We have used this column in the past to bemoan the sad trend away from marriage and commitment — more and more young couples choosing to cohabitate rather than to marry.
Of course, highly religious people continue to value marriage. But in America as a whole, marriage is losing ground.
But there is a countertrend going on within a particular demographic where both the quantity and the quality of marriages are on the upswing. Let us tell you about it through our own experience:
One of our main speaking clients over the past couple of decades has been the Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO), a worldwide association of corporate presidents and CEOs. To join, you must head a multimillion-dollar company before you turn 40. Thus, by definition, these are young, educated, aggressive, type-A personalities who want to be the best at everything they do, including their parenting and their marriages. They are, in a way, the prototype of a new kind of marriage and parenting and a new kind of family that combines the best from the traditional strong-commitment marriages of the past and the equal-partnership, role-sharing marriages many aspire to for the future.
YPOers are — as evidenced by how often they bring us in to speak to them in their various chapters around the world — very, very interested in developing strong and lasting marriages and families and in raising responsible and highly motivated kids.
Their divorce rate is low, and their kids are, generally speaking, solid, polite and high-achieving. These parents prioritize their families and devote a lot of time and mental effort to their marriage relationships and to their parenting.
And while we can’t take much credit for any of it, most of them are poster families for the mission statement of our writing and speaking company, which is: “Fortify families by celebrating commitment, popularizing parenting, validating values and bolstering balance.”
Curiously, what is happening in the world today is that highly educated and economically successful families are prioritizing and committing themselves to marriage and parenting with much more regularity and dedication than lower-income, less-educated parents. Frankly, hands-on parenting and real partnership in marriage is becoming “the thing to do” among young upwardly mobile couples.
According to Richard Reeves, writing in The Atlantic, “a new version (of marriage) is emerging — egalitarian, committed and focused on children. There was a time when college-educated women were the least likely to be married. Today they are the most important drivers of the new marriage model. Their marriages offer more satisfaction, last longer and produce more successful children.”
Reeves goes on to write, “Against all predictions, educated Americans are rejuvenating marriage.”
Fathers in this new model of marriage spend much more time with their children and are much more likely to share household duties with their wives.
And the great thing about it, at least from our observation, is that these committed, aspiring families are not doing it out of duty but out of joy. They are working at their relationships because they have concluded that relationships are what matter and what will make them happy.
Generally, it is the very demographic we are talking about here — the better-educated, higher-income segment of society — that sets patterns and starts trends that are then followed by more and more of the population. We can only hope that this will be the case with more lasting and celebrated commitments and more popular and energetic parenting.