General Dating Questions/Future of Marriage in United States?
Dear Dr. Dennis Neder,
Every single day when I check the news and tabloids, more and more and more couples are getting divorced. Regardless of whether they had kids or not. If they were even married in the first place.
As you say, marriage is one of the formats of relationships. But even long term serious relationships where people live together without marriage for 20-30 years, those are breaking up daily too regardless of whether they have kids or not.
We live in a world of social networks, smartphones, text messaging, instant messaging, video chat software, dating sites, sex/affair sites like Ashley Madison, internet pornography/pictures/movies available all over your phone/computer, strip clubs, porn stars and strippers coming to your house for dances, open relationships, open marriages, workplace/school romances/flirting, casual sex, frequent business trips to other destinations, prostitutes, escorts, bisexuality, threesomes, orgies, BDSM, wild sex, and even if your neighbors/friends/family/colleagues see cheating happening, no one ever blabs to no one else like in the old days, because it's really no one's business.
This makes it super duper easy to cheat nowadays and leads to a lot of marriage breakdowns.
On the other hand, many divorces are also caused by financial problems. The housing market crashes every few years, and many people are graduating with hundreds of thousands of dollars of student loan debt that they have to pay back. Having a child is also hundreds of thousands of dollars. This leads to people divorcing, or hesitant to marry at all or have children/adopt at all in the first place.
Less and less people attend church, also many older adults marriages are breaking down at 60, 70, 80 years old, so there are less and less elders and priests demanding the youth marry as was the case in the past. Societal stigma of being divorced or never married or being a single mom/dad is obliterated in the United States now.
With the boom of dating sites, people are going on dates and having sex with different people every night and never calling them again, that they would never have rejected had it been real life or if they didn't have as many options.
Drinks, drugs, smoking, this is all open everywhere, and young teens are experimenting with this stuff, having casual sex, and pregnancies and abortions at young ages.
All of these factors lead to this kind of stuff.
This isn't just men rejecting marriage or sleeping around. I would say it's an equal amount of women being like this too, or at least very close in percentage.
This trend was mainly in United States, England, Australia, and Europe...but has now slowly started spilling over to Asian/Middle Eastern/African strict religious cultures as well (most people there are still married because being single is generally unheard of in those cultures, but the divorce rate there has spiked dramatically and many are on their 2nd marriage).
Are most people cynical about true love these days?
The celebrity divorce rate is high...but even for regular normal daily people it seems sky high too.
What do you see as the future for marriage, living together, divorces, and relationships? Even from 5 years ago in 2010, the year 2015 is dramatically different and the dating "rules" don't even work any more.
Yes most people still get married daily...even eternal bachelor George Clooney did...but it is much different now. At the very least, no one is a virgin on their wedding night.
What do you predict as a future outcome? Do you feel marriage will become obsolete one day? Do you feel society structure will collapse 50 years from now, if no one gets married?
What do you see life and the dating scene (in terms of marriage, commitments etc) being different in 5 years, 10 years, 15, 20, 25, 30, and 50 years from now? How are our grandchildren's lives going to be different than ours? What about the rest of the world outside Western cultures?
I'm interested in hearing your honest thoughts.
Much of what you say here is true. The divorce rate is very high as is the break-up rate. There's been a very substantial shift in priorities and opportunities when it comes to relationships over the past 5, 10, 20, 30 and 50 years. There are real, tangible foundations for these shifts as well.
You are not correct about a few of these points however and also not correct about the foundation of a few others. Without going point by point, let me just add to what you've written:
Yes, divorce rates are far higher than they were a century ago. That is due much to the fact that people get married today for different reasons. Likewise, we get divorced for different reasons too. It's important to understand that the majority of divorces (72%) or filed by women - not men. Women as it turns out are the ones who are more likely to end marriages and break up families. The general belief is that it has been men doing this - not true.
You also didn't mention that; while the divorce rate is very high, the marriage rate (the number of marriages performed) is going down - way down. For the first time in recorded history, there are more single adults than there are married adults. As well, there are more single women than there are single men by a small percentage.
