Friday, July 6, 2007
Story of the Day-Marriage
A marriage is an interpersonal relationship with governmental, social, or religious recognition, usually intimate and sexual, and often created as a contract. The most frequently occurring form of marriage unites a man and a woman as husband and wife. Other forms of marriage also exist; for example, polygamy, in which a person takes more than one spouse, is common in many societies. Beginning in 2001, the legal concept of marriage has been expanded to include same-sex marriage in some jurisdictions.
The reasons people marry vary widely, but usually include one or more of the following: legal, social and economic stability; the formation of a family unit; procreation and the education and nurturing of children; legitimizing sexual relations; public declaration of love.
A marriage is often declared by a wedding ceremony, which may be performed by a religious officiator, through a similar government-sanctioned secular officiator, or (in weddings that have no church or state affiliation) by a trusted friend of the wedding participants. The act of marriage usually creates obligations between the individuals involved, and in many societies, their extended families
History of Marriage
Marriage rate by country
Global marriage boom expected on triple-seven day July 7, 2007
Moscow, July 6, Interfax - The triple-seven day on July 7, 2007, an exceptional calendar combination of the same number for the day, month and year, promises a happy day for most of the loving couples around the world who wish to legalize their relations on precisely this day.
Over 1700 marriages, twice as many as usual, will be registered next Saturday, July 7, in Moscow, Moscow Registry Office deputy head Tatiana Ushakova has informed Interfax.
She says it is the coincidence of number seven in the date, month and year that accounts for the great number of applications handed in for that day.
'In connection with such a great number of the couples who have decided to get married on this day, the Moscow Registry Office has decided to prolong the staff working hours', she said.
She also pointed out that next Saturday the marriage record of the first Sunday after Easter, the most popular day for marriage in Orthodox Russia, will be broken. 'This year, we registered 1200 couples on the first Sunday after Easter', Ushakova said.
An increased number of marriages is expected to be concluded next Friday as well. About one thousand couples will get married in registry offices in Moscow.
But the Russian Church calls upon the Russians not to be superstitious with regard to dates with unusual numeric combinations.
'I would not lash at people in love because they tend to seek for some 'mystical' coincidences that would strengthen their feelings. They are romantic, and I think hardly any of them believe in signs and coincidences in the way people believe in God', Archpriest Mikhail Dudko, responsible for church-state relations at the Moscow Patriarchate department for external church relations, told Interfax on Tuesday.
This is how he commented on the excitement of some Russians who wish to get married on 07.07.07. This Tuesday is the last day for those who wish to register their marriage on the 'three-sevens-day' to hand in their applications to the registry office.
The priest noted that many, in choosing the 'happy day' for their marriage, do it to 'boast later to their relatives and friends that they managed to 'carve out' exactly this date'.
'It is as it were an additional tick to the joy of loving hearts united', he said.
At the same time, Father Mikhail said, there are those, 'though perhaps a few', who tend to take serious unusual numeric combinations, such as 07.07.07.
'In this case, I would like to remind them that the superstition of this kind contradicts the Christian understanding whereby no external sign, either positive or negative, can restrict human freedom', the representative of the Russian Church said.
Besides, the 7th of July falls on Saturday this year and on St. Peter's Fast, and no wedding are celebrated in both cases as it contradicts the church statute, the priest remarked.
'If people want to observe Orthodox canons, they should choose another day for their marriage', he added.
Marriage wanes as American families enter new century, University of Chicago research shows
The American family, which has undergone a major transformation in the past generation, is poised to change even more in the coming century. Households will move further away from the family-structure model of a stay-at-home mother, working father, and children, according to a new report from the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago.
Because of divorce, cohabitation and single parenthood, a majority of families rearing children in the next century will probably not include the children’s original two parents, said Tom W. Smith, Director of the General Social Survey and author of “The Emerging 21st-Century American Family,” which is being released Wednesday, Nov. 24. Moreover, most households will not include children.
Rates of marriage also are changing according to class; middle-class people are more likely to marry and remarry than working-class people, who are more likely to remain single or cohabitate, Smith said. In surveys taken by GSS from 1972 to 1977, 80 percent of working-class and middle-class adults were married. During the 1994 to 1998 period, 78 percent of middle-class adults were married, as opposed to 62 percent of working-class adults.
“Marriage has declined as the central institution under which households are organized and children are raised,” Smith said. “People marry later and divorce and cohabitate more. A growing proportion of children has been born outside of marriage. Even within marriage the changes have been profound as more and more women have entered the labor force and gender roles have become more homogenous between husbands and wives.”
Those changes are having an impact on how Americans think about family life, although many traditional values continue to influence people’s attitudes.
The GSS, a major study of a broad cross-section of Americans conducted by the National Opinion Research Center with support from the National Science Foundation, has surveyed Americans about family life since 1972. For the most recent survey, researchers interviewed in person 2,832 randomly selected people 18 years old and older.
When the results of the American survey and those of 24 other advanced industrial countries are compared, demographers can gain a hint at the direction in which the American family is going. Americans are on the middle range of many of the attitude scales and seldom reach the top levels of acceptance for what people would consider to be a modern family arrangement. They will probably evolve in their attitudes towards acceptance of more non-traditional attitudes, Smith said.
One of this generation’s biggest changes is in the parental arrangements for children. In 1972, 73 percent of children lived with their original two parents, who were married. By 1998, 51.7 percent lived in such households. The number of children living with single parents went from 4.7 percent in 1972 to 18.2 percent in 1998, while the number of children living with two unmarried adults who were formerly married moved from 3.8 percent to 8.6 percent during this period. Cohabitating and remarried parents made up the rest of the group.
In looking at all households, Smith found that the most common arrangement in 1972 was married couples with children (45 percent), while in 1998, only 26 percent of households reflected this arrangement. The number of households with unmarried people and no children increased from 16 percent to in 1972 to 32 percent in 1998, becoming the most common living arrangement in the country.
A generation ago, a job outside the home was somewhat unusual for mothers, but that situation has now become the norm. In 1972, 33 percent of parents both held jobs, while in 1998, 67 percent were both employed. The percentage of households in which women worked while husbands stayed at home went from 2 to 4 percent during the period.
As a result of the role women now have in the workforce, parents’ expectations of their children have changed. In 1986, 23 percent of parents said obedience was the most import trait they expected from their children, a figure which dropped to 18.5 percent in 1998. In contrast, 11 percent felt hard work was the most important trait in 1986, while in 1998, 18 percent of American parents held that view.
“What this means is that parents are expecting their children to become more responsible," Smith said.
When asked their opinions on family life, Americans often held seemingly conflicting views. “Compared to people in other nations, Americans are more optimistic that children and the family need not suffer if the mother is employed,” Smith said. “But Americans also are less likely than those in other countries to see work as a boon for women and staying at home as a detriment.”
While Americans take a dim view on childbirth outside marriage, they also do not see having children as the purpose of marriage. “As members of most other Anglo cultures, Americans mainly see marriage as an institution for romantic love and companionship,” said Smith.
While there has been a huge increase in labor-force participation among women in the last 25 years, Americans are still less inclined than people in other countries to support government assistance to working parents. The survey found that 46 percent of Americans support child-care benefits for working parents, which places the United States at 19 among the 24 countries surveyed.
The Shelf Life of Bliss
FORGET the proverbial seven-year itch.
Not to disillusion the half million or so June brides and bridegrooms who were just married, but new research suggests that the spark may fizzle within only three years.
Researchers analyzed responses from two sets of married or cohabitating couples: one group was together for one to three years, the other for four to six years.
While the researchers could not pinpoint a precise turning point — the seven-year itch, as popularized in the play and film about errant husbands, was largely a theory — they found distinct differences between the groups.
“We know the earlier ones are happier,” said Prof. Kelly Musick, a University of Southern California sociologist. “The initial boost that marriage seems to provide fades over time.”
Research also showed that the median duration of first marriages that end in divorce remains a little more than seven years, which means that those couples will likely spend more than half their married lives less happy than they were when they cut the first slice of wedding cake.
“Some folks start getting less happy at the wedding reception,” said Larry Bumpass, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who wrote the study with Professor Musick.
Is there a three-year itch?
“There is not necessarily anything magical about year three,” Professor Musick said. “We know that typically when marriages end in divorce, half end before seven or so years and half end after. This is the same idea.”
