Marriage on the Decline

Jill Bertelsen

As most little girls do, I loved to pretend to be a bride. I would pick some flowers and prepare to walk down the aisle. I practiced meeting prince charming and being swept off my feet into a happily ever after.

But many children grow up to find that marriage is not as common as it used to be. A CBS news report in 2011 showed that only 51% of Americans were married. In 1960, census records indicated that 82% of adults between the ages of 25 and 34 were married. While in 2010 only 44% of Americans were married. And the decline continues.

Marriage in the past was a union of two people’s lives. Together they decided what to do with work, where to live, when and how to raise their children and create a strong family. But now the main focus of marriage has shifted. It is no longer about what would be best for the community and for the children but about two people’s love for each other. There should be a balance between these two principles. Marriage is not just a social box to check, or a stamp of approval from the government that their love is valid. It is a wonderful partnership where children and spouses can thrive.

Media and cultural norms have shifted. It is about your career, traveling, and seeing what you can experience. One book titled “Don’t Say I Do! Why Women Should Stay Single” which was published by New Horizon Press in 2012 exemplifies this mindset. The book talks about how marriage and having a man is not essential for us to cohabitate, raise a family, have money, and other successes. It is normal in our culture to not be married, but a few generations ago that was taboo.

This is a fundamental change. The attitude of fierce independence puts the focus on being able to do what you want. I am not saying that getting married and having kids is the only way for a person to live a successful life. I’m saying that cultural norms are not the same as they were a few short decades ago. It seems now that if you are married before a career, school, or seeing the world you are immature and your relationship won’t last.

But it is interesting that marriage is still valued and that same Pew Research study that CBS refers to found out that people with a college education have a 17% higher chance of being married. It seems that marriage is the capstone event of someone’s life. That after they finish college, get a good job, and are financially stable only then is the time to get married.

Where it is good to be mentally mature before jumping into a lifelong commitment, marriage does not have to be the final event once you have finished everything else. In fact a favorite song of mine called “The Hungry Years” by Neil Sedaka talks about the memories that were made with his wife when they were as poor as church mice.
The second verse and chorus are as follows:

“We shared our daydreams one by one

Making plans was so much fun

We set our goals and reached the highest star

The things that we were after

Were much better from afar

Here we stand just me and you

With everything and nothing, too

It wasn’t worth the price we had to pay

Honey take me home

Let’s go back to yesterday

I miss the hungry years

The once upon a time

The lovely long ago

We didn’t have a dime

Those days of me and you

We lost along the way

Looking through my tears

I miss the hungry years”

Couples who dream together, build their lives together, are “hungry together,” can experience the true joys of marriage. Research shows that there is a decline in the amount of people who value marriage enough to make that lifelong union. But it doesn’t matter what age you tie the knot, whether it be 22 or 42, you can still develop a strong marriage and teach the younger generation that marriage is a wonderful part of life.

Thank you!