Is marriage a broken institution? A lot of people say so. They see the staggering divorce rates and the heartbreak of divided families and, quite understandably, wonder if it is all worth it. In response, they declare the whole thing to be outdated or corrupted.
Sort of. The truth is, they go on to pursue long term relationships that resemble marriage in every way. They call each other “partners” and say that they don’t like marriage, but they live together and pledge (in some ceremony) that they will remain exclusively devoted to one another forever. (By the way, I’m talking about heterosexuals, here. Gay couples are not the only ones using the term “partner” to refer to their life partners.) They will put off having children until this ceremony is done and, and will take up the role of dual-guardians of their kids. These sorts of people are one marriage document away from actually being married, but they insist that they do not like marriage. The truth is, they just want to re-name it.
I propose that an institution is only as broken as the people that make it. I’ve seen a lot of marriages struggle and fall apart, but that does not affect the strength of my own marriage. The relationship I have with my wife is as as strong as we choose to make it, and it is not broken as long as we are not broken.
Getting married can be tough. People have certainly had their lives ruined by marriages gone bad, but outside of marriage people still tell lies and hurt each other – running away from “marriage” will not prevent this. Putting on a wedding band and making promises in front of a minister is not what causes people to neglect their children and cheat on their spouses, and plenty of “partnerships” have gone bad for the same reasons as our marriages. This is human nature, and we can’t fix it by attacking institutions like marriage.
But, we can take part in the process of redemption. We can make sure that marriage is no longer a laughing stock by modeling for future generations what a proper relationship can be. I was raised by a great family, but most of my friends grew up with parents who fought and often got divorced, so many of them assumed that romance could only led to arguments and separation. That’s depressing. This cycle can end when we decide that we will not give that image of love and marriage to the next generation.
Marriage might seem broken, but that’s just because we are not doing it well. Let’s fix it.
(This is a big topic, so I’ll be discussing it more later in the week.)
(More articles at www.ThinkingThroughChristianity.com)