Divorce is also becoming common. The American divorce rate is currently 43%, much like that of several other Western countries. But people are changing their attitude about marital separation, seeing it less as failure and more as the first step toward finding true happiness.

Romantic love within marriage, divorce, remarriage: these trends are not new. For millions of years in ancient Africa both men and women commuted to work to hunt or gather fruits and vegetables. The double income family was the rule. The sexes were economic, social and sexual equals. And men and women married and remarried whom they chose. As women re-enter the paid labor force in droves, we are reassuming these ancient life ways.

Today, for example, most men and women experiment with sex and love long before they wed. Many live together before they tie the knot. Some have children first, then marry. And many have two or three spouses across their lives. All are traditions from prehistory.

In fact, we no longer live in a traditional marriage culture. Older women are marrying younger men. Inter-racial marriages have increased dramatically. Homosexuals can now form legal bonds in several states. Older people are remarrying rather than settling with their children. Living together, commuter marriages, visiting marriages, polyamorous marriages, childless marriages, singlehood, bearing children out of wedlock, registered domestic partners, divorce, remarriage, step families: In short, we can no longer expect most people to spend most of their lives in one traditional style marriage.

But are we happy? The New York Times recently reported that 51% of American women are currently living without a spouse. Is this reason to panic? On the contrary, it may be reason to celebrate.

Take the widows. In past centuries most women died young; today they are enjoying their senior years. What's wrong with that? Others are still young. Unchained from the narrow routines of farm life, they can finally postpone an early marriage to explore their opportunities in a wider world. What's wrong with that? Last are those who have divorced. Finally, these women have the economic means to leave bad marriages to make good ones.

In fact, demographers and historians say that women in the western world are experiencing happier marriages today than at any time in history probably for two reasons. Foremost, many women (and men) can afford to walk out of bad marriages to make better ones. Second, with the current emphasis on companionship within marriage, people today expect more from their partnerships and are working harder on their relationships than at any time in history.

Despite these obvious, largely beneficial, and largely worldwide changes, Americans cling to their outmoded beliefs about traditional marriage. I wonder if they know what they espouse?

In historical times, most husbands had the sole responsibility for the family's economic worth, while most wives were uneducated and confined to kitchen, church and nursery. Virginity at marriage was required; divorce was almost impossible; and a double standard for adultery prevailed; even rape within marriage was excused.