My Neighbor Says #Marriage Is An Outdated Institution

Is marriage an outdated institution? Or simply a misused one? Many people get married, and many people get divorced, and when this happens an accusing finger is often pointed at the concept of marriage today, the idea being with one person forever, as the problem.

Is it possible that the problem is choosing the wrong person to marry? Or choosing the right person, and not treating your marriage and your spouse with the honor and esteem they deserve? Or that not everyone has to get married, no matter how much your mom wants grandchildren, or how annoying it is that your friends with kids no longer call you to hang out?

the divorce rate and marriage today

It’s better to be happy alone then unhappy with someone. If you find someone you can’t live without, get married using good judgement, then always treat each other kindly and with respect, chances are very good you will have a happy, lifelong marriage. Almost 50% of first marriages today end in divorce because people marry to soon, choose poorly, or get married and then put their marriage and partner somewhere down the line on their list of priorities. Did you know that about 2/3 of divorce are because people get married before turning 21, and weren’t mature enough to make good choices? If you wait until you are over 21 to marry for the first time, your chance of having a lifelong marriage is 75%. That is pretty darned good.

Almost 70% of second marriages end in divorce, so if you don’t get it right the first time, your chances of doing better with someone else (especially once children are involved) becomes more difficult, and if you marry a third time the divorce rate indicates you are 75% likely find yourself single again. It’s easy to see why people think the institution of marriage today is outdated with these statistics, until you look at the ages of those getting hitched, the reasons they choose to get married, and the choices they make after marriage.

how to stay married happy

Marriage is a blessing for people who want to be married, are mature enough and ready to be married, and meet the right person. If you don’t fit that description and get married anyway, chances are you’ll be a casualty. I don’t feel marriage is an outdated institution if so many people still want to be married, get married (multiple times), and homosexual couples are fighting to get in on the act. Gladiator fighting is outdated. Electrocuting psychiatric patients is outdated. Marriage? It seems to be thriving in the midst of all the hate toward it as an institution.

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  • Tammy

    I think there are a lot of couples that don’t want to work to keep a marriage going. I don’t think it’s outdated, but I do think that there are a lot of people that treat it like trying out a new pair of shoes.ReplyCancel

  • Lisa @ Oh Boy Oh Boy Oh Boy

    well thanks for the scary stats since this is my first marriage but my husbands third :) I’m not totally naive and I KNOW it takes two to make it work or NOT make it work but his first two wives checked out so HOPEFULLY we can be in the 25% for third marriages.ReplyCancel

  • Crystal @ Simply Being Mommy

    I think it’s so sad that so many marriages end in divorce.ReplyCancel

  • Ahhhh. Marriage is something you have to work at to keep it alive. You wouldn’t expect your houseplants to thrive without water would you? Moving from crisis to crisis is not healthy–but sometimes life can be a byotch and when you come up for air, you discover you haven’t fed your relationship. I’m not opposed to divorce; sometimes it is the right solution. But I’m not a fan of giving up easily. If it’s worthwhile, it’s worth fighting for.

    Sharon (married 35 years)ReplyCancel

  • Marcie W.

    I know people that aren’t totally “pro” marriage, but I am. I have to say I love and agree with Sharon’s comment above and I haven’t been married anywhere close to that length of time!ReplyCancel

  • hairstyles for girls

    It’s sad to see that the divorce rate is so high. I for one still believe in marriage though.ReplyCancel

  • Megan

    What a great insight into the institution of marriage. I agree 100%!ReplyCancel

  • Brandi @ Flip Flop Mama

    I personally believe the problem with marriage is they aren’t willing to fight for it. They change spouses about as often as they change their underwear and aren’t aware or don’t care about the consequences.ReplyCancel

  • I think the failures of second marriages, third marriages, etc. are what make the 50% divorce statistic so high!ReplyCancel

