"Millennials are less likely to marry by age 40 than any previous generation"

"The findings do not represent trivial facts, but rather a massive moral reorientation of our culture" Millennial marriage rates declining

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Bert Perry's picture

I think the article misses a couple of key issues; about a third to half of all college students have no realistic chances of graduating with a degree, but we're paying to keep them in college for the years they should be using to learn a trade and join the ranks of adults.  And then we act surprised when we have young people earning a bit more than minimum wage and not able to afford to court someone, let alone marry them.   More or less, we are (through our government) paying young people to develop bad habits.

Ouch!

Plus, maybe a lot of young people are watching those shows John Piper evidently just wrote about.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

dmyers's picture

They did get one key factor right:  "The cause of the decline in marriage is manifold, but one significant factor among Millennials is that so many of them grew up in homes impacted by divorce," he said. "In an attempt to avoid the mistakes they saw in their parents' marriages, many have swung the pendulum all the way over to avoid marriage entirely."

But it's more than simply wanting to avoid their parents' mistakes -- it's young men having seen firsthand that the wife can detonate the marriage at any time, for any reason, inflicting serious emotional and economic harm on him (and his children), but still be assured that she will retain significant (if not primary) custody of their kids, will receive half the marital assets, will receive child support subsidies for as long as the children are children, and may even receive alimony and (insult to injury) her attorney's fees.  And she is free to marry again, as quickly as she wishes, forfeiting only the alimony when she does.  A kicker:  in most churches, she'll do so with rah-rah's from many and silence from the rest.  Any young man from a broken home would be crazy not to be very hesitant to open himself up to that outcome in his own adult life, knowing that it's happening in approximately 50% of marriages generally and (at best) 38% of solidly Christian marriages.  The vows don't matter one whit if she ever changes her mind or becomes unhappy.

My two unmarried young adult sons are missing the joy and beauty of marriage, but they're also missing the devastation of divorce.  I can't fault them for that.
 

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Dmyers,

By the same token, with today's divorce laws, the husband can also file for divorce at any time, leaving the wife, who may have given up her career for marriage, adrift with little possibility for a good job that can support her, except for perhaps a less-than-desirable new marriage in hopes of avoiding poverty.  Believe it or not, even with a college degree, employers are not really interested in hiring people who have been out of the job market for 15, 20, 25 years, and that applies even more to a housewife than it does to a career man who has been out of the job market.  The one thing I might be able to agree with you on is the courts' not so equitable handling of custody, but even that is explained by the fact that it was primarily husbands who ran off in the past.  The laws just haven't caught up with the new reality on the street.

I realize you see this from a particular side, but believe it or not, divorce can just as easily be wielded as a weapon by a husband as by a wife.  Those of us with daughters are having to also not only counsel them to go into marriage very carefully, but to be prepared to live a single life at some point in the future, whether because of being widowed or being divorced, and that includes being prepared for a career, whether they are planning to have one or not.  If my daughters choose to wait to get married, in order to not marry the wrong person, that is something I will heartily support.

Dave Barnhart

Jim's picture

My (incomplete and imperfect) take on delayed marriage - many factors:

  • Extended adolescence / delayed adulthood that permeates our culture
  • Birth control (sex without procreation / marriage is there for the children)
  • Looking for the "perfect" spouse
  • Women pursuing careers instead of longing to be mothers
  • Debt. As an aside ... we have made "going to college" more important than "getting a job". The WSJ last week had an article on "coding (computer programming). The article highlighted schools where in 12 weeks a student could become a trained computer programmer (a well-paying job)
  • Men: gaming culture ... refusing to grow up

Our family: 2 of 3 young adults married. Doubtful on the other

Bert Perry's picture

Dave, good points, but it is true that about 2/3 of divorces are initiated by women.  Part of the reason is that men are more likely to cheat (and their wives leave them), but another part is that the divorce financial deal with divorce generally is maternal custody, child support, and very often at least temporary alimony, plus half of communal assets.  Now granted, most divorced women end up poorer due to the divorce, but the fairly generous financial deal with give divorcees will tend to influence decisions.  I remember watching a coworker make that decision and heard her specifically say that she was counting on $X in child support to make it work.  No kidding.

And yes, many men don't want to sign up for that, for obvious reasons.  Add extended adolescence, the insistence on career (and the debt that accompanies it), and the acceptance of fornication, and you've got a perfect storm for marriage.  Hopefully our nation survives!

