Sunday, December 18, 2011

Are singles delaying marriage?

Y'all can all stop asking why your single friend isn't married (yet). And you can also stop asking me why I'm not married (yet) too. The latest data show that single adults now almost outnumber married adults. But no, this isn't a post about why singles are people too.
Within a few years, the majority of adults over 18 will be single. And that's not a number specific to a religion. That is across the United States. Alexis de Tocqueville observed in the 19th century, “There is certainly no country in the world where the tie of marriage is more respected than in America or where conjugal happiness is more highly or worthily appreciated.” Well, that was before a few things happened, now wasn't it?
Before we had shows like "Married... with Children" and "Sex and the City" convincing us marriage would be awful. (Comparatively, TV shows in the 1980s and earlier that were all about families.) And before birth control and the feminist revolution said it was okay for adults to have free, uncomplicated, uncommitted sex. Marriage just isn't popular or needed anymore.
The Pew Research Center study on marriage says, that the median age for marriage is now at its highest level as more young people put off tying the knot or cohabitate instead. Last year, only 9% of 18-to-24-year-olds were married, a big drop from 45% fifty years ago.
Contrary to popular belief, money and the economy are not the reasons people are "putting off" marriage. Most people (according to this survey) believe it is a values revolution. Approximately 4 out of 10 adults under the age of 30 now consider marriage to be obsolete. The number of adults who married over the past decade fell from 57 percent to a threshold-breaking 51 percent.
Single adults are shying away from commitment to another person and leaning towards a more self reliant future. In my humble opinion, men no longer have the confidence and security that they will be able to provide for a family, so they stall on marriage, and committing to relationships that may lead to marriage. And women no longer need a man to provide for them, so they aren't thumping men on the head with a rolling pin and demanding a ring. Both sides are okay with pursuing, at least for the time being, a lifestyle of self-reliance and independence.
According to the study, the majority of singles would like to get married – especially among those between the ages of 36 and 45 – but for many reasons they just aren’t. As a single woman, I can give you a lot of those reasons. The study says it is because victims of divorce are very reluctant to get married. Others put careers and education first. And with less social obligation to marry these days, finding Mr. or Ms. Right seems less urgent.
As a single woman, I'm going to add in a big caveat to that. SOME singles are putting off marriage for those reasons (divorce, careers, etc). The rest of us are by-products of those people. It reduces the chances for the rest of us who want to get married and always have, to have the opportunity to do so, while we are forced to wait for them. 
My dear friend, Lindsey at the R House, recently blogged about what not to say, and what to say, to women and couples struggling to have a child. (Her thoughts about Judging the Duggar Family are absolutely spot-on!) It got me thinking a lot about the insensitive things that are said to me about being single, not being a mother, etc. So very often I receive thoughtless comments from thoughtless people about why I'm not married (yet). Usually someone has made the completely erroneous judgment that I have "put off" marriage. Or that I am "putting my career first." Nothing could be further from the truth. The only reason I am not married is because I haven't been asked by the right man yet! And until the right man comes along, I will continue to do my job to the best of my ability, take care of myself, and get my financial house in order. But I have never put my job ahead of my long-term pursuits for marriage. And it drives me crazy when anyone insinuates that I have. 
When I read what Lindsey had to say about well-meaning, but hurtful, comments regarding not having children, I felt a lot of sympathy. I want children. I want them now. Do you really think I don't know that my chances of bearing my own child are slipping away? Believe me, I'm very aware of the fact. So when you drop your baby in my lap and tell me I "need the practice," please know that it is only because I love your child that I don't tell you what an insensitive and rude person you are in front of your child. I'll let your child figure that out on their own time. 
When you ask me, whether teasingly or thoughtlessly, what's wrong with me that I'm not married yet, please understand that I'll give you the polite shrug and smile. But on the inside, I'm holding to the numbers in the Pew study with all my heart. The study tells me it isn't all my fault. Maybe I'm not married (yet) because other people are putting it off, which delays it for me as well. The study brings me comfort on the days that I am terrified that maybe it is me. Maybe there is something wrong with me that no one wants to marry me. When you ask what's wrong with me, you are just jabbing that knife in a little deeper. 
For me the most fumbling question is "Don't you want to get married?" If the answer is no, you probably have a good reason. If your answer is yes, you just feel like a loser, picked last for the team. 
Instead of asking if someone is interested in getting married, find out if they are currently dating (which may or may not be any of your business). And then, be a good friend. Look around and introduce them to someone. Or invite them over for family dinner. Most singles I know love to hang out around families with kids (for a few hours at least). Or keep your friend in your prayers.
Don't ask questions you probably aren't entitled to the answers to. Instead, if you really care, pray for them and send them positive thoughts. Or better yet, DO something for them!


  1. Hallelujiah! Amen!

    My thoughts... your words!
    Particularly that we "are by-products of those people. It reduces the chances for the rest of us who want to get married and always have, to have the opportunity to do so, while we are forced to wait for them. "
    I've been trying to articulate that for some time.

    Good job!

  2. Anonymous1:21 PM

    I'm sorry you feel judged for being single. However, considering yourself a by-product? Comparing uncommitted sex to relationship sex? Totally different animals. The men that I know recognize that and while some still want an occasional fling, most of them are looking for a relationship. If the majority of singles want to get married, how does everyone become a by-product of the minority?


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