Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Future of Marriage

IN light of the recent upholding of Prop 8, I offer a few tidbits about marriage... first of all, a very interesting piece from the Cato Institute in which the author points out that historically marriage was more about land and property than love, that marriage gave little protection to most of the people engaged in the family - i.e. only men really got any benefit from it - women and children were essentially property dependent upon the good will of the patriarch- and that the idea of marrying for love appalled many people when that newfangled idea began to be more common.
In the 1970's even more changes began to take place -and major destabilization in marriage took place - divorce increased as people struggled to make marriage more equitable for all involved - a process we still have not yet completed even for those of us theoretically allowed government privileges associated with marriage.
But her main point is that marriage is no longer the only option for people - more people are delaying - or avoiding marriage altogether. Sexual initiation is no longer linked -for the majority of people, including religious ones- with marriage.
And marriage itself has changed:

Marriages used to depend upon a clear division of labor and authority, and couples who rejected those rules had less stable marriages than those who abided by them. In the 1950s, a woman’s best bet for a lasting marriage was to marry a man who believed firmly in the male breadwinner ideal. Women who wanted a “MRS degree” were often advised to avoid the “bachelor’s” degree, since as late as 1967 men told pollsters they valued a woman’s cooking and housekeeping skills above her intelligence or education. Women who hadn’t married by age 25 were less likely to ever marry than their more traditional counterparts, and studies in the 1960s suggested that if they did marry at an older age than average they were more likely to divorce. When a wife took a job outside the home, this raised the risk of marital dissolution.

All that has changed today. Today, men rank intelligence and education way above cooking and housekeeping as a desirable trait in a partner. A recent study by Paul Amato et al. found that the chance of divorce recedes with each year that a woman postpones marriage, with the least divorce-prone marriages being those where the couples got married at age 35 or higher. Educated and high-earning women are now less likely to divorce than other women. When a wife takes a job today, it works to stabilize the marriage. Couples who share housework and productive work have more stable marriages than couples who do not, according to sociologist Lynn Prince Cooke. And the Amato study found that husbands and wives who hold egalitarian views about gender have higher marital quality and fewer marital problems than couples who cling to more traditional views.

And this brings me back to prop 8. It is ridiculous at this time, to worry about marriage changing. It has changed, it has been changing for hundreds of years now, and perhaps it never really was a static system -it would be surprising if it were - nothing else has been.

Gay marriage will come because marriage is no longer really about just having children, or getting enough to eat because certain persons don't get paid for their labor, or even about building relationship with other family groups - we can do all of these things without marriage.
I come from a tradition that recognizes that marriage is companionate, but the truthis that marriage is not a finished product. There will continue to be changes - and it may be that while I speak of marriage in terms of sanctified companionship andthe raising of a family, there probably will be other ways to understand marriage, ones that I haven't thought of yet. Maybe I'll like them, maybe not, butthey're coming. And we can't stop them. Thank God for that.

And on that note, some good news

oh, yeah, and:


Reb Barry said...

The video is great!

janaki said...

love, love, love the video!! thanks for a needed smile/laugh!!