Sex is nature’s way of ensuring procreation and the continuation of humankind. Marriage is an agreement to protect and nurture one another and children of the union.
Marriage is most often part of a religious rite, designed to commit a man and woman to a stable future in which they and their children can flourish. “To have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part,” pretty much says it all. Life can be difficult, but some things – like marriage – should endure, especially as it is the best assurance of love and care for the young and for the future.
Unfortunately, a recent Gallup Poll found that only 29 percent of Americans feel that marriage is “very important” if a couple plan on having children, while 40 percent feel it is “not too” or “not at all” important. and sixty-six percent now believe it is morally acceptable to have a baby outside of marriage.
In 2017, 32 percent of children were living with an unmarried parent. It is estimated that by age nine, more than 20 percent of children born to married parents and fifty percent of children born to unmarried parents will experience a breakup.
Many things can destroy a relationship – infidelity, lies, drug and alcohol addiction, little annoyances that accumulate in silence – but marriage vows are to a relationship as a restore point is to a computer, a way to discard the accumulated viruses, mistakes and bric-a-brac and reboot. A way to revisit the original decision to be together “until death do us part.” Without that restore point, a seemingly minor glitch – as in an “if I don’t like it, I’ll leave” relationship – can mean the end of the relationship, the destruction of the family, the beginning of single parenthood, lawyers and fights over possessions, child support and child custody.
Most young people who get into relationships know very little about them. Baby Boomers – the current generation’s parents and grandparents – divorced like mad, and that bad example can throw a wet blanket over the idea of marriage. About half the current generation had their family split, were jerked this way and that, perhaps abandoned by a parent. They saw the struggle to make ends meet, had to appear in court as parents fought. Family was a battleground, and they would rather stay single or live together, keep things informal and casual.
But casual doesn’t cut it when it comes to a future. A couple sign a mortgage agreement to buy a house, work diligently to maintain employment, take an oath in front of God and all one’s friends and relatives to love, honor and cherish one another. Those things that matter require a commitment, an agreement, an intention to deliver what one has promised. A marriage matters, as it projects a family into an unstable future with few certainties.
Without the intention to make it work, without the willingness to continually create a relationship it will not endure.
Moving in together, a quick trip to Las Vegas or a few minutes before a justice of the peace may bring a certain amount of commitment, but it does not address the spiritual side of life, does not build a family on a foundation that goes clear to the core of a people, a religious tradition and its relationship with the infinite. It is a “flash in the pan relationship,” often made with scant intention, based on infatuation.
If built on love, a relationship will endure religious requirements, familial resistance even different faiths.
As Mark Twain said, “To get the full value of joy, you must have someone to divide it with.” Unfortunately, too often these days, what is divided is pain and heartbreak of a shattered relationship built on nothing more than sand.