Recently, it seemed like I had quite a few young friends who were a little too eager to tie the knot. As I sat in the back of the crowded church, the only thought running through my mind was, “after the divorce, which one of them will be keeping the toaster I bought for their wedding gift?”

It seems so senseless to get married knowing that half of all marriages fail.However, statistics commonly reported about divorce are exaggerated. Rates are actually still falling from their highest peak in the 1980s.

The divorce rate in 2005 was only 3.6 percent per 1,000 people, the lowest rate since 1970. It is down from 4.2 percent per 1,000 people in 2000.

In recent years, divorce rates have been portrayed to have risen astronomically, making it seem as if marriage isn’t a goal of new generations.

However, the number of divorces peaked at the highest rate in history at 5.3 percent per 1,000 people in 1981, almost three decades ago.

But before you put away the cynicism and Google engagement rings, look at the reason divorce rates have fallen. It’s not because people are staying married; they simply aren’t getting married. It is still entirely possible that new generations don’t plan to wed.

There were approximately 2.23 million marriages in 2005, down from the 2.28 million the previous year, despite a total population increase of 2.9 million.

While people aren’t getting married, they are still living together in a wedded environment. The number of unmarried couples cohabitating soared from 43,000 in 1960 to 5.4 million in 2005.

Some believe the reason for this change is a backlash of children from broken families, refusing to follow in their parents’ footsteps. They are simply “gun shy” about marriage.

The State of Our Unions 2005, a report issued by the National Marriage Project at Rutgers University, said that 63 percent of American children grow up with both biological parents — the lowest figure in the Western world.

Many young couples are choosing to live together in a married environment but not legally tying the knot as a solution to the pressure of marriage and divorce. However, studies have found that cohabitation before marriage, or cohabitation with no intention of marriage, is very unhealthy for relationships.

One report found that only 12 percent of these relationships last more than 10 years. A Penn State study found that even a month of cohabitation decreases the quality of a relationship.

People who live together before getting married are also 50 percent more likely to get a divorce than couples that do not live together before marriage.

Also, living in the south increases your chance of getting a divorce. CNN reported that states in the “Bible Belt” have a divorce rate that is roughly 50 percent above the national average. These states include Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas.

CNN also reported that the higher southern divorce rates usually can be attributed to the fact that couples in the South enter their first marriages at a younger age, family incomes in the South are lower and educational attainment is lower.

Age is a contributor to divorce all over the nation. The younger the couple, the more likely their marriage will fail. Approximately 64 percent of divorced women are under the age of 24.

A study by the National Institute of Mental Health and UCLA’s Laboratory of Neuro-Imaging stated that the point of intellectual maturity, the “age of reason,” comes at about age 25, and major decisions shouldn’t be made before then.

The National Healthy Marriage Resource Center claims that postponing marriage until after the age of 25 can reduce the chance of divorce by 25 percent.

It seems that we can’t stay together when we get married, and we can’t stay together when we don’t get married.

What does the future of relationships hold? This hesitant, uncommitted behavior that is being passed down through generations could lead society further and further away from marriage and monogamy all together.

Marriage is something that should be broached at an appropriate age and health of a relationship. Two people should come together to make a mature decision about the future of both of their lives.

However, not getting married to solve divorce is like building cemeteries to cure cancer. It isn’t a solution. It simply makes the devastation less of an issue.

Sitting in the back of the church, it was easy to be cynical about my friends’ relationship. It was not easy to be cynical, however, when seeing how much happier they were together than apart.

I’ve been told that when the time comes, the choice is unmistakable. The solution is waiting until it seems unreasonable to not be married.

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