“Do you like me? Check yes or no.”
Valentine’s Day is approaching, and my four-year-old son came home from preschool with a note like this. It was cute, but I don’t really encourage the boyfriend/girlfriend stuff at his age.
One day, however, I will encourage it. When my kids are young adults, I will encourage them to prepare for and pursue marriage just like they are pursuing their other goals, such as education or employment. And I hope my husband and I can model a happy, healthy marriage at home.
No doubt, marriage culture has been changing. Marriage rates in my generation are much lower than in previous generations, and not because more people are choosing a life of intentional celibacy like Saint Paul. Americans today say marriage is less important, but most still desire it.
In the past 10 years, more people say dating has gotten harder, not easier. Incidentally, that’s about how long Tinder has been around. Some in my generation are voicing regret about taking a more casual approach to love and relationships, but even many marriage-minded singles are struggling to find mates and make relationships work.
This struggle is worth it. Despite many Millennials delaying or forgoing marriage altogether, the institution still offers myriad benefits — socially, emotionally, and financially — to both men and women. And many of the problems in our society find their root in our broken marriage culture.
The benefits of marriage to men are obvious. Married men have better sex lives, make more money, have better mental health, and live longer lives. As sociologist Steven Nock says, “Marriage is one of the last rites of passage into manhood in our society.” Marriage gives men a sense of purpose and responsibility as they provide for their families. Married men also benefit from the encouragement of their wives, who have an interest in their shared success.
Women, too, benefit from marriage. Married women are much less likely to live in poverty, and women in happy marriages experience health benefits compared to single women. Married women also enjoy sex more than their unmarried counterparts. Plus, being married means having a constant confidant and teammate in your husband.
While it’s a popular option these days, cohabitation simply doesn’t offer the same benefits as marriage. Cohabitations are much more likely to end than marriages, perhaps because couples who cohabitate experience lower levels of relationship satisfaction on average and are more likely to cheat. Cohabitation doesn’t match the financial benefits of marriage either.
But importantly, we shouldn’t simply view relationships only through the lens of material benefits they can offer us as individuals. In fact, this is precisely what has gone wrong in marriage culture and our culture of hyper-individualism in general. Marriage — in contrast to cohabitation — is a lifelong, sacrificial commitment to the good of another person.
Our culture needs more commitments like this. This is why marriage is the key to broadly solving so many cultural and social problems.
Care about the welfare of children? This one is obvious. Worried about the fertility rate? Marriage is much more foundational than expensive policy solutions like paid family leave or child tax incentives.
Want to close the wealth gap? Then close the marriage gap. Promote marriage culture. Focus on the success sequence. Marriage is the ultimate safety net — the key to reducing the need for welfare programs.
Want fewer mass shootings? Less violence against women? Married men are less likely to be violent, and not just because nice guys get married. Marriage also inhibits antisocial behavior. Marriage is the foundation of a healthy society.
Many people in my generation have been trained since childhood to focus most of all on self-actualization, professional goals, and individualism. Instead, we should treat marriage (the pursuit of it, and the maintenance of it) as something that is just as important — actually much more important — than most other goals in life. For those who marry, marriage will shape the direction of our lives; it will even shape who we are. And even for those who are content with choosing a single life, marriage will shape our shared culture and future.
So, don’t let the modern worldview of marriage as unimportant and outdated blind you to the truth. The truth is that marriage is still vital to society and extremely beneficial to most individuals. If you are looking for something love-themed to do this Valentine’s Day, celebrate the institution of marriage — it’s still the best way for romantic relationships to bear their full fruit.
1 thought on “Opinion: This Valentine’s Day, Celebrate and Elevate Marriage – Inside Sources”
Happy St. Valentines Day! As kids we exchanged little candies with lettering on them in school and other cute notes; even a party at school. Today, I expect a push for LBGTXYZ media comments rather than traditional exhibits of loving gestures between heterosexuals’. I celebrated yesterday by taking an 81 year old friend to lunch with a card and small gift. Love takes on many forms as we express ourselves with others.
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