"Is Traditional Marriage On Its Last Legs?"
The U.S. crossed a demographic boundary in 2007. The National Center for Health Statistics announced last month that for the first time, 40% of babies born in the U.S. were born to unwed mothers.1 The rate of unmarried births has zoomed up since 2002, following several years of relative stability before then.
Here in the pleasant, liberal Massachusetts suburbs, people didn't believe the headline. It was a typo, right? But out in Sarah Palin land, having babies without marriage has become almost the accepted norm. You can blame some of it on abstinence-only sex education, or parents who can't talk about contraception, or scarcity of abortion providers, or lousy opportunities in life for many girls and women. But among quite a few people (especially in places like Massachusetts), the un-marriage trend is the result of deliberate, carefully considered choice.
And one reason is because "marriage" is supposed to mean "forsaking all others" forever after. But it doesn't have to be that way.
At YourTango.com (successor to Tango magazine), columnist Dan Eldridge ruminates on his open relationship in a "Life Partnership" with someone who agrees with him that marriage stinks.
Is Traditional Marriage On Its Last Legs?
by Dan Eldridge
"...It probably wasn't so much the actual concept of marriage itself that rubbed me the wrong way. Rather, it was the style in which so many American couples practice their marriages: with constant arguments, with disdain and loathing, and with cheating and lies.
...I've been involved in an open relationship with my girlfriend for about two years now.... My girlfriend and I both occasionally see other women.
And now they've decided to get married in all but name:
Eventually we decided it might actually be, you know... nice to make a public commitment to each other, and to share that moment with our families and close friends. And after all, by that point we had both managed to admit to each other our respective desires to stay together forever.
And yet neither Carrie Ann's opinion about traditional marriage, nor mine, had changed one bit: We still weren't interested. Nor were we interested in having a ceremony in a church, or on a beach, and we sure as hell weren't going to lay out $10,000 for a pile of cheap party favors, a photographer, and a big cake.
And that was when it hit us: Maybe we actually were on the road to inventing something special....
When Carrie Ann spread the news to her family, she didn't pull any punches in her explanation of what it was that we wanted to do. And what we wanted to do, essentially, was to have a small ceremony in a private place. We wanted to publicly declare our love and our devotion to each other, and also our intention to remain together forever.
Afterwards, we planned to have a small party of some sort. And that was it. In other words, we wanted to go through the process of getting married, but without the inclusion of a priest, or anyone else who had the power vested in him by the State of Pennsylvania to proclaim us man and wife.
My own parents, when I tried to spell out the thought process behind our UnWedding, were understandably confused....
He's done a lot of reading about polyamory and open relationships and finishes by asking,
Is traditional marriage really on its last legs these days? Hell, I don't know. But I do know this: Ideas and suggestions for couples interested in an alternative to life-long monogamy seem to be all around us in the 21st century. I think that's a good thing, and I think it’s an honest way to begin a life-long partnership.
...While we may indeed be living in a freaky-deeky world, it’s a heck of a lot easier to navigate — and a whole lot more fun — when you’re living through it with a loving and devoted partner in crime.
Read the whole article.
P. S.: If you're interested in exploring un-marriage, including the legal ramifications, check out the Alternatives to Marriage Project.
Me? I'm happily married without a regret in the world.
Eldridge's five earlier YourTango columns are:
Open Relationships Dos and Don'ts
Alternative Relationships 101
The (Open) Marriage Contract
Marriage Without Monogamy
Open Marriage: One Man's Surprising Take
1 To be exact, 39.7%. See page 3 and Table 7 in the report.