Why is it referred to as the ‘institution of marriage’? That question may seem like a teaser for an episode of Sex in the City but, where has this ‘institution’ been and where is it going? Who is the typical applicant to this ‘institution’ of higher learning?
According to W. Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, “Marriage has become a much more selective institution in today’s society.” In many respects this is true. Today, women have more freedom in a marital choice. Both men and women are waiting longer to marry; they may remain childless by choice. Women are more self-sufficient, have careers, don’t feel the need to ‘settle’ or answer questions about when they are going to have play dates with friends who have children, or provide grandchildren to the elder generation.
The rate of marriage among Americans ages 25-34 is the lowest in the U.S. Census Reports’ recorded history. Younger Americans are cynical and dismayed about their hopes for marriage. Many watched their parents go through difficult divorces and lived with the consequences. Instead of taking the chance on getting burned, they discard marriage as a defense mechanism. Who can blame them, really?
The divorce rate is heading toward the 60% mark for first marriages and even a more staggering statistic for second marriages. This number can be confusing. Marriages and divorces are much above the national average in the Bible Belt states, and much lower than the average in New England, with the exception of Maine, which ranks in the top ten states for divorce.
The over 34 age group has some better stats. The Census Bureau report of 6 months ago on the longevity of contemporary marriage showed positive indicators: the number of longer lasting marriages in the U.S. has risen; three out of four couples who married after 1990 celebrated a 10 year anniversary. That statistic is substantially higher, a rise of 5%, compared with couples who married in the 1980s. The divorce rate was at its highest in the early 1980s and is often referred to as the “divorce revolution.”
Since the new millennium, the divorce rate isn’t necessarily higher rather, fewer couples are actually getting married. Regionally, that trend is similar. According to several local town clerk offices, the amount of applications for marriage licenses has been on a steady decline over the last several years. In most cases, beginning in 2003 through 2010, the cities and towns saw a decrease in the marriage license application process by nearly 23%.
Talk about cynicism, the lavish reality wedding of Kim Kardashian to Kris Humphries rings a media orchestrated event and mocks those that really try to make their marriage work. My teen son doesn’t understand my criticism. One of the best days of his life was the day Kim filed for divorce after only 72 days of marriage. He is a huge Kim fan and in his eyes, like so many fans, she can do no wrong. Really?
Various sources, including TMZ.com reported that family CEO and mother-in-law Kris Jenner was not happy about Humphries’ lack of participation in the family business. Is it just me, or does this sound like being married to the mob?
It was also reported the couple disagreed about where to live. Humphries wanted to live in Minnesota, but the Karadashian clan is all in Los Angeles. What happened to discussing this stuff BEFORE getting married?
And to think, some people are worried about same-sex couples “weakening” the institution of marriage. Denying devoted couples the right to marry while allowing someone like Kim Kardashian to make a mockery of marriage by selling the rights to the highest bidder does real and lasting harm, on both an individual and a societal basis.
The adjustment to marriage is difficult enough but, to disagree about basic issues, such as finances, where to live, career paths, religion, morals and values just out of the marriage gate, clearly won’t increase the odds of marital success.
Marriage should have love at its heart, the kind of love where one spouse always puts the other first, in front of everything else: in-laws, children, where they live, and money.
Talk about never letting a good crisis go to waste. Like many people, I believe this marriage was all about the Kardashian celebrity business machine. The Kardashian family is strategic about finding ways to remain in the public eye. It’s hard to top staging a $10 million wedding with People Magazine exclusives and reality TV licensing rights, the boulder-sized ring and the Vera Wang wedding gown. While the existence of a prenuptial agreement isn’t necessarily evidence of a pre-planned exit strategy, in this case it lends more weight to this theory. And, where is the groom in all the People Magazine wedding special issue pictures? Not many pictures of Kris included- what’s up with that?
No doubt, many people will simply shrug and pass this off as one more bit of celebrity gossip, sensational for a short time and then immediately forgotten.
But what is happening here is not without lasting consequences for society. Many people are concerned about perceived threats to the institution of marriage. But crazy celebrity marriages do real and lasting damage to the institution of marriage, though they may create headlines and profit before they fall apart.
I am sympathetic when a couple believes they have made a mistake getting married. They should do their sincere best to work through their differences, but when there are no children involved they have more freedom to call it a day. Marriage should never be a prison sentence. The idea of staying together for the kids, for financial reasons, or business reasons makes things more emotional and complicated.
Myra Fleischer is a contributing lead contributor to The Washington Times. She focuses on divorce, property, custody and support, settlement agreements, mediation, asset division and family law. She feels a trial separation can help alleviate a lot of the emotion caused by the difficult issues. Taking a step back and giving yourself time to breathe can help separated couples decide what they really want to gain, and not necessarily what they don’t want their partner to have. Taking time to adjust to the separation and new routines will make the ultimate permanent end to the marriage easier.
No matter what you personally think of Kim Kardashian, she is idolized and admired by millions, particularly young women who aspire to her glamorous life. Their beloved role model can do no wrong. They will not blame Kim or her husband for their problems. They will blame marriage itself.