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Today's Hot Topic: First comes love, then comes marriage?



Question: Are you?



Single, living with partner




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Total Votes: 71

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Single parent homes are on the rise, in fact in 2004, for the first time in history, single women outnumbered the married women in England and Wales. 

Are you concerned about the rate of marriages on the decline?  What do you think is the cause of it?  Do you believe marriage should come before having children?  Why or why not?

Single women outnumber their married counterparts

Last updated at 22:00 17 December 2006

    Married women have become a minority in England and Wales for the first time, official figures have revealed.

    They showed that there are more single, divorced and widowed women than there are wives.

    The number of women over the age of 16 who are married has plunged to fewer than 11 million, largely thanks to the collapse in the popularity of marriage among under-30s.

    New figures released by the Office for National Statistics show that the landmark point where unmarried women became the majority was reached in 2004.

    The decline of marriage and the increase in live-in cohabitation and single living has accelerated, they indicate, since Labour came to power determined to ensure that gays and single parents received equal treatment and that the privileges once given to married couples were eliminated.

    In the eight short years between 1996 - the year before Tony Blair's election - and 2004 the number of women who have never married or who are divorced has shot up by more than one and a half million.

    The watershed for marriage was disclosed in week when the controversy over family stability was pitched into party politics by the Tory report on 'Breakdown Britain'.

    The inquiry run by former party leader Iain Duncan Smith said that cohabitee parents are twice as likely to break up as married ones and that threequarters of family splits that affect children involve unmarried parents.

    It endorsed years of research which have exposed deep connections between children brought up by single parents and poor health, poor education, drugs, crime and teenage pregnancy.

    Tory leader David Cameron responded with promises of policies to support marriage.

    Yesterday's breakdown of the decline of marriage showed that fewer than one in three women in their late 20s is married, and among those aged between 20 and 24 the proportion who are married is under one in ten.

    In the early 1970s 85 per cent of women were married before their 30th birthday. Six out of ten had married before the age of 25.

    In 2003 there were 11,000,000 wives and 10,892,000 single, divorced or widowed women. In 1971, nearly two out of three adult women were married.

    But in the following year the number of married women was 10,935,000, the ONS analysis said. There were 11,090,000 who were single, divorced or widowed.

    The minority status of wives is likely to be unprecedented in peacetime in history.

    Decline in marriage began in the late 1970s - at a time when welfare benefits for single parents were beginning to increase - and accelerated through the 1980s and 90s.

    During this period married couples began to be taxed separately and the value of a key tax break, Married Couples Allowance, began to be eroded.

    Numbers of divorced women have soared nearly tenfold since 1971 to 2.15 million in 2004, a process quickened by reforms which made divorce easier.

    Mr Blair's Government has taken its attitude to marriage from its feminist wing. One key figure, Patricia Hewitt, now Health Secretary, declared in 1996 that the rise in cohabitation meant that legal marriage 'doesn't fit any longer, particularly not in Britain.'

    Since then Labour has built its policies on the idea that all kinds of families are equally good. Married Couples Allowance has been abolished, welfare benefits for single parents have been pushed much higher than those for couples, and Miss Hewitt has run a drive to remove the word 'marriage' from state documents.

    Privileges once extended only to married couples have been made available to homosexuals through the civil partnerships system and the Government is now planning to extend mutual property rights to cohabiting couples.

    Critics of Labour's family policies called for new efforts to encourage young people to marry.

    Jill Kirby of the centre right think tank Centre for Policy Studies said: 'This is a landmark. We see a major decline which is also quite clearly correlated with the fall in birthrates among women under 30.

    'If we are to look after the health of families, we need to devise policies that will reverse the drop in marriage among young women. We have seen fresh evidence this week of how that decline is bad news for the rising generation of children.'

    Patricia Morgan, author of a series of studies on the collapse of the traditional family, said: 'Marriage is now something older couples do, often after they have had children.

    A wedding has become a status symbol - something celebrities do - and it has become entirely separated from having children or money.'

    She added: 'The supporters of the 60s counter-culture, the minority rights groups, people who think like Patricia Hewitt, they should all be celebrating. They have got what they wanted. But the side effects are not very nice for anybody.'

    The ONS figures show that married men are still in the majority, numbering 10,863,000 from 20,694,000 over the age of 16 in 2004.

