We’ve got to change the message we communicate about marriage. Young couples today wait longer and longer to get married as the average age of marriage keeps creeping up in years. And, more unmarried couples act like married couples by having sex and moving in together. These factors do contribute to a lower marriage rate. But, I believe the main reason young couples choose not to get married is because the church and married couples have failed to cast the right picture of marriage. Let me show you what I mean.
If someone told you a movie was terrible, would you see it? If the same friend told you about the nasty food they ate at a restaurant, would you eat there? Or what if someone told how bad a book was, would you buy that book? No, no, and no.
In the same way, if we keep telling young couples how hard marriage is and don’t tell them how amazing it is (and how hard it can be at times), should we expect them to want to get married? Like a bad movie, restaurant or book, couples run away from the altar. Why? Because they don’t like what they think they’re getting served. If a couple’s choice is to have sex and live together without the commitment or sign up for something that sounds terrible with a long-term commitment, why would they choose marriage?
The message your marriage communicates affects whether or not other couples will choose to get married.
In 10 years of full-time premarital ministry, I have certainly seen changes in the way young adults think about marriage. They’re scared, don’t have good models to watch and learn from, and think most married couples are miserable. Even the ones who do choose to get married have a lower view of God’s ideal and a more contractual view of marriage.
Many couples choose to get married and then choose to get divorced and marry another person down the road. Some couples view marriage like they would a starter home: buy a house, build some equity, sell the house, and buy a newer home with the equity you built. These couples view marriage in the same light: get married, build some knowledge of what you like and don’t like, and then move on to a newer marriage. It’s a very sad trend in marriages today.
What can we do about it?
Earlier this year I read Gary Thomas’ excellent new marriage book, “Cherish: The One Word That Changes Everything For Your Marriage.” This book has challenged me to grow my marriage. While Kristen and I are doing well in our relationship, I desire not just to have a good or very good marriage. I want Kristen to feel cherished, valued, and set apart in the way I love her.
When I think about my marriage, I want it to be set apart and different as well. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” I want our marriage not to be conformed to the pattern of the world. Rather, I want it to be different than the typical marriage we see around us.
To this end, I wonder what kind of message my marriage communicates. Whether you know it or not, your marriage and my marriage communicate a message to the world. Maybe your marriage communicates a message like one of these images below:
What kind of message does your marriage communicate to the world? If your kids, neighbors, coworkers, and friends looked at your marriage, what would they see?
If you’re married, then know that you have a great opportunity with your marriage. You will either communicate a message of despair or a message of hope. You might have the opportunity to change the legacy you leave behind with your kids. Think about the opportunity we have to communicate a different message to a watching world about marriage. I know I want to steward my marriage and the opportunity well. I hope you will decide to do the same.
It’s time we start changing the way we talk about marriage. It’s time for us to fight for our marriages and to esteem our spouse. And it’s time for us to talk about how amazing marital sex can be and the joy of companionship and friendship. Young adults need to hear about the ways marriage causes us to grow and to become more like Christ. It’s time we change our tune about marriage, the way we talk, think, and feel about it.
Cohabitation and premarital sex are not going away. But, if we paint the right picture of marriage, I believe we can change the way young adults think and feel about marriage. I believe couples will line up to get married if they hear about its beauty, not just about the challenges of married life. Do we stop telling people about the challenges of marriage? May it never be! But, let’s make sure we give them the GREAT along with the challenges.
This post originally appeared on ScottKedersha.com and was republished with permission.