The M word

I haven’t been motivated to write about this lately as my feelings on the subject are both well-known, and I think, so non-controversial as to border on blase. I feel how I feel, and I think my attitude reflects a skeptical outlook held by many of my friends.

Then Corey IMs me this article, To Be Married Means to Be Outnumbered, which continues to confirm that a cultural change is afoot, but associates with it several superficial and inaccurate statements, at least in conveying how I feel.

But first, the statistical nugget that prompted this “lifestyle” article:

Married couples, whose numbers have been declining for decades as a proportion of American households, have finally slipped into a minority. The American Community Survey, released this month by the Census Bureau, found that 49.7 percent, or 55.2 million, of the nation’s 111.1 million households in 2005 were made up of married couples — with and without children — just shy of a majority and down from more than 52 percent five years earlier.

What I’m more curious about are the political ramifications. What happens when these couples start voting as a bloc?

“Moving in together has simplified life”

Gag, and OMG toothbrush management in NOT a reason to move in together. (Read the article)

A number of couples interviewed agreed that cohabiting was akin to taking a test drive and, given the scarcity of affordable apartments and homes, also a matter of convenience.

A test drive? A convenience? Those have got to be two of the most immature, if not belittling ways I can possibly think of to describe a relationship. On one hand it’s a trite analogy, but it’s also meaningless, because in a sense, every new relationship is an experiment, an adventure, a risk. To anyone who admits to “testdriving” a relationship, or looking to cut their rent in half, here’s some advice: don’t move in together.

It’s not like people getting married aren’t influenced by the economics of the decision. The scarity of affordable apartments and homes affects cohabiting and married couples alike, let alone roommates and single people (in San Francisco as much as anywhere). But making the connection in the context of an article on “why people cohabit” just makes it sound cheap and shallow.

A few of those couples said they were inspired by solidarity with gay and lesbian couples who cannot legally marry in most states.

Hear hear! I had hoped (in the post I linked to at the top) that this sentiment would begin to take root. This is the seed of what will eventually overturn DOMA and the recent state constitutional amendments discriminating against same-sex couples.

“You used to get married to have sex. Now one of the major reasons to get married is to have children, and the attractiveness of having children has declined for many people because of the cost.”

The declining attractiveness of having children has probably more to do with “having children” (and its cost in terms of personal independence) than the monetary cost, which I’m assuming the unqualified term is referring to. What’s funny though is that closing quote is probably the sagest explanation of why there’s a change and why the “change” really isn’t one at all.

If someone asked me why I don’t get married, the answer is simple: “Because I don’t have to.”


As an officially-government-sanctioned married person :-P , I say hooray to this trend. On the one hand, many people do get married (or move in, as you point out) for all the wrong reasons (based on what they are “supposed” to do). While I have already experienced the financial windfall of operating as one entity, we actually fall into the camp of folks who did it mainly for the purpose of making it easier when we have kids. Acquescing to some societal and governmental bullshit, I admit.

But I also think it’s extremely important for the RIGHT to get married to be extended to many more people so that they can also enjoy the same legal and financial benefits Brian and I get. So on the other hand, I want more people to get married (to the extent that they want to and as long as it’s good for them).


100% agree with you on this.

I’m a “test driver”! yahooooo

The marriage stats made me kind of sad, which I’m sure will surprise NOBODY. I’m actually planning to do some research here at grad school about the evolution of intimate relationships in the media- particularly television advertising, and how the stigmas and taboos have dropped away from cohabiting, having kids outside of marriage, and getting herpes- presumably from risky sexual behavior. Just thought I’d tell you.

What Ruby said…. no really I have an opinon. She just already said it. :)

I should say that The Trouble with Normal had a profound effect on my perspective on human relationships and marriage. The one sentence synopsis: it’s written by a gay man arguing against same-sex marriage. Why? “Because it perpetuates the cultural shame attached to sex between consenting but unmarried adults.”

What I would like to see are the rights and benefits traditionally assigned only to government-sanctioned marriages (which Ruby refers to, and which frankly I don’t even know) made available to a larger array of cooperative relationships and living arrangements. In some respects this is already happening, as large companies and progressive city/state governments begin extending benefits to domestic partners. This I think is more important for society than same-sex marriage rights, which I also strongly support.

I see the declining incidence of marriage (which concerns Leona) as a statistical anomaly. Marriage is a narrowly defined (and becoming narrower) quasi-legal/religious/political space, which a lot of people find uncomfortable. But does that mean people are falling in love, moving in together, or planning their futures any less? Of course not! What I like about the decline of “traditional” marriage is the blossoming of different types of partnerships, unions, and couple celebrations that more accurately map to individual expectations and desires, as opposed to societal (or religious) expectations and norms.

Having been both married and single, I can tell you that partnership is financially easier than singledom. Two people together can buy more stuff, period, and financial security is one of the factors that cause happily single people to lean toward wanting to engage in some form of government-sanctioned partnership

On the other hand, even after being married I’m not really sure what it is. I do know I don’t want to do it again; with a decent lawyer and some paper I can do what I need to do to protect my assets without having to change my name!


Email (optional)

Blog (optional)