Tuesday, February 11, 2014

There Are More Singles Today Than Ever Before - Here's Why

Have you noticed how there are more singles today than ever before? As I look around I start to notice how I'm not the only single left from the group I grew up with. In fact, of the group of youth I went through high school with, I can't help but notice that about half of us are still single. I wondered at first if this had something to do with our common backgrounds? But as I looked around closer I started to realize, we're not alone. There really are a lot more singles than there used to be. In fact, singles have  increased quite a bit in the population across the United States.
The latest data show that single adults now almost outnumber married adults. Within a few more years, the majority of adults in the United States over 18 will be single. 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 to co-habitate instead. Last year, only 9% of 18-to-24-year-olds were married, a big drop from 45% fifty years ago. That is not a number specific to a religion! (In fact, it may be slightly different in the LDS religion, but that's just a guess.) 
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.”
Are you wondering what has happened? Why are there more singles now than before? I've heard many people postulate on the subject, and I have my own theories as well. But according to the study, 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. For the first time in economic history, women do not need to rely on marriage for a home and a future.
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.
A few more things than just financial independence has happened over the last generation. My generation was the first to grow up with divorce as a regular fact of life. It wasn't something we heard existed and it happened with shame to other people. We have always known someone who was divorced.
Another major change in our lives is that popular entertainment no longer celebrates families. Popular entertainment like the “Dick Van Dyke Show,” or “Leave it to Beaver,” and the “Cosby Show” have gone the way of the dodo. We grew up with shows like "Married... with Children" and "Sex and the City" convincing us marriage would be awful. (But then we also grew up aware of the fact that there isn't a laugh track when we made a mistake, and parents don't shrug off broken windows with a head tilt and a sympathetic “Oh Beaver!”)
Not to mention, marriage just isn't popular or needed any more. We have birth control and the feminist revolution taught us it was okay for adults to have free, uncomplicated, uncommitted sex.
But as a single woman, I'm going to add in a big caveat to all of the above. SOME singles are putting off marriage for those reasons. Some of us are by-products of the people who are intentionally putting off marriage. 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.
Now, in the LDS Church things are a little different. We have the Proclamation on the Family. We started singing songs about where we want to get married before we were four years old. We do recognize the blessings of marriage and a family. We were taught it as children, and we are still taught it today.
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, or have suffered a miscarriage. It got me thinking 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)! Until the right man comes along, I will continue to pursue a productive and fulfilling career, 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 the well-meaning, but hurtful, comments regarding not having children, I felt a lot of sympathy. I want children. I want them now. I know that my chances of bearing my own child are slipping away. It hurts, and I wish my situation were different. So please don't drop your baby in my lap and tell me I "need the practice." (I have nearly 50 younger cousins, 2 much younger siblings, and I have always loved babies. I can change a diaper blind-folded with one hand tied behind my back. I don't need the practice!)
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 stabbing that knife in a little deeper.
We're on the cusp of a new year. Lots of singles everywhere are going to privately make it a goal to meet someone, enjoy a relationship, and hopefully, maybe get married. Maybe you can make it a goal to help your single friends meet other people? Or support their activities? Pray for someone each day that they will meet someone special? Just some food for thought!

Erin Ann McBride is a writer, dreamer, and single woman. By day she works in marketing, and by night she hunts unicorns and writes romantic novels, “You Heard It Here First,” and the sequel “This Just In!” She accepts new friends daily at https://www.facebook.comAuthorErinAnnMcBride

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