Fewer adults are getting married in the U.S. than ever before. For those who do get married, many are delaying the decision until they’re older. As part of “Our Changing Community,” our series on the 2010 census, we look at who is saying “I don’t” to marriage — and why.

Marriage: Denied and Delayed 19 July,2011forum

Judith Stacey, professor of sociology and professor of gender and sexuality at New York University, and author of "Unhitched: Love, Marriage, and Family Values from West Hollywood to Western China"
Rick Banks, professor of law at Stanford and author of "Is Marriage for White People: How the African-American Marriage Decline Affects Everyone"
Leora Lawton, sociologist and demographer at UC Berkeley and executive director of the Berkeley Population Center

  • Butler

    Marriage can’t happen if people don’t meet. As much as the mainstream media pretends that meeting people is an easy and frequent occurrence, in many areas this is a falsehood, because (A) are working long hours, or (B) people have been trained by the media to fear strangers. In recent years there is much emphasis in movies and on TV on meeting people in bars, but this is like going to a used car dealership hoping to find a reliable car.

    • Butler

      Oops, typo. I meant “(A) people are working…”
      I wish it were possible to edit our posts.

  • Michael Ballew

    My (heterosexual) partner and I are atheists. We feel discriminated against and marginalized by the privileges provided to married couples. We’re perfectly able to get married, but we won’t. We obviously have no religious reasons to do so, but more importantly we refuse to participate in the discrimination of single people (gay, straight, and queer alike)

    • I am curious why you and your partner feel discriminated against and why you feel marriage discriminates against single individuals? I could be wrong, but I was under the impression that (for you and your partner) a domestic partnership in California allowed the same rights as marriage.

  • My life partner and I (both 26 now) got married in a courthouse primarily for reasons of health insurance.  My partner was working when I graduated from university and we were quick to marry right after my graduation so that I wouldn’t be uninsured.  We were together for 4 years prior to that, and cohabiting for 3.  Naively and perhaps and amusingly, we tried to obtain a domestic partnership prior to marrying citing solidarity with same-sex couples who were denied the option to wed…I still struggle with calling my life partner my “husband”.

  • Guest

    Just because couples can divorce doesn’t mean they shouldn’t try to first work things out.  For some the ease of divorce is a way out of responsibility or even compromise.

    Also will rates of divorce be affected by coming increases in cost and time
    due to State cuts to the court system?

  • elisabeth

    There is such a dearth of ritual and rite of passage in our society it seems like many people who do decide to get married are actually just after the experience of having a wedding, a ritual to satisfy the that basic human impulse. This seems to be evidenced by the over-the-top extravaganzas that weddings have become, as well as the disposable nature the actual bond has taken on.

  • Melissaholcomb

    My 50 year old sister is getting married soon, for the second time.  She will wear a formal white gown, have an uncle walk her down the aisle, and have her 3 grown daughters as bridesmaids!  They enjoy shows like Bridezilla and Say Yes to the Dress.
    I frankly don’t get it!

    • Thaisdarosa

      I’m surprised that the interview didn’t mention the many ‘bride shows’ on TV… and their example, to particularily the less educated, that having a lavish party is the thing to do?!  Have a big party and then get divorced 6 months later… but, keep on paying for the party!!  I don’t get that!

  • Assassinklaus

    I am about to have my 26th birthday and I have been with my partner for nearly seven years. When we first got together, she was finishing up her B.A. and wanted to get married, but after we talked more about it, she came to agree with my point of view in that marriage is a legal arrangement, as it always has been. We don’t need anyone to validate our relationship.

  • $2870056

    “Engaged” for 33 years, we were able to marry 3 years ago as seniors, thanks to the California Supreme Court.  We’ve spent all our adult lives together.
    Couples like us, not all, can show a number of things straight couples might benefit knowing, putting into their marriages that make marriage grow and last.For example:  Prepare meals together, eat together, clean up after meals in each other’s presence, shop for food together.Combine, as much as possible your resources, incomes and possessions, yet keep interests in some exclusive hobbies, possessions and activities, but share the accomplishments.Compete everywhere else, except in your marriage, or with other married couples.