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

I haven't looked up the statistics, so I'll grant that you or dmyers might be right about the actual numbers of those initiating divorce.  That doesn't change the fact that either side can divorce.  Any time either side has a financial incentive, that will probably tend to tip the balance.  (And I won't even get into the arguments about divorce for cheating being justified biblically.)  So if that keeps young men or young women a little gun shy, then in today's legal climate, it may just be prudent to not jump into marriage lightly.  That's not the same as holding off indefinitely.

As to the other factors, I agree that those are a problem, though extended adolescence does seem to affect more males than it does females.  Either way, getting married later has been the rule for a while, now.  Even in the 80's, when I got married, mid-twenties was more and more the time people were choosing rather than right out of college (or HS with a trade).  I don't see our culture changing for the better though, so we will need to increase our level of biblical teaching on marriage to our children, and leave the timing up to God.

Dave Barnhart

Jim's picture

We were 25 & 23 when we got married. I really felt (LOL) old. Kathee and I came into marriage with few assets .. no debt .... no "baggage". We grew up and matured together. Now almost at 40 years.

The problems of later marriage:

  • Habits become engrained / change and compromise are more difficult
  • Credit check anyone? They used to check for syphilis (blood test when we applied for a marriage license. Now it would do young adults to check each other's credit scores and have an honest discussion about the amount of debt they bring into a marriage
  • Fertility and children. The ticking issue for women. And then .. if you begin to have children in your mid-thirties ... the kids are still in the house in the mid-fifties
dmyers's picture

dcbii wrote:

Dmyers,

By the same token, with today's divorce laws, the husband can also file for divorce at any time, leaving the wife, who may have given up her career for marriage, adrift with little possibility for a good job that can support her, except for perhaps a less-than-desirable new marriage in hopes of avoiding poverty.  Believe it or not, even with a college degree, employers are not really interested in hiring people who have been out of the job market for 15, 20, 25 years, and that applies even more to a housewife than it does to a career man who has been out of the job market.  The one thing I might be able to agree with you on is the courts' not so equitable handling of custody, but even that is explained by the fact that it was primarily husbands who ran off in the past.  The laws just haven't caught up with the new reality on the street.

I realize you see this from a particular side, but believe it or not, divorce can just as easily be wielded as a weapon by a husband as by a wife.  Those of us with daughters are having to also not only counsel them to go into marriage very carefully, but to be prepared to live a single life at some point in the future, whether because of being widowed or being divorced, and that includes being prepared for a career, whether they are planning to have one or not.  If my daughters choose to wait to get married, in order to not marry the wrong person, that is something I will heartily support.

Absolutely correct that no-fault divorce laws allow men to ditch their wives for no good reason.  The fact is, though, that generally they don't -- by a margin of 3 or 4 to 1.  And when they do, they generally pay for the privilege.  

To be clear, I oppose unbiblical divorce both ways.  I'd enthusiastically (but figuratively) cane any Christian male friend who pulled that crap, and can think of a couple of occasions when I have.  The same doesn't seem to happen to wives who bail, even in the church, and I think that's part of the reason for the statistical imbalance.  

But it sounds like you and I both realize that one of the reasons for the falling marriage rate is the specter of no-fault divorce.  I'm sure a lot less business would get done if the parties to every business contract knew that the other party could quit at any time for any reason without penalty (and sometimes even get paid to quit).

The divorce rate would likely drop if people were permitted to divorce for any reason, as they are now, but the initiator of the divorce would forfeit marital assets, alimony, custody, and child support in the absence of "cause" for the divorce, such as adultery or abuse.  And most of those who were dissuaded from divorce because of the removal of the incentives would find, a few years down the road, that they were glad they hadn't divorced.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

dmyers wrote:

Absolutely correct that no-fault divorce laws allow men to ditch their wives for no good reason.  The fact is, though, that generally they don't -- by a margin of 3 or 4 to 1.  And when they do, they generally pay for the privilege.  

To be clear, I oppose unbiblical divorce both ways.  I'd enthusiastically (but figuratively) cane any Christian male friend who pulled that crap, and can think of a couple of occasions when I have.  The same doesn't seem to happen to wives who bail, even in the church, and I think that's part of the reason for the statistical imbalance.  

But it sounds like you and I both realize that one of the reasons for the falling marriage rate is the specter of no-fault divorce.  I'm sure a lot less business would get done if the parties to every business contract knew that the other party could quit at any time for any reason without penalty (and sometimes even get paid to quit).

