Where are Children in the New Marriage?
Marriage has changed considerably over the last half of a century. Of course, since it is Tuesday and this is CoupleDumb, we need to ask the question, ‘Where are children in this climate of new marriage?’ The answer is ‘nowhere’.
Paul says: In the old days, the reason that people got married was to have children without getting a good ass-smiting by God. A married woman got pregnant, period. If she could not drop a litter then she was somewhat useless. Harsh but true. Then came the 60’s and the nature of equality changed throughout the nation. Women, rightfully, did not want to be solely baby making machines, couples started seeing the benefits of a two income family, and men did what they could to leave the caves and stand in the light of a new liberation of everyone. (Yes, I am a believer that what is good for some is good for all.)
…And marriage went from being child centered to being something else. From the 1960’s to the 1980’s, the fertility rate in our nation dropped by half. In other words, we were making half the babies that we used to. I do not want anyone to get me wrong, I am delighted that we have moved from a child-centered marital system. My kids really should not be the center of anything short of a maybe one of the rings of hell, the ring with whiny children and drippy ice cream. But, if children are no longer the center of a marriage then what has replaced them?
I’m not a big fan of answering by subtractions but here are some of the things that have not replaced them. Love is not at the center of marriages. We already know that most people cannot distinguish true love from the need for a good pickle poke. If anything, love has taken a step back from marriage since the closest that people came to unconditional love was in the act of bonding with their children. So love is out.
Being married has not taken center stage in marriage either. Divorce rates are up, people cohabitate more than ever, and rearing a child outside of wedlock is becoming more and more common. So the value of marriage existing for itself has definitely not taken hold.
My take on things, for what it is worth, is that nothing has taken the position of center and that that is what we are seeing and experiencing now. We are searching for that new center. Women struggle daily with the balance of wife, mom and lover while trying to hold on to their individuality and still be part of something greater. Men are slowly learning to let go of the reigns of breadwinning despot with one hand while taking up the roles of nurturer and team player with the other.
Oddly enough, in all of this searching, the teen population still knows what they want. I’m going to say something that I don’t think that I have ever said: teens are a lot smarter than they look. OK, that felt weird. But they are proving themselves. In a recent study of high school students, they said overwhelmingly that they value marriage. They said that they want to be married, have children but only when they are financially secure, and have careers that allow for a balance of family and work. How bad does it have to be that adults can take priority cues from adolescents? What’s next, talking dogs?
Lee says: That might help marriage as well. I am sure that our ugly dog, who Paul was whoring out yesterday, could give plenty of people advice.
I know that one thing people are trying is making their marriage God centered. Well, here is where Lee gets herself in trouble. God, for lack of a better way of saying this, cannot hold up a falling marriage. If you were raised in the Judeo-Christian faiths then you heard a little something about free will. This is where we can do what we want and it is God sanctioned. God, or whatever you call your spiritual connection, leaves for you to choose between good/evil, right/wrong, commitment or other, responsible or irresponsible. Making Him the center of a marriage is thus giving Him the responsibility to hold you up. Sure, I hear a lot of the chatter about how these couples are commanded to be the best husband and wife… and that this makes marriage so important….but let me tell you a little secret. Christians have a higher divorce rate than any other religion.
I believe God wants us to make the marriage (commitment) the center of the marriage. Do well there and you can pretty much do anything else. The foundation we create at home is what buoys us throughout our lives. God is support and a beacon for everything in life but we lose the purpose of our beliefs if instead of keeping our faith as the mood music we make it the lyrics, the dance moves and the pounding bass.