Tom Purcell

Boy, are some Americans losing interest in marriage these days.

According to a National Center for Family and Marriage Research (NCFMR) study, the U.S. marriage rate is on the decline.

Whereas 92 out of 1,000 single women married in 1920, only 31 out of 1,000 are marrying today.

In a 2011 study, the Pew Research Center found that 51 percent of Americans were married, compared to 72 percent in 1960 - the marriage rate has declined by 60 percent since 1979.

Social scientists offer a variety of reasons for the shift. Younger people are much more likely to cohabitate than marry. Some prefer to remain single and focus on their careers and themselves. And the down economy has caused no small number of couples to delay their wedding day.

And then there is the "soul mate" factor, a modern construct.

Brad Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project, explained to The Associated Press that single people today have a high degree of "expressive individualism." They are demanding an unrealistic level of fulfillment from their mates.

It wasn't so long ago that a fellow could get by without movie-star looks and a captivating personality - even a bald, chubby guy could win the affections of a nice lady, so long as he had a good heart and was a CPA.

But nowadays, many single people are holding out for the perfect person - perfect looks and personality - and the good-hearted CPA isn't likely to make the cut.

The fact is, no one person can ever live up to our high soul-mate ideals - so, many people remain single.

Which doesn't bode well for single men or women - though single women fare far better than single men do.

Married men are physically, emotionally and financially healthier than their single counterparts. They avoid risky behavior.

They're much less likely to wake up in a pile of dirty laundry, still clutching the tequila bottle they began drinking from just before the party broke up.

The fact is, marriage is good.

Married people produce happier, healthier children. Marriage produces stable, thriving communities. Happily married people enjoy more gratifying sex lives.

Married men live longer than single men - though their wives may tell you it only seems longer.

And there's something to be said for having a lifelong partner to support, and be supported by, as you go through life's rough patches.

Mark Twain said there is no greater beauty and sweetness than the closeness and camaraderie of a husband and wife who hold deep affection for one other - a closeness single people are without.


Tom Purcell

Tom Purcell, author of "Comical Sense: A Lone Conservative Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!" and "Misadventures of a 1970's Childhood," is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist syndicated nationally by Cagle Cartoons. Visit him on the web at www.TomPurcell.com