Mormon Parenting: Celebrating and improving traditional marriage

Published: Friday, April 5 2013 5:00 a.m. MDT

Abandoning marriage essentially means staying single. And it is a worldwide trend. Some 60 percent of the households in Stockholm, Sweden, are occupied by one single individual, and recent surveys in Asia indicate that in some areas a majority of young women do not think they will ever have a child. As family and child advocates, back in the “old days” we used to be able to focus our concerns on the growing divorce rate and how many marriages were failing and breaking up.

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There are many who continue to spend great effort and money to fight against same-sex marriage, or what they might call the “wrong kind of marriage,” but we look for and long for those who are equally committed to fighting for the traditional marriage that they might call the “right kind of marriage.”

Sometimes it is almost easier to talk about and worry about what we think is wrong than it is to really work and promote what we think is right.

Those who believe that marriage should be between one man and one woman have every right to follow their convictions and to speak out against and oppose gay marriage. But we live in a world where traditional marriage is weakening on many fronts and needs those who celebrate it and who are influential and persuasive in recommending it to all.

A recent Deseret News article (“New trend: Babies born before marriage pose dramatic challenges to future of families”) reported that “family” is undergoing some major shifts, including a decline in marriage and an increase in unwed 20-something motherhood.

The article addresses the large increase in cohabiting, unmarried couples and cited a new report called “Knot Yet: The Benefits and Costs of Delayed Marriage in America,” which points out that over four decades, the age for tying the knot has risen steadily to a new high of nearly 27 for women and 29 for men.

This matters, according to the article, because there’s a real downside to the decline of marriage since cohabiting couples are twice as likely to break up, and children don’t flourish when their lives and those of their parents are unstable. No-fault divorce laws have also made it easier to break up families, almost always to the detriment of children.

The Deseret News article also quoted other research showing a decline in cultural commitment to marriage. An article on the 2012 “State of Our Unions” reported that “largely unnoticed and unaddressed, ‘middle America’ is abandoning marriage, with harsh ramifications for children, stability and the future.”

Abandoning marriage essentially means staying single. And it is a worldwide trend. Some 60 percent of the households in Stockholm, Sweden, are occupied by one single individual, and recent surveys in Asia indicate that in some areas a majority of young women do not think they will ever have a child.

As family and child advocates, back in the “old days” we used to be able to focus our concerns on the growing divorce rate and how many marriages were failing and breaking up.

Then there emerged a “second strike” against traditional marriage as alternative marriages emerged.

Now, more and more, we have to address how marriages are not happening at all, with couples simply choosing to live together without any formal or religious commitment, thus doubling the chances that their families will break up.

And increasingly, there is now a growing “fourth strike” against traditional marriage and family and children as more and more people make the choice to stay single and live alone for their entire lives, never experiencing either marriage or parenthood.

Taken together, these four strikes may be the most fundamental lifestyle and priority shift in history, and that’s particularly concerning for those who believe that families are at the heart of God’s plan for his children.

So, a recommendation for all of us: Let us commit to fight equally hard for the things that we think are right. Let’s look for every opportunity we can find, both public and private, to fortify families by celebrating commitment, popularizing parenting, validating values and bolstering balance.

Richard and Linda Eyre are New York Times best-selling authors who lecture throughout the world on family-related topics. Visit them anytime at www.EyresFreeBooks.com or www.valuesparenting.com. Their latest Deseret e-book is “On the Homefront."

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