This Valentine’s Day Time magazine describes young adults’ new craze over a dating app called Tinder. The app lets users slide through hundreds of profiles of dating prospects, signaling “like” or “nope” to each.
While the preoccupation with the phone app might seem innocuous, it’s another symbol of the culture of consumer-oriented relationships today, along with the “hook-up” culture that commodifies people and trivializes relationships. A flight from commitment is evidenced by a plummeting marriage rate, which is at an all-time low, and soaring rate of cohabitation, which has increased tenfold since 1960. That’s a concern for the health of our nation’s culture, which is integrally linked to the state of marriage.
Although the majority of young people state that they actually have aspirations for a good marriage, and some considered cohabitation as a “test drive” of a relationship that would ensure its longevity, the data show that those hopes may not be fulfilled. Sociological research has revealed that, on average, cohabiting couples tend to report lower levels of closeness, love, and satisfaction than married couples. In addition, research has found that cohabiting couples have substantially lower levels of commitment to their partners than their married counterparts, and the anticipation of the dissolution of the relationship among both cohabiting men and women is twice as high as that of their married counterparts.
These low expectations and the failure to make a long-term commitment translate into the reality of relational dissolution: Cohabiting couples are more likely to separate, less likely to reconcile after a separation, and more likely to experience infidelity than married couples. In fact, even the subsequent marriages of men and women who cohabited are less likely to survive: Compared with married couples who did not cohabitate, they tend to be less satisfied with their marriages and more likely to divorce.
Heritage policy analyst Ryan Anderson has pointed out that “marriage is a personal relationship that serves a public purpose.” Children living with their wedded biological parents fare best on virtually every indicator of wellness, including academic achievement, emotional health, and delinquency and incarceration—all of which have immediate and direct impact on the well-being of society as well.
A catastrophic surge of marital dissolution and the erosion of the family have resulted from a culture that is averse to commitment and trivializes relationships. For the protection of children, prospects of their parents, and preservation of society, policymakers should pursue policies and programs that can promote and strengthen marriage and an intact family structure—the most stable and fulfilling relationship for couples and the safest, most nurturing environment for the next generation.