The MarriageGoRound (135) Cherlin
Louisiana legislature passed “covenant marriage” – when applying for a marriage license, spouses both agree to
restrictions applying to how quickly and how easily they can obtain a divorce. Very few people opted for it.
Cherlin suggests that the word “marriage” has the same positive effect on Americans as “personal freedom”. They
are caught between wanting lifelong marriages and those who are unhappy to get a divorce.
The U.S. has the highest rate of both marriages and divorces.
Cherlin says the difference between Americans and the rest of the world are the sum of the frequent marriages,
frequent divorce, and the more shortterm cohabiting relationships.
Children have a hard time coping with each new transition: physical move, parent’s new partner, new spouse, etc.
They compete with new stepsiblings or other children involved, also with the new partner/spouse for time with parent.
Change came with the generations: WWII valued family produced baby boomers who no longer saw marriage as
means of living openly with partners.
By the millennium, living w/ a partner and having sex before marriage is the norm.
The divorce rate had been increasing since Civil War, but jumped in the ‘60s and ‘70s.
There has always been single moms and births out of wedlock and commonlaw marriages, but they have been
stigmatized in the past.
Utilitarian individualism – the selfreliant actor, the rugged individualist, the young man ready to go west at
Horace Greely’s suggestion
Expressive individualism – personal growth, getting in touch with your feelings, expressing your needs
America has two tools: individualism and marriage. You can use one today, the next tomorrow, and so on. You use
whatever you can to justify marrying/joining with another person or divorce/breaking it off.
He suggests that the U.S. government is pushing the idea of marriage on people. He says that the message is bad
for the child, because if there is a single parent who rushes into a relation/marriage, it would not be good for the child.
He thinks they should slow down the process to marry and not rush into it (leading to dissatisfaction and
In Arkansas, the covenant marriages could not get an immediate divorce unless there was adultery or physical or
sexual abuse. They could not get the divorce for two years. 2
Arkansas has the lowest percentages of high school graduates and Catholics, and the lowest median ages of any
Americans marry/join with partners, separate, and reenter relationships with new p