More people are opting to live together or date serially or sporadically than ever before - and we have more options to accomplish that. However, these options are far, far less effective and efficient than they've ever been. The reality is; dating websites are huge, but the actual number of relationships or marriages coming from them are at a small fraction of what "real-life dating" produces.
It's important to understand that; while the media has painted a picture than women are "just like men..." and want marriage, family and commitment less, it simply isn't the case. The studies (and there are many of them) show exactly the opposite. Today; women view committed relationships as far more valuable and important than they did even 15 years ago. More women want to be married today than they did.
Unfortunately, fewer men do. The vast majority of men are not only opting out of marriage (in general) but also of long-term committed relationships. While women are far more likely to end them, men are far less likely to start them. That's a very critical factor to understand.
Another is to understand why this is happening. There are a number of reasons.
First, consider that family court isn't a standard "court of law" like a criminal court would be. Instead, it's an "equity court" - a very different thing. It operates on a very different set of rules and isn't bound by many of the standards of law that we expect like "innocent until proven guilty", "blind justice" and the sense of restoration justice.
Instead, family court (where divorces occur) are based on old (and very, very obsolete!) premises founded when marriage and family were very different. Without going into all the history and detail; suffice it to say that these courts are anything but "fair" or "equitable" in the majority of cases.
It's true however that women are being asked to pay child and spousal support slightly more often - but only slightly. This is despite the fact that women's earnings are very much in parity with men's (again, despite what the media would have you believe). Likewise men are 96% more likely to be jailed for getting behind in child-support payments - even when the amount is greater than that actually earned by him!
The fact is; marriage today for men is simply a lousy deal. Not only do men bear the brunt of negative outcomes in divorce (spousal and child support, primary custody of children only 8% of the time, a loss of solely-acquired assets, etc.) but men also suffer from societal issues.
For instance, a man's social standing actually drops today if he's married! There was a time when men weren't considered adults unless they were married and had children. Today, it's the opposite. Many employers want to meet the spouse before they'll offer a man a job for instance - unless he's single.
I've only scratched the surface of this subject, but let's get to the last part of your question: where are things going?
We are definitely seeing a societal shift toward being single as opposed to being married. While women still covet this (more today than earlier and more than men) the actual numbers are dropping. That makes marriage more valuable to women who are finding fewer options to create them. Unfortunately, this is a very direct result of the feminist movement. It's been massively successful in many ways; not the least of which is actually hurting those women looking for more traditional, love- and security-based relationships.
I think the trend toward women being expected to pay spousal and child support will continue to grow slightly for a short while. But, soon, feminists are going to start screaming about it (mostly because it's unfair in its current form - and has been for decades) and we'll start to see changes happening very, very slowly.
There is a growing movement toward the concept of "term marriages" where the marriage contract exists only for a specified period of time - not a lifetime. For example, 5, 10 or 20 years, following which either spouse can choose to opt-out, end the marriage and fall back on provisions created when the marriage was first formed (and possibly adjusted throughout the term).
While the number of single-mother households continues to grow (currently at around 40%!) the actual birthrate in westernized countries is dropping. Considering these other tenants, I see no reason for this to not continue.
Keep in mind too that secularism is also growing. As fewer people align themselves with western religious philosophies, there will be other changes brought about in non-traditional relationships. We're already seeing this happen (mostly for the good by the way!) with the rulings about gay marriage and even considering other non-traditional relationship formats such as open marriages, triads, quadrads and other other structures.
Relationship cultures are like pendulums however. They grow and wane and we'll see that happen in the next 50 years to include new concepts and greater acceptance of different relationship formats. That doesn't necessarily mean that people will be happier with their relationships however. I believe that will continue to drop somewhat, but I think (hope?) the net effect may be positive in that people will work harder to be happier on their own because of themselves rather than to put that into someone else's hands and expect them to do it for them.
I don't necessarily see this as bleak or negative at all. It's just different.
Dr. Dennis W. Neder
Producers: "BAM! TV" and “Love and Sex”
Publishers: "Being a Man in a Woman's World I, II & III”