twitter facebook stumble upon rss

Is Marriage Becoming Extinct?

sign up for the momlogic newsletter Tweet This

Why choose marriage? Because it is an intellectual decision that leads to survival of the species.

Dr. Wendy Walsh: The shape of our families is changing. People are marrying for the first time later in life, and the divorce rate is soaring, giving way to many single parent households. Single life is no longer a short rite of passage; it's an important consumer demographic. For the first time in history (since the immigration of mostly male, early settlers), the majority of adult Americans are now unmarried. There's even a magazine devoted to the lifestyles of those who have made a commitment to be single. It includes ads for commitment rings to purchase for oneself.

But has love changed? Has committed love been replaced by a revolving door of dates? Is long-term monogamy even necessary for our species' survival? The answers are complicated. Marriage may be changing, but it will never go out of style. In case you've been living under a rock, there's a fight going on right now in America to allow more people to be granted marital rights.

Marriage may not be going away, but its purpose has shifted. Historically, marriage was a place for women and children to have economic protection. It was a place where religious values could be taught and extended to the next generation, and a place where family fortunes could remain intact. More recently, marriage became a place for a relatively new invention: romantic love. But since dating and hooking up have morphed into America's favorite pastime, full of hopeful highs and disappointing lows, even romantic love is losing its luster.

So why choose marriage today? Because it is an intellectual decision that leads to survival of the species. Anthropologists have always said that it was human's sophisticated social structures, including the adoption of long-term monogamy, that help our species procreate and thrive.

Humans are the animals that require a huge amount of nurturing for our psychological and physical survival, more than virtually any other animal on earth. While most newborns are up on four legs and running with the herd just hours after birth, we Homo sapiens have a vulnerable in-arms (or stroller) phase that lasts almost four years. And it's really, really hard to nurse and carry a baby while extracting resources from the environment. Just ask any single mother. Doable, yes, but very difficult. Remember the mission: to grow up healthy and create offspring that are also healthy and ready for careers and parenthood.

Family therapists know that dysfunctional family systems eventually fall out of evolution's chain. Each generation has fewer and fewer offspring that survive through the next procreation, until the family line finally dies off. Apparently, neglectful parenting can create drunk drivers, criminals caught in crossfire, hermits, drug addicts, and narcissists too selfish for parenting -- all people with lower chances of reproducing. But let me make one thing clear before I get inundated with e-mails about this: I am IN NO WAY SAYING that all single mothers create dysfunctional families. What I am saying is that every time one factor is removed from a system that has been selected through evolution, the chances for dysfunction increase. Plenty of single mothers are raising healthy kids with the help of extended family, surrogate male role models, and friendship villages that act as a de facto family. And this is part of our changing family structure.

Evolution has shown that our best chances for survival and for the survival of our offspring's offspring is a team approach to raising humans. And the best team captains are people who have a biological interest in the child. And to create that, we need to sometimes put the notion of romantic love aside and make an intellectual decision to do what's best for our genes, ahem, I mean kids.

Follow Dr. Wendy Walsh on Twitter @DrWendyWalsh.

next: Share Your Parenting Advice
22 comments so far | Post a comment now
Jen G July 19, 2009, 10:48 PM

this is bullshit
and you aren’t even a licensed psychologist. you are a tv host!

Rachel July 20, 2009, 5:52 PM

Makes a lot of sense to me. (Curious as to why Jen G is calling it “bullshit,” other than a blaring lack of intellect to be able to construct a reasonable argument?). Very interesting article!

Joy July 30, 2009, 4:08 PM

I agree with JEN G!!

Kimmi August 9, 2009, 9:10 AM

All I know is when I read “The Relationship Reconstruction Project” I noticed an immediate change, for the good, in my marriage.

Jennifer September 8, 2009, 1:22 PM

I agree with the article. If it was BS, then why is it that couples who chose to marry out of romantic love often don’t last as long as traditional couples or arranged marriages?

Fashion Design October 12, 2010, 1:54 PM

I am a recent graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York and am now presently doing work with a discussion board to provide all sector specialists along.

Hemorrhoid Cure November 27, 2010, 3:06 PM

Very useful reading. Very helpful, I absolutely enjoy reading your post.

Xylitol Effects On Dogs December 11, 2010, 1:10 AM

There are only two ways of telling the complete truth—anonymously and posthumously.

Types Of Monkeys Pictures December 18, 2010, 12:08 AM

He can compress the most words into the smallest ideas of any man I ever met.

Credit Card December 22, 2010, 11:57 AM

I am grateful to come across this post.

Ten Tees January 8, 2011, 5:43 PM

Great site! Good reading. There is a small observation to give about tee shirts.

red haired actresses yahoo answers January 15, 2011, 2:25 AM

Mistakes are a part of being human. Appreciate your mistakes for what they are: precious life lessons that can only be learned the hard way. Unless it’s a fatal mistake, which, at least, others can learn from.

Libby Ezzelle January 19, 2011, 12:50 AM

Fine information. I appreciate your effort, have a nice day!

Carlita Steinbacher January 22, 2011, 11:57 AM

I wanted to thank you for this terrific read!! I extra to my bookmarks, cheers

fizywelko January 26, 2011, 3:12 AM

I retributory couldn’t going your website before locution that I truly suchlike this article. there’s a peachy chance to get a perfect concept in your purpose. the grade entropy you message to your visitors
bar stool

Thalia Heimbach February 10, 2011, 8:44 PM

I just want to mention I am just newbie to blogging and certainly enjoyed you’re web site. Probably I’m going to bookmark your website . You really come with perfect articles. Appreciate it for revealing your webpage.

Martin Havlat Jersey March 26, 2011, 1:44 PM

I wish you all elevated era, this neighbourhood is exceedingly worthwhile I would without exception follow this site. Stop me a lot of timedata would be btained from this situation, or hope to. But I scantiness you to separate that this site is really appropriate Thanks a lot instead of the amicable of unmatched keynote hither this topic.

Wholesale LV Handbags March 31, 2011, 11:35 PM

I really loved reading your post. Thanks!A area of study near to my heart cheers, do you take a RSS support ?

Brent Seabrook Jerseys April 3, 2011, 5:53 AM

Wow, that looks so gifted!Peradventure you fool changed your keynote not too covet ago? Largely because I could contain sworn it was not the having said that the antecedent age I was here…unless I am intelligent of a different net site.

Air Max 90 Boot April 5, 2011, 4:18 AM

Hello may I eat some of the info here in this record if I join treacherously to you?

Back to top >>