It is by no means dead, but for the first time, a new survey has shown that traditional marriage has ceased to be the preferred living arrangement in the majority of US households.There are elements in the US treating this as some of the worst news they could possibly have been handed. Despite all the "family values" emphasis coming out of the religious right and their government surrogates, more and more people are opting for common-law couples relationships or a continued single life.
The shift, reported by the US Census Bureau in its 2005 American Community Survey, could herald a sea change in every facet of American life -- from family law to national politics and its current emphasis on family values.
The findings, which were released in August but largely escaped public attention until now because of the large volume of data, indicated that marriage did not figure in nearly 55.8 million American family households, or 50.2 percent. (Emphasis mine)
The truth is, formalizing a couples relationship with marriage vows has become unattractive to many people. To many it carries with it the underlying theme that what may be an equal partnership will turn into a "traditional" marriage. A good number of people, particularly women, view that as a regressive step.
Many western industrialized countries have experienced a decline in the number of formalized marriages. This has been translated, particularly by the literalist bible interpreting Christian community, as some form of moral decay and a disintegration of the traditional family.
That hasn't been proven and it's likely very untrue.
People entering a couples relationship whether it involves co-habitation or otherwise are usually just as committed to each other as those who choose the marriage route. In fact, such relationships usually require a greater level of negotiation and compromise to survive. There is no imperative compelling survival of the relationship on artificial religious grounds or some divine grace ratified by a priest, pastor or other human.
In our own case, we were quite happy living together in unmarried bliss. We were no less a committed couple than the legally married people next door. In fact, we were probably much happier, not because we weren't married, but because we had negotiated our positions in the relationship. Equality ruled and we were quite happy with that arrangement.
We probably would have continued a loving common-law relationship indefinitely until an obscure government rule relating to a particular survivor benefit became clouded over the issue of the definition of "spouse". Both being practical when it came to that sort of thing, we decided to make it easy on each other and formalize what we already had. There was a condition: nothing about the relationship was to change - at all.
And, it didn't.
What happened was that we went on in our happy pursuit of life. No government witholding an earned financial gain because of a definition and no subservience to some religious sacrament which had no meaning in our lives. And, definitely no descent into the 20th Century assumption of roles based on the teachings of any number of "family values" promoters who view this as a documentary and training aid on successful marriages.
If the US statistics bear any fruit worth examining it is that the family values crowd is so far off base with the reality of the 21st Century that they aren't even in the game anymore. Unable to keep their beliefs to themselves they insist that without traditional marriage, without traditional family life (including the subjugation of women) and without religious oversight, the entire country will collapse.
That may happen anyway but, it won't be because couples didn't follow the advice of the likes of Big Daddy Dobson.