Since this is the season for Valentine’s Day, I have been thinking about the state of the institution of marriage in our nation and pondering why there are so many divorces.
Several decades ago the divorce rate hovered around 10%. Now it is almost at 60%! Even the Body of Christ is not exempt from the staggering amount of marital failures! I truly believe there are several unique challenges married couples now face that previous generation did not.
The following are some of the many reasons for these increasing challenges to marriage today:1 .The Cultural Decline In Commitment
Today there is a general lack of commitment. In the past, a handshake or a person’s word was sufficient to bind a person to an agreement (read Proverbs 6:1-5). But now, even if there is a legal agreement many will attempt to get out of their contracts or commitments.
We see this all the time. For example, when athletes refuse to play in attempts to force their teams to renegotiate their contracts (e.g. Darrelle Revis of the New York Jets before the 2010 season).
Nowadays the average person in our culture and society is trained to do what feels good—what makes them happy—and to follow the path of least resistance. Instead of glorifying covenant, commitment and responsibility to family and country, our pop culture glorifies sex, romance, feelings and other things that bring personal “happiness.” It is truly an “I, me, my” culture instead of a sacrificial, stewardship-based culture.2. The Rise Of Hyper-Feminism And Egalitarianism
Even godly women enter marriage with feminist presuppositions including the belief that they are not to submit to male headship in their homes (Ephesians 5:21-24). It is almost anathema to preach the biblical role for husbands and wives in the church today!
Egalitarianism (the equality of men and women), pushed by pop culture, sociologists and educators, and which pervades society, does not recognize the obvious physiological and psychological distinctions and roles between men and women. Even some Evangelical theologians and leaders teach that the concept of male headship in Scripture is not relevant today because it came out of a patriarchal culture that is now outdated and not applicable. The result of this is much friction in many homes because women do not give men the proper respect, resulting in numerous marital breakups.
There was much good that came out of the feminist movement, e.g. the bringing of social justice to the unfair way women were treated in society. For example, in the past women were paid significantly less than men who had the same job, and many women were treated as sex objects or forbidden to do anything but stay home, have children, and take care of their homes.
But, with every movement there are extremes. The hyper-feminist movement, driven in my opinion by large numbers of men-haters, has gone too far and doesn’t give men their proper due, respect and role as protector and provider of women and children.
Of course, I teach that men cannot demand respect in their homes by quoting Ephesians 5. All men must earn their respect by loving their wives as Christ loved the church and by serving their families with love, humility, and dignity. 3. The Societal Emasculation Of Men
Men are not expected to act like real men in today’s culture but rather like metrosexuals, which is some sort of hybrid between femininity and masculinity. Married men are constantly chided, rebuked, and pressured to be “sensitive” to their wives and children (which, generally speaking, is necessary and a good thing).
The problem is, many women are trained in our culture and by our colleges to expect men to act exactly like women (because of egalitarianism). Some women pressure married men to read books on understanding women (which is good) without themselves feeling pressured to understand the mind and characteristics of a real man! I have met many men who have read books on women but I haven’t met too many women who have read books on understanding men! Women need to understand men as much as men need to understand women.
When men are not understood, allowed to act like men, and treated with respect they are emasculated emotionally, suffer depression, and often leave their spouses in search of women who will better understand them (which often never happens and ends in disaster for their families and personal lives!)
It would be a good thing if every married woman read a book like Wild at Heart by John Eldredge so they could better understand their husbands!
Also, mothers need to let their boys be boys. Mothers with young sons need to let their sons get dirty and be adventurous. Don’t faint when your son gets into fights or has a hard time focusing in school! Boys are often incorrectly diagnosed with ADD (attention deficit disorder) because they are internally wired to do something with their hands or do something of purpose.
Young boys often have a hard time focusing on academics. This sometimes leads to an excessive amount of young boys being medicated for ADD. There may be times that it is necessary to medicate a young boy. But my guess is that the medicating of our young men is doing much more harm than good, both to them and to society!4. The Declining Number Of Male Role Models In Marriages And Families
The curse of divorce reproduces and multiplies itself in the children of divorce. This becomes a vicious cycle that becomes worse with every generation. Generally speaking, men are becoming less responsible because they are being raised in fragmented families and have no model of a covenant commitment. (“Till death do us part” is hardly ever said anymore in marriage vows!)