  • Miriam Goodmant

    I think an interesting statistic is that the number of divorces for couples married a long time is going up. As the author of “Too Much Togetherness: surviving Retirement as a Couple,” I have interviewed hundreds of couples who don’t know how to relate to each other after 40 years of separate but parallel lives.This is a real problem for retired couples who need to communicate their feelings about marriage as they reach the last chapter of their lives.

    Miriam Goodman
    San Francisco

  • Hunter_Cynthia

    I’m an unmarried woman in a committed relationship with two small children. I’m not interested in marriage but was under the impression that I would be protecting myself and my children financially if we were to get married. I’m only working part-time now and don’t have retirement. If we break up I think I would be in a worse financial place than before we met. Any advice on how to be a smart committed woman?

    • gil patchett

      My “Gut” says, … “Get something in writing” for future security.

  • d w

    Among the young in cities like San Francisco, I am inclined to say it isn’t the men that are putting off getting married and settling down, but the women. Most of the men I know in their late 20’s and 30’s would love to settle down, but all the single women have no interest in it. They want to stay liberated and feel like connecting themselves with a partner means that they have to give up their freedoms and their liberation and see down the line- man, married, kids, loss of life. Even if their partner would support them in their endeavors and their lives wouldn’t change there is an ingrained feeling that as soon as they are attached to someone they are no longer a liberated woman.
    I’ve also noticed that the children of divorce seem to have no faith in marriage or lasting relationships. Sure, 50% of marriages end in divorce, but that means that 50% are successful.

    • gil patchett

      We now have choices and no longer need Marriage for survival. Let the others bear and raise the children. Q? How important is the “Family”? Will an extended family be a good substitute? … About those 50% successful marriages, how contented are they really? Who envies who?

  • Kei2thehwy

    why is there such an issue about the term marriage is there something from the bible, something that we don’t want when you’re considering spending a lfetime with our same sex partners in other words why issue the word marriage important?

  • Michael

    Any statistics or thoughts from the guests on polyamorous/polyfidelitous relationships?

  • kelsey

    I say get rid of marriage and just set up some laws just for cohabitation.  We forget that marriage is only a legal contract and has nothing to do with love.

  • zendoggie

    I’m all for people making choices that are best for their lives. But as an active, engaged father of two, I could do with less of the 50’s sitcom stereotyping of men that keeps cropping up in this show.  “Men want to get married because they crave adult supervision?” Come on, Michael.

  • Jayh

    I’m Mexican American female and 32 and have NO interest in marriage at all. You cannot believe the reaction I get from men when it comes up. Women understand and compliment my choice. Men react in shock and awe and say “Don’t you want someone to take care of you? You’ll be all alone when you’re old!” My answer will always be, ‘I can take care of myself and being alone is not a problem for me.’ However….my family, being Catholic, is only concerned that I will be marked a tragic Old Maid. 

    • gil patchett

      Twice married and twice divorced, at age 83 “Singles status” is much the best for me. I like “Taking care of myself”.

  • Guest

    Redefining Fidelity?

    One of the guests mentioned her article or book where she talks
    about “Redefining Fidelity” (along with the Dan Savage article).
    Does anyone know the article or book title and author?

    • Judith Stacey

      Hi, Thanks for your interest.  My book is
      Judith Stacey, Unhitched:  Love, Marriage and Family Values from West Hollywood to Western China.  NYU Press;  available also from Amazon and in kindle edition.

  • Guest

    Welcome to another man criticizing show.

    The challenge for men coming home from work is, work is stressful too.
    Just getting passed the kids at the door step is an answer for one side
    doesn’t mean it is for the other.

    (This applies when one partner is working, not both.  & just because statistics show it happens when both couples are working does not mean it’s a legit answer when only one is).

