More women unmarried… really? [Updated]

More women unmarried… really? [Updated]

James Lileks has a few thoughts on this New York Times article that has a lot of people talking because it cites a study saying that for the first time a majority of American women are unmarried. But see if you can catch the incongruity that Lileks saw right off.

Among the more than 117 million women over the age of 15, according to the marital status category in the Census Bureau’s latest American Community Survey, 63 million are married. Of those, 3.1 million are legally separated and 2.4 million said their husbands were not living at home for one reason or another.

That brings the number of American women actually living with a spouse to 57.5 million, compared with the 59.9 million who are single or whose husbands were not living at home when the survey was taken in 2005.

Is it supposed to surprise us that 15-, 16-, and 17-year-old girls are unmarried? Is that even legal in most states?

But even more than the funny business with the numbers—which is why you should never trust statistics cited in any article until you find out the methodology—is the tone of the piece, which seems to celebrate, not women who never marry, but women who shed their husbands and family in a quest for the elusive goal of “self-actualization.”

Denigrating marriage

Updated: See below the jump.

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  • Whenever I read something about the joys of being single, two women I know come to mind.  Both initiated the divorce proceedings, as is common these days.  One gave no clear reason—although the lower social status and earning power of her ex-husband may have been factors.  She’s got the kids, a great job, and a long-distance boyfriend.  The NYT would love her—she’s definitely a “gay divorcee”.  The other was abandoned by her unfaithful husband, who also wrestles with substance abuse.  She’s on her own with four children, tired, and angry about her status.  She’s still waiting for child support and a final decree.  Perhaps they could have patched things back together when he came back from rehab, but he went back to the girlfriend and (a year later) back to rehab.  Most of his family is encouraging him to get a divorce because they think his wife is the root of all his problems.  Happy single?  No.  I wish people like the NYT would make a few meaningful distinctions between divorced women; but I guess that’s unrealistic if they can’t even figure out how to distinguish between teens, divorcees, and widows.

  • Good reality check for affianced couples: imagine your intended is hit by a bus in the first year of marriage and is disfigured and paraplegic. Still want to marry?

    What about if your intended gets very fat 10 years from now? Or severely mentally ill? Parkinson’s? Alzheimer’s? MS?

    What if 40 years from now your intended needs help going to the bathroom and needs to be hand-bathed?

    There is no relationship that is so charmed that it can get by on mere chemistry of first love through these things, and these things are as likely to happen with one partner as the next, so it’s a risk one cannot escape without accepting a very different life.

    Only an adolescent mindset thinks one can escape hard choices like that. An adult decision is one where all the choices involve significant risk of dissappointment. Welcome to adulthood.

    The chemistry of young love is designed to help create a bond, but not to sustain it. The sustaining comes from grace and from habitual sacrifices, small and large, on the part of each partner. Practicing sacrifice regularly is the training for the marathon, as it were; if you don’t do the training with discipline, you are unlikely to run the marathon.

  • I think it’s very possible that many of the women saying they liked being divorced had no choice and are trying to save face.

  • It makes you wonder why more people aren’t working towards the repeal of the divorce laws.  If the government supported the truth that marriage is meant to be a lifetime committment, maybe people would work harder at their marriages.  I’d be interested in knowing if any readers here are aware of any grassroots efforts to repeal the divorce laws.  I would gladly send a check.

  • Lileks is great and the NYT article really seems like silly propoganda.  It is so weird how hostile so many “opinion makers” are to marriage and sacrifice – you see this theme over and over again in films.

    The young woman who wrote to Dear Abby has understandable feelings – I think it is normal to ask Why Me and seek escape when our lives don’t work out as we had hoped – even when we are more emotionally mature than she sounds.  So I can’t criticize her for her feelings, but I really hope that writing to Abby got a lot of it out of her system and she can get ready for her altered future.

    For those of us who haven’t had to walk a particularly hard path, I guess the question is how do we help those who are? 

    Just curious, what did Abby say?

  • I think its interesting that you posted this around the same time as what those yahoo’s in Wisconsin are doing.  It’d be great if people would stick by oaths (and vows) they make.  Such as “to have and to hold, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part.”

  • One day in 2004, in the city of Providence, Legal Services advocated for restraining orders for 40 persons, most of them women, most of them afraid of their husbands. ONE day. ONE city. ONE lawyer. That’s a sobering thought, especially considering the number of women who never make it to the courthouse and the statistic that most women will leave an abusive husband 7 times (!) before she divorces him or he divorces her.
    There are many relatively happy divorcees because life IS good. No matter how difficult it is, it’s usually worth living. Some women are so glad to have been given their lives back that they refuse to even CONSIDER subjecting themselves to a man again.It would be good to take such situations into account before making sweeping statements on either side of the issue.
    As to “what if he becomes severely mentally ill?” That sort of depends, doesn’t it? Such illness can lead a person to sadness and a chronic need for therapy. Okay. But it can also lead to child abuse, sexual exploitation, physical violence toward children and spouse, threatening speech, suicide attempts and more. And so the question can become “what if my husband turns out to be an imposter? A monster? A dangerous enemy? Someone i never really knew when I pronounced my vows?”
    You can call this suggestion overly dramatic. But only if you’ve never been on one day’s list of 40.
    Wonderfully, God is merciful and kind. And He does want women to live.