divorce

divorce

Lessons on Divorce from Henry VIII

children, divorce, education, history, MARRI No comments

By MARRI Intern

        A recent article for Smithsonian Magazine gives a brief history about divorce in the western world. The author tells the story of Henry VIII and his attempts to divorce his wife Catherine of Aragon.  In short, Henry VIII needed a son as heir and he went through six wives before he died, never acquiring the heir he required. Beyond the stories of his many wives, Henry VIII is also well-known for forming the Church of England, a reaction to the Roman Catholic Church’s refusal to grant him an annulment of his marriage to Catherine.

Though Henry was eventually granted his annulments via the newly formed Church of England, this new religious body remained very strict with divorce. At first, the laws just made it easier for men to divorce their wives since they only had to prove their spouse had committed adultery. Wives on the other hand had to prove adultery and one additional offence before they could divorce their husbands. As time has gone on, it has become easier for wives to divorce their husbands. In today’s society there is no longer a need to even prove an offense, and divorces can be procured for any reason whatsoever. From the time of Henry VIII to today, divorce has achieved incredible popularity, but in the not too distant past, divorce was looked upon as scandalous and shameful. Today, divorce is so common that nearly everyone knows at least one divorced couple.

Divorce has affected our society in a multitude of ways, from family issues to education to economic prosperity. MARRI research has shown that divorce is harmful, not only to the family but to the economy.  In one MARRI research paper, The Effect of Divorce on Children, Dr. Patrick Fagan shows that divorce weakens the family and one’s relationship with God, diminishes a child’s learning capability, increases crime, and negatively affects the economy. Additional MARRI research has also shown that family structure affects the educational outcomes of children, with those from non-intact families scoring lower on reading and math tests, and earning lower overall GPAs. Furthermore, adolescents raised in a non-intact family are far less likely to attend college as compared to their peers from intact families. For the country as a whole, divorce leads to a decline in economic prosperity due to decreased male productivity. If allowed to continue, the divorce trend spells disaster for both the family and the nation.

Marriage: “I Do,” Not “Maybe You’ll Do”

Christianity, cohabitation, culture, divorce, marriage No comments

By Sharon Barrett, Intern

I love having theological discussions with a particular friend of mine. One topic we explore frequently is the nature of human relationships, particularly marriage. Why does the Creator place such a premium on marriage? Why does He insist that a man and woman make a public commitment to each other before they live together as husband and wife? What is so special about declaring, “I do”?

Of course, social science research supports the importance of faithful married love. Couples who are married rather than single or cohabiting report better health, less stress and depression, and more positive family relationships; they are less likely to suffer or commit domestic violence; and they are more likely to pursue a regular spiritual life. Married couples even enjoy greater sexual fulfillment than cohabiting couples.

One might think a cohabiting relationship would carry benefits similar to marriage, if the partners are committed to each other; but the truth is that most couples who cohabit are notfully committed. This type of relationship tends to value independence more than interdependence; for instance, cohabiting partners often have separate bank accounts. As these couples proceed toward marriage, only 60% end up at the altar, and they are 46% more likely to divorce than those who marry without cohabiting first.

Those who do not meet at the altar have only a ten percent chance of staying together longer than five years. This statistic reflects the fact that most couples who cohabit do so to “test their compatibility” before they commit for life. In the words of one young woman,

“We liked to be together, so it was cheaper and more convenient. It was a quick decision but if it didn’t work out there was a quick exit.”

In fact, nearly half of 20-somethings surveyed in 2001 by the National Marriage Project agreed with the statement, “You would only marry someone if he or she agreed to live together with you first, so that you could find out whether you really get along.” Clinical psychologist Meg Jay concludes,

A life built on top of “maybe you’ll do” simply may not feel as dedicated as a life built on top of the “we do” of commitment [of] marriage.

