Marriage in America Today

marriage

Marriage in America Today

The number of people getting married is declining. Experts say the marriage rate today is lower than it was in 1880, another time when extreme differences in income affected the social landscape. Though marriage is touted in America and many societies as helping to preserve the social order, the atmosphere with which we operate is far from conducive in promoting it. In the original Gilded Age as Mark Twain called it, a new class of industrialists slashed wages and with it the prospects of workers of marrying age, mostly male factory workers. Sociologist Andrew J. Cherlin at John Hopkins University wrote that one difference today is many are choosing to cohabitate and have children without a marriage license filed away in the family home. That would never do in the 19th century. But today it’s quite common.

One problem is the gatekeepers to pop culture, the TV and movie writers, musical artists and others have failed to keep up and give us an image we can hang onto for this new state of affairs in how long-term love should be.  Zoë Heller at the New York Review of Books says films today and other cultural milieu are filled with simplistic plots and clichés about love, without delving into the complicated minutia of modern relationships and how best to navigate them. They don’t reflect what people are actually experiencing, nor do they give a strategy for which to encounter the prickly paradigm of modern love. Supporters of traditional values decry the end of marriage as it once was. But couples staying together longer show greater stability, know each other better and perhaps can best negotiate differences. The expense of a wedding, weakening norms and lack of financial benefit may result in a further decline in marriage, experts believe. On the upshot for advocates, statistics show that those who are getting married stay together longer. Also, the divorce rate has dropped dramatically. In fact, since the 1980’s, divorce has been in deep decline. 70% of those who married in the 1990s celebrate their 15th wedding anniversary today. That’s 5% higher than those who married in the 70’s and 80’s. Those who tied the knot in the new millennium have an even lower divorce rate.

According to economist Justin Wolfer at the University of Michigan, two-thirds of married couples today stay together. For those cases where divorce does occur, two-thirds of the time it’s the wife who wants it. The reason is women’s expectations for marriage have vastly changed. Gender roles in America saw a dramatic paradigm shift over the past two decades due to the Feminist movement. This in turn affected how both sexes interact with one another. Today, marriage isn’t only about raising a family or having financial support. It’s about love and partnership. People also want someone who will help lead them into personal growth. They want to grow and better themselves and they look to their partner to help them complete their metamorphosis. A lot of times, when we feel as though we are in a stale relationship and the well has gone dry, we feel it’s time to move on. The baby boomer generation remains the one with the highest rate of divorce. People are living older nowadays, and so when the children have moved out and they still have decades of life left, they want to make the most of it. That sometimes means leaving someone they no longer connect with in order to enjoy those years with someone they do. For more on this topic read, The Marriage-Go-Round: The State of Marriage and the Family in America Today by Andrew J. Cherlin.

Denying Marriage until they pay down their Debt

COUPLE-MONEY

Denying Marriage until they pay down their Debt

Due to the Great Recession, people are being more careful about marriage and are cohabitating longer. They know how expensive divorce can be, not to mention how draining. But there’s another phenomenon too. Some people are denying their lovers their hand in marriage until they pay down their debt. The credit score is almighty today, allowing access to homes, cars and businesses, or denying access depending on how that person handles money. One spouse’s debt affects both of their credit. With lots of plans for the future, no one wants to get tied down or lassoed with the debt of another.

Do they have poor spending habits? If you are worried that they will talk you into a joint credit card account and max it out, ask them about their buying habits and be careful. Notice whether or not they go on extravagant shopping sprees they can’t afford. Who are they going to stick the bill to? If they can’t afford it and you two are married, you’ll feel forced to contribute, not only in the emotional sense but to save your joint credit.

There is another underlying factor here. If a person isn’t responsible with money, can they be trusted with other things? Are they only irresponsible in the financial sense or in other ways too? And will these other ways damage the other person or the relationship as a whole? Conscientiousness is one of those great qualities in a lover and a spouse that is often overlooked. But someone who went the distance working hard in their career, whether they were knocked down by the economy is another matter.

