"According to a Pew Research Center report on the latest census data released this week, marriage rates in the United States have dropped to an all-time low. Only 51 percent of people over age 18 are married today—a significant dip from 57 percent in 2000, and a shocking drop from 72 percent in 1960. If these trends continue, married couples will soon be in the minority for the first time in history." (www.history.com/news/2011/12/16/is-marriage-history)
Since April usually marks the beginning of wedding season, I thought it would be a good time to talk about marriage. I was raised to believe that marriage is sacred. My maternal grandparents were married for 30 years (until my Grandpa Stroud passed away) and my paternal grandparents were married for 62 years (until my Grandma Tufts passed away). My parents have been married for 51 years. My husband and I will be married 20 years this July. That is the rule rather than the exception in my family.
While marriage is not something to be entered into lightly or rashly, it is also something that should take priority and not be put on the back burner. I dreamed all of my life of my wedding day. It was always at the top of my "bucket list". When Rob and I were engaged we attended the wedding of one of his friends. The groom had been dating the bride for ten years -- I thought it was a joke! However, it was true and sadly the couple split up within the first 7 or 8 years of marriage.
Nowadays, a couple like this would be common: people who live together with either no intention of getting married or at least not in the near future. It seems like they put everything first but marriage; they buy a house, they purchase furniture together, they move in together, they even have children together, and yet they won't make the commitment to walk down the aisle together.
I was raised in a Christian household where marriage was considered to be a covenant that you and your spouse made in front of God. I am happy to see that many people at our current church hold marriage dear; we see lots of young couples getting married rather than living together. They also make children a priority and it is not uncommon to see families with three, four or five children.
However, as my husband says, even if you look at marriage from a practical rather than moral point of view, it makes total sense. Statistics show that couples who live together first before they get married or live together and never get married are more likely to split up than couples who never "play house". I think that couples who live together first tend to sweep any problems under the rug, thinking in the back of their minds that they really don't need to deal with them since they're not actually married. Then, of course, their problems don't go away -- they multiply. Rob always says that we probably had our biggest fights in the first year of our marriage, when we were ironing out the wrinkles.
Furthermore, resentment often builds because one of the two, usually the woman, would like to marry and resents the other one, usually the man, who does not want to get married. It is not a firm foundation to build a relationship on. I can think of a couple who was living common law for at least 16 years. They moved in together and they had a child. Then they had a second child. Then they had a third child. One day Rob asked the father if he was ever going to marry the mother. He said he wasn't ready for marriage! Rob pointed out to me that he already had all of the responsibilities of a married husband and father, whether he realized it or not. Sadly, about three years ago, the couple split up.
So, I hope that marriage makes a comeback in the general population. Fifty-one percent is an awfully low figure. It would be nice if we returned to the 72% figure posted the year my parents wed. While marriage is not necessarily easy, I think that the rewards far outweigh the drawbacks. And there's nothing more exciting than going to a wedding. Let the wedding bells ring!
Photo courtesy www.peellephotography.com.