Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states ...Read More
This month’s issue of Psychology Today magazine (June 2006 or at http://www.psychologytoday.com) has an interesting article about people opting to remain single. According to the research done by the writer, Jillian Straus, in today’s world more than forty-nine percent of the population chooses to remain single. This is compared to nine percent who remained single back in the nineteen fifties while married couples comprised eighty percent of the population at that time.
The article goes on to cite many of the reasons why so many people are choosing to remain single. Among these are the facts that: 1. Women are more economically independent today than ever before. Women hold executive and professional positions in everything from private corporations to educational institutions, including colleges and universities. They are also doctors, lawyers, accountants and psychologists. In other words, these are people who do not feel dependent on a man to provide them with security, 2. It is no longer a stigma to be single. In fact, the article points out the fact that society has changed and that those who are single are no longer seen as people who have something “wrong with them.” Single themselves report that they are leading full and happy lives without a spouse, 3. People find it acceptable to have sex outside of the boundaries of marriage, 4. Women are having children either with a man or through artificial means and raising those children on their own, 5. Marriage is no longer viewed as the only route to a complete and fulfilling life.
The article goes on to discuss that singles enjoy all the benefits of marriage without being married and even have some advantages that married people cannot enjoy. For example, singles do not have to be monogamous in their sexual relations. They can have more than one partner, if they wish and often have sexual relations with friends without any commitment. In addition, single people are purchasing houses, cooperative apartments and condominiums without the help of a spouse. They travel freely and have large numbers of friends.
Do you fully agree with the findings of the article?
Upon first reading this article I was convinced that attitudes and behaviors about marriage have dramatically changed. However, when I started to consider things more carefully, it occurred to me that the article is presenting a small category of people who are extremely successful, affluent, and liberal in their thinking. The question I am presenting is not whether people should marry but how accurate a conclusion it is that trends have dramatically changed.
In my experience as a therapist over many years, people have expressed a strong desire to get married. However, they express fear and skepticism that marriages can be successful. It is true that the marriage rate has declined while the divorce rate has increased. Therein lays a big part of the reason why many younger people are skeptical about marriage while still hoping to find the right person to be their spouse.
Most of the patients I am referring to range between the ages of twenty five to forty years of age. They tended to come from homes marked by violence, drug and alcohol addiction, remarriage and all the displacement that brought to their lives as youngsters. These are the reasons why they are fearful and doubtful that marriage can work. Even those who did not come from such disturbed homes report that many of their friends did.
These patients add to the list of their doubts about marriage the fact that their married friends are both unhappy and considering divorce or are in the early stages of divorce. In sum, they fear getting married because they fear a repetition of the pain and disruption experienced by their parents and/or friends. In other words, they do not want to experience a marital failure.
The reason these people, between the ages of twenty five to forty five, come to therapy is to search for answers for themselves as to whether or not they should marry. Most of them report that they are not happy with their single status. They state that they do wish to find the right person and marry despite what their skepticism. Despite all their doubts, they continue to believe that marriage is the way to achieve a happy and full life.
Your Experiences and Opinions?
These are my experiences as a clinician and they cause me to doubt that that, on the average, people are happy being single, as stated in the Psychology Today article.
What are your opinions and experiences? Is their a trend away from marriage and towards remaining single? Is marriage still “in” or is it “out” as a way of living and raising children?