Someone who can pay bills on time, save, live somewhat frugally, someone who doesn’t spend frivolously but knows the value of money may know, appreciate and respect the other good and worthwhile things in life, namely you. So their spendthrift, responsible or reckless ways they spend money could speak to deeper parts of their psyche, parts you are going to have to deal with should you decide to get involved in a long term relationship, even a marriage with this person. Marriage is forever. If they are serious and really love you perhaps they’ll change their poor financial planning. If not, let them go. Love may be fleeting, but your credit score lasts forever. For more advice read, How to Debt-Proof your Marriage by Mary Hunt.

Common Mistakes Fathers make in Divorce

MEN-WANT-FATHERHOOD

Common Mistakes Fathers make in Divorce

Lots of men are angry and hurt when faced with divorce papers. Due to these emotions, fathers make common mistakes in the divorce process and end up hurting their wallets, their children, even themselves. With a little forethought and preparation you can avoid these hazards and help make the transition as smooth as possible for you and your children.

Lots of guys for instance use litigation as a force for revenge. They drive up the cost as a tactic to try to make their ex crack. Everyone in the process suffers because of it and you come out looking like the bad guy. Some states even have laws against this. If you purposely make moves in order to drive up the cost you could be hit with a pretty hefty fine. Instead, think of your overall goals. Don’t be led astray by an attorney who would want to take part in such practices. Do your research and pick an attorney that’s right for you. Keep your emotions in check and don’t use the legal process as a vindictive device, or a way to throw a temper tantrum.

Another problem lots of men make is financially stretching themselves too thin. There is alimony, child support, and your own expenses. You could easily work yourself to death and not get anywhere in the process. Make sure you plan out your financial goals and strategy with an attorney, perhaps even an accountant. Having a financial game plan in place will help you manage your life properly. You’ll also want to consult with an attorney concerning your goals in regards to your children. Do you want joint custody, visitation or what? Know what you are aiming for, what is reasonable, what emotional state your ex is in and what she will likely go for. The most important thing of course is the children. But a lot of couples get caught in trying to hurt one another and the kids get caught in the middle.

That said, it’s also important not to give in too much and miss out on having the kids in your life. Children need love, support and attention from both parents regularly. Don’t compromise them out of your life. Do not use the children as leverage in any way. Not only is this despicable it will hurt your relationship with them. Lastly, don’t let child support payments pile up unattended. Or else, with penalties and fees, you’ll soon find yourself in the poor house. For more advice read, Fathers’ Rights: Hard-Hitting and Fair Advice for Every Father Involved in a Custody Dispute by Jeffery M. Leving and Kenneth A. Dachman, Ph.D.

Conservative Red States have Higher Divorce Rates than Blue States

Divorce

Conservative Red States have Higher Divorce Rates than Blue States

Though conservative Protestants across the board say they are against divorce, there is a marked difference between the divorce rates in conservative Protestant red states and blue states researchers out of the University of Texas at Austin found. This research goes against the common assumption that fervent religious belief strengthens marriage. Arkansas and Alabama, the third and second most religiously conservative states have the highest divorce rates in the country. By contrast Massachusetts and New Jersey have the lowest rates, only about six or seven percent per one thousand people annually. The American Journal of Sociology will publish an article soon regarding a joint study conducted by the University of Iowa’s Philip Levchak along with University of Texas demographer Jennifer Glass where these results were discovered. Levchak and Glass painstakingly went through each county in the United States examining the divorce rate in each in the year 2,000. The divorce rate was calculated per 1,000 married couples.  The traits of the county examined were also recorded. The concentration of conservative or evangelical Protestants in the county researchers found was a predictor of the divorce rate in that county. Though researchers have come up with this population as a predictor of a county’s divorce rate, it’s still unclear as to why. Researchers have a few ideas.

