Over the past 40 years or so, the institution of marriage has had a tough road. Nearly 50% of all marriages end in divorce; many young people are opting out of marriage altogether, choosing instead to cohabitate indefinitely or to simply move from one relationship to another when things get tough; Hollywood and big media have made a mockery of marriage, viewing it as temporary or completely irrelevant.
Many families very close to us have gone through the trauma and heartbreak of divorce. Lives are uprooted, blame is placed, relationships are bruised, trust is lost, and home becomes a moving target. In many broken families, parents are forced to cooperate in the raising of the children, which can result in many years of frustration, resentment, and scheduling chaos. The divorced parents we talk with struggle daily to insulate their children from these repercussions. In far too many cases, one parent decides to opt out of the marriage, leaving the spouse no choice but to sign the papers and attempt to rebuild his / her life.
The data is clear that with the breakdown of the family unit comes real struggles for so many of our young people. Poverty, increased anxiety and mental health issues (including suicide), and sexual promiscuity are just a few of the challenges that face children that grow up in chaotic family structures.
That having been said, some of the strongest and most courageous people we know are single parents, many of whom have raised / are raising some of the most determined, bright, and self-assured young people that we know. These parents are committed and selfless, every day, no matter what, with no spouse to lean on when the storms come. These single moms and dads are generally tough on their kids because they know life is hard and being successful personally and professionally requires strength of mind and character. Although they seldom complain, most would not wish the challenges and loneliness of single parenting or co-parenting on anyone.
Strong marriages are the core of strong families, and strong families are the foundation upon which strong societies flourish.
As we raise our young people, we need to educate them on the importance and challenges of married life both in word and example. As Mike and I made our way through the marriage prep classes offered by our church years ago, the seasoned married couples that lead the instruction made it clear to us that being married is hard and takes daily commitment. Our young people need to know that entering into a marriage covenant means self-sacrifice, not self-indulgence. A Deacon shared with us that our responsibility as a married couple first and foremost is to get our spouse to heaven.