Trending: Saying No To Marriage

The National Marriage Project, which conducts research on marriage and family in the United States, has a new report out on divorce, cohabitation and marriage. When it comes to living together, the research found that in the last 40 years… …there has been a twelvefold increase in the number of cohabiting households. The report says that 42% of children have lived with cohabiting parents by age twelve. The researchers don’t think this is a good thing. They say that, “family instability is on the rise for American children as a whole” because “more couples are having children in cohabiting unions, which are very unstable.” The research also indicates that “children in cohabiting households are more likely to suffer from a range of emotional and social problems…compared to children in intact, married families.” It also showed that “rates of child abuse are lowest in families with two married biological parents, and highest when there is an unmarried unrelated partner in the home.”

Cohabitating couples with children may have their problems, at least according to this research, but it is worth looking at why more people seem to not want to marry. Take the Millennial generation, or Echo Boomers. An average of 22% of people ages 18-31 are not married. Why might they not want to marry? Here are just three reasons:

1. They have witnessed a lot of divorce from generations before them. If it was with their own parents, they experienced the divorce first hand, and all the pain and ugliness that that can include, from custody battles to trying to force alliances with one parent or the other.

2. Financial concerns. This generation is suffering from the state of the economy. A Pew Research Center report indicates that 10% say the poor economy has forced them to move back in with their parents. Twelve percent say they have had to get a roommate. Fifteen percent younger than 35 say they have postponed getting married because of the bad economic times we are in.

3. This generation has more single parents than former generations. The idea of tying the civil knot with someone who already has kids might very well butt up against #2—financial concerns.

It’s also interesting to note that a good share of those in this age range do not have kids. 2010 Census research tells us that 70% of women ages 20-24 do not have children, and almost half of those ages 25-29  do not have children. The data do not discern whether they are childfree or just not ready to become a parent–yet.  Whether they want to marry or not, financial concerns from the state of the economy may very well play a role in why those who want children don’t have them yet. And the same kind of considerations may factor into why many don’t want them at all.

But back to marriage versus cohabitation, the National Marriage Project has been known as a “pro-marriage” organization, so it is not surprising that they focus on the negatives that can result when families do not engage in the traditional institution when it comes to having a committed relationship and children.

However, does the “instability” it speaks to really boil down to overall economic instability more than anything else? It seems more than the kind of commitment a couple chooses, one union in the eyes of the state and one not, if there was more economic stability in our society, committed partners and their children, married or not, would be better off.

What do you see out there when it comes to why people don’t want to marry?

8 thoughts on “Trending: Saying No To Marriage

  1. What most people seem to over look is that “marriage” as it is known today is a modern invention it is not something which has been around all that long when you look at the span of life on this planet.

    Many cultures it didn’t exist in til the concept was either forced upon them or adapted over time to be the case, poly families and the like use to be much more common and something which was accepted and just part of life. Thought the concept of one mate for life isn’t new, many in the animal kingdom have this going on (though just as many if not more don’t).

    As to why people have little interest in marrying I can only cite my own reasons in this regard and for myself it was because I saw no reason for it, after a year or so under the law of my Provence I would be “married” and entitled to pretty much all that a married person is entitlement to, so why go though the marriage process if its not necessary to do so. You still have the same legal issues should the union fall apart if you are common law as being married so it made no difference.

    I did however get married, but it was mostly because of the person I had fallen in love with who wished to get married more than my own wish on the matter, that and outside issues that marriage would solve vs having to do it the common law way (political/governmental red tape) that made getting married a more practical option when all was said and dun.

  2. I am 48 and have little if any interest in getting married. I like living alone for many of the same reasons I am childfree – I like the personal freedom as well as the peace and quiet. I am a bit of a loner although I have had a steady ladyfriend for the last 7 years.

  3. Marriage has never been a priority in my family. My parents never married and my aunt recently married her boyfriend of 15 years (fiance of two). So you could say it’s been culturally inherited for me. Additionally, I live in Canada, where the average age of first marriage is 2 years older than Americans. So by 31, it would be slightly over half (if that) that have been married here.

