I saw two interesting editorials earlier, so as usual I'll start by quoting the bits I like the most.
First, an editorial about the positives of marriage
from a married mom.
My daughter Liliana, who was 8 when we were playing the board game, tossed off this remark as she stuck the tiny blue husband pin into her car: "When I grow up, I don't think I'll get married. I think I'll just get some sperm."
How we reap what we sow! Liliana was old enough to know the story of her own origins, and it goes like this: When I turned 39, still single, I resolved to become a mother on my own and bought eight vials of donor sperm. But then I met her father, Sprax, and he agreed to help me have a baby the old-fashioned way. We went through many ups and downs, even splitting up for a couple of years, but finally realized that we loved each other, got back together and went on to have her baby brother. When Liliana was almost 4, we got married.
So there I was — the former single mother by choice, the typical Massachusetts type who deeply believes that there are a hundred great ways to make a family and that life can also be wonderful without one — and I found myself responding to my daughter: "That would be fine if you just get some sperm, sweetheart, but you know, being married is actually really nice, too."
What happened to me? What happened to the independent woman who, by the time she married for the first time at age 44, felt no particular need for a piece of paper from City Hall?
It is this. Day in and out, through lunch-packing and play date-making and bath-running, I am struck by a surprising truth: Though the raising of our children constitutes the central activity of our family, it is the love between Sprax and me that constitutes its ineffable core.
That sounds like a traditional religious point of view, but we are not religious. I've come to this understanding simply as an observer of my own heart and the family dance. It is, apparently, just an emotional fact of life — at least, of our life.
Usually you hear people talk about commitment, but I can't imagine any greater commitment than sharing children who are still going to need raising for quite a few years.
No, what marriage means to me is acceptance, an "absolute yes" that makes it bearable to be seen at your worst — exhausted or flu-ridden or carried away by an ugly bout of selfishness. That "yes" launches the creation of an entity, a union, that exists apart from the daily ebb and flow of difficulties and joys. It is nothing but an abstraction, but, to my amazement, it is the most beautiful thing in our lives.
Second, an editorial from a well-known gay writer
about the pressures of marriage and a bit of evangelical-bashing.
Til death do us part.
On my wedding day, I will not be saying that sentence.
Not that I'm not in it to win it — I am — only that if two people are told they can never leave, how do they know the other really wants to stay? Marriage is hard enough without the specter of death being the only way out hanging over our heads.
To me, it's just another fire and brimstone tactic absentmindedly handed down from generation to generation just to get people to stay in line.
But it's a lot harder than that and sometimes things don't work out. Recognizing that doesn't threaten the relationship, it just means you're paying attention. And in a country with a healthy divorce rate and prenuptial agreements — which are essentially Plan Bs before the ink on Plan A is even dry — I think it's safe to assume there are a lot of examples of things not working out to pay attention to.
A recent Pew study found that the number of Americans 18 and older who are married dropped from 72% in 1960 to 57% in 2000 to 51% today.
Combine that with the declining divorce rate, people getting married later in life and with seven in 10 millennials saying it's OK to have premarital sex (according to Public Religion Research Institute), and what you have is a generation that is totally over having their sex lives managed by people they're not having sex with.
At some point, church leaders are going to have to figure out how to minister to a congregation that is not waiting to have sex and not afraid to say it. Not ashamed to say it. That's going to be hard to do but necessary if it wants to stay relevant.
It's not as if people are falling in love less, not if the 13% jump in one year in the number of unmarried couples living together is any indication.
When people exchange "til death do us part" with "you wanna move in?", it may feel less pious, less certain and less concrete, but it's ultimately more tangible because it is based in the here and now, not in a future which may or may not arrive.
No one, with maybe the exception of Kim Kardashian, enters a marriage with the intent of getting a divorce. But there are now people entering relationships with no intentions of getting married and their relationship is not less valid, their love is not less real, their future is not less certain.
So, I'm curious to hear people's thoughts on regular marriage.*
Personally I've seen plenty of examples both good and bad around me. My parents got divorced when I was in junior high (and I'm amazed they lasted that long), though neither of them has had a significant relationship since them. My wife's parents are still married after 35+ years. My grandparents are in their 80's and still married. One of my wife's frandmothers is moving in with a guy around her age, and I have no idea if they're planning to marry or not. My brother-in-law has gone through two horrible marriages and divorces, and I have significant doubts my brother will ever get married. My older sister has been married close to two decades now.
The common thread that I've noticed in all the still-married ones is that we all put time and effort into good communication, and have time together and time apart*