Their analysis, which included unmarried, cohabitating partners but not gay couples, was based on the National Survey of Families and Households, a national
sample of 9,637 racially diverse households conducted by the University of Wisconsin Center for Demography and Ecology. The research, coupled with a survey released today by the Pew Research Center, provides an intriguing look at an ethereal part of marriage. Everyone knows the first blush of love is the strongest, but measuring how long it will last and whether that bliss is unique to marriage has always fallen more into the category of “here’s what my mother says” than something quantifiable.
In an academic paper they completed last year that analyzed earlier findings from the national surveys, Professors Musick and Bumpass compared responses to questions about how couples described their relationships, how often they fought and over what, and how they would envision their lives if they separated.
The research doesn’t address whether blissful 21st-century relationships are any more or less enduring than they were in the 20th century, so it may be that happy coupledom always came with a three-year expiration date. With nonmarital childbearing more common and women more economically independent, “What’s keeping people together is their love and commitment for each other,” Professor Musick said, “and that’s fragile.”
Anecdotal evidence suggests that the findings have some foundation.
Bart Blasengame, a 33-year-old freelance writer from Portland, Ore., was with his former fiancée for three years. “I felt like, by year three, we were both forcing it,” he recalled.
“It’s the whole cliché of pursuit,” he said. “Your dates are planned out like some Drew Barrymore romantic comedy with unicorns and rainbows. By year two, we were cruising along, living together, relatively happy. But from a growth standpoint things had started to atrophy. We were happy, content is a better word, but there was no spark.”
But the evolving rules of marriage provide both opportunities and pitfalls, Professor Musick said. “There may be greater potential to find fulfillment in relationships,” she said, “but that possibility and the expectations that come from it may lead to greater disappointment for some” if the expectations aren’t fulfilled.
Her bleak statistical assessment of the durability of enchantment is one of several new findings about relationships and marriage in America. In a word, the State of the Unions is precarious.
Even with the nation’s population increasing, the number of married Americans age 21 to 54 has declined slightly since 2000 — apparently for the first time, as measured by the Census Bureau. In the first decade of the 21st century, the proportion of Americans in every racial and ethnic group who were never married has continued to grow by double digits.
The United States is far from embracing Europe’s postmarriage model or its much higher rates of nonmarital births. Most Americans surveyed this year by the Pew center, in fact, still say marriage is an ideal, if a more elusive one.
While roughly 9 in 10 American adults eventually marry, the time they spend married has declined sharply, in part because they are marrying later and living longer as widows. Moreover, the Pew survey found that 79 percent of Americans say a woman can lead a complete and happy life if she remains single. The comparable figure for men was 67 percent.
While married couples generally say they are more satisfied with their lives, younger adults are far less likely to stigmatize alternatives such as living together and having children out of wedlock, according to the Pew telephone survey of 2,020 adults, which is available at www.pewresearch.org.
The Pew survey found that nearly half of Americans in their 30s and 40s have cohabitated. Among all adults, a minority (44 percent) said that living together without getting married was bad for society (only 10 percent said it was a good thing), although the Pew survey concluded that “by providing an alternative to marriage, cohabitation for some appears to diminish rather than strengthen the impulse to legally marry.”
In general, married people are presumed to be happier and better off, but Professor Bumpass, who found that most marriages nowadays are preceded by cohabitation, and Professor Musick questioned whether those benefits were unique to marriage and whether they are stable over time.
“We conclude that the boundaries between marriage and cohabitation may become increasingly blurred,” Professor Musick said.
As for the three-year itch, Byron Lester, a 49-year-old information technology administrator from Bloomfield, Conn., is well suited to consider it. Married three years and two months ago, he said the secret to success is often in the details. “Little things really do mean a lot,” he said.
Mr. Lester said he abandoned his cherished newspaper reading during dinner because that is when his wife most enjoys conversation. “And I think she’s adapted to watching more sports,” he said.
Marriage rates vary widely by race, ethnicity, education, income (63 percent of white women over 18 who make more than $100,000 are married; 25 percent of poor black women are). Soaring divorce rates have leveled off, most experts agree, but one reason may be that the dissolution of live-in relationships are not taken into account.
Raoul Felder, the celebrity divorce lawyer whose favorite aphorism is that marriage is the first step on the road to divorce, says marital longevity has fallen victim to the velocity of our souped-up society.
“We’re all addicted to a television-clicker lifestyle,” he said.
But a dissipation of that all-enveloping rapture is no reason to give up on a relationship, many people insist.
“At times, sure, I’m bored,” said Sean Meehan, 51, a therapist from West Hartford who has been married for 14 years. “Who isn’t? But you talk about it with your spouse and you can switch things up.”
“People are so used to everything being disposable,” he said. “They throw out diapers, lighters, coffee cups, so they can throw out a marriage.”
Dr. Ruth Westheimer, the sex adviser, cautioned, too, that the notion of a three-year itch can become self-fulfilling. “How dangerous it is to say something like that,” she said. “From now on, everyone who’s getting married will say it will last three years and then I will have to look for someone else.”
Or, as Paul D. Neuthaler, a divorce mediator in Westchester, said: “The fizzle tends to bubble out within a three- to five-year period when the basis for the marriage was purely physical or related to some attraction not closely associated with each partner’s essential character.”
Another new study, by Prof. Evelyn Lehrer of the University of Illinois at Chicago, contradicts the chestnut that women who marry later are more likely to divorce. She found that with both men and women marrying later than ever, later marriages seem to last longer.
Stephanie Coontz, director of public education at the Council on Contemporary Families, a research group, said: “We’re getting close to a 180-degree turn in many of the rules about what makes marriage work and not work. The marriages of college-educated couples are becoming more stable.”
Professor Musick is happily married herself — “mostly,” she says — and will celebrate her third anniversary this fall. “My honeymoon,” she mused, “is almost over.”
Whatever the trends, marriage and relationships are in an unusual state of flux, as they were for baby boomers. With so much room to maneuver, younger couples have fewer firm markers to guide them.
In the film “Knocked Up,” Ben beseeches his father for advice after his one-night stand results in a pregnancy.
“I’ve been divorced three times,” his father replies. “Why are you asking me?”
Surprise marriage proposal - Modesto man and woman engaged
Divorce declining, but so is marriage
Divorce is on the decline in the USA, but a report to be released today suggests that may be due more to an increase in people living together than to more lasting marriages.
Couples who once might have wed and then divorced now are not marrying at all, according to The State of our Unions 2005. The annual report, which analyzes Census and other data, is issued by the National Marriage Project at New Jersey's Rutgers University.
The U.S. divorce rate is 17.7 per 1,000 married women, down from 22.6 in 1980. The marriage rate is also on a steady decline: a 50% drop since 1970 from 76.5 per 1,000 unmarried women to 39.9, says the report, whose calculations are based on an internationally used measurement.
"Cohabitation is here to stay," says David Popenoe, a Rutgers sociology professor and report co-author. "I don't think it's good news, especially for children," he says. "As society shifts from marriage to cohabitation — which is what's happening — you have an increase in family instability."
Cohabiting couples have twice the breakup rate of married couples, the report's authors say. And in the USA, 40% bring kids into these often-shaky live-in relationships.
"It is important now to think beyond the divorce rate to other kinds of couple unions and look at how stable they are," says Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, a social historian and report co-author.
"It's a pretty short period of time for that change (cohabitation) to have occurred and to have taken hold in the way it has," she says.
In the USA, 8.1% of coupled households are made up of unmarried, heterosexual partners. Although many European countries have higher cohabitation rates, divorce rates in those countries are lower, and more children grow up with both biological parents, even though the parents may not be married, Popenoe says.
The USA has the lowest percentage among Western nations of children who grow up with both biological parents, 63%, the report says.
"The United States has the weakest families in the Western world because we have the highest divorce rate and the highest rate of solo parenting," Popenoe says.
Fact: Divorce rates are rising.
Fact: Nearly half of all marriages end in divorce.
Fact: There are ten myths of divorce.
Divorce Myth 1: Because people learn from their bad experiences, second marriages tend to be more successful than first marriages.
Fact: Although many people who divorce have successful subsequent marriages, the divorce rate of remarriages is in fact higher than that of first marriages.
Divorce Myth 2: Living together before marriage is a good way to reduce the chances of eventually divorcing.