  • Rickina

    I think when both people truly are invested in a strong relationship and believe there is no option to give up, a beautiful but tough situation evolves. You go through hard times, you may argue and fight but you come out stronger and more reliant on each other. It’s always changing, sometimes a challenge…but oh so worth every second. Thank you for this beautiful blog Penelope!ReplyCancel

  • Anne - Mommy Has to Work

    People do choose divorce too quickly. I thought about and then thought about how it would affect my kids and I agreed for better or worse, so I stuck it out.ReplyCancel

  • Kelly

    I definitely agree that people don’t value marriage in the same way they did in generations past. Divorce seems like an easy way out instead of putting work into a marriage and making it your priority. I’m thankful that I’ve managed to defy the odds (so far) after getting married at 18 and have been married 10 years later. No one ever said marriage is easy but you did promise to love and stay with that person until death do you part. People seem to think that’s a flexible vow.ReplyCancel

  • Dee @ Cocktails with Mom

    I have come to realize that marriage isn’t for everyone. I have friends who have never married and are very content with the fact and then there are those who have divorced and don’t want to go back down that path.ReplyCancel

  • Nolie

    And this is why I tell people one day Tobei and I will get married. Part of it has to do with the fact that we are having issues with him getting divorced and the other part is since it isn’t the first go around for either of us we are not in a rush. We are perfectly happy, our family is happy and both being basically divorced already we know it is not a must in life. I wear a ring (when not pregnant) and so does he. We hold each other as husband and wife and you know what… it works for us.ReplyCancel

  • LRW

    My sentiments exactly. EXACTLY!

    I’ve seen good friends get married and divorced at a young age, so the thought of marriage scared me-until I found the right person. Then I realized that the weddings just happened to them-that they were maybe not ready, but went along for the ride. In hindsight, some things did not seen right, but we never said anything…

    Now my husband and I understand our relationship needs maintenance from time to time, and since we took out vows very seriously, we don’t want a way out as an option. We have to court and continually try to impress and please each other, as if we were dating. it’s only been two years, but we will do anything to make it to fifty. I really meant my vows when I said them!ReplyCancel

  • Tammy

    those statistics are very interesting – I completely agree with the age one – I got married when I was 20 (my husband is 10 years older than I am so he was 30) – and when I look back now I think ‘gosh, I was little more than a kid’ – We’ve been married 17 years, and very happily, but I’ve grown up a.lot. and know that he put up with a lot of immaturity at the beginning of our marriage. (It’s funny the roles are a little reversed now!).ReplyCancel

  • cam

    great post! I agree. I didn’t get married until I was 30 and when I think back, that was a good choice for me. Personally, I wasn’t ready at 25. I wasn’t with the right person then either. People totally get married for the wrong reasons and when it ends they think it’s “marriage” that’s the problem.ReplyCancel

  • Jenny

    I don’t think it’s outdated. I just think too many people go into it for the wrong reasons and expectations. I could have married my first child’s dad when I was pregnant, but I’m certain I would have been divorced.ReplyCancel

  • Dee

    Divorce is too easy to obtain and at the first sign of trouble whether it’s an argument over money or who left the wet towel on the floor they talk divorce. Some look at marriage as the “next step” in a relationship and don’t think about what it means.ReplyCancel

  • Donna

    Nobody wants to work for/at marriages anymore. It’s sad, really. Been with my hubby for 20 years – lived together 11, married 9). :-)ReplyCancel

  • Sally

    I agree with your thoughts on putting your spouse too far on the list of important things being a cause of divorce. Marriage is sacrificial, and takes a good deal of strength and perseverance.

    However, I’m confused by the facts you state about young marriage causing divorce–when your own grandparents were wed at 19 and the sweet story is posted on your blog as well.
    I think it is not the age, or even the length of time that you know the person to whom you will be married–but the commitment to them that really counts. If you mean forever, mean forever-because even if you dated for 6 years instead of 3 months, there will be things you’ll learn, and things that will be hard; and all you will have is your commitment to get you through.

