Some are predicting that marriage will soon be a thing of the past—perhaps within a generation. Fundamental shifts in today’s thinking are impacting society’s evaluation of this time-honored tradition.
The article “Who Needs Marriage?—A Changing Institution” highlighted this growing phenomenon: “…marriage, whatever its social, spiritual or symbolic appeal, is in purely practical terms just not as necessary as it used to be.”
Long-lasting relationships are becoming increasingly elusive. Many struggle to find happiness in their lives—only to watch their visions, goals and expectations evaporate into heartbreak and failure.
Yet happy, healthy marriages have one of the greatest impacts on people’s lives. Why then has the institution of wedlock, which has existed in various forms in all cultures from earliest times, become so unpopular?
America leads the world in divorce. Current figures show that 41-50 percent of first marriages fail. Second-marriage failure rates stand at 60-67 percent. Even more staggering is that third marriages face a 73 to 74 percent failure rate!
While divorce rates are not yet as high in other countries, the number of broken homes is increasing, with Russia and eastern European countries presently showing the highest spikes in divorce. In Canada, 37.7 percent of all marriages are expected to end before a couple’s 30th anniversary.
Divorce rates are also climbing in India. BBC News reported that “the chances of this year’s newly-weds staying together for the rest of their lives are slimmer than ever.
“‘There has been a huge change, a drastic change and divorce rates are increasing,’ Dr Geetanjali Sharma, a marriage counsellor working in Gurgaon, a wealthy Delhi satellite city, told the BBC.
“‘There’s been a 100% increase in divorce rates in the past five years alone.’”
With such bleak statistics, many are now seeking “alternatives” that seem more attractive than traditional vows. After all, many say, Who needs a piece of paper stating they are legally married?
As a result, cohabitation, once illegal and frowned upon as “living in sin,” has now become socially acceptable.
But does living together produce positive effects? Studies indicate that cohabitation produces even worse results than troubled marriages.
“The CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics...found that the probability of a first marriage ending in separation or divorce within five years is 20 percent, compared with the 49 percent probability of a pre-marital cohabitation breaking up within the same time period,” CNN reported. “After 10 years, the study found, a first marriage has a 33 percent chance of ending compared with a 62 percent chance for cohabitations.”
A few model marriages do still exist, but it is becoming increasingly rare to find couples who have been happily married for several decades.
The growing marriage-failure rate around the world has led people to believe that marriage is simply becoming outdated. A closer look reveals why such a change is occurring.
Over the last 70 to 80 years, an unprecedented migration from rural to urban areas has taken place. With millions relocating to ever-expanding cities, the home-life of many is experiencing previously unheard of complexities.
CNN reported that more couples in developing nations are unhappy because of the changing roles brought on by the “modern” lifestyle. Old and new cultures are clashing.
For example, many men in Asia and Africa want their wives to be “progressive” and “modern.” Yet they also want them to be homemakers and wives. Unable to cope with fulfilling both roles, many women are abandoning their marriages and seeking divorces.
The husband’s former role as leader, provider and protector is rapidly diminishing. The wife’s responsibility as homemaker, caregiver and mother has also morphed into that of additional breadwinner to shore up the household budget.
Instead of needing one another as in bygone times, urban home life has, in many instances, become a mere cold business relationship. Husbands and wives may share a home, but not their lives. As traditional male and female roles are increasingly abandoned, it has created confusion on the part of both parties.
Urbanization is just one factor that is creating strain on marriages. There are others.
A changing worldwide social outlook is adding to the demise of marital relationships, and declining religious values continue to break down the walls of wedlock. Prevalent restraints of the past have become so relaxed that even those reared in the most proper circles now openly promote “alternative” lifestyles.
Prior to WWI, the subject of sex was rarely discussed publicly. But since that time, the floodgates of “everything sex” have been flung wide open. Permissive liberalism has marred the concept that traditional marriage relationships no longer fit within today’s expectations. Attitudes glamorizing fornication, adultery, and every form of promiscuity permeate society through literature, movies and the arts. Jokes ridiculing wedlock and unfaithful celebrities routinely make headlines—instead of good examples of loyalty and fidelity.
Many of the world’s educators and psychiatrists are at the forefront in promoting immorality. Even some theologians advocate “healthy, adulterous relationships” and “trial marriages.”
It has become difficult for any marriage not built on a solid foundation to survive this engulfing onslaught!
This increasing immoral explosion is directly linked to the selfishness of society as a whole. Never before in history has there existed an age so geared toward the idea of “me first.” As many people’s attention spans have dwindled to almost zero, so has the idea that a relationship should last beyond a few momentary thrills.
