In today’s stroll through cyberspace, I came across this NY Times article titled To Be Married Means to Be Outnumbered. Here’s the gist from the opening paragraphs:
Married couples, whose numbers have been declining for decades as a proportion of American households, have finally slipped into a minority, according to an analysis of new census figures by The New York Times.
The American Community Survey, released this month by the Census Bureau, found that 49.7 percent, or 55.2 million, of the nation’Â’s 111.1 million households in 2005 were made up of married couples–with and without children–Â— just shy of a majority and down from more than 52 percent five years earlier.
The numbers by no means suggests marriage is dead or necessarily that a tipping point has been reached. The total number of married couples is higher than ever, and most Americans eventually marry. But marriage has been facing more competition. A growing number of adults are spending more of their lives single or living unmarried with partners, and the potential social and economic implications are profound.
So, being a married man and all, I’m in a minority group. They interviewed Focus on the Family, whose spokesperson admirably (and surprisingly) refrained from breaking out the same old line about N.America’s declining morality. His comments were actually quite insightful:
Steve Watters, the director of young adults for Focus on the Family, a conservative Christian group, said that the trend of fewer married couples was more a reflection of delaying marriage than rejection of it.
“Â“It does show that a lot of people are experimenting with alternatives before they get there,”Â” Mr. Watters said. “Â“The biggest concern is that those who still aspire to marriage are going to find fewer models. They’Â’re also finding they’Â’ve gotten so good at being single it’Â’s hard to be at one with another person.”Â”
And that last part is spot on. Marriage has turned from the idea of the two becoming one into this notion of how the other person is going to fulfill me. And since this is a totally consumerist approach to what is a sacred thing, the following familiar comments are unfortunately not surprising:
“Even cohabiting young adults tell us that they are doing so because it would be unwise to marry without first living together in a society marked by high levels of divorce,” [researcher] Ms. Smock said.
A number of couples interviewed agreed that cohabiting was akin to taking a test drive and, given the scarcity of affordable apartments and homes, also a matter of convenience. Some said that pregnancy was the only thing that would prompt them to make a legal commitment soon. Others said they never intended to marry. A few of those couples said they were inspired by solidarity with gay and lesbian couples who cannot legally marry in most states.
I wonder why they don’t quote the statistics that say that couples who cohabitate prior to marriage have a higher incidence of divorce than that of couples who start living together after marriage. When you approach something that has unconditional commitment at its core with a conditionally noncomittal attitude, it’s not surprising that those marriages don’t work. It’s hard to lose that “let’s see if this works” attitude later on when the going gets tough.
But still, it’s going to be weird to live in a society where I’m a minority for getting married, staying married, and not having lived with Jac before we were married…