You can hardly go to a website these days without seeing a sidebar about the marriage of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Disaster! The dream couple has split up.
Marriage has taken a hit over the last 50 years. When I was in my late ten years, unwed pregnancy was rare. Most couples got engaged, got married and then set up house together.
Now it is more typical for couples to live together, get pregnant, get engaged and get married, which is the almost exact opposite of tradition.
The Decline of Marriage
I believe there are several things at the root of marriage’s transformation. I’m not naive enough to think that marriages before the late 1960’s were all made in heaven. However, the no-fault, ‘reconcilable differences’ divorces became more widely available. Children caught up in these divorces became wary of marriage.
Finally, the Baby Boomers (of which I am one) came of age in the middle 1960s. We wanted to throw off the shackles of society. Because of the birth control pill and more available abortion, people were empowered to have sex without having to worry about the consequences. And we didn’t want to worry about commitment and consequences. In other words, we didn’t want to grow up.
Well, some of us DID grow up. We now look around at the devastation caused by our malformed revolution and are shaking our heads. Nearly 68 million Americans on government assistance. An epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases, with 25% of the population having an incurable STD. 23.5 million Americans addicted to alcohol and drugs. Forty percent of children born to unwed women. Over 58 million abortions since Roe v. Wade. This is what the Baby Boomers have wrought on our society.
One statistic that is eroniously bandied about is that 50% of marriages end in divorce. That is not exactly true. People who have been married before their current divorce are counted in the yearly statistics. Those who have been married 3, 4, or more times skew the statistics.
Who Are the Real Losers?
The real losers in all this chaos are children. Many children have gotten the shaft over the centuries – child labor, sexual slavery and abuse, abandonment. I would like to think that we are a more enlightened society, but looking around I see it’s not true.
The ‘common knowledge’ about children and families over the last forty years has been:
- Children need quality time, not quantity time
- Children are better off if their parents divorce, rather than living around a lot of fighting
- Children are naturally good and should be able to grow up the way they want
- Nothing should be said or done to diminish a child’s self-esteem
- A family is anything you want it to be
- Fathers are irrelevant
- Marriage is obsolete
Well, let me lay my thoughts on the table: I believe these beliefs are all based on selfishness. They were put forward by people who didn’t want to have to feel responsible for the affect their actions had on those in their lives.
My conclusions have been shaped by 67 years of living, as well as what I observed as an educator. I used to believe some of the above hypotheses, but what I have seen and experienced tells me these hypotheses don’t pass the muster of reality. I’m not saying this is true in every case, but I have seen enough evidence to make me stand by my conclusions.
Children Need Quantity Time
Children need quantity time. Even Newsweek said so! People say that families can’t afford to have mothers stay home with their children. I have known hundreds of families who have a stay-at-home mom. They give up ‘things’ and budget carefully so that their children will come first.
I know there are exceptions to this, but if at all possible children deserve the quality time they get from having their mother in the home. Why have children if you are going to pay someone else to raise them?
Children Are Not Better Off When Their Parents Divorce
Children are not better off if their parents divorce. They suffer when their parents divorce. They never stop wanting their parents to get back together. Frequently divorce involves one parent moving closer to family, which means less contact with the other parent.
Studies have shown that children of divorced parents have more of a tendency to begin smoking, have academic and social problems, are more susceptible to disease and more. Also, when parents remarry, there is a danger of step-parents sexually abusing children or trying to abolish the step children when new babies are born.
Also, studies have shown that parents are not necessarily happier after a divorce. I agree with Dr. Laura who says that the only legitimate reasons for divorce are The Three A’s: addiction, abuse, and adultery. Everything else can be worked out if couples are unselfish enough to want what’s best for each other and their children.
Children Need to Be Raised by Adults
My church doesn’t teach the doctrine of original sin. We believe that children are born in innocence and that they don’t become accountable for sin until the age of eight. That does not mean, however, that they already know what’s best. They need to be taught.
My observation as a parent, educator, and grandparent is that although little children can be sweet and loving, they can also little savages because they don’t know any better. They hit, kick, bite, scream, steal, throw tantrums, lie, and try to bully anyone they can get away with bullying – including their parents.
Proverbs 22:6 says, ‘“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” It is not only our right, but it is our responsibility to raise up children in a way that will be a benefit to civilized society.
Healthy Self-Esteem is Born of Achievement
Self-esteem has become an enormous issue since the 1990’s, so much so that we have raised two generations of people who have no idea how to live in the real world. Adults can’t do anything that would damage self-esteem: give a bad grade to a paper with all the wrong answers, award a trophy only to the winning team, discipline a child for a wrong doing, ad nauseam.
All children can succeed in something. But “succeed” is the key. We shouldn’t have to praise them for being a bump on a log. We should praise them for honest effort, and when they don’t succeed tell them to ‘try, try again’.
