Marriage Is Going Out of Fashion: What Does This Mean for the World?

Marriage Is Going Out of Fashion

In the last 50 years the percentage of people married during the course of their lifetime has halved. What used to be an indisputable cultural institution in the West is now increasingly seen as a lifestyle choice, and one which is regarded as outdated and increasingly irrelevant by a growing proportion of young people.

While these types of generational shifts are complex and highly nuanced, we can learn something from identifying key drivers that have changed in wider society. We can then put them into a wider context while discussing how the world may change as the percentage of people who are married continues to fall.

Before we look into why this trend may be happening, let’s think a little more about the impact it is likely to have on more things than solely marital arrangements within couples. One interesting example is the rise in the cost of living as a proportion of income. The need to run a car, commute long distances to work and tackle inflated property markets to get on the ladder all have a profound impact on spending power. Add in the fact that the proportion of unmarried people is growing, and it makes you wonder: could we see a profound shift towards shared living?

It seems to be that the days of getting married and entering a job for life not long out of school are long gone. Those who are still marrying are delaying it beyond 30 in increasing numbers, wanting to maintain the freedom to travel and the flexibility that comes from being able to put your career first in your 20s. This could lead to more and more multi-person house shares, particularly in large cities and sprawling urban areas with a higher density of people.

While these types of arrangements are common with university students, we may see them continue for a significant proportion of graduates and young working professionals as they navigate their 20s.

This would then have a knock-on effect to the social lives of those living in such arrangements. On the one hand you could argue that being in a multi-person house will lead to greater levels of socialising, and you may be right.

But what if it could also lead to a more closed off, slightly insular social life in which it becomes increasingly uncommon to meet people outside of your small social circle? The cost of living and the rise in alcohol prices leads to more and more people drinking at home as the pub and bar sector contracts almost yearly. With a readymade circle of friends already at home behind the front door, there may not be the same pull to go out and meet new people.

If you then factor in other shifts in society, you start to see why the marriage rate may well be dropping. A reduction in face-to-face social contact could be one factor causing fewer people to be in relationships, which in turn leads to a lower percentage of marriages.

Pubs and bars are seeing fewer patrons, social media means more people connect with friends online, and even trips out to the casino or a skill class where you could meet new people are increasingly being replaced by playing in online casinos and learning new skills online.

The problem here is that while we can connect with more people than ever before, the number of meaningful connections is actually dropping. Having the ability to instantly compare your status with anyone in the world is also something that’s rarely good for your self-confidence or mental health.

Once these two things start to take a downward turn, it can be hard to find the energy to go out into the wider world and introduce yourself to new people. Before long, online social contact becomes the norm and a significant number of people become isolated despite being surrounded by other people.

Let’s put aside the negative aspects of online living for the time being and think about a big question to end this analysis with: does it really matter if the marriage rate declines? One thing that’s clear is that families where the parents are married are more likely to stay together than those who aren’t, and if children are involved, they will typically fair better in life with two parents living with them than one. Of course, there are exceptions to this, especially if the two parents are still together but chose not to get married, but the general trend is clear.

No matter what, it’ll be highly insightful to think about how these issues evolve and change over the coming years.

Gretchen Walker
Gretchen is a homemaker by day and writer by night. She takes a keen interest in life as it unfolds around her and spends her free time observing people go about their everyday affairs.