[Marxism] STEPHANIE COONTZ Guest Commentary in New Hampshire Union Leader

lshan lshan at bcn.net
Sat May 7 13:36:55 MDT 2005

For better or worse, marriage has changed
Guest Commentary

. . .

Nor does a solution lie in preaching the benefits of marriage to 
impoverished couples or outlawing unconventional partnerships. A poor 
single mother often has good reason not to marry her child’s father, 
and poor couples who wed have more than twice the divorce risk of more 
affluent partners in the United States. Banning same-sex marriage would 
not undo the existence of alternatives to traditional marriage. Five 
million children are being raised by gay and lesbian couples in this 
country. Judges everywhere must apply many principles of marriage law 
to those families.

We may personally like or dislike these changes. We may wish to keep 
some and get rid of others. But there is a certain inevitability to 
almost all of them.

Marriage is no longer the institution where people are initiated into 
sex. It no longer determines the work men and women do on the job or at 
home, regulates who has children and who doesn’t, or coordinates 
caregiving for the ill or aged. For better or worse, marriage has been 
displaced from its pivotal position in personal and social life, and 
will not regain it short of a Taliban-like counterrevolution.

Forget the fantasy of solving the challenges of modern personal life by 
re-institutionalizing marriage. In today’s climate of choice, many 
people’s choices do not involve marriage. We must recognize that there 
are healthy as well as unhealthy ways to be single or to be divorced, 
just as there are healthy and unhealthy ways to be married. We cannot 
afford to construct our social policies, our advice to our own children 
and even our own emotional expectations around the illusion that all 
commitments, sexual activities and caregiving will take place in a 
traditional marriage. That series has been canceled.

Stephanie Coontz teaches family history at Evergreen State College in 
Olympia, Wash. She is author of the recently published book, “Marriage, 
a History: From Obedience to Intimacy, or How Love Conquered Marriage” 

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