Marriage as capstone rather than cornerstone

Betsy VanDenBerghe on a conceptual shift in the way young adults are viewing marriage:

The National Marriage Project’s recent report “Knot Yet: The Benefits and Costs of Delayed Marriage in America” examines the alarming tendency to delay marriage among our country’s twentysomethings, who “have now helped to push the baby carriage well in front of marriage for young women in the United States.”

Researchers Kay Hymowitz, W. Bradford Wilcox, Kelleen Kaye, and Jason S. Carroll offer two reasons for this delay. Economically, young adults are taking more time to finish their educations and find stable jobs, and culturally, they now view marriage as a capstone rather than a cornerstone: “something they do after they have all their other ducks in a row, rather than a foundation for launching into adulthood and parenthood.”

via “Knot Yet”: Marriage and Other Choices | First Things.

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  • Orianna Laun

    My mother was by no means against traditional marriage or children, but she made it clear that she expected my siblings and I to finish college before we got married. Half of us did, half of us did not. I cannot say that those of us who did it one way have the advantage over the other. It may be that well-meaning adults somewhere along the line–mothers, fathers, teachers, grandparents–taught that to be successful one had to have a degree and a career and a condo. Once that was attained, everything else would follow. I once had a conversation with a fellow Lutheran teacher about vocation. He was concerned that he was guiding students into careers (“You’d make a good doctor, lawyer, teacher.”), but wondered if that was not always the right direction in which to be pointing them. How often do we tell young people they would make good parents?

  • Joe

    I see this all of the time. The younger lawyers in my firm are generally in serious relationships but are not “ready” to get married yet. Still a couple of things to finish up and then … then he’ll propose.

    I say get married, and work on that list together. Why go it alone? My wife and I got married while we were in college, lived like paupers for the law school years. I wouldn’t trade those years for anything. Some of the happiest days of my life.

  • helen

    I had a colleague, who (by office comments) lived with her boyfriend about 7 years, and was married to him 7 years. About then, she wanted a child. He evidently didn’t because they were divorced, and within a year or two she had a child by someone she was not married to. 🙁

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  • Hanni

    Is marriage the be/all, end/all (capstone) of life? We build on a cornerstone, not on a capstone. my thought is that one would get married when we find that person we love and the time is right (for the lovers) not for others.

  • sg

    I have read this before about marriage. It is a sort of proof that you have made it in some circles; that now you have your trophy spouse. I think parents also pressure young people not to get married. There is no end of concern about the education, career, job, etc. that young people will get, but marriage is supposed to be put off till some nebulous later completely ignoring young people’s needs for love, companionship, sex, family, emotional support, etc. It is really very unkind to expect young people to be successful before they can marry. Abstinence is not healthy or normal and neither is extramarital sex. It seems that late marriage is reinforced by a peer culture rather than a family culture. It may start with institutional schooling. One’s status is derived more from his standing among peers than his standing within his family. He may value his peers’ opinions more that his family’s opinion. Here is another perspective on the pathology of late marriage:

  • Patrick Kyle

    Many young men refuse marriage because it is not the deal it once was.
    It used to be that a man married a woman and exchanged large chunks of his life/time/energy and took on considerable risk to provide for a wife. The wife in turn ran the household, provided regular sex, and raised the children.

    Enter no-fault divorce, child support and feminism. Now, a wife can divorce her husband for any reason she deems fit and saddle him with alimony and child support, while denying him access to his kids. The whole culture supports her ‘independence’ and the right to her own body so sex often becomes a bargaining chip used to procure the husband’s obedience to his wife. A generation of men has seen this in action with their parents. Why bother with marriage when there are millions of women steeped in feminist ideology who are perfectly willing to have sex without the commitment of marriage?
    There is a huge subculture on the internet called the manosphere that deals with this subject and spills no small amount of electric ink teaching guys to avoid marriage and pick up women for un attached sex. They are not going to ‘man up’ and buy into an institution that they feel is against them on every level.

  • sg

    @7 Yeah that’s right. It is the decline of civilization. The state is the de facto husband to a country filled with illegitimate children. Sexual license and lust have replaced love and devotion.

  • helen

    Patrick @ 7
    Now, a wife can divorce her husband for any reason she deems fit and saddle him with alimony and child support, while denying him access to his kids.
    Or, conversely, a wife can marry “until death us do part”, stay at home, raise the children, run the household,
    “be there” day and night … and find herself dumped, without job experience, when the “no divorce ever” husband, (now 50’ish) goes looking for his “fountain of youth”.

  • sg


    Also a consequence of no-fault divorce. In the past, he wouldn’t have been able to divorce her at all. He could physically leave of course, but not get a divorce.

  • Patrick Kyle


    Women initiate over 60% of the divorces in this country. These young guys look at the odds and don’t feel like playing the game.

  • It’s worth noting here that Mrs. VanDenBerghe is actually using a very Mormon view of marriage, which is appropriate given her Mormon faith. Keep in mind, regarding that, that marriage is not just good for a man; it’s a requirement for attaining one’s own “godhood.” Hence the pressure to marry in Mormon culture is intense–that’s part of the (sorry to mention it) Jodi Arias trial.

    But in Christian terms, marriage is not a foundation of adulthood, but rather a gift of God for our good–seen Genesis 2. It images His love for us, and the Prophets make clear that if we carry on with anyone but our lawful wife or husband (whichever is appropriate), it is tantamount to idolatry. The married person models God’s consummated love for His Church: the single models God’s waiting for His Bride. Either may attain the highest levels of Heaven.

    So I’d argue that, even more than no-fault divorce, we have an issue in our society with idolatry. The statues are gone, but the shrine prostitutes are there–we just call them “girlfriend,” “boyfriend”, “lover”, “friend with benefits”, and such.

  • #4 Kitty

    There was once a Golden Age of marriage a long, long time ago. Things were better then and God was happy. It’s a lot worse now. We need to do things like we did back in the Golden Age. God would like that too.

  • helen

    Eden, Kitty?
    Too bad they blew it!

  • Orianna Laun

    Marriage must be selfless. The two become one flesh. When selfishness takes over, marriages and marriage fall apart. This is the irony of the whole recent push in our country. This group of people is clamoring for marriage, that group is doing everything possible to avoid it. To what end? To protect one’s own interests. That is the real breakdown of marriage.