Marriage is a gift from God. But marriage is in a sad state in America today, and we all suffer because of it.
I read recently about the movie star Joan Crawford who was legendary in her promiscuity. As her rival Bette Davis once reportedly sneered about her, “She slept with every male star at MGM except Lassie.”
Apparently, in the miserable and difficult childhood of Lucille LeSouer (who later adopted the name Joan Crawford), there was a wound from the absence of her father, according to Shaun Considine’s book, Bette and Joan, which became the basis for the mini-series, The Feud.
Considine quotes someone else about Crawford’s childhood: “Being abandoned so often traumatized Joan…She spent the rest of her life looking for a father—in husbands, lovers, studio executives, and directors.” To this Considine adds, “When she found the ideal candidate, Joan felt safe, secure, validated. In time she expected them to leave, to reject her. When they didn’t, she grew suspicious, then resentful, and found ways to make them depart.” So sad.
So far from God’s design, which is one man, one woman for life. His prohibitions against sex outside of marriage are for our good.
A fascinating article in a recent Wall Street Journal (February 5-6, 2022), highlighted the findings of a study based on the marriages and many divorces among 50,000 women in the National Survey of Family Growth.
One can infer from the article’s headline that it’s best to avoid cohabitating before marriage: “Too Risky to Wed in Your 20s? Not If You Avoid Cohabiting First: Research shows that marrying young without ever having lived together with a partner makes for some of the lowest divorce rates.”
Brad Wilcox and Lyman Stone, the article’s authors, observe, “The idea that cohabitation is risky is surprising, given that a majority of young adults believe that living together is a good way to pretest the quality of your partners and your partnership.” But couples who live together before they wed “are less likely to be happily married and more likely to land in divorce court.”
Through the years, similar studies have found the same results: to prepare best for marriage, save sex for marriage. Even in the archives of the UCLA, they cite a 1990s study from the Family Research Center in Washington, D.C., which says: “Other findings indicate that saving sex for marriage reduces the risk of divorce, and monogamous married couples are the most sexually satisfied Americans.” If you’re unfaithful before marriage, why should you be faithful after getting married?
In previous generations, cohabitation was viewed as more of a scandal. Of course, not all marriages were good by any means.
My dad used to tell a story where he and mom were playing bridge one day against another couple. The woman kept yelling and berating her partner at every turn.
Finally, dad asked her, “Are you two married?”
And she snapped, "Of course we are! Do you think I'd live in sin with an idiot like that?"—pointing to her henpecked husband. When I shared this anecdote with a friend, he thought that that story might discourage someone from considering marriage instead of cohabitation. Well, without proper preparation, bad marriages happen. (Sadly, sometimes even with preparation.)
I thank God that I have 42 years of empirical evidence that I married a saint. After all, my fantastic wife has put up with me for more than four decades. Thankfully, we spent more time preparing for the marriage than we did for the wedding.
I write this on Valentine’s Day 2022—when we celebrate love and romance. Christian author Bill Federer notes that the best historical evidence is that Valentine’s Day customs go back to a third century Christian leader, who fell afoul of the Roman Empire and was martyred on February 14, 269.
The reason for St. Valentine’s martyrdom was not only his rejection of Roman idolatry but also because he defied the emperor, who forbade men in the Roman army to marry. Writes Federer: “Roman Emperor Claudius II needed more soldiers to fight the invading Goths. He believed that men fought better if they were not married, so he banned traditional marriage in the military.”
But some of these soldiers wanted to be married, and Valentine secretly performed weddings for them. When the Roman leaders found out about this, he was arrested and sentenced to death. The jailer, who had a sick daughter, asked his prisoner, the holy man, to pray for his child. She got better, and the saint wrote her a short, encouraging note, signing it from “your Valentine.”
Jesus said, “I have come that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” That includes our relationships.
God’s design for marriage is for our good, and it helps spare people a lot of unnecessary unhappiness.© Jerry Newcombe
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