    1. 20something–Thanks for reason #4–cohab was modeled with parents and other family members. Do you know the reason why you aunt married after 15 years together? Just curious. ~L

  4. Hi Laura, well they actually got engaged after 15 years together so it was 17 years in total… and just because they were an older couple with no intent to have kids. So I think without the pressure of the taboo (not having children unmarried), there’s a lot less pressure on any couple to even get married.

    I read a statistic that the average cost of an American wedding (keep in mind that this was before the crash of 2008) was $25,000. That alone would be a big factor leading to the decline of marriage. If people feel like they have to spend a lot on a wedding (keeping up with the Joneses) then maybe those who can’t afford the appearances would rather opt out.

  5. You know, marriage… I could take it or leave it. My husband? Him I would never want to live without, so I let him marry me. So far, so good 🙂

  6. Finally, an article that gets it!!! I’m 26, childfree and marriage free although in a committed (going on 8 years together), loving, stable relationship. I’m glad to find that people are taking a further look into why part of my generation is reluctant to follow the good ol’ life script, instead of generalizing that it’s because we’re self-centered, selfish a-holes. I think older generations don’t give us enough credit. What they don’t realize is that we are actually very observant, we DO learn from other’s mistakes and we DO like to question old rules and traditions. And if they don’t make sense in context to the modern world then (I speak for myself) why keep following them?

    Personally, getting married and having children just isn’t necessary to one’s survival in the modern world. Your life isn’t at stake if you don’t marry or have children. You’re not going to die if you don’t do either of these. Now, if this was the 1800’s and I was making my way west on the Oregon Trail then yeah getting married and having children probably would be very integral to my survival. But it ain’t 1800 anymore. The rules of life have changed and marriage and having children are merely life style choices. I think the article hit the nail on the head. All the reasons stated were thoughts I had when I was still trying to figure out if marriage and childrearing were for me. Frankly, I figured that getting by on my own is hard enough in today’s world. Why would I think that having a marriage license, throwing a wedding, and adding more mouths to feed is going to make my getting by easier? I already have family that supports me, and me them. I don’t understand why I have to form a family that’s “all my own”. The human race is my family.

    Moreover, why do relationships have to be defined by this very small parameter called marriage? Human relationships are so, very, very complex why pigeon hole them and try to put them all under this one narrowly defined umbrella term? Why is the couple that cohabitates and is long term worse off than those that are married short term? Why do I need a piece of paper to “guarantee” that my partner will stay with me the rest of my life? Don’t you find this notion a little weird? I mean, if you really do love someone why not grant them the freedom to exit the relationship if it’s not working for them? I’d rather someone leave me and be happy than stay with me and be miserable. The idea to demand a marriage as a guarantee of long term commitment seems a bit tyrannical. Why do you need to enter into this legally binding contract to prove you’re committed to the relationship anyway? Why do we insist on the notion that you can only have 1 person to love the rest of your life? What if I change, what if they change, what if the chemistry just isn’t there anymore after 10, 20, 30, 40 years? What if I discover later that I’m bi-curious, or polyamorous, or maybe just a loner? Why insist on staying in a fruitless relationship just because society and religion have established that once you sign on the dotted line you can’t go back. Children once made can’t go back; marriages once made (especially those without children) can definitely go back. Just my two cents as a millennial who’s living proof that you don’t have to be married or have children to have a happy, fulfilling life and be in a long term committed relationship. And I have no intentions of changing any of that ever. I enjoy my freedom to do whatever the hell I want, including choosing not to follow the status quo.

    1. somethingrandom–awesome comment. Marriage started as more of a business deal–to put families together so that there would be more property and wealth for all in that family. Somehow it became about love–life long monogamy love, but only about a century or so ago. I watch with great interest how marriage will evolve with your and future generations….

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