“When Marriage Disappears: The Retreat from Marriage in Middle America” was recently published by the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia and the Center for Marriage and Families at the Institute for American Values. National Review interviewed the Director of the project Brad Wilcox. National Review’s interview can be found here.
In the National Review interview, Wilcox states:
“When Marriage Disappears” points out that a “soul mate” model of marriage has overtaken an “institutional” model of marriage in the minds of many Americans. What I mean by that is that more and more Americans think that marriage is about an intense and fulfilling couple-focused relationship that, by the way, is made possible by a comfortable and secure income.
More and more Americans have jettisoned the older, institutional view that marriage is also about raising a family together, offering mutual aid to one another in tough times, and becoming engaged in larger networks of kin and community.
I’ve been reading alot about the Mexican drug cartels lately so I’ll say it in Spanish and then translate, “la vida es dura” (English: life is hard). I can no longer remember what movie it was that dispensed this knowledge to me in my early twenties but it’s the truth. We all love the movie “Life is Beautiful” but we love it because of Roberto Benigni’s fight, spirit and resolve in the face of adversity. Marriage isn’t easy. Raising the kiddos isn’t easy. However, Gen Xers like myself and those generations that follow somehow think that all these things “should” be easy.
We women are trying to “find ourselves” in our careers and during our pedicures when we should be trying to get to know our spouse and our kids. Since mom went to work, families have gone into debt to try and afford the suburban home and second car that mom requires and/or demands if she works full-time. Let’s not be ridiculous and talk about college tuition for the kids. The environmentalists talk about sustainable growth; well, this dual-income plan isn’t sustainable over the long-run.
Like Mr. Wilcox stated above, the traditional view of marriage is: spouses aid one another during tough times and are involved in their extended families and community. Well, Grandma no longer lives down the street and there are usually no uncles, aunts or extended family to help pitch in when life is hard. Divorce scatters finances and family members while also weakening loyalty of parent-to-child as the divorced parents go on to start second marriages.
During tough economic times like we face now, it is imperative that we have strong family ties. We need many arms to hold us up (and I don’t mean the Government). During the last Great Depression, we had an intact social fabric. We no longer have this fabric so what does that mean for us as we face double-digit long-term unemployment and a bankrupt Social Security program ?
Life is hard young mothers and fathers, please stop surfing the 352 channels on your tv and start talking to your spouse and children about your plans for the next five years. Start focusing on what is going to make your family unit stable and durable over the long run. The long-run is important; just ask those who didn’t save enough for retirement and don’t have family nearby to help take care of them; their only prospect may be living their days out in a state-run nursing home.