For the first time since about 1910, the percentage of adults age 25-34 who have never been married has exceeded those who have. The numbers are close, with something like 46.3% who have never been married and 44.9% who have. It is interesting to note that those who are less educated are also less apt to get married, which differs from the 1990s, when the opposite was true. Mark Mather, who analyzed the data from the Population Reference Bureau, says: “Marriage rates today look very different, with higher proportions of young, highly educated adults entering formal unions, and a sharp drop among those with less education.”
Many are blaming the recession for the recent lack of nuptials, but I think it goes a bit deeper than that. One of the first factors to be blamed for the marriage decline is option. It makes sense that if people constantly feel like there’s something else out there, they can become indecisive or unwilling to commit. There are websites like eharmony that make it seem like love easy to find; like you can pick a future lover the same way you would a handbag. I don’t like this, but it doesn’t necessarily justify the drop in marriage.
There’s an article in this month’s Bazaar Magazine by writer-producer Galt Niederhoffer. She explains that although she chose not to get married, she still ended up with the equivalent of a divorce to her partner of nine years. My parents were friends with Galt’s parents, so I have some insider information. The article, “Postmodern Divorce”, explains how Galt thought by avoiding marriage she could avoid her parent’s mistakes. She was a child of divorce from a pretty eccentric family, or as she words it, “a family that ranked high on the roster of dysfunction.” Her father, Victor, left her mother; Gail, and Gail understandably struggled with this deeply. She would talk to my father about how “the fuck” left her and would apparently hire male prostitutes. She was a wealthy woman who would do what she wanted regardless of how people saw her, i.e. dating a cab driver unapologetically. One could see how growing up surrounded by this would make a young girl fearful of falling into the same pitfall as her parents. Though, in spite of a lack of a legal document proving their union, marriage without a certificate is marriage by another name, which Galt came to realize.
A friend of mine, Kara, is also a child of brutal divorce. She is the eldest child in the family, and had to personally handle her parent’s attacks against one another growing up. This left an unfavorable view of marriage with her at an impressionable age. She is still incredibly skeptical towards marriage, and has said she plans to abstain from it. If the increased divorce rate and the decline in marriage have anything to do with each other, the overall decrease makes sense. In a country where the sanctity of marriage has become more ambiguous and trivialized—the government will not allow gay couples to wed but strangers can get hitched on a reality show—leading the public to doubt the holiness of the union. If the experiences of Galt or Kara are any sort of gage on what’s happening to other girls across the nation, than the doubt makes sense. It seems as though, at least for a few, the dream of a white wedding has given way to actual memories of coping with bitter divorce through the eye’s of a child.
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