Is Marriage Getting a Bad Reputation?

The end of 2010 brought about an enormous debate over the future of marriage.  The Pew Research Center released the results of their latest marriage study which had many people declaring that marriage was officially obsolete.  There was such a buzz, that I was asked to discuss the future of marriage on Oprah Radio with host Derrick Ashong.

Despite what many of those writing about the Pew study would have us believe, the study’s results were not nearly as bleak as we’ve been led to think.  So why does marriage seem to be getting such a bad reputation?  Here are some of trends that I’ve noticed that contribute to marriage getting much worse press than it truly deserves.

For Marriage and All Topics, Bad News is Big News

No matter what the topic, when it comes to big news stories, bad news always trumps good news.  It’s no different when the topic is marriage.  It makes for a much better story to report about the scandalous breakup of celebrity marriage rather than to report on famous couples that have been married for decades and are still going strong.  This is especially true when reporting about a study like the Pew report.  It makes for a great headline to say that nearly 4 in 10 people believe that marriage is obsolete, yet it’s not much of a headline to say that 61% of people do not think that marriage is obsolete.

Marriage Attitudes Reflect Our Situation

One statistic that was very under-reported when it came to those writing about the Pew marriage study was that the group that was most likely to declare marriage as obsolete was parents who live together.  Like so many other aspects of life, we tend to gravitate toward attitudes that reflect the way we live our lives.  We certainly can’t ignore this group’s input in the survey, yet it is certainly worth noting that 62% of cohabiting parents reported that they felt marriage was obsolete.

To not report on the living arrangements of those responding to the marriage study is like reporting on optimism about the economy without divulging how many respondents were employed versus those who were unemployed.  For the record, I am pro-marriage, and just celebrated my 17th wedding anniversary.  So yes, I am predisposed to my attitudes reflecting my situation as well.

Divorce Rate Skews Our Perspective on Marriage

No discussion of marriage is complete without touching on the divorce rate.  Despite the 39% of Pew respondents who felt marriage was obsolete, 67% were optimistic about the future of marriage.  In some ways these numbers may seem to contradict each other, but in our LuvemOrLeavem surveys we have also found that even people who are optimistic about marriage can’t help but have some doubts given the high number of divorces that they see all around them.

The Gay Marriage Component

One of the groups that I have found to be the most critical of how relevant marriage is to modern society is proponents of gay marriage.  I find this interesting, because the percentage of gay couples clamoring to get married seems to be much higher than that of straight couples.  I think that the argument that marriage is obsolete because it focuses on the tradition of being between a man and a woman is a totally separate issue from whether or not marriage itself is obsolete.

Some of the main arguments that have people doubting the viability of marriage have to do with broad issues like longer life expectancy, people marrying beyond a broader geographic region than they did in the past, and of course the question about whether monogamy is really compatible with human nature.  Whether or not someone supports gay marriage or believes marriage should be between a man and a woman, these broader issues surrounding how marriage fits into modern life still exist whether a couple is gay or straight.  For this reason, I think that the future of marriage and the issue of gay marriage are best dealt with as two separate issues.

So there are some of the main reasons why I think that marriage is getting a bad reputation that it really doesn’t deserve.  Let’s not forget that marriage has been around for thousands of years, so to declare it obsolete based on some mixed data gathered from people over the past few generations ignores just how many obstacles marriage has overcome to survive for so long.  If you’d like to listen to my radio discussion about marriage, head over to  The Derrick Ashong Experience.

What do you think? Can marriage survive in modern society, or is it indeed becoming obsolete?  Please share your thoughts in the comments section.

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Comments

  1. Terez W. says:

    No, I most definitely do not think marriage is becoming obsolete. The Pew study is a perfect example of how statistics can be manipulated to seem to support the agenda of the entity reporting them. Also, as Tina said, it’s a standard trope of traditional media to sensationalize bad news. Suffice to say, marriage for many people is more than just a piece of paper. It’s a symbol of the ultimate expression of commitment two people can make to each other. And as long as that desire for deep commitment remains, so will the institution of marriage.
    Terez W.´s last blog ..Minimalism &amp Relationships – The New Book By TerezMy ComLuv Profile

  2. Marriage can never be obsolete in my opinion. It’s just something that has always been and will always be a sacred bond. It’s getting more complicated with time, but it will never reach a stage when it can be called obsolete.
    Kevin Thompson´s last blog ..How To Make Your Ex Want You BackMy ComLuv Profile

  3. Kelly says:

    Congrats on the radio show Tina, and happy New Year! This is an interesting subject…since I’ve only been married a few months I can’t really say. :) However, I think your points make a lot of sense…it’s all about perspective. Marriage is not something to be taken lightly, nor something that we should take for granted (as is shown by the persistence of Prop 8). For those reasons, I think it is worth fighting for.

  4. Anne says:

    While it is possible that marriage may become obsolete some day, I don’t believe even the data above demonstrates that marriage is obsolete. While the number of people who don’t believe in marriage is growing, I think there have always been people who don’t believe in marriage. It just wasn’t as acceptable as it is now.

  5. Devon Brown says:

    The same theory that applies to why network television doesn’t have as many viewers these days applies to marriage. There are more and more options. Just like cable and satellite television have given us hundreds of different viewing options, so has the internet, cell phones, portable devices, social networking, etc. given us hundreds of different dating options. Our scope is expanded and we have more people in our lives than ever before. Thus, the tendency to always look for something else is greater.
    Also, our attention spans have grown less and less over the years. The same way that the generation before would work at a job for 50 years and get a gold watch upon retirement, we now switch jobs once every few years, always looking for that elusive perfect fit. Whereas in the past we might not have even been aware there were better options for us, now we have the knowledge as well as the instant gratification desire to seek it out.
    The faster the world turns, the smaller it becomes, and the less whole we all seem.
    Devon Brown´s last blog ..The Right Way To Ask Questions On A First DateMy ComLuv Profile

  6. I am no Bible puncher, but from a Christian point of view, which is also my point of view, marriage is sacred and once married, you have to stay married, coz that is what God says. However, no one is without sin, and since the Bible time people have been getting divorced. Not that it is a good thing, but there are certain circumstances which allows you to get divorced.

    To answer your question, marriage is there to stay, just like the Bible and the church is there to stay, no matter what anyone says. But as long as there are marriages, there will unavoidably be divorces. We are all human, and we all make mistakes.

    Happy new year Tina, hope this year will see all your dreams come true.

    Colin.
    sexy legs and body´s last blog ..FASHION AND NURSING UNIFORMSMy ComLuv Profile

  7. Wilmaryad says:

    First, Happy New Year and Happy 17th marriage anniversary, Tina! I hope the mister knows he’s lucky. ;)

    Marriage is legal. Divorce is legal. Forever doesn’t exist. NOW exists. Getting along with a spouse is normal. Getting along with a spouse no more is normal.

    So, what’s the fuss about?

    Marriage must be preserved and perpetuated, for there are still people who believe in it. Even if these become a minority, a majority is but the fruit of marriage between minorities. ;-)

    We don’t own others and others don’t own us. So, if your man/ woman doesn’t love you anymore, it’s not your fault. You just don’t fit into his/ her reality anymore.

    As for gay marriage … I can’t see it being implemented in Arab countries. So, I opt for creating laws that grant single people more rights that enable them to enjoy some of the same advantages they’d have if they were married.

    P.S. Loved your succinctness and clarity on the radio show. Unlike some verbose gent. :D
    Wilmaryad´s last blog ..Love a Dick for His DickMy ComLuv Profile

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