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Is Marriage Necessary?

It seems about once a year some writer makes a case against marriage. Most of these stories talk about the odds of a marriage failing (about 50%) and how monogamy is an unrealistic ideal.

Now, right on schedule, bloggers Jessica Bennett and Jesse Ellison write “I Don’t. The Case Against Marriage” in Newsweek. But these two self-proclaimed “educated, young, urban professionals” aren’t anti-marriage exactly. They just don’t see the point. They write:

Once upon a time, marriage made sense. It was how women ensured their financial security, got the fathers of their children to stick around, and gained access to a host of legal rights. But 40 years after the feminist movement established our rights in the workplace, a generation after the divorce rate peaked, and a decade after Sex and the City made singledom chic, marriage is—from a legal and practical standpoint, anyway—no longer necessary.

The authors do a compelling job of presenting their argument for why marriage is outdated:

- Americans are co-habitating in record numbers. The number of unmarried-but-cohabiting partners has risen 1,000 percent over the last 40 years.

- Having  children outside of wedlock is no longer stigmatized. In 2008, 41 percent of births were to unmarried mothers, more than ever before.

- There is no longer a financial incentive to marriage. Women are the bread-winners (or co-breadwinners) in two thirds of American households.

- A fifth of young Americans identify as secular, so the religious ceremony is no longer as significant.

- Where people once got married to have sex, pre-marital sex is now generally accepted.

- In most cases, you don’t even get a tax break for being married. President Obama’s new health plan will allow low-earning single people get better subsidies to buy insurance than married couples.

According to statistics, the romantic ideal of finding one person to fulfill all of your needs is not realistic. The United States has the highest divorce rate in the world and as many as 60 percent of men and half of women will have extra-marital sex. “Measurements of brain activity have shown that 20 years into marriage, 90 percent of couples have lost the passion they originally felt,” write the authors.

Having just celebrated my 10th anniversary, my husband and I have  so far managed to keep our romance alive. Call me an old-fashioned romantic, but I’m not yet ready to declare marriage dead. The authors’ arguments are persuasive, but I still proclaim “I Do” to marriage.

What do you think? Is marriage outdated?

Photo: http://picasaweb.google.com/JILL.EASLEY07

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