Marriage in our culture has certainly changed in the past few decades.
- Culture and government have changed society’s definition of marriage
- Social media/Pinterest have emphasized the wedding day more than the marriage.
- Cohabitation and sexual norms have led many non-married couples to appear married.
Guess what? The changes are not stopping or going away.
One trend we often hear about is less couples choosing to get married. Instead, we see more couples moving in together, longer and less committed relationships and a smaller number of couples choosing to walk down the aisle.
In 10 years of full-time premarital ministry, I have certainly seen changes in the way young adults think about marriage. They are scared, don’t have good models to watch and learn from and think most married couples are miserable. Even the ones who do choose to get married have a lower view of God’s ideal and a more contractual view of marriage. Many couples choose to get married and then choose to get divorced and marry another person down the road. Some couples view marriage like they would a starter home: buy a house, build some equity, sell the house and buy a newer home with the equity you built. These couples view marriage in the same light: get married, build some knowledge of what you like and don’t like and then move on to a newer marriage. It’s a very sad trend in young couples.
Yes, couples are waiting longer and longer to get married as the average age of marriage keeps creeping up in years. And yes, more unmarried couples are acting like married couples by having sex and moving in together. These factors do contribute to a lower marriage rate. But… I believe the real reason young couples are not getting married is because the church and married couples have failed to cast the right picture of marriage. Let me show you what I mean.
If someone told you a movie was terrible, would you go see it? If the same friend told you about the nasty food they ate at a restaurant, would you go eat there? If someone told how bad a book was, would you go buy that book? No, no, and no.
In the same way, if we keep telling young couples how hard marriage is and don’t tell them how amazing it is (and how hard it can be at times), should we expect them to want to get married? Like a bad movie, restaurant or book, couples are running away from the altar because they don’t like what they think they’re getting served. If a couple’s choice is to have sex and live together without the commitment, or sign up for something that sounds terrible with a long term commitment, why would they choose marriage?
If we don’t start talking about the beauty of marriage and the even greater beauty of the One who gave us marriage, why should we expect couples to walk down the aisle together? We can’t neglect telling others about the beauty of Jesus Christ who is even greater than the best marriage! The greatness of the Giver is even greater than the gift of marriage.
It’s time we start changing the way we talk about marriage. It’s time for us to fight for our marriages and to esteem our spouse. It’s time for us to talk about how amazing marital sex can be and the joy of companionship and friendship. Young adults need to hear about the ways marriage causes us to grow and to become more like Christ. It’s time we change our tune about marriage, the way we talk, think and feel about it.
I believe the church has often failed at not preparing couples well for marriage. We neglect the opportunity to biblically prepare couples for marriage. Now we, the church, are making another mistake by not talking rightly about marriage and scaring couples away.
Cohabitation and premarital sex are not going away. But, if we paint the right picture of marriage, I believe we can change the way young adults think and feel about marriage. I believe couples will line up to get married if they hear about its beauty, not just about the challenges of married life. Do we stop telling people about the challenges of marriage? May it never be! But, let’s make sure we give them the GREAT along with the challenges.
We can say the same thing about parenting, but that’s a story for another day and another post. Besides, I need to go take care of my bratty kids (just kidding… I wouldn’t want to scare you away from having kids or making more of them).
- Think about it: how to you talk about marriage? About your spouse? If you heard the ways you speak about marriage, would you want to get married?
- If you do speak well of your spouse and marriage, then keep being a marriage evangelist! The world needs to hear your story.
For the Family,
Scott Kedersha, at www.scottkedersha.com