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The decision to get married or to move in with a partner is a personal one, but for most married and cohabiting adults, love and companionship trump other considerations, such as the desire to have children someday, convenience or finances. When asked why they are not currently engaged or married to their partner, many cite financial reasons. Making a formal commitment is seen as a more important factor by married adults who did not live with their spouse before marriage. More practical reasons come into play to a greater degree for cohabiting adults than for those who are married. Among cohabiters, women are more likely than men to say love and wanting to have children someday were major reasons why they moved in with their partner. There are no notable gender differences among married adults.

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It is the new sexual norm for Americans. More astonishing than seeing this theory published in the Wall Street Journal was seeing the degree of viral popularity the article still enjoyed nine months after it was first published. Do people really believe women are responsible for the decline of marriage because we are having sex too much, and men no longer have any incentive to pair up?

I found the argument dehumanizing to both genders, and decided to explore its veracity.

I made calls to experts on both sides of the Atlantic. My favorite conversation, though, was with an unmarried male friend who loves pursuing women, and who has so far resisted the siren call of marriage. Tim, who never appears to have a lull in enthusiastic female dating partners — all on a steady, respectful roster — answers carefully. If I were to agree with that, it would also imply that people only get married to have sex. Tim is a few years shy of For him, however, him being the right kind of partner is just as important as finding the right person to partner with.

Coontz explains what I already know to be anecdotally true, having graduated college inthe year the economy collapsed: both women and men want to be economically and educationally set before they marry — an ambition increasingly harder for a generational cohort facing crippling debt, poor healthcare and an economy where stable career ladders have been replaced by part-time freelance gigs.

The sex factor

But dragging our feet may end up helping us on that front too. If you care about the quality of the marriage you enter into, putting marriage off is good thinking: marrying young heightens the probability of divorce, and the longer people know each other before tying the knot the more likely they are to stay together.

The one group where marriage appears to be in actual decline, rather than delay, is adults who are at the very bottom of the socio-economic hierarchy. For the working poor, getting married is hardly a guarantee of ascendance, explains Amy Traub, an associate director of policy and research at the thinktank Demos.

She highlights the reality of surviving with low wages, no paid sick leave, no paid parental leave, and no subsidized childcare. Coontz adds that studies on groups struggling economically reveal that women, not men, are the ones deferring marriage for the sake of financial stability. At the opposite end of the spectrum, the group most likely to get married?

Highly educated womenwho are using their economic independence to renegotiate when and how they enter into an institution that ly required their gender subservience.

The marrying kind

It also overlooks the fact that millennials, despite dating apps and the moral panic around hookup culture, actually have sex with fewer partners than their elders, not more. Our average of sexual partners is eight — markedly lower than Gen X 10 partners or baby boomers My friend Tim explains that while seduction and the prospect of sex can motivate him into action, it is insulting to think it is the be-all and end-all of male behavior. If the framing is insufficient for Tim, now may also be a good moment to point out that women not only seek out sex, but also have growing expectations about quality and pleasure.

A male-centric and reductive view of sexuality is painfully outdated.

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Caroline Rusterholz, a historian of sexuality at Birkbeck College, University of London, says that the idea of harmonious sex within marriage began in the s — enabled by the publication of pamphlets and the first opening of family clinics, among other factors — but ideas about sex were taught in ways in line with gender expectations of the time. The husband is the art maker. People believed female orgasms were properly attained through vaginal penetration only, and that the clitoris served only to awaken desire on the path to penetration. This despite studies showing that women mainly attain orgasms by clitoral stimulation, Rusterholz says.

Women started claiming a right to their own bodies and their own sexuality during the feminist liberation movement of the s. Society still expects women to be less sexually active, says Rusterholz. And only having sex when they are in love. But many of us are fed up with double standards.

My generation of women have high hopes and loud voices when it comes to challenging the notion of being passive penis recipients — something expressed clearly during the recent MeToo movement, a continuation of the liberation movement started decades earlier. She wants to establish herself professionally before she considers taking the leap to marriage, even if she has a partner she wants to marry. When I ask why marriage appeals to her, her language is focused around partnership, egalitarianism, common goals and mutual care. In the midth century, marriage was close to socially mandatory for both genders: women had few economic survival avenues outside marriage and, paradoxically, unmarried men faced job discrimination.

The money factor

That the institution has become more voluntary is a thing to be celebrated, Cohen says, especially for women. And for many of us, marriage remains an embodiment of powerlessness. Chambers concedes that many formal inequalities tied to marriage have been denounced and revoked. Marital rape was outlawed in the UK in and in the US in — hard to believe there was ever an exemption — and same-sex marriage was legalized in and respectively. Last fall I wrote a callout for the Guardian, as research for a book on the invisible load of emotional labor many women bear.

He was 24, I was Three times in the first five years of marriage he demanded sex and when I adamantly said no, he basically raped me. That created a negative environment of hatred from me. I ended up dreading sex and being repulsed by men.

More in weddings

We stopped having sex when I had early menopause thank goodness. Although no longer legally enforced, that troubling paradigm is only reinforced by claims that women must restrain their premarital sexual activity if they want to attract a husband. Studies consistently show that women perform more unpaid housework than men, and that men are able to devote more time to leisure activities.

Following the same emotional labor callout mentioned earlier, another woman wrote to me. A feminist in her 60s with a PhD, she described a home environment where her husband, at least when it came to chores and tasks, pulled his weight. But what fell to her, on top of her own chores and full-time job, was emotionally supporting her husband and children, managing their moods, scheduling their activities and always being emotionally available. Slammed doors were her fault, she says, and her burden to fix.

Facts are more important than ever

Emotional labor is one of the last big problems we need to formally fix — but fixing it requires challenging the most rooted of gendered behaviors. Reinventing rules and being less stringent around fixed gender roles could prove a win-win for all. Studies reveal that egalitarian couples — those who, for example, divide chores equally — have a better and more prolific sex life.

Women are far from the only factors in change.

Looking for mr. right

Evan Wolfson, founder of Freedom to Marry, one of the bipartisan organizations that successfully campaigned for gay marriage in the United States, has clear views on whether we can blame easy sex for marriage declines. Wolfson was in a relationship with his now-husband for 10 years before they were able to marry by law.

And now we have the affirmation and the tangible and intangible commitment that comes with it, with equal dignity before the law.

For same-sex couples, of course, marriage is going through a boom simply because it is something that was not an option until a few years ago. Wolfson believes that instead of embracing or rejecting an outmoded understanding of marriage, the solution lies in changing it for the better.

Its history is a history of change. Romance is certainly not dead.

Highlights

But their wedding was also the symbol of an evolution, and a partial break from former rules. That marriage has become more voluntary, that we are hoping to shape it to our own ideals of equality, that we are making up our own minds and own timeline to marriage — these are surely changes to be celebrated.

If you want to hurry us along, raise wages, share the mental load as well as the washing load, learn more accurate anatomy and read about consent. Is marriage really on the decline because of men's cheap access to sex?

More in life

Rose Hackman. Mon 11 Jun Why are millennials still getting married? Bridie Jabour. The secret to… sharing household chores fairly with your partner. Topics Marriage Relationships Sex Family features. Reuse this content.

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