With high divorce rates, less people marrying and the easy access people have to meet others through the internet, one must wonder whether marriage and long-term monogamous relationships are becoming extinct. I sometimes wonder if by the time my children are 30 whether marrying or finding a life long partner will even be something that is considered important.
Let’s look at the reasons why people married historically. The biggest reason in the past was to create a family unit. Marriage meant a commitment which is something most people value in choosing someone with whom to have children. In 2017, however, many people don’t view marriage as necessary to show a commitment and the common law union has become more widespread. In addition, a small number of people believe that a commitment isn’t even necessary for the purposes of having children with someone. The high divorce rate, and the number of single parent households has also shown that a married couple is not necessary to raise happy, healthy children. Research has shown that children of divorce fare just fine if it is handled properly. For all of these reasons, marriage is no longer viewed as something necessary for the creation of a family unit.
Another reason for marriage in the past was for economic stability. In 2017, however, many two income households are struggling and marriage does not provide the same security it once did. Long-term marriages that break-up can be especially costly where spouses see their net worth cut in half after years of hard work and saving. More and more, people do not want to expose themselves to this risk so they don’t want to marry or re-marry in midlife. Some couples do stay together for financial reasons, often leading miserable lives, co-existing in the same home, but essentially leading separate lives.
Now let’s look at the modern day phenomena that work against marriage or a long-term monogamous relationships. With the invention of the internet and online dating, people have fast, discreet and easy access to a wide range of others looking for everything from marriage to a one night hook-up. Cheating has never been easier. Being a player, a serial dater, polyamorous or just simply content with casual relationships has also never been easier. It is easy to feel like you can always do better and are settling by just picking one person to spend the rest of your life with.
In 2017 we also live in a society that wants instant gratification. There isn’t value placed on working hard, paying dues, and putting others first in the me generation of today. Any long-term relationship is going to have its ups and downs. It will require some level of work to stand the test of time. People today want “good vibes only” and don’t want any negativity. They view relationships as something that should be easy and fun, and if this changes, they see it as time to move on. Commitment to someone isn’t valued the way that it once was.
Another factor working against long-term relationships is the rise of women in the workplace, earning their own money and not being financially dependent on a man. Many divorces these days are initiated by women who are unhappy in the marriage and know that they have the means to stand on their own feet. They don’t need to tolerate a bad marriage the way prior generations of women did because they are not financially dependent on their spouses.
There is no doubt that the decline of marriage and long-term unions has created problems and a cultural change. It isn’t all bad news though. In prior generations, many people led miserable lives feeling stuck in a marriage that brought them down and did not meet any of their needs. People also stayed in abusive or neglectful relationships too. Nowadays, most people realize they have options and choices to do what is best for them. Ultimately, we all deserve happiness, and there has never been a time of more options and choices. We must be careful though, as Margaret Atwood, put it, “We are a society dying…..of too much choice.”