Culture Challenge of the Week: Why Marriage?
My daughter Kristin and I are laughing, crying, and reminiscing our way through the practical preparations for her upcoming wedding. She’s marrying a wonderful young man, and my husband and I feel confident that these two young adults will create a strong family together; rich in faith, love, and commitment.
So it was particularly sad for me to read a recent Slate article on Dutch women, who scorn marriage as a relic of times gone by. The article’s author, NYU professor Katie Roiphe, wrote that she realized during a recent visit to Amsterdam that “having children and not being married was not a big deal…The Dutch attitude…is that marriage is not for everyone; it is a personal choice, an option, a pleasant possibility.”
Roiphe goes on to urge Americans to stop “being in thrall to the rigid, old-fashioned ideal of marriage.” She predicts that if we move past rigid marriage ideals, we will leave behind our cultural fretting over low-marriage rates, high divorce rates, and growing numbers of single mothers. We could focus instead on what matters, on “actual relationships, on intimacies, on substance over form.”
Roiphe misses the point. Marriage is not some arbitrary box—form over substance—that generates statistical concerns over things that don’t matter. Marriage matters because it creates a stable environment built on lasting commitment; it allows couples to flourish and grow and creates the ideal environment for raising children.
The cultural concerns over falling marriage rates and rising numbers of single-parent households won’t disappear if we do away with marriage, because the problems that result from falling marriage rates and growing rates of single parenting won’t disappear.
Marriage makes things better for children. Children raised by their mom and dad within marriage do better on nearly every indicator of well-being.