Commitment is a key ingredient of marriage that cohabiting relationships often cannot achieve. Standing before the altar to say “I do” has a profound effect on how partners approach a relationship; it takes courage to make one’s commitment public and, by implication, invite other members of the community to hold one accountable. It takes courage to offer one’s whole life to a partner, with no guarantee other than that person’s word that he or she will be faithful. Most of all, it takes courage for a fallible human being to make a vow in God’s hearing, trusting in His saving help to fulfill it.

But that is the nature of marriage, this most intimate of human relationships. Partaking in a commitment that transcends our natural abilities, while it may seem intimidating, is actually designed to strengthen our faith. According to the Bible, faith is a decision to be confident in God’s promises (Heb. 10:35-11:6); and the promises of the Great I AM are never “yes and no,” but always “yes” (2 Cor. 1:20) –never “maybe,” but always “I do.”

We Live in a Polyamorous Society

abstinence, culture, divorce, family, monogamy, Pat Fagan No comments

By Maria Reig Teetor, Intern 

It’s common to hear complaints of how horrible it is that in certain cultures and religions, polygamy is respected and normal. We hear an outcry that it attacks woman’s dignity and reduces them to objects. But have those who are raising this outcry ever stopped to question whether their own sexual behavior may be reducing their human dignity?
Where is the difference, when men and women in Western society embrace sexual activity with whomever they please, whenever they please, leading to multiple sexual partners by the time they are thirty? The difference between the culture of the traditional family, based on a lifelong sexual relationship with one person, and our present culture is in the way sexual conduct is viewed, practiced, and taught. My question today is this: Have we ever considered that we might be living in a polygamous society?
  
As Pat Fagan points out, in the Western culture of polyamorous sexuality, family life is just one option among many other lifestyles. This culture treasures sexual freedom, meaning whatever is desired by the partners (two or more partners, as the case may be). It wants to eliminate religion and suppresses its public manifestations, attacking religious freedom. One’s moral code is individual and consequently relative; anyone should do as he or she pleases, not only sexually but in any arena of life (so if I need to kill an unborn child, I should have that right). In short, the idea of freedom is to have no constraints imposed on you, to have a carefree life.
The consequences of this misguided view of “freedom” range from HIV and unwanted pregnancies to child depression and adolescent suicide. Yet they are never seen for what they are: the results of sexual license.
On the other hand, a monogamous way of life defends marriage to one person of the opposite sex for life. In this culture, family life benefits not only the spouses but the children and community. Couples who are married report being happier; children who grow up in intact families are more likely to grow up mentally stable, to finish college, and to delay sexual activity, as MARRI research explains in 162 reasons to marry.
The monogamous culture also treasures the worship of God, which strengthens relationships, education, and psychological wellbeing. In addition, the culture of monogamy defends universal moral norms, the freedom to pursue the good, and the defense of human life.
So what kind of society do you want to live in? What kind of culture do you want your children to grow up in? I would like to live in an environment where my moral code is protected and defended, where education in virtue is present in our schools, and where the defense of life and marriage is unquestioned. I encourage you to take active part in this lifestyle and become an example to others who have never acknowledged the importance of marriage and commitment. The monogamous culture does far more than our Western polyamorous society to uphold human dignity.

