Is marriage dying out in the US?
Pinterest-driven receptions and the ability to share cute couple photos on literally every social media platform seem to be the main reasons that couples get married in modern days. Sure, the tax benefits and the excitement and finality of it all are appealing to, but for the most part, marriage isn’t what it used to be.
While we tend to reinforce the archetype of marriage as being the pinnacle goal of a relationship between a man and woman, or more recently and legally between whoever wishes to get married regardless of sex, the concept and functionality of marriage is changing in the U.S. But, to understand where marriage is heading, we need to understand where it has come from.
Dating back to as far as medieval times, marriage was, for the most part, making alliances with neighboring lands and little to do with actual love. Love was more or less a modern extension of the marriage pact. Stephanie Coontz, the author of “Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage” explained to the website Livescience that women were treated more as trade vehicles than cherished significant others.
“What marriage had in common was that it really was not about the relationship between the man and the woman,” Coontz said. “It was a way of getting in-laws, of making alliances and expanding the family labor force.”
It wasn’t until the 17th century that the state had any involvement in marriage, i.e. benefits. About 250 years ago, love matches began rising in popularity, according to Coontz. But, even mutual physical attraction wasn’t mainstream in marriage until a century ago.
The importance of marriage in today’s society, especially with college-aged people seems to be waning. According to a 2012 Pew Research study, never-marries in America, 25 years old and younger, have shown increasing numbers in the 21st century. More and more students want to focus on themselves or don’t want to see a failed marriage like many of their parents had. And, that is okay.
The taboo of couples living together or having sex out of wedlock may have been demanding enough in the 20th century to invoke marriage — which is where shotgun weddings originate — but today, it’s not so socially damning to be with your partner in any form without first getting married.
Now that marriage equality is in the forefront of our minds as a country, I think young lovers in general have analyzed the concept of marriage. Maybe, we’ve seen the downfall of the previous generation having a 50/50 split on marriage and divorce, so the concept is just trivial or daunting. Marriage may still be a quintessential industry, but it’s a losing gambit for future generations.