Fact: Many studies have found that those who live together before marriage have a considerably higher chance of eventually divorcing. The reasons for this are not well understood. In part, the type of people who are willing to cohabit may also be those who are more willing to divorce. There is some evidence that the act of cohabitation itself generates attitudes in people that are more conducive to divorce, for example the attitude that relationships are temporary and easily can be ended.
Divorce Myth 3: Divorce may cause problems for many of the children who are affected by it, but by and large these problems are not long lasting and the children recover relatively quickly.
Fact: Divorce increases the risk of interpersonal problems in children. There is evidence, both from small qualitative studies and from large-scale, long-term empirical studies, that many of these problems are long lasting. In fact, they may even become worse in adulthood.
Divorce Myth 4: Having a child together will help a couple to improve their marital satisfaction and prevent a divorce.
Fact: Many studies have shown that the most stressful time in a marriage is after the first child is born. Couples who have a child together have a slightly decreased risk of divorce compared to couples without children, but the decreased risk is far less than it used to be when parents with marital problems were more likely to stay together "for the sake of the children."
Divorce Myth 5: Following divorce, the woman's standard of living plummets by 73 percent while that of the man's improves by 42 percent.
Fact: This dramatic inequity, one of the most widely publicized statistics from the social sciences, was later found to be based on a faulty calculation. A reanalysis of the data determined that the woman's loss was 27 percent while the man's gain was 10 percent. Irrespective of the magnitude of the differences, the gender gap is real and seems not to have narrowed much in recent decades.
Divorce Myth 6: When parents don't get along, children are better off if their parents divorce than if they stay together.
Fact: A recent large-scale, long-term study suggests otherwise. While it found that parents' marital unhappiness and discord have a broad negative impact on virtually every dimension of their children's well-being, so does the fact of going through a divorce. In examining the negative impacts on children more closely, the study discovered that it was only the children in very high-conflict homes who benefited from the conflict removal that divorce may bring. In lower-conflict marriages that end in divorce — and the study found that perhaps as many as two thirds of the divorces were of this type — the situation of the children was made much worse following a divorce. Based on the findings of this study, therefore, except in the minority of high-conflict marriages it is better for the children if their parents stay together and work out their problems than if they divorce.
Divorce Myth 7: Because they are more cautious in entering marital relationships and also have a strong determination to avoid the possibility of divorce, children who grow up in a home broken by divorce tend to have as much success in their own marriages as those from intact homes.
Fact: Marriages of the children of divorce actually have a much higher rate of divorce than the marriages of children from intact families. A major reason for this, according to a recent study, is that children learn about marital commitment or permanence by observing their parents. In the children of divorce, the sense of commitment to a lifelong marriage has been undermined.
Divorce Myth 8: Following divorce, the children involved are better off in stepfamilies than in single-parent families.
Fact: The evidence suggests that stepfamilies are no improvement over single-parent families, even though typically income levels are higher and there is a father figure in the home. Stepfamilies tend to have their own set of problems, including interpersonal conflicts with new parent figures and a very high risk of family breakup.
Divorce Myth 9: Being very unhappy at certain points in a marriage is a good sign that the marriage will eventually end in divorce.
Fact: All marriages have their ups and downs. Recent research using a large national sample found that 86 percent of people who were unhappily married in the late 1980s, and stayed with the marriage, indicated when interviewed five years later that they were happier. Indeed, three fifths of the formerly unhappily married couples rated their marriages as either "very happy" or "quite happy."
Divorce Myth 10: It is usually men who initiate divorce proceedings.
Fact: Two-thirds of all divorces are initiated by women. One recent study found that many of the reasons for this have to do with the nature of our divorce laws. For example, in most states women have a good chance of receiving custody of their children. Because women more strongly want to keep their children with them, in states where there is a presumption of shared custody with the husband the percentage of women who initiate divorces is much lower. Also, the higher rate of women initiators is probably due to the fact that men are more likely to be "badly behaved." Husbands, for example, are more likely than wives to have problems with drinking, drug abuse, and infidelity.
Divorce on the decline
Counseling, cohabitation both credited with lower rate
Married couples take note: new data suggests your chances of staying together are better than in years past.
In South Dakota, the divorce rate has been on a gradual decline, down from 3.7 divorces per 1,000 people in 1990 to 3.1 in 2005, according to the South Dakota Department of Health.
Nationally, the divorce rate is at 3.6, down from its 1981 peak of 5.3.
"I think people are much more thoughtful about their decision to marry," said Ann Marie Rossing, a licensed marriage and family therapist with Sioux Falls Psychological Services. "I think there's been a societal shift where people are more open to talking about personal, deeper things."
Rossing and other local marriage mentors and divorce lawyers said several factors including increases in people living together without getting married and premarriage and troubled marriage support might be responsible for the divorce decline.
Despite a slight marriage rate increase in South Dakota from 8.5 marriages per 1,000 people in 2003 to 8.7 in 2005, nonprofit groups such as the Sioux Empire Marriage Savers say more couples are choosing not to marry and instead cohabitate. Nationally, that number has increased tenfold since 1960, according to an Associated Press report.
Rossing said couples in the Upper Midwest also might experience and view marriage differently than couples elsewhere in the country. For instance, fewer people now find it necessary to marry in their teens and work the family farm, she said. Instead, couples are dating more, finishing school and establishing financially secure careers before marrying.
Those who do marry might hold more conservative values, "another reason we might see marriages staying intact longer here," Rossing said.
Finally, Rossing and Marriage Savers agree more couples are seeking counseling. About 5.8 million people, or 2 percent of the population, are seen annually by family therapists in the United States, according to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. That includes 863,701 couples. Rossing is president of the organization's South Dakota branch.
"If you go back to the mid-late '80s, you didn't see all the Doctor Phils on TV and didn't see couples airing their dirty laundry and someone sorting through it with them," said Rossing, who's been practicing since 1994. "It's like we have society's permission today to get help. It's accepted."
Groups such as Marriage Savers got involved in the late 1990s, working with churches to offer mentoring programs for marriage enrichment, troubled marriage, youth education and blended families.
"Our phone rings off the wall with couples struggling with you-fill-in-the-blank everything," said Tami Trussel, who along with her husband, Tony, co-founded Sioux Empire Marriage Savers.
One success story
Duane and Marlys Van De Vendel were close to divorce in July 2005 after almost six years of marriage.
The pair said they married too young and had a difficult time communicating. As a last-ditch effort, the Van De Vendels decided to try Marriage Savers at the suggestion of a pastor.
"I didn't even want to do that," Marlys Van De Vendel, 28, said. "At that point, I was done with the marriage. But I thought: 'If it works, fine. If not, at least I can say I tried.' "
The Trussells paired the Van De Vendels with a volunteer mentor couple.
"They weren't pushy - just there to help," Duane Van De Vendel, 29, said. "We made the decision to call them again. The thing we were most impressed with was they gave up every Sunday for us. They could relate from their previous situation."
They continue to work on their marriage and might become mentors for other couples.
"Couples need to make sure to check out all their options before they give up," he said. "Humans aren't perfect, so no marriage is. But if there are two committed people, it will work."
Half end in divorce
Despite success stories such as this, divorce affects almost half of all marriages, according to figures by the U.S. Census Bureau.
This is the trend Sioux Falls lawyer John Wilka sees.
"I'm busier than ever," Wilka said of his divorce caseload. Wilka has practiced law for 19 years and recently has handled more than 100 divorces cases a year.
Nationwide, marriages are most likely to fail in the early years. Rossing has seen the opposite in the Sioux Falls area.
"People here, I think, tend to end up divorcing later," Rossing said. "After the children have grown up and move out of the house is when I think the couple realizes they haven't invested anything in the marriage - everything's gone to raising the kids."
Rossing estimated roughly 30 percent of the couples she sees in marriage counseling eventually divorce.
"You have to recognize that when people finally do come in for therapy it's the last resort, and maybe one or the other knows they're not going to stay in the marriage but are here to satisfy the partner," Rossing said.
"But if you're willing to get help, hopefully we'll be able to resolve your issues and rediscover why you got married. Something drew you together."
Same-sex marriage is a term for a governmentally, socially, or religiously recognized marriage in which two people of the same sex live together as a family. Other terms for this type of relationship include "gay marriage", "gender-neutral marriage," "equal marriage," "lesbian marriage," "homosexual marriage," "single-sex marriage," and "same-gender marriage
A Marriage Equality Story
Gay Marriage Amendment Fast Facts
CBS' Andrew Cohen Answers 10 Questions On The Same-Sex Debate
Although President Bush has endorsed it and polls show that a slim majority of Americans favor it, there is no guarantee that an amendment banning gay marriage ever will be added to the text of the Constitution. And, even if that does happen, it almost certainly will happen long after the current President has retired back to his ranch in Texas.
Those are answers to two of the more popular questions asked in the wake of the news Tuesday that the nation's chief executive wouldn't mind seeing the nation's legislators (federal and state) add some language to the Constitution that would limit who may marry whom in America. But there are plenty of other questions that haven't been asked and answered. So, in the spirit of giving you more information than you even know you want to have, here are eight more questions and answers surrounding the nascent debate over this particular effort to amend the constitution.
1. What happens now in Congress?
Good question. First, Congress has to decide whether it wants to even take up the issue. When President Bush first made his pronouncement Tuesday, I expected conservative pols in Washington to fall all over themselves pledging to push through the fairly popular amendment as soon as possible. But, judging from the initial reaction, not all Republicans are eager or willing to amend the Constitution for an issue that hasn't been fully vetted by the courts, including the Supreme Court. Also, some conservatives, and many Democrats, see a states-rights problem with shoving a federal mandate down the throats of local officials. In other words, the congressional reaction to the notion of the amendment was far more reserved than I suspect most observers thought it would be.
2. Aside from pure party politics, what are the potential pitfalls for the proposed amendment at the Congressional level?
In a word: language. Already, some folks on both sides of the aisle are expressing concern that the Musgrave Amendment, named after the Colorado representative who authored it, may not simply ban gay marriage but may also outlaw civil unions. I don't think there is any way the amendment will pass if reasonable legal minds believe it bans same-sex couples from getting certain benefits; even the President seems to support the concept of civil unions. So there is going to be a lot of cussin' and discussing over precisely what the text of the amendment ought to look like and the more unambiguous the language is the more likely it will be to generate opposition (politicians love ambiguous laws, remember, which is why lawyers make so much money by keeping so busy).
3. Pretend that Congress passes the amendment by the requisite votes, what next?
Once the amendment passes through Congress it goes to the states. Lately, when given the opportunity, Congress has been putting time limits on the proposed amendments it sends to the states. Incidentally, this is one of the better ideas Congress ever has had -- there are amendments that made it through Congress long ago but which have been floating around the ether of the Constitution for hundreds of years. Once the issue goes to the states, the legislatures in three-quarters of them must approve the precise language of the proposed amendment. That language issue is an important one because, right now, many gay marriage bans at the state level are worded differently. So there is no guarantee that the actual language of the amendment will be simply rubber-stamped from state to state.
4. What kinds of amendments are floating out there?
There are several but the most astonishing is an amendment from 1861 that would have prohibited Congress from interfering with slavery. "No amendment shall be made to the Constitution which will authorize or give to Congress the power to abolish or interfere, within any State, with the domestic institutions thereof, including that of persons held to labor or service by the laws of said State." Two states passed that amendment, apparently, but there was never a time limit placed upon it so it is still alive. Among the more recent amendments that didn't make the cut were the Equal Rights Amendment, sent to the states in 1972 and expired in 1982, and the Washington D.C. voting rights amendment, proposed in 1978 and expired in 1985.
5. How rare is it for Congress to take up a constitutional amendment?
It is rare for Congress to get serious about a constitutional amendments but they get proposed all the time. Balanced budgets, presidential pardons, cruel and unusual punishment, child pornography, legislative salaries, the Pledge of Allegiance -- you name a hot-button issue that has arisen over the past few years and it is likely that some representative from some district somewhere has tried to create a constitutional amendment about it. Fortunately for us, and for a sense of certainty, the drafters of the Constitution made it very difficult for an amendment to be added to the document -- in other words, cooler heads usually prevail.
6. What will happen with the gay marriage fight in California while the amendment process goes forward?
Nothing and everything. The legal battle in California will resolve itself of its own accord based upon existing state law. Either the equal protection clause of the California constitution trumps that state's ban against same-sex marriage or it doesn't. But if the amendment process doesn't affect the fight in California, the fight in California may affect the amendment process. Can you imagine the political pressure that will be brought to bear if and when the California Supreme Court follows Massachusetts and declares that same-sex marriages are valid in that huge state? Think of the fight over gay marriage as two trains (the judicial train and the amendment train) going down parallel tracks. If the courts conclude that states are not required to recognize gay marriages, the tracks will never intersect. But if the courts conclude that gay marriage bans are discriminatory, the trains will collide at some point down the track.
7. What happens if the amendment passes both houses of Congress and at the state level? Would the Supreme Court then be in a position to evaluate its constitutionality?
That's actually two questions but I'll still answer it. I don't think so. If that were to happen, the courts would be able to interpret the new amendment in the context of future legal challenges but could not be able to invalidate the amendment itself. So, theoretically, you could have one amendment (this proposed one) which reasonably contradicts two other amendments (the 5th and 14th amendments) which guarantee equal protection of law. In that case, the Supreme Court only could try to reconcile those seemingly irreconcilable legal landmarks -- the Justices could not void them. That's why an amendment is such a big deal -- it creates new law that is virtually unassailable by the courts (the whole point of this venture, many conservatives say).
8. What about the federal Defense of Marriage act?
What about it? Don't better the "over" on its longevity. Clearly, the White House and supporters of a marriage amendment aren't confident that the federal law, signed by President Clinton, will withstand judicial scrutiny if and when that scrutiny comes. The Defense of Marriage Act defines marriage as a legal union between one man as one woman under federal law. It also permits the states to refuse to recognize each other's marriage laws (a provision that may violate the Constitution's "full faith and credit" clause) but it doesn't stop any individual state from recognizing gay marriage, which is what Massachusetts did and what California is contemplating. The federal statute is susceptible to judicial review -- and based upon the Supreme Court's sodomy ruling last June that review might not be kind. The amendment, as I mentioned above, would generally be free from such review.
TIMELINE - Same Sex Marriage
Gay Rights and Gay Marriage
1533 The English common law tradition of criminalizing sodomy began with a proclamation from King Henry VIII. At the time, sodomy was defined as any non-procreative sexual activity and thus included masturbation, anal and oral sex.
1869 The term "homosexuality" appears to have been first used.
1871 Germany criminalized homosexuality with Paragraph 175 of the Reich Criminal Code. In 1929 a committee in the Reichstag had voted to repeal Paragraph 175, but the Nazi rise to power prevented any action from being taken and the law would remain on the books until 1968 in East Germany and 1969 in West Germany.
June 23, 1894 Alfred C. Kinsey is born.
1945 Allied troops liberating inmates of Nazi concentration camps do not release those imprisoned for homosexuality. Instead, they are forced to serve out the full term of their sentences under Paragraph 175 of the Germany legal code criminalizing homosexuality.
April 08, 1947 The Institute for Sex Research, popularly known as the Kinsey Institute after researcher Alfred C. Kinsey, was incorporated in Indiana.
September 14, 1953 Sexual Behavior in the Human Female was published by Alfred C. Kinsey. This book created almost as much attention and controversy as the 1948 volume dealing with male sexual behavior.
1961 According to the Vatican, anyone who is "affected by the perverse inclination" towards homosexuality is not eligible to take religious vows or be ordained within the Roman Catholic Church.
April 10, 1967 Argued: Loving v. Virginia
A Virginia law against interracial marriages would be struck down, with the Supreme Court declaring that marriage is a "fundamental civil right" and that decisions in this arena are not those with which the State can interfere unless they have good cause.
June 12, 1967 Decided: Loving v. Virginia
A Virginia law against interracial marriages was struck down, with the Supreme Court declaring that marriage is a "fundamental civil right" and that decisions in this arena are not those with which the State can interfere unless they have good cause.
May 25, 1970 William Masters and Virginia Johnson, researchers who did important work on human sex behavior, appeared on the cover of Time magazine.
1972 Reverend William Johnson becomes the first openly gay person ordained in any Christian organization: the United Church of Christ.
1972 The Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Netherlands rules that lesbians and gays could serve as pastors, becoming the first European Christian denomination to do so. Many other protestant churches would issue similar rulings in the following decades.
1973 The American Psychiatric Association votes 13-0 to remove homosexuality from its DSM-II (the official list of psychiatric disorders). The APA also passed a resolution urging an end to all private and public discrimination against gays. Conservatives would accuse the APA of giving in to "political correctness" for this decision, arguing that homosexuality should continue to be treated as a disorder.
July 04, 1983 Rev. Jerry Falwell described AIDS as a "gay plague."
March 1986 Father Charles E. Curran, a moral theologian at Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., revealed that the Vatican had given him an ultimatum: retract his views on birth control, divorce, and other matters pertaining to sexuality, or lose the authority to teach Roman Catholic doctrine. Thousands protested this ultimatum and Curran refused to retract; eventually, the Vatican revoked his license to teach as a Catholic theologian and in 1987 he was suspended from Catholic University entirely.
June 30, 1986 The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in the case of Bowers v. Hardwick that homosexual activity between consenting adults in the privacy of the home was not protected by the Constitution.
August 1987 In New Hampshire, a United Methodist Church court suspended Rose Mary Denman, a lesbian minister, because she violated a church rule which prohibited practicing homosexuals from being in the clergy.
1988 The United Church of Canada becomes the first Canadian church to allow the ordination of gays.
1989 John Spong, a bishop in the Episcopal Church, ordains Robert Williams, a openly gay man. Williams would later lose his job after denouncing monogamy.
February 26, 1990 Refusing to consider the cases of Ben-Shalom v. Stone and Woodward v. U.S., the U.S. Supreme Court effectively upheld the right of the American military to discharge gays and lesbians of the armed forces.
November 1992 The National Council of Churches rejected a request for "observer status" by the largely gay Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches, claiming that they didn't want to imply "an affirmation of homosexual practice."
July 1994 Rev. Jeanne Audrey Powers, a prominent leader in the United Methodist Church, became the highest ranking member of that denomination to announce that she was gay. According to Powers, she took that step as "an act of public resistance to false teachings that have contributed to heresy and homophobia within the church itself."
January 1996 The American Baptist Church of the West expelled four San Francisco Bay congregations for welcoming homosexuals and not teaching that homosexual activity is a sin.
April 1996 Delegates at the General Conference of the United Methodist Church voted down a proposal to eliminate language in church law that declares homosexuality to be "incompatible with Christian teaching."
June 1996 The Southern Baptist Convention announced a boycott of all Disney parks and products because of the company's decision to give insurance benefits to the partners of gay employees and for hosting "Gay Days" at Disney theme parks.
April 19, 2000 Vermont approves the creation of same-sex unions, thus entitling gay couples to rights and benefits normally available to married couples.
August 01, 2001 Angelika and Gudrun Pannier become Germany's first gay couple to legally wed in a civil marriage ceremony.
March 28, 2002 In Mississippi, the "George County Times" published a letter from George County Justice Court Judge Connie Wilkerson which read, in part, "In my opinion, gays and lesbians should be put in some type of mental institution." Because of the bias expressed in such a statement, an ethics violation complaint was filed against Wilkerson.
2003 A letter published by the Vatican's Congregation for Worship asserts: "The ordination to the priesthood of homosexual men, or men with homosexual tendencies, is absolutely inadvisable and imprudent, and from a pastoral point of view, very risky"
2003 Jeffrey John, an openly gay man living a celibate life, is appointed bishop of Reading, England. but he eventually turns down the post because of the controversy created within the Anglican Communion.
August 05, 2003 Gene Robinson, an openly gay man, was elected bishop-designate of New Hampshire by the Episcopal General Convention during its meeting in Minneapolis. This election sparked outrage by conservative Anglican Churches around the world and initiated moves towards a schism within Episcopal Church and conservative, evangelical churches tried to distances themselves from a leadership they felt had descended into heresy.
November 18, 2003 The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled 4-3 that government attorneys "failed to identify any constitutionally adequate reason" to deny gay and lesbian couples the right to marry. The court gave the Massachusetts Legislature six months to rewrite the state's marriage laws in order to fix this. This ruling was hailed by many liberals but denounced by conservatives, especially religious conservatives, who began to work for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution defining marriage as being between "one man and one woman."
February 04, 2004 The Massachusetts high court that only full, equal marriage rights for gay couples, not civil unions, would be constitutional. "The history of our nation has demonstrated that separate is seldom, if ever, equal," an advisory opinion from the four justices who ruled in favor of gay marriage stated. A bill creating only civil unions, not full marriage rights, would be "unconstitutional, inferior, and discriminatory status for same-sex couples."
February 12, 2004 City officials in San Francisco, California began issuing marriage licenses to homosexual couples and performed the first known civil marriage of a homosexual couple in the U.S. by marrying the homosexual activists and lesbian couple, Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon. Over 80 couples were given quick ceremonies.
February 20, 2004 Victoria Dunlap, Republican county clerk of rural Sandoval County, New Mexico, began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, citing lack of legal grounds for denial.
February 20, 2004 King Norodom Sihanouk, constitutional monarch of Cambodia, declared that he thought his country should legalize same-sex marriage. He said that he reached this conclusion after watching footage of same-sex couples mary in San Francisco. He also stated that transvestites should be well-treated in Cambodia.
February 24, 2004 President George W. Bush announced that he supported a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. He did not specifically endorse the wording proposed by Representative Marilyn Musgrave which has been questioned for the likelihood of also prohibiting states the ability to recognise same-sex civil unions and domestic partnerships. However, he did say that the wording fo Musgrave's amendment "meets his principles" in protecting the "sanctity of marriage" between men and women.
March 02, 2004 Jason West, mayor of New Paltz, New York was charged with 19 criminal counts of solemnizing marriages without a license. West had solemnized a number of same-sex marriages in his town.
March 05, 2004 The Wisconsin State Assembly approved of an amendment to the state constitution (68-27) that would ban both same-sex marriages and civil unions.
March 11, 2004 The California Supreme Court issued a stay ordering San Francisco officials to cease issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
March 12, 2004 The Wisconsin State Senate approved of an amendment to the state constitution (20-13) that would ban both same-sex marriages and civil unions.
March 12, 2004 Oregon's attorney general issues an opinion on same-sex marriage, stating that issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples would contradict current state law. At the same time, he also concluded that the Oregon Supreme Court would probably strike down those statutes as violating the state's constitution. Partially as a result of this, the Wisconsin State Senate voted to approve an amendment to the state constitution banning same-sex marriages or even civil unions.
March 19, 2004 In Quebec, the Court of Appeal upholds a superior court ruling that same-sex marriages are legal under Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Canadian provinces of Ontario and British Columbia already permitted same-sex marriage.
March 20, 2004 A lesbian minister in Bothell, Washington, is acquitted by a Methodist church jury of violating church rules.
March 22, 2004 In Oregon, the commissioners of Benton County decided not to start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. This reversal of an earlier vote was due to receiving a letter from state attorney general Hardy Myers on the matter. In place of same-sex marriage licenses, the commissioners decided to stop issuing any marriage licenses to anyone at all until the Oregon Supreme Court rules on the constitutionality of the discriminatory provisions of Oregon's marriage laws.
14 Surprising Facts about Marriage, Affairs & Divorce
Nearly 70% of all married men and 60% of married women have had affairs. That’s two out of every three marriages.
Every ten to thirteen seconds someone gets divorced.
50% of women and 33% of men remain angry for ten years after a divorce.
Women have more trouble starting new relationships than divorced men do.
More than 90% of divorces in long-standing marriages involve infidelities some time during the marriage.
More than 50% may be involved in a current affair, yet only 25% cite an affair as an actual reason for divorce.
80% of those who divorce during an affair regret the decision.
Over 75% who marry partners in an affair eventually divorce.
The divorce rate and ratio of infidelity are much higher among marriage partners in an affair.
The average affair lasts two to four years.
If an affair becomes public it is doomed.
If an affair replaces the marriage, it is subject to the same emotional stresses as the marriage but is twice as likely to fracture.
An affair prevents binding ties from being formed. Eventually it has nowhere to go. Sooner or later it will suffocate in secrecy.
Affairs die for the same reason as marriage, lack of intimacy.
Wedding Facts & Trends
The magical aura of a wedding first forms in young girl's mind and is carried in her dreams till that wonderful day when two become one, or so the story goes.
The wedding is one of society's most valued traditions, a custom honored worldwide. The importance of the wedding in American culture is reflected in the thought, time, money, planning, and anguish that go into the activities that precede the typical wedding – and the statistics that tell the story.
Weddings by the Numbers
• Weddings are a $25.3 billion industry.
• For the past 20 years, 2.25 million to 2.40 million weddings take place each year in the United States, a third of them remarriages.
• Most brides (30 percent) plan their weddings for 7 to 12 months.
• An average of 189 guests attends a wedding.
• The average cost of a wedding is $20,000 to $25,000.
• 48 percent of Hallmark wedding cards are sold during summer months (May through August).
• Most (85 percent) weddings are held in a church or synagogue.
• More than half of all weddings take place in the afternoon.
• Hawaii is the favorite honeymoon destination.
• Most wedding cards are from friends. (Brides 18 to 39 receive 85 percent of all wedding cards.)
• About two-thirds of wedding cards are hand delivered.
• Most (about 75 percent) first-time brides will receive a diamond engagement ring (67 percent of repeat brides).
• A third of men's wedding rings have diamonds.
June and August –
• August is the top month for weddings (10.2 percent) and June is second (9.9 percent).
• While June typically has been regarded as the month for weddings, more weddings have been in August in the past decade than in June, including the past three years.
Three Styles Reflect Today's Brides
• "Traditional princess bride" – a young woman with parents active in the planning and financing of a once-in-a-lifetime, fairy-tale wedding.
• "Traditional independent bride" – financially independent, plans her own wedding, often with the help of the groom; blends tradition with her own style.
• "Nontraditional independent brides" – typically marries later or was married before; plans a small, nontraditional wedding.
Today's Bride Is Older and Wiser
• The average engagement is 16 months (up from 11 months in 1990) and the average ring costs $2,000.
• The average first-time bride was 22 in 1980, 25 in 1990, and 25.1 today.
• The average age of remarrying brides was 32 in 1980, 35 in 1990, and 34 in 2000.
• The average age of the first-time groom is 26.8 and 37+ for the remarrying groom.
• Four out of five brides are employed.
• Money is the most-desired wedding gift.
Today's Bride Worries About...
• Exceeding budget – 66 percent (most willing to go over budget on photography)
• Forgetting a crucial detail – 50 percent
• Party not being fun – 40 percent (most expensive element of the wedding)
• Guests not showing up – 25 percent
Wedding Traditions Evolving
• Among all categories, interest is growing in reconnecting to family and seeing occasions such as weddings as an opportunity to bring generations together.
• Increasingly, bride, groom and parents share in wedding expenses.
• With brides and grooms emerging from blended and stepfamilies, the wedding can become a tradition and communication challenge. (For example, who walks the bride down the aisle? Where do step-parents and former in-laws sit?)
• About 15 percent of weddings include ethnic customs.
• Destination weddings (family and friends travel to exotic locations) tripled between 1997 and 1999 – from 3 to 11 percent.
Till When Do Us Part
• About 50 percent of marriages end in divorce.
• Half of all adults in the United States are married.
• More than 4.2 million unmarried couples live together.
• 59 percent of brides under 18 are separated or divorced within 15 years.
• Wedding ceremonies in unusual venues – museums, zoos, gardens, etc.
• Black-and-white photojournalism-style pictures.
• Wedding consultants to direct the event.
• More platinum rings.
• Couples showers.
• Professionally-produced videos to be played at receptions.
• Focus on guests having fun: novel floral arrangements; more elegant foods, wines, cakes; focus on detail – parking, favors, maps, etc.
• Honeymoon registry.
• Longer, more elaborate, exotic honeymoons.
Wedding Cards Are Kept
• Most brides keep their wedding cards and especially treasure those that have handwritten personal messages inside.
• Hallmark wedding cards help friends and family of the bride and groom congratulate them at the time of their engagement, shower and wedding with inspiring and joyful wishes for happiness.
• Hallmark's wedding collection includes cards expressing thanks to wedding party, parents, musicians and clergy; to daughter on her wedding day; to bride from groom; to best friend, etc.
• Humorous wedding cards are popular, especially for showers and single friends before the wedding; often followed by a more serious or heartfelt card at the time of the wedding.
• Tailored cards can be appropriate for weddings of business associates.
• Hallmark offers wedding cards appropriate for second marriages and nontraditional couples.
• African-American, Jewish and Hispanic consumers have a choice of wedding cards from Mahogany, Tree of Life and Sinceramente Hallmark brands, which feature art, icons and messages that reflect cultural traditions.
• Hallmark Warm Wishes 99-cent cards celebrate an engagement or bridal shower, or share wedding congratulations with a casual friend, neighbor or other acquaintance.
• Hallmark's hip and trendy Fresh Ink card line is especially popular for friends to give to friends, between bride and groom, and for engagement congratulations.
Capture Wedding Memories
• In addition to formal wedding portraits and videotapes, brides cherish their wedding albums to display on the coffee table, show to family and friends, and share with children and grandchildren in years to come. Wedding books and albums become family records, treasures to be passed from generation to generation.
• Hallmark wedding planner, photo album, memory book and guest book designs include elegant embossing, foil stamping, laser cuts, fabrics, silk screen-printing and other embellishments that reflect the bride's personal style.
• Wedding books and albums often are chosen as gifts by those close to the bride, who are most likely to know her taste and preferences, or are purchased by family and friends for their own use in capturing personal memories of events surrounding the wedding.
Gift Presentation Is Important
• Because wedding gifts often are on display long before they are opened – in homes, at showers and at wedding receptions – the presentation is especially important.
• Bridal shower gift wraps often become part of the entertainment and are used to fashion faux corsages, bouquets or bed pillows, featuring the most beautiful ribbons and bows.
• Hallmark is known for elegant and beautiful traditional gift wraps, ribbons, attachments and bags, as well as more trendy, colorful choices.
• Oversized wedding totes for large gifts or unusual shapes are increasingly popular – and are designed with the elegance and beauty of more traditional wraps.
• The perceived value of a gift is greatly enhanced by a beautiful presentation.
So Many Reasons To Express Thanks
• Long before the wedding, a bride-to-be will have myriad occasions that require handwritten thank-you notes, not necessarily formal-printed, less personal notes. Designs that reflect the style of the wedding, the wedding colors, or the bride's personality often are chosen for pre-wedding situations.
• Thank-you cards, specifically for musicians, wedding party, clergy, friends who help, etc., are perfect choices to accompany compensation, monetary thanks or to express special feelings.
• Thank-you cards to parents will be treasured forever.
Census Bureau Finds Marriage Trends Vary Across Country
WASHINGTON — Couples in the Northeast are hearing wedding bells later than men and women elsewhere in the country — especially Utah, where younger newlyweds are the norm.
A Census Bureau (search) study being released Thursday found many regional differences in the marrying habits of Americans, with those near the East and West coasts generally waiting longer to get married than those in Middle America. The study also found that Southerners are the least likely to live together without getting married.
"Later marriage is very strongly associated with higher levels of education," said David Popenoe, co-director of the National Marriage Project (search) at Rutgers University (search). "That's why people in the Northeast have such a late age of marriage."
The age when couples get married can also be influenced by religion and whether they are willing to live together without getting married, Popenoe said.
"It delays marriage," Popenoe said of living together before marriage. "Men marry too late from the point of view of women, especially educated men. It leaves more women single, or marrying beyond the age of childbirth."
The median age for first marriages in the United States is 26.7 years for men and 25.1 for women. That is roughly a year older than a decade ago for both, said Martin O'Connell, chief of the Census Bureau's fertility and family statistics branch.
Men wait longer than women to marry in every state, and no one gets married younger than couples in Utah, where the median age is 21.9 for women and 23.9 for men. At the other end of the spectrum, men and women in Washington, D.C., both wait until they are about 30.
"Big cities tend to have high ages for marriage," said Zhenchao Qian, associate professor of sociology at Ohio State University.
The Census Bureau analyzed data from the American Community Survey (search) from 2000 to 2003, developing state-by-state averages on marriage and fertility for the first time.
Among the study's findings: 29 percent of all new mothers were unmarried. Among the unmarried mothers, half were poor, compared with 12 percent of married mothers who lived in poverty.
"Single parenthood and poverty are about as closely related as you can get," Popenoe said.
The states with the most unwed new mothers also tended to be the ones with the highest percentage of new mothers living in poverty.
Washington, D.C., had the highest percentage of new mothers who were unmarried, at 53.4 percent. The city also had the highest percentage of new mothers living in poverty, at 36.3 percent. West Virginia, Mississippi and Louisiana also had high percentages of unwed mothers living below the poverty line.
Among the study's other findings:
— Maine had the highest percentage of households with unmarried couples, at 7.3 percent, while Alabama had the lowest, at 3 percent.
— One-fifth of all new mothers in California either did not speak English well or did not speak it at all.
— Fifteen percent of all new mothers in the U.S. were not citizens.
— Hispanics had the highest birth rates, while non-Hispanic whites had the lowest.
Your Beautiful Wedding
Some Seek Alternatives to 'Til Death Do Us Part'
In some weddings, "'til death do us part" is going the way of "to honor and obey" — that is, out the window.
Vows like "For as long as we continue to love each other," "For as long as our love shall last" and "Until our time together is over" are increasingly replacing the traditional to-the-grave vow — a switch that some call realistic and others call a recipe for failure.
"We're hearing that a lot — 'as long as our love shall last.' I personally think it's quite a statement on today's times — people know the odds of divorce," said New Jersey wedding expert Sharon Naylor (search), author of "Your Special Wedding Vows," who adds that the rephrasing is also part of a more general trend toward personalizing vows.
Naylor said killing the "death vow" doesn't mean that people don't take their marriage promises seriously. Quite the contrary.
"People understand that anything can happen in life, and you don't make a promise you can't keep. When people get divorced, they mourn the fact that they said ''til death do us part' — you didn't keep your word in church (if they had a church wedding). Some people are in therapy because they promised ‘til death do us part' — it is the sticking point in the healing of a broken marriage. The wording can give you a stigma of personal failure
For those who have expressed interest in eliminating "'til death do us part," Naylor has suggested going with "For as long as our marriage shall serve the greatest good."
"You will promise to be loyal as long as love shall last — you don't want to promise 'when you treat me like crap,'" she said.
Indeed, actor Brad Pitt (search) caused a stir recently when he said he doesn't consider his marriage to actress Jennifer Aniston (search) a "failure."
"I see mine as a total success ... that's five more [years] than I made it with anyone else," he told W magazine.
But for others, nothing less than forever will do.
Newlywed Dana Novak Ranawat — a Virginia native who married in April, also nixed "'til death do us part" — but she went to the other extreme.
"We changed it to 'For all the days of our lives.' I didn't want us to say 'until death do us part.' I believe in heaven and that we will be together after we die. I kind of went the other way," said Ranawat, who is studying for her doctorate in psychology.
As for people who vow to stay married for as long as they love, rather than as long as they live, Ranawat said such a mind frame could be a detriment in the long run.
"People think 'we'll continue as long as it works and then we'll end it' — to me, that's going to make it end when it's unsuccessful. For us, this is the only time we're getting married and we'll make it work."
Dr. William Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights (search), said to his knowledge, these new vows have yet to creep into the Catholic Church. And while an "innovative" priest might allow them, he said they "wouldn't get a sanction from Rome."
"It's a change for the worse. The 'death do us part' vow is really unconditional. Once you change it to 'as long as love shall last' or something of that nature, it's conditional. It's almost analogous to a prenuptial agreement — simply saying 'we hope it works out.' It goes against the grain of marriage."
Psychologist Diana Kirschner, author of "Opening Love's Door: The Seven Lessons," agreed with Ranawat and Donohue that promising forever lets the other person know that you're in it for life — good times and bad — and that promising just for a while can lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy.
"Over time your mate brings out the best in you, but also the worst in you. You have to have a contract that you'll work together to help each other grow. A contract that is this kind of thing —as long as we feel good — there's a guarantee that you'll feel bad, hit a rocky point, where you don't love anyone, you don't love yourself — that's where the rubber meets the road. That's where active love comes through."
But Kirschner said she can understand why some people, especially children of divorce, would find it difficult to promise eternal love.
"I think there is an unconscious belief that love can't last if there is a model in one's family. You're probably going to get what you expect if you have very limited expectations."
But given the abundance of broken marriages in the U.S. today, some say limited expectations are simply realistic.
The Rev. Bonnie Nixon, a non-denominational minister in Torrance, Calif., who presides over approximately 1,000 weddings a year, said the specter of divorce is definitely reshaping vows.
"Some people were born in 1970 and they've already been married three or four times. At least half of the couples we marry come from blended families — some say vows to the other person's children. This generation (the one now marrying for the first time) grew up with a lot of divorce in the '70s and '80s. They have two dads, two moms, eight grandparents. They have divorce in mind — they're wary. It's just realism."
Nixon has even heard vows as extreme as "Until our time together is over" a couple of times.
"They don't really want to commit themselves to forever and ever type thing," she said.
In the case of "Until our time together is over," it was the groom's request, and Nixon said he was "leaving himself wide open."
"I think he was trying to be noncommittal in case it didn't work out — they didn't seem too terribly in love."
But why get married at all then? Nixon said it all comes down to tradition.
"The white dress — all of us girls were raised with that. We still want to do that and hope for the best. Men I think are going along for the ride. I think a lot of people feel 'We'll probably get 10 years out of it.'"
That's not to say that Nixon doesn't see the blushing bride of yore.
"There are also a lot of very starry-eyed people who cry tears when they say vows. It's very sweet. And we hope it lasts — there are so many outside forces on people today. I always hope for the best, though."
Indeed, Betsy Goldberg, features editor at Modern Bride magazine, said she's heard about the "as long as our love shall last" trend, but it's not the sentiment she's been seeing among her readers.
"The readers we have [are] still going into weddings saying 'this is forever.' The majority of people still want to go in believing forever and intending forever. I think [the rest] make up a small percentage."
Naylor said some people keep "'til death do us part" and other "scripted" vows because they want to keep tradition alive.
"They want to say the same words their parents spoke. Things the bride has been dreaming of saying since she was putting the pillowcase on her head. Even in the most personalized weddings, people usually have one element that is very traditional."
Naylor added that some people are canning "'til death do us part' simply because they don't want to mention such a bleak subject as death in their vows.
But other couples are taking their wedding vows less seriously than ever. At one recent wedding, officiated by Reverend Run of Run-DMC fame, the marrying couple swapped "for richer or poorer" for "for richer or richer."
And when it came time to exchange rings, Reverend Run said, "where's the bling?"
Facts About Marital Distress and Divorce
Younger people in the U.S. who are marrying for the first time face roughly a 40-50% chance of divorcing in their lifetime under current trends (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1992, p. 5).
Of first marriages that end in divorce, many end in the first 3 to 5 years. (As one example, for first marriages ending in divorce among women aged 25 to 29, the median length of marriage before divorce in 1990 was 3.4 years; U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1992, p. 4).
Adults and children are at increased risk for mental and physical problems due to marital distress (e.g., Cherlin & Furstenberg, 1994; Coie et al. 1993; Coyne, Kahn, & Gotlib, 1987; Cowan & Cowan, 1992; Fincham, Grych, & Osborne, 1993).
Mismanaged conflict and negative interaction in marriage predicts both marital distress and negative effects for children (e.g., Gottman, 1994; Markman & Hahlweg, 1993; Clements, Stanley, & Markman, 1997; Cowan & Cowan, 1992; and Grych & Fincham, 1990).
Marital problems are associated with decreased work productivity, especially for men (e.g., Forthofer, Markman, Cox, Stanley, & Kessler, 1996).
A variety of studies suggest that the seeds of marital distress and divorce are there for many couples when they say, "I Do." These studies show that premarital (or early marital) variables can predict which couples will do well and which will not with accuracies of 80% up to 94% (e.g., Clements, Stanley, & Markman, 1997; Fowers, Montel, & Olson, 1996; Gottman, 1994; Karney & Bradbury, 1995; Kelly & Conley, 1987; and Rogge & Bradbury, in press).
Many more couples live together prior to marriage than in the past--recent estimates are in the range of 60+% (Stanley & Markman, 1997; Bumpass & Sweet, 1991). These couples are less likely to stay married, probably mostly due to the fact that they are less conservative about marriage and divorce in the first place.
Money is the one thing that people say they argue about most in marriage, followed by children (Stanley & Markman, 1997). But, there is a lot of reason to believe that what couples argue about is not as important as how they argue (Markman, Stanley, & Blumberg, 1994).
