Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Marriage Disparaged

I believe that human social evolution has outgrown our traditional concept of marriage. The evidence of this is abundant.

More than half of American marriages end in divorce. Between 1970 and 2000, the proportion of American women who were divorced more than doubled. The majority of divorce petitions are filed by women.

Seems strange that women seek divorce more than men, and arguably seek marriage more as well. What's that about?

The reasons for getting divorced match the reasons for getting married (e.g. financial, sexual, child rearing, love, etc.).

American marriages last longer when the woman grew up with both parents, find religion important in their lives, have a high family income, live in a community with high median income, low male unemployment, and low poverty. These same factors increase the duration of cohabitating relationships as well.

I believe it is elements of our social evolution that has caused us to outgrow the old concept of marriage and necessitates that we adapt to a new. The social revolutions of the 50's, 60's, 70's, & 80's changed the social landscape. The civil rights movement, women's liberation movement, and LGBTQIA movement increased the number of relationship options.

Now we have more interracial marriages than ever in American history and they are more socially accepted then ever. Sex before marriage and cohabitation are more prevalent and less taboo. Marriage is no longer only between a man and a woman. More than half of marriages have one or both partners cheating. Polygamy is on the rise. Our sexual liberation has played havoc with the balance maintained by marriages of old. As a result, we must broaden our concept of marriage.

I do not advocate that we slow down and go back to the old ways. I think we are past any point of return. I'm not sure that the good old days were all that they are cracked up to be. I'm waiting to see how far we take it. Seeing something on its way to a destination, finally arrive at its destination, has never frightened me. In fact, it has only delighted me.

I wish good luck to all those doing the traditional marriage. You are truly blessed if you maintain it. Married people are the happiest, healthiest, longest living, and least likely to commit suicide people in the world.

But the odds are stacked against you. That is why I advocate a change from the traditional death do you part marriage, to a contract where the parties negotiate terms periodically. Then you can get married for as long or as short as you are comfortable and you already have a manual for staying married and for getting divorced. It is a living document that you can alter every month, quarter, year, whenever you agree to.

This relationship contract is complex in practice but in my experience it has proven effective in improving communication and follow-through for couples.


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