Category archives: Marriage

Churches Are Sticky”: How Believers Can Help to Strengthen and Save Marriages

by Daniel Hart

October 23, 2019

Although the divorce rate in the U.S. has declined over the last few years, the raw number of divorces that continue to take place in America is still disturbingly high—an average of well over 800,000 per year. As a result, over one million children suffer the effects of their parents’ divorce every year.

Let’s not gloss over these statistics. As Dr. Pat Fagan has written, “The marriage between a man and a woman is the single most important human relationship. Period.” When that relationship is severed, particularly when children are involved, the result is often catastrophic—not only for the husband, wife, and children, but for society at large.

In an extensive synthesis of the major research on divorce, the Marriage & Religion Research Institute (MARRI) found that “[d]ivorce detrimentally impacts individuals and society in numerous ways across all major institutions.” This impact includes:

  • Family: Divorce permanently weakens the family and the relationship between children and parents. It frequently leads to the development of destructive conflict management methods, diminished social competence, the early loss of virginity, diminished sense of masculinity or femininity, more trouble with dating, more cohabitation, greater likelihood of divorce, higher expectations of divorce later in life, and a decreased desire to have children.
  • Religious practice: Divorce diminishes the frequency of worship of God and recourse to Him in prayer.
  • Education: Divorce diminishes children’s learning capacity and educational attainment.
  • The marketplace: Divorce reduces household income and deeply cuts individual earning capacity.
  • Government: Divorce significantly increases crime, abuse and neglect, drug use, and the costs of compensating government services.
  • Health and well-being: Divorce weakens children’s health and longevity. It also increases behavioral, emotional, and psychiatric risks, including even suicide.

What is most heartbreaking about divorce is how it affects children. Elizabeth Marquardt’s landmark book Between Two Worlds: The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce presents an intimate portrait of how profoundly divorce affects the children caught in its snares, not just in their childhood years but throughout their entire adult lives.

As believers, what can we do to change the culture of divorce in our country?

The Critical Role Churches Play in Decreasing Divorce

As reported by Christianity Today, something amazing happened in the Jacksonville, Florida area between 2016 and 2018. In a coordinated campaign that involved about 50 Protestant and Catholic churches and 40 nonprofit organizations in Duval County, over 58,000 people took part in a variety of marriage enrichment events and programs over the course of those three years.

The results were astonishing. A report done by the Institute for Family Studies found that “‘divorce fell about 21 percent more in Duval County’ than in comparable counties across the United States” during the time of the marriage campaign.

JP De Gance, the head of the campaign, pointed out that what was unique about it was how it combined the forces of both secular nonprofits and local churches, who all had the shared goal of reducing the number of divorces in the Jacksonville area, which had a higher divorce rate than other comparable metro areas around the country before the campaign began. In particular, De Gance noted the “sticky” nature of relationships within church ministry compared with secular organizations:

What we later realized is that churches are the best at strengthening marriages. And the reason, using secular social science arguments, is that churches are sticky in a way that nobody else is sticky. And when you show up to your local Boys and Girls Club, a secular NGO, there isn’t a deep membership who is passionate about forming personal relationships outside of the programs that exist there. But with churches, that’s a huge part of what they do. So, if you go to a ministry at a church, you’re going to meet somebody, and they might invite you over for dinner. You might be invited back to join one of their small groups. You might be invited back for a service. You’ve got a deep reservoir of your membership passionate about forming one-to-one, life-changing relationships, which produces the stickiness that churches have over other NGO’s. So, in Jacksonville, churches made the difference.

3 Ways Churches Can Minister to Marriages

The success of this marriage campaign in Jacksonville is a great reminder of the power that we believers have to change lives and impact culture. Given its success, believers should take note of the content of the campaign and should consider imitating it in our own churches if possible. The main nonprofit partner that provided the programming of the Jacksonville campaign was Live the Life, which has excellent resources on ways to minister to engaged couples, enrich marriages, and heal marriages in crisis.

