There is an old joke that runs: “Marriage is a fine institution, but who wants to live in an institution?” In this bad pun lies the heart of modern society’s attack on marriage. On television, and throughout popular culture, marriage is seen as suffocating, dehumanizing, neutering and stifling. However, I do not believe that any of this is the truth.
Marriage is one of the greatest things in human life. It allows a man and a woman to come together, sharing everything, and support each other throughout life. Marriage is more than two people living together. Marriage provides permanent stability, as the two people form, not only an economic unit, but a social force against the harsh realities of the world. Marriage can be both a refuge and a strengthening force, as two people share both the joys and the hardships of life. Most importantly, marriage is the foundation of the family, the proper way in which children are brought into the world and socialized. A good marriage provides healthy role models for young children.
According to a new Pew Research analysis, less than half of all adults in the United States are married, with those aged 18-29 maintaining the lowest rates at only 20%. Conversely, cohabitation has increased sharply over the past 20 years, giving rise to a new family structure. Since 1990, the number of adults in cohabiting relationships has nearly doubled with 6.2 million households currently headed by partners in unmarried relationships.
But while nearly four-in-ten Americans believe the institution of marriage is obsolete, the majority(61%) have expressed a wish to do so one day. While researchers conclude that factors such as the Great Recession and recent economic hardships have affected the number of Americans pursuing traditional marriages, marriages are still happening, albeit in the long-term scope rather than short-term.
Whether saving money by living together or pushing the age of marriage into later years, the majority of Americans will eventually marry. The order and timeline by which they do it, however, is re-shaping contemporary society’s definition of relationship and family in the process.
All of this being said; it should also be stated that about half of all marriages fail. The high divorce rate is the product of being marrying for the wrong reasons. There are many reasons why people enter into marriage wrongly. Some people are simply lonely, and they will marry the first person who seems like a suitable match. Rather than waiting for the right partner, marrying in haste can lead to a series of bad choices that ends in a messy divorce. (Or, as my mother would say: “Marry in haste, repent in leisure.”)
Some people get married because they feel pressure to do so. There remains the outside pressure to “do the right thing,” especially when a woman becomes pregnant outside of wedlock. Frequently, what has resulted as an outcome of sexual attraction does not form the basis of a strong relationship, and as these two people are faced with marriage and children, the strains become too much.
A third reason that couples divorce is that one or both partners are unwilling to sacrifice some portion of their independence. Many husbands and wives maintain separate checking accounts, dividing up bills, groceries, etc. as if they were roommates. Many people are unwilling to give up other aspects of single life, such as the husband who still remains involved in sports to an excessive degree, or cannot give up his “night out with the boys.” Marriage should be the total joining of two people, or else it will fail.