I was recently house sitting and as I wandered through the house searching for one of the cats, I looked up to find a sign hanging from the laundry room wall. “When I said I DO, I didn’t mean LAUNDRY!” it said, in a bold black typeface. While I feel certain that it was supposed to carry a certain amount of humor, I stopped in my tracks, appalled at its connotations of inequality and traditional gender roles. It also happened to fit in perfectly with a question that I’ve been pondering recently. What does marriage mean in 2013?
was recently house sitting and as I wandered through the house searching for one of the cats, I looked up to find a sign hanging from the laundry room wall. “When I said I DO, I didn’t mean LAUNDRY!” it said, in a bold black typeface. While I feel certain that it was supposed to carry a certain amount of humor, I stopped in my tracks, appalled at its connotations of inequality and traditional gender roles. It also happened to fit in perfectly with a question that I’ve been pondering recently. What does marriage mean in 2013?
Fortunately, I’m not the only one who has been wondering. In April, the New York Times printed two articles about marriage that caught my attention. The first, “When Love Is Not The Wedding’s Only Theme” focuses in on the new trend of theme weddings, and excessive weddings in general. The second, “In the Season of Marriage, a Question. Why Bother?” really hit the nail on the head for me. While it is less remarkable than ever to have a child out of wedlock, demographers still project that at least 80 percent of Americans will marry at some point in their lives. Why will they marry and will they stay that way? Well, that’s another question altogether.
Marriage, what was once the first step into adulthood, now has yet another role as the last step that a successful couple takes as a capstone of their personal life. Even how weddings are paid for shows a huge shift. What was once planned and paid for by the parents is more and more often being completely funded by the couple themselves. In 2012, 36 percent of couples footed their own bill while another 26 percent at least contributed to the cost. This in itself shows that the central meaning is shifting away from a union of families and instead is completely focused on the couple. While the meaning and frequency of marriage may have changed, and continues to do so, it is also clear that is still carries an important role in American society. But at the same time, it is also possible to have a perfectly respectable life without marrying. Have we found the best of both worlds?
Maybe. Cohabiting before marriage (or for the long term) has increased more than 1,500 percent in the past half century, now more than 7.5 million Americans are in a cohabitation arrangement. From the sexual revolution to birth control to economics, young people have more reasons than ever to live together. But unfortunately, it seems to “just happen” more than it is planned. And that becomes problematic, as those folks are more likely to divorce than couples that did not cohabit. Especially since two thirds believed that moving in together before marriage is a good way to avoid divorce. But is it really?
Now more than ever, alternative relationship styles are embraced. From being in an “open relationship” to polyamory, I know more and more folks who choose to set up their love lives in ways that wouldn’t have been accepted in the not-so-distant past. My only concern is that, for some people, it is a trend rather than a true calling. For others, I readily see how it fits in with their personalities. Just as some people really don’t see marriage as the right fit for them.
While not many of my close friends are married, I’ve had an inside view of a few weddings that do certainly fit the “cherry on top” purview. They can be lavish, excessive, and completely bride (maybe groom too, if they’re lucky) centric, these events don’t even resemble the quaint weddings of olde. Looking back at family wedding pictures from the 1960s and 70s, I see a completely different landscape. It was the time of the “mints and nuts” table rather than banquet consisting of a carving station and mashed potato bar, two bridesmaids rather than twelve. The way that some people choose to celebrate now is very different from that of the past. But does it make the difference in their relationship and marriage? Does it create a relationship that is sustainable and equal? That is what it is supposed to be about in the end.
Links to the articles: