Used 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what I found the most interesting about this report was that 40 percent of people overall said they believe marriage is obsolete.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