The marriage strike is a media term for the recently acknowledged sociological mass action social phenomenon of men choosing to avoid legal marriage. The marriage strike refers to a behavioral trend, usually of men, living within the Western world. Media commentators examining the marriage strike believe that after a considered cost-benefit analysis, the legal contract that is modern marriage no longer represents an attractive option for men living in the changed legal, economic, sociological, cultural, and demographic environment.
In Britain, the number of weddings in 2006 was the fewest since 1895, with the proportion of people getting married falling to the lowest level since 1862, when marriage records began.
Appearance in the Media
In 2002, 'National Marriage Project', published their annual report on the state of marriage in the United States, The State of /Our Unions. The 2002 report was subtitled: Why Men Won't Commit - Exploring Young Men's Attitudes About Sex, Dating and Marriage. This study broke new ground in investigating men's role in the equation of contemporary marriage.
The report found that young men were reluctant to marry. Ten main reasons for their reluctance to marry were cited. The first 3 reasons were:
* 'They can get sex without marriage'.
* They can enjoy "a wife" through cohabitation'.
* 'They want to avoid divorce and its financial risks'.
After the publication of the Rutgers report, columnist and radio broadcaster Glenn Sacks, and Dianna Thompson, the executive director of the American Coalition of Fathers and Children, published a July 5, 2002 article in the Philadelphia Enquirer, titled Have Anti-Father Family Court Policies Led to a Men's Marriage Strike?.Versions of this original article were then disseminated widely.
An excerpt from the Dianna Thompson and Glenn Sacks article:
'Kathleen is attractive, successful, witty, and educated. She also can't find a husband. Why? Because most of the men this thirty-something software analyst dates do not want to get married. These men have Peter Pan Syndrome--they refuse to commit, refuse to settle down, and refuse to "grow up"'.
'However, given the family court policies and divorce trends of today, Peter Pan is no naive boy, but instead a wise man.
"Why should I get married and have kids when I could lose those kids and most of what I've worked for at a moment's notice?" asks Dan, a 31 year-old power plant technician who says he will never marry. "I've seen it happen to many of my friends. I know guys who came home one day to an empty house or apartment--wife gone, kids gone. They never saw it coming. Some of them were never able to see their kids regularly again"'.
'The US marriage rate has dipped 40% over the past four decades, to its lowest point ever. There are many plausible explanations for this trend, but one of the least mentioned is that American men, in the face of a family court system which is hopelessly stacked against them, have subconsciously launched a "marriage strike"'.
'"It's a shame," Dan says. "I always wanted to be a father and have a family. But unless the laws change and give fathers the same right to be a part of their children's lives as mothers have, it just isn't worth the risk"'.
Rutger's 2004 Marriage Report
In a 14 July 2004 article for Intellectual Conservative, retired professor of psychology and commentator Carey Roberts wrote a follow up article, this time on the findings of Rutgers University's 2004 The State of Our Unions report.
In his 2004 article, Carey Roberts stated:
'When almost one-quarter of single men in their prime courting years -- that’s two million potential husbands -- declare a Marriage Strike, we’re facing an unprecedented social crisis'.
'News of the Marriage Strike first began to settle into our national consciousness in 2002. That year, Barbara Dafoe Whitehead and David Popenoe of Rutgers University interviewed sixty men to probe their attitudes about marriage. And to their surprise, they discovered that some of these men were flat-out opposed to tying the knot. So this year, the Rutgers researchers decided to launch a full-scale national survey of single heterosexual men, ages 25-34. These men represent almost 10 million of the nation’s most eligible bachelors. The report was just released last month'.
'Among those men, 53% said they were not interested in getting married anytime soon -- the marriage delayers. That figure alone is cause for concern. But this is the statistic that every American who wants to strengthen and protect marriage should be worried about: 22% of the men said they had absolutely no interest in finding their Truly Beloved. The report described these guys as “hardcore marriage avoiders.”
'Why are these men refusing to marry? Some of their reasons are spelled out in the 2002 report: “Some men express resentment towards a legal system that grants women the unilateral right to decide to terminate a pregnancy…There is also a mistrust of women who may ‘trap’ men into fathering a child by claiming to be sterilized, infertile or on the pill. Many men also fear the financial consequences of divorce…They fear that an ex-wife will 'take you for all you've got' and that 'men have more to lose financially than women' from a divorce."
