For Richer or Poorer

The people at the National Marriage Project have released their annual State of our Unions report, which monitors the current state of marriage and family life in America. It’s a long report, so I didn’t have time to study the whole thing. But I did page through it, and found a few major tidbits:

• U.S. divorce rates in the country actually fell from 17.5 per 1,000 married women in 2007 to 16.9 per 1,000 married women in 2008 (after rising from 16.4 per 1,000 married women in 2005). This is not surprising, as I’ve seen at least a couple of articles in national newspapers say that fewer couples can afford to absorb the financial fallout of divorce, so more are staying together.

• Newlyweds who take on substantial consumer debt become less happy in their marriages over time. By contrast, new married couples who paid off any consumer debt they brought into their marriage or acquired early in their marriage had lower declines in their marital quality over time.

• Marriage serves more as a bond of companionship whose purpose is to satisfy emotional needs—instead of economic ones. So, marriage is less of a socioeconomic unit in today’s society.

The National Marriage Project  says it’s a non-partisan, non-sectarian group that aims to “provide research and analysis on the health of marriage in America, to analyze the social and cultural forces shaping contemporary marriage, and to identify strategies to increase marital quality and stability.” That sounds like a worthy endeavor to me, although I do have one suggestion for increasing marital quality and stability: tell a lot of these guys to be mature and considerate! Although the Latte Cafe is a non-political blog, I couldn’t resist pointing out some of their conclusions.

I have been married for five and a half years, and although my union is not a new one, Hubby and I have been together long enough to have learned a few important lessons about love and commitment. The first couple of years of our marriage were blemished by what I considered to be immaturity and insensitivity on Hubby’s part, and I’m sure there were many times when he thought I was uncompromising. Whatever the case, everyday life seems to be a lot better for us, as we’ve learned to put a house together, subvert our individual interests to promote the health of the household, and well, to appreciate each other more. I’m sure that a lot of the information in this report will affirm what we already know about marriage. There is nothing astounding, for instance, in the assertion that people get married these days more for companionship and less for economic reasons. But it’s nice to know that serious scholars are interested enough in the institution and to make a serious study of it. Marriages everywhere would be stronger if the individuals involved took the same approach to their relationships.

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