The numbers by no means suggests marriage is dead or necessarily that a tipping point has been reached. The total number of married couples is higher than ever, and most Americans eventually marry. But marriage has been facing more competition. A growing number of adults are spending more of their lives single or living unmarried with partners, and the potential social and economic implications are profound.
So, what does this mean to me? Well, the results accurately sum up what I see on a regular basis with the people I hang out with.
Taking an inventory of my friends and the acquaintances I normally run into at shows and parties, the number of people in committed relationships is a little more than the number of single people. The number of married couples is in a distant third on the list. Is this bad? Absolutely not.
When I was younger, I thought a big part of being an adult was being married shortly after you graduated college. When I actually graduated college, I realized that marriage was not the best decision for me to even consider with anyone at that point. I had just begun to live my own life and really think for myself. I didn't want to feel pressured into something like marriage (plus, nobody was pressuring me into it).
A number of my friends come from divorced parents, but that number is about on par with the number of friends that come from happily-married parents. I have never had a friend that was pressured into marriage. As a matter of fact, my closest of friends married on their own volition and didn't rush into it. To be honest, that's pretty awesome.
Maybe there's a grand scheme here. Should we pat ourselves on the back for wanting to marry someone we truly feel positively connected with? Or, should we feel like we're running away from the same hazards we saw with our parents by avoiding marriage? I think you could say both, but there's something bigger than marriage here. You can run from your parents as much as you want, but you're more likely to still have a number of their traits. Their DNA is in you, but that doesn't mean you have to be just like them.
I think the deeper issue is this: do you want to be married for the social status and companionship? Or, do you want to be with someone you truly love (faults and all) and that person truly loves you (faults and all)? I've known people (not necessarily friends, but people I've known) that wanted that status/companionship way more than the status of being single. It's as if the status of being single is a sign of total failure. More often than not, they get into an OK relationship that slowly turns south. That's not something I aim for, nor do I think anyone does. But still, being single for certain people is like being unemployed in the love department.
Being single is seen on par with being lonely, but as my parents told me and Ben Folds sang about in a few songs, you can be even more lonely in a bad relationship.
I'm not against a committed relationship or marriage for myself. That said, I'm in no rush to be in one. I definitely have fears about being with someone who acts like somebody I'd want to be around who later turns into someone I can't stand. I'd like to be around someone that inspires, understands and cares (and vice-versa). Knowing that I have to flex my creative muscles, I don't want to be with someone who prefers that I didn't. Not that I'm looking for a cheerleader who tells me everything I do is genius, but someone who is tactful about my pros and cons. I don't want to be around someone that constantly bickers with me about surface matters and who refuses to deal with deeper-rooted problems. Those are just some of the factors on my mental list (a list that keeps growing year after year).
In the four weddings I've been to in the last five years, each one has been a really awesome occasion. Yeah, the food, music and dancing were fun at the reception, but they were mere tidbits of a larger celebration of a union that was already in place well before the actual ceremony. There were no doubts that these couples should be together. There was nothing forced onto either the bride or the groom.
So what all does this stuff mean? Well, this is proof that what I see is not some exception to a majority view. Yet beyond the figures (and in a category all their own) is if they're in happy, successful relationships. I think we're finally understanding the difference.