One of the reasons some women hate men is because men have become less committed to monogamous relationships and have broken the hearts of their wives, children, and families with their adulterous, flaky behavior! I don’t know why, but it seems as though there are more single moms than single dads in church and society. This shows that, in general, women are more committed to the unity of their families than their male partners and/or husbands.5. The Watering Down Of The Definition Of Marriage By Sociologists, Politicians, And Educators
Educators, pop culture, and humanists have been pushing alternate forms of marriage for the past two decades and are now successfully using legislation to force the acceptance of same-sex marriage in various nations internationally and within several states in the U.S. Currently same-sex marriages are performed in Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Iowa, and Washington, DC.
It is no wonder that, with the redefinition of the nuclear family being pushed so hard in college classrooms, fewer young people are putting a high value on getting married at a young age and having children of their own. When I was a teenager in the 1970’s the average age for entering into marriage was under 25. Now people are getting married noticeably later in life or choosing never to get married at all and simply cohabitating!
Furthermore, humanistic sociologists are teaching that families can be formed with two men, two women, a man and several women, or a person and their pet, etc.
We are now experiencing the radicalization of America with its concomitant decline in marriage and morality. Unless parents and congregations begin to model and train their children at a very young age on the virtues and values of traditional marriage and the traditional family, a large percentage of our church kids will choose to have sexual relationships outside of holy matrimony! 6. The Rise Of Postmodernism, Which Diminishes Moral Absolutes
Postmodernism, as a rejection of stale, empirical modernism, has gone too far and is now espousing the erroneous view that there are no moral absolutes and thus no absolute truth in this world! Those who believe the Bible (and its contents like the Ten Commandments) to be the inspired, authorized word of God are called ignorant fools in today’s college classrooms for believing in unchanging moral laws. This societal view of reality has had a dramatic effect and has negatively impacted the morality of our children who watch much television, are taught humanism in public schools, and learn that there is no absolute truth or morality in life. This in turn takes away from their commitment to monogamous relationships in both their marriages and families.7. Women In The Workforce
Although I believe it is a good thing if a woman wants to excel in a career, in sports, in politics, business, etc., there is no denying the fact that men and women working alongside each other for 8-10 hours per day has greatly contributed to the prevalence of adultery and divorce! (Co-workers spend 40-60 primetime hours per week in proximity to one another, while they are only with their spouses at night and on weekends, if they are fortunate!)
Furthermore, in the past women didn’t have any economic options because they were generally uneducated and had to depend on their husbands to support them and their children. But now, for the first time in American history more women are attending college than men (read this article from the New York Times) and are being paid almost as much as men in the workforce. Thus, with more financial parity women are less dependant on their husbands economically and are more prone to either cheat on their husbands (with men they meet at work) or leave their husbands if their marriages become rocky or their husbands are irresponsible and/or abuse them emotionally or physically.
Generally, I am not opposed to the idea of women having more options and pursuing a career apart from their husbands. (This is especially needed in our economy and especially if a woman’s husband mistreats or abuses them.) But I also greatly admire women who choose to nurture their families and young children above their careers. I hate it when women are put down by society for choosing to be stay-at-home moms!
I believe it is balanced for women to obtain a good education if possible before marriage, obtain skills in the workforce and in their careers and then, when they have children, having the option to stay at home until their children are older. Then, later on, they can pursue their careers again or work flexible hours while their children are in school. A mother raising her children at home is better than leaving them with strangers at a daycare center!
However, when husbands stay at home to raise their children, cook, and clean they generally suffer much depression. This causes low self-esteem which makes them more vulnerable to substance abuse, adultery and other self-destructive behaviors. This is because, in general (there are some exceptions to this), most husbands’ egos will have a difficult time with wives who make more money than them.
(Perhaps it is because God or a male-dominated culture wired men to both protect and provide for their families, since many feel worthless or less than real men when they are not the main breadwinners. I have observed experiences of this type in our local church. Whether it is God or a patriarchal society that wired men this way is for another article.)
Be that as it may, these are some of the primary challenges for today’s married couples that previous generations did not have to face.Joseph Mattera