Getting Married When and If You Want

Getting Married When and If You Want


Mainstream media and research tanks are baffled by the rise in the number of single people, as marriage rates drop to a record low.

Getting Married When and If You Want

Photo courtesy Kiet Do Photography.

One of the big news stories in December was the “shocking” revelation from Pew Research, the highly respected fact tank, that more Americans are staying single — a lot more, with the share of U.S. adults age 18 and older who are married dropping to a record low of 51 percent. That’s right, we singles are 49 percent of the American population and the percentage is growing in a singular direction.

NPR picked up the story and later that day ABC Nightly News featured a segment with Diane Sawyer telling Americans that the rise of the unmarried demographic represents a significant change in our culture. The ABC story, presented along with a montage of nostalgic wedding scenes, included a comment from Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project, claiming that the trend to stay single has put the “American dream in peril.” Thankfully, the segment also included an interview with a stunning 40-year-old professional woman who said she would never settle for the wrong guy just for the sake of getting married.

Even though the information about the rise in the number of single people has been available since the completion of the 2010 U.S. Census (a phenomenon often repeated here in Singular magazine), it wasn’t until the Pew Research report that it suddenly became national news. Also news was the fact that no one was sure why this strange trend was happening, not only in the United States but also in industrialized countries around the world.

Everyone’s stunned concern was evidence of the strong pro-marriage bias in our culture and reminded me of the children’s fable Chicken Little, where Henny Penny dashes about declaring, “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” Fortunately, just as in the fable, there’s no need for despair and certainly no need to incite unreasonable fear in the populace. It’s not the end of the world, I promise.

The reason for the single trend is simple: People have realized that marriage is no longer the next step toward becoming an adult and finding “happily ever after.” Although most of us like the idea that we will one day find a life partner, we’re no longer urgently seeking a mate. We’re too busy going to school, traveling, developing our professions and talents, and learning to be complete as a party of one. We no longer see ourselves as “single”; we see ourselves as “singular” — people who enjoy our independence and don’t consider ourselves desperate daters dying to find a spouse.

The billion-dollar bridal and honeymoon industry need not fret. According to the research, 61 percent of Americans would like to get married one day; they’re just not willing to do so unless they find the right partner. That’s much different from the way things were in my mother’s day. Back then, you finished school, got married and had babies — one, two, three. If you stayed single past a certain age, you were labeled as odd, immature and selfish, at the very least.

Although matrimonial myths remain active in our consciousness with the attendant negative stereotypes about those who are unmarried, the fact is, people in my generation grew up experiencing an unprecedented number of divorces either in our own homes or in the homes of our friends — changing the idea that marriage was the key to lifelong happiness.

Along with that, birth control advances gave us the option of sexual experimentation without the fear of pregnancy, and women have become a force in the economy, many no longer needing to find a husband to provide a roof over their heads. To sum it up: many people today no longer believe they have to get married; they marry when and if they want to get married.

Yes, these changes in society have altered the definition of love and partnership — but the good news is that as the marriage rates decline, so do the divorce rates. That’s because when people take the time to find out who they are and what they want in life; when they spend time living on their own and learn how to thrive independently instead of “needily”; when they let go of the fear of not finding a partner and just get out there and live life to the fullest, the chances are much higher that if and when they do get married, it will be because they are ready for a true partnership with another human being — not because they are following a cultural lockstep, grabbing the nearest likely candidate and marching down the aisle.

America, don’t be afraid of the singular tsunami. Embrace the fact that we have grown up to be independent thinkers and doers. We don’t have a problem with marriage — we simply don’t want to do it unless it’s the right move for us and our partner. Until it is, viva the singular life!

Copyright © Kim Calvert/2012 Singular Communications, LLC.

Kim CalvertKim Calvert is the editor of Singular magazine and the founder of the SingularCity social networking community. An outspoken champion of people who are living their lives as a “me” instead of a “we,” Kim oversees the creative direction and editorial content of the magazine and online social networking community. She secures contributors and is responsible for maintaining the fun, upbeat, inspirational and often-humorous tone of Singular, a lifestyle guide for successful single living.

