I was sitting in class as our professor began to go around the room asking the females a question: Would you consider a prenuptial agreement? The make-believe premise was your parents are pressuring you to protect the family fortune. Slowly, every girl in the room responded with “Yes,” some a little more hesitant than others. Soon it was my turn. My answer was no. By my professor’s reaction, you would have thought I’d added, “And I also believe the sky is orange.” When asked to explain, I replied, “My God does not believe in divorce, and neither do I.” Besides, if I start my marriage thinking it will not last, why get married? His response to me was something to this effect: Sweetheart, you're an idealist who will have to change that opinion if you ever want to make it in the real world.
My professor’s presumption was that anyone who doesn’t prepare for a marriage’s dissolution is a dreamer, ignoring reality. A recent New York Times article, “Till Death, or 20 Years, Do Us Part,” highlights the underlying issue: concern that marriage longevity is impossible. Simply and frankly, the author asks “whether society should consider something like a 20-year marriage contract.” Should marriage now have a starting and an ending date? Would this be better for society? The author admits he is “surprised and even unnerved by the extent to which some experts [he] spoke with say there is a need to rethink an institution that so often fails.”
MARRI research reveals time and again that “good marriages are the bedrock of strong societies.” Marriage helps increase men’s productivity and employment, decrease crime, promote healthy lifestyles, and protect children both mentally and physically. Clearly, marriage benefits society; so maybe it’s not the institution that needs reexamining, but the involved parties.
In the Times article, Pepper Schwartz, a sociology professor, remarks, “We’re remarkably not innovative about marriage even though almost all environmental conditions, writ large, have changed.” Two large problems with “innovation” immediately jump out. First, if a school district had a high dropout rate, would we address the problem by inviting students to only attend school until sixth grade? The state of Nevada has a 56% dropout rate, but I have yet to hear anyone propose short-term attendance contracts for these students. Since this institution appears to be failing, maybe we should give all 12-year-olds the option to leave science class if it does not make them happy after the first semester. Hopefully no parent would see this as a desirable option. Most parents would work to help their children succeed, because they know education will benefit their children over the long run.
Second, our society has already attempted to reinvent marriage through cohabitation. The article doesn’t hesitate to say that “cohabitation isn’t making us happier. Bowling Green found in a 2010 study that of cohabitating couples 36% say both partners are ‘very satisfied,’ compared to 57% for married couples.” MARRI research confirms this finding. According to “162 Reasons to Marry,” married couples enjoy better romantic relationships, greater fidelity, more economic prosperity, stronger parenting bonds, fewer instances of abuse and “higher levels of emotional and psychological well-being” than those single or cohabitating. Our human alterations have only made things worse, so why should we expect different results from another man-derived change?
One professor in the article wants to “eliminate the fantasy of marriage.” A fantasy exists in our country, but it is NOT the desire for a “till death do us part” marriage. The real far-fetched dream is that marriage is man-made convention for our convenience rather than a God-ordained covenant worthy of our commitment.
Whatever your views on religion, I think we can all agree that people are not perfect. We make mistakes; we have selfish desires; we mess up. This is why marriage will never work when its focus is two imperfect people. Marriage would have to constantly change, change again, and then would still fail to satisfy everyone’s desires. Paul articulates the outcome of a human focus in Romans 1:22-23:
“Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man…”
When you place a divine institution on the shoulders of a created being rather than in the hands of the creator, you will end up disappointed. (I owe this insight to a wonderful poem on marriage, which you can watch here.) Maybe, just maybe, marriage exists more for God’s glorification than our personal gratification! Marriage works when its focus is an unchanging, all-knowing, eternally perfect God.
We are not idealists for believing marriage and commitment as the Author of Life designed it works today. On the contrary, it is fantasy to think any perversion of His plan will prosper. Marriage “is the foundational relationship for all society,” and that’s neither make-believe nor scheduled to end in 20 years.