That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. Genesis 2:24
The institution of marriage has taken a lot of hits recently. After mentoring many men – most of them married – I shouldn’t shrink from this topic. Particularly after recent pronouncements by millennials about things like not having children due to climate change.
Let’s start with the trends. There has been a dramatic decline in marriage of those over 18 in the U.S. A Pew study shows marriage rates have declined with only 50% of people over 18 being married today compared to 72% in 1960.
Marriage is occurring later than before, partly because millennials are maturing later. In 1960, the average age of a woman to marry was 20. By 2017, the median age is 27 for women and 29 for men according to a study by Tera Jordan at Iowa State University.
I attribute this trend to several things, not the least among them is that millennials have a lengthier adolescence, sometimes into their early 30’s. That’s a trend that has been occurring since the 1980’s according to New Passages author Gail Sheehy.
One journalist has gone so far as to attribute the decline in marriage to “cheap sex” and that the decline follows the introduction of the “pill”.
One bright spot: the rate of divorce has declined, too. In fact, younger people are getting fewer divorces than those who are 55 or older.
I came across a recent article titled “What You Lose When You Gain a Spouse” by Mandy Len Catron. Just the thought of putting marriage in a win/lose context is confusing to me.
The theme of the article that marriage may not be the “social good” that people “believe and want it to be.” The article says that there have been “massive changes” to the institution, leading to the question: Is it obsolete? The whole premise of that statement is mind-numbing.
The writer considers it to be both a “social and political” question. Huh? Since when is marriage political? I must be missing something.
She concludes that marriage is not as popular as it once was and is not viewed as “the most prestigious way to live your life.” She cites studies that marriage causes loneliness – married people don’t go out as much. She describes it as “social alienation.”
The essence of the article is that marriage puts limits and takes from you. If you should have children, it takes even more. It is all about me – being self-absorbed is great – so anything that changes perpetual adolescence is to be shunned. It’s a myopic world view.
Marriage involves sacrifices. It starts with the sacrifice of oneself for the sake of another, and it is a path that leads to a fuller life, not a lesser one. My friend Paula Rinehart mused: “One wonders what the author will think when she reaches age 60, alone and with no one she particularly cares about.”
The Atlantic author says that she and her partner don’t ask whether they want to get married. They are asking: “how we want to define our sense of family and community.”
I have 53 years of marriage experience, a product of a lot of work in the trenches. When I married, I knew I loved my wife. Getting married was the socially accepted and logical result.
Something has gotten lost in the translation. I didn’t marry because I was thinking about how I want to define my sense of “family and community”. I married because it is an institution that has survived thousands of years in our culture. It is not just a passing fad.
It has a purpose – a God ordained purpose – it is the bedrock of every society. One of its purposes is procreation – the continuation of our species. Try as they might, same-sex marriages don’t achieve this.
The Atlantic article reflects a very millennial view. Their self-absorption gets in the way of understanding that being unselfish is enriching, not constraining.
The challenge here is that the views may be widespread, not just one person’s. The focus is on the “me”, and anything or any institution that threatens “me” must be redefined to that “I can always be me.”
The path will lead to a shallow existence and a lessened life. Jesus sacrificed for us, and we are to serve one another. In marriage, we are to submit to one another. It’s not just “all about me”.
MENTOR TAKEAWAY: You can an advocate for the institution of marriage as God created it. Millennials need your perspective.
FURTHER READING:What You Lose When You Gain a Spouse
When are You Really an Adult?”– Julie Beck
National Review: Cheap Sex and the Decline of Marriage
WORSHIP: Listen to You’re Beautiful– Phil Wickham
MentorLink:For more information about MentorLink, go to www.mentorlink.org.
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