Marriage is Not the Root of All Divorce

December 13, 2011  |  


I’ve been curious about what people think happens once you get married that causes them to be so adverse to the idea. I’m not talking about the George Clooney’s of the world who are serial daters and have no real desire to be in committed relationships, or who have never really had the urge to be married, it’s the people who use the high divorce rate in America as a reason to not walk down the aisle who are a little baffling to me.

Rashida Jones is one of the latest celebrities to shy away from marriage using this argument. She recently told People:

“I totally believe in romance and love and all that, but the actual institution of marriage – in this country, more than half the people get divorced. So, something’s not working. I’m not staying it doesn’t work for everybody. I love going to weddings. And I totally support my friends that are married. I just don’t know if it works altogether across the board. That’s what I’m saying.”

Jones is certainly not alone in her thinking. People have abandoned the institution of marriage in droves due to statistics reporting its low success rate. While Jones is right about one thing—that something isn’t working—it’s not the fact that people are getting married. Marriage isn’t an across the board type of thing, it’s a union between two people, and what doesn’t work between one couple has no bearing on what will work with another.

I think people forget that on the most basic level, marriage is just an extension of the commitment that you’ve already made to the other person. It isn’t much more than a covenant or public declaration before God and/or friends and family that you are totally committed to the other person and the relationship doesn’t differ much from what you should already be doing as a faithful partner, disregarding the legal obligations that come with the agreement.

If marriages fail, it’s not because two people who were getting along fine for 12 years unwed, suddenly decided to declare vows and now the entire relationship has gone to hell. There are underlying issues between spouses that caused the breakdown—issues that would be there regardless of marriage or not, especially if you believe in living with someone long-term just not being legally wed. No one keeps track of how many relationships break up, but trust that the stats would be much greater than 50%. What that high divorce rate is representative of is people rushing into marriage, people not discussing the parameters of their relationships and finances before taking the leap, and people no longer seeing marriage as a one-shot, forever thing. The divorce rate is representative of a shift in societal values, and that is what isn’t working.

Rather than look at the high rate of divorce in the United States and say, oh that’s not for me, people should proceed with caution and learn what issues caused other people’s marriages to breakdown, and work through those issues with their potential life mate—either as hypothetical what-ifs down the line, or as real issues they are facing at the moment. The day after you say I do is not the time to figure out how you’re going to pay bills, whether you’ll have separate bank accounts, if you want children, where you’ll live, etc. People who fail to work out those issues and be honest about what they want in a relationship/marriage are the ones who break up/get divorces.

Marriage may not be for everyone and that’s totally fine, but people who want marriage shouldn’t turn away from it simply because other people couldn’t figure it out. I remember attending a Modern Day Matchmaker Live Event in New York last year and Paul Carrick Brunson discussed the media attention on single black women and told the ladies in the audience not to listen to statistics that don’t apply to them, and he’s right. Going by stats, I should probably have three kids, no college degree, be unemployed, and carry a disease or two. But that’s not my reality. The same way we don’t let the slanted statistics of single black womanhood affect us, we shouldn’t let the “startling” divorce rate hinder us from jumping the broom. A marriage is an individual union between two people and if they set realistic expectations that each partner is willing to commit to for life then they have a solid foundation to make their union work. But without that strong foundation, we will continue to see our divorce rates dissolve exponentially, and consequently our marriage rates.

What do you think about people using negative divorce rates as an excuse not to get married? What is the difference between staying in a committed long-term relationship unwed and walking down the aisle? Do you think one is better than the other?

Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.

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