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Transformation Of Marriage:

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Abstract

The marriage revolution has been a controversial issue since the dawn of time, and all that are and have been involved with "matrimony" are aware of the issues of the future. There can be no denying that the culture of marriage has changed. This very course is itself a great example of this fact. Much like any other sociological subject of any real concern, there are many "opinions" related to this issue. This paper will attempt to highlight marriage seen as the sociological transformation, marital erosion versus evolution, and why many people fail at marriage and what does it take to be successful in greater detail. This will allow you, the readers, to make up your own minds regarding this extremely multifaceted issue.

Marriage seen as the sociological transformation

"Couples today have much higher expectations. Between the 1950s and the 1970s American attitudes toward marriage changed dramatically as part of what has been called the "psychological revolution"--a transformation in the way people look at marriage, parenthood, and their lives in general." (Skolnick p.171) At first blush, marriage in America seems to have followed a similar course. Once a required rite of passage, seen as a genuine embodiment of shared values, it now serves as a game-show prize on Who Wants to Marry a Multimillionaire or a booby prize on My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiancй -- even though wedding ceremonies have created a "bridal-industrial complex," as Lee professor of economics Claudia Goldin calls the nearly $100-billion-a-year U.S. industry that outpaces even the movie business ($45 billion a year, including sales and rentals). (Hodder, 2004) Motivated by celebrity magazines and wedding planners, couples take on increasingly elaborate spectacles that take years to plan and cost on average $20,000 to produce.

When Love Story first appeared, our society was still extremely absorbed in a marriage culture that encouraged and supported getting and staying married. But inside a few years, the women's movement, the pill, the sexual revolution, and various economic shifts had permanently transformed that marriage-centric society. Marriage is not an endangered species, but it is surrounded by enormous difficulties that were not readily apparent 35 or 40 years ago. Divorce is a very serious presence -- over 50 percent of our marriages end in divorce. The culture doesn't encourage permanence or fidelity. Dual careers, while there's nothing inherently wrong with them, tend to force people to make difficult decisions about the growing roles of the two partners in the marriage. So the assumed stabilities of 40 or 50 years ago -- the Ozzie and Harriet world that most people refer to, if they ever existed, certainly don't exist now.

Social conservatives blame divorce, cohabitation, illegitimacy, and the demise of the traditional family for society's ills, from poverty, crime, and juvenile delinquency to the moral decay and destruction of the American way of life. In the 1970s, marriage was at its lowest but by the late 1990s there was a reappearance of marriage, seen in the leveling off of the divorce rate. Although the claims for the value of marriage by conservatives and gay-rights proponents "were from two ends of the spectrum, they came together -- at least at the rhetorical level -- for what marriage...accomplishes and how crucial it is as a social institution." (Gallagher, 2002)

Historic change in American matrimony is especially pronounced in three areas: the equalizing of the respective rights and duties of wives and husbands, the dissolution of marital prohibitions based on race, and the evolution from state-defined grounds for divorce to couple-defined no fault divorce. The most recent area of debate is whether the state should sanction marital consent between same-sex couples. Although such a prospect is unthinkable to some, earlier forms of legal marriage are equally unimaginable now.

As equalities expanded, patterns of marital consent evolved. In the twentieth century, for instance, marriage timing is one sign of such change. The reasons why people marry are usually love, companionship, stability, and children, which have largely remained the same. What has changed is when. In 1970, people were marrying very young, right out of college but by the late 1980s people started marrying at a significantly later age largely because of the women, who were going on to graduate school or to work or just delaying the commitment.

Sociologists agree that women have driven the shift from the marriage way of life of the 1950s and '60s. Employment of women outside the home and other changes made attachment to a male through marriage at as early a stage as possible not only unnecessary, but then, as the divorce rate went up, an increasingly uncertain proposition.

Understanding recent changes in the marriage market also requires looking behind the scenes of the idyllic 1950s and '60s. The patterns of family life which many Americans now look back upon with nostalgia -- the stay-at-home mom and the baby boom, people marrying at very high percentages and very early -- were in fact unprecedented in American history. Those conditions and their effects reflect the first demographic revolution of the twentieth century: earlier centuries' high-fertility, high-mortality families gave way to the smaller, long-lived nuclear families of the mid-twentieth century. People still want to get married, but the urgency or the sense that it's necessary or that you can't have a full life without getting married has clearly changed.

Marital erosion versus evolution

Following the script of the 1950s and '60s, Dick and Jane meet in college, fall in love, make love, marry, work their way through his Harvard law degree, move to Connecticut, and make babies. Jane is smart, full of fun, and strong, but when she reflects on her mother's portrayal of the wife, "barefoot and pregnant" she breaks down. But, Dick is sitting in his lazy boy wondering what is wrong and is she always going to have these breakdowns.

Until 30 or 40 years ago, the gender differences in marriage generally provided structural support. But when women, participating in larger historical trends toward greater equality, began to tire of their traditional roles and change them, both sides of the relationship were displaced. "There were lots of stressors that made it more

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