Originally Posted by Thomas
I think it's the next sad step in our self-centered culture. It's hard to get married when you're 27 and still living at home to pay off your debts from all the things you wanted and had to have Right Now. I also think some people have their self-image dialed up way too high, and forgotten their own warts and failures, and want an escape hatch from anyone who might be "regular". BTW, I hope these two demographics are not as prevalent as I'm suspecting or seeing today. That said, I do know people who have lived together in a committed relationship who were not married (for one reason or another) and completely self-sufficient.
(1) I don't think that the decline of marriage suggests any more of a self-centered culture than we've ever had. Certainly people can be self-centered and married. I think that the decline has more to do with how people view the institution than with how they view their interpersonal relationships. As religion and the Life Magazine view of American society have waned, so too has the one-size-fits-all solution of marriage. But I think that strength of interpersonal relationships actually may be more important to my generation than to the baby boomers and previous generations (as anecdotal evidence, there is an NYT article today about men and women these days spending more time with their children). As an aside, one reason is consumer electronics, as they have greatly lowered communications costs. (2) In most cases, if you're 27 and in consumer debt (or 29 and in student loan debt
), you are better served by getting married. Married people get tax breaks and it's cheaper to live as a couple (though not as cheap as living at home). Choosing not to marry when you have a partner picked out rarely makes financial sense. (3) Note from the NYT article that most people over 35 are married. This has not changed. A lot of people are just waiting. (4) As for the self-image thing, I think that there is much, much more choice than there used to be. We no longer are confined to our hometowns--many people go off to school or to work in a new city, and we have connections through the internet, etc. In a fluid culture, there is more selection and a better chance of finding a good spouse if you wait. This observation has more to do with professional culture than with blue collar communities, but it's an increasing aspect of the job. Also, women work now, which means that both parties in a hetero relationship have to clear their schedules to set up a date, much less build a household. This takes time. Nothing more frustrating than setting up dinner for two weeks from now.