In the 1950’s and the 1960’s the average American bride was too young to consume alcohol at her own wedding. In 1972, 87% of French women aged between 30 and 34 were married.
Times have changed. These days just 43% of French women in their early 30s are married. In many countries, marriage has become disconnected from parenthood. In 2015, two-fifths of all American babies were born to unwed mothers. In France the proportion is 59%; in Columbia it is 84%.
Three great changes are afoot. The first is that marriage decisions are being taken away from the parents and relatives and made by the young people themselves. The clearest sign of this is the almost universal rise in the average age of marriage.
The second change is the emphasis on conjugal love. Marriage has changed from being a rite of passage to a celebration of love and commitment—a sign that two people who already live together are ready to commit themselves further.
When love is the basis for marriage, it follows that a marriage without love should be put asunder. The third great global change is the growing acceptance of divorce. Despite this, marriage has not lost any of its appeal. People still believe that marriage is a special bond, not to be made or broken lightly.
Wedlock seems to increase human happiness even allowing for the fact that many marriages fall apart.1
Having practiced family law in Clearwater Florida for a significant period of time, I have witnessed the changing face of marriage. There are many more paternity lawsuits – the appropriate action for people who have children but remain unmarried. People are getting married at an older age. Divorce is a common occurrence, yet marriage remains a viable and important institution.