Is marriage nowadays so unconventional that it’s become the new counterculture?

Booksmith storefront, Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco
Booksmith storefront, Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco

In early February, I spoke to Christin Evans, owner of Booksmith, in the Haight-Ashbury part of San Francisco, to suggest that my book, Marriage Meetings for Lasting Love, be included in a display about love and romance before February 14th.

If you’ve heard of Haight-Ashbury, home of the late 1960’s hippie movement, her response might not surprise you.

She said, “We don’t do that. We’re displaying books about pirates.”


Christin broke the silence. “We’re counterculture here.”

I knew Christin is smart, a Vassar College graduate, and I knew she was married, because I’d checked out the store’s website.

“Marriage seems to be counterculture these days,” popped out of my mouth.

Christin laughed.

Later I wondered, do I really believe that marriage is counterculture?

According to Wikipedia, “A counterculture…is a subculture whose values and norms of behavior differ substantially from those of mainstream society, often in opposition to mainstream cultural mores.”

Before the late 1960’s, the joke was that a woman went to college for an “MRS” (Mrs.) degree. She became a mother and homemaker, supported financially by her husband. Divorce, cohabiting, and staying single were frowned upon. Women who bore children outside of marriage were stigmatized.

The financial incentive for women to marry and stay married no longer generally applies; about one-third of wives out earn their husbands.

Sexual possibilities for unmarried people abound in most circles. Noncommittal romantic partners live together or separately.  Singles may choose to have sex with “friends with benefits” or by hooking-up.  Most couples who do marry first live together.

A large percentage of adults have parents who either divorced or stayed together unhappily. Many of today’s adults have been divorced themselves at least once or twice. Given the huge numbers of failed or unhappy marriages in recent decades, it’s no wonder that so many people are choosing an arrangement that feels safer.

Lifestyles that were distained not so long ago are now, are now, collectively in many areas, more common than marriage and widely accepted.

What does this say about marriage?

Hold on to your hats because…marriage is the new counterculture!

Now that marriage is no longer needed for financial support, sex, childbearing, or society’s approval, many people are saying it’s old fashioned. But is it really?

There is marriage–and there is marriage.

The 1950’s kind of marriage has passed its expiration date. It includes fixed gender roles and especially values material possessions, physical satisfaction, and social status.

As society has changed, so have our needs, even if we are not necessarily aware of what they are. When spouses don’t know what they require to be happy together but sense something is missing, it’s easy for many to blame the institution of marriage or each other.

I believe in marriage—the healthy 21st century kind, which values intimacy, romance, teamwork, and respectful resolution of issues. Marriage Meetings for Lasting Love is a resource for creating such a relationship.

This new kind of marriage has been developing because of how the world has changed. It fosters the emotional and spiritual growth of both partners, and is also physically and materially satisfying.

I think the recent descent in popularity of marriage, expressed often with cynicism, is temporary. It is a preparation for its ascent.

The new era for marriage features relationships that support the growth and vitality of both partners.[1] The new era. If this sounds to you like “the dawning of the Age of Aquarius,” words from the musical, Hair, I’m with you!

Marital partners in this kind of union communicate so as to meet their own and each other’s true needs. They experience an ongoing sense of emotional security, because they have committed to stay together through thick and thin and they act accordingly. The new kind of marriage is fulfilling in all the important ways, and lasts a lifetime.

The institution of marriage is evolving. As more and more of today’s and tomorrow’s couples learn how to create the relationship they really want, I expect marriage to re-emerge as the favored lifestyle.

[1]Marriage Meetings for Lasting Love: 30 Minutes a Week to the Relationship You’ve Always Wanted, tells you step-by-step, just how to create a union that is emotionally and spiritually fulfilling, as well as physically and materially satisfying–and lasts a lifetime.

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© Copyright 2015 Marcia Naomi Berger, MSW, LCSW, All rights Reserved.