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Could marriage become obsolete? Why is this question being proposed? Well, maybe because the latest statistics reflect this trend in our society.
The usual decision — which was reflected in our society in 1960, when 72 percent of all adults, ages 18 and older, were married — has changed percentage-wise to just over 50 percent with some predicting that within a few years the number will drop below the half-way mark.
What has happened? Where are we going? Why the overall change? Are there any worthwhile answers?
Well, in 2010, a Pew Research Center/Time Magazine survey asked the American public if marriage was becoming obsolete. Nearly 40 percent said yes. Some accompanying statistics included that the above stated figure of 72 percent of all adults and 68 percent of people in their 20s had dropped by 2008 to 52 percent and 26 percent, respectively.
The Pew report recognized the watershed impact on society of the attitudes revealed in the study, saying, “it is no small thing when nearly four-in-ten (39 percent) Americans agree that the most enduring relationship in the world is becoming obsolete.”
Maybe the changes in our overall society — a postmodern philosophy which says, in effect, the only standard for behavior is what seems right for you at the moment — may have produced a volatile mixture that threatens to destroy restraining institutions that ensure order and stability.
Along with that, could be that sex-without-commitment philosophy, that pleasure is the greatest good, no longer bears the marks of a social stigma. The thought may be, “Why should I be bound by societal restrictions or ancient, outdated mores? I want to rule my own life.”
USA today reporter Sharon Jayson, who frequently writes about cultural trends, observed that living together has become so mainstream that growing numbers of Americans view it as an alternative to marriage. In her article, she quotes the author of a recent book on cohabitation who says, “(Cohabitation is) what is happening in the world of dating, and it is not necessarily a path to anywhere.”
I guess, in other words, cohabitating couples do not necessarily see living together as a “marriage test” to see whether they want to take the next step and tie the knot. They accept the arrangement on its own terms, simply for the momentary benefits it gives without concern for long-term goals or commitments.
In a national poll in 1969, 66 percent of Americans believed premarital sex was wrong, But in 2009, another national poll conducted by CBS/New York Times indicated that a full 60 percent of the population believed that premarital sex was not wrong.
Yet, to point out my own experience as a professional counselor for the past 40-plus years, most of the young people over 16 years of age, talk about “someday, when I get married...” and plans for their futures are presented as it relates to who would be the ideal mate, the children (how many, not if), among other things.
Many people also believe that if they have been divorced that they have already sinned, and have yet to experience God having forgiven them, but once they have come to God for forgiveness, and meant it from their hearts, God not only forgives but also has chosen to forget: “Their sins and their iniquities I will remember no more” (Hebrews 8:13). Of course this offer is open to only those who believe in God, who have made a decision to follow God in their lives.
In spite of the statistics, marriage can still be a wonderful life, sharing your life with someone you truly love especially as that love continues to gain strength over the years.
The struggles with divorce and the subsequent pain and complications is the reason that The Gathering Community Church, located at 51 W. Main St. here in Taylorsville sponsors a program each Monday evening at 7 p.m. for those who are divorced, or are currently in the process of divorce, to receive assistance, support and encouragement.
Although I conduct the program, I am assisted by Joyce Nalley, who has experienced divorce. While I am still married (now 54-plus years), I have counseled with hundreds of divorced persons over the past 40 years.
For more information, call 477-2818 or email email@example.com.