“You’re throwing your life away!”, was the message one bride in her early twenties was told. Many people delay marriage, and discourage other young would-be newly weds, because they believe that marriage demands more than it gives. There is a persistent perception that being single and uncommitted (or in a relationship but still uncommitted) protects one’s freedom to craft one’s life to suit oneself. This ‘freedom to please me’ is believed to guarantee that one’s personal happiness and wellbeing will thus be safeguarded. Conversely, marriage is expected to doom one to boredom and emotional anguish.
Yet research* continues to confirm that marriage is good for us. Good for our physical health, our mental health, our financial security and our social development. It’s also good for our children. Most of these benefits are present even in cases where the marriage relationship is not as personally satisfying as it might ideally be. Moreover, these marital benefits are not present to the same degree (and in some cases not at all) in cohabiting relationships, even long-standing ones. There is something about the permanent life commitment made before the community of family and friends that bestows a special character on the marriage relationship.
Clearly marriage gives back far more than it demands.
Yet still people persist in avoiding marriage out of fear that it will ‘tie them down’. This widespread aversion is energised by the value system of ‘Individualism.’ Individualism is the prevailing lifestyle philosophy of Western society. It places the freedom, independence and self-interest of the individual above anything and anyone else. Marriage, on the other hand, is based on a value system of other-centred loving and self-sacrifice. The two are diametrically opposed. In a culture that enshrines Individualism, it is a rare person who will be able to disentangle himself from its influences in order to clearly see the enduring benefits of life-long marriage.
* Ref:Numerous articles and books detail the benefits of marriage. For example, see Twenty One Reasons Why Marriage Matters. Dads4Kids Foundation, Australia 2009.