It’s official. Brad and Angelina are engaged, succumbing to pressure from family members to finally tie the knot.
Back in the day, that pressure would have come from a worried mother, or more likely, a protective father and the business end of shotgun.
But this is 2012. The family pressure to marry comes, in this case, from the Jolie-Pitts’ six children. Though the couple once said they wouldn’t marry until the privilege to do so was afforded to everyone, their political statement in defense of gay marriage ultimately lost out to the need to make a promise to their kids.
Who knows if this celebrity marriage will have more staying power than most? So far, their devotion to their children appears to reflect a certain level of commitment. But it takes much more than shared parenting to make a marriage.
It takes work.
According to a 2010 study from the Pew Research Center, only about half of all adults were married as of 2008. In 1960, that number was 72 percent. And marriage itself is becoming a luxury of the wealthy and well-educated. The Pew study indicates there now is a 16 percent gap in marriage rates between college graduates and those with a high school diploma or less. In 1960, that gap was only 4 percent.
Worse, growing numbers of adults say marriage itself is becoming obsolete. In 1978, 28 percent of registered voters thought the institution of marriage was an outdated idea. Today, nearly 40 percent think this is so.
If the institution itself has not quite gone the way of the dodo, certainly the expectation that marriage is a lifelong commitment might be considered optimistic, at best.
Divorce is a likely outcome for between 41 percent and 50 percent of first-time married couples (the frequency of divorce depends on which research you believe), with 60 percent of second marriages ending in divorce and a whopping 73 percent of third marriages failing.
As the Huffington Post’s “Divorce” page reminds us, “Marriages come and go, but divorce is forever.” (Huffington Post doesn’t even have a “Marriage” page. Go figure.)
Former Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum used his campaign to remind us that successful marriages are crucial to the health and well-being of a society.
“Marriage is a society’s lifeblood,” he said. “Not everybody can or will marry, but all of us (married or not) depend on marriage in a unique way. Marriage is foundational: It creates and sustains not only children, but civilization itself.”
According to the Family Research Council, marriage is “the most important social act, one that involves much more than just the married couple.”