Marriage: The American Perspective

Essay by ht_jimB+, February 2006

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The current state of marriage in the American society has brought a certain amount of ambivalence to its definition. Perhaps, marriage may be regarded as a social institution, a mutual agreement between two individuals who are committed to maintaining a relationship that holds equality, respect, trust, and complementary support for each other for life.

Indeed, Americans value marriage as an important aspect of their lives. "More people get married in the U.S than anywhere else in the industrial world - at twice the rate of France and Italy." (Buckley). However, the idea and stand point about marriage among Americans has changed drastically over time. The traditional idea about marriage being a divine social institution has disappeared. Today, marriage is more of "couple's relationship" (National Marriage Project) rather than a union bound by religion. Americans see marriage as means for acquiring benefits such as "sexual faithfulness, emotional support, mutual trust, and lasting commitment" (National Marriage Project). Ironically, it is this passionate desire to acquire a perfect and lasting relationship that has resulted in an increase in the number of unsuccessful marriages. "Roughly half of all marriages are likely to end in divorce" (National Marriage Project). Such high expectations from marital relationships are predominantly observed among youngsters, particularly young women; and with the current divorce rate, they are dubious about having a successful marriage. This in turn has made them more cautious and pessimistic with regard to marriages and the search for a perfect soul mate happens to be a never ending quest.

Historically speaking, marriage has long been under the religious definition. However, today, religion has lost its hold over this institution. According to McManus, part of the divorce problem in America is attributed to the disengagement of the church. He has described churches as...