Magazine article USA TODAY

The Demise of Marriage

Magazine article USA TODAY

The Demise of Marriage

Article excerpt

THROUGHOUT THE CENTURIES, marriage has withstood barbs, jokes, criticisms, and countless jibes but, until now, it has held its own as the glue that keeps society together. A standard wise-guy remark was the quip that, while marriage may be a wonderful institution, who wants to live in an institution? Then there was that common complaint echoed in the song that "those wedding bells are breaking up that old gang of mine." Even polygamy, whether of the type of many wives to one husband or the reverse, generally respects marriage. One can understand how a warrior society would be short of men, or a poverty-stricken one necessitate the sharing of wives. Marriage once was so important that "shotgun" marriages were commonplace. At least this conferred the cloak of respectability upon the union.

Nonetheless, our time is experiencing not only the dissolution of marriages more rapidly than ever, but the disappearance of traditional marriage itself. It seems an anomaly that gays and lesbians are pushing for recognition of marriage when it is a fading phenomenon. Attitudes toward marriage have changed. Seventy percent of black children are born to single mothers in the U.S. The mothers themselves, who would benefit most from marriage, seem not to mind. A substantial number of white women, whose biological clock for having babies is winding down, would like to experience the fulfillment of their sex--i.e., motherhood--but without the obligation of a husband hanging around and crimping their lifestyle. They raise the question that, in our age of near female self-sufficiency, who needs a husband? An article in Forbes Magazine contends that a man never should marry a career woman, as her focus necessarily is on success in the world of business and not the domestic side--if it even exists--of her life. Society no longer looks askance at what used to be called "old maids," nor does it condemn the commonplace reality of begetting what used to be called "illegitimate children" (a fact that once had been printed on the birth certificate itself).

When couples do get married today, it is at a decidedly later age. There are a number of good reasons for this, but in our hedonistic culture, there is the desire to sow one's wild oats before settling down. This especially is true for men, but also increasingly so for women. The women's liberation movement certainly has inspired the--dare we say--fairer sex to think twice about falling into the old ways of being a housewife, instead of exploring an exhilarating and newfound freedom.

Most women never did marry for sexual pleasure anyway, as their libidos rarely were as strong as those of men. (The standard joke among men was: "How does one diminish the sex drive of a woman?" The answer: "Marry her!") In earlier days, women married for financial security and the wherewithal needed to raise a family. If truth be told, women always bore the greater burdens involved in marriage and one can understand a certain reluctance to tie the knot today. The overall tenor of our times portrays an attitude of noncommitment in more and more matters. This certainly provides a backdrop for understanding the demise of marriage, which requires deep commitment.

In former times, royalty and wealthy classes used marriage as a way to preserve their status and way of life. …

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