The State of our “Unions” Address- What’s happening to Marriage?

bandaid on marriage
Is marriage really a dying tradition?
Are all these statistics we keep hearing about, real?

After two divorces myself and the experience gained from them, I have my own thoughts of why fewer people are running to the altar and more are running away from it. My curiosity and need for explanation have made me a statistic Diva! I know what percentage of marriages will end and I even know what color of clothing is most worn on one’s divorce day. But, before I go off with my opinion, let me first present some factual data on marriages:

A report released just months ago by Bowling Green State University’s National Center for Marriage and Family Research found that the U.S. marriage rate is 31.1, or 31 marriages per 1,000 unmarried women. That means for every 1,000 unmarried women in the U.S., 31 of those previously single women tied the knot in the last year. For comparison, in 1920, the national marriage rate was 92.3!

Meanwhile, the average age at women’s first marriage is 27 years old, its highest point in over a century. This is a good thing in my opinion.

In 2011, the Pew Research Center found that 51 percent of Americans were married (somehow it’s that fifty percent I seem to meet!), compared to a whopping 72 percent in 1960. However, rates of cohabiting couples are rising. According to a private research company, Demographic Intelligence, less than half a million couples were cohabiting in 1960, compared to 7.5 million in 2010! Holy non-committal!

So what gives??? If I were to take a gander at answering this, let’s say Oprah had me on her show (bucket list) and she asked me, here is what I would say:

1. Women’s Liberation – Look at how many women are now in the workforce compared to the 1950’s. With more and more women becoming financially independent, the need for financial security in a partner has greatly diminished. Why buy the cow when you can pay for your own milk? Women are no longer “settling” because they don’t need to and more inclined to hold off until they find a man that can bring more than a paycheck to the table. Women are less enthused about staying in a less than blissful marriage. Men are having to step up their “A -Game” and the expectations that come with it. And with both sexes now working outside the home and spending more time with co-workers than family, there are more “temptations” (on both sides) in the work place. Hello “affair” statistics!

2. Frankly, I think the divorce rate is just scaring the crap out of people and we are more inclined to really hold out for the “right one”. Hopefully if this is reality, we will begin to see more” due diligence” in partner selection prior to leaping to the altar and we can turn this hole divorce ship around!

3. Hollywood- Temptation and overindulgence are everywhere! Have you seen what housemaids look like now? Look at what those poor women are having to wear just to get a freakin’ window cleaning job! We are constantly inundated with promiscuity, movies that romanticize affairs and unrealistic images of hotness most of us could never achieve. How do we compete? I wonder how many men even know “air brushing” exists??

4. Exhaustion- Here is a typical day in my life. I wake up at 6:00 am every morning, give myself a pep talk and envision all the success ahead of me for the next 24 hours (I’m practicing the Laws of Attraction). I drink my coffee while I’m making a 3 course breakfast for my children so that when they come home with a “C”, they can’t blame me for their brains not working. Then I move onto to packing lunches. I then herd 4 children (three of which are teenagers that like to sleep) into my large urban assault vehicle and drive 6 miles and 25 minutes, to one school and another 15 minutes to the other. I come home and try and get a 30 minute workout in, clean the explosion up that ensued from earlier meal making and sit in front of my computer working for the six hours I have left before I have to pick up all 4 kids again from their designated schools. Then it’s snack time. Then work some more. Then low and behold- it’s 6’oclock already and time to whip out yet another meal. Clean up that, work on homework with my youngest, get him down for the night, throw a load of laundry in and spend 30 minutes power cleaning. By now it’s 9:30-10:00 pm and I’m so wiped out, I can barely keep my eyes open long enough for “me time”! And when I was married, I was then expected to crawl in bed and become a sexual prowess for my patiently waiting husband? I swear if he slaps my ass and tries to call me “Sally” one more time… I’m not saying this is fair to either sex. It’s just reality.

So split the household duties? Divorce rates are 50% higher among “modern” couples who share the housework than in those where the woman does the lion’s share of the chores, a Norwegian study has found. Well damn.

5. In America, the standard workweek is a minimum of 42.7 hours. Multiply that by two parents in most cases. Thanks to Smartphone’s and ability to take calls in the bathroom, at Wal-Mart or while at McDonalds grabbing dinner on the fly, we exceed the hours we are actually working well beyond years past. When is there time to “date” your spouse? Meanwhile, our kids are doing who knows what with who knows who and then with that, whew, conflicting styles of parenting! Talk about stress on a marriage! (Boy do I know about this one). Since when did parenting get so complicated? I’m tracing it back to Women’s Lib again. Those burning bras. Not only do we have to bring home half the bacon to help pay for rising education costs, rising food prices, gas prices and if there is anything left…retirement, we have all our other “female responsibilities” that existed back in circa 1950’s to attend to. We have created a monster.

