In my news hopping this morning, I came across another news byte covering an American Community Survey that revealed, for the first time in American history that married couples accounted for less than 50% of U.S. households. Why is that?
I think there are three reasons for this statistic. But first let me tell you what I don’t think is causing this statistic. It’s not the rising divorce rate or the convenience of an easy divorce. The simple fact is, my generation grew up with divorce being a reasonable option. Divorce exists. We don’t see it as an easy out and we don’t see marriage as being encapsulated by people who want to be married and people who don’t. We see it as a solution for the marriage that doesn’t work.
Being the children of divorce, we also appreciate the fact that you have to work hard to make marriage work. I know one couple, which did end up divorced, but they tried for five years to repair the damage they’d both inflicted on the marriage. They went through counseling, they worked on their communication issues and they discovered a beautiful friendship, but at the end of the day – they didn’t want to be married. Though they are divorced now and each has moved on in a different relationship, they are still great friends and they credit putting effort back into their marriage to helping them rediscover their friendship.
So if it’s not divorce, why are households of married couples dropping?
- Our large generation of baby boomers are maintaining their own households and are either divorced, but in many cases they are widowed as well
- Many people are electing cohabitation rather than marriage at first
- For the rest, the median age for getting married is rising – women and men alike are waiting until they are in their late 20s and early 30s to get married and living on their own as opposed to generations before when couples married in their late teens and early 20s.
The truth is, the landscape of our communities is changing. We have single mothers who were teenage mothers who are working together with the fathers to provide stable homes for their children but not electing to marry just because they got pregnant. We have young men and women choosing college and careers ahead of marriage. We have people who’ve established themselves as individuals in a career prior to getting married. We have an aging populace that may have divorced 20 or 30 years ago and still more who were widowed more than a decade or two ago.
The thing about statistics is they are just averages and ranges of numbers – they are not definitive results based on one theory or another. So yes, the average number of married couples in our communities is down, but our population is larger and our choices are more diverse.
That’s a better way of looking at those statistics, eh?