No one out in the real world is going to praise them for trying when they show up late for work, don’t get the report turned in on time, or whatever. They will be fired, which is REALLY bad for self-esteem. Children need to be taught to set goals and then try their best to achieve them.
Stop Trying to Redefine What a Family Is
A family is anything you want it to be? Balderdash. The definition of family in most civilized society is a mother, father, and children. At the very least, it’s the remants of a family split by divorce. It’s not two moms or two dads and a mom, or three moms and a sheep.
Children who are raised in traditional families where the parents are married and never divorced do better in life on almost every economic and social measure. So if you think that the non-traditional group of people who live in your house is not having an adverse effect on your children, you are kidding yourself.
Fathers are Important … VERY Important
Although society is increasingly trying to marginalize the importance of fathers, they do matter. Again, those pesky studies show that children who have loving, involved fathers benefit socially, intellectually, and emotionally. They are also less likely to develop mental illness later in life.
Good fathers are role models to boys, teaching them how to be good fathers and husbands themselves. And girls are less likely to engage in teenage and premarital sex if they have strong relationships with their fathers. So the next time you see one of those ads on TV that make the husband and father of the house look like an incompetent fool, write the company and complain.
So You Think Marriage is Obsolete, huh?
Scarlet Johansson has declared that marriage is obsolete. Well, that’s that. We can all go home now.
Seriously, let me take a little time to address Miss Johansson’s uninformed Hollywood opinion. Marriage is not obsolete. It is the tie that binds families together. Why? Because it involves the ‘C’ word that nobody wants to take on anymore: commitment. A marriage license is not just a piece of paper. It is a legally binding agreement that requires fidelity between two people, no matter what may come.
And living together is not the same as being married. People don’t have the same mindset when they shack up. There’s always the ‘if it doesn’t work out I can just pack up and leave’ thought in the back of the mind. Well, if you do something crazy, like buy a house together, you are not just going to walk away without a lot of acrimony or legal hassle.
Back to Brad and Angelina. They lived together for 9 years. They had children together. They brought property together. Then two years ago they got married. Now they are embroiled in an ugly divorce and custody battle. What changed in two years? Do you know that people who live together have a 50% high divorce rate than those who don’t? That’s because marriage brings new expectations, a long view of a future together, in-laws … the list could go on and on.
It’s a Great Deal More Than a Piece of Paper
I used to think that marriage was just a piece of paper. In fact, when I first met my husband, we were going to live together. Fortunately, we broke up before that ever happened. I knew that he felt no commitment toward me, and I could see the Broken-Heart Express steaming toward me.
Five years later, we miraculously reconnected, and this time he wanted to get married. That was in 1974, and we have been together ever since. Believe me, it was not always a bed of roses. We briefly separated early on. When we fought, occasionally dishes flew. From time to time I’d think, “When my daughter is in elementary school/middle school/ high school, I’ll leave.”
Somehow, I never did. The rewards for staying married for 42 years are legion. We didn’t have to split custody of our daughter. We didn’t have to show up with our new spouses at our daughter’s wedding. We understand each other’s joking references to TV shows or movies we saw decades ago. We look forward to spending eternity together. Best of all, my husband is my best friend (even though he’s not perfect, but what best friend is?), and I cherish every new day with him.
The ‘C’ Word is a Grown-up Word
The key to a lasting marriage is a commitment on the part of both people to stay in it for the long run. It’s no accident that the words “to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.”
Those words are meant to say, “I will love you from now on, no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in.” Unfortunately, people make that vow every day, not really meaning it. “If it doesn’t work out,” they say to themselves, “I can always get a divorce”. That is the same mindset people have when living together, which is not a commitment at all.
Marriage is also for the protection and nurturing of children. A loving marriage between a man and a woman provides the best chance for children to grow into healthy, productive adults who will, in turn, marry and raise their own family of children.
Will your marriage always be easy? Heck no, but most things that are worth working for are not easy. Are there any guarantees that you’ll live happily ever after? Again, no. But remember Dr. Laura’s three “A’s”. Everything else can be worked out.
DeeDee Lynn’s Nine Rules to a Happy Family Life:
- Develop a mindset that your marriage is not something you can walk away from, because you are committed to its success.
- Read the 10 Commandments. If you both follow them in your marriage, you’ll do okay.
- Treat your spouse as kindly as you treat other people; don’t assume that your spouse has the worst intentions when you disagree.
- Understand that men and women are different and don’t react the same to a given situation.
- Know that the best thing you can do for your children is to love each other whole-heartedly.
- Don’t push down anger and hurt until it explodes. Handle each problem as it comes up.
- Never go to bed angry at each other.
- Never stop dating and being sweethearts.
- Make God a partner in your marriage.
I can testify that the closest thing to heaven on earth is a happy family. Do you agree? Disagree? Please leave a comment below, and share this with your friends if you find it helpful.
Don’t be scared … be prepared,