Till Death Do Us Part ... ?

Jessica Bennett and Jesse Ellison make the case against marriage:

It may counter what we grew up thinking, but maybe that's not such a bad thing. With our life expectancy in the high 70s, the idea that we're meant to be together forever is less realistic. As Hannah Seligson, the author of A Little Bit Married, puts it, there's a "new weight to the words 'I do.'?" Healthy partnerships are possible, for surebut the permanence of marriage seems naive, almost arrogant. "Committing to one person forever is a long time," says Helen Fisher. "I wonder how many people really think about that." If you're anything like us, you'll have plenty of time to do just thatwhile you're sitting in the pews, at other people's weddings.

Andrew Romano rebuts his colleagues:

The fact is, marriage isn't going anywhere. It will always be the dominant expression of love and commitment in our society. If young, egalitarian, independent men and women like Bennett and Ellison cede the entire institution to people who are fine with the old, broken model, then love and commitment will always be defined primarily in the very terms they abhor. To really alter the dynamic of male-female relationships in America, we'll have to redefine marriage from the inside out.

And this has already happened. But do I think that commitment to one another for life is unreasonable or foolish? Yes, we do live much longer than most humans when marriage was forged in the West, and our options as individuals are more constant and more compelling in a wealthy time of comparative leisure.

But I take the "forever" seriously myself. And I think that core vow - never to abandon one's spouse, to make living together work even when exit might seem easier - is central to marriage's power. It is unreasonable - which is why we promise it. The vow establishes the arc of our ambition, and a sense of marital love's eternity. This is why it remains sacred to me - because committing to another human being for ever - is always sacred. And when we commit to something this profound, we need to find some, well, awe to understand it.