Here are some takeaways from this campaign that we can bring to our own churches to strengthen marriages and decrease divorce.

1. Ministering to and Mentoring Engaged Couples

A template for a strong marriage needs to be formed before a couple ties the knot. This in turn will make it less likely that married couples will be blindsided by major conflict that they did not anticipate years into their marriage, which could lead to divorce.

Obviously, it would be impossible to prepare for every major conflict that could arise within marriage, but there are ways to set healthy and realistic expectations for what marriage actually is and provide couples with ways to effectively navigate differences in their personalities and resolve conflicts.

One invaluable service that churches can provide for engaged couples is to implement a strong marriage preparation program. A key element of this can be to provide each engaged couple with an already married mentor couple from within the church congregation. Engaged couples can meet with their mentor couple weekly or monthly to discuss the particulars of what marriage looks like.

A mentorship program can be mutually beneficial for both couples. It’s a wonderful way for the engaged couple to benefit from the wisdom of the married couple and also for the married couple to be enlivened and enriched by the fresh perspective of the engaged couple. It’s also a great way for married couples to volunteer and be a part of an invaluable ministry within their home church.

2. Providing Marriage Enrichment Ministries

As JP De Gance pointed out, the Jacksonville campaign “illustrated to churches that this [marriage enrichment] is a gap in ministry, and that they need to fill that gap, and that we can resource them on how to do it.”

Every marriage, no matter how strong, is a journey of learning and discovery that never stops until death. But after many years of marriage, many couples tend to fall into patterns and habits that make them lose sight of the beautiful reality of marriage. That’s why every couple needs a shot in the arm from time to time to reinvigorate and enrich their marriage.

There are many marriage enrichment programs out there that churches can implement if they choose (a few are listed below). Another option is for your church to create your own ministry—here’s a helpful guide on starting your own.

3. Helping to Heal Marriages in Crisis

De Gance also noted another important aspect of offering marriage ministries: “[W]hile the churches were running ongoing marriage enrichment, folks who have serious problems would surface at those events.”

Marriages that are in serious crisis will need more help than a simple marriage enrichment small group, weekend, or retreat. These couples may need more professionalized help than what your church can offer. But simply offering a marriage ministry in the first place can be a springboard for these couples to fully face the deep crisis in their marriages instead of continuing to put it off.

Therefore, it will be important for your church to have resources available that you can refer these struggling couples to. Here is a brief list:

Introducing Lecture Me! - A New Podcast from FRC

by Family Research Council

October 15, 2019

We all need to be lectured sometimes.

Family Research Council’s new weekly-ish podcast Lecture Me! features selected talks by top thinkers from the archives of the FRC Speaker Series. Our podcast podium takes on tough issues like religious liberty, abortion, euthanasia, marriage, family, sexuality, public policy, and the culture—all from a biblical worldview.

Listen with us to the lecture, then stick around afterward as we help you digest the content with a discussion featuring FRC’s policy and government affairs experts.

The first three episodes are now available. They include:

  • Nancy Pearcey: Love Thy Body

FRC’s Director of Christian Ethics and Biblical Worldview David Closson joins Lecture Me! to discuss Author Nancy Pearcey’s lecture about her book Love Thy Body, in which she fearlessly and compassionately makes the case that secularism denigrates the body and destroys the basis for human rights, and sets forth a holistic and humane alternative that embraces the dignity of the human body.

  • Military Mental Health Crisis

Currently, an average of 21 military veterans are taking their lives each day. FRC’s Deputy Director of State and Local Affairs Matt Carpenter joins the podcast to discuss Richard Glickstein’s lecture as he shares the compelling evidence that proves faith-based solutions reduce suicides, speed the recovery of PTSD, and build resiliency.

  • Repairers of the Breach

How can the conservative movement help restore America’s inner cities? FRC’s Coalitions Senior Research Fellow Chris Gacek joins the podcast to discuss Robert L. Woodson, Sr.’s lecture on how the conservative movement must identify, recognize, and support agents of individual and community uplift and provide the resources, expertise, and funding that can strengthen and expand their transformative work.

