Good morning, Netizens...
I have referred to my wife as “my strong right arm”, which could be construed as a play on words since I happen to be left-handed, the latter of which I will concede is a demographic anomaly in its own right. It stands to reason that this balance of nature works for me since, as a former wild child of the 60's and 70's, I would be lying if I suggested for a moment I never sowed any wild oats in my past. However after nearly 20 years of living together in relative marital bliss, it also stands to reason that I would begin to reflect upon the state of our matrimony.
I did not begin this retrospect lightly, either. The Pew Research Center http://pewsocialtrends.org/2010/11/18/the-decline-of-marriage-and-rise-of-new-families/ actually did most of the hard journalistic foot work for me, in their far-reaching study of the decline of marriage as an American institution. While some of the Pew findings surprised me somewhat, some of them were nearly predictable, given the various ways our society has changed over the last few decades. It stands to reason that people are not getting married as often as they were twenty years ago, and those that do fall within a number of social and economic parameters that increasingly are part of the new face of society as we know and accept it to be in America today.
According to Pew, people who have better-than-average incomes stand a better chance than everyone else to have a sustained marital community, as do people with college educations. Pew also states that “In 1960, two-thirds (68%) of all twenty-somethings were married. In 2008, just 26% were.” They raise the question, as do I, how many of today's youth will eventually formally tie the knot, as they seem much more inclined than their elders to view cohabitation and various other forms of family, including gay and lesbian relationships, in a much more positive light.
I have always had a nearly morbid curiosity, perhaps even a suspicion about other people's marriages. Given the statistics from Pew, I have always had a hunch about how faithful and monogamous apparently-happily married couples really are. Pew suggests, and I once again concur, that the number of truly monogamous couples has been steadily dropping in the last decade. I cannot help but remember a well-respected member of the community, a Mormon with a good professional career and a picture-perfect family according to everyone who knows him, who was accused by his spouse of infidelity. I am somewhat surprised that their marriage still survives.
That is not to suggest for a moment that our marriage has not been tested in the fires of turmoil. Despite the fact my wife is very reticent about my discussing details of our private lives together, perhaps as well she should, we have had a number of personal tribulations that would perhaps try others. We conceived a daughter late in life, which we lost with terrible sadness and grief. We have endured financial hardship just when we thought we were safe. I lost several close personal friends, one to murder, several others to cancer, and in each case, we drew closer to one another rather than apart.
We have close personal friends who are not married, at least in the conventional sense our more-austere predecessors would have accepted. The thread of divorce runs as rampant through the lives of our friends as in our combined pasts, and yet we believe in the institution of marriage itself.
In the coming days and weeks, I will be exploring more about the bond (some refer to it as a jail sentence) of marriage. Feel free to share any insights you may have into marriage or other form of family-building.