Friday, September 04, 2009

Predictions of Today's Marriages

This photo is of one famous man's wife and mistress.

July 22, 2009

Today's marriages as predicted 40 years ago
The wedding season is upon us. It runs from spring to late autumn. It's anybody's guess how many weddings occurred just this last weekend.
Today's weddings occur in a sociological atmosphere quite different from that of a couple's parents and grandparents.
The current atmosphere we've collectively spawned over the years is no friend of the newly married, or long-married for that matter. Didn't we ever see where we were going?

Someone did.

In 1970 an interesting book, "Future Shock," was written by Alvin Toffler. He was a sociology professor at Cornell University who conducted research into future value systems.

From this research he predicted what our culture could expect in the fast-arriving future and how it would affect our lives. He showed how we were fast forming a "throw-away" society.

This, in turn, would lead us to adopt a concept of transience, a new "temporariness" in everyday life as well as a mood of impermanence. This Age of Transience would soon affect our relationship with people, but also our attitude toward things, places, ideas, as well as toward institutions and organizations.

He wrote, "The people of the future will live in a condition of 'high transience' - a condition in which the duration of relationships is cut short ... things, places, people, ideas, and organizational structures will all get 'used up' more quickly." Permanent commitment to anything would become passé.

Before most of last week's brides and grooms were even born, Toffler predicted that success in the marriage of the future would come to be determined by the degree to which matched development actually occurs between spouses.

Love would be determined by the degree of shared growth, not necessarily by the giving of self.

Yet, he goes on to say, "The mathematical odds are heavily stacked against any couple achieving this ideal of parallel growth. The odds plummet when the rate of change in a society accelerates, as it is now doing. In a fast-moving society in which ... the family is again and again torn loose from home and community, in which individuals move further from their parents, further from the religion of origin, and further from traditional values, it is almost miraculous if two people develop at anything like comparable rates."

Dire words!

And now, almost 40 years later, our own observations bear him out. Human relationships have become more transient and the development of genuine love more tenuous. Love is now sought in serial marriages or clandestine affairs.

In 1970 Toffler claimed that in the future those who marry will have an average of three marriages in their lifetime: the first for the expression of sexuality; the second for procreating children; and the third for companionship.

"There will be some," he predicted, "who, through luck, interpersonal skill and high intelligence, will find it possible to make long-lasting monogamous marriages work. Some will succeed in marrying for life and finding durable love and affection. But the others will fail to make even sequential marriages endure for long."

My dear brides and grooms, isn't it remarkably sad that what was predicted 39 years ago has now become true?

May your marriage be counter-culture, your commitment permanent, your love enduring. And may your children find in your relationship an inspiration for their own.

Father Lou Guntzelman is a Catholic priest of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. Reach him at or contact him directly at P.O. Box 428541, Cincinnati, OH 45242. Please include a mailing address or fax number if you wish for him to respond.

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