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What’s happening to marriage?
Last year, a study released by the National Center for Marriage and Family Research found that the marriage rate in the United Sates is 31.1, or 31 marriages per 1,000 unmarried women. That means for every 1,000 unmarried women in the U.S., 31 of those previously single women got married in the last year. For comparison, in 1920, the national marriage rate was 92.3.
In 2011, the Pew Research Center found that 51% of Americans were married, compared to 72 percent in 1960. However, the cohabitation rate is rising. According to Demographic Intelligence, less than half a million couples were cohabiting in 1960, compared to 7.5 million in 2010.
Clearly, people are still getting married, but the reasons why we do it—and don’t do it—are evolving.
This article in The Atlantic says that traditional marriage is dying and suggests that college-educated couples are pointing toward a new model with children at the heart of the union. It’s a bit long, but definitely worth a read if you’re interested in how this new marriage model—referred to as “HIP”—is shaping the conversation.
But, if you don’t have time to read all of it, let’s talk about one of the main points.There are three key motivations for marriage: money, love, and child-rearing. The Atlantic uses this chart to illustrate the characteristics of the three types of marriages—traditional, romantic, and HIP—that go with the motivations.
The HIP marriage is focused on raising children. The fact is, people don’t have to get married for sexual fulfillment, personal happiness, financial security, or even to have children. But HIP marriages are all about the kids: “The central rationale for these marriages is to raise children together, in a settled, nurturing environment. So, well-educated Americans are ensuring that they are financially stable before having children, by delaying childrearing. They are also putting their relationship on a sound footing too—they’re not in the business of love at first sight, rushing to the altar, or eloping to Vegas. College graduates take their time to select a partner; and then, once the marriage is at least a couple of years old, take the final step and become parents. Money, marriage, maternity: in that order.”
One of the writer’s positions is that if we want to promote marriage, we must promote parenting. Women don’t need to be tied to a man and vice versa, but children do need engaged, loving parents–ideally two. “Recast for the modern world, and re-founded on the virtue of committed parenting, marriage may yet have a future.”
The article touches on how the model shifts over the course of a HIP marriage. For example, when my husband and I married (I was 29, he was 34), it was for love, of course, and we had a few years in the romantic model before the kids were born. Then, we shifted gears to the HIP model. Circumstances have changed again, so although we’re still HIP, we have some elements of the traditional model. My husband is the primary money-earner. While I do work from home, my main focus is raising our young children.
It’s interesting how modern marriage is different from even a generation ago. I was raised in a traditional nuclear family. My husband was raised by a divorced mother with extended family support. Our marriage combines some tradition, but when it comes to raising children, both of us are engaged with them in ways parents of our generation were not. Quite a bit of our union is focused on raising happy, well-adjusted children together.
And that’s part of the changing face of marriage. In the 21st century, there isn’t just one marriage model.
How about you? What category does your marriage fit into? Or does it fall in more than one? Take the poll and share your thoughts.
Alexis Trass Walker lives in Gary, Indiana, with her husband and four children. She is managing editor of Good Enough Mother. Read more about Alexis on her blog www.lilliebelle.org or follow her on Twitter @LillieBelle5. You can email her at alexis [at] goodenoughmother [dot] com.