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Has society outgrown the institution of marriage?

It seems fewer couples than ever get married. What used to be a given has become a seeming after thought. Has society become too cynical? DO they not trust enough? Have they lost faith in lifelong commitment? Are we more selfish?

  • Nov 19 2013: The statistics I've seen suggest that more people are living together unmarried while postponing marriage (to the cohabiting partner or someone else) rather than never marrying at all. Some studies suggest that this is due to factors such as economic stress, education, social class, decisions to delay child-bearing, and so forth. I have seen no evidence that these changes in the choice to marry are related to relationship issues such as trust or a willingness to commit, or any increase in selfishness. The *institution of marriage* isn't the same as *a trusting, life-long commitment without selfishness.* More people are even having more than one marriage in their lifetimes, so it seems that marriage itself still has importance as a social and relationship norm. Also, the increased acceptance of same-sex marriage suggests that when people are given access to the institution, they choose it over other forms of relationship. And the fact that so many of these new marriages are between people who have lived together unmarried for decades suggests that the marriage itself is not a factor in their commitment.
    Thirty years ago, I read an analysis that argued that our life expectancy (with the capacity for a healthy old age) mean that we now have the ability to live at least two full "lifetimes." People can complete 30 or more years in a career (or a relationship) by their mid-50s then start all over again and have another equally long career (or relationship) before they reach the end of their lives. This also suggests that people can wait longer before entering into a long-term or life-long relationship without feeling as though they are "running out of time."
    Maybe we need to recognize that there is a difference between "marriage" as a committed relationship and "marriage" as an institution. They aren't the same thing.
  • Nov 23 2013: I would say it has not "grown" anything - it is being pared-back with dangerous food additives & pharmacology that destroy gene expression & brayn-funxion. Coupled-with that each person coming into a marriage is probably a child of divorce themselves and probably a little-more unskilled in healthy & strong intimacy, marriages are adding-up to a lesser total.
    I recently heard Dr. John Gray talk about this.
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    Nov 18 2013: Anthony, Many studies have been conducted in reference to sociietial changes. I am a pretty basic person so I looked at it from a very practical point of view. What are the advantages versus what are the disadvantages.

    Changes in the old taboos are great factors. It was once considered living in sin. Now it is a matter of economics.

    People in their late sixties and seventies live together because they are penalized if they marry. They would lose one whole set of social security income. But if they live together they both collect.

    In the 50's and before to have a child out of wedlock was a family shame and many labels were applied to both the mother and the child and the family name was trashed. The reality of today is that your ENTITLEMENTS are based on the family size .. there is no mention of marriage. The famous girl of 17 who had five kids and was the bread winner for her whole family and was planning on having more kids (no marriage in sight) because she was getting everything for free and money to boot. She was on Oprah. Goods, services, and money equaled over $80,000 a year. The government rewarded her for have kids out of wedlock. Working is for fools. There are entitlement for everyone in this day and age. The myth of "FREE" stuff.

    Times have changed. Drug dealer next door .... 50 illegals living next door .... crack house ..... domestic violence ... child abuse .... don't get involved.

    Don't answer this ... BUT .... how many can name the next door neighbor or any neighbors.

    Not only are we a divided nation but we have become a self centered what is in it for me ... nation.

    Summary: It is not about morals, ethics, values .... it is a matter of economics and entitlements.

    Anthony, since you did not share your location I will qualify this to be based on what is occurring in the USA. Had you declared you location I would have tried to address that area.

    Be well. Bob.
    • Nov 19 2013: Hi Bob,

      I sadly agree with a lot of what you wrote. I was referring to the USA actually so that it fine. I say sadly agree because I have been married for close to 30 years and so I know firsthand what the segment of society is missing out on.

      I do believe our society has become very self centered and do not want to put the effort in that a relationship takes. It seems the instant gratification of society has reduced our capacity to work through tough issues. At least as they apply to relationships.

      The tragic thing about it is that this new behavior is being taught to the subsequent generations and so becoming the new norm.

      Thank you for taking the time to comment.
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        Nov 19 2013: My bride and I have been together for almost 50 years now. In our neighborhood we see many grandparents raising the grandkids ... in many homes there is not a male figure / role model. I share your thought that there is instant marriage, instant, divorce, instant gratification, etc ... Its a fast food world.

        Much of this, in my opinion, started with Dr. Spock in the mid 40's. We took discipline out of the home and religion and discipline out of the schools. The advent of big government and the intrusion into the family level of decision making is also a big factor.

        As easy as it is to blame others and point the finger all around it really comes down to us the citizens for not maintaining order in our homes and family and a finger on the pulse of government and stepping in when things first went out of control.

        Congratulations to you and your bride on a lasting marriage.

        Be well, Bob.
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    Nov 18 2013: I don't think it's a trust issue. It's a role issue. The institution of marriage came to exist with predefined roles for partners with a family in sight. These roles were complimentary between the partners. Society has evolved to a stage today where these roles have changed, the old school complementarity is not valid or a partner is not needed to have a family.
    • Nov 19 2013: Hi Pabitra,

      Do you really believe that we have evolved to the point that genders no longer complement each other? I do not agree. There are volumes of research that the best and most health environment for raising a family is in a home with a sound relationship between a man and a woman. Regardless of anyone’s position on same sex marriage that is a fact. I do not believe that one can be in a stable relationship without a lifelong commitment.