Lecture Me! is available at most places you listen to podcasts, including Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, and Castbox.

The Summer of Love: The Beauty of the Marriage Covenant

by Hugh Phillips

June 27, 2019

During the month of June, the wedding season is in full swing. Yet, June is also celebrated as “LGBT Pride Month.” Throughout this month, the LGBT lobby argues that they are “celebrating love” and claim that their movement is based in love and a respect for human dignity. However, much of the LGBT movement is based on a misguided notion of love that is rooted in a harmful postmodern hedonism that, as Nancy Pearcey details in her book Love Thy Body, actually devalues human dignity.  

In this season, Christian conservatives must draw Americans toward the beauty of the true love that the natural marriage covenant between one man and one woman provides. To do this we must properly define love.

Competing Views of Love

Natural marriage and the LGBT movement represent two competing worldviews on what love and marriage actually mean. The LGBT movement, born from the sexual revolution, bases its definition of love on subjective feelings and emotions. They argue that all feelings, attractions, and passions for a person, and any relationships that result, should be celebrated and protected by state law.  This view can be tied with the modern assertion of marriage and relationships as merely contractual agreements.

 Pearcey discusses this when she notes that, long before the sexual revolution, the secular worldview devalued the basis of love and marriage from an unconditional covenant to a contract focused on how the relationship can benefit each individual. Thus, the modern view of relationships, whether heterosexual or homosexual, is based on personal fulfillment of desire and is no longer grounded in selfless love and fulfillment based on adhering to God’s natural design. This irrational view of relationships overlooks the unnatural and harmful effects of such relationships while also disregarding a truthful view of what love actually is.

Biblical Love and the Marriage Covenant

By contrast, the biblical worldview sees relational love as an objective choice and duty that, while often accompanied by emotions, is not dependent on those emotions as the basis of the relationship. In fact, as C.S. Lewis notes in The Abolition of Man, the hallmark of adulthood is being able to train one’s emotions so that they conform to the moral law of God’s natural order. Marriage is the greatest expression of and training ground for this because, under the biblical model, the couple are called to give up their own desires and wants for that of their spouse.

Marriage is the best institution in which to express the biblical model of love. This is revealed in God’s original purpose for marriage. The Bible is clear that the marriage covenant was created by God as a metaphor for His sacrificial love and salvation for His people. Theologian Dr. R.C. Sproul noted: “Marriage is ordained and instituted by God—that is to say, marriage did not just spring up arbitrarily out of social conventions or human taboos. Marriage was not invented by men but by God.” Thus, when Paul speaks on marriage, it makes absolute sense when he urges husbands to “…love your wives as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her…” Covenant marriage is an institutional protection of covenant love.

The biblical model of love and marriage, as revealed strikingly in God’s design for marriage, is revolutionary because its emphasis is, not on the individual, but on the other person. This is explicitly shown in the marriage vows which detail and initiate the marriage covenant. In the vows, the focus is on one’s duties and obligations to the other person, not on fulfilling one’s own desires. This is an expression of biblical love. When Paul speaks on the characteristics of love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, all the characteristics are strikingly focused towards the good of others and not one’s own good.

This is why Family Research Council has always defended natural marriage and has seen it as the bedrock of a safe and prosperous society. Besides the plethora of proven social benefits that marriage has for society, it is one of the keys to the future of America, both culturally and politically. It is so for this reason: it both teaches and models selfless love for another, a trait vitally necessary for the survival of any Republic such as ours.

The Beauty of True Love and the Marriage Covenant

In an age of LGBTQ “rights” and the celebration of sexual confusion and personal desire above all, our culture must return to a celebration and respect for the beauty of the selfless marriage covenant. Let’s return to the picture of a man and a woman sacrificially committing themselves to each other in marriage on a beautiful summer afternoon. Let’s also think of the beauty and powerful testimony of that same couple, now old, having remained faithfully committed in a lifetime of service to each other under God. Most Americans would smile at this picture. Why wouldn’t they? Such a relationship is a natural human desire!