    The difference between men and women is caused by the fact that men typically die younger than women. As a result there are nearly four times as many widows as widowers.

    by on Feb. 20, 2009 at 6:36 AM
    Replies (11-17):
    by on Feb. 20, 2009 at 12:05 PM

    I believe that marriage should come before children.  Children need stability in their lives, and they need commitment.  If they are born into a home in which they have two loving parents who have made a legal and lawful commitment to one another, then they are already given that stability from the time they are born. 


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    by Member on Feb. 20, 2009 at 2:11 PM

    I am married, I advocate for marriage, the nuclear family and not using Divorce after every disagreement. Irreconcilable differences means I don't want to work it out, not we cant work it out it should terminated from the marriage vocabulary. Divorce in cases of abuse & infidelity, and incompatiablity after counseling has failed are legitamate reasons IMHO :) To many children are growing up in homes where they dont see a commitment or fatherless, and it is becoming vicious cycle..

    by on Feb. 20, 2009 at 8:43 PM

    I don't see any reason why a persons marital status is something for anyone else to be concerned about. If they want to live together rather than marrying that is their choice. Many people see a marriage license as an inconsequential piece of paper, and feel in their hearts they are married. What is unfortunate is the number of divorced and widowed single women out there. The rising divorce rate is sad. And of course the incidence of widows is even worse. I am sure we can blame the increase on more husbands out their dying in a foreign war. This is a shame, but our being sad about isn't going to change it.

    by on Feb. 20, 2009 at 8:46 PM

    Quoting 4boysmom32:

    I believe that marriage should come before children.  Children need stability in their lives, and they need commitment.  If they are born into a home in which they have two loving parents who have made a legal and lawful commitment to one another, then they are already given that stability from the time they are born. 

    I agree that children need stability in their lives and a two parent household in which they see a loving couple building a life together is the ideal situation. But I don't think you have to be legally married to have a loving stable relationship. With the divorce rate, marriage is meaning less and less in terms of stability. As long as the household is a loving one, and the parents are committed to each other, then I think there is no harm to the children.

    by on Feb. 21, 2009 at 12:51 AM

    The way I see it, is if a woman is ok with her lifestyle of not being married, then it is her business, she is the one having to live that life afterall!  My first, almost husband, was very abusive,  I was young and luckily I let my parents talk me into moving back home with my newborn son!  When my son was 13mos. old I met the love of my life and we got married only 3 mos. after we met!  Well I guess I just got lucky with this one because now we have been married for 30 yrs, have 4 children and 11 grandchildren!  But not everyone can possibly do this, so I say what ever feels right for you, is what you need to do!

    by Member on Feb. 21, 2009 at 1:10 AM

    In a perfect world... of course I think most would want to be in a committed, loving and yes married (however you view marriage to be... and to whomever that would be) relationship... but, sadly we know this doesn't happen all the time. 

    I think that the current state of affairs in our world has a lot to do with how people handle marriages and relationships... money is a HUGE side effect to why people divorce... lack of or abuse of. 

    That being said, truly how many people do you know just knew that being single and having a family to take care of was what they wanted?  I doubt if anyone would say they did... (okay how many sane people)?

    I think marriage is too easy to do for people that really have no good reason for getting married.  You sadly only have to go as far as our TV's to see all too often the reality TV shows of all those women and men getting married and it seems they have no good reason for getting married other then to get married... they are mean and nasty to each other, curse each other, have often times cheated on each other... and yet they claim to love each other with all their hearts... WHAT??!!!! 

    It's too easy to divorce and I think way too many walk into marriage thinking... "If it doesn't work out, there's always divorce" when I hear this statement 9 times out of 10 they usually don't even make it to their 2nd anniversary!  I have seen it in my own extended family on more then one occasion. 

    As for me?  I waited, I finally found the right man for me... we were both 26, married a year later, have been happily married for 10+ years, we have the same goals as we did when we married, we have a beautiful 5 year old daughter which is the love of our life... and for me and him, we know waiting and knowing what we wanted and needed made our relationship stronger from the get go and I feel like we have only grown as a couple... not apart but closer and more in love then the day we married... It sickens me to hear people tell me when I was first married... they'd laugh and say... HA! Just wait till you have been married 5 or 10 years... then come back and tell me how much you still love your husband!!!  This kind of thing has always bothered me and seriously saddened me. 

    by on Feb. 21, 2009 at 10:23 AM

    My husband and I got pregnant with my son before we got married.  So in response to a previous post: not everything that is a result of premarital sex is bad. 

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