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  • Italy's Marriage Problem
    An overview of the reasons why Italians are not marrying as often as they used to puts the so-called “crisis” in perspective
    Our Paesani

    by Francesca Di Meglio

    Marriage in Italy is going out of style. It's been happening for sometime now. New opportunities for women, mothers sickly devoted to their sons, and the rising cost of raising a family have contributed to this serious problem. Some have called it a crisis. Maybe our worries are exaggerated. A little analysis might calm our nerves about the impending death of marriage in Italy.

    By now you probably know all too well that Italy - with 1.3 children per woman - has one of the lowest birth rates in the Western world. Some experts, in fact, say there will be 14 million fewer Italians by 2050. Surely, you've also heard that more than 80 percent of Italian men still live at home with their parents well into their thirties and are marrying less frequently than in the past. These "mamma's boys" are called mammoni, and they have been written about endlessly in Italy and the United States. These statistics are often used to describe the marriage problem in Italy.

    Let's face facts. Marriage is tough in any country. If you're lucky, love is the foundation for your commitment to one another. But still a lifetime commitment brings with it certain responsibilities and obligations. These demands can not be ignored. In addition, the two married people who agreed to this contract have unique personalities, needs, desires, dreams, and family. They have to combine their lives, control their moods, and still fulfill all those promises - faithfulness, household chores, working to pay the bills, raising children, loving and caring for one another in sickness and health. It's a lot of pressure.

    Part of the problem is that today's men and women in Italy don't have much to gain from marriage. Many men remain at home with their mothers because mom cooks and cleans for him. She has dinner on the table for him when he returns from work, does his laundry, the works.

    Married Italian women, on the other hand, are among the hardest working women in the world. They maintain careers and do most of the chores without help from the hubby. Young women in Italy, who are educated and driven in their careers, observe their elders and think, "Why should I agree to this?"

    In the old days, men and women might have been driven by the possibility of having sex to get married. But most people - even in Italy - in the Western world do not wait for marriage to have sex nowadays. And they know how to prevent pregnancy, too, which is why the birth rate is so low.

    Having children used to be the joy of most Italians. But nowadays the economy has stinted that desire. In Europe, as elsewhere, raising a child might be emotionally fulfilling, but it's financially draining. And Italians are still facing growing pains after introducing the euro in the early part of the new millennium.

    Some critics, however, say these are all just excuses from a generation of Peter Pans who never want to grow up. But even an Italian Peter Pan would be willing to mature, leave mamma, and balance work and life for the right person. Love, after all, is the real motivator for marriage. You first have to have a desire to be with someone forever. Without that, no one would give up their comforts or the life they have already worked to create.

    The good news is that Italians, for the most part, are still in love with love. They believe in romance and flirtation, and they are known the world over for their passion. In other words, there is hope that marriage - and the Italian population - will survive, after all. It's simply a matter of reigniting the spark that brings people together and has them pairing off. Working to rebuild a dating culture - think Internet dating or mamma matchmakers or families that pressure you to get married just as Italian Americans do to their young still today - might help. Fate alone could also be enough. People who are meant to be together might just find each other. Plus, once you give a challenge to Italians, they tend to want to surpass your expectations.

    For more information on all things Italian, visit www.francescadimeglio.com. For more information on marriage, visit http://newlyweds.about.com, where Di Meglio is the guide to Newlyweds.

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