Canadian marriage changing, says University of Alberta sociologist

A University of Alberta sociologist who studies modern marriage and says that it isn't what it used to be.

Marriage for the average Canadian is no longer the fundamental cornerstone of life it once was.

Strohschein says that marriage has become more of a "capstone" to someone's life, as opposed to a "cornerstone." (iStock)

David Bowie released "Modern Love" 33 years ago, in 1983.

The song, the opening tune on his massive selling record 'Let's Dance,' hears him lament about the current state of love. It turns out that all these years later, maybe the Thin White Duke was onto something.

Lisa Strohschein, a sociologist at the University of Alberta, studies modern marriage and says it isn't what it used to be.

For those who want to be love birds on the search for their soulmates not all is lost, Lisa Strohschein says modern love isn't disappearing, it's just changing. (

She received a grant from the federal Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council to study how families are changing, and says modern love is actually changing a core concept of the Canadian family.

Marriage for the average Canadian is no longer the fundamental cornerstone of life it once was.

Modern love walks on by

Love is a difficult thing to study, the term is fluid in nature, and there exists no real metrics to measure it. 

People attempting to learn about the subject look at the symptoms of love.

Strohschein says her research includes why people get married, how those marriages work, and how people find love. 

She says that when looking at this data, one can infer that marriage is changing. 

"The twist on the modern marriage, certainly what we've been seeing in the last little while, is that people are approaching marriage very differently," said Strohschein. "They're still looking for their soulmate, but it's not 'let's go find somebody and launch our lives together' anymore."

"Instead, they're increasingly spending time in school and getting themselves established. They may even be having children before they get married."

Strohschein says that marriage has become more of a "capstone" to someone's life — the final step to becoming an adult — whereas it used to be treated as a "cornerstone."

Never gonna fall for modern love

Strohschein explains that the current environment shapes young adults' decisions, and the challenges faced by the younger generation is changing the role of marriage in Canadian society. 

"We live in a world where you can't just go out after high school and get a good job and buy a home. That might have been true in the 1960s, but it sure isn't true for the 21st century," said Strohschein. 

I think we still idolize marriage a lot... but certainly how we meet our need for intimacy certainly has changed a lot.- Lisa  Strohschein

"All the kinds of markers that we've assumed 'this is what it takes to succeed,' they're just having to push them off further and further back, and marriage, of course, gets pushed back even further."

According to data, people just don't enter marriage quickly anymore. 

People are more likely to finish their education before getting married and because they are older, they are more picky choosing a partner.

Strohschein says that no one is entering into a marriage saying they hope it doesn't work, but the idea that marriage takes work and that you need to work at it, is lost on some. 

"It's far easier to say 'Oh, this isn't my soulmate anymore.' You start to think 'maybe there's something better for me out there,' and it's a little bit of a delusion actually," she said.

But I try

For those who want to be love birds on the search for their soulmates, not all is lost. Strohschein says modern love isn't disappearing. 

She also says that Canadians still maintain a high level of respect for marriage. Statistically almost every Canadian will, at one point in their life, enter into matrimony.

Family sociologist Lisa Strohschein says the challenges faced by the younger generation is changing the role of marriage in Canadian society. (Getty Images)

"I think we still idolize marriage a lot, I still think that people believe in marriage, it's something people aspire to," said Strohschein.  

"I wouldn't say (marriage) is in jeopardy but how we meet our need for intimacy, certainly has changed a lot."

If you don't believe Strohschein, well, maybe you can take the word of the man once known as Ziggy Stardust.

Bowie takes a little bit of a different tone with love on "Shake It," the final song of Let's Dance, as opposed to "Modern Love."

"Cause love is the answer," he sings.


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