The History of Marriage and Family is Changing
Things have changed a great deal from the Puritanical beliefs integrated long ago that said people must have a license in order to live together. Now, blended families are commonplace and "marriages" between people of the same sex are a reality. The history of marriage and family is actually filled with a variety of thought quite foreign to say, the average American. Marriage was often an agreement of practicality, arranged to provide a linkage between family fortunes. The film Titanic exemplifies this type of thinking even as late as the turn of the century. Thus, it is only in relatively recent history that marriage has been looked at in terms of romance.
Although throughout the twentieth century the subject of marriage is linked with white wedding dresses and three tiered whipped cream cakes, it has also broached the question of whether or not the committed couple should live together before the big wedding day. While it is less controversial today than, say, fifty years ago, some still call it "living in sin." The primary objections stem from a religious point of view and those who do choose to cohabit before the ink is dry on the marriage license are subject to criticism.
Maclean's reports that such living arrangements used to be considered lower class but new statistics reveal that these so-called common law marriages are much more widespread (Maclean’s 14). The number of couples living together in Canada, without benefit of marriage, almost tripled between 1981 and 1995 (14). Some suggest that the increase is attributable to the fact that the arrangement has much less of a stigma attached now (14). The reason that the stigma is lessened is due to the fact that the current people in their twenties have parents who have also cohabited before marriage. This is the first time that this phenomenon has occurred as the boomers began the loosening of sexual mores in the society during the turbulent sixties. While it is true that living together is more acceptable, it is far from widely acceptable in the still rigid American culture.
It is interesting to note that during the period from 1960 to 1980, the divorce rate doubled (Nadeau 312). Studies show that divorce was most common in the second year of marriage (312). Because it was also a time that people began to live together more frequently, researchers began to ask if that had anything to do with the increasing divorce rate. But no correlation was found. In fact, Fisher found that even though the number of American couples living together tripled in the seventies, the peak year for divorce among married couples remained the same (312).
Living together may have some effect on an impending marriage. Of course, the obvious effect would be that the couple realizes that they are not right for each other, or marriage is not right for them, and they would not marry at all. There are also those relationships that seem to go on endlessly and never...