Oct. 15, 2012
As a fellow MARRI intern recently observed, 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. Maria Reig Teetor describes how redefining married love paved the way for the no-fault divorce revolution. The Romantic philosophy of the 1700s and 1800s advocated self-fulfillment through experience, and the 1960s sexual revolution carried Romanticism to its logical conclusion: free love.
In past centuries, marriage had been an institution characterized by permanence. But no-fault divorce embodied the values of free love with no strings attached; now, marriage need be only as permanent as the feelings that fueled the couples initial attraction. In Maria Reig Teetors words,
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….
If falling in love is as easy as Hollywood makes it look, falling out of love and moving on is nearly that easy. While treating marriage as permanent had kept the couple accountable to the parties who are the reason for marriage (that is, children who need a committed mother and father), now the partners were accountable only to themselves. The romance revolution, by jump-starting the divorce revolution, left a wake of damaging impacts on children: broken relationships; reduced educational attainment and earning capacity; disillusionment with religion; and increased risk of crime, drug abuse, and suicide.
Another, equally disturbing trend has arisen as a result of the romance revolution: couples who choose childlessness in order to focus on their personal fulfillment. In Canada, this trend has risen so far that the 2011 census shows 44.5% of couples are without children, compared to 39.2% with children. According to the Toronto-based National Post, while the 44.5% figure is padded by empty-nest parents, it includes the growing number of Canadian women currently one in five who will never have a child. Without the burden of children, life can be less demanding and more exhilarating:
Having children used to be the point of being a pair. It was the great aspiration along with finding love everlasting a biological impulse to go forth and multiply….
No more. Gone are diaper changes and ballet classes, replaced by hot yoga and shopping trips to New York City.
But is a partnership without children as fulfilling as one with children? Mariette Ulrich, writing for MercatorNet, notes the irony of this lifestyle. Ulrich says the idea that life without kids is a never-ending joyride is as much a myth as the contention that life with children is overwhelmingly stressful, exhausting, expensive and heartbreaking.
This is a myth of the same class as the myth that marriage is about falling in love, rather than providing a permanent home for children and a safe haven for ones spouse. Maria Reig Teetor sums it up:
…As modern love is individualistic, so is modern marriage. The soul of marriage has become myself.
Humans were designed to live in community, which involves giving to others before seeking to receive fulfillment from them. As we recognize that the foundation of marriage is in the human community, not the individual, we can begin to reverse the unhealthy effects of the romance revolution.