Is Marriage Going Out of Style?

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On Thursday, USA Today published a story highlighting new research from the Pew Center claiming marriage to be obsolete.

A gross exaggeration?marriage1.jpg

You think?

Christianity Today very graciously invited a response and just published it in today’s online edition.

I would welcome your thoughts and reaction.

To view the piece as it appears in CT, please click here or simply continue reading below…

Marriage in Obsolescence
Why recent headlines on marriage don’t do the new Pew survey justice.

It’s a shocking claim, but is it true?

According to recent media reports, the institution of marriage is dying, especially among the poor and lower educated. At the same time, child-bearing and cohabitation are rising dramatically among the 20- and 30-something age groups. More children are living with unmarried parents than ever before.

All of these details are true and more can be found in a new survey from the Pew Research Center.

In response, Thursday’s USA Today framed the front-page story with a disturbing headline:

We’re Just Not That Into Marriage: Survey reveals declining interestmarriage2.jpg

A good headline will often tell readers the whole story, but a misleading one can sometimes tell more about the person who is telling it—or the culture in which it is being told—than about the substance of the story itself.

To be fair, marriage and family trends have been headed in the wrong direction for some time. From a family- and marital-health perspective, almost every positive indicator that should be up is down and nearly every one that should be down is up. Only the divorce rate has stabilized, which isn’t saying too much given that it’s close to 40 percent.

Still, to suggest that marriage is on the verge of obsolescence doesn’t quite square with the opinions of the very people who account for its future standing.

According to the Pew survey, 60 percent of American adults currently living with a significant other and not yet married desire to eventually wed. Conversely, only 16% of these individuals express no interest at all in tying the knot. In fact, Pew’s data shows that more want to marry today than did in 2007.

Put bluntly and more colorfully, more Americans believe the sun revolves around the earth (18 percent) than say they have absolutely no desire to ever marry (13 percent). (A much larger number of us often think both the sun and the earth revolve around us!)

When it comes to overall attitudes about family, 76 percent of the respondents indicated that their own family was “the most important element” in life, while 22 percent said it was “one of the most import elements.”

This is all very good news, but there remains a nagging question: why is there such a drastic disconnect or disparity between what people think and say they believe about the sacred institution – compared to how they act and behave?

It is not a modern development that people don’t always act in accordance with their stated beliefs. Colonial America was rife with cohabitation. In his book, Sexual Revolution in Early America, Richard Godbeer quotes a clergyman who was appalled at the prevalence of sex outside marriage in the province of New York in 1695. Upon reflection on his visit there he wrote, “many couples live[d] together without ever being married in any manner of way” and in doing so, engaged in “ante-nuptial fornication” which was “not looked upon as any scandal or sin.”

Even the most casual observer or critic of marriage would acknowledge that the institution is too often held in very low cultural esteem. From television to movies to music, the bonds of matrimony are often lampooned as chains that bind and confine as opposed to the great anchor of stability God intended them to be.

Since the church is only as healthy as its most unhealthy people, we, too, bear blame. Have we not often been more inclined to focus on the challenges of marriage than on the joy it brings? When the divorce rate within the church is nearly as bad as it is outside of it, we must take a hard and honest look at ourselves and our attitudes toward what we say we hold dear.

As Christians, when it comes to processing this variable, there is a demand for humility and the recognition that the apostle Paul gave perhaps the best explanation for why personal belief does not always reconcile with personal behavior.

Speaking to the Romans, Paul rightly observed that all men have fallen short of God’s glory. In stating that he often didn’t do what he wanted to do—but instead did what he hated most of all—Paul summed up the challenge of those both inside and outside the church.marriage4.jpg

In other words, when it comes to the matter of marriage, most people want to get married, but for any number of reasons—pessimism, fear, perceived convenience—many of them do not. Nevertheless, that they want to marry at all is a significant and positive sign.

God has built into every human being a desire for companionship and a craving to love and be loved. There are compelling reasons to marry and stay married. In study after study, married people are reported to live longer and enjoy greater overall health and sexual satisfaction. Married people are more likely to remain financially solvent. Those who marry and remain married also express a greater sense of contentment in nearly every aspect of life.

A committed marriage is also the best environment in which to raise and nurture children. When mom and dad share the responsibilities and challenges of parenthood, kids are happier, healthier, and more emotionally and spiritually stable. Conversely, children born outside of marriage are more likely to grow up in poverty and score lower on almost every measure of physical and mental health.

Buried within the Pew data was a finding that gives me great hope for marriage’s future participants. In the study, researchers found that of all age groups, the youngest group (18-29) expressed the greatest desire to marry.

Marriage will never be obsolete, because God has wired into our hearts a desire to be for another. And isn’t it telling and interesting that God’s narrative begins with a marriage in the Garden and ends with the wedding feast of the Lamb?

We must continue to cultivate these natural leanings and tell the larger story, that marriage is a gift created and granted by God, designed to bring glory to the Creator and his creation.

In doing so, we will show that not only is it not obsolete, but that it is forevermore a timeless and miraculous treasure worthy of society’s interest and respect.

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Leave a Comment

CJ More than 1 year ago

My husband and I have been married 38 yrs.  We were each others "first".  Love at first sight for him.  For me it was 'to know him was to love him'.  It has been quite a journey.  Called to Marriage ministry to teach the practical 'how tos' for a happy marriage.  We feel divorce is at an alarming rate among Christians and church goers because the church has failed to teach Eph 5:33" Husbands love your wife as you love yourself and wives respect your husbands'.  Well, what does that look like in our day to day lives?  There is the breakdown.  How can parents plant the notion of a happy furture, and the sought after marriage bliss, if they are not the example nor do they have the knowledge to teach their children the principles or love and respect as it applies to marriage if they themselves have not been taught.  Marriage can be fufilling if we seek (wisdom) to do marriage as God intended.   

tracyA More than 1 year ago

As usual, the sensationalistic "reporting" of the Pew research survey implies gravity meant only to sell more newspapers and magazines. The Pew study, if you actually read it, cites survey questions and response statistics and does not really attempt to determine whether these demographic trends are the work of Satan or Santa or someone in between.

The facts are actually less earth-shaking: the population of the USA is larger than it has ever been, and a good deal more diverse (and visibly so) as well. With diverse cultural backgrounds and an economy pretty much requiring both partners in a stable relationshp to work day jobs, it follows that they would have less time to raise a passel of home-schooled kids as the 1950's TV shows would have you believe. "Marriages" have been in danger for a very long time: cholera, typhoid, flu, polio, war and massive natural disasters, all served to break up families because of death. Now people survive long enough to be judged for developing other interests in their lives beyond procreation.

Dr. Samuel More than 1 year ago

Dear "Capitalist",

It is true from the Pew report that there is more cohabitation instead of marriage among the poorer couples. Marriage is more prevalent among the educated and higher earning persons. I live in Norway, a Socialist state. The Scandinavian countries have of the highest per capita income in the world - higher than the US. I am very happy with the sharing aspect of the socialist system. I have been happily married for 29 yrs. Are our marriages to co-habitation ratio's any worse than yours in Capitalist US? Has marriage as an institution disappeared in Socialist Norway? My observation and studies conducted here do not support this claim. I am very interested in Marriage as an institution, and in factors that affect human relationships in general. (I have been a research scientist for 20 yrs, and am presently teaching Psychology and Theory of  Knowledge to College level youth).Instead of blaming the decline of Capitalism as you do, I would look for the cause of the lower respect for Marriage, at the "will to pleasure" (selfish hedonism) and the "will to power" (value based on posessions and influence) that the Materialist Capitalism from Hollywood and America and Western Europe is bringing to the world. I grew up as a missionary kid in poor African countries of Lesotho and Swaziland in the 1950's and 1960's. The traditional values of African culture and the VALUES of Christianity have been put aside by a chase after MATERIAL goods. In those days, we could leave the house unlocked and I could play safely down in the fields with my poor, primitive African friends. Today, those areas have people who are pleasure and materialistically driven so that they are willing to kill a person just to get a mobile phone, car or other item "of power". Yes, Capitalism has indeed come to Africa. But, it has not improved the attitude and life of the people.

Sincerely,Samuel

Scott F. More than 1 year ago

The world's system so misses a key point regarding morality and marriage: Moral behavior runs counter to what comes most naturally to us - that's why moral behavior is held in high esteem! It's better, life-enhancing behaviour, but it is unnnatural and requires sacrifice. Some, arguing from an evolutionary point of view, claim that certain behaviors are accepatable because they are natural, or common to the animal  world, (ie: sexual promiscuity, etc.) This is the worst of arguments, and the worst place to look for moral direction. OF COURSE faithful, loving monogamy is unnnatural! It's SUPERnatural - a reflection of us having been created in the image of a triune, loving, relational God. There always has been and always will be a tension between the supernatural standard, and the desire and ability for humans to achieve it. Jim's article reflects this beautifully.  - S.F. - married 26 years, 5 amazing children

DAN B. More than 1 year ago

YES TO MARRIAGE THE WAY GOD DESIGNED IT!

Karen More than 1 year ago

I think it's interesting how every picture of 'Christian' weddings shows the bride immodestly dressed.  Something is off right from the beginning, and nobody in the church seems to care much about it.

Steven More than 1 year ago

It is time for some new thinking — thinking that fully defends and in all ways maintains traditional marriage, but also thinking that addresses many of the wrongs being suffered by too many Americans as a consequence of how our society is now structured.

A proper focus on the family has to see and acknowledge the whole of society as its context.  There are wrongs in our society — unnecessary inefficiencies and unwarrantable indecencies —   and, where any of those wrongs can be righted, God should be praised — and the righting should be done without delay.

Steven

Paul More than 1 year ago

Yes it seems that the marriage is going by the wayside. In my case my ex-wife and I were married for 30 years. We said that we would not follow in our parents footsteps of divorce. For us, we went to the beach for our 28th anniversary and a week later she informed me that she wanted a divorce. I was floored in what she said for we had such a good time at the beach. We reserved a room for the Fall for our birthdays and canceled them 2 weeks later. I tried to ask her if we could talk about it and she wanted no part of it. 5 weeks later she moved out.  I told her that I took the marriage vows as a Covenant between us and God and I take them very seriously. She informed me that her "Christian" walk was slowly fading away. I told her that mine is getting stronger. She told me that she wished hers was. So where does her faith stand now, I do not know. Only God knows.  The one thing that I have learned is that not only does the divorce affect the 2 people doing it, it also does for the rest of the family. When holidays come around it makes it awkward for the children where they are grown or not. Also the other family members such as cousins, aunts, uncles even the children etc. People seem to take one side or the other of the ones who divorce. It affects the mutual friends that you develop over the years.  She got remarried this past August a little over a year of our divorce with the person she had an affair with. She told me that possibly 3-4 years down the line she may regret the decision she has made. The one comment she made to me is that she wanted to be a 'Teenager" again. One that she did not have as a kid.

erick More than 1 year ago

With so many Pastors not teaching Biblical truths and just going with the flow, it is no surprise America is going down the toilet. But I am not giving up and will continue to speak the truth as long as God gives me breath! Amen.

Carl More than 1 year ago

your blog made some good points, I particularly like the reference to how statistics show that marriage generally makes you happier and healthier. I can assume from the comments on hear that everyone involved in this conversation is a christian, and as christians we have to take responsibilty for the problems with marriage today in America. The church (if in Christ) is the root of marriage, and is obviously failing miserably at maintaining the sanctity of it. For 1900 years of christianity the church taught that marriage was "till death do you part", and would accept nothing less. This is what God's Word teaches, there's no wiggle room for remarriage. Yet over the last 100 years we have slid to the point where the church is remarrying people for the 3rd, 4th and 5th time. Our churches are filled with people living in what God's Word calls adultery, many of them are the preachers themselves. We can get christians all wound up about how the gay agenda is destroying the family, when divorce and remarriage is the true enemy in the church, it does far far more damage to the family than the gay agenda ever could, and yet very little is ever said. I hope I am not offending anyone, but I'm sure I did. God Bless

The Capitalist More than 1 year ago

Marriage started going out of style when the average person working for average wages was unable to afford a family and a home. The material and moral economies are tied together. In the average metropolitan area in the United States the price of homes doubled between 1996 and 2006 while incomes barely budged and taxes (especially Social Security and Medicare taxes, both payroll and individual) have placed a heavier burden on families.

Marx said that to destroy a capitalist system (a system based on strong private property rights and the rule of law) three things had to be undermined; the family, the churches, and the property system. Marx was wrong! All that has to be done is to undermine the property system. When the property system is undermined the family is undermined, and when the family is undermined, the churches are undermined. What you are witnessing is economic decay, which is accompanied by moral decay. To reverse this situation we must embrace capitalism.

Dale C. More than 1 year ago

Those of us who believe that marriage is God's highest for the individual that is needing of companionship as Jim Daly has pointed out, most likely also have God's perspective on procreation. The Old Testament speaks very little about marriage per se, I believe because it was always a given from the beginning; man should leave his father and mother and cling to his companion; it is not good that man should be alone so I will make a helper suitable for him. We see many searches for wives, and kings who marry many wives and wives given as rewards for great accomplishments; but we see the reason for marriage all throughout the scriptures. We see the children born through these marriages that carry on God's History, the lineage of children born throughout scripture are what make up God's Story. Marriage is meant to carry on God's creative legacy and parenthood is for the proper upbringing of those children.Through the marriage covenant we initiate the root of proper character building by showing our children the true nature of character through commitment. Whether it is a commitment filled with love or just plain ol' commitment for the long haul, the character shows up and teaches our God given offspring how to stick to something because it is right and righteous. Without marriage this is an impossible task, because without commitment we are creating a society of people winging it with a hope and a prayer.

Lori More than 1 year ago

My husband and I will be celebrating our 10th anniversary on Thanksgiving Day. On November 1st I challenged myself to post a reason why I love my husband as the status on my Facebook profile. I've gotten lots of comments from "cut out the mushy stuff" to "I look forward to reading these every day". My parents celebrated their 40th anniversary in June. Growing up I wanted nothing more than to be a wife and mother. I would have never considered having a baby out of wedlock. I made sure that my husband was a Christian and that we were committed to making this marriage like that of our parents. We made children out of love, not because of a mistake. Children that are a great mixture of us, so unique, something no one else can duplicate. My parents are a great model of how I want my marriage to be and I hope that my children feel the same when they are grown.This marriage has been full of ups and downs, but we fight for our marriage. Some of the posts I have submitted on Facebook were written when I was mad at him and still I had no problem coming up with yet another reason I love him. It warms my heart when I'm trying to think of something to post. 10 years of love and memories that I have been blessed with.

Barbara Y More than 1 year ago

I agree. I am constantly hearing women say they don't get married because they would lose their assistance and would not be able to care for their children without it. It's sad that the government programs actually promote single parenting.

Michael More than 1 year ago

     I must say that there is also a general desire in our particular generation to avoid pain at all costs. People know that marriage is hard, and see that it isn't working for many people. However they also see that single moms and dads are in intense stress all the time. So it seems that this generation is becoming determined to proved that they can do something that their parents failed to do. Also our nation is a nation of medicators that don't deal with things, which makes a HUGE break in the communication between significant others. We need to teach people how to communicatr and deal, and that marriage isn't about being "happy" it is much more deep than that. It seems like we are looking for the quick fix that will have the same respective results and benefits as the harder things. I cannot see that as possible except in specific times where God intervenes in grace. We want love, but we don't know where to look anymore. Everyone around us are acting like they are the acception to the rules, not adhering to them seeing it as their "right to be happy." Then they not only hurt each other, but they also deprive themselves of the blessings that they could of had if they actually dealed. Running and medicating is what needs to be combated while teaching communication in real, tangible ways. Oh by the way, I am only 21 years old, single, and a college student. I am tired of people saying that they need to learn by experiece. I have chosen to learn from others instead of making the mistakes myself, and I am proud that God has given me the courage to do that. If I'm the only one that seeks this relationship, let me be in the front. Lead by example. So let's lead.

Dale B. More than 1 year ago

Kudos.  Yes, thank you Mr Daly for your enlightened insight to the facts.  We must teach our children to use critical thinking when evaluating today's "news".

L.R. More than 1 year ago

In short, 1st) Simple Economics:  I believe our government tax structure, health & welfare benefits, etc. is based so that the unmarried parent will have more tax advantages and/or benefits than they would otherwise have if they were married.  The same goes for seniors who choose to not remarry after their spouse passes away so they wont' see a reduction in social security, military pension and/or higher taxes.  2nd) the next problem is whether or not the couple really wants to live a life that brings God honor and glory - this holds true before, during and after marriage.  I have been married three times, the first two before I knew Christ.  I chose to marry a third time and have taken that covenent with God seriously in spite of paying more taxes and losing benefits.  Now I choose to stay married in spite of serious problems with my "spouse" in our marriage because I want to bring God honor and glory.  The world is going to do what the world does whether we like it or not - as a Christian we have to walk the walk and minister to those around us at the community level.  Fighting congress about abortion & gay marriage isn't going to stop abortion & homosexuality.  Reaching out to our neighbors and community with God's love will.  It requires getting involved - after all, Jesus did.

Jennifer More than 1 year ago

For the exact reasons mentioned in your article, please bring the Focus on Marriage conference back.  Marriages across the nation need it!

Sandra H. More than 1 year ago

My husband and I will be celebrating our twenty fifith anniversay this coming August.  Though like some of the comments made, it has not always been easy.  But I must say, it's the best thing that has happend to me.  Life is all about choices, for this reason God has allowed for us to be free agents to make those choices.  Satan would love to make everyone think that marriage is undireable esspecially when God's relationship with us is base on the relationship of marriage.  I believe this is why marriage is always being attacked.  Marriage is a lot of work but one that is worth doing.  The satisfaction I receive from knowing that I'm loved, protected and honored is worth all the hard work it takes to stay married.  There is always a sense of security among the children when they see that their parents truly love each other.  I will always be an advocate of marriage the way God intended it to be.  I pray that someday we all will see marriage that way God intended everyone to see it.  I hope we're not too late.  May God Bless all Marriages!!

Paul More than 1 year ago

My wife & I just celebrated our 405th monthiversay (33 yrs, 9 mos) last Friday. My daughter was recently engaged and plans to be married next March with no prior co-habitation. Praise the Lord!

Bill H. More than 1 year ago

Those who control the meaning of symbols control the people.

Language attempts to describe the relations between people and their emotions.

Let's take the word Love and what it is trying to describe.One could say it is mutifaceted, but that says nothing.I believe the bible early versions were in a few basic languages; Greek, Latin, Arabic, and Jewish.In the Greek version, I believe, Christ uses different words which were translated in English as Love.Those words were:GREEK - EnglishEros          LustStorge       AffectionPhilia        FriendshipAgape       Love (This is the love Christ had for us as he died so we might live)

We might want to put love in a sentence to get various meanings.* To love when someone pleases you is nothing.* Not to love when someone angers you, that is nothing.* Ah! but to love when someone angers you, now that is something.If we limit the use of love to the last meaning (Agope) we just might give it meaning.

Today we tend to use love and sex (pleasure) as synonyms.Is it any wonder we are not able to have meaningful communications.

Is it any wonder there is confusion as to what marriage means?

Linda More than 1 year ago

I have unfortunately seen 3 of my 4 best friends cohabitate before they married, the 4th not having dated any one yet. Growing up together and spending so much time together you feel that you have the same ideals and standards. How else would you be such good friends and be able to support each other through so much? I was especially dissapointed knowing that 2 of them are christians, I felt somehow that I held them to higher standards. I have been in a 3 year relationship now and I feel continued discouragement that somehow us waiting to preserve the sanctity of marriage is almost looked down upon, even to those christian friends. Somehow doing the right thing, and doing it in GOD's time, not our own, is not the popular or approved option. But was it ever? I know not, but I know I feel so dissapointed. At least all three did get married evenutally.

Joe More than 1 year ago

Marriage can be the best thing or the worst thing.  It is up to the husband and wife to decide what they want out of a marriage.  To the extent that a couple is unselfish and completely honest with each other, I believe to that extent there will be happiness in the marriage.  I have been married to the wife of my youth for 34+ years.  Don't think that I am bragging.  We've had our moments; child almost killed in a car wreck; our daughter is a divorced single mother living with us and other problems with children.  We have questioned ourselves at times, but on my son's 22nd birthday God showed me something: we all went out to eat at a remote restaurant back in the boonies.  The food was great and so was the fellowship.  I just looked at my family, my 22 year old son, my 31 year old daughter who has given us a beautiful grandson (now 2 1/3 years old) my wife who has stood by my side through 11 years of college and many finanical hardships, but many incredible memories.  I am a college professor, and when I tell my students that my wife and I rented a cabin at a nearby state park for our honeymoon I usually get a laugh or something worse.  My students boast about cruises and other elaborate trips for honeymoons.  The difference: on our honeymoon my wife and I had no other desire but to be with each other.  Granted the surroundings were nice, even if it was a state park, but we just wanted to be together.  That excitement has lasted us a lifetime and will continue to encourage us till we go to meet the Lord, but is wasn't easy getting there and it came at a price.  We obeyed God concerning our premarital relationship and it has paid dividends to this day.  When I share our experience with couples, even Christian couples, once and a while I get a "that's the way we are going to do it too."  Usually, however, the reaction is if we did something wrong, or we missed out on a better dating relationship.  Hard to say, but what I want to say is seek God's purpose for your life, starting with your marriage; and if you are dating, seek God's purpose for your dating relationship.  If you do it God's way, the good that comes from obedience will last a lifetime.  No, I'm not some holy roller goodie too shoes.  I was raised in South Louisiana and made some mistakes early in my life.  I didn't come to Christ until I was 20.  I played college football, still love the sport, and enjoy a beer on occasion.  I ride an 1800cc motorcycle and want to ride up the Alaska-Canadien highway in the near future.  I've been a Christian for 40 years but I'm still rough around the edges.  However, God isn't through with me yet.  Marriage statistics indicate problems, but anybody who finds God's purpose in their lives, their dating relationship and marriage will enjoy God's best.  Marriage is alive and well for those who are willing to do it God's way.

Jimmy D More than 1 year ago

Thank you for speaking up and out. Praise God for the 18-29 response in the research. I am encouraged.Our work is cut out for us, but is at work.Jimmy

Michael More than 1 year ago

I do not believe marriage is obsolete but I do believe that todays social networks are making people more prone to isolation. Social networks and texting have made an impact on how people interact with one another, for example you will notice that kids may be sitting together but rather than talking to each other they are busy texting or talking on their phones. There are consequences for this lack of interaction that I believe will become more prevalent and noticeable in years to come. I for one am attempting to teach my children the value of personal interaction rather than becoming addicted to a fantasy social networking world. I talk to them frequently about being able to communicate face to face in an intimate and personal manner when they are involved in a friendship or relationship. They will need this to be fully successful in their future marriages.