Marriage is not Obsolete – It’s a Choice

Marriage is obsolete.  That was the big news yesterday. 1 in 4 Americans believe marriage is obsolete according to a study by Pew Research Center and Time Magazine (39% vs. 28% in 1978).

Of course there are lots of reasons  – women can support themselves, it’s more acceptable to live together and have children out of wedlock, changing definitions of family and the high divorce rate. It seems some people decide it’s not necessary and others are just plain disillusioned. But mostly what it means is that marriage is becoming less a “symbol of success” or an expected rite of adulthood.  Now women and men can get married because they want to rather than because it’s what you do. I think that is all good. Marriage clearly is not something you can apply the “Just Do It” philosophy to!  While marriage is less important, love is still alive (and marriage is not dead). According to an Oxygen/TRU study of women primarily in their 20s, 50% say marriage is a priority. The Rutgers University National Marriage Project reports that 94% of 20-somethings want a soul mate. This is consistent with what I’ve heard from talking to 20-something women.

They think that most women their age “still want to get married deep down.”  When it comes to themselves, they say they “want to find that person”.  A few are determined to get married because they want what they didn’t have as a child of divorce. These 20-somethings are more likely to say “I want to do it once and I want to do it right.” So they still feel pressure to get married by a certain age but it is pressure they put on themselves rather than pressure from parents or society.

Others are much more ambivalent about marriage. They don’t want to get married because quite frankly, they don’t know how to do it. They can’t make any sense out of what they see of marriage today. It’s almost as if they think marriage wound jinx love – giving it a slow death. But they do want a partner and a soul mate with whom they “share a similar attitude about the future”. They want someone to “do the things you want to do with.”  If they do want to get married they want to do it differently…meaning that it is just the beginning of a journey not an end. A few 20-something perspectives:

“I think people still want to find a person but not in a traditional sense.  Everybody definitely wants to find that person but nobody really wants it to be in a traditional way like your parents. So even if you get married it’s not like you automatically have to buy a home and settle down.” —  28, female, in a relationship

“I would love to not actually get married because I just think marriage is kind of weird. I’m not opposed to it but I would love to not have to do it because everybody has to do it. I fell like I probably will if I’m 40 and I’ve been with someone for 10 years and have kids. But it’s not a goal or dream or aspiration.  I certainly don’t dream about a wedding dress.” – 28, female, single

It’s easy to think that you will be different when you are young. But maybe this generation will be able to reinvent what marriage means. Get married or don’t, but if you want a relationship it is a choice so respect that. The best relationships are the ones that you define together rather than by what you think you should do or what is “socially expected”. 

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