Here's how we imagine marriage will be: We stand before the people who matter to us -- parents, relatives, friends -- and we vow to love, honor and cherish our beloved "until death do us part."
Except, many of us have replaced "until death do us part" with "for as long as our love shall last" or something along those lines, which has made some people nervous. "They have divorce in mind -- they're wary. It's just realism," says the Rev. Bonnie Nixon, a Torrance, California, non-denominational minister.
I'm not sure what's wrong with realism -- isn't that better than some fairytale version of marriage? Because the latest stats indicate that "until death do us part" isn't what a good portion of us experience. According to the Pew Research Center, four out of 10 new marriages last year included at least one partner who had been married before, and a good percentage who haven't yet are interested in doing so.
Which seems to indicate that, no, marriage is not going away anytime soon. But when you break it down by gender, more women than men say they have no interest in marrying again.
While some may say that's because men their age aren't necessarily interested in women their age -- and let's face it, when it comes to marriages that aren't the first, some 16 percent of the men are a good 10 years older or more than the little missus), there are a good number of women who are happy to be solo.
Why? According to sociologist and author Pepper Schwartz, marriage just isn't a good deal anymore for women, especially now that we have so many options.
When women's life choices were highly constrained, they had little negotiating power. They had to marry or were seen as damaged. ... It's different now. While most women still want marriage, they don't want it at just any price. They don't want it if it scuttles their dreams. ... women want to craft a life instead of having it pressed upon them. And that means some of us will be single for a long time, and some of us will be single for life.
Are women anti-marriage? Not necessarily, but marriage hasn't been all that great for women -- for many years our husbands could legally beat and rape us (both are still allowed elsewhere in the world), and it wasn't until the 1960s that we could have credit cards in our own name, serve on a jury or attend an Ivy League university. Once no-fault divorce came along, the rates of suicide, domestic violence and even murder at the hands of their partner for women dropped dramatically. But sadly for many years, marriage was a woman's only option.
Across the world, women drive divorce; in the United States they file more than two-thirds of the divorces. And let's not forget that women are still in charge of the emotional caretaking -- the unpaid caring work for friends, extended family, schools, and religious and other community organizations -- and the planning, organizing and structuring of family life -- that often goes unnoticed or unappreciated. So it makes sense that some may not be eager to tie the knot again.
While some middle-aged women don't want to tie the knot again, that doesn't mean we aren't interested in having deep, intimate and, yes, sexual relationships with men. We do. It's just that we acknowledge that marriage may not be the best way to get that.
Vicki Larson is the co-author of "The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels," which helps people define and create the marriage they want. A version of this article appears on her blog, OMG Chronicles.