So there it is. My top 5 thoughts on the State of Our Unions.

So what is the solution? How do we preserve the holy matrimony of marriage, keep kids in dual parent homes, maintain sanity at the same time and still have sex? Sounds like a tall order, doesn’t it?

I personally feel pre-marital counseling should be required before any marriage certificate be issued. That’s again, just my opinion. It would force us all to answer some logical questions though and to see things we may be trying to ignore:

Couples really need to establish each other’s goals and values before making the choice to marry. How well do you really know your partner? What are their biggest pet peeves? What do they do that bugs you that you most likely cannot change? Can you live with it? Do they want children as badly as you? Do they have any past secrets that could later haunt your marriage? I have found in my own relationships that after the initial 6 month “honeymoon phase” of dating, if you watch close enough, the red flags begin to appear. They seem to then peak between the 2nd and 3rd year of dating. That’s when you really need to be on full alert and go through the questions above again. Really, who can hide their true self much past that? I was not honest with myself with these hard questions in the beginning nor did I think ahead. I also remember choosing not to pay attention to some things. Now I know we have all heard this before but we still do it!
NEVER go into a relationship thinking “things will change”. I did that in my first. The only thing that will change is your tolerance level of the little things your partner does that absolutely make you want to claw your very own eyes out.

Know and like who you are! Before any of us should commit to a relationship, it is important to tap into our own values and know what particular qualities in another would be deal breakers. If they are truly important to you, don’t compromise on those- refer to the last sentence in #1 above. As far as liking yourself, you must be content in your own life where you are now, spiritually, intellectually, physically, and financially. Mr. Right should be an added bonus, not the end all. You will not find happiness if you rely on external factors to bring it to you. Wait until your “complete”. He won’t complete you. Jerry McGuire lies!

Wait! It will save you a lot of money and heartache.

Generally once a cheater always a cheater (with few exceptions). I don’t care how hot and cool you are. I was considered by many to be hot and cool and my first still ran off with the black jack dealer from Laughlin, NV! If you have a trust issue in your relationship, honey, the starting gun has gone off and it is still smokin’! Run Forest, run! Statistics reveal that 80% of women that suspect their partner is having an affair are right on the money.

Think, past the little girl ideal of the fairy tale wedding. The excitement of planning a dream wedding, shopping for the dress you envisioned as a young girl, the beautiful butter cream cake with raspberry and Bavarian crème filling, the attention and gifts. The amazing honeymoon. That week will end and you may have a kickass suntan, but now ‘til death do you part! Or at least until the big, fat, expensive divorce! Think ahead, way ahead.

If you want to have children, remember that by honestly answering difficult, soul searching questions beforehand, we will not only save ourselves from struggle and heartache, but we will also spare our children the same. My biggest regret to date is that my children have been impacted by both my conditions and my decisions.

You MUST ask yourself (and your partner should ask you) why you want to marry this person. Is it for security, stability, a ticking biological clock? Those desires alone will not sustain your marriage over the long haul. Make your own money, enjoy the freedom of independence and set yourself up for a much easier journey should things not work out in your marriage. Your future husband will be attracted to these qualities and respect you for them.

Why do so many of us tend to ignore those small red flags that are revealed in the early stages of a relationship. Why would we willingly set ourselves up for failure? I think we want the dream, the vision, the same portrait of family life depicted in a Rockwell painting. Our Grandparents lived it and even some of our own parents.

Those days are gone and we are in a transition phase of trying to adjust, catch up and find balance in the new century. I think with education and some restraint, we can do things better. Rockwell may be history, but I believe if we did more of the work beforehand we could achieve more stabilization among our unions. If we are more honest with ourselves, if we have more clarity about what we want and why, and we really listen to that voice in our gut, perhaps we would begin to see a decline in the divorce rate and the amount of broken homes our children come from.

It’s unfortunate that most of us have to learn the hard way. Too have to experience divorce at least once to figure things out. Some of us don’t even get it right the second time, or third. Fortunately I think I have finally figured things out. The personal growth was expensive but I am so thankful for it. That’s a whole other article. Stay tuned.

So that’s my ten cents. Now here is the answer to that random statistic I threw out at the beginning of this:

Studies show 74% of women wear…black on Divorce Day!

This may not come as such a shock. We don’t choose it because we are mourning; we wear it because it’s our power color! It’s the jumpstart of post divorce diets. Black is an instant 10 lbs weight loss and we just rock all our clothes better in it! And regardless of who initiated the divorce, our ego wants to let our former men know just what they’ll be missing!

By Thelma 8/19/2013