a cycle of poverty.
      
    73 percent of black children are born outside marriage, compared with 53 percent of Latinos and 29 percent of whites. And educational differences are growing. About 92 percent of college-educated women are married when they give birth, compared with 62 percent of women with some post-secondary schooling and 43 percent of women with a high school diploma or less. However, men with the least education and wealth are the largest group that is being passed over in the marriage market.
      
    Therefore, the economic and social rewards of marriage are increasingly reserved for people with the most education and wealth. As one sociologist said, “Marriage matters more now as the symbol of the good life than as a legal institution.” He added, “I don’t think the battle over same-sex marriage is about rights anymore. It’s about being allowed to have a first-class social status.”
      
    I’ve also read that those who are educated and wealthier tend to have a greater appreciation for the economic benefits of marriage. If your partner’s job isn’t secure, and doesn’t have a retirement plan or health insurance, you might be more reluctant to pool your resources with them, or to see the value in doing so. I think these statistics show that the institution of marriage is indeed changing for the majority of people in this country.
      
      

  12. 52
    starthrower68

    Tom, John, Chance, etc. all want to apply pure logic to the decision to get married.   If we got married based purely on logic, then of course nobody would do it.   But it’s a heart/emotional decision, no?   Your heart must be open to finding a woman you are willing to take the with of marriage with, and if it is not, then of course your point of view will continue to be the only valid one as far as your are concerned.   For every study you can point out that says marriage is a dying institution, there are probably two or three studies that say marriage is beneficial to one’s health and well being.

  13. 53
    Chance

    Julia said:

    “Chance & John I have two words for you:
    Prenuptial agreement.
      
    Now go sulk back to the MRA subReddit from which you came.”
      
    You’re off topic.   Again.   The debate is about whether or not marriage is a dying institution.   I pointed out that there appears to be a growing number of men who no longer see marriage as a viable option, and that it may contribute to the institution’s ultimate demise.   I’m not here to seek advice on what I should do in order to become more open to the idea of getting married.   I’m here to provide a challenge from a male perspective.   Got it?
      
    By the way, I’m not an MRA.   I don’t like the term “men’s rights”.   They are no better than modern-day feminists.   To focus on men’s rights or women’s rights is to only focus on one side of the equation, which impedes progress towards the ultimate goal: true equality.

  14. 54
    Cat5

    Evan @ 53 said:   “It’s’s not really debatable that over 90% of people eventually get married, which would indicate that despite all the assertions about the death throes of marriage, in fact, it still seems to be the end goal of just about everybody. This doesn’t change the fact that most people are selfish, myopic, unreasonable, poor communicators and doomed to choose unsuitable partners. It just means that marriage ain’t going anywhere since people want to believe in lasting love. Your feelings towards marriage (or marriage studies), Tom, don’t change the facts.”
      
    Don’t be shocked by this Evan — but I totally agree with your comment, particularly the sentence I bolded.   It applies to so many issues you discuss, not just marriage.   Thank you for finally putting into words what I have been trying to say in my comments to other blog posts…and failing so miserably.   The bolded sentence may just become the signature line to all my future blog posts!   🙂

  15. 55
    Rose

      At the moment most peoples choice in partner happens on a subconscious level so I would agree that they are most likely dooming themselves to choose unsuitable partners for a healthy happy loving marraige. They can become more suitable if their inner core values match and they are willing to both do the work on how they relate to each other. If their inner core values do not match then even if they change how they relate they will not ever really be happy together.
    Marraige isn’t the problem. And a happy loving marraige and family is still eventually what most people desire. Can most people have that? Yes if they really want to and make a committiment to themselves to do the work to make them able to achieve this
    If people become aware of what is going on in their subconscious and start to make better healthier loving conscious choices they can have more loving happier healthier relationships and marraiges with the right person for them.
    Fisrt step is becoming aware of what is going on in our subconscious.
      

  16. 56
    Karl R

    Tom T said: (#52)
    “But this insistence that everyone is doing it, or that everyone wants it, or that it’s so great for everyone is, quite frankly, just wrong.”
      
    And your evidence is …?
      
    You think the studies are bogus, but we’re supposed to take your word that your statements are correct?
      