Wedding Rentals

divorce, MARRI, marriage, monogamy No comments

By Lindsay Smith, Intern

I was sitting in class as our professor began to go around the room asking the females a question: Would you consider a prenuptial agreement?  The make-believe premise was your parents are pressuring you to protect the family fortune.  Slowly, every girl in the room responded with “Yes,” some a little more hesitant than others.  Soon it was my turn.  My answer was no.  By my professor’s reaction, you would have thought I’d added, “And I also believe the sky is orange.”  When asked to explain, I replied, “My God does not believe in divorce, and neither do I.”  Besides, if I start my marriage thinking it will not last, why get married? His response to me was something to this effect: Sweetheart, you’re an idealist who will have to change that opinion if you ever want to make it in the real world.
My professor’s presumption was that anyone who doesn’t prepare for a marriage’s dissolution is a dreamer, ignoring reality.  A recent New York Times article, “Till Death, or 20 Years, Do Us Part,” highlights the underlying issue: concern that marriage longevity is impossible.  Simply and frankly, the author asks “whether society should consider something like a 20-year marriage contract.” Should marriage now have a starting and an ending date?  Would this be better for society?  The author admits he is “surprised and even unnerved by the extent to which some experts [he] spoke with say there is a need to rethink an institution that so often fails.” 
MARRI research reveals time and again that “good marriages are the bedrock of strong societies.”  Marriage helps increase men’s productivity and employment, decrease crime, promote healthy lifestyles, and protect children both mentally and physically.  Clearly, marriage benefits society; so maybe it’s not the institution that needs reexamining, but the involved parties. 
In the Times article, Pepper Schwartz, a sociology professor, remarks, “We’re remarkably not innovative about marriage even though almost all environmental conditions, writ large, have changed.”  Two large problems with “innovation” immediately jump out.  First, if a school district had a high dropout rate, would we address the problem by inviting students to only attend school until sixth grade?  The state of Nevada has a 56% dropout rate, but I have yet to hear anyone propose short-term attendance contracts for these students.  Since this institution appears to be failing, maybe we should give all 12-year-olds the option to leave science class if it does not make them happy after the first semester.  Hopefully no parent would see this as a desirable option.  Most parents would work to help their children succeed, because they know education will benefit their children over the long run.  
Second, our society has already attempted to reinvent marriage through cohabitation.  The article doesn’t hesitate to say that “cohabitation isn’t making us happier. Bowling Green found in a 2010 study that of cohabitating couples 36% say both partners are ‘very satisfied,’ compared to 57% for married couples.” MARRI research confirms this finding.  According to “162 Reasons to Marry,” married couples enjoy better romantic relationships, greater fidelity, more economic prosperity, stronger parenting bonds, fewer instances of abuse and “higher levels of emotional and psychological well-being” than those single or cohabitating.  Our human alterations have only made things worse, so why should we expect different results from another man-derived change? 
One professor in the article wants to “eliminate the fantasy of marriage.”  A fantasy exists in our country, but it is NOT the desire for a “till death do us part” marriage.  The real far-fetched dream is that marriage is man-made convention for our convenience rather than a God-ordained covenant worthy of our commitment.
Whatever your views on religion, I think we can all agree that people are not perfect.  We make mistakes; we have selfish desires; we mess up.  This is why marriage will never work when its focus is two imperfect people.  Marriage would have to constantly change, change again, and then would still fail to satisfy everyone’s desires.  Paul articulates the outcome of a human focus in Romans 1:22-23:
“Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man…” 
When you place a divine institution on the shoulders of a created being rather than in the hands of the creator, you will end up disappointed.  (I owe this insight to a wonderful poem on marriage, which you can watch here.)  Maybe, just maybe, marriage exists more for God’s glorification than our personal gratification!  Marriage works when its focus is an unchanging, all-knowing, eternally perfect God. 
We are not idealists for believing marriage and commitment as the Author of Life designed it works today.  On the contrary, it is fantasy to think any perversion of His plan will prosper. Marriage “is the foundational relationship for all society,” and that’s neither make-believe nor scheduled to end in 20 years.   

