Marriage: Waiting Longer If At All


A recent e-mail update from “Smart Marriage” included the following two informative insights to a cultural trend away from marriage. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the institution of marriage, but there’s a lot wrong with our expectations of what’s required to make marriage work. Without a strong sense of commitment, couples will not have enough strength to carry them through the tough times. Also, a self-serving expectation of being pleasured, a self-centered motivation for actions, and an attitude of entitlement will simply demand and take from the other person and leave the well dry. When each person gives, then each person receives. The following articles show the results of a culture that doesn’t get it and needs to grow up.

Scripps Howard News Service

Although June is the odds-on favorite month to wed in America, there will be fewer men and women vowing “till death do us part” this year. The National Marriage Project reports that couples taking the plunge have declined by nearly 50 percent since 1970 _ and not just in June, but year-round. Meanwhile, Catholic sources report a sharp decline in church-sanctioned marriages.

Are American men and women losing their capacity for romance? Probably not, but the institution of marriage is met with more skepticism than ever, especially among potential spouses who are the children of divorced parents. If Mom and Dad couldn’t make it work, they fear, what are their own chances?

For some years now, the odds for a lasting marriage have been only 50-50, and even worse for second marriages. Indeed, those couples who divorce tend to do so within the first five years of wedlock. If wedlock were a consumer product, it would be a hard sell, even for Madison Avenue. There are plenty of potential runaway brides _ and grooms _ in America.

Don’t conclude that the mutual attraction of the sexes is any weaker. It just doesn’t necessarily translate into lifelong wedlock. The sharp reduction in marriages has been more than made up by couples living together without benefit of clergy or civil sanction. When the sexual revolution of the 1960s was establishing itself, cohabitation was conceived by couples as a sensible experiment to test compatibility. It has long since become just an easy way to secure sex and allay loneliness without making a commitment.

If cohabitation were a worthy test of compatibility, it would lead to sound marriages. In fact, the divorce rate among cohabiting couples who decide to tie the knot is higher than among couples who postpone a life together until they pronounce their vows.

By some estimates, about 2.3 million couples will buck the trends and get married this year, spending an average $22,360 on the ceremony, reception and honeymoon alone before setting up housekeeping. Cynics call the spouses’ optimism the triumph of hope over experience. The couples themselves will answer that marriage is what love demands.

Joint church attendance is less an indicator of marital happiness than praying together and agreeing on religious values. Some 90 percent of married couples of all ages who pray together report “very great” sexual satisfaction. Nearly half of newlyweds regard their partner as “Godlike,” that is, worthy of worship and adoration, complementing their religious faith. Marriage still holds out the promise of mutual caring in place of lonely isolation.

In the future, many Americans may delay marriage, postpone it indefinitely or shy forever from the risk of its failure. But for courageous couples, wedlock will be a safe harbor in a tempestuous and unpredictable world, offering an intimacy that exists nowhere else, and the promise of living happily ever after.

(David Yount’s latest book is “Celebrating the Rest of Your Life: A Baby Boomer’s Guide to Spirituality” (Augsburg). He answers readers at P.O. Box
2758, Woodbridge, VA 22195)

June 22, 2006
Ideal Age for Marriage: 25 for Women and 27 for Men
Average ideal age for both genders has increased in last 60 years
by Jeffrey M. Jones

A new Gallup Poll shows that the average American believes 25 is the best age for a woman to marry and 27 is the best age for a man. Relatively few Americans believe that women should be married by age 21, a dramatic shift from a 1946 Gallup Poll. The median ideal age for women to marry has increased from 21 in 1946 to 25 today, while the ideal age for men has shown a smaller increase.


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