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An All-time Low
by Byron Ware

    You glance at the front page of your newspaper, or web site, to know what the big stories are. Last Friday the headline in mine read, "U.S. marriage rate dips to all-time low."

    Rutgers University's National Marriage Project touted as a benchmark compilation of statistics and surveys, found that the nation's marriage rate has dipped by 43 percent in four decades. The marriage rate is now 49.7 per 1,000 people, the researchers said, down from 87 per 1,000 in 1960. This leaves the U.S. marriage rate at its lowest point in recorded history.

    "Young people today want successful marriages, but they are increasingly anxious and pessimistic about their chances for achieving that goal," said Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, co-director of the project. In other words, Americans love the idea of marriage, but are pessimistic to the point of exploring alternatives to marriage. Add to this the fact that the divorce rate, before declining slightly in recent years, had soared more than 30 percent since 1970. At this point I want to ask, “How low will we go?”

    The National Marriage Project report blames the declining marriage rate on people marrying later in life and on more couples living together outside of marriage. According to the report, nearly half of people between ages 25 and 40 have at some point set up a joint household with a member of the opposite sex outside of marriage. In my next column I will give you more information from the National Marriage Project regarding their study on cohabitation.

“How low will we go?”
    So what does this report mean to you? Children in your community are more likely to drop out of school, have bad marriages themselves, be involved in drug and alcohol abuse, and teenage pregnancy when there is not a committed mom and dad that are married. Adults usually have more health and emotional problems, earn less, save less, are more likely to abuse drugs, less likely to be homeowners, and less likely to invest for their future. Employees that are not married are less productive. Single men miss work more often and are more likely to abuse drugs or alcohol. As taxpayers we are effected by the marriage breakdown, because it increases the cost of many public health and social service programs. Single parent households often mean children are raised in poverty and on public aid. If there were fewer divorces and out-of-wedlock births, government spending could be reduced significantly.*

    WOW - What a wake up call! If marriage is in trouble, what can be done? Here are some ideas:

  • Understand and educate others on the value and beauty of marriage
  • Understand and educate others on the skills that are required for successful marriages
  • Understand and educate others on the dangers of alternatives to marriage
  • Understand and educate others on why God designed marriage for us.
  • Understand and encourage couples working through rough spots

    Is there any good news about marriage? I teach a Sunday morning class for my church family in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The name of the class is Marriage Matters. Through teaching this class I have learned that most of us:

  1. Don't understand the full impact of marriage before we are in it
  2. Don't fully realize the differences between the sexes
  3. Don't have several skills needed for forever marriages.

    The good news is that these issues are acquired skills that can be easily learned. The fact that the young adults, who were surveyed, are more realistic and less likely to jump flippantly into marriage is another positive sign.

    Saving marriage in America involves us valuing what God has designed and learning the skills that are needed to be good at it. Marriages require continual work, tears, and sacrifice. When you compare that to the homes where there is no marriage you can see clearly the price is worth the result. God's master plan of sacrificial marriage was intended to give us abundant lives — "What God has joined together let no man put asunder." Marriage matters!

* While these facts are based on researched averages, we recognize there are many individual differences. (From http://www.iserv.net/~ggrcmp/prfaminst/marriagematter.html)

HEARTLIGHT(R) Magazine is a ministry of loving Christians and the Westover Hills church of Christ.
Edited by Phil Ware and Paul Lee.
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