Time to Reverse a Trend

Marriage Rates in the U.S.

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Marriage rates are heading downhill, and they’ll continue to do so until we Christians can show others the value of marriage. I’ll explain next, on BreakPoint.

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Eric Metaxas

A recent report shows that marriage rates are at their lowest point in more than 100 years.

The study, conducted by Demographic Intelligence of Charlottesville, Virginia, found that between 2007 and 2013—that’s six years—the marriage rate fell from 7.3 per 1,000 people to 6.8. While that may not sound like a lot, it represents a more than 5 percent decline from a rate that was already low by historical standards. Since 1970, the marriage rate has declined by more than one-third.

Just as troubling as the overall numbers is the breakdown of who is and who is not getting married. The study found that “marriage numbers are stagnant or declining among those with a high school education or less, younger Americans, and the less affluent.” In other words, the kind of folks who can benefit most from the stability that marriage and family life can provide are getting married in fewer numbers.

In contrast, marriage rates are rising among “the college-educated and the affluent.” Again, given the personal, social, and economic benefits of marriage, the growing difference in marriage rates between the “haves” and “have nots” can only contribute to economic and social inequality.

Now, the study’s authors predict a short-term increase in the number of weddings as a result of “pent-up demand” among better-off Americans whose marriage plans were put on hold as a result of the recession.

Not everyone agrees: Wendy Manning of the National Center for Family & Marriage Research thinks the projections may be “overly optimistic.” She suspects that many of the new marriages in the next few years will be second marriages, and not so-called “Millennials” settling down.

The evidence suggests that Manning is right to be skeptical. During the same period that marriage rates have declined by more than one-third, cohabitation has increased nearly fifteen-fold, from one-half million couples to more than 7.5 million.

As USA Today put it, “cohabitation has emerged as a precursor and a competitor to marriage.” Well, given the decline in marriage rates, I would argue that it’s more of a competitor than a precursor.

And the cohabitation statistics tell us very little about the growing number of out-of-wedlock births among women in their 20s, as we’ve talked about before on BreakPoint. For an ever-increasing number of Americans, the nuclear family is, even when finances permit, just one option among several.

Of course, none of this changes the well-documented, if usually played-down, fact that married parents are what’s best for children and, thus, best for society on the whole. Virtually every “adverse outcome”—poverty, poor performance in school, crime, drug use—is significantly more prevalent among those raised in single-parent homes.

If American marriage was about what’s best for children, these truths might have more traction. Unfortunately, it’s not. Today marriage is more about adult gratification.

That’s why Christians not only have to point out the errors in our culture’s beliefs about marriage, we have to embody the way things should be. We have to provide a model that can be emulated. That means teaching our kids about the joy and value of marriage. And it means strengthening marriages in our own families and in our congregations. It’s an indispensable part of what it means to be the “light of the world.” And it’s a light that an increasingly dark world desperately needs.

Please come to BreakPoint.org, and we’ll link you to organizations that work to strengthen marriage and marriages.

Further Reading and Information

BP-Takeaction_62613Time to Reverse a Trend: Marriage Rates in the U.S.
- Next Steps

As Eric mentioned, we have listed a number of organizations below with great resources to help strengthen marriage.

It is not enough for us just to take a defensive stance against a redefinition of marriage and family. We must show what marriage and family can mean. Many have been hurt and don't see the strong positives of the traditional views of marriage.

National Organization for Marriage
Manhattan Declaration
Marriage Savers

The Ruth Institute
Focus on the Family

What is Marriage?: Man and Woman: A Defense
Sherif Girgis, Ryan Anderson, Robert George | Encounter Books | December 2012


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Christ told us not to be afraid, he didn't tell us to recklessly ignore risks and potential danger. I assume you put your seatbelt on when you get in the car Gina, does that mean you're living in fear?

Only a fool doesn't count the cost before they make a major life choice. When you up the cost don't be surprised if fewer make that choice.

