I’m a bit confused here.
While more states, including my own, grant the legal right to marry to same sex couples, more and more heterosexual couples are rejecting official marriage that includes a signed “piece of paper”, preferring to bear their children out of wedlock. What one minority segment of U.S. society has fought hard for over several decades, now granted through society’s expanding acceptance and tolerance of diverse lifestyles, the heterosexual majority increasingly deems marriage worthless and to be avoided.
Can someone shed some light on what is going on here?
I’m all for celebrating legal sanctioning of personal commitment. I have seen what happens when there is no commitment to commitment. Without steadfast loyalty, dependability, predictability, and honoring of promises made, relationships flounder and fizzle, descending into selfish silos of an “every person for themselves” approach to life. I watched it happen late in my parents’ marriage as their focus became less on the inherent value of the union of two people who made vows before God to stay together through thick and thin, and more on what’s best for the individual when needs go unmet. Any divorce is heartbreaking and painful, but the implosion of a 35 year marriage is truly tragic and unnecessary. Ironically, their original commitment reignited ten years later as they married again for the last few years of my father’s life.
There are now too many scarred and scared young people unwilling to take the step of marriage, having grown up inside the back and forth visitation homes of divorce or in a home offering no significant modeling of long term emotional commitment. Even monogamous devotion to a new sexual partner is seen as unnecessarily restrictive, while an unplanned new life conceived within that relationship becomes too easily postponed until it is “convenient” for the unprepared parents. We have forgotten what promises mean, what stability represents to a relationship and children, how trusting obedience to the longevity of the union should trump short term individual desires.
My clinic day increasingly is filled with the detritus of failed and failing relationships. Too many of my young adult patients who describe symptoms of depression and anxiety struggle with whether they want to continue to live at all, sometimes expressing their misery in escalating self harming behaviors or anesthetizing with alcohol or recreational drugs. They describe the chaos of parents living sequentially with multiple partners, of no certain “home” outside their school dorm or apartment, unsolvable complications with half- and step- sibling relationships, and all too frequently financial uncertainty. Many grew up supervised by TV and computer games rather than being held accountable to (mostly absent) parental expectations. They are more comfortable with on-line communication than risk being truthful about who they really are with flesh and blood people they see every day. They fear failure as they have seldom been allowed to make mistakes and subsequently experience forgiveness and grace from those who love them. They are emotional orphans.
In short, they know little about how love manifests through self-sacrifice and faithfulness.
Keeping commitment becomes the light that illuminates our lives, as reliable as the fact the sun rises every morning.
At least on that we can depend.