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Across the globe, it’s a similar story — fewer people are choosing to marry and more are divorcing. Except, maybe I shouldn’t say people. Maybe I should say women. While it’s true that more men than women aged 30 to 50 say they’re not interested in tying the knot — 27 percent versus 8 percent of women, according to a recent Pew survey — many women seem to be interested in creating a meaningful and productive life whether they have a partner or not. And that includes having kids as solo parents.   women

According to sociologist and author Pepper Schwartz, 53 percent of U.S. women aged 18 an older are single and many may stay that way for good. Why? She suggests that marriage just isn’t a good deal anymore for women, especially now that we have so many options.

When women’s life choices were highly constrained, they had little negotiating power. They had to marry or were seen as damaged. … It’s different now. While most women still want marriage, they don’t want it at just any price. They don’t want it if it scuttles their dreams. … women want to craft a life instead of having it pressed upon them. And that means some of us will be single for a long time, and some of us will be single for life. tweet

And this appears to be true for women all over the world, not just here in the United States.

The divorce rate in Iran has been skyrocketing since 2006, with about 20 percent of marriages  ending in divorce. Why? “There has been a big growth in individualism in Iran, especially among women. Women are more educated and have increased financial empowerment,” according to Hamid Reza Jalaipour, a sociologist at Tehran University. “It used to be that a woman would marry and she would just have to get along. Now if she’s not happy, she’ll separate. It’s not taboo.”

It’s the same in the United Kingdom, where the number of divorces in England and Wales are rising. Again, it’s women who are overwhelmingly asking for a divorce.

Ditto for China, where the divorce rate is about 19 percent, nearly five times the 1979 rate. Divorce, once a dreaded fate for women in China, is now considered almost as a civil right for young women. No surprise that it is the women who are initiating divorce (although a new law may hurt divorcing women, or maybe even keep them from marrying altogether).

And even Saudi Arabia.

Back home, there are more divorced or separated women in the United States than ever before — 15 percent, compared with less than 1 percent in 1920. Here, like elsewhere, women drive divorce, filing more than two-thirds of the divorces.

Are women anti-marriage? Not necessarily, but marriage hasn’t been all that great for women — for many years our husbands could legally beat and rape us (both are still allowed elsewhere in the world), and it wasn’t until the 1960s that we could have credit cards in our own name, serve on a jury or attend an Ivy League university. Once no-fault divorce came along, the rates of suicide, domestic violence and even murder at the hands of their partner for women dropped dramatically. But sadly for many years, marriage was a woman’s only option.

Except times have changed, right? Women are better educated, earn more money and have readily available contraception.  And studies indicate that by waiting to tie the knot until they’re 30 or older, women accumulate more wealth — about $18,152 (nothing to sneeze at). Not so fast. Despite all the declarations of shared breadwinning and caregiving young couples aspire to, when push comes to shove most men say they expect their wives to take on most of the parenting duties so they can focus on their careers.

And the ladies?

Hmm.

So, why are women so unhappy with marriage? As I’ve written before, women tend to be responsible for most of the emotional caregiving and that takes its toll.

But is that it? Maybe not. There are a lot of us who just aren’t eager to look at our own crap. According to a study by psychologist and author Terri Orbuch, research professor at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research, 65 percent of divorced individuals blame their former spouse for the problems in their marriage, but here’s the kicker — women are much more likely to blame their former spouse than men are, 80 percent compared with 47 percent. And while 16 percent of men blamed themselves just 4 percent of women do the same. (Although some researchers suggest women invest more energy and resources into maintaining our relationships than men do, and thus might resort to finger-pointing because we believe our partner wasn’t investing as much into it as we did.)

What does that mean? I have no idea. We know from studies that men benefit from marriage — married men tend to be healthier and better off financially than unmarried men— but suffer the most in a divorce. But I have to question whether marriage is good deal or a raw deal for women. What do you think?

Interested in learning about ways to re-create your marriage? Read The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels (Seal Press, September 2014). Order the book on Amazon, follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook. Let’s Occupy Marriage!

21 Responses to “Marriage: Why fewer women want in and more want out”

  1. blurkel says:

    Marriage is a swamp of false expectations and societal impositions which ensure that relationships don’t develop as they should. It guarantees failure unless one partner completely gives up and lets the other have (usually) her way. There is no balance when women are raised from day one to be married and men don’t find out what it’s all about until it’s too late to change course without the expense of a lawyer.

    Men increasingly aren’t interested in marriage, finding gaming and sports more satisfying than women. In these activities, they have a chance to win 50% of the time. In marriage, it’s 100% lose.

    Women aren’t stupid enough to ignore that men aren’t interested in them, nor in a relationship with them. They know that men today are not what they seek, and they aren’t about to waste their time and effort attempting to change him, for it means giving up what she values to do so.

    So a smart person will avoid creating unnecessary pain and suffering for one’s self by not entering into the obsolete marital relationship and remaining single. There is nothing preventing having most of the benefits which allegedly accrue to the married without the requirement of involving the law to maintain or end it as necessary.