'Four decades ago, radical feminists, taking their cue from Marxist-Leninist theory, decreed that marriage was nothing more than gender slavery. Claiming to speak on behalf of American women, feminists set out to radically rework -- or even do away with -- the age-old social contract of marriage. And women, mesmerized by the ephemeral promise of liberation and empowerment, opted to go along for the ride'.
'Now, feminists are succeeding beyond their wildest dreams. And women are left to wonder why their Prince Charming is nowhere to be found'.
*The Marriage Strike is not 'organised'. It does not have 'leaders'. The marriage strike is a sociological example of . Mass action refers to situations where large numbers of otherwise isolated individuals independently come to similar conclusions, at the same time, and then act simultaneously on those conclusions in a seemingly coordinated action. A bank run is another example of mass action at work.
*The marriage strike also differs in how individual men prefer to apply their individual strike against their legal system.
**A man may continue a day-to-day marriage like relationship with a partner, and choose to simply forgo the legal contract aspect.
**A man may choose to completely disengage from all relationships.
**Taking advantage of a globalized world, a Western man may decide to pursue marriage and long-term relationships, but overseas, within a different legal jurisdiction, and a different cultural climate.
*Observers of the marriage strike hold that the combination of no-fault divorce, and prevailing prejudices within Western family law applied in divorce courts that are substantially more likely to favor the wife over the husband. This disadvantage extends to rulings over primary child custody, child visitation rights, ownership of the family residence and other shared property, child support, and alimony.
*It has been observed that this situation enables a woman to unilaterally divorce her husband, financially pauperize him, while simultaneously depriving him of the right to see his offspring.
*Observations have been made that since the divorce rate is high, and that women are more likely than men to seek no-fault divorce, then such divorce scenarios are a likely outcome of marriage, and therefore, men cannot be blamed for choosing to side-step a marriage contract. Many women with financial assets or with high paying salaries are also avoiding legal marriage.
*There have also been numerous studies showing that approximately 76% percent of no-fault divorces in the United States were initiated by women -- usually against a man who works a blue-collar job, and for subjective grounds such as "emotional unfulfillment", rather than any actual wrongful conduct of the man himself.
*Divorce is a $28 billion-a-year industry with an average individual case-load cost of about $20,000. Furthermore, it is an unquestionable fact that those men most unable to afford adequate legal representation, are most likely to financially suffer the greatest in resulting judgments and settlements.
*Such evidence gives rise to allegations that many women are unfairly reaping a financial windfall through divorce at their ex-husband's expense, and therefore, men should simply avoid this risk through avoiding marriage altogether.
*Commentators have conjectured that marriage poses absolutely no utility to a man whatsoever, in that traditional positive benefits of consortium, financial security, and child custody have been entirely revamped and eclipsed by reforms to original marriage laws.
*Likewise, external commentators have observed that other social changes, such as the opportunities presented by the advent of and the sexual revolution now represent equal or greater benefits to the lifestyles of non-married persons.
*Commentators hold that changes in family law have created a one-sided situation that unfairly benefits women in both marriage and divorce, to the man's detriment.
Legal Causations of Emerging Western Marriage Strike
The Financial Penalty of Divorce
*Marriage, while being publicly understood as a union between man and woman, is also a legal contract. Divorce then is considered a legal contract that is broken, and legal consequences come into play. There is a division of the previously shared financial assets of the married couple. Assets are divided for distribution to both parties by a court order. Typically, a woman will receive 50% ownership of the couple's assets on the divorce decree. These assets include property, housing, vehicles, savings, and investments.
*No-fault divorce is divorce in which the dissolution of a marriage does not require fault of either party to be shown, or, indeed, any evidentiary proceedings at all. It occurs on petition to the court, typically a family court by either party, without the requirement that the petitioner show fault on the part of the other party. Either party may request, and receive, the dissolution of the marriage, despite the objections of the other party.
Father's Limited Access to Children After Divorce
*In the Western world, family law is structurally more likely to award primary child custody to a child's mother in the case of divorce. This legal situation results in fathers often having very limited access to their children after divorce. In an attempt to balance the rights and needs of the mother, father, and children, courts may award a couple joint custody of their children after divorce.
