Yesterday’s vote to make marriage between one man and one woman the only domestic legal union recognized in North Carolina has, besides making me incredibly sad and ashamed for the place I grew up, got me thinking about the nature of romantic unions in our generation and the shape they’re taking.
In conversation yesterday, my mother had a good point. “It’s like ruling from the grave,” she said on the phone with me on the way back from voting against Amendment One in the N.C. primary. “It’s not what your generation wants. It may pass now, but it will be overruled later.” (Too bad for all those denied their benefits until then, I guess.)
Indeed, Gen X, which (of course) has had a lot more time to be married than Millennials, is showing some interesting trends regarding their marriages. According to a Susan Gregory Thomas’s NYT piece, “Can You Have a Good Divorce?” this past fall, “Almost 80 percent” of Gen X” has made it a decade into marriage, a good indicator of marital longevity.” Yet, 60 percent live with their future spouses before marrying them, evidence that they’re doing “full recon” before tying the knot.
Consider too, that college-educated women are now as or more likely to get married than those who are less-educated, and that those the marriages often happen at an older age. The institution of marriage then, seems to be going strong – particularly for the educated.
Even divorce is taking on a new tone. As with marriage, Gen Y is doing their due diligence. They have learned the effect of a brutal divorce on children and try to mitigate those effects by providing a unified front, sharing holidays and vacations and protecting their children from arguments.
The ideal modern day partnership, it would seem, is founded with an awareness of risk. And indeed, the majority of relationships (from gay unions to marriages to co-habitating boyfriends & girlfriends in their 20′s) are — let’s face it — still impermanent and nuanced. The average American loses their virginity at 17, and the 50 percent of us who even end up getting married will still get divorced. That leaves a lot of room, for a lot of different relationships.
The recent legislation in North Carolina removes what flexibility existed in the state. When, ironically, it seems like the freedom to make educated choices is the very stuff that makes today’s relationship successful, be it with a Hot Sex or husband prospect.
The love landscape of our generation is diverse and fluid. It is gay. It is straight. And its power lies is the freedom to be whatever it needs to be. I believe the right for individuals to define love by their own terms is the Civil Rights Movement of our time. And, friends, in time, our laws will reflect who we are.
Update: Oh wait, hey guys? As I was typing this did the president just come out in support of marriage equality? I totally think he just did.
Alison Steedman is the editor at Dating & Hookup. She lives in Los Angeles with her boyfriend and their histrionic cat, Charles Dickens, where she still carries on a nostalgic and long-distance love affair with her 20's in Brooklyn, NY. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram @yosteedman, and you can also send her your writing at [email protected], both of which make her very happy.
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