  2. BestAnswer says:

    Well the ones that want out like dating Different Men all the time instead of just Settling with just one, and with many women being Very Independent these days certainly explains it too.

    • OMGchronicles
      Twitter: OMGchronicles
      says:

      I just read a study this morning that midlife single men look for committed relationships when dating, and women look for companionship without having to be a caretaker. After decades of caretaking, we’re tired!

      • Sven says:

        After decades of caretaking you’re tired ? All those decades of caretaking you didn’t mind taking care at all, because all the men had to go to war, so the women were well satisfied staying at home. When wars started to end, women suddenly didn’t want to take care anymore. That’s the only reason you’re “tired” of being a caretaker. Watch ww3 happen and all the women shutting up about equality.

        • OMGchronicles
          Twitter: OMGchronicles
          says:

          “women were well satisfied staying at home” while the men went to war? Uh, I think you better read up what really happened during WWII; women worked (Rosie the Riveter sound familiar?) When the men came home, the women were let go of work so men could have their jobs, again, and they could stay at home and have babies. They were not necessarily satisfied with that (ever hear of “The Feminine Mystique”?). No, when The Pill and Title IV arrived, when women began to have choices about their reproduction, schooling and careers and didn’t “have” to marry to be able to support themselves, that’s when the shift occurred. But if that didn’t happen, you wouldn’t see 2 million stay-at-home-dads today. Women and men became free to live their most authentic lives.

    • Elen says:

      That’s a lie . This article is rubbish . I don’t know any women that does not want to be married . Obviously written by a Feminists with a chip on the shoulder . Sad people out there …

  3. HonestlySpeaking says:

    With much more women these days that are very high maintenance, independent, selfish, and very spoiled is a very excellent reason why many of us Good men are having a very difficult time finding a Good woman to connect with, and we are Not single by choice.

  4. KL says:

    Don’t pat yourself on the back ladies…as the men, at least men in the Western World, are not wanting in either. So you gals are doing them a favor by NOT tying the knot.

  5. Debar Dogma says:

    “While it’s true that more men than women aged 30 to 50 say they’re not interested in tying the knot — 27 percent versus 8 percent of women” – Uhm, isnt that 350% more men don’t want to get married than women? So… isn’t that the real issue that needs to be discussed and answered. And THAT’S why I don’t want to marry one of today’s bizarre western narcissistic women. That ratio has been expanding, and will continue to.

  6. Georgina says:

    Women don’t want to be married because we get the raw end of the deal. You hear the men’s side, temper tantrum throwing because they want to hump every young “hot” woman they come across and feeling as though the old ball and chain is holding them back. Never mind that they wouldn’t have a chance with most of them anyway, because they were lucky to get what they got. Guys have it great. You get mom as a wife. She does the cleaning, cooking, scheduling, child-rearing, while you sit back and complain while drinking a beer and playjng video games. She sacrifices her career, dreams, aspirations, etc, to take care of you and your ungrateful offspring, and how is she repaid? You leave for some 18 year old, and leave her penniless. If it weren’t for laws her only option would be suicide because no other guy finds her attractive after you use and abuse her for years and she was “just” a housewife, so getting a job is tough. So excuse me if I don’t see any value in marriage for women, when we can buy toys to fulfill our urges that do a better job than you do, we can pay our own way, if we don’t tie ourselves to one of you leeches, because we actually think with our brains instead of our groins, and we can have children and raise them all on our own. Temper-tantrum throwing man-child not needed. If you guys want to change that stereotype, think with the big heads instead of the little ones and think that wife won’t stay young forever and accept it. We accept your pot belly, baldness, aging, etc, because we’ve figured out that noone can stop aging. It’s high time you animals figured that out. And no, I’m not some aging bitter old witch. I’m married, and I don’t trust my spouse to stick around because no man is happy in marriage. Any who say that they are are liars, delusional, or both. I’m planning ahead, keeping my skills up to date for when he leaves me for an 18 year old.

    • Kirk says:

      Just one question then Georgina, Why did YOU get married? And the excuse to have children is not a valid answer. If what you say is true, the divorce rate (I would think) would be much higher……. Just saying.

    • Loyal says:

      You said it like it is. I know it is a tragedy for women all over the world unfortunately. I want to answer the question that Kirk asked you. Women are better and stronger creatures and the only weakness they have is when they fall in love,unlike men, they honor that love. They mostly marry because they have the quality of loving their husbands for real. And what they get sooner or later is finding out about immaturity of men. That most men are not brave and honest. They are selfish and disrespect the history they made with the woman they loved once.