Alternatives to Traditional Marriage
Cohabitation Without Marriage
*Strong evidence suggests that Western men are choosing to cohabit, and not actually marry. Living with a partner presents a legally safer alternative, with marriage's benefits to both parties, a reduction in the penalties found within marriage, and without the hostility of divorce.
De-facto Law/Common Law:
*However, it should be noted that family law can also be applied in some nations (eg, Australia and Brazil) to de-facto relationships, also called common law marriages. After a certain length of time, the breakup of a non-marriage, live-in relationship can legally result in a man losing his assets to his 'de-facto wife', as considered by the law.
*A prenuptial agreement, commonly abbreviated to 'prenup', is a contract entered into by two people prior to marriage. The content of a prenuptial agreement can vary widely, but commonly includes provisions for the division of property should the couple divorce and any rights to spousal support during or after the dissolution of marriage.
*All marriage dissolutions (divorces) have property distribution plans, either decided by the married parties, or decided by a divorce judge using guidelines written by state law. So technically speaking, all marriages have either a "prenup" decided by the marriage partners, or a "postnup" decided by a judge.
*Prenuptial agreements are rarely recognized by law in case of divorce. Prenuptial agreements are, at best, a partial solution to obviating some of the risks of marital property disputes in times of divorce. They are not the final word.
*Prenuptial agreements cannot specify zero amounts, can expire after time depending on state law (examples include Donald Trump divorcing Marla Maples before five years expiration, Tom Cruise divorcing Nicole Kidman before ten years expiration), and must be written properly to withstand court challenges.
*Prenuptial agreements are frequently challenged in court. For example, film mogul Steven Spielberg and actress Amy Irving had a prenup, written on a restaurant napkin, that was thrown out by the divorce judge, and Amy was awarded $100 million. Fashion models Christie Brinkley and Peter Cook had a prenup that was written so well Mr. Cook commented later that he would use Christie's prenup in his future marriage, as Peter was only awarded $2 million.
Consequences of the Marriage Strike
*Men's marriage strike is contributing to profound social changes in the West, increasing the pressure upon policy-makers to protect men's human rights in the equation of marriage & family. In mid-2008, the 2006 statistics on British births and marriages were released: 'Since 2006 the proportion of children born to married British parents is thought to have dropped below 50 per cent for the first time. They are being outweighed by those who are part of cohabiting couples or single-parent families. It comes as data from the Office for National Statistics show that women are having more children than at any time since the 1970s'.
*The same day, the Daily Mail also reported on the latest set of numbers: 'Official figures indicate that only a minority of children of long-standing British parents will grow up with a married mother and father. Most will be part of cohabiting or single-parent families. In contrast, only one in 50 children of mothers who were born in India before they came here had unmarried parents.'
*On the issue of less children being born into two-parent marriages, in 2006, Ann Widdecombe, a former Tory Home Office minister, said: 'After the death of the extended family, we are now seeing the death of the nuclear family. "The long-term consequences are bad for everyone. A well-ordered society is based on the bedrock of marriage, otherwise we will have increasing social disruption.'
Projected Future Consequences of the Marriage Strike for Western Women
Just as wider society is being shaped by Western men's disengagement from marriage, the marriage strike also represents a profound challenge to the lives of Western women.
*After the 2005 release of a government-commissioned study of contemporary social trends, the British government observed the future shape of British life: 'The report said that by 2031 40 per cent of men and 35 per cent of women aged 45 to 54 in England and Wales would not have married. "At the age of 45 to 54 the proportion of people married is projected to fall from 71 per cent in 2003 to 48 per cent in 2031 for men," a spokesman for the actuary department said. "For women, the figures are 72 per cent to 50. "The proportion of those never married by 45 to 54 is expected to rise over the same period from 14 to 40 per cent for males and nine to 35 per cent for females."
*In reaction to the publication of the same 2005 report, Jill Kirby, of the Centre for Policy Studies, stated: "The serious decline of marriage is a very worrying development. Cohabitation is an inherently fragile partnership. A lot of women in their forties and fifties will be living alone, perhaps having had a relationship or two but never having been married, with all sorts of emotional and financial implications. The question is: do we want these predictions to come true or do we want to try to recover some of the virtues and values of the past?"
*The Telegraph's article on the government report also observed that: The marriage projections have great implications for Government policy, as well as significant sociological effects. For example, terms such as mother-in-law and father-in-law will become far less common and there will be far fewer hefty divorce settlements in favour of women.