marriage culture in the us






The culture that exists in America is one that is constantly changing to suit the times and the many different types of people that reside in the country. One aspect of American culture that has changed profoundly is the institution of marriage. Marriage began as the undisputed lifestyle for couples willing to make the ultimate commitment to one another. However in less than a century, pointless and destructive alternatives such as premarital cohabitation, have developed to replace marriage.
Heterosexual cohabitation is essentially one man and one woman, living together who are in a committed relationship. According to recent census data, an estimated four million unmarried heterosexual couples are living together in the United States; a number which has doubled since the 1980’s.(Warner1/3) In fact, cohabitation was illegal in all fifty states prior to 1970.(Popenoe "Should") In the year 1965, only ten percent of newlywed couples had lived together before marriage; presently the statistic has risen to fifty percent.(Tolson) The reasons for the new found acceptance of cohabitation are obvious. The sexual revolution, which began in the sixties, played a major role in changing the attitudes towards premarital sex. The media has taken advantage of this revolution and has been a prominent cause in the spread of acceptance towards sexual openness. Presently, it is not unusual for young adults to be sexually active with more than one partner before their first marriage.
This societal acceptance has made it easier for couples to live together without being married. Many of these men and women decide to live together because they consider the cohabitation a "trial marriage." They feel that since they are able to learn about each other’s faults and living habits before marriage, it will help them to avoid divorce. If they decide to marry, they can compromise living arrangements and fix faults early, and if they decide against marriage, the breaking up process will be simpler without legal and religious hassles. However, David Popenoe, professor of sociology, who works closely with Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, co. director of the National Marriage Project at Rutgers University, explain that research specifically indicates that "Living together before marriage increases the risk of divorce. One study found an increased risk of forty-six percent."(Popenoe "Cohabitation") Divorce rates have climbed substantially; between 1970 and 1978 there was a 91 percent increase in the divorce rates and from 1960 to 1980, the rate has climbed to 157 percent.(Mitchelson 16) Research of cohabitation has strongly displayed that the risk of divorce after marriage is substantially raised if the couple lives together prior to their union.
Many reasons for divorce among cohabitation exist. David Popenoe suggests that the most obvious explanation for the high divorce rate is that cohabiting relationships undercut the strong ethic by which marriages are held together. He explains that
Those people willing to cohabit are more unconventional than others and less committed to the institution of marriage. These are the same people then, who more easily will leave a marriage if it becomes troublesome. According to recent studies cohabitants tend not to be as committed as married couples in their dedication to the continuation of the relationship and reluctance to terminate it, and they are more oriented toward their own personal autonomy.("Should"
Cohabitation becomes damaging even to the possibility of marriage. The demographers at Pennsylvania State conducted a study in 1997 which insisted that cohabitants are not only more accepting of divorce, but become less enthusiastic about marriage and childbearing.(Popenoe "Should") Divorce has become contagious, and with the rise in acceptance in premarital cohabitation, society can predict that the institution of marriage will weaken more as the divorce rates rise.
It is not surprising that many sources exist on the legal aspects of cohabitation since it is becoming widely accepted. Cohabitants often believe that economic benefits exist in cohabitation that do not in marriage such as having separate property and monetary situations. This retains the feeling of independence for cohabitants. However this argument is invalid once a couple obtains a joint account or purchases anything jointly. Also having separate finances is not an accurate portrayal of how the couple’s financial situation will be once they marry since they will be sharing everything at that point. These couples emphasize the importance of independence, however the increased feeling of separation produces