Marriage in the U.S.A.

Divorce concept

Yesterday on a whim, I went to see a love-story movie called ” The Spectacular Now”. I did not suspect many people to be at an early afternoon showing, but was surprised the only attendees were two other late middle-aged men and me. I loved the film and believe a lot more men enjoy a romantic movie then they will readily admit. I suspect it gets easier as one gets older to openly be one’s true self.

By coincidence I later yesterday came across a Pew Social Trends article that included stats on the state of marriage in the U.S.A. I knew things had changed, but how much was surprising.

In the Pew research, when asked “Is marriage becoming obsolete” 39% of people of all ages said “yes”. The statistic become about five percentage worse with those under 30 and about ten percent better for people 50 years old or older. Either way, three to four people out of ten say marriage is obsolete.

In 1960 the average age for a first marriage was just under 23 for men and just over 20 for women. Fast forward fifty years and the average was almost 29 for men and near 27 for women. That’s around a 30% increase for the age of a first marriage.

In 1960, 45% of 18-24 year olds were married while in 2010 only 9% were. The trend is in the same direction with all ages groups from fifty years ago compared to modern times: 25-35 year old 82% married then compared to 44% now, 35-44 year olds 86% were married in 1960 compared to 62% today. Even for 45+ the statistics show 70% versus 61%.

I was not surprised to find the rate of co-habiting couples is rising. Less than a million couples were co-habiting in 1960, compared to 7.5 million in 2010 or fifteen times as many.

Andrew Cherlin, a sociologist at Johns Hopkins University and the author of “The Marriage-Go-Round…” wrote, Getting married is a way to show family and friends that you have a successful personal life. It’s like the ultimate merit badge. Given how hard it is for so many people to find (and stay in) satisfying, long-term relationships in this day and age, I tend to think someone with a “successful personal life” has plenty of close friends and knows how to spend her/his off-hours in an enjoyable way. Or maybe that’s just how I make my self feel okay about being a middle-aged single.

Marriage has found me twice: once at twenty-two years old (too young) and again at fifty-two. Both ended up in divorce with much more of the fault being mine than my spouses. Interesting how hindsight gives such clarity. At the time both unions were falling apart I put the majority of  blame on my wife; DENIAL in all capital letters!

Will ‘the third time’ be the charm for me to be married? Honestly, I have no idea. My life is contented and I’m blessed with wonderful friends. Fortunately my health is good, I have a grateful outlook on life, an optimistic attitude about the future and am open to whatever form what’s ahead may appear. I know well what it is like to be miserably married. I am grateful that is not my life today!

Men marry women with the hope
they will never change.
Women marry men
with the hope they will change.
Invariably they are both disappointed.
Albert Einstein

Statistics and interpretations found on the following sites: