The death of marriage

How would you feel if someone told you that you’d never get married? Chances are, you’d feel a sense of loss, or maybe just a sense of annoyance that they were making predications about your love life (really, things aren’t going THAT badly, yet). Most of us sort of assume that somewhere along the way we’ll meet that special someone and settle down to start a family, buy a house and max out our personal credit cards on tutus and soccer cleats. Few of us actually plan to “go it alone” as a single parent, and even fewer of us plan to live with someone for years at a time and raise children together without ever making it “official.” These things usually just “happen” rather than being planned out that way. However, there is a growing trend in Western societies as a whole that makes the death of marriage a real possibility in the near future. While no one is talking about taking the marriage laws off of the books just yet, in several European countries and even right here in America, we’re starting to see a sharp increase in out-of-wedlock births, cohabitation and down-right hostility toward marriage. I have even personally run into a few young women who sound as bitter and estranged from the very concept of getting married as old, divorced men typically do. If we care to investigate, we can see where this sort of thing is eventually headed just by looking at our European counterparts. The Scandinavian countries in particular have almost completely done away with marriage as an institution with any more significance than simple cohabitation. A surprising number of the younger generation in this region has no plans to marry, ever, for any reason. They date, move in together, have children, raise them, and grow old all without the usual trappings we associate with marriage. There is no formal ceremony to mark many committed relationships, and they like it just fine that way. Many would argue that this is a good thing. After all, marriage is supposed to be about the “relationship” between husband and wife. If that relationship is strong enough to support a marriage, then why do we need to bother getting married? What does marriage add to the equation? And if a relationship isn’t strong enough for marriage, wouldn’t it be better to remain legally separate to avoid the difficulties and animosities of getting a divorce? And for those who believe marriage is an institution specifically designed to encourage inequality between the sexes, the death of marriage is pleasant news indeed. While most self-proclaimed feminists would rather reform marriage than do away with it, anything which reduces the divide between men and women and brings us closer to a truly egalitarian society would be considered a “good thing” by them. So, while marriage is to a certain extent still one of the staples of life here in America, one of the dependable events like birth, death and taxes, it seems to be slowly dissolving into a quaint little ceremony a few “traditionalists” will keep alive because that’s what traditionalists do. In fact, many in Generation Y are starting to see marriage as nothing more than an expensive event with a lot of legal red tape should things eventually go bad. While I don’t personally agree with them (a lot of the laws surrounding marriage are pretty sweet, especially with inheritance, power of attorney, and stuff like that), I suppose it doesn’t really matter. It’s not like they’ll somehow keep me from getting married one day, should I choose to.