I’ve spoken in this space before regarding marriage and what it has become. I believe that a big part of the problem with marriage in these times is the fact that we have allowed it to become all about love and something that I only have while “in love”. Recently we’ve seen yet another example of this mentality, played for us in larger than life celebrities. After 4 months, Kenny Chesney and Renee Zellwinger (don’t know if she ever changed her name) are getting an anullment for “fraud”. Don’t know what it’s all about other than yet another couple bailing out.
This article from What in the World talks about what a liberal believes about the state of marriage in the USA:
Self-avowed liberal Stephanie Coontz rarely agrees with conservative evangelical activist James Dobson, but she says his warnings about the state of marriage are right-on—just too late. “Traditional marriage, with its 5,000-year history, has already been upended,” she says. But it’s not homosexuals who led the charge against the institution, but heterosexuals, she argues. It was heterosexuals who “turned marriage into a voluntary love relationship rather than a mandatory economic and political institution.” Heterosexuals “made procreation voluntary.” They also “subverted the longstanding rule that every marriage had to have a husband who played one role in the family and a wife who played a completely different one.” Homosexuals, Coontz says, “simply looked at the revolution heterosexuals had wrought and noticed that with its new norms, marriage could work for them, too.” She notes that merely banning gay marriage will not return heterosexual marriage to its more stable past. (New York Times, 7/5/05)
There’s a lot of scary commentary here to think through. Heterosexuals have turned marriage into a voluntary love relationship. This is evidenced by the divorce rate and and the number of couples that don’t feel they need to get married any more. It’s evidenced by the number of people that are more concerned with their careers, putting off having children until later or never, or people that are trying to have children way beyond child bearing years.
When marriage was a mandatory economic and political institution (husband brought home the money and voted), there was more reason to stay together. I especially like the comment about the husband and wife having completely different (but I would add complimentary) roles in the family. Now we have both being wage earners, and both being caretakers. Dependance on one another is good thing.
A footnote– same article– shows the effects of the above:
The annual “State of our Unions” report has found that though the divorce rate is dropping, so is the marriage rate. Five million couples are cohabiting in the U.S., and 40% of those households have children. Since 1960 the number of cohabiting couples has increased 1,200 percent. (Chicago Sun-Times, 7/19/05)