Culture

Is America Giving Up On Marriage?

By Regan Monnin··  7 min read
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“First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in a baby carriage,” goes the old saying. But in 21st century America, the nursery rhyme should probably go something like this, “First comes love, then comes the apartment we’ll live in together, then comes the baby in a baby carriage, then – maybe, if we feel like it – comes marriage.”

A 2020 study showed that just 49% of households in America are made up of married couples. Another study last year found that just 17.8% of American households are made up of married parents with children under 18. In contrast, in the 1950s, 80% of households included a married couple. 

By those numbers, marriage has become increasingly uncool in the last 70 years with only the religious or politically conservative seemingly taking an interest in it. 

Why Aren’t the Kids These Days Getting Married?

“I don’t need the government to give value to my commitment.”

“We’re just not that traditional.”

“Marriage is a social construct. I’m not interested in furthering a patriarchal institution.”

These and so many other arguments have been made time and again to justify not walking down the aisle. And, in a postmodern society where religion is losing its appeal and moral relativism reigns supreme, marriage can seem like an outdated social construct. 

Consider also that the current divorce rate in the United States is right around 50%. Additionally, marriages where one spouse is a child of divorce have a 50% higher chance of divorce. Your chance of divorce if you’re both children of divorce? It increases by 200%. 

Couples also tend to live together before marriage, “test driving” their partnership. They also tend to be together for an average of nearly five years before tying the knot. 

Furthermore, women tend to focus heavily on their careers. They shirk dating in favor of casual sex à la Sex in the City. Couple that with the fact that only 9% of people surveyed by the Pew Research Center view their romantic partner as a source of meaning in their life, and marriage just doesn’t seem like the necessity that it used to be. And the numbers show that people are acting in accordance with that idea. 

But the importance of marriage goes back thousands of years to the dawn of civilization. And it’s vitally important for the survival of a society. No matter what the activists may tell you. 

The History of Marriage

Marriage has existed in some form since the beginning of time. Every civilization has had some form of marriage to create a family unit. Official partnership between a man and a woman has been necessary to the function of society for a few different reasons. 

First, marriage, in a time when DNA tests couldn’t prove paternity, ensured that a man’s child was really his. Marriage ensured the paternity of children creating family lines with trackable descendants. Ever wonder why King Henry VIII could have 100 mistresses, but he beheaded two of his wives for adultery? Part of it was that he was the king and he could do whatever he wanted without consequence. But he also had to protect the English line of succession. If a king’s wife had an affair and then got pregnant, there was no way to confirm the paternity of the child, potentially leading to a civil war and altering the royal line.

Women didn’t have many rights in the ancient world, and marriage gave them some protection.

Second, marriage protected women. Women didn’t have many rights in the ancient world, and marriage gave them some protection. Husbands were to clothe, house, and provide for their wives. The advent of Christian marriage did give more rights to women as men were instructed to care for their wives and treat them well. 

Third, marriage created a societal structure. Children are born to two parents. They grow up with the other offspring of those parents. A family unit forms for the fulfillment of the emotional, spiritual, mental, and physical needs of the children. Those children grow up, take the place of their parents as they age out, and provide their parents with the support that they need as they near the end of their lives. This process repeats for millennia, ensuring the survival of the human race and, amidst all the chaos of the world, the order of it as well. 

Marriage has been necessary for societal survival. But have humans outgrown that? Are we even built to be monogamous? Is marriage even a good thing?

Marriage as a Net Positive

People love to make arguments for why marriage isn’t a good thing. From it not being a necessity to it being a symbol of sexism and misogyny, arguments against marriage are numerous. 

However, the positives that come from marriage outweigh any perceived negatives that might make you hesitant to marry. 

For starters, children with married parents grow up in more stable and healthy environments and statistically have the best outcomes. Married couples tend to be happier than their single or cohabiting counterparts. They also tend to be less stressed and to live more fulfilled lives. Children learn the habits of those around them and will thus be happier and healthier as they’re growing up in a stable and healthy environment. 

Marriage also carries significantly less risk of domestic violence. Unmarried people who live together are three times as likely to say arguments become physically violent. Studies show that two-thirds of domestic violence committed against women is done by boyfriends or ex-husbands/ex-boyfriends. 

Cohabitating partners are three times as likely to say arguments become physically violent.

Yes, kids are expensive. But marriage comes with more financial security than cohabiting or remaining single ever will. First, you will actually increase your wealth rather than lessen it. Married couples build more wealth together than they would alone. Over a lifetime, the average married couple accumulates assets worth about $410,000, while the never-married accumulate $167,000 and the divorced $154,000. There are also numerous tax and financial benefits afforded to married couples. 

Married people also cheat less than those who are cohabiting. Married men are four times less likely to cheat than cohabiting men. And married women are eight times less likely to cheat than cohabiting women. Marriages also last longer than those who cohabitate. Just 1 in 10 cohabiting couples are still together five years later. 

The Beauty of Marriage

Statistics aside, marriage is necessary for the human condition. It’s no secret that marriage isn’t easy. Any form of long-term relationship isn’t easy. But the human condition is to quit when things get hard. Marriage – being a lifelong commitment, for better and for worse, all that jazz – doesn’t let you quit. 

Some people see this as a trap. But it’s really a gift. When you marry someone, they promise not to quit on you no matter how hard life gets. And you promise the same. What could be more beautiful than that? 

Sure, there are exceptions to that just like everything else in life. People grow apart, and people change. Tragedy strikes and relationships don’t survive it. But those exceptions to the rule shouldn’t take away from our desire for a good marriage. Marriage in its purest form is good. 

You can be known in friendship or dating. But nothing compares to the intimacy between spouses.

These days, people are cynical. Women are told it's embarrassing to be romantic. They’re told marriages never work, and they’re just relying on a man if they do marry one. But there’s nothing embarrassing about desiring a beautiful life-long romance. Human beings crave relationships and stability. They desire to be understood, to be known. 

You can be known in friendship. You can be known in a dating relationship. But nothing compares to the intimacy and understanding between spouses. Pledging your life to someone until death is intimidating, but giving the gift of yourself and receiving the gift of your spouse is a beautiful and good thing.

Closing Thoughts

More and more couples are choosing to live together rather than get married. The progressives have convinced couples that marriage is like prison. They’ve sold them the idea that living together is just as good, that it doesn’t matter as long as it works for you. 

Cohabiting may work for some people. But marriage affords an opportunity for your relationship to grow deeper, your life experience to be objectively better, and your children to grow up in a healthy, stable environment. It’s worked for thousands of years. I’m pretty sure it’ll work for you too.

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