Valentine’s Day brought a couple of small COVID-style weddings among people I love. It’s refreshing that these couples decided not to wait out the pandemic to have big splashy events. This is an era where lots of couples are postponing marriage, sometimes for years, until they can “afford” the wedding.
University of Texas sociology professor Mark Regnerus’s new book, THE FUTURE OF CHRISTIAN MARRIAGE, is based on research in seven countries. He says we’ve exported consumption-oriented marriage. He told World magazine’s Marvin Olasky about driving on a highway in Lebanon where he saw “billboards about wedding loans, like we get loans to go to college.”
Dr. Regnerus and his colleagues attribute the decline in marriage to the fact that “people want financial security first” and also that, in so much of society, sex outside of marriage doesn’t raise an eyebrow. Some couples see living together as “practice” for marriage. Some find out later that this is really practice for living without commitment.
Cohabitation is on the rise, even among Christians. When cohabiting couples do marry, the marriages are often fragile and, the research shows, are more likely to end in divorce. Dr. Regnerus points out that cohabiting couples may practice a sort of fidelity. But when these couples haven’t made a commitment for the future, there’s an anxiety and uncertainty that colors the relationship. Cohabiting couples, having developed certain strings and attachments, frequently just sort of slide into marriage without what Dr. Regnerus calls “the proper level of future orientation.”
A good question for couples contemplating moving in together is “Why do you want to fake like you’re married instead of actually getting married?” Mark Regnerus advises digging into the reasons such a couple might not want to marry and working on those.
God designed marriage. That fewer and fewer are marrying is a trend that needs reversing. We can start by encouraging believers to refuse marriage-light and hold out for the real thing.