Some experts say it has nothing to do with being part of a certain religious affiliation but more to do with poverty. These happen to be concentrated in the rural South, a region with high rates of poverty and wages far lower than the national average. It is poverty they argue that contributes to divorce and their religion has nothing to do with it. There are other scholars who think that the dogma of this religious group that cohabitation is a sin makes people get married earlier, perhaps before they are ready which leads therefore to a higher divorce rate. The relationships they argue are unstable, the couple doesn’t know each other well enough and hasn’t developed the necessary communication and coping skills and so these marriages are more volatile this argument goes. In the Glass Levchak study, this factor had no weight. These researchers say, cohabitation has nothing to do with it. Some experts posited that perhaps a tolerance for increased violence within married relationships was a factor, but the Levchak and Glass study recounts that as a fallacy as well. Levchak and Glass explain that lower income, lower education, earlier marriage and an earlier first birth are the contributing factors that connect religious conservatism and a high divorce rate. Glass elaborated by saying, “Restricting sexual activity to marriage and encouraging large families seem to make young people start families earlier in life, even though that may not be best for the long-term survival of those marriages.”

University of Illinois at Chicago economist Evelyn Lehrer wrote a report earlier to the Council of Contemporary Families saying that every year a woman puts off marriage until her early thirties, she decreases her chances of suffering a divorce at some point. Another result of the Glass Levchak study however was that those merely living in conservative religious areas had a higher propensity for divorce. It turns out that no matter what background young people are from, they are influenced by the social climate in which they live, researchers say. In areas where people get married and have children young there is no outside support from social institutions or schools to put off marriage and kids. Further education and job training take a back seat to marriage and child rearing. Those marriages too that start from a pregnancy that wasn’t planned also have a higher chance of divorcing according to senior fellows Philip Cowan and Carolyn Cowan at the Council on Contemporary Families. The CCF’s and Leher’s report discuss the benefits of putting off marriage and having children until the couple is sufficiently educated and trained to have access to a quality career in order to support themselves and the children they will have.  People in these counties should pressure their elected leaders to do more to provide student loans, business and job training to the young people of these areas, so that they can support their families and preserve their historic way of life. They should also put pressure on the federal government and others to enact more programs to help the poor help themselves out of poverty. On another front, one of the biggest things couples fight about is money. If you are getting married or cohabitating with someone, talk about money without any shame or blame. Establish rules. Start healthy habits. Find ways to cut down on expenses and even save a little for the future, even if it’s just pennies every check it helps. For more pick up a copy of, Money and Marriage: A Complete Guide for Engaged and Newly Married Couples by Matt Bell.

The new Meaning of “Husband” and “Wife”

relationship-advice

The new Meaning of “Husband” and “Wife”

More and more people are cohabitating rather than getting married. In the U.S. traditional marriage is at an all-time low. Yet these cohabitating couples use traditional marriage terms. There is a new meaning for the words “husband” and “wife,” meaning the couple is committed and monogamous but they aren’t married on paper. 46% of U.S. households in 2012 were unmarried, about 56 million households. That’s quite a shocking number. Well educated, well-to-do Caucasians are still marrying. But it seems most of the folks in the other categories are hobbling out a relationship or a family sans marriage. In 2012 households of single individuals living with at least one child was 40%. USA Today called this the new normal. And due to the Great Recession, many Americans couldn’t afford a wedding even if they wanted one. Weddings in some parts of the country are so expensive they get into the tens of thousands of dollars. When people are unemployed or underemployed, even if they wanted to get married, they have to put the big to-do wedding on the back burner to pay for the essentials like food, rent, gas and utilities.

So this elicits the question, does marriage truly validate a couple, or does the couple validate themselves for the faith and commitment they bestow on one another? Many younger couples would certainly say that their personal commitment to each other is what really counts. A piece of paper or a big party doesn’t very well mean that a couple has lasting power. That’s up to them. But due to the traditions and expectations of the older generation, younger couples are calling each other “husband” and “wife” not just to be funny or display how they feel about one another, but to put older relatives at ease. People start asking questions and feeling awkward at family parties when they don’t know the couple’s exact situation, particularly if children are involved. Those whose families are from certain religious backgrounds can find cohabitation, especially with children involved, particularly disillusioning and disappointing. So to calm expectations and keep up appearances couples are using these titles. Some couples too find boyfriend and girlfriend doesn’t convey how they actually feel about one another. But husband and wife does. Marriage and family planning has changed significantly due to social, economic and political forces with no abatement. This new generation will redefine these for themselves and future generations to come. For advice on this topic, read Unmarried to Each Other: The Essential Guide to Living Together as an Unmarried Couple by Dorian Solot and Marshall Miller.