Marriage Gets a Separation

The 2000 Census has had a number of surprises - but none (so far) more socially significant than a 71 percent increase over the past decade in the number of unmarried partners living together.

Married-couple households grew by just 7 percent.

Many couples living together without the many legal protections and benefits of marriage may be eager to have lawmakers pass new laws that address issues raised by those favoring these new notions of family.

What lies behind this dramatic change? Perhaps it is fear of genuine commitment or a messy divorce - or perhaps a misguided notion that legal protections aren't necessary between two people living together. There may be financial reasons, too.

But in what direction will this shift take society, especially in the important function of passing on a better generation?

Unmarried partners could ask: Is there more or less honesty infused in such arrangements? Is there a stronger sense of the underlying characteristics that make a successful marriage: commitment, shared responsibility, fidelity, love?

Ideas of marriage may be shifting, but the idea of a moral and legal commitment between loving partners is hard to shake.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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