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all or nothing marriage


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This vexing question is usually answered in one of two ways. According to the marital decline camp, marriage has weakened: Higher divorce rates reflect a lack of commitment and a decline of moral character that have harmed adults, children and society in general. But according to the marital resilience camp, though marriage has experienced disruptive changes like higher divorce rates, such developments are a sign that the institution has evolved to better respect individual autonomy, particularly for women. The true harm, by these lights, would have been for marriage to remain as confining as it was half a century ago.

I like that concept -- that marriage has evolved to respect individual autonomy. 

Like all things these days, there's a huge class divide. The good news is that almost all women are now able to make a living, and for upper-income couples the extra cash + external fulfillment can mean a more stable marriage for both. The bad news is that for lower-income women, a man of similar background can often be a financial and emotional drain on the family's resources through a combination of poor job prospects for the non-college educated, high substance abuse and incarceration rates, domestic violence, etc.  So what I see is that women are far more in the marital drivers seat these days, in the sense that it's now far less common for a woman to stay unhappily coupled solely because she is financially or socially dependent on a man. Is that a moral thing, or is it based on cold hard economic realities?

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