    • Cris says:

      I am not bald or pot bellied and am a 48 year old male. I loved being with my young children and would gladly have raised them but my job paid much more than my wife’s. Just the raising of the two children was too much for her to handle. I was able to work on our house the cars and her depression. I lived rather endured her libido of sex once every four months or more and did everything possible to make her happy. After 23 years of marriage and support where I encouraged her to go to college and possibly do anything at all that she would enjoy she still does not make me feel loved or even wanted. She absolutely never initiates sex even though she loves it she forgets about that in a day. Now I am experiencing negative appreciation factors from my 17 and 19 yr old daughters. So you see my dear it goes both ways but I never give up. I try to remember the good moments and survive the rest.

  7. Marcia says:

    I grew up in a time and in a church when marriage was considerned the only option for women (aside from being a nun). We were expected to have as many children “as God intended,” and marriage was for life. As a child, I saw some women in church more than others, and often they were the ones who were praying and “offering it up” for the marriage that was bad–alcoholism, abuse, too many children and not enough money. It was also the time of Father Knows Best and Leave it to Beaver on TV, when women weren’t supposed to have any aspirations beyond making sure they had a happy and satisfying marriage. I discovered when I got “trapped” a few times into baby sitting that I did not enjoy children and decided, overall, to avoid marriage and family and get an education. I did just that and have never been sorry. If there are occasional downsides to the single life, they are outweighed by unhappy marriage and dealing with children who may be difficult.

    We should not let ourselves feel guilty or “selfish” for our decisions. Many of friends ended up divorced, often with multiple children to deal with. Some stayed in unhappy marriages because they could not afford to leave, having spent many years as homemakers and mothers and having no job skills or experience.

    • OMGchronicles
      Twitter: OMGchronicles
      says:

      Tanks for commenting, Marcia. That was certainly what was expected of men and women in the past. Fortunately, women have options now, options our mothers and grandmothers didn’t have, and that is why we are seeing a decline in marriage or delayed marriage. But marriage still means a lot in our culture, otherwise we wouldn’t have seen the fight by same-sex couples to have access.

  8. Sven says:

    You know I both women and men aren’t interested in each other anymore. I’ve read several articles where my observations were only confirmed. Men and women don’t look at each other anymore. A woman could be in bikini as sexy as she can be, men don’t look like they used to. Why is this ? Well, obviously pornography and disinterest towards women as a whole. Say what you want, but both men and women have become bitter thanks to online dating. It all seems to be about who gives the least amount of fucks wins.

    Let’s look at our bright future that feminism has brought upon us.

    In Japan 1/4 men are virgin. Why ? Women’s main motive for staying with a man was safety and to be taken care of. What do we have these days ? Women make the highest income and doesn’t need anyone to take care of her. Result ? Men don’t feel the desire to date these women, because they don’t need to be taken care of, and women don’t feel attracted to a man who makes less income than them because of this biological urge to be taken care of and protected. Feminism will be the downfall of our society. Anyone who looks at the numbers knows the white race will go extinct thanks to feminism. Our population has been dropping drastically since the 70’s and that’s not a coincidence.

    Conclusion: Feminism = population drop
    Old system = population boom

    • Elen says:

      I’m a female . I work with a lot a females in the educational field . They are all complaining that cant find a husband . I mean this article is just total rubbish .Mind you most women here in mine line of work are not attractive and pass their prime . Its their own fault I say .And they have not much to offer . Men want young fertile women so to have babies . Men want nice lady with a smile .Not a competitor at home . Who like to go home to toxic wife ? Cook sometimes, clean . Be caring . Meke him happy .Also . How are going to get pregnant after 30 ? How ? Its hard . IN -Vitro does not work .WE know . It took me 1 year to get pregnant and I was 28 . My husband does not smoke and drink and always works out . Take care . Just saying ladies . Come down and think . Go head watch American TV ….get brainwashed …

      • Helium says:

        “I’m a female” = dead giveaway that you are, in fact, a man trying to pose as a woman. The only people who refer to women as “females” are biologists, zoologists, and MRAs. Women are not animals. We’re not some mysterious alien creature. You just inadvertently outed yourself with that phrasing.

        “Unattractive and pass (sic) their prime”: confirms it.

        Nice try.

        By the way, I’m genuinely A WOMAN, and I had my last kid at 44.

  9. Lilith says:

    Marriage is a waste unless you plan on having children. Even if you find a decent mate, as a woman you will do the bulk of the work emotionally and physically for all your married days. I don’t know any happily married women. They stay married till the kids leave. Marriage is a terrible burden and not to be taken lightly. Marriage is only for the rearing of children. If you don’t want kids, don’t get married. It’s not fun, it’s not nurturing and it sucks your very will to live.

  10. Charity says:

    Marriage could be a blank canvas, a dream or a work of art. But too often marriage is a too tight corset, seemingly beautiful but truthfully suffocating. It’s painfully obvious that men and women have differing physiological needs and further, are socialized in ways that produce horrible incompatibilities between the sexes. This isn’t new, either but now women are free to walk away too. And walk away we so often do.

  11. Paul says:

    Well with many more Unfaithful women nowadays which really speaks for itself.

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