Marriage: An evolving institution


Marriage has always been a focal point of society. It used to be expected of individuals to marry and continue their line. Over the centuries, particularly the last century, marriage hasn’t been given quite the push. Constant figures are thrown out showing the failure of the institution in its modern form. In 2009, Oklahoma had 37,284 marriages and 20,158 divorces in the same year. Statistically, up to 40 – 50% of marriages end in divorce, but this is a generalization and does not account for distribution (i.e. divorce for first, second, third marriage and the age range of the divorcees). The new political push by the Republican Party, and the Tea Party movement, family values and controversial arguments over same sex marriage, has necessitated  taking a look at marriage itself.  For better or for worse.

Marriage has many benefits. There are joint tax returns that allow couples to get more back on their taxes each year, and when children are brought into the equation there is even a tax write off on kids until they’re 17. When one is simply “with someone” they are not able to make the decisions that may be necessary for their loved one’s future if they are not married. Joy Behar, a co-host of the ABC show The View, cited this as her reason for getting married after being with her significant other for 29 years. US News cited the financial advantages of marriage in an article released shortly after California passed a Supreme Court ruling allowing gay marriage (later overturned by Proposition 8). They brought up the tax deductions available to married couples, as well as other pros. Sharing a health insurance plan generates savings, property is easily transferred from one spouse to another, as is the estate of a deceased spouse and the Social Security benefits as well.

Liberal voting in the last two presidential election years have actually proven to have lower rates of divorce than their conservative counterparts.  June Carbone, the author of Red Families vs. Blue Families believes this is because people in liberal states wait longer to marry. One disadvantage of marriage is the initial financial setback. The marriage ceremony, on average, costs around $27,490 in the United States.

Charles Darwin even compiled lists in the form of two columns, one labeled “Marry” and the other “Not Marry.” His pros for marriage were “constant companion and a friend in old age” and his cons were “less money for books and terrible loss of time.” He eventually married Emma Wedgwood, his first cousin, and they were married until his death in 1882. As marriage itself continues to “evolve,” society will have to wait and see what current social taboos become the accepted norms.

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