Is Marriage On the Way Out?

While many homosexuals take pride in being up with all the current trends, marriage has been trending down for some time now.  Instead of being trend setting might same sex marriage be the last gasp of an institution in vital need of a major revamping? 

Younger heterosexual Americans, especially men but even many young women, often see little benefit from marriage, even when children are involved.  In part that is because they have seen that the contract being entered into can be unilaterally broken at any time by either party for no reason at all.  And despite the entirely hollow nature of the promises being made, these young people often have direct experience about how damnably messy and expensive the whole marriage thing is, both to enter into and to unwind afterwards. 

Young people have always tended to pick up on all kinds of hypocrisy their elders accept as a fact of life.  Thus I have to wonder if the way in which the entire billion dollar marriage industry now talks endlessly about how finding one's soul mate is the only reasons to get married contributes to the sourness.   For the quest for that perfect soul mate smacks of both narcissism and magical thinking. There are estimated to be around 7.2 billion people on earth.  The idea that only one person among that horde can make someone truly happy is preposterous. Indeed I suspect those who cling to the soul mate concept may, in fact, be allergic to true happiness, as that is based in selflessness and making the most of circumstances.  

By focusing on celebrating soul mates the building block of society has slowly been turned into an often pretentious and expensive excuse for having a party for the sole purpose of impressing others. How much appeal do such exercises in conspicuous consumption have to young men and women in debt from college and with diminished career prospects?  And to young people from blue collar backgrounds all this focus on an expensive public ritual might as well be from another planet. 

I recently talked to a 28 year old widow from a blue collar family not unlike the Fishtown residents Charles Murray wrote about in Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010.  Let's call her Mandy- not her real name.   Mandy's husband's untimely death left her with two young children.  She has since met another man and had a child by him. This new man has become part of a three generation household with Mandy's father and grandmother.  She finds he is a better match for her than her late husband, but she is in no great hurry to re-marry.  Indeed, she doubts she ever will. 

That's because Mandy's experience with marriage has not been positive.   Her own parents had a contentious marriage that ended bitterly when she was 16.  Her parents had always fought, sometimes to the point at which the authorities had to intervene.  But after her mother became hooked on prescription painkillers the fighting increased.  Drugs became more important than husband and even children. Her parents legally separated when her mother's dire need for money to pay for the drugs first landed him in debt and then took a serious turn unto illegality.  He had to separate to save his good name.  But perhaps because he has trouble acknowledging failure, Mandy's father did not press for divorce. This was despite constant pressure from his then girlfriend. It is not a religious family, but it is one that lives by a code of honor.  Mandy's father had vowed until death do us part, and he was loath to break his word, even for cause. 

Mandy is quite frank about her parents.  She readily admits that as children she and her sister always took their mother's side and saw their father as the problem.  In hindsight, she knows that while her father is no angel, it was her mother who provoked almost all of the confrontations and in fact her father often showed admirable restraint.   And while both daughters went with their mother when their parents separated, Mandy moved out as soon as she could.  The drug scene her mother descended into frightened her.  That scene killed her mother within six years of the marital separation. It also ensnared her younger sister for several years. 

Seeking some stability in her life. Mandy quickly found a young man with a good job and married at age 18.  She thought she was happy, but when her husband died suddenly after several years of marriage, she soon realized theirs had not been a true partnership.    He had been a good provider, so she had not had to work outside the home.  But she had also been kept entirely in the dark about everything other than their kids and her household duties.  She didn't have a driver’s license because he insisted he could take her where ever she wanted to go. He paid all the bills. She didn't how to even write a check or read a bank statement.  The man she had relied upon as an anchor had, in fact, enjoyed keeping her dependent upon him for everything. 

Mandy's father's remarriage after her mother's death further soured her on marriage.  Her 50-year-old father tried to play the white knight to a woman his own daughter’s age.  This young woman's family background makes Mandy's own life look almost idyllic, as her father's  new bride is the third of four children by four different men. Mandy and the rest of his family were wary of this marriage, but her father ignored their urgings to be cautious. His gallantry was first rewarded when his emotionally damaged bride ended a fight by firing a round from the Glock he had taught her to use an inch away from where he stood.  After they legally separated and she was charged with assault with a deadly weapon and attempted murder, Mandy's stepmother tried to stick her father with child support for another man's offspring. She persisted even after the DNA test proved he is not the father of her baby. He also had to fight his new bride over ownership of his house, which he had purchased during his first marriage.

I found Mandy's lack of enthusiasm about marriage entirely rational based upon her experience.