      There are examples of the deep bond that is formed when a man and women join in the deep, transcending, committed relationship of marriage over many years.
      In some cases the time difference between their death can be measured in hours. It is as if they became a single organism. Pretty wild wouldn't you say?
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        Nov 19 2013: Hello Anthony :)
        No. I believe that we have evolved to a point where a social contract such as marriage is no longer necessary. Man and woman are still sexually complimentary; Man and Wife are not strictly socially complimentary anymore.
        I have nothing against a man and a woman deciding to live together, have babies and make a family. But there is nothing unhealthy about doing all those things without saying ‘I do’ in front of a clergy or signing the register as Mr. and Mrs.
        I hope you are not claiming that people who have not tied knots cannot be committed to each other.
        I am married for 23 years now. The reason I go back to my family at the end of the day is not because I am married. It’s because I have come to love, trust and respect my partner of 23 years and one young man who looks up at me. This bonding is not a gift of marriage rather it was created by us as a team with hard work and through many ups and downs, and believe me it never felt like a divine decree that we were destined to do it. It worked for us. It didn’t work for many married people.
        Sr. Mr. Mukhopadhyay is in a ‘civil union’ (he insists that I mention it with those words) with my mother for 57 years now. These two people have become like a single organism now :). But I do not believe it’s only because they married.
        The single most objectionable idea after ‘eternal damnation’ to me is ‘till death do us part’. I’d prefer to be free to take the call of my heart anytime.
        • Nov 19 2013: You actually made my point better than I could have when you said, "The single most objectionable idea after ‘eternal damnation’ to me is ‘till death do us part’. I’d prefer to be free to take the call of my heart anytime." That idea lives in yourself conscious because you have not sealed the deal with a solemn oath. A true unbreakable commitment to not follow the call of your heart if that means abandoning your spouse. I do understand that marriages fail all of the time. I attribute that to a perversion of the meaning of marriage and the lack of commitment. There is the pressure of government which financially penalizes married couples. Thi sis another contributor. Best of luck to you and yours I do wish you all the happiness and was not trying to criticize anyone for not getting married. I am just trying to understand how I can have 5 kids and 5 grand kids and not one marred child. It just doesn't seem right on many levels. Cheers
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        Nov 20 2013: Dear Anthony :)
        I presume you are young and single? Will you mind me sharing my view on your 5 kids question?
        Never marry with an oath. Never marry because you are lonely, or of age or you need sex. If you have a partner just decide together to give it a try. Remain very transparent to each other that you are trying this out.
        When you have a baby, it gets tough. Don't lose hope. Spousal relationship is not all romance, a large part of it is responsibility and trust. If you plan to have a large family (5 kids) adopting children can be a great idea.
        It took me some time to realize that there are more better men for my partner. I checked and found the same is true for my partner too. The years that we put together between ourselves, however, are investment that appeared to be worth keeping. It may work for you too.
        Most importantly, no divine decree or sanction is there to save your relationship with your partner. If it works, you both chose it to that way. If it didn't, there is a next time always.
        I wish you a happy and big family. Cheers!
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    Nov 18 2013: I recently got married in July 2013 at the age of 34 (after much procrastination), I guess that we probably couldn't blame society at large for it's members unwillingness to value commitment.

    If marriage = commitment, and commitment = choice, everyone has the capacity and the free will to choose.

    Society generally just likes what's easy, therefore could be said to have outgrown marriage - however, building a strong relationship is HARD and if people prefer the easy life over the hard life, then marriage for many will seem of very little value.

    I don't know about society, but I've certainly experienced the value in marriage!
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      Nov 18 2013: CONGRATULATIONS KAIN:>)

      When we say something is HARD, that is the reality we create for ourselves. In my humble perception and experience, learning and growing with someone in a relationship is a beautiful, joyous, adventuresome exploration. Challenging at times.....yes.....and with the challenges comes more and more learning and closeness.......IF......we choose to see it that way:>)
  • Nov 18 2013: greg, how do you life off of milk? lol
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    Nov 18 2013: I think it's partly the successful birth control. When there's no fear of pregnancy, it's easier to live together.
    • Nov 19 2013: Does using a tool, even a successful one, make the act any less motivated by selfishness? If the dominant world view was one of selflessness instead of selfishness……………….
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        Nov 19 2013: how is living together selfish if you don't produce any children?
        • Nov 19 2013: I don't deny that you can live together with the same devotion as a married couple and not having any kids is not selfish. However; living together with a sacramental pledge to stick with someone no matter what and then doing it can be transformative. I don't think just living together can easily reach that level of devotion. I may be wrong but that is what I believe. I have a habit of taking advice from those wiser than me and they believe that also. I then test the advice and seems to be working.
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        Nov 19 2013: Well, the thing is, Anthony, not everything you do in life has to be the top level of transformative. Let's say we give marriage a 10 on the level of transformative, and we give living together an 8, an 8 is still pretty good, isn't it?