My kids all seem happily married to their first spouses. And I'm wondering if I'm to blame.
Well, not blame but ... according to statistics quoted in a New York Times article June 17, the divorce rate is going down among college-educated adults. Only 11 percent of these adults divorce within the first 10 years today, compared to 37 percent for the rest of the population.
I'll admit, when I got divorced it was "trendy." OK, not trendy, but an example of what women could do when they earned economic independence.
"Divorce was freedom," says Stephanie Coontz, author of A Strange Stirring: The Feminine Mystique and American Women at the Dawn of the 1960s. She has become an authority on marital expectations, and she notes that "Many of these marriages in the '70s were fundamentally unequal. With the women's movements, they learned that there were alternatives, and that made divorce kind of a liberation."
Suffice it to say, I felt I did the right thing then, and I still believe that I did.
But this is an era of peer marriages. The National Marriage Project study concludes, "Highly educated Americans have moved in a more marriage-minded direction, despite the fact that, historically, they have been more socially liberal," The Times article notes.
I did a little surveying among my friends and found this to be true.
Few of them say their own children get divorced today. Especially once grandchildren arrive.
"It is as if there is an unwritten rule," Mary G. tells me. "I think my daughter works very hard to keep her marriage together. She is lucky in one way, I guess. She has a good job and her husband lets her do what she wants. In fact, they rarely do anything together."
Now, that's interesting. Makes me wonder if women in their 30s and 40s today are hanging on while kids are at home. Will the statistics change dramatically when the youngsters are gone and the marriage relies on nothing but the two people in the partnership? What, indeed, is the glue?
On the other hand, there are many women who don't feel it's necessary to have a wedding band. And the lack of the band doesn't keep them from living a "married" life, raising families and planning for a future together.
Maybe, as Susan R. puts it, "We boomers have to rethink what we even mean by marriage and family."
The old saw about "grow old along with me, the best is yet to be" might indeed be a concept that has outgrown its place in society.
Yet, I find that hard to believe. No weddings? No promises made? No dreams fulfilled?
My children turned out just fine, in spite of divorce. I know they turned out better than if I had stayed.
And my mother was wrong.
We have a "duty" to each other in a marriage, but we also have a duty to ourselves to provide our children -- and ourselves -- with the best possible future. A "martyrdom marriage" isn't a viable option for the couple or their kids.
Jane Glenn Haas writes for
Write to firstname.lastname@example.org. Jane's column appears every Sunday.
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