Divorce: Breaking Down the Building Block

divorce, family, MARRI, marriage No comments

By  Maria Reig Teetor, Intern

Watch any Hollywood romance, and you might think the best reason to get married is passionate romantic love because the purpose of marriage is the satisfaction of the couple. But marriage is about more than the couple and their feelings. According to an FRC Issues Analysis brief titled “Why Marriage Should Be Privileged in Public Policy,” marriage is “the basic social building block” and “produces a stronger nation that benefits many future generations.” MARRI research shows over 150 reasons why marriage should be protected by society.
Unfortunately, the marriage institution has been weakened by decades of widespread divorce. Let’s analyze this social phenomenon.
In the past, marriage was not only the social institution that protected and provided for children, but also an economic “investment” and a safe haven. While the couple experienced romantic love, the relationship did not exist for their mutual emotions. Until the 18th century, couples were often married according to the wishes of their parents.
The rise of Romanticism encouraged a new view of marriage with the idea of “true love.” The sexual revolution took this further when it redefined relationships as a means to personal fulfillment: “Whatever works for the couple, to enhance their emotions and bring passion to the relationship, is what marriage should be all about.” Soon these emotions and sentiments became independent of childbearing, assisted by the appearance of the Pill, which helped separate sexuality both from mutual self-giving and from childbearing.
With the legalization of no-fault divorce, it became clear that marriage was only about being “in love.” This relationship was now independent of common good, community, generosity, hard work, self-giving, children….it was only about feeling an emotional bond.
Today, since marriage is considered a private transaction, any couple is free to manipulate and even reinvent marriage. As modern “love” is individualistic, so is modern marriage. The soul of marriage has become “myself.”
This new vision of romantic love convinced people they would be happier. Unfortunately, it was an illusion. The divorce rate, often due to infidelity, has only increased. The 2011 MARRI Annual Report on Family Trends documents that in the U.S the divorce rate from 1958 to 1978 went from 2.1 to 5.3! When passionate love is the reason for marriage, it can also be the reason for its dissolution when the romance disappears.
What’s the problem? Emotions and sentiments change, mature, and grow with the couple. Does this mean that married people fall “out of love”? Of course not. But it means there must be more to marriage than feelings. There must be a mutual understanding of what you want out of life, a union in your priorities, and a solid friendship. Love must be nourished in everyday life, not just passionate encounters.
So what is the answer to our growing divorce rate? We must learn to build a marriage commitment that is based on more than passing emotions. We should plan for unions that are strong enough to do what marriage was designed to do – benefit future generations.

Marriage: A Solution to Child Poverty

crime, divorce, marriage, poverty 1 comment
Maria Reig Teetor, Intern
As a psychology major, I am fascinated by studies that relate family structure to different mental health problems. One study on child poverty demonstrates that children who grow up in poor families are more likely to develop depression and personality disorders. Poor children are exposed to a wide range of risk factors that affect their social and emotional development. The environment they grow up in is surrounded by drug abuse, inadequate nutrition, crime, parental instability, divorce, maternal depression….I could go on and on.
In 2010 43% of children lived in “low-income” families, which translates to 43% of children living in poverty conditions. These factors are known to decrease cognitive stimulation, which consequently affects their education; they have higher probability to skip school and fail classes and eventually drop out of high school. 
This environment also causes the children to externalize their emotional turmoil with behavior outbursts such as delinquency or drug and sexual abuse. Because this is the environment in which these children grow up, learning such behaviors from mothers, fathers and peers, it becomes their normal lifestyle. In short, poverty affects children and has grave consequences. But should we blame the economic meltdown or the government for this social crisis? Or can we do something about it? Can we help these children finish high school and prevent them from ending up in prison or as cocaine addicts? Can we prevent girls from being abused and emotionally unstable? Can we show them that their life-style is not the only one?
It’s a lot to ask, but I know we must try.
Research demonstrates that children who grow up in the stable environment provided by natural marriage are more likely to develop emotional stability and grow up sure of themselves and of their own identity. This is a strong indicator of success in their education, as they feel safe, loved and respected in their own home. 
But how does this apply to our poverty problem? Well, marriage is the strongest anti-poverty weapon. Why? As fathers or mothers disappear, poverty increases and both child and parent suffer. A study done by the Heritage Foundation  shows 31.7% of children who are in poverty conditions come from single-parent, female-headed families, while only 6.8% come from married, two-parent families.
I deeply admire the mothers and fathers who decide to raise their children on their own. It takes courage and generosity. But we should work toward helping families stay together. We should provide information that will help people form and maintain healthy relationships, teaching adolescents to delay childbearing until there is a strong commitment, because of its benefits for their own future and for their children’s future.
This way we can address two problems at once: poverty and emotional instability. Both are less common in children who grow up in homes where the parents are married and work to grow in unity through their marriage.

Tolerance vs. Love

Christianity, divorce, marriage, prejudice, sexuality No comments
Sarah Robinson, Intern
 
“Some say tolerance but we say love. That is a much higher standard. Love does not accept anything that is disruptive in a person’s life. We love them too much to leave them that way.”

