Is Marriage In America Dead?

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by Anthony Bradley
If interviews my college students conducted in New York this semester are any indication, marriage in America is dead. I don’t mean “in trouble” or “struggling,” I mean dead.

Many of the New York 20-somethings questioned have no confidence in matrimony and have reduced it to merely a contracted long-term dating relationship. When my students, in asking about cultural views, came to the topic of marriage, these New Yorkers in their 20s responded with some of the most heart-wrenching descriptions of the institution, which to me signals trouble for the future of American family life.
Here are just a few of the sample responses:
  • 24-year-old male from Manhattan: “Don’t even get me started! Well, marriage is a piece of paper. It’s a certificate. I mean legally, that’s what marriage is. Marriage was not originally supposed to be about love, the way it is understood now. I think it was largely about families given tax benefits and now it’s become completely distorted. What does it mean to be married? It doesn’t mean anything anymore. It doesn’t mean [expletive]. It used to be about commitment but people get divorced all the time now.”

  • 27-year-old male from Queens: “Traditionally it has been a man and a woman who are in love, and, under God, are brought together, to live the rest of their lives together and have a family. This is ideal. For me, well, you might call me a hopeless romantic, but it’s when you find someone you love and you get to know everything about them and they know everything about you, and you grow old together. It’s possible, I think. It could be a man and an elephant, although I don’t think the elephant could have the same feelings. It’s just two people, not just a man and a woman, could be a man and a man, could be three men. Ideal is monogamy, I think it’s possible, but it doesn’t really happen.”
  • 21-year-old female from Midtown Manhattan: “I actually kinda don’t really believe in marriage. People can be happy just being with another person they love for the rest of their lives without being married. I think marriage is something that society kinda says that when you get to a certain age you’re just like “Oh, I have to get married; that’s the right thing to do,” and I think a lot of people kinda look down on you when you’re not married. So, I think it’s just a societal thing.”
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Anthony Bradley