A recent article from USA Today titled: Federally Funded Ad Campaign Holds Up Value of Marriage caught my attention yesterday. In case you don’t want to take the time to read it, here are a few quotes that should give you a decent idea:
The average age at first marriage is now almost 26 for women and 28 for men. And a growing percentage of Americans aren’t marrying at all: Provisional federal statistics released Tuesday report 7.1 marriages per 1,000 people in 2008, down from 10 per 1,000 in 1986.
Faced with such numbers, the federal government is funding a $5 million national media campaign that launches this month, extolling the virtues of marriage for those ages 18 to 30.
“What we’re talking about is a slow but steady increase in the percentage of Americans who don’t intend to get married and probably won’t,” [William Galston of the Brookings Institution] says. “This trend represents a meaningful change in our society. Whether or not it constitutes a problem depends on broader, and contested, propositions about marriage in relation to the common good.”
If you’ve talked to me for more than 5 minutes about anything more substantial than the weather, you have probably gathered that marriage and family is something that I’m very passionate about. There are numerous reasons for this passion, not the least of which are the statistics that show that “the ring” makes a difference for children and parents; educationally, financially, emotionally and even physically. Add to that the fact that hundreds of thousands of my peers have been directly affected by divorce, and I become a very strong defender of marriage as an institution.
Yet I’m not sure that a federally funded media campaign is the solution. A federally funded media campaign is not the solution. 20 somethings aren’t avoiding marriage because they aren’t aware that it’s an option available to them. They are not (for the most part) avoiding serious relationships, having children, owning property, or any of the typical events that take place within a marriage. They are simply not walking down the aisle.
There are lots of reasons for this, but each person has different motivations. Some people have been burned by their parents break up. Some people have seen their friends split and want to avoid that themselves. Some people are just plain afraid of commitment and no longer have to get over that to find a partner.
Disagree with me if you want to, but I don’t think a commercial on TV will change that.
I think we need to start telling a better story. The Church has long since abdicated it’s role in shaping the family to society, and subsequently, both the Church, and everyone else have forgotten what healthy relationships look like. Because the truth is, even without a ring, breaking up with your live-in boyfriend still sucks. Having kids grow up without married parents doesn’t save them from having to watch their parents’ fight, and it actually increases the chances they’ll live with a whole bunch of different adults growing up.
So we must, as a generation, start naming these fears and writing over them with Truth. Yes. Relationships are hard. They have always been hard and continue to be hard. Yes. Commitment is terrifying. But so is being alone.
Join me in the conversation.