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7 thoughts on “Getting Married When and If You Want

  1. Why get married when the chances are better than 50% that you’re going to have to share your stuff half and half with someone you couldn’t get along with in the first place? And, if you’re like me, you have to try everything twice, just to make sure you weren’t wrong the first time. Ha. So instead of finding everlasting love, I only found everlasting bills and collection notices. It would take a real special someone to make me want to risk jumping into another boat with a better than half chance of sinking. Would you jump in if the odds were the boat might sink? Even at 1%? Probably not. I am happily Singular and want to thank Kim and her staff for educating others to make the world a more accepting place for all us Singulars. Besides, who would want to marry a math geek?

  2. “The American Dream” in peril??? LOL. More and more people are staying single because they no longer feel the pressure to have to be married. I am not anti-marriage by any means, don’t get me wrong, but these days people simply have more options in life…and that is not a bad thing, it is not putting any American Dream at risk, ha!

  3. It’s all about freedom of choice and that concept of individual freedom is what our country is supposed to be about. Sadly, that’s often not the case anymore. There’s nothing wrong with getting married — but I agree that you need to approach it with maturity, clarity and an understanding of who you are and who your spouse is. Not bouncing along with all kinds of Hollywood movie fantasies in your head and then being disappointed when you find out that a real life partnership isn’t what you expected. Another aspect is that our society still favors those who marry with such perks as health insurance for spouses, social security benefits for spouses, income tax perks, etc. — things you can’t give to the one you love unless you sign the legal contract with the state.

  4. Once again Kim, BRAVO!!!

    And Nami, I could not agree more “American dream in peril”????? give me a break! Human beings are such a programmed species, all do it, or your odd, what is that about?? Ridiculous!!

    I am single, childfree and proud!!!! I couldn’t be paid to be married, I LOVE my freedom and independence far too much. But those who want the world’s smallest handcuffs, so be it, I don’t care, but stop attacking the singles!

  5. I’d guess the American dream they are talking about is having a spouse and children. Obviously, the dreams of many are changing. I think it’s fair to say their dreams are changing in ways that are making people happier overall. But, maybe the basis for Brad Wilcox’s concern was how these changes are impacting people’s lives in ways they don’t expect and aren’t always positive. For example, more and more women are finding it difficult to conceive after getting married. Many pursue fertility treatments, which are costly and not always successful. Many others, like myself so far, are only having one child. Statistics show that along with a rising number of Americans who aren’t married, the number of children the average American is having is going down. Again, this is probably because it makes Americans happier overall. But, the consequences for our society include an aging population and a dependence on immigrants. Russia, which has had low birth rates for a long time, has put restrictions on foreign adoptions, reportedly because of fear that there won’t be adequate able bodied people to fight wars. I’m certainly not saying anyone should get into an unhappy marriage or have a baby she or he doesn’t really want so that America will win World War III. But, we do need to think about all the factors and all the consequences when we make lifestyle choices. Maybe if I had waited to get into my first marriage, my life would be better, and I’m enjoying my singular life now. But, in spite of my divorce, I don’t look at that marriage as a mistake, and the son who I fathered in it is something I wouldn’t trade for anything.

  6. Fascinating article. Thanks for sharing. Though I wasn’t surprised to read that marriage and single life are nearly in equal ratio, I did revel in the rationale. Just by being singular and surrounded by a network of friends who live a similar lifestyle, it’s easy to see a shift in American culture. It’s the how and why that made me stop and think about my choices and if they correlate with others. I agree that education, technology and equal rights along with birth control have played a distinct role in our attitude toward marriage and the choice to define adulthood in our own terms but there may be more to it. Developing a sense of self is a noble cause to maintain a singular life, but when it stops being a choice and becomes an obstacle to finding love, I wonder if modern society and its newfangled dating methods hurts our odds for successful partnerships? Perhaps that is a different article. As for Mr Wilcox’s concern that the “American dream is in peril” simply because single life has become a so-called trend, begs the question, how do we define the “American dream”? After all, isn’t the American dream all about the pursuit of happiness? Maybe we’re waking up to what makes us happy as individuals rather than accepting society’s definition. Marriage is a choice, not a rite of passage to happiness.

  7. Great article as always! Although, I’m wondering why they’re saying that it’s putting the “American dream in peril.” What part of learning about yourself, going to school, and becoming educated puts the American dream in peril? Doesn’t it help you become more confident in yourself, and more likely to help you get a better job/promotions or become a more moral, thinking individual later on? Love to hear some ideas on this!

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