Married men and women in all age groups are less likely to be limited in activity (a general health indice) due to illness than single, separated, divorced, or widowed individuals (National Center for Health Statistics, 1997).
Children living with a single parent or adult report a higher prevalence of activity limitation and higher rates of disability. They are also more likely to be in fair or poor health and more likely to have been hospitalized (National Center for Health Statistics, 1997).
The "triple threat" of marital conflict, divorce, and out-of-wedlock births has led to a generation of U.S. children at great risk for poverty, health problems, alienation, and antisocial behavior.
Unhappy Marriage: Bad for Your Health
Frequent Arguments May Trigger Unhealthy Reactions in the Body
Being in an unhappy marriage may be hard on the body as well as the heart.
A new study shows couples that often argue may take longer to heal from simple wounds than those in less hostile relationships.
In addition to allowing old physical and mental wounds to fester, researchers say unhappy marriages may also trigger other unhealthy changes that could have a lasting effect on a person's health.
For example, the results suggest that the delay in wound healing was caused by a decrease in the release of pro-inflammatory proteins at the wound site needed for proper healing. Prolonged changes in levels of these proteins, such as from constant marital conflict, have been linked to an increased risk of a variety of diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, arthritis, type 2 diabetes, and depression.
Therefore, unhappy, hostile marriages may have negative effects on both partners' physical and mental health.
The results of the study appear in the Archives of General Psychiatry.
Unhappy Marriages Have Unhealthy Effects
Researchers say many studies have shown marriage seems to have a protective affect against common health threats, such as heart attacks and cancer. But not all marriages may be equally healthy.
In fact, previous studies suggest that being in an unhappy or troubled marriage may raise stress levels and increase the risk of heart disease or depression.
In this study, researchers looked at how hostile marital behaviors affected a simple process, in this case wound healing, in 42 healthy couples married an average of 12 years. Each of the couples was admitted to a hospital research unit for 24 hours. In the first visit, the couples participated in a session designed to help them support each other. In the second visit, the couples talked about their biggest areas of martial conflict, such as money, in-laws, etc.
A vacuum tube was used to create blister wounds on the arms of the participants during each visit and monitored for healing following discharge.
Slow Healing Wounds
The results showed that couples that demonstrated consistently higher levels of hostility during both visits healed 40% slower than the others, and their wounds took an average of one day longer to heal completely.
Researchers found local production of pro-inflammatory proteins known as cytokines was lower after the couples argued than after the support session. In addition, hostile couples produced relatively bigger increases in cytokines the morning after a big fight compared with couples in happy marriages.
They say prolonged changes in these proteins could alter the body's natural response to threats and increase the risk of a variety of health problems over time.
Key to a Good Marriage? Share Housework.
Survey: Fewer Americans See Kids as Key to a Good Marriage, Say Sharing Chores More Important
The percentage of Americans who consider children "very important" to a successful marriage has dropped sharply since 1990, and more now cite the sharing of household chores as pivotal, according to a sweeping new survey.
The Pew Research Center survey on marriage and parenting found that children had fallen to eighth out of nine on a list of factors that people associate with successful marriages well behind "sharing household chores," "good housing," "adequate income," a "happy sexual relationship" and "faithfulness."
In a 1990 World Values Survey, children ranked third in importance among the same items, with 65 percent saying children were very important to a good marriage. Just 41 percent said so in the new Pew survey.
Chore-sharing was cited as very important by 62 percent of respondents, up from 47 percent in 1990.
The survey also found that, by a margin of nearly 3-to-1, Americans say the main purpose of marriage is the "mutual happiness and fulfillment" of adults rather than the "bearing and raising of children."
The survey's findings buttress concerns expressed by numerous scholars and family-policy experts, among them Barbara Dafoe Whitehead of Rutgers University's National Marriage Project.
"The popular culture is increasingly oriented to fulfilling the X-rated fantasies and desires of adults," she wrote in a recent report. "Child-rearing values sacrifice, stability, dependability, maturity seem stale and musty by comparison."
Virginia Rutter, a sociology professor at Framingham (Mass.) State College and board member of the Council on Contemporary Families, said the shifting views may be linked in part to America's relative lack of family-friendly workplace policies such as paid leave and subsidized child care.
"If we value families ... we need to change the circumstances they live in," she said, citing the challenges faced by young, two-earner couples as they ponder having children.
The Pew survey was conducted by telephone from mid-February through mid-March among a random, nationwide sample of 2,020 adults. Its margin of error is 3 percentage points.
Among the scores of questions in the survey, many touched on America's high rate of out-of-wedlock births and of cohabitation outside of marriage. The survey noted that 37 percent of U.S. births in 2005 were to unmarried women, up from 5 percent in 1960, and found that nearly half of all adults in their 30s and 40s had lived with a partner outside of marriage.
According to the survey, 71 percent of Americans say the growth in births to unwed mothers is a "big problem." About the same proportion 69 percent said a child needs both a mother and a father to grow up happily.
Breaking down the responses, the survey found some predictable patterns Republicans and older people were more likely to give conservative answers that Democrats and younger adults. But the patterns in regard to race and ethnicity were more complex.
For example, census statistics show that blacks and Hispanic are more likely than whites to bear children out of wedlock. Yet according to the survey, these minority groups are more inclined than whites to place a high value on the importance of children to a successful marriage.
The survey found that more than 80 percent of white adults have been married, compared with about 70 percent of Hispanics and 54 percent of blacks. Yet blacks were more likely than whites and Hispanics to say that premarital sex is always or almost always morally wrong.
Among those who have ever been married, blacks (38 percent) and whites (34 percent) were more likely than Hispanics (23 percent) to have been divorced.
Delving into one of the nation's most divisive social issues, the survey found that 57 percent of public opposes allowing gays and lesbians to marry. However, opinion was almost evenly divided on support for civil unions that would give same-sex couples many of the same rights as married couples.
Asked about the trend of more same-sex couples raising children, 50 percent said this is bad for society, 11 percent said it is good, and 34 percent said it made little difference.
The Future of Marriage and Its Past
It used to be that people married young. They married for economic reasons. They married who they were told to marry. They had children right away, and lots of children. They stayed in their marriages even if they were unhappy, abused or felt unfulfilled.
Marriage, as we think of it, was originally when a guy went out and captured a woman, usually from another tribe. Many primitive cultures had no formal ceremony. This gave way to the act of purchasing a bride in money or some form of property. This contractual agreement was often followed with a ceremony or feast.
People had been marrying without official recognition for a very long time. If a couple said they were married, then they were married. However, marriage slowly changed from being a custom to being a law. This happened because the secular, private marriage between two people was messy when folks wanted to dissolve the relationships. The courts at the time didn't have much to go on except people's word.
The Catholic Church got involved around 1215 and defined marriage as a sacrament. Even then, though, the rules of the church were fuzzy because folks used the "private consent" option, which created problems in the ecclesiastical courts. So Protestants required that marriage would no longer be a private institution. It became one that was done publicly with a ceremony, priest, witnesses, and parental consent. They also started registering births, deaths and marriages. In the 1500's, different governments and nation-states started controlling the legality of marriage.
1525 - Zurich required that a marriage have two "pious, honorable, and incontestable witnesses."
1537 - Augsburg and Nuremberg fined or jailed those who had pre-nuptial sex.
1563 - Catholic Council of Trent declared that any marriage not performed by a parish priest was invalid.
1753 - English Parliament passed a law about marriage regulations that involved licensing with signed and dated registries and when and where public and daylight ceremonies could occur.
Marriage had become a legal contract between a man and a wife.
Common law marriage was the norm in most of the U.S. in its early history. In the 1870's this created a lot of concern and a marriage reform movement began. They called for publicity, formal ceremonies, licensing, and registration. As the 20th century began, marriage in the U.S. was regulated by the states. The system of fees, licenses, requirements, and witnesses that we deal with today came into being.
Today, more and more couples are waiting until they are in their 30's to marry. They often don't marry due to economic reasons. They marry someone they love. They postpone having children, and they limit the number of children they do have. If the marriage doesn't work out, they have no guilt in getting a divorce.
There is a strong belief that in the future, we will see less divorce because there will be fewer people getting married. There will be less social stigma with couples who want to live in non-traditional arrangements. Same-sex marriage will be accepted in more countries. Tom W. Smith, director of the General Social Survey "The Emerging 21st-Century American Family" says that "We're talking about profound changes."
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