    Blessings.ReplyCancel

    • Penelope

      My guess is that today, most people at 19 are not ready to be married (my grandparents married in the early 1900’s and were very committed). In today’s society, keeping promises and commitments is not emphasized when raising children, and so for a majority 19 is too young to be married. That doesn’t mean couples that marry young won’t be happy and stay together (it just means their chances are harder and those that succeed are in the minority in the US).

      Children today are very much raised with a “What about me?” attitude, and in a marriage it can’t be all about one person, and it takes maturity to develop into a person who is unselfish enough to be a good spouse.

      Great question! Thank you for asking.ReplyCancel

  • The Pro Marriage Counselor

    Another thought provoking article. I agree with both Sally and Penelope in the comments section here too.

    I agree with Penelope that the vast majority of young people are not marriage-ready to say the least. I agree with Sally that when the right level of commitment through strong values is present, a marriage is given its essential foundation.

    A big part of the problem behind the growing “I think marriage is a thing of the past” phenomenon (just over 50% of young American adults agreed with this statement in major recent survey; as did 40% of older adults) is the popular media driven lack of precisely those values.

    I would add to both Penelope and Sally’s points by saying that it’s not just the lack of values that makes early marriage so challenging in this age, but also that there is a lack of the kind of basic relationship maintenance skills, like communication and collaborative problem solving, that any healthy, resilient marriage depends upon to thrive.ReplyCancel

  • Brian

    Come on people! Wake up! Have you seen the stats on marriage lately??? Would you get on a plane if it were announced in the boarding area that, “today’s flight has a 50% chance of crashing.” For Christ’s sake – my own grandmother urged me to not get married (she was happily married for just about her entire life). Do the words greedy, self-absorbed, narcissistic, and shallow mean anything to anyone now? For the love of God people – get a grip on reality! I have a great career, make lots of money, have my own home, have lots of toys, a couple of cars, a boat, a dog, and lots of money in my bank account. I would never, EVER put all that I’ve worked for at risk over a coin flip. Three words to study carefully people – ‘No Fault Divorce’. Today, women are men and men are women. Freaky!ReplyCancel

    • Kim

      I’d take the 50% chance and keep my marriage and do my best to make it the very greatest it can be over a life of toys and things that don’t matter any day. All of those things are just Stuff. A marriage full of love can make you Truly happy, unlike those things, which can only make you Temporarily happy. My husband and I got married at 18 and had our first child by 19. All of statistics say we will fail. I say, it’s worth the fight.ReplyCancel

    • Julie

      Hey Brian…will your “toys” do you any good when you’re old and alone?ReplyCancel

  • My parents are still married, which I know is becoming rarer but I believe in it. It’s not easy but most worthwhile things aren’t.ReplyCancel

  • Sometimes people don’t just change… they become someone barely recognizable from who they once were.ReplyCancel

  • Interesting post.ReplyCancel

  • Rich Oberhausen

    Penelope;

    Thank you for your posting on twitter.

    If there is a movement towards marriae being an outdated institution, then I think we might want to write a quick e-book on “How to Survicve the coming Chaos”……..(wish I had the talent to do this one)

    One thing is for sure, in my opinion, no one has walked the perfectly straight and narrow path for about 2000 years or so, depending on your favorite author.

    So, since marriage has it’s personal bumps and challenges for each committed, loving, well intentioned couple, maybe it’s time we started a therapeautic (sp) blog……and that would make my day!

    Your fan,
    Richard Oberhausen
    @richoberhausenReplyCancel

  • I’ll take my chances. I met my husband 25 years ago and we’re still together–not ever even coming close to divorce.ReplyCancel

  • I loved being married, but I feel no need to ever do it again. I like the sense of freedom it gives me and that I don’t have to be accountable or feel like I need to report in to anybody unless I want to do that. Now I just do what I do and tell him what my plans are. Plus, separate money is SWEET!ReplyCancel

  • We married at 20 and 22 which was too young in retrospect. The grace of God and hard work has kept us together 11 years.ReplyCancel