Apparently, cohabitation is the latest rage with Generation X. More than six million couples cohabit. With almost 50 percent of my generation cohabiting, I’m the odd man out. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie as well as other Hollywood stars have made shacking up as popular as iTunes and Starbucks. The rate of cohabitation in the United States has increased more than 1,000 percent since 1960.
So why is Generation X so sketchy on marriage? Many of my fellow Gen Xer’s throw down the divorce card. After all, Generation X bears the mark of being raised as children of divorce. Our families were not the families of “Leave It to Beaver,” but families with unique parenting dynamics such as alternating every other weekend with mom and dad, taking separate vacations with each parent and step-parents, choosing which set of parents to spend Thanksgiving and Christmas with, or facing the joy of downing a bottle of Pepto Bismol after eating multiple holiday dinners.
There is no doubt that divorce is terrible. In divorce, only the attorneys win. My parents, along with many Baby Boomers, were not lucky in love, as each of them has been married three times. I’m a child of divorce. My immediate family tree is so complex that I’d need a byzantine flow chart to explain it. All my siblings have cohabited, leaving me once again as the odd man out.
It’s fair to say that with my parents being married three times, I could easily use my “Get Out of Marriage Card” with few comments from the peanut gallery. So why didn’t I just cohabit with my wife, instead of getting married? Why not just live together before marriage, as my father encouraged me to do? Why choose marriage?
As much as I love my parents, I don’t take marriage advice from divorced couples (sorry dad!). I choose marriage because of true love — my heart was stolen by a tall beautiful red headed co-ed with a wicked jump shot. My love for her would be incomplete and dishonoring without a commitment of walking down the aisle. I wanted her to know that I was willing to make a lifelong public commitment.
Marriage has given me the opportunity to create my own family and to love and cherish someone other than myself. Marriage has also taught me to be less selfish (I’m still learning), which is a lesson my generation desperately needs. My children will never have to wonder why Daddy didn’t love Mommy enough to marry her.
My wedding day remains one of the happiest and most celebrated days of my life, not just because of the cake served at the reception, but because of two individuals becoming one … for better or worse, with or without TiVo.
Without marriage, Generation X will miss out on the joy and fulfillment that our grandparents experienced. Studies show that married couples have happier and healthier lives, not to mention that married couples live longer and have better sex lives. Cohabitation and friends with benefits aren’t enough. Statistics show that both paths lead to failed relationships.
Gen X, you cannot get the benefits of marriage without the commitment of marriage. The intimacy and benefits of marriage can never be matched by the hook-up world. The logic of marriage is not the logic of the hook-up. Why always be a player in the minor league of relationships when you could have gone to the World Series of Love?
Generation X claims to be counter-cultural … so let’s go against the culture and get married.
James Sunday is the policy communications manager at the Family Research Council.
This article was originally published in CNSNews.com on June 19, 2009.