Consequently, marriage, as with so much in society, has become a “throw-away commodity”—even perceived by some as mere household garbage to be used and thrown out. It seems that a vow no longer means “till death do us part,” but rather “for as long as I am getting something.”
Society has come to believe it can “have it all” without accountability, responsibility or consequence for its actions. But with all the focus on self-gratification and self-fulfillment, the lives of those most impacted are frequently overlooked, neglected and forgotten.
Whether in marriages presently headed for divorce or those already rent asunder, little concern is given to those most affected—children.
Numerous youngsters today occupy homes without one or both of their biological parents, according to the article, “The Child Advocate: Divorce Effects on Children.”
“Divorce is an intensely stressful experience for all children, regardless of age or developmental level…The pain experienced by children at the beginning of a divorce is composed of: a sense of vulnerability as the family disintegrates, a grief reaction to the loss of the intact family…”
Toddlers especially suffer from “sleep disturbances and an exacerbated fear of separation from the custodial parent. [Older children] often grieve openly for the departed parent…and harbor feelings of powerlessness and acute depression” (ibid.).
Is it any wonder that these impressionable, young people will grow up with unstable and unbalanced views toward marriage, sex and home life? These adolescent minds cannot help but become scarred and calloused toward such an institution that brings true happiness, stability, peace of mind, and everything good one could desire.
History shows that the family has been a bastion of civilization for centuries. As the marriage institution crumbles, however, so does civilization.
Consider this quote from Dr. Patrick Fagan, who authored a report showing that broken marriages impact half of U.S. teens.
“The decrease of strong families in the United States has major implications for the nation, and by extension, the rest of the world,” he said. “A nation is only as strong as its citizens, and a lack of strong families weakens human, social, and moral capital, which in turn directly affects the financial (and thus indirectly the military and foreign policy strength) of the United States. A great nation depends on great families, but weak families will build a weak nation.”
Certainly, this is true not only of the United States, but also all other countries in which divorce is becoming increasingly common.
Many today can plainly see that traditional marriage and the family unit are breaking down. Most stand by and wring their hands in despair at what is occurring. Others offer Band-Aid solutions to this gaping societal “wound.” Counselors and advisers write endless articles and books in an attempt to help. Yet no one understands or will address the most important question that could lead them to the real solutions—why marriage in the first place? The answer is a vital key that will lead to a long-lasting and successful marriage.
Where did marriage begin? Most people believe it evolved over time from various cultural customs. It is this lack of knowledge that has hidden the very purpose for marriage.
To enjoy a wonderful, productive and stable marriage, its true beginning must first be considered. Only one reliable account provides the answers—the world’s best-selling book of all time, the Bible—which gives a record of when marriage was first instituted.
The first marriage is recorded in the book of Genesis, at the creation of the first two human beings, Adam and Eve.
“And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made He a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This [is] now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man” (Gen. 2:21-23).
Verses 24-25 further reveal that God also created sex: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife [not common-law or live-in partner]: and they shall be one flesh. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.”
God saw everything that He had created and said it was “good”—including marriage and sex, which was created for the sole purpose of the marriage relationship between man and woman—to unite them as “one flesh” and to allow them to show love toward one another.
The Bible shows that sex outside of marriage results in terrible penalties. King David’s lust and adultery with Bathsheba led to much suffering. While he repented of his mistake and was forgiven, this selfish act resulted in the murder of Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah (a great and noble warrior in Israel at that time), and the loss of an illegitimate son—which brought David and Bathsheba great sorrow (II Sam. 11:3-27).
God is no respecter of persons. When man rejects God’s laws and instructions and decides for himself the way to go, he is guaranteed to reap the fruits of his doings.
In the end, two philosophies prevail in life. One is the way of selfishness and self-centeredness—a person doing what is right in his own eyes—a way that ends in ruin. The other—sincere outgoing concern for the welfare and well-being of others—leads to everything good.
Upon this way are based a great number of time-honored principles that bring wonderful blessings to any marriage. Some of these include 100 percent commitment—acceptance—appreciation—building on strengths—giving praise—being realistic—forsaking selfishness—remembering the small things—and always being forgiving.
Consider this excerpt from David C. Pack’s booklet You Can Build a Happy Marriage: “Happiness depends far more on what you do than on what your mate or anyone else does. No matter the current state of your marriage, you can improve it. Take responsibility. You can grow—and it can get better. While this may take much work, not coming easily or overnight, the by-product is that much better times lie ahead for all those willing to follow God’s principles for building a truly happy marriage!”
These timeless principles—outlined in the Bible—ensure that individual marriages need never be in danger of failure—or ever become outdated.
To learn more, read You Can Build a Happy Marriage.