So said Congressman James Lankford at the Values Voters Summit last week. However, little did the attendants of the Values Voters Summit realize that when we took our break for lunch that afternoon we would be face to face with living out this phrase from Congressman Lankford. Protestors lined the sidewalk chanting, “Homophobe,” amongst other untrue and judgmental names towards those attending the Summit. We were being deemed intolerant by these protestors.
 
Homophobe by definition is a person who fears or hates homosexuals and homosexuality. Personally, I do not hate homosexuals nor do I fear homosexuality. There are individuals in my family whom I love dearly that live this lifestyle. But that does not mean I condone or seek to advance their lifestyle choices. I love them enough to not tolerate things in their life that are disruptive to their well-being. The side effects of a homosexual lifestyle trouble me deeply and I do not want my loved ones to have to face the consequences. The CDC has discovered the average homosexual man has hundreds of sexual partners in his lifetime, and the number of STDs that are acquired due to promiscuity is troubling.
 
It does not bring me satisfaction to report these statistics, and it is not just about “ammunition” to use in a debate on the sanctity of marriage. It breaks my heart. My heart is broken for family members, friends, and fellow Americans who have opted for this lifestyle because of the risk that goes along with it. However, I am the one deemed as being intolerant because I will not morally comply with their choices. The motives for my stance on the issue of the sanctity of marriage are not hate, but rather love. Ultimately, I wish to live my life in such a way that homosexuals and heterosexuals alike would see radical love emanating from me that would ultimately point them to the love of God. I may be accused of being intolerant, but may I never be accused of being unloving. The two are not synonymous.
 
However, “what not to do” is only one side of this cultural discussion. The bigger, more important side focuses not on what to stay away from, but rather, what to embrace! Marriage is a beneficial good to all of society. For example, according to MARRI research, 52% of girls who grew up in an married-intact family had sex before the age of 18 compared to 79% of girls engaging in their first sexual encounter who grow up in a single parent home. The effects of divorce on children can also be detrimental. Also, according to MARRI research, 12% of adolescents had sexual intercourse at 14 years of age or younger who grew up in a married intact household compared to 25% of adolescents having their first sexual encounter at 14 years of age or younger who grew up in divorced-single parent households. I can’t help but wonder how much stronger we would be as a society if we were intolerant of divorce and stood for the sanctity of marriage. Strong marriages develop strong families which in turn produce a strong and thriving society.

Green Sex= Great Marriage?

contraception, divorce, MARRI, women's health No comments

Katie Staudt, Intern
Last week, MARRI blogger Amanda Brennan wrote a post entitled “Green Sex” (see a few posts below). Amanda explained how there is a strong push in society to “Go Green” in order to be better stewards of both the earth and the human body. Yet, at the same time, over 40% of women between 15-44 are using some form of hormonal birth control that pumps dangerous chemicals into their bodies. So while people are attempting to be organic and healthy, they are sabotaging their own efforts by using hormonal contraceptives that have a number of health risks.
However, some people are beginning to question the use of hormonal birth control (and all forms of artificial birth control) for more than just its health risks. A new website called 1Flesh is a grass roots effort that was just launched by a group of young people as a “revolt against artificial birth control” with the goal to “bringing great sex to the entire universe.” 1flesh.orgis a provocative website (read their “About Us” page) that asks their readers to consider a host of compelling arguments from a secular viewpoint, primarily utilizing the fields of medicine, sociology, and philosophy.
One argumentthat 1Flesh presents is the connection between divorce and artificial contraception. They state that “the national divorce rate doubled from 1965 to 1976, at the same time the use of artificial contraception was made widespread and acceptable.” This is no coincidence. Distinguished sociologist Robert Michael from the University of Chicago, in his analysis “Why did the U.S. Divorce Rate Double within a Decade” (published in Research in Population Economics) explained that the “sudden widespread use of artificial contraception during the same period is responsible for about half (45%) of this increase.” MARRI’s working paper on the correlates and effects of contraceptive use cites the same research. I’d suggest reading the whole argument presented by 1Flesh regarding divorce rates, especially if you’re still skeptical; but assuming the research is true, we must consider the implications of divorce. 
Divorce, while widely accepted, has catastrophic effects for the individuals involved and for society at large. Children are particularly harmed by divorce, as clearly illustrated by MARRI’s  “Effects of Divorce on Children.” It shows that children of divorced parents generally have lower educational attainment, weaker relationships with their parents, earlier and greater sexual promiscuity, more social and psychological problems, greater risk of marital problems and divorce later in life, and many other negative effects.
If the research is correct and artificial contraception indeed leads or contributes to higher divorce rates, perhaps green sex is not only healthier for your body; it might make for a healthier marriage and society, too.

