Marriage is falling out of favour around the globe, although it wasn’t that long ago that it peaked.
Marriage peaked in the 1980s with a record number of marriages when 2.5 million people got married. Since then there’s been a drop off. Over the last century the number of marriages has halved, and that’s counting people that double dip and get married more than once.
According to a study and data from the National Survey of Family Growth each successive generation is seeing a marked drop off of people deciding to shackle themselves together. Only 20% of women born in the 20s were unmarried by the time they were 24. Compare that to someone born in the 90s, where 84% remain unmarried by the time they hit 24. Of course in our generation it’s well known that we put off marriage till later in life, but even so, the way trends are going 25% of us will die alone never having any sort of formalized relationship.
(Pictured above: A married couple who shall forever remain married)
It’s a global phenomenon that’s acting independent of GDP, wealth, and even Christianity in the case of strong Catholic countries like Spain and Italy. Even with the gay marriage push there has been no noticeable blip on the declining numbers.
So I decided to ask Kristof Haines, a writer here, who has no real credentials to be talking about the subject to step us through what the hell is going on, and say it like it is.
Kristof, there’s a global decline in marriage, why do you think that might be?
It’s not really too mysterious why marriage is declining to be honest.
The societal imperative is melting fast in the face of rising secularism and the declining relevance of the traditional church as a guide to lifestyle and morality.
What would you say to people who don’t even see marriage as a church thing? Are they just forgetting their roots?
Well, the thing is that marriage in its current form only exists/existed because of the church. You can say it means whatever you like to you personally now, but that’s the reason for its decline – its biggest backer is nowhere near as influential as it once was.
There appear to be a lot of fingers pointed at different factors, for example the way society is made up now means women don’t need to rely on men to be bread winners. Do you believe that the decline of spirituality is still the predominant factor? Spirituality = Christianity in this case.
Yeah, I’d say religion as opposed to spirituality, but I still think it’s the predominant factor. You have to remember, in a more strongly Christian society de facto relationships certainly would not be a legally protected thing, which makes a huge difference all of its own.
Marriage in some form or another has always existed across every society on the planet. Do you see the formalization of relationships continuing into the future?
I think so, but I think it will become less monolithic and organised than the single standard of marriage. More individualized.
Could government properly cater to a more individualized approach? Or are you referring more to the aesthetic traditions surrounding ceremonies and the like?
Government doesn’t have too much to worry about to be honest, seeing as de facto counts – it’s all very informal now. And yeah, I’m referring to rituals and labels.
What would your favourite future marriage ritual be?
I think the old rituals are still the best. Mingling blood will be a powerful symbol as long as we have biological bodies. Something that involves the couple’s close community would be good too, as no relationship should be an island.