The divorce rate would likely drop if people were permitted to divorce for any reason, as they are now, but the initiator of the divorce would forfeit marital assets, alimony, custody, and child support in the absence of "cause" for the divorce, such as adultery or abuse.  And most of those who were dissuaded from divorce because of the removal of the incentives would find, a few years down the road, that they were glad they hadn't divorced.

As I said in another post, I won't disagree with you on the actual numbers, since I haven't studied them.

But I do agree that no-fault divorce laws make it way too easy to dissolve a marriage for no good reason, and as I also already mentioned, I think the custody laws (or at least the way they are applied) need to be re-evaluated given it's no longer just men who try to run away from a marriage and leave the wife and kids high and dry with no money. I believe you are right when you note that most people don't see a woman who runs away from a marriage (with no abuse, etc.) in the same way that they see a man who does that.

My point in posting was that with the laws the way they are, it's not just young men that are taking a legal risk by getting married.  Women may, it seems, have less to lose if something goes wrong, but it's no bed of roses for a wife who is the victim, and her problems are not all just magically solved by a remarriage, assuming she would even want that or would find a good husband and not just the next guy that asks.

Dave Barnhart

Bert Perry's picture

 

The divorce rate would likely drop if people were permitted to divorce for any reason, as they are now, but the initiator of the divorce would forfeit marital assets, alimony, custody, and child support in the absence of "cause" for the divorce, such as adultery or abuse.  And most of those who were dissuaded from divorce because of the removal of the incentives would find, a few years down the road, that they were glad they hadn't divorced.

Bingo.  A presumption of shared custody with no alimony might well cause the divorce rate to plummet.  (even if the initiator did not forfeit a share of marital assets)

Or--shudder--we could find out that the portion of divorces that really are for Biblical cause is much higher than we'd guessed.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Jim's picture

My take on life prior to no-fault divorce (as I grew up at the end of that era):

You still had a high rate of broken marriages ... except it was more difficult and time consuming and expensive to get out of them. Husbands had mistresses ... wives  had boyfriends .... etc

Wiki quote:

Requirements for divorce prior to the enactment of no-fault divorce Prior to the no-fault divorce revolution, a divorce was processed through the adversarial system as a civil action, meaning that a divorce could be obtained only through a showing of fault of one (and only one) of the parties in a marriage. This was something more than not loving one another; it meant that one spouse had to plead that the other had committed adultery, abandonment, felony, or other similarly culpable acts. However, the other spouse could plead a variety of defenses, like recrimination (essentially an accusation of "so did you"). A judge could find that the respondent had not committed the alleged act or the judge could accept the defense of recrimination and find both spouses at fault for the dysfunctional nature of their marriage.[16] Either of these two findings was sufficient to defeat an action for divorce, which meant that the parties remained married. ...

Methods for bypassing the showing-of-fault requirements for divorce These requirements could be problematic if both spouses were at fault or if neither spouse had committed a legally culpable act but both spouses desired a divorce by mutual consent. Lawyers began to advise their clients on how to create legal fictions to bypass the statutory requirements. One method popular in New York was referred to as "collusive adultery", in which both sides deliberately agreed that the wife would come home at a certain time and discover her husband committing adultery with a "mistress" obtained for the occasion. The wife would then falsely swear to a carefully tailored version of these facts in court (thereby committing perjury). The husband would admit a similar version of those facts. The judge would convict the husband of adultery, and the couple could be divorced. In many other states, especially California, the most popular allegation for divorce was cruelty (which was then unavailable in New York). For example, in 1950, wives pleaded "cruelty" as the basis for 70 percent of San Francisco divorce cases.  Wives would regularly testify to the same facts: their husbands swore at them, hit them, and generally treated them terribly. This procedure was described by Supreme Court of California Associate Justice Stanley Mosk: Every day, in every superior court in the state, the same melancholy charade was played: the "innocent" spouse, generally the wife, would take the stand and, to the accompanying cacophony of sobbing and nose-blowing, testify under the deft guidance of an attorney to the spousal conduct that she deemed "cruel."

Ron Bean's picture

Consider how many couples are living together and not married to each other. Why get married? The public readily accepts the practice and it seems that Christians are more verbal about their concern over divorce than they are about fornication.

Consider that the majority are not Christian and have been raised in a culture with a diluted definition of marriage.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Bert Perry's picture

Ron makes a great point, and it ought to be added that the way out of this mess is to remember (and preach from the pulpit and otherwise) exactly why marriage is important and what it does.  And the we can talk about it with the world.  No?

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.