Unmarried Baby Boomers Face A Grim Future

divorce, family, marriage, social institutions 1 comment
MARRI Interns
A recent study on married and unmarried individuals of the baby boom generation paints a dark picture. Researchers at Bowling Green University found that “one in three baby boomers is unmarried.” The overwhelming majority were either divorced or never-married; only 10% were widowed. This is a steep increase of more than 50% since 1980, especially in light of the fact that less than 13% of Americans age 46-64 were unmarried in 1970. In addition to in the number of unmarried adults of the baby boom generation, the marital statuses of these individuals have also shifted over time. “In 1980, among unmarried adults aged 45-63, 45% of them were divorced, 33% were widowed, and 22% were never-married.” According to the most recent figures in 2009, “58% of unmarried boomers were divorced, 32% were never-married, and just 10% were widowed.”
 
As made evident in this study by Bowling Green University, the implications and effects of these figures are significant and dire. Unmarried baby boomers face greater economic, health, and social vulnerabilities compared to married individuals. The study found that unmarrieds were almost five times more likely to live in poverty than married individuals. “Nearly one in five unmarried boomers was poor” compared with just one in twenty of their married counterparts. The research conducted by Bowling Green University confirms much of the research we have already done on the effects of marital status on family outcome, especially on the effects upon children.
 
While the conclusions of this study are in fact significant, it should come as no surprise that unmarried middle age Americans have fewer resources to draw from than do married individuals. They do not have a spouse to offer support, and are less likely to have children to take care of them in their old age. Families are the fundamental foundation of any society; the stronger the couple the stronger the family. If a society is comprised of weak families, society falters. Even for the pragmatic this study has significant implications for our own nation in terms of social security, how we provide health care, and all other social services.

Marriage Still Stands

cohabitation, divorce, marriage No comments
Obed Bazikian, Intern
The Associated Press (AP) wrote an article in the Christian Science Monitor entitled, “Cohabitation before marriage? It’s no greater divorce risk.”  The article used a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, part of the US National Institute of Health, which sought to discover “trends and group differences” between marital statuses of those aged 15 to 44 years. When analyzing the AP article to the actual study, the article turns out to be rather misleading.
The title the AP used implies that divorce is not more likely for those who cohabitated before marriage than for those who maintained chastity. However, when going to the CDC study itself, this statement is found false. The study examined marriage survival of men and women in 5-year intervals from 5 to 20 years. In every interval, those who did not cohabitate with their future spouse had a greater chance of marriage survival than those who did cohabitate. The probability between these categories is often close in comparison, but the title blatantly misrepresents the facts. It would have been accurate to claim that in some of the year intervals, the difference was statistically insignificant. The study even specifies, “Looking at 20 years duration, women who had never cohabited with their first husband before marriage had a higher probability of marriage survival (57%), compared with women who had cohabited with their first spouse before marriage.”
There are more examples than just comparing the title, and discerning readers should examine both texts. This is yet another example of the media attempting to alter our culture’s perception of marriage, and to make cohabitation more palatable. However, even with their quoted data, marriage still stands. For further critique of the AP’s paper, check out Glenn Stanton’s article in National Review magazine. Also, for numerous publications and research that support marriage, please visit the Marriage and Religion Research’s website.