Thursday, December 8, 2011

Marr-we-age vs. Marr-i-age

Marr-we-age vs. Marr-i-age.

The institution of marriage has been an integral part of the family and society for as long as history has been recorded. Today it is undergoing a tremendous change, and many believe it is at a critical crossroads of its existence. The sanctity of marriage is under attack, and on a daily basis—is mocked as an outdated social institution. Its relevancy, benefit, and need are questioned by many in the culture.

Even though the documented research overwhelmingly substantiates the benefits of marriage, even though the book of scripture—the Bible—clearly demonstrates God’s plan for marriage, many in our culture seem oblivious to taking to heart all that is so abundantly clear.

AT THIS POINT MANY WLL STOP READING. They/we have heard a message we perceived as condemning, many times. They may be divorced, or a product of divorce. They may have a daughter who has given birth outside of marriage. They may have a son who has walked away from a marriage leaving the children fatherless. They may be cohabitating, have cohabitated, or know of someone who has cohabitated—maybe their children. A majority of us may fall into these categories.

By nature, we do not want to repeatedly hear what we think is reflecting a patronizing or condemning attitude. And to some, if biblical truths are referenced, it creates an even greater barrier to hearing any information about the committed institution of marriage.

Well this message is not meant to be patronizing or condemning. It is meant to be uplifting, not judgmental. It is founded in the spirit of truth and grace. It is that combination of compassion and reality that provide a sense of hope.

So is there hope for marriage? Yes. Over 80% of high school seniors want to have a successful marriage relationship. That is documented research data, fact—the truth. If you favor marriage, that is good news. The not so good news is what they see going on around them;
• Marriage rates have declined by 50% over the past 35 years
• Number of cohabitating couples have increased by 1500% since 1960
• Divorce rate has stabilized, but at a relatively high rate
• 41% of all births occur in a non-marital situation
• 27% of children live in a single parent home, most without a father
While so many want a successful marriage. They are afraid because of what they see around them. They worry that their relationship won’t work out.

So they wait to marry later in life, with the average age increasing by almost 5 years since 1960. Many experiment with cohabitation, believing the test relationship will validate if the significant other is the ‘one’. They believe cohabitating will eliminate the risk of divorce if he or she is not the ‘one’. Others, usually females, just want someone until Mr. Perfect comes along.

Unfortunately research documents just the opposite. Cohabitation leads to less stable relationships, whether that is in the cohabitating state or if the couple marries. The average marriage preceded by cohabitation has a 65% likelihood of divorce compared to a 40% chance for those not cohabitating. Over 50% of cohabitating unions end in the first 5 years, as compared to 20% of marriages which have no history of cohabitation.

The modern feminist movement of the 60’s may have sought some praiseworthy goals to strengthen the standing and opportunities for women. Unfortunately most of their strategies have had the opposite effect, including the support of abortion as a means to take control of their life.

Secondly, the movement was to liberate the women by promoting a sexual expressiveness that reflected their view of men. The solution was not to have men behave more virtuously but to encourage women to act more like men sexually. Chastity was no longer a promoted virtue.

Number three. The movement viewed marriage as oppressive, as trapping millions of women in a lifelong relationship of drudgery, saying goodbye to all their goals, hopes, and dreams. Cohabitation, they believed, could fix all this. Finally it was a relationship where the woman was an equal partner. And the woman may even have the advantage, because if she was not treated the way she wanted, she could leave.

In actuality, the cohabitating relationship enables the qualities in men which the movement was seeking to affect. The man can maintain a lifestyle associated with being single, foot loose and fancy free. And if a pregnancy becomes an issue, the opportunity to leave is an easy option.

In all of this we have not mentioned those most affected by marriage or the cohabitating relationship—the children. Today many relationships are about satisfying their own desires, with little regard for the wellbeing and welfare of the children. The culture’s moving toward a lack of child centeredness is driven by a decline in selflessness, sacrifice and maturity—all of which are required to raise the next generation.

Children want and need the stability of a healthy home. Research documents that children do better emotionally, physically, financially, and spiritually when raised by two married, biological parents. Unfortunately, we are heading in the wrong direction. From 1970 to 1996, the percentage of all children under age 18 living with two married parents has steadily decreased from 85% to 68%. From 1960 to 2006, the percentage of children living with a single parent, in most cases without a father, increased from 9% to 28%. Over 41% of cohabitating homes contain children.

To this point so much information has been shared, and yet we have only scratched the surface. So what can be done, and why? First, simply to the why. The book of science, virtually thousands of pages of documented research bear out the benefits of marriage as the environment best for children, and for adults seeking an intimate relationship. The book of scripture, the Bible, clearly provides God’s plan for marriage and the family.

Second, and in conclusion, what can be done? You may be wondering if you missed the section relating to the title ‘marr-we-age vs. marr-i-age’. The success of this relationship we call marriage rests on ‘commitment’. This commitment must come from both participants—so there can be no ‘I’ in marriage, but must be ‘we’. The ‘we’ must always take precedence over the ‘I’.
As Christians we fully acknowledge the importance including God in our marriage, and now the we becomes three. As we read in Ecclesiastes 4:12, Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves, but a cord of three strands is not easily broken. This unity can and will support successful marriages, or should we say successful ‘marr-we-ages.


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