Is Marriage Becoming Extinct?

By Kris W. Sky | Posted October 18, 2021

Marriage—who needs it? At least, that’s what 19 percent of participants in this year’s American Family Survey professed.

The survey, conducted annually since 2015 in a coordinated effort by Brigham Young University’s Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy, an academic research hub of the Mormon educational giant, and Deseret News, a newspaper based out of Salt Lake City, Utah, covered a broad range of topics with the goal of evaluating the state of the American family. 

For the past two years, it has done so in the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic. Typically, approximately 3,000 American adults “whose characteristics mirror those of the general population” are polled by YouGov, a data and analysis company in the United Kingdom. 

This year’s conclusions were distinct enough to cause some to wonder: Is the institution of marriage on its way to extinction?

The Marriage Paradox

According to the summary report, “Though the overall patterns suggest broad continuity, the numbers continue to see slight erosion in the public’s evaluation of marriage as an institution.” And the “erosion” tends toward the negative.

Those who “[believe] that marriage [is] needed to create strong families” dropped to “52 percent,” a new low in the history of the survey. The number who think marriage “makes families and children better off financially” declined to its lowest ever as well, at 58 percent. Forty-five percent agree that “society is better off … when more people are married,” compared to 56 percent in 2017 and 49 percent just last year. And, as previously mentioned, 19 percent now see marriage as “old-fashioned and out-of-date.” While 19 percent is far from the majority, it is a significant increase from the first American Family Survey, where only 12 percent held this viewpoint. Instead, there has been a rise in Americans who have concluded that “being legally married is not as important as personal commitment,” now 48 percent from last year’s 45 percent. This is the highest percentage ever polled for the statement, excepting a 50 percent response in 2017.

Yet this year’s survey also found that 13 percent of participants view marriage as “more of a burden than a benefit,” a three percent decrease from last year. Herein lies the evidence of what W. Bradford Wilcox, a member of the American Family Survey’s advisory committee, dubbed “The Marriage Paradox,” in which “Americans [are] now less likely to embrace an institution that affords them and their communities so many economic, emotional, and social goods.” 

Wilcox observed that, in a striking dichotomy, while many Americans in the upper echelon of society “publicly embrace family diversity,” “privately they actually embrace a kind of marriage mindset. They … tend to get married and stay married.” In other words, they say one thing but do another. 

These findings have resulted in the following conclusions from the surveyors: “There is reason to believe that people are slightly growing less attached to marriage as an institution.” They are careful, however, to state: “We would not want to imply that marriage is in trouble as an institution.” So while no alarm is being sounded, there does exist a general trend toward a society that finds marriage unnecessary and irrelevant.

Spiritual Husband and Wife

 The beautiful, sacred bond of marriage, when “a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24), was instituted at Creation. Throughout the rest of Scripture, God reveals to us that this same kind of covenant is to be exemplified between Himself and His people. God promises, “I will betroth you to Me forever; yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and justice, in lovingkindness and mercy; I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness, and you shall know the LORD” (Hosea 2:19, 20). Notice how in this most intimate of bonds is embodied “righteousness,” “justice,” “lovingkindness,” “mercy,” “faithfulness”—the very character of God. This is what God desires to give us in this spiritual marriage, His love for us, Himself (1 John 4:8).

And “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). God’s love is a saving love; His is a marriage of salvation. “This is the covenant” that God wants to give to us: “I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people” (Hebrews 8:10). We “shall become one flesh,” united, surrendered; we shall be wholly “transformed into the same image” we are “beholding,” that is, “the glory of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18), and “then [we] shall know just as [we] also [are] known” (1 Corinthians 13:12). Yes, “your Maker is your husband, the LORD of hosts is His name; and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel” (Isaiah 54:5).

Why do people deliberately choose against doing what has been proven to be for their own good? Did you know the Lord asks us the same question: “Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?” (Ezekiel 33:11). Christ Jesus longs for His people to enter into this marriage relation with Him so that we will live. He who brought us to life wants us to live for eternity.

For a rejuvenating look at how your own marriage can teach you about this most holy covenant with God, read through our free, online Study Guide “Keys for a Happy Marriage.”

Don’t let your relationship with God go the way of today’s ups and downs. Enter into a covenant with a God whose love for you lasts forever.

Kris W. Sky
Kris W. Sky is a writer and editor for Amazing Facts International and other online and print publications.

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