Last week, I conducted a survey on attitudes of PT readers on marriage, divorce and remarriage.
What was so fascinating to me is that the results showed a great disparity of opinions on what marriage is for and what should happen to this age-old institution.
In summary, it appears that, while most people believe in marriage being a monogamous, "'til death do they part," institution (unless there is a betrayal of some kind), close to 90% of respondents did not see divorce as failure and 73% felt remarriage was fine. This is an interesting pull between the conservatives and the liberals. It appears that some people are actually both when it comes to marriage.
Before I share the comments, let me tell you more about the population who answered the questions. The survey was taken by 218 people from just about every state in the nation as well as parts of Canada.
62.8% of pollsters were straight women, 29.4% straight men, 1.8% gay men, .9% lesbian and 5% were bisexual. Most survey-takers were between 22-34 (55.9%), followed by 35-45 (22%), and approximately 12% under 21 and just under 12% over 46 years old.
Interestingly, the vast majority of respondents have never been married (55.5%). Those on their first marriage accounted for < 23%, those in some marital flux represented just under 20% and only 4.1% have been married and divorced more than once.
The majority of people believed in marriage as we currently practice it, followed by those who were undecided and those who did not believe in our current marriage system brought up the rear. The numbers were 46.5%, 30.9% and 24% respectively.
By far, readers felt that marriage should last forever unless there is an abuse, betrayal or addiction with one spouse (56.4%). One reader commented that addiction should not be included in this group since it is an illness and people shouldn't leave someone at their lowest point. Many were not sure (27.5%), 13.8% said marriage should absolutely not be forever and 5.5% said it absolutely should last forever - not matter what.
As far as whether marriage should be between just a man and woman, 45.4% said no - it should be open to same sex couples compared to only 16.1% who said man and woman only. Close to 20% said that marriages should be open (meaning couples could bring in outside lovers or companions). 15% had no strong feeling either way on the subject and 12.4% felt that marriage needed a complete overhaul.
The vast majority of survey-takers practice monogamy and there were sprinkles of abstinence, polygamy, polyandry and polyamory.
As far as what changes people wanted to see in marriage and divorce, most wanted to see more education and counseling brought in (50.9% and 54.5% respectively). 38.2% wanted to see marriage harder to get into, 21.8% wanted to see marriage harder to get out of. A surpring 14.5 stated that they wanted to see polygamy made legal and close to 10% voted for term limits.
Finally, when it comes to remarriage, just under 74% were totally fine with it and 18.3% feel it's too easy.
Here are some of the most poignant comments (some may be slightly edited for grammar or length):
COMMENTS ON MARRIAGE ~
"I've lost faith in the system of marriage. The circumstances that helped develop what we call marriage today are no longer applicable."
"I think there needs to be a non-religious option akin to marriage that is open to everyone and is legally recognized with all the benefits of marriage as we know it today."
"I've been with my partner for over 20 years, we have children and have never married but we are considered to be in a ‘common-law' marriage here in Canada."
"...most people rush into marriage."
"... marriage is mainly done for the outside world."
"...marriage is a religious institution and has no place in modern society."
"...marriage is essential to happiness and central to the meaning of our lives."
"...marriage makes more sense to me in economic, not emotional terms."
COMMENTS ON DIVORCE ~
"I've always felt that marriage is a wonderful way to celebrate your love for each other, however, I think in this day and age, it's quite idealistic to believe that it's going to last forever. Some do but it's not necessary to stay in a relationship if you don't want to anymore. People change and that's allowed for these days."
"People divorce like teenagers break up -- without counseling or attempting to stay together."
"Divorce is too easy. Vows aren't taken seriously enough. I will most likely remarry but I will seek a lot more couple's counseling first to ensure that our expectations and [levels of] commitment are similar."
"It's better to be divorced at 35 than never to have married."
"We are human and make mistakes so divorce is a reality."
"I think there are a lot of life lessons that can be learned from divorce and remarriage so it's not inherently a bad thing."
"My heart breaks for the children of divorce."
"Make counseling mandatory before the court will grant any divorce."
"Better the devil you know..."
COMMENTS ON REMARRIAGE ~
"I start questioning whether I'm enabling someone's need for attention when I'm saying ‘congratulations, how wonderful,' for the third time."
"I don't understand the people who marry over and over again. Either they have an immature ideal of marriage, or they are gamblers hoping to get lucky some day."
"Remarriage once seems alright...but more than one remarriage, in my opinion, points to a great deal of failure in the individual."
I roll my eyes when I hear someone refer to their ‘first husband or wife' - especially their ‘third [spouse]. Stop it! You sound like a pig. Marriage is not for you and remarriage should not be an option for serial failures of relationships."
"Remarriage, like a first marriage, is fine so long as it respects the institution of marriage."
This survey, as well as much of my other work, has prompted me to conduct a new survey to find out WHY people marry, divorce and/or remarry. Please click here to participate: