If marriage makes the headlines these days it’s usually for negative reasons, such as a recent survey indicating that while eighty-three percent of young people would like to get married someday, eighty-five percent of them think an official union isn’t necessary to “have a fulfilling and committed relationship.”
According to official statistics, marriage rates have dropped 60 percent over the last fifty years, and those cohabitating have risen exponentially. Not surprisingly, singleness is also going up. In fact, more than sixty percent of young men are unattached, twice the rate of women.
What’s behind the numbers?
Like many things, it’s multifactorial. It rarely comes down to just one thing. But as the country has grown more secular and less centered on church and faith communities, fewer people are getting and staying married.
Of course, one of the most common reasons we hear for the decline in marriage is that young people see the strife, strain and general unhappiness it has seemingly wrought in their own families and within their own circles of influence. As their thinking goes, why invite inevitable misery into the mix by getting married at all?
Plenty of dollars and scholars have been committed to studying these troubling trends, and for good reason. Policy initiatives to incentivize marriage make good sense. The so-called “marriage penalty-tax,” which was an inequity in tax policy, encouraged couples to not officially tie the knot at all. Legislation in 2017 addressed this concern for most Americans, although the disparity still might impact high-earning couples.
Studies and tax policies may help the situation, but sustained and significant improvement will only come if enough couples model the beauty and benefits of marriage on a daily basis.
Assuming you’re happily married, would people consider you a booster for God’s sacred institution? If not, why not? One of the main reasons marriage has been so public is because strong marriages benefit society. It was my friend Dr. Gary Chapman who once said, “Modeling a healthy marriage is one of the best gifts you can give your child.”
It’s also one of the best things you can give today’s culture.
Judy Page is a dear family friend of a colleague’s wife and was one of her former Sunday school teachers back what is now The Bayou Church in Lafayette, La. She and her husband Doug are happy and outgoing people who pour themselves into their children and grandchildren. Just the other day she wrote on Facebook:
“Yes, marriage is hard work but so rewarding. We are 75 and 77 and still flirt with each other and go on dates after 56 years of marriage. What a blessing to grow older with my best friend, caregiver, and love of my life. Many start overs as we grew together, but those make ups were so nice.”
Judy and Doug don’t head up a formal ministry, host a podcast, preach, or write books. But with hundreds of friends on social media, they’re probably reaching more people than the average pastor of a small church in America. By sharing what God is doing in their lives, they’re helping cast a vision for younger couples and giving them something they can aspire to someday be.
Benjamin Franklin once said, “A good example is the best sermon,” and Dwight L. Moody suggested “A good example is far better than a good precept.”
Successful leaders cast a vision, and sometimes even set goals just beyond their grasp. This forces people to stretch and often results in them far exceeding their expectations. It’s good to do the same thing in our marriages. We need to set the bar high, lace up our shoes, run like the wind – and take the leap in doing our best to model marriage well.