This is the question we must ask when faced with another round of depressing statistics. The Marriage Foundation have been crunching the numbers again and have come to the conclusion that in the not too distant future more children will be born out of wedlock than in.
The divorce rate remains high if steady. However if you marry before you have children three quarters of those marriages will ‘hold.’ I think these are pretty good odds so I will take my chances.
Marriage has taken such a battering in the last forty years it is a wonder anyone still wants to get on board. It has been hammered by the feminists and trashed in the tax system, but the biggest damage has been cultural.
Children absorb the cultural norms that surround them. They learn from example and experience, not sermons and lectures. It is little wonder then that following the divorce-free-for-all of the 1970s and 1980s that many millennials have decided to opt out.
I am often left wondering who will get married in the future. I see it playing out as follows. There will be a return to the “power matches.” The European monarchies of the past paired off with enthusiasm and fanfare, much like we witnessed with the Clooney nuptials.
Like the Medici, the wedding is an opportunity for some serious self-promotion and brand advancement. Highly educated and high earning women will want to secure a match of similar stature for the security of their children as, Alison Wolf notes in XX Factor, degree-educated women hardly ever have children before marriage. For the powerful men, they know the wifey-wifey image does not cut it anymore with the public popularity stakes so the power match makes sense.
The other group who will remain serious about marriage are the faith groups. The three main faith groups will keep marriage alive as for both the couple and its family, marriage will remain an important marker and transition to adulthood. Considering how marriage has collapsed outside these groups, we may well see the revival of the old matchmaker matriarch or introduction by friends tradition.
In lower socio-economic groups, however, it may be that it is now time to surrender and look towards strengthening cohabitation. Conservatives in America have started to debate such moves, as it is generally believed that marriage simply cannot be revived among this group.
The mothers earn more than the fathers; there is no social pressure to marry nor social stigma attached to illegitimacy. Entire generations of children have never even witnessed a wedding.
If conservatives want marriage to be valued even by their own children, we must communicate its importance to our children. I always make a point of showing my daughter wedding pictures when we visit a friend’s house. Wedding anniversaries are marked and celebrated. Long-lasting marriages are not something that just magically happen. We all have a role in creating a marriage culture even if our politicians continue to stand idly by.