While many homosexuals take pride in being up with all the current trends, marriage has been trending down for some time now.  Instead of being trend setting might same sex marriage be the last gasp of an institution in vital need of a major revamping? 

Younger heterosexual Americans, especially men but even many young women, often see little benefit from marriage, even when children are involved.  In part that is because they have seen that the contract being entered into can be unilaterally broken at any time by either party for no reason at all.  And despite the entirely hollow nature of the promises being made, these young people often have direct experience about how damnably messy and expensive the whole marriage thing is, both to enter into and to unwind afterwards. 

Young people have always tended to pick up on all kinds of hypocrisy their elders accept as a fact of life.  Thus I have to wonder if the way in which the entire billion dollar marriage industry now talks endlessly about how finding one's soul mate is the only reasons to get married contributes to the sourness.   For the quest for that perfect soul mate smacks of both narcissism and magical thinking. There are estimated to be around 7.2 billion people on earth.  The idea that only one person among that horde can make someone truly happy is preposterous. Indeed I suspect those who cling to the soul mate concept may, in fact, be allergic to true happiness, as that is based in selflessness and making the most of circumstances.  

By focusing on celebrating soul mates the building block of society has slowly been turned into an often pretentious and expensive excuse for having a party for the sole purpose of impressing others. How much appeal do such exercises in conspicuous consumption have to young men and women in debt from college and with diminished career prospects?  And to young people from blue collar backgrounds all this focus on an expensive public ritual might as well be from another planet. 

I recently talked to a 28 year old widow from a blue collar family not unlike the Fishtown residents Charles Murray wrote about in Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010.  Let's call her Mandy- not her real name.   Mandy's husband's untimely death left her with two young children.  She has since met another man and had a child by him. This new man has become part of a three generation household with Mandy's father and grandmother.  She finds he is a better match for her than her late husband, but she is in no great hurry to re-marry.  Indeed, she doubts she ever will. 

That's because Mandy's experience with marriage has not been positive.   Her own parents had a contentious marriage that ended bitterly when she was 16.  Her parents had always fought, sometimes to the point at which the authorities had to intervene.  But after her mother became hooked on prescription painkillers the fighting increased.  Drugs became more important than husband and even children. Her parents legally separated when her mother's dire need for money to pay for the drugs first landed him in debt and then took a serious turn unto illegality.  He had to separate to save his good name.  But perhaps because he has trouble acknowledging failure, Mandy's father did not press for divorce. This was despite constant pressure from his then girlfriend. It is not a religious family, but it is one that lives by a code of honor.  Mandy's father had vowed until death do us part, and he was loath to break his word, even for cause. 

Mandy is quite frank about her parents.  She readily admits that as children she and her sister always took their mother's side and saw their father as the problem.  In hindsight, she knows that while her father is no angel, it was her mother who provoked almost all of the confrontations and in fact her father often showed admirable restraint.   And while both daughters went with their mother when their parents separated, Mandy moved out as soon as she could.  The drug scene her mother descended into frightened her.  That scene killed her mother within six years of the marital separation. It also ensnared her younger sister for several years. 

Seeking some stability in her life. Mandy quickly found a young man with a good job and married at age 18.  She thought she was happy, but when her husband died suddenly after several years of marriage, she soon realized theirs had not been a true partnership.    He had been a good provider, so she had not had to work outside the home.  But she had also been kept entirely in the dark about everything other than their kids and her household duties.  She didn't have a driver’s license because he insisted he could take her where ever she wanted to go. He paid all the bills. She didn't how to even write a check or read a bank statement.  The man she had relied upon as an anchor had, in fact, enjoyed keeping her dependent upon him for everything. 

Mandy's father's remarriage after her mother's death further soured her on marriage.  Her 50-year-old father tried to play the white knight to a woman his own daughter’s age.  This young woman's family background makes Mandy's own life look almost idyllic, as her father's  new bride is the third of four children by four different men. Mandy and the rest of his family were wary of this marriage, but her father ignored their urgings to be cautious. His gallantry was first rewarded when his emotionally damaged bride ended a fight by firing a round from the Glock he had taught her to use an inch away from where he stood.  After they legally separated and she was charged with assault with a deadly weapon and attempted murder, Mandy's stepmother tried to stick her father with child support for another man's offspring. She persisted even after the DNA test proved he is not the father of her baby. He also had to fight his new bride over ownership of his house, which he had purchased during his first marriage.

I found Mandy's lack of enthusiasm about marriage entirely rational based upon her experience.