I read an article today that cited a Pew Center survey reporting that 40% of Americans believe that the institution of marriage is becoming obsolete. Obsolete! In 1972, the rate of marriage in the United States was 72%. Today, the rate is 51% and projections indicate that married people will be in the minority within several years. The median age of first marriage has increased from around 21 in 1960 to 27.5 today. The new marriage rate (those married within the last 12 months) has decreased from 41 per thousand in 2008 to 37.4 per thousand in 2010. It’s not looking good for the home team, folks!
When I hear the statement that marriage is “becoming obsolete”, I have to wonder what is causing it to become obsolete, and what is replacing it?
When I hear the statement that marriage is “becoming obsolete”, I have to wonder what is causing it to become obsolete, and what is replacing it. As Catholics, we look at the sacrament of marriage as fulfilling a purpose for God’s people. The domestic church, that is, the family defined in the marital covenant, expressed through the loving acceptance and care of children, and completed by a fulfillment of the marital vows, is a model of the Catholic Church. The purpose of marriage is to model Jesus’ relationship to His Church, and in so doing, to live out God’s plan for us in this world. Of course, not all people are called to marriage and this is as it should be. But it would seem that those that are called will soon be in the minority, and I for one think this bodes ill for our society.
Marriage allows us to live out those struggles and sacrifices. I have learned after 15 years of marital bliss that the defining behavior of successful marriage is a complete and unselfish giving of self to the other person. When I look back on all of the problems in my married life, every single one of them had selfishness as a root cause. Even when stressors came from the outside such as financial problems, extended family issues, and work-related issues, as long as Allyson and I put each other first, our marriage remained strong and happy.
Back to the question at hand. Why do people think that marriage is becoming obsolete? Personally, I think it’s because people don’t understand the benefits of marriage, for themselves and our society. They don’t understand how good it is, how fulfilling, how supportive and loving, how fun. They have no idea that I catch a glimpse of God in the eyes of my children every day. Their perception of what is best for them is based, at its root, upon a selfish and necessarily immature view. It is a view defined in the media and accepted by people without reason. It would seem that as married people become increasingly rarer, that our value to society will become greater. I don’t think that society realizes this yet, but I’m confident that there will come a day of reckoning.