More People Than Ever Before Are Saying 'I Don't' to Marriage


bride and groomUsed to be that people would get married almost as a rule -- almost in the same way they'd go to school or eat three meals a day. It was just what you did. Now, not so much. A new report from the Pew Research Institute found that the marriage rate in the U.S. has dropped in a dramatic way. The overall number of married couples has declined by more than 20 percentage points since 1960, and if you wanna look at a more recent gauge, the number of couples married in 2010 dropped 5 percent from the previous year. That's kinda big.

But what I found the most interesting about this report was that 40 percent of people overall said they believe marriage is obsolete. (And 31 percent of married people agree!) And yet, at the same time, most respondents who've never been hitched (61 percent) said they'd like to do so someday. Err ... what's that all about?!

Pew researcher D'Vera Cohn spoke to the seeming paradox:

I think they may be having two ideas in their head at once: one about the institution of marriage and what its status is in society today, which is to say that it's a lot less dominant, central, or important in society, [and another about] their own wishes for their future, in which they personally would very much like to be married.

I can actually relate a lot to this. It's not that crazy to have these two beliefs at once. You can acknowledge that the institution of marriage is not as important as it used to be ... and still want to be married. Something doesn't have to be valued in a huge way by the public to be something you personally want in your life. For instance, your friends might care less about starting a book club, but that won't change the fact that you're a voracious reader! Or that other people love to read. Catch my drift?

Marriage definitely isn't what it used to be, as far as I'm concerned. What I mean is -- it won't make or break me socially (as it would have perhaps in decades past). My boyfriend and I could get along just fine living together and even having kids together without being Mr. and Mrs. But I still want to marry him. To be life partners in the most official way, to make that commitment, to have the titles and the tax situation, to be able to have kids and create our own family under my sweetie's last name. Those are aspects of marriage I value, aspects I see enjoyed by happily married friends and my parents who have been married over 35 years. And I realize I'm lucky to have those "marriage role models," if you will, in my life.

So, you know, no judgment on those who have taken a pass on saying "I do" or for whom tying the knot just didn't work out, but I personally want to wed. Public attitudes about the fate of the institution be damned!

Do you think marriage is becoming obsolete?


Image via Tony Alter/Flickr

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nonmember avatar gottdb

Many single people I know are looking for perfection in a relationship. It doesn't exist. Sometimes I think they say they don't believe so they don't get disappointed. Then there are those who've yet to see marriage work and honestly don't see the point.

nonmember avatar K

Well society constantly, grows, changes, and learns and sometimes for the better. As far as marriage, it could go either way.

If we can find a way to change the way we work as a society so that we can have kids out of wedlock and not stay with the same person all the time, and it still be okay, then I guess that's fine, but the way things are right now, it's important to be committed together in raising kids although I don't think someone is somehow wrong if they have multiple baby momma's/daddy's.

Although, I supposed the issue of marriage and the issue of commitment are two different things.

Torto... Tortoise77

I don't think there is a problem with the institution of marriage. I think the problem is within the instituted. People's values and morals have changed drastically over the decades. So marriage is slowly becoming that long black skirt woman used to have to wear back in the day... 

Torra... TorranceMom

Marriage hasn't changed one bit. People's values have and that's why marriage has lost some of its clout recently. When premarital sex is the rule rather than the exception, when more and more children are being born out of wedlock and when sexual promiscuity and sexual deviance are embraced and often celebrated of course marriage is going to become obsolete! Most people nowadays are so obsessed with instant gratification, they couldn't commit to a nail polish color for a week let alone a marriage partner for a lifetime. People need to remember that marriage is God's design, not ours. It isn't something that changes like fads in a magazine.

Mandago Mandago

I REALLY don't mean to sound judgmental, but in my experience it's people without a marriage prospect, and people who have children out of wedlock, who most often proclaim marriage obsolete. It kind of seems like sour grapes. I rarely talk to a childless single woman whose boyfriend is anxious to marry her, but who feels that marriage is obsolete. It kind of seems like people like to trash marriage when nobody wants to marry them...

kelti... kelticmom

When marriage became a government institution complete with a license, instead of just a covenant between two people and God, it started to die. Because now most people (myself included, tho I am married) really just see it as a slip of paper, a certificate telling me what I already know in my heart. Marriage from the dawn of time until the 1800's had nothing to do with the government. I personally believe that our marriage certificate has no bearing on how committed we are to each other.

lindy... lindylouwho

My boyfriend and I have been together for seven years, four months.  We've been living together for seven years, two months.  We're happy the way we are.   Do we want to get married?  Of course!  My idea of a dream wedding, however, is simply flying to Vegas for a weekend and getting married by Elvis.  We haven't done it yet because, well, what's the rush?  We're both in our early 30's, I'm just going back to school and we're expecting our first child.  We're just a little too busy to worry about a wedding (and I'm not going to walk down the aisle pregnant like my mom did).  I think it's all a matter of personal choice.  I really get annoyed when people ask when we're going to get married, especially now that a baby is on the way.  If we're happy the way we are, why do we have to get married?  Just to make everyone else happy?  Instead of worrying about people not getting married, let's worry about people who run out and get married only to get divorced 72 days later.  People like that make a mockery of marriage.  It's a very serious commitment, one that should not be take lightly.  I plan on doing it only once. 

kelti... kelticmom

And really, with the divorce rate being over 50% nowdays, tell me what the difference between a couple who married, had kids and divorced five years later and a couple who did not get married, had kids and broke up five years later? Or couples who have been together 25, 30 plus years and never married? Other than that one couple had a big party and has a government contract, I don't see the difference.

Rhond... RhondaVeggie

I've noticed that too Mandago. I only know one person who is happily committed who doesn't care about getting married any time soon and that's just because they want to elope but his mom freaked out. The ones who preach about marriage being obsolete are the ones approaching spinsterhood or the divorcees. Of course they think marriage is obsolete, why would they admit that they failed at something important? I can think of at least two women like that who changed their tune quick snap when they met a guy who wanted to marry them.

nonmember avatar Liz

I absolutely plan on marrying my boyfriend some day, but I don't need to marry him to know our life together is committed. I would gladly have children with him without a marriage license. I know who my soulmate is, even if the government doesn't. And like the article said, you can believe marriage is obsolete and still want to get married yourself. I've seen way too many people enter the institution of marriage, without thinking about their decision, to ever take marriage seriously. When people can get married and divorced practically within the same breath, it really removes the importance of marriage.

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