    Tom T said: (#52)
    “I am quite familiar with the studies of marriage”
    “Karl R, you kind of gloss over the ‘were married’ segment when you cite the 91% figure, which you don’t break out into the implied subcategories.”
      
    You’re claim that  quite familiar with the studies of marriage. I told you that my data came from the 2010 U.S. Census (from the raw data, not a report).
      
    Why didn’t you look up the data yourself? It’s a free, public access website. You can download it as an Excel spreadsheet, so it’s even convenient to run calculations on it.
      
    I glossed over the data because it’s a few thousand data points. If you want to look at the raw data, I told you where to find it.
      
    Tom T said: (#52)
    “If they ‘were married’ but are no longer they are single, yes?”
      
    According to a U.S. Census report, most of the people who divorce get remarried within 5 years. (That’s from a U.S. Census  report, and the raw data isn’t granular enough for me to verify that they get remarried in 5 years, but I have seen raw data showing that a large majority  get remarried.)
      
    Most people get married. That’s what the 91% shows.
      
    Most people want to  get married.  Or did you  think the 91% are getting married against their will? Even for the people who had a marriage fail, most try again. They still want to be married.
      
    So, in fact, you were wrong when you claimed otherwise. I’m not insisting that it’s true. I’m just telling you what the data shows.
      
    Tom T said: (#52)
    “What I don’t understand is why anyone who finds marriage such a boon to their existence is threatened by this.”
      
    I don’t feel threatened by it. Should I allow you to misstate the facts just because I don’t feel threatened?

  17. 57
    Kiki

    Who benefits more from marriage?
    I think I have been benefitting  tremendously from mine.
    Now   let me tell you, I am not only uncool (in terms of tolerance for my husband’s quirks) but also, I am  a maximiser (not a satisfiser). If you ask me, nothing is ever good enough. Me and him are the same age, each of us makes  approximately the same income, I am a working mother, I am very busy and constantly tired. On bad days, I wish I had married someone much older with lots of money, so that I could stay at home,  look after my kids and the household and enjoy easy living.   I have never been in the slightest attracted by rich older men in real life, but hey, why not have a fantasy that things could have been different?
    Let   me share with you  my huge benefits from being married to my husband.   These benefits are besides the children, which are the joy and light of my life, but would have been equally amazing even out of wedlock.
    1. I have the status of a  married woman, i.e. I am normal for my age by society’s standard. My single sister has to constantly put up with all kinds of shit, from friends and strangers alike,   because she is 44, single and childless. I would never trade places with her.
    2. My husband made me quit smoking and start exercising in order to be married to him.   I would have not done it without him as a motivator and example.
    My marriage is far from idylic  but I honestly, these two benefits to me are worth more than all the money in the world.
      
      
      

  18. 58
    starthrower68

    And Karl takes the center square for the win.

  19. 59
    Ruby

    Kiki #60
      
    I appreciate that those answers are meaningful for you, but really, that’s all you’ve got? I don’t know where you live, but I’m older than your sister, also single and childless, and don’t feel like I have to put up with crap about it. Then again, I live in a major metro area with plenty of single people, so I’m not considered so unusual. Some of the married people I know are barely hanging on to their marriages anyway, and those who are divorced already know that their marriage were troubled enough to end. Why should anyone else care?
      
    It wouldn’t take another person for me to want to give up smoking and start to exercise. I’d just prefer to be healthy. Since I am single and dating, I try to look and feel my best as well, but it wouldn’t take any particular person to motivate me to do that.

  20. 60
    Karl T

    Kiki #60,
    You mean the most important 2 things about your marriage is that it is a status symbol and that you quit smoking and started excercising????   That’s all you have to say????   If i ever get married to the perfect girl for me, I would hope to be able to say that I get to live everyday and sleep everynight and share everything with a woman who touches my heart and is so thoughtful and so sweet that it is a true joy.   I couldn’t give a sh^t about it being a status symbol.   Then again I have always been a modest and humble person and can’t stand showoffs.
    You sound like you are either not very happy or don’t think much of your marriage or that you are a very cold person.   Just for you to make a comment that you sometimes wished you gold dug for an older richer guy says volumes about you.  

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