  • Kerstin

    I am hearing a lot about how “good” it is to get married later in life, and I believe it to an extent. The darker side of this is the issue of having children. I am a  professional, married mother of one (with a second on the way), and am considered young at 38 to be in this position. I can’t tell you how many of my friends I’ve watched struggle to get pregnant into their 40’s at staggering expense, and often without success. I’ve also seen friends in their late 30’s and 40’s who do get pregnant, endure miscarriage after miscarriage. We are fooling ourselves as women to to think we can “have it all”- well developed careers, and late marriages that mean we can’t start to have babies until we are old enough to be grandmothers. 

  • Linda Parker Pennington

    Great program, as usual. It would be great to do a follow-up. Thanks Michael!

  • gil patchett

    Q? … WHO SHOULD GET MARRIED? … Only those mature couples who are both totally committed to desiring children and are willing to devote their next 50 years to the selfless parenting tasks, often with disappointing outcomes. One rule does not fit all (or any).

  • Albert R.Levy,PhD.

    Hmm.Sociological experts.Why not have experienced psychotherapists on this panel. Gender is a sociological and not a psychological term.Talking about roles gets us nowhere.Yeah.,more men do this and more women do that.Nyaaa NYahh.I sort of know these women were sort of joking when they said “what were those men doing that are driving them crazy.” One could say if you believe in all this is to say “what on earth is that guy doing married to a crazy women??”This is so stupid,There are just as many fucked up women as men who psychologically are unable to have intimate relationships(not because of money and “roles:,or gender.) but because of their individual psychology.Or psychopathology.

    That is why people hate the Moynahan Report.He is saying there is too much individual psychopathology in the black family(regardless of your theory of why that is) and that is why they are not doing too well and “education” or “slogans” are not going to tame their individual psychopathology.

    Talking about “men” and “women “only generates heat and no light.It’s fun to argue this at a dinner party and make jokes but it makes it seem that women have no psychological,problems whereas the men and their roles cause all the problems in a relationship.Surely you must know there is no evidence for this.It makes for cutesy jokes like you had on this panel.

    No one wants to see which people have great marriages and which ones’ don’t and see what the difference is in terms of the couple’s psychology.Not roles,not expectations,not education.Many people are able to give and receive love and many people simply are not able to give and receive love but they don’t know that and so they place the responsibility on factors other than themselves.”The faults,dear Brutus,lies not in our stars but in ourselves”  Dr.Julius Caesar said that.

    The  Big Question

    :Who is  responsible for how your life turns out?.Society or one’s own individual difficulties in interpersonal relationships.??Society or your parents and how you were raised or not raised.It can’t be both.

    There is not one shred of scientific evidence that man and women differ in their personal ability(ability,folks,ability) to have loving inmate relationships And which one;s can’t.Roles and economics are huge cop outs.Just as many loving men and loving women and just as many cold rejecting men as there are cold rejecting women.

    This just in: Poorly raised kids can end up being crappy people.

    Many people are married but they are not “psychologically married”.They will fight about everything.Everything.Some people are couples and you can see it and some people are not “a couple”.It is apparent.

    The basic reason why people don’t get along is they have married the wrong person.Including both Bill and Hillary Clinton.There are no “victims” when you think psychologically.

    Sociological or gender talk explains nothing.It merely,merely tries to describe.It is not useful.Fun but utterly useless.It explains nada.

    The battle of the sexes will never end because it is fun but there is no evidence to the claims.

    The battle of the sexes will never be won because there is too much fraternization with the enemy.

    In Berkeley,

    Albert R.Levy,PhD
    PSY 4153

    This letter is meant for the panel,and the moderator although he can read this too.Pass it on.

  • Butler

    Could it simply be that the quality of Americans is falling?

  • It’s hard to meet people. To make ends meet I have to work two jobs. When I get home, I have to work hard on repairing my home. There’s no -time- or         -money- during the day to meet people or go out. Let alone marry. 

  • lvlylrn

    When people talk about women “delaying” marriage it makes me so frustrated. Does everyone think that most women have every opportunity to get married any time they want and have just decided that it’s not quite the right time in their late 20s, early 30s? Maybe some people have that experience, but most of my friends and I have been looking for that right person for a LONG time… it just takes forever for some people to find the connection and have it be a mutual thing.

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