Added: Vianney Sangster - Date: 09.01.2022 13:55 - Views: 21826 - Clicks: 9432
There have, of Is it a good idea to get married, been massive changes to the institution over the past few generations, leading the occasional cultural critic to ask: Is marriage becoming obsolete? But few of these people seem genuinely interested in the answer. More often the question functions as a kind of rhetorical sleight of hand, a way of stirring up moral panic about changing family values or speculating about whether society has become too cynical for love.
In popular culture, the sentiment still prevails that marriage makes us happy and divorce leaves us lonely, and that never getting married at all is a fundamental failure of belonging. But speculation about whether or not marriage is obsolete overlooks a more important question: What is lost by making marriage the most central relationship in a culture?
For me, this is a personal question as much as it is a social and political one. While marriage is often seen as an essential step in a successful life, the Pew Research Center reports that only about half of Americans over age 18 are married. This is down from 72 percent in One obvious reason for this shift is that, on average, people are getting married much later in life than they were just a few decades earlier.
In the United States, the median age for first marriage rose to an all-time high in 30 for men and 28 for women. When people bemoan the demise of marriage, these are the kinds of data they often cite. As the sociologist Andrew Cherlin points outjust two years after the Supreme Court decision to legalize same-sex marriage ina full 61 percent of cohabiting same-sex couples were married.
This is an extraordinarily high rate of participation. Andrew Cherlin: Marriage has become a trophy. This prestige can make it particularly difficult to think critically about the institution—especially when coupled with the idea that vows might save you from the existential loneliness of being human.
In his majority opinion in Obergefell v. It offers the hope of companionship and understanding and assurance that while both still live there will be someone to care for the other. When I think about getting married, I can feel its undertow. But research suggests that, whatever its benefits, Is it a good idea to get married also comes with a cost. In a review of two national surveys, the sociologists Natalia Sarkisian of Boston College and Naomi Gerstel of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst found that marriage actually weakens other social ties.
Compared with those who stay single, married folks are less likely to visit or call parents and siblings—and less inclined to offer them emotional support or pragmatic help with things such as chores and transportation. They are also less likely to hang out with friends and neighbors. Single people, by contrast, are far more connected to the social world around them. On average, they provide more care for their siblings and aging parents. They have more friends. They are more likely to offer help to neighbors and ask for it in return.
This is especially true for those who have always been single, shattering the myth of the spinster cat lady entirely. Single women in particular are more politically engaged—attending rallies and fundraising for causes that are important to them—than married women. These trends persist, but are weaker, for single people who were ly married. Cohabiting couples were underrepresented in the data and excluded from the study.
Sarkisian and Gerstel wondered whether some of these effects could be explained by the demands of caring for small children. But once they examined the data further, they found that those who were married without children were the most isolated. The researchers suggest that one potential explanation for this is that these couples tend to have more time and money—and thus need less help from family and friends, and are then less likely to offer it in return. The autonomy of Is it a good idea to get married married life can leave spouses cut off from their communities.
Having children may slightly soften the isolating effects of marriage, because parents often turn to others for help. They hold true across racial groups and even when researchers control for age and socioeconomic status. The expectations that come with living with a serious partner, married or not, can enforce the norms that create social isolation. In the months after Mark moved into my apartment, I enjoyed the coziness of our shared domestic life. I liked having another person to help walk the dog and shop for groceries. I loved getting into bed with him every night. But when I looked at my life, I was surprised by Is it a good idea to get married it seemed to have contracted.
I got fewer invitations for after-work beers. Even my own parents seemed to call less often. When invitations did arrive, they were addressed to us both. When I thought about getting married, I imagined it would only isolate us further. Marriage has social and institutional power that cohabitation does not; it confers more prestige, and it prescribes more powerful norms. Sarkisian and Gerstel point out that modern marriage comes with a cultural presumption of self-sufficiency. This is reflected in how young adults in the U. This idea of self-sufficiency is also reflected in weddings themselves, which tend to emphasize the individuals getting married rather than the larger community they belong to.
On the website TheKnot. Just a few generations ago, the ideal marriage was defined by love, cooperation, and a sense of belonging to a family and community. A marriage is supposed to help the individuals within it become the best versions of themselves. This means that more and more, Americans turn to their spouses for needs they once expected an entire community to fulfill.
: The wedding-industry bonanza, on full display. One way to think outside the monolith of the American marriage is to imagine a world without it. Implicit in the self-sufficiency of the American ideology of marriage is the assumption that care—everything from health care to financial support to self-development and career coaching—falls primarily to one person.
In his book The Marriage-Go-RoundAndrew Cherlin describes the marriage-based family as equivalent to a tall tree: Care and support pass up and down between generations, but more rarely do people branch out to give help or get it from their siblings, aunts and uncles, or cousins. And in different-sex relationships, especially once children are involvedthe work of this care falls disproportionately to women.
Without marriage, this care and support could be redistributed across networks of extended family, neighbors, and friends. Given the frequency of divorce and remarriage or cohabitation, marriage provides only temporary stability for many families. If stability is what matters for kids, then stability, not marriage, should be the primary goal.
Of course, some would argue that, regardless of divorce statistics, marriage is a stabilizing force for relationships, that the commitment itself helps couples stay together when they otherwise might not. A further problem is that social norms surrounding marriage, divorce, and cohabitation have changed rapidly in the past few decades, so getting a reliable longitudinal data set is hard. The stigma attached to divorce or single life can make it difficult to end an unhealthy marriage or choose not to marry at all.
DePaulo thinks people are hungry for a different story. She argues that an emphasis on marriage means people often overlook other meaningful relationships: deep friendships, roommates, chosen families, and wider networks of kin.
These relationships are often important sources of intimacy and support. In her book Families We Choosethe anthropologist Kath Weston wrote about the prominence of these sorts of chosen families in queer communities. These relationships, which were not shaped by legal or biological definitions of kinship, played a central role in queer lives, especially during the AIDS crisis. Importantly, the people Weston interviewed turned to alternative forms of family-making not simply because they were denied access to legal marriage, but also because many had been rejected by their families of origin.
It is too early to tell how the legalization of same-sex marriage will affect queer communities in the generations to come. Abigail Ocobock, a sociologist at the University of Notre Dame, believes queer couples might be more resistant to the isolating effects of marriage, thanks to a long history of community reliance.
Love is the marrow of life, and yet, so often people attempt to funnel it into the narrow channels prescribed by marriage and the nuclear family. And though this setup is seen as a cultural norm, it is not, in reality, the way most Americans are living their lives.
The two-parents-plus-kids family represents only 20 percent of households in the U. But millions of Americans are living alone, with other unmarried adults, or as single parents with children. : How to save marriage in America. Governments, hospitals, insurance companies, and schools assume that marriage and subsequently the nuclear family is the primary unit of care. But of course love—and the care it necessitates—is much more far-reaching and unwieldy than that. What if you could share health-care benefits with your sister and her son?
Or take paid leave to be with a close friend who had an Is it a good idea to get married In a country with epidemic rates of loneliness, expanding our sense of what counts as meaningful love—and acknowledging and supporting relationships in all their forms—could have enormous benefits. Energy spent striving to prop up the insular institution of marriage could instead be spent working to support family stability in whatever form it takes. What is the role of care in our lives? Whom are we offering it to, and where are we finding it?
I hope that might be a reminder to turn toward the people around us as often as we turn toward each other.
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Why Marriage Is Good For You