-The Bechtloff
I still believe that other factors play just as much of a role, if not more. But even supposing, for the sake of argument, that your contention were true -- that would mean all these men are basing their lives on fear. I'm not trying to attack or insult you when I say that this strikes me as a very sad way to live. Especially for those who follow Christ, who repeatedly told us not to be afraid.
Someone's been doing a little research but apparently only a little. I am no misogynist Gina, regardless of what a (no doubt casual) glance at my twitter or blog lead you to think. Although I am guilty of being a bit of a misanthrope at times. If you took more than a passing glance you might have noticed that the majority of my retweets and favorites of my tweets come from women followers. Such "misogynistic" tweets as "Men build civilization, but only because women inspire us to."

But we live in a society that tolerates and sometimes encourages a ridiculous amount of bad behavior from women. Much of that behavior men wouldn't get away with for a moment. I simply call them out on such behavior when I see it.

Also I contend there was absolutely nothing about my initial post that was misogynistic. Nothing. I simply stated the legal reality and that it scares men off. And that's what this is really about. It's not about me regardless of attempts to make it so. There is a harsh reality of laws that all but punish men for marrying. That is the reality of the situation and no amount of ad hominem arguments can lessen that reality one bit.

Stack the deck so it's riskier to do something and less people will do it.

-The Bechtloff
I did not attack you. I observed that you have a low opinion of women. That was an observation about your attitude, not an attack. And nothing you have said here or elsewhere in the blogosphere or at your own site or on Twitter -- all of which I checked out when I was trying to trace the sudden influx of manosphere comments -- has done anything to change my mind about that. If anything, reading some of what you've written has demonstrated that you have an even lower opinion of women than I first thought.
It is beside the point, but then I'm not the one who started the domestic violence tangent, I just followed you down it.

Now are there areas of life that are unfair to women? Sure. But far far fewer than there were and they are greatly outnumbered by areas where men are scorned or disenfranchised. Our culture and our courts drip with misandry.

Rather than condemn young men for not wanting marriage it would be good to take a look at why they don't want it. I have given you a major reason. Perhaps the single biggest one. And your initial reaction was a personal attack. I think that the first two posts in this thread really say it all.

-The Bechtloff
Isn't that a little beside the point? We were talking about imbalances of power. I've acknowledged (three times now, I think) that there are areas in which women have an unfair advantage. Are you unwilling to acknowledge that in other areas, men do?
"When 95 percent of domestic violence victims are women, it becomes very hard to argue that they're the ones with all the power"

Even if I assumed that stat was accurate, which I really don't due to how under reported battered men are, at least when a woman reports domestic violence it's actually taken seriously and there isn't nearly as much of stigma for women to report it as there is for men to.

-The Bechtloff
I've just acknowledged that they need to be addressed. But remember, there are many imbalances and inequities in marriage (and in other relationships). Forgive me for again bringing up the domestic violence issue, but it's hard to ignore when we're talking about power imbalances. When 95 percent of domestic violence victims are women, it becomes very hard to argue that they're the ones with all the power.

. . . If we even want to make the assumption that marriage should be all about who can grasp more power, which I'm not at all sure I want to make.
No I don't dispute that they are likely brought here through manosphere sites. But what you seemed to be doing was throwing around that lable in a dismissive way as to indicate you need not take them seriously for it.

Now the family court situation does not merely affect marriage at the divorce level, because it is so unfair towards men it creates a massive power imbalance that can be felt in many marriages before the word divorce is even uttered. It's hard to work out problems with someone in a mutually satisfactory way when that someone has got you by the family jewels. And given that a wife can run you through the divorce meat grinder practically on a whim she indeed does have you by that.

Marriage will always run the risk of divorce, but when it runs the risk of a soul crushing, wallet raping, emotionally castrating divorce, that will scare many men off. When you so drastically up the risks fewer will opt for it. That's just how it is.

You can not seriously talk about saving marriage without addressing these legal problems.

-The Bechtloff
All right. Let's go back to the beginning.

I never had any interest in debunking your claim about family courts, The Bechtloff. Though I'm hardly an expert on the matter, from what little I have read, it's true that statistics show a bias there. I don't deny this at all, and I agree that, like any bias, it should be addressed and changes should be made to ensure fairness.

