Like just about every politician, Jon Ossoff has seen his private life come under public scrutiny. The 30-year-old Democrat running to represent Georgia's sixth congressional district has been dating his girlfriend Alisha Kramer for twelve years, and that's led some to ask if Ossoff and Kramer will get married any time soon. But this is not the question that we should be asking.
"I've been living with Alisha, my girlfriend of 12 years, down by Emory University, where she's a full-time medical student," Ossoff said in an interview with CNN's Alisyn Camerota on Tuesday. "And as soon as she concludes her medical training, I'll be 10 minutes back up the street in the district where I grew up, but I want to support her and her career and do right by her."
"So, when are you going to marry her?" Camerota asked in response. To be fair, it was a half-joke — the kind of softball question a journalist throws in at the end of an interview to lighten the mood before cutting to commercial. And yet it nevertheless reflects a widely-held assumption about relationships that's worth challenging: The idea that all healthy romantic relationships should, by definition, lead to marriage.
Many couples do decide to get married, and that's great — especially now that it's legal for everyone in the U.S. to do so, regardless of gender. But many people decide, for one reason or another, not to tie the knot, and that's perfectly fine as well. Unmarried relationships are no less valid than married ones — and Americans in Ossoff's age group have been opting out of marriage at much greater rates than their parents.
In 1960, 75 percent of college-educated Americans younger than 30 were or had been married; by 2008, that number had plummeted to 43 percent, according to Pew Research. The marriage rate for non-college educated Americans has fallen even more drastically, from 86 percent in 1960 to 46 percent in 2008. No matter how you slice it, the majority of young Americans aren't getting married anymore, a reversal of decades-long trends.
Can we stop pushing marriage so obnoxiously? Even "jokingly," it's not okay. Kind of makes marriage advocates look desperate and cult-like. pic.twitter.com/VihRj4CpU3— Rachel Kramer Bussel (@raquelita) April 19, 2017
There could be a number of reasons for this. For some, student debt and an uncertain job market make marriage a bigger financial lift than it may have been in generations past. Others have argued that increased access to contraception and abortion have inadvertently kept the marriage rate down, as couples can now hold off starting a family until they're ready. Some even insist that dating apps incentivize young people to stay single for loner.
And there's the fact that some couples simply don't want to get married. They've thought about it, weighed the pros and cons, and concluded that marriage isn't the path for them. And there is nothing wrong with that.
“I think realizing that you don’t need to have an endgame, that there isn’t a bottom line, per se, is important," 28-year-old Holly Dembinski told the Washington Post. "There isn’t a goal to pertain to be happy, it’s finding happiness in the present.”
There are plenty of possible reasons why Ossoff and Kramer may have decided not to get married yet — but whatever those reasons are, they aren't our business. Ossoff's relationship status is completely irrelevant to his qualifications as a political candidate, so let's focus on the policy issues at stake in the race, and let him and Kramer conduct their relationship as they please.