1) State of Marriage Today
If God cares so much about marriage, why is the institution of marriage in this country struggling so much today? Here are a few facts that highlight the struggle:
- 72% of adults in the U.S. were married 50 years ago; 50% are married today. Consider what that percentage will be in 50 more years at this rate of decline. Imagine a time in this century when only 1 of 3 adults are married – that would represent nearly a 60% decline since 1960!
- Even twenty-somethings aren’t marrying – 68% were married 50 years ago, today we’re at 26%!
- A recent Time Magazine article, citing a Pew poll, found that 44% of Americans under 30 years old believe marriage is headed for extinction!
- The rate of co-habitation (living together without being married) has grown 15 times in the last 50 years.
- The divorce rate today is still at an alarming rate of 45% – with the average for Christians and non-Christians being nearly equal. There’s even a growing epidemic of long-term marriages failing. Does it even seem possible that couples married for 25+ years would call it quits? Here’s how a recent article in AARP The Magazine characterized the issue and the likely root cause:
Why do so many long-married couples decide to split? How can people be so happy for so long, only to then have the marriage turn sour in what are supposed to be their “golden years” together? In most cases, the reasons are far less dramatic. Some relationships have been in decline for decades and finally lose all their juice. A marriage doesn’t usually just blow up. It’s more like a balloon that has been seeping air for a long time. After a while, it’s totally deflated.
2) Why is Marriage so Hard?
There’s one more reason that marriages are struggling today, perhaps the most significant one: because marriage is hard to get right!
It’s entirely paradoxical. On one hand, my marriage is the most fulfilling and satisfying relationship in my life. On the other hand, it’s also the most challenging relationship because it’s so easy for me to mishandle it. Am I alone in this struggle?
If it were easy, why would so many marriages struggle? We love each other more than we love anyone else. We get to spend more time with our spouses than anyone else. We share an intimacy that is exclusive and incredible when it’s right and done God’s way. There’s every reason to believe that it should be the best, most natural relationship in our lives. But it isn’t!
You likely have your own theories about what makes marriage challenging, allow me to offer a few:
- Whether it came from our fall in the Garden of Eden or to our inherent nature, we humans are innately self-oriented. Maybe that’s too gentle – we’re actually downright selfish at our core. The culture reinforces this nature by constantly reminding us that we deserve to be happy; that we should be able to ‘have it our way’; and we’re dominantly thinking, “What’s in it for me?” When two married spouses carry these predispositions into a marriage, they’re inviting a clash of self-interested humans.
- Is it because marriage is so 24/7? There’s no other relationship that is designed to last for decades where we’re so completely and endlessly ‘exposed’ (emotionally, spiritually, and yes – even physically) as marriage. Our spouse sees us in our best times, in our worst times, and even in times of stress or sickness and that combination is bound to make us vulnerable.
- Maybe it’s because we’re so different from each other? Married couples often find they are polar opposites in personalities, interests, styles, and any other dimension you can fathom. We also have different family backgrounds (and the corresponding ‘baggage’) which can further complicate our ability to relate to each other effectively.
- It may be related to the lack of great role models we’ve had in our lives for what a great marriage really looks like. Divorce is certainly prevalent but even if your parents and grandparents stayed married their relationship may have been held together “for the good of the children” and had little semblance to a strong, loving marriage.
- Is it instead our naiveté and/or our unrealistic expectations that cause the biggest challenge? We often have a serious case of ‘rose-colored glasses’ when we meet our spouse and likely convinced ourselves that the love and passion we have for her couldn’t possibly diminish. Only to find out weeks later (or God-forbid, days later) that there are challenges in marriage we never would have anticipated until the rose-colored glasses came off.
- Or, could it be the pressures of everyday life that represent the real attack on our marriages? Raising children, paying off unmanageable debt, or balancing our career demands with the time and energy demands of our family and marriage are often next-to-impossible. Life really does come at us pretty fast for most of our married lives.
- Finally, could it be that making marriage work well ‘till death do us part’ is harder because we haven’t ‘burned the ships’ (I have included a section of the book on this topic)? If a couple genuinely enters a marriage with a philosophy that there is no turning back on our commitment to each other, how much more likely are they to work hard to resolve their issues and remain committed – in sickness, poorness, or worse?
It’s undeniable that marriage is not easy and takes a lot of work to get it right – especially done God’s way. This is especially true if we don’t fully comprehend God’s design for marriage and for our role as husbands in that marriage. Understanding it better won’t make it easy, but it will make it totally worth the return on your investment.