What I was trying to do was address your larger point: "Due to the misandry of the family courts marriage is unquestionably a raw deal for men."

If the entirety of marriage came down to what happened in the family courts, perhaps you would have a point. But if there is more to marriage than that -- if, in particular, most men consider other factors besides that when deciding whether to marry -- then your statement is simplistic at best and outright false at worst.

As for my use of the term "manosphere" to describe the place where you and your fellow commenters spend much of your time, might I point out that you agreed with me on that? At any rate, I hope that I've now addressed both your and their concerns satisfactorily.
Has anyone, anywhere in this thread, refuted my point that the family courts treat men like 2nd class citizens? No. Nobody has done anything in this thread but offer me emotion, attacked me personally, and offered anecdotal evidence. The closest thing to a real suggestion anyone made was talking about prenups, but with the system as broken as it is that is basically like putting a bandaid to a gunshot wound.

Even with these new posters all you did was dismiss them as "manosphere" without addressing their actual comments. So again, which side is really thinking "uncritically" here?

-The Bechtloff
Oh, my friend . . . if the manosphere is your "voice of reason," I feel for you.

If that's too much emotion for you, well, sorry about that. It's the truth.
"uncritically"? Not to get on a high horse here Gina, but I've been using logic and reason in this debate while being met with personal attacks and pleas to emotion. Who is "uncritically" accepting their positions here?

There are at least two blogs I know of that have picked this up. I suspect this isn't over. I'm glad, it gets lonely being the only voice of reason sometimes.

-The Bechtloff
Are you surprised? I'm not. When people have been uncritically absorbing boilerplate for years, it's not difficult to get them spreading it wherever you want them to. Remember JournoList?
@ Gina
I wouldn't say I've been "busy". I posted a link to this thread in the comment section of one manosphere post on divorce a few weeks ago. I'm rather surprised and more than a little pleased at how much it has spread.

-The Bechtloff
Hi, guys. I see The Bechtloff has been busy at some of the "manosphere" sites, inviting his friends over to comment here. (Google is our friend. :-) ) Is that what brought you two over?
Have to agree with The Bechtloff on marriage. Ive been married for 20 yrs, but this is my 3rd strike. My first two were unmitigated disasters. While I dont worry about losing everything now, it certainly is a concern for single guys contemplating marriage.
Marriage is great when it works, and hell for men when it doesnt. Its a crapshoot, and in the end, since the courts are unquestionably rigged against men, unless you are a gambler, probably best to opt out. The odds are stacked against you. If a guy is secure and independent in himself, and can remain that way when he gets older, he really has the world by the tail.
Ladies, wise up.
Do you want to know why the church is empty? Why I leave, with my sons, straight after the service?

I have been burnt. Twice (I was stupid as well as sinful). In two countries.

The family court is destructive and they will get in and ruin marriages unless you have Amish-like systems of shame and shunning.

Now, you can say this should not happen. I would agree with you.

You can say there are good women out there. Again I agre with you, and I will also note that some of them are not married.

You can say this is a US problem, but I've dealt with family court and child welfare agencies in Canada (where my daughter was raised) and in New Zealand (where I am raising my boys as a solo Dad).

Until we start.
a. Counselling virginity until marriage.
b. Setting up chaperoned places where people can meet (College does not count)
c. Encourage early (girl around 20, boy 25 or so) marriage.
d. Teach I Samuel (God looks on the heart) and Timothy (Training is good and Godly training better)

... we will have a problem.

So Bechloff is being rational . Besides, unless you are burning with desire (and you should be to get married in this climate) it's better to just go and have a cold shower.

You don't have to like how this world is. You can organize your church to be different from the world. But, sitting in NZ, I see the US church as so embedded in the sand of their culture the only part of their bodies exposed is their feet.
Thanks, Bob. And you've encouraged me, since my own marriage is a mere 32 years in duration. (And I'm reminded of the joke: "In all that time we've never once contemplated divorce. Murder? Frequently!")

Gina, the audiobook I listened to on my walk today, which I had chosen three days ago, was _The Abolition of Man_, first chapter. Coincidence? I don't think so.
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