Marriage and the Modern Woman

Marriage is the topic du jour right now. It seems every time we open up a newspaper or magazine or log onto an online news site the headlines are promoting marriage, telling you how to get married or giving you tips on how to stay married. And it is not just in the news. Type in “marriage” to the Amazon search engine and you will find a vast array of books recently published on the subject including Lori Gottlieb\’s Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Good Enough and Tara Parker-Pope\’s For Better: The Science of a Good Marriage.

However, all isn\’t pro-marriage in the world of journalism. Recently there was an article in Newsweek by Jessica Bennett and Jesse Ellison entitled “I Don\’t: The Case Against Marriage” where they argue that marriage is an outdated notion that doesn\’t benefit women and is no longer practical in our society.

Some of the statistics they state in their article are thought-provoking: they write of one study that “found that simply having a husband creates an extra seven hours of housework each week.” Philip Cohen, a sociologist at UNC says that “the bottom line is that men, not women, are much happier when they\’re married.” Marriage used to provide security, some legal redress,
respectability and financial aid for women, but in our modern society, women no longer need that legal or financial protection. Now there is a reversal; the more education and financial independence a woman has, the more likely she is to stay married. So if we aren\’t marrying for security, what are we marrying for? “The question,” says Andrew Cherlin, the author of The Marriage-Go-Round, “is not why fewer people are getting married, but why are so many still getting married?” Is it just that we can\’t let go of tradition? Our religious beliefs? Or, and let\’s be honest here, is it just the desire to be a princess for the day and wear the big dress and have six bridesmaids?

One in five U.S. marriages dissolves within five years. Divorce rates have been on the increase in recent years, but it could be argued that that is as much to do with the current economic climate and all the accompanying emotional and financial stress rather than women saying “I\’m done” rather than “I do”. So are Bennett and Ellison onto something? Is marriage seen as unnecessary nowadays? Statistics certainly seem to support their theory that marriage is no longer every woman\’s dream. The percentage of married Americans has dropped each decade since the 1950s and the number of unmarried, co-habitating partners has risen 1000 percent over the last 40 years. Of course, this statistic also shows that there are a lot of long-term couples who have chosen not to tie the knot.

Whether marriage is the preferred state for women or not, we all want to find our soul mate, to find that one person who makes everything right in our lives and offers unconditional love and support. And for a lot of people, the commitment to the relationship starts way before any wedding plans. Moving in together, buying a house together, having a child together; none of these require a marriage certificate any longer, but they all require a deep and lasting
commitment to the relationship. So maybe you don\’t have to say “I do” to be with the love of your life.

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