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I Now Pronounce You Temporary Lovers

Posted on October 7 2010 9:00 am
Suzanne Venker, a.k.a. "No Bull Mom," is an author, blogger, and speaker. You can find her at

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For the first time since the U.S. began tallying marriages, more Americans of prime marrying age have stayed single rather than tied the knot, the culmination of a tectonic shift in the role of marriage and relationships that began in the 1960s.

So begins last week’s Wall Street Journal article by Conor Dougherty, entitled “New Vow: I Don’t Take Thee.” The primary reasons for the new trend include high divorce rates, rising cohabitation, and the tendency to delay marriage. California and New York are among the states with the largest share of never-married adults.

In San Francisco, 82% of adults between 25 and 34 had never been married.

Eighty-two percent is a startling number. It proves unequivocally that the 1960s sexual liberation movement has indeed changed America.

Shauna Mei, who is 27 and lives with her boyfriend, says there is zero pressure from friends or society to formalize their union.

“Marriage is not something that has to happen,” she says.

I don’t have to look far for the anecdotal evidence myself. In my husband’s family, out of twelve nieces and nephews of marrying age, only three are married. One is 30 years old and had been living with his girlfriend for several years; the other two — both female — were a bit younger when they tied the knot — 23 and 25.

The other nine, however, are moving in and out of various relationships or shacking up. There has been no discussion of marriage among any of them. In fact, one nephew who has been in a relationship with a woman to whom we were beginning to develop an attachment informed us she’s moving to another city and state for a new job.

Why, we might ask, are these relationships so tenuous? Why are twenty- and even thirty-somethings in long-term relationships and showing no sign of settling down or even entertaining the idea of a long-distance romance? Shauna Mei’s argument that marriage isn’t something that “has to happen” is an attitude millions of young people have today. To them, marriage is like owning a third car — it may be nice, but it isn’t necessary.

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