Lots of people these days believe that love, not marriage, makes a family. I’m not one of them. That’s not to say that close friends are really family—that I understand. What I don’t agree with is the conditional marriage concept of staying together as long as both people are happy and in love. Let’s face it, real marriage isn’t all romance and roses. There can be tough times to go through.
The irony is that couples who support this “conditional” marriage end up less happy in their relationships than those who value marriage as a permanent decision, value marriage for its own sake and prefer it over cohabitation. The legal institution of marriage creates an expectation of fidelity and lifelong commitment. This fact fosters “better romantic and parental relationships” than cohabitation. What’s more, married adults enjoy happier, healthier and less violent relationships than do those who are dating or cohabiting.1
Why is the conditional philosophy of marriage becoming so predominant in our culture? I believe one reason is a lack of great marriage role models as many of us have grown up in single-parent or divorced households with fewer extended family members nearby.
Another critical fact is our culture’s value of freedom and personal happiness above all else. What I have discovered through interviewing many married couples is that when spouses pursued their partner’s happiness before their own, their own happiness was increased beyond expectation.
How about you—did you grow up with great marriage role models? If so, tell us about them!
1 Why Marriage Matters, Second Edition by Institute for American Values.