Does Marriage Still Matter in Virginia?
Does Marriage Still Matter in Virginia? Belinda Luscombe in Time Magazine says “not as much as it used to.” According to a fascinating nationwide poll conducted by the Pew Research Center, 40% of Americans now believe “marriage is obsolete.” No longer is marriage necessary for “sex or companionship or professional success or respect or even children.” Compared to 1960, the percentage of married Americans has fallen 20% and the age at which Americans marry has steadily risen. It seems Americans still want to get married, but now they want to first finish their college educations, launch careers, and even “test drive” prospective partners by living with them.
Brian Alexander at MSNBC.com doesn’t see marriage as falling apart. Instead, he believes most people still want to get married, but now view it as “a menu choice” rather than a requirement. New paths – including cohabitation and gay parenthood – have emerged “as not only morally acceptable, but equally workable.” Consider, for example, Britain’s Prince William and his fiancée, Kate Middleton. Soon they will become a symbol of marriage, but first they dated for several years and then lived together for another. Only after completing their “test drive” did they feel ready to say “till death do us part.”
Marriage isn’t going anywhere. Couples are instead becoming more cautious about marriage (while perhaps also becoming less cautious about other things). Whether a couple reaches their decision to marry after years of living together or after a few short dates is up to them. As unromantic as it may seem, however, many couples now recognize marriage as more than a personal relationship between a man and a woman. Marriage creates rights; it’s a contract on many, many levels. They need look only as far as a divorcing friend, neighbor or celebrity to see how difficult and painful untangling those rights can be. Understanding those rights is as important getting into a marriage as it is getting out of one. If you would like to discuss the rights created by marriage and the steps you might take to reduce some of the uncertainty created by them, please feel free to give me a call.
UPDATE: USA TODAY recently published a statistic that cohabitation involving romantic partners rose 13% in 2010 – more than double to average annual increase of recent years. Sadly, just 39% percent of those couples have two incomes, so the paper posited that higher unemployment may be motivating dating partners to save on housing costs by moving in with each other.