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Why Do Americans Need To Be Married?

  • November 23, 2010 at 9:03 am

This fall the Pew Research Center, in association with TIME magazine, conducted a nationwide poll surveying 2,691 people exploring current marital trends and the modern American family. The results of those findings were published in an article TIME entitled, “Who Needs Marriage? A Changing Institution.” That article instigated an eruption of media attention on the subject. CNN.com asked, “Is Marriage Becoming Obsolete?” and both MSNBC.com and The Washington Post answered the question by stating that “Four in 10 Say Marriage Is Becoming Obsolete.” Several of my friends having read these articles text, tweet, Facebook messaged, emailed and called me to find out, “Did you read this? What do you think? Is marriage becoming obsolete?”

As most of us already know, the type of value placed on marriage in previous generations, is not the same type of value our current generation places on marriage today. This is the result of several factors:

  • The High Divorce Rate: With the US divorce rate being as high as 50%, most men and women in our generation are not running to the altar in the way they did in the past. Our generation is more cautious when it comes to marriage and takes more precautions before doing so.
  • Women Empowerment: As women are able to attain higher education and obtain job and financial security, they no longer look to their husband to fulfill this role. Now finding a marital partner with a similar socioeconomic status is deemed more desirable.
  • Birth Control: The advent of the birth control pill and other contraceptives evoked a sexual revolution where women are able to have sex with less concern about having a child out of wedlock.
  • Lack of Societal Pressure: As sociologists mentioned in the TIME article, marriage is no longer the “ultimate marriage badge” or the “demarcation of adulthood.” Society accepts that one can have a happy and fulfilling life, obtain a successful career, enjoy a balanced personal life, and even raise children without being in a marital situation.

Despite these conditions, the interesting fact is that people still do want to be married. According to the Pew poll, six in ten Americans still want to be married and although 44% of Americans under 30 believe marriage is heading for extinction, only 5% of those in that age group did not want to become married. In fact, the survey found Americans were more pessimistic about the nation’s education system and its economy than it was about the future of the American family. With such a contradiction, perhaps a better title for TIME’s article would have been, “Why Do Americans Need To Be Married? With sociologists even noting that Americans are among the highest in the Western world when it comes to their marriage and remarriage rates (additionally, the American divorce rate is higher than most European countries). So why do Americans need to marry?

It is my belief that America will not become a country of cohabitating couples because our country was founded on Christian principles and highly values freedom of religion. What religion do you know that does not value marriage and family? Therefore, the institution of marriage is not becoming obsolete (at least not in America). In order for this to happen, the fundamentals of American values and principles would have to dramatically change and I do not see that happening anytime soon.

So if the value placed on marriage has changed but marriage is not becoming obsolete, what is it becoming? It’s evolving. Marriage is no longer primarily an economic and social institution. It’s now a personal union based on the spiritual, emotional, physical and mental partnership of two equal parties. That’s why in an upcoming blog, you’ll see me talk about what psychologist, Steve Brody calls “The 3 C’s: Chemistry, Commitment, Communication.” These are the current values people are seeking in a marriage today and what is necessary to maintain one. Therefore if you think marriage is becoming obsolete or extinct, think again.

Do you think marriage is becoming obsolete? Why do you think Americans need to be married?

Photo: epSos.de / Flickr