Let me answer the question up front and succinctly – YES. Marriage is still relevant, desirable, and a necessary pillar of civilization. If it crumbles, so does our society.
Since I am writing about marriage this week, I feel I need to preface this week’s post with these thoughts.
In Praise of Singleness
Those of you who have read this blog or listened to the podcast for any length of time know that they are created by me, a long-term single, for the edification and encouragement of people who are single. I believe that singleness is not a punishment or a burden to bear but is a valuable thing. Between being late to marry in the first place and being divorced later, I have lived over half my life as a single person. So, even though I am now remarried, I am in no way anti-singleness.
In fact, after my divorce, once I got the hang of it, my single again years became an important period of my life – a time of tremendous growth and creativity. Those years formed the foundation for this season of my life. That is why I emphasize the opportunity and the importance of being truly single while you are single. Those years can be a catalyst for turning you into the person you want to be.
As I have said before in previous posts, becoming happily single is its own reward – plus it gives you the best chance at being happily married later.
In Praise of Marriage
All that being said, this post is a post in defense of and praise of marriage.
The Decline of Marriage
Marriage is among several traditional foundations of society that have been neglected and even outright denigrated for several decades now. It first started to break down a few decades ago as our collective national morals began to decay. Now, it has fallen out of fashion with “Millennials”
and it looks as though it will fare even worse among “Centennials”.
It is also on the decline among many in my generation, the younger “Baby Boomers” and older “Xers”, especially those who have suffered the pain of divorce. Many of my peers cannot see themselves every risking that kind of betrayal and heartbreak again.
Among those who do marry, more are doing so later in life. In 2010 the Pew Research Center revealed that only 50% of people over eighteen were married. In 1960 that figure was 72%.
Why Get Married?
Yes, too many marriages end in divorce and too many marriages are unhappy. Yes, the social stigma of sex outside of marriage, living together, and even having children out of wedlock has largely vanished. And yes, marriage is no longer the revered institution it once was. So, why not chuck it altogether and just shack up? Or, why not just hook up when you need a little sexual release? Since so many people are content to just date or be friends with benefits, why get married?
I’m glad you asked.
Good for Society
Let’s look at the big picture first. Stable, monogamous marriages are good for society. They are the best environment in which to raise children. Married women are at less risk of domestic abuse than those living with a boyfriend. Children are also at a lower risk of abuse in a stable two-parent home. Married women are less likely to be the victim of a violent crime and married men are less likely to commit a violent crime.
Plus, having a healthy, financially stable, sexually satisfied populace raising their children together as husband and wife, is good for society at large. And, studies show that is what marriage leads to.
Happily married people live longer, healthier, happier lives than single people. Yes. It’s true. Research it. The studies are numerous, high quality, and conclusive. And, this runs the gamut, from mental and emotional health to physical health, a good marriage is good for you.
In general, married people live longer than singles. They have less depression, fewer heart attacks and strokes, sleep better, have less stress, tolerate stress better, and recover more often and more completely from cancer, heart attacks, or other major illnesses or surgeries.
Married people engage in fewer risky behaviors, make more positive life changes, and make better health decisions. They are less likely to drive dangerously, do drugs, or engage in high-risk sex. They are more likely to go to the doctor and follow their doctor’s advice.
Two people living together will spend less money than two people living apart. Plus, if you both work and one of you suffers an income drop it has less of an effect on the household budget. Or, if one works and the other does not, you can possibly reverse roles if it makes sense to do so. Also, usually one spouse will be a spender and one will be a saver. Between the two of you, you reach a healthy balance.
Married couples also tend to make better financial decisions, be more financially secure, and build more net worth.
If there is any are you would think married people would be at a disadvantage it would be here. No. It is a fact that married people have more and better sex than single people. In fact, the older a couple gets, the better sex gets. Sexual satisfaction actually increases as you grow old together. This is the most excited I have been about scientific research since it was discovered that dark chocolate has health benefits.
Sex outside of marriage, despite how socially acceptable and in vogue it has become, is still not ideal. In fact, it is more often than not detrimental to the individual and on the whole detrimental to society.
Sex releases bonding hormones that can bind a couple together in a wonderful way. To have this happen repeatedly with different people with whom you have no real bond teaches you to not bond completely with sexual partners. Whereas in marriage, sexual intimacy is both a result of and a catalyst for emotional intimacy. It helps glue a couple together in a wonderful cycle of intimacy leading to sex leading to more intimacy.
The best way to produce and raise children is within a loving marriage. A mom and a dad who model love, commitment, faithfulness, proper treatment of the other gender, and healthy gender roles will give their children the best chance for an emotionally healthy life and the best chance for their own healthy marriage later on.
Additionally, children raised in this environment are less likely to end up in jail, less likely to suffer abuse, and more likely to graduate from high school and college.
A Word of Warning
Now, let me be clear that marriage is not always a panacea. Getting married does not automatically mean life will be all unicorns, butterflies, and rainbows from that point forward. A good marriage is the result of intentional living. It requires two people who have done the work to become as emotionally, spiritually, and financially healthy as possible while they were still single.
A Good Marriage Starts While You Are Single
The things you do now as a single determine whether you will marry or not and what kind of marriage you will have. If you desire to get married, your best bet is to learn to be happy and content as a single person. There is no downside to this. In a worst-case scenario, you never get married. In that case, you are still a happy and content single person.
So, do the work it takes to become emotionally healthy. Grow as a person. Study the people around you who have good marriages and read books on marriage and relationships. That way, you go into marriage with a good understanding of how to form and maintain a healthy, vibrant relationship. Lastly, learn to be single and whole. If you want a good marriage, don’t get into one because you are needy or desperate.
Then, once you have grown to the point where you are confident you can build a quality relationship, consider what kind of person you want to marry. Make a list. Don’t make your list so much about physical traits. It is important to marry someone for whom you have a certain level of sexual desire. But, your list should mainly consist of personality and character traits. See my post on lists for more about that.
Being single is a good thing. While you are single be good at being single – and use that time to learn how to be good at being married. A society needs a solid foundation of strong, healthy, thriving marriages to ensure its survival into the future.
So, if you feel a tug in your heart to marry or remarry, that is not a bad thing. And, if that is your desire, keep in mind what I said several times before in several different ways:
Becoming happily single is its own reward – plus it gives you the best chance at being happily married later.
So, if you want to get married, be happily single, learn how to be happily married, and in the meantime…THRIVE ON!
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