Married couples: the new minority in 2012 Britain
Britons fall out of love with marriage
I belong to a minority. No, not because I’m an immigrant, or a Catholic, though I am both of those things. I belong to the newest minority to emerge from the 2011 census: married couples. Only ten years ago, married people constituted the majority of the population; today, under 50 per cent of Britons are married. Most, are now single, or cohabiting, or divorced.
Why? Marriage is difficult and challenges the one value that our establishment holds dearest of all: individualism. Everyone repeats the mantra that we must be free to be ourselves, stand on our own two feet, and indulge ourselves because “you’re worth it”. Me myself and I are the supreme trinity in our culture.
No wonder marriage, with its emphasis on inter-dependence rather than independence, and its prizing of communal goals rather than individual ambitions, runs against the grain.
It doesn’t help that the government doesn’t prize marriage either: tax breaks for married couples were promised but never delivered.
So, why not turn our back on marriage and dump it, like we’ve dumped the Olivetti typewriter or the Kodak instamatic?
One good reason is children. One tragic statistic that cropped up recently on the Today programme is that four million children in Britain grow up without contact with their father. They have no idea what it feels like to have a masculine role model, see their dad’s eyes fill with pride at something they’ve done well, or even feel a dad’s arm around their shoulder.
Given that state schools, especially at primary level, have so few male teachers, is it any wonder that gang members claim that the first father figure they come across is in prison?
But even those children who keep in touch with their dad in a cohabiting household do statistically less well than children of married couples: they are more likely to end up in jail, or on drugs, and in trouble at school.
I can understand why marriage seems such unappealing to so many raised on the idea of putting themselves first. But being number one when you are all alone is not great, either.