Friday, February 02, 2007

The Changing Face of Marriage by Jacob Caporaletti

Someone sent this to me via email without a link to a source! After an extensive Google search I finally found it! From a regular columnist to the Collegiate Times. Well worth a read! Caporaletti sums up the marriage debate very nicely.

The Changing Face of Marriage
January 30th, 2007

Jacob Caporaletti, regular columnist

In 2005, the population of the United States reached a watershed moment.

According to the American Community Survey, 49.7 percent of households of the nation's 111.1 million households were made up of married couples, down from 52 percent just five years before. This means, for the first time in American history, married couples are a minority.

However, this is not a new phenomenon. Marriage rates have been declining for decades. Some believe that this is a disturbing trend that will lead to weak family units and an unstable environment for children. Others believe that this trend shows that the very institution of marriage is in decay and may eventually die out.

Both sound scary in many ways. The idea that this age-old institution is fading is a big deal not just for America, but for Western civilization in general.

Equally disturbing is the notion of children growing up without the guidance of parents in a stable relationship. Champions of family values paint a bleak picture while the cynical side of the argument brushes it off. But is either of them really right in the grand scheme of things?

The answer is no. As with most issues, the concept of marriage is not clear-cut. The modern idea of marriage is actually pretty new. The contemporary model envisions a loving family living in a house in the suburbs surrounded by a white picket fence with two kids. But historically, this was far from the most common.

Over 100 years ago, the average family was much bigger and the reasons for marriage were much different. Back then, as is the case for most of human history, more families lived on farms and many hands were needed to tend to the fields. And until child labor laws were abolished, having a lot of kids was good in an economic sense because more children meant more money.

Go back even further and the ideal marriage changes even more. In ancient times, many marriages were arranged. In fact, the very concept of marriage was more like a business arrangement rather than a romantic gesture. Marriages ensured the transition of property and the procurement of children to extend the family. The idea of love was encouraged, but not deemed vital to a successful marriage.

The very idea of traditional marriage is different when one takes into account the most common union throughout history was polygamy. While many scorn such practices today, there are valid reasons why it was so prevalent. Infant mortality and death from childbirth were very common up until the modern era.

The very fact that people didn't live as long, influenced how marriages were set up. Going back to the modern idea of marriage, it was already a minority to begin with. Societies change as do traditions. But just because marriage rates are declining doesn't mean society should fear for some big social breakdown. People who push for traditional marriage are acting in the spirit of idealism and not realism. Some couples choose not to get married but still wish to live together. Some of those couples will go on to have children and raise them with the same love and dedication as married parents would. To say these people are wrong is to reject the bigger picture. Married couples and unmarried couples are separated only by legal papers and social stigma.

If this country is to adapt to this trend in marriage, some policies must change. If two people who are living together in a committed relationship wish to enjoy some of the benefits of marriage like tax breaks or insurance plans, they should be allowed to do so. And this extends to gay couples as well.

Regardless of how one might feel about gay marriage in a religious sense, that shouldn't deny them the opportunities to create a stable living environment for themselves and their children. Marriage is still going to be around well into the future, but it will continue to change with the times. As an institution, it will always hold a significant place in society. People just have to respect the fact that some get married for different reasons. It's possible to love someone without marrying them, and it's just as possible to marry someone without loving them. That doesn't make it any less important in modern society. It isn't going away and it isn't falling apart. It's just changing and society has to be willing to change with it.