Wednesday, August 4, 2010

In defense of young marriage

As someone whose marriage ended distressingly short of the "until death do you part" part, but lasted long enough to pretty much raise a couple of cool kids, it is with mixed feelings that I read this week an article in the "New York Review of Books" that examined a handful of new books on the subject of getting hitched.

(I get the following statistics from the author, Diane Johnson, a novelist and writer of non-fiction.)

First off, religious conservatives frightened by gay marriage have little to worry about. Americans continue to see a "normal" marriage as an ideal. A mere 10 percent of people here think marriage is outdated compared, say, to a third in France. Fact is, by the time they are 40, 84 percent of American women have been married - a figure that's higher than in any other other Western nation.

Unfortunately, 54 percent of those marriages end in divorce within 15 years. (About the same percentage of breakups between men and women living together also happen in that time frame ... but even sooner.

It turns out that 40 percent of American children will "experience the dissolution of their parents' intimate partnership" by the time they are 15 - a higher figure than anywhere in Europe.

Anyway, the review of the books in question - ranging from what essentially are marriage manuals to sociological studies to best-seller Elizabeth Gilbert's new one called "Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage" - bats the idea of marriage all over the place. Is it good for women? For men?

After reading the review, I'm left with a basic question: If there is a better way for a young man and woman to start their adult lives, what could it possibly be?

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