Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor~ Ecclesiastes 4:9 NASB
I am knee-deep in research for a talk I will give at a conference this spring. The conference will be centered on social attitudes towards marriage and family and how those issues are affecting non-profit organizations. In preparation I have read innumerable scholarly articles that all point solidly to the depressing and too real fact that marriage rates in Western countries are declining at an alarming rate.
Experts point to rapid social change, moral relativism and some welfare programs as causes for shifting attitudes that have led to a decline in marriage rates. The theories are endless and interesting. But even the most interesting theories can get a bit tedious after reading pages and pages of them. I loathe anything tedious or dull. So I did a bit of unscientific research of my own. I contacted some millennials friends of mine and asked them to share their views on the subject of marriage and family.
A small number (one to be exact) of those I queried had optimistic attitudes towards marriage and were confident that their marriage would be successful. Twenty-one-year-old Jordyn said:
“Marriage is not an outdated institution by any means! I believe that it is something God gave us and when God created Adam. I dream about getting married all the time. I have seen healthy marriages and that is what I strive for.”
The bulk of the responses were more cynical and sadly similar to a statement made by an anonymous twenty-something:
“My views on marriage are mostly negative. My Mother and Father have been together for 23 years but are not married because they felt marriage was bad luck. I have seen most of my family members get married and later divorced. I have never understood marriage and have always been told, “It’s just a piece of paper.””
For many young people in our society marriage is viewed as an antiquated and pointless societal construct. Or worse: marriage is thought to be unnecessary, impractical and the foundation of all sorts of sexual frustration. I for one am sick and tired of having marriage dissed. Marriage is the foundation of human civilization and deserves respect for five reasons:
Marriage makes people better-
Literally. It does. Societies in times past esteemed marriage because they understood a truth that “enlightened” moderns have foolishly forgotten. Marriage makes us better. Married men and women commit fewer crimes, are less likely to be addicted to drugs or alcohol, take better care of their children, give more to charitable causes and are more likely to vote and be actively involved in their communities.
Marriage promotes healthy living-
On average, married people exercise more, eat better, live longer and have fewer serious health issues. They also suffer from depression at lower rates than single people. This is yet another way marriage benefits all of society: healthier people result in lower healthcare costs for everyone.
Married people are sexier than single people-
Well, maybe not sexier exactly; but married people do have more sex than single people. Ten percent of single men ages 18-24 report having sex more than twice a week, while married men in the same age group report having sex an average of four times a week. Married men and women in every age group report having more frequent sex than their single counterparts in the same age group. Married people also report higher rates of sexual satisfaction. So that’s something.
The children of married people have better outcomes-
The facts are indisputable. Marriage benefits children. Regardless of income levels, children with married parents do better and go farther in life. They get into less trouble, do better in school, and are more likely to graduate from both high school and college. Children born out of wedlock are sicker, more likely to be depressed, more likely to use drugs or alcohol and are less likely to attend college.
Married people have more money-
If you long for economic stability the smartest thing you can do is to get married and stay that way. Married men make more money than single or divorced men in the same jobs. The household incomes of married women are fifty percent higher than the household incomes of single women. Married people tend to have more assets and retirement savings than single people.
Maggie Gallagher, author of The Case for Marriage, sums up the benefits of getting married and staying that way succinctly:
Being married gives men a new sense of responsibility towards work. It reduces substance abuse. It creates more meaning and satisfaction in life for individuals. It provides a legal partner that, as in all economic partnerships, allows one to make more money and manage it better. Moreover, the act of marriage increases a couple’s confidence that theirs is a permanent union.
Contrary to popular opinion, when marriages fail or struggle it’s not because there is anything wrong with marriage. Marriage is a gift from God and all of God’s gifts are good. People are the ones who mess up God’s gifts. If we want our marriages to be healthy we have to look to the one who made marriage, rather than to our own understanding of the subject.
A Case for Marriage: Why Married People are Happier, Healthier, and Better off Financially by Maggie Gallagher
“Changing Patterns of Nonmarital Childbearing in the United States,” Stephanie Ventura, M.A. Division of Vital Statistics
“How Welfare Undermines Marriage and What to Do About It” Robert Rector