September 03, 2007

Is Our Society at the Point Where "Marriage Just Doesn't Work?"

I read this op-ed piece in the Washington Blade about the perceived failure of marriage as an institution and cringed.

I CAN’T HELP but think that part of the problem is not divorce itself, but the narrowness with which we construct marriage. The notion that two people live together their entire lives in a primary relationship that is to fulfill their sexual, emotional and spiritual needs is limiting, at best, and bunk, at worst. In short, I’m coming to the conclusion that marriage doesn’t work.

While the sociological evidence may be overwhelming — 50 percent of all marriages in the U.S. end in divorce and the number of people marrying in Europe is in steady decline — it has taken personal experience for me to understand that marriage does not work and to begin to articulate an alternative.

The bottom line is that people should be able to live their best lives in relationships that are warm and caring and supportive and loving. For some people those may be lifetime relationships; for others, they may be serial relationships. For all, those relationships will be with many people. Regardless of what church and state recognize, we all craft multiple relationships over a lifetime to fulfill multiple needs.

Have straight people screwed marriage up so badly that this is where we are as a society?

In my opinion, not quite.

Personally, I had a wonderful marriage to my late wife Bette (over 11 years until her passing) and have an amazing marriage with Pastor Brenda. I have never felt that I needed anyone or anything else to suppliment the love, affirmation, satisfaction, and parnership I have enjoyed in both marriages. I have been truly blessed.

I know of other people who have experienced the same. My best friend is coming up on his 20th wedding anniversary and his marriage is still going strong. Apostle Dale and his partner Garrey, now legally married in Canada, have been together for 20 years and Brenda tells me their relationship has never been stronger.

It is overreaching to say that marriage, as it is currently defined, is a failure because so many fail. In baseball, the best hitters fail to reach base seven out of every ten times. Does that mean that the rules should be made easier? No, it merely means that it is a challenging endeavor that takes a lot of committment and hard work, just like a marriage.

I don't think anything that is truly important or valuable comes easily. If it did, how much would it really be worth? I had to work hard at my marriage to Bette, and it was worth every bit of effort and then some. What I learned from that relationship has made mine with Pastor Brenda even easier, but we still work at it, putting the other person's needs first and giving ourselves completely to each other, opening our hearts and souls up, taking a chance on being hurt but trusting each other enough that we don't live in fear of that happening.

It would be easy and somewhat trite to say that God is the answer here, but there have even been a flurry of recent breakups, some of them quite nasty, between high-profile ministry couples that seem to refute that concept.

That doesn't mean it's not true, however. When we are living in God's will, He will bless us. God is all about love, and love needs to be the foundation of a good marriage--love for each other and love for Him.

Of course, there are many, many books written about this and I won't presume to be able to speak comprehensively about marriage in a blog post. I do hope, however, that if you approach the idea cynically, perhaps through valid personal experience like the writer of the Blade editorial, what I am sharing here might help you consider an alternative view. In the Blbie, 1 Corinthians 13 is known as "the love chapter." I'll close here with a short excerpt for you to consider, which I believe is just as applicable to same-sex couples as it is to myself and Pastor Brenda:

1 Corinthians 13, verses 4-7: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

1 comment:

  1. *smiles*
    Indeed, marriage, life long commitment may be a challenge, but i think it is worth it.