Thus, in an era dominated by individualism and obsessed with personal autonomy and choice, Christians and conservatives should counter the LGBT movement by showing the beauty and joy of the mutual sacrifice and commitment of the natural marriage covenant. Nothing will counter the harmful effects of the sexual revolution or show the Gospel more clearly than the picture of a man and a woman unconditionally giving themselves to each other’s service for a lifetime. Against this type of true love and commitment the sexual revolution has no power.

So, this summer, let’s respond to LGBT Pride Month by celebrating the beauty of marriage according to God’s design and the couples who have been faithful in marriage. Let us also recommit ourselves as a movement to living out in our own marriages the faithfulness of the marriage covenant and truly mirroring God’s faithfulness towards us, His redeemed! It’s June—thank God for the wonder of His gift of marriage!

Hugh Phillips is a Government Affairs Intern at Family Research Council working on pro-life legislation.

3 Things to Remember About the Importance of Marriage This Valentine’s Day

by Hugh Phillips

February 14, 2019

Most people see Valentine’s Day as a fun opportunity to express their love to their spouse or significant other. Therefore, it’s a great time for Christian conservatives to take this opportunity to emphasize, through public policy and social activism, the critical importance and beauty of marriage, both to individuals and to our culture as a whole.

Marriage, designed by God to be between one man and one woman, reveals the beauty of God’s design for social order. FRC has consistently argued that marriage is critical to the maintenance of society and is the foundation of civilization. Yet too often, modern conservatives overlook the importance of marriage in the war for the soul of America. The following are three things Christian conservatives must make clear:

1. Marriage is a gift.

In a time when young Americans are putting off marriage, whether it be to find that perfect job or get one more degree, a sense of loneliness is drifting over American society. Against this background, Christian conservatives must remind society of the importance of marriage and the beauty of a life-long relationship to one person. In today’s anti-marriage and anti-commitment culture, Christian conservatives must argue that marriage is one of the most fulfilling and essential aspects of life. God’s design for marriage is such that having a spouse provides the necessary emotional and spiritual support that we all need every day.

2. Marriage is a responsibility.

In the modern day, many argue that marriage is not only old-fashioned, but unnecessarily restrictive of the freedoms of individuals. Christian conservatives must respond to this argument by showing that marriage is one of the healthiest and most necessary steps a young person must take to mature. A society that values marriage is happier and more productive. When discussing marriage, as with other issues like government, Christian conservatives must make clear that it is not unlimited freedom but ordered liberty that makes for happy, fulfilling lives.

3. Marriage is critical to the maintenance of society.

Only strong families can ensure a stable, healthy, and safe society, and families are only strong if marriages are strong. The many social problems America faces arguably have their root in the breakdown of marriages caused by the rise of the sexual revolution in the 1960’s. If social problems are to be eased, the value of marriage must be upheld in public policy and in the culture at large.

Social conservatives must not give way but instead defend the sanctity and importance of marriage. This can be done on the public policy level by, for example, eliminating the marriage penalty and reforming divorce laws to reflect the value of the marriage covenant. Even more importantly, Christian conservatives must defend and promote the sanctity of marriage in the broader culture. Only then will public policy victories on this issue increase as the nation realizes the importance of marriage to our society. Happy National Marriage Week, and Happy Valentine’s Day!

Hugh Phillips is a Government Affairs intern at Family Research Council working on pro-life legislation.

Marriage Gives Love a Canvas to Paint On

by Daniel Hart

February 8, 2019

This week is National Marriage Week, so it’s a great time to reflect on the beauty and fundamental importance of marriage.

Over the last few decades, a plethora of social science has come out about how marriage is highly beneficial for the health and well-being of men, women, children, and society in almost every way.

Whether our culture admits it or not, all of these studies merely confirm what we already know deep down to be true. All of us are born with an innate intuition that there is something primal and essential about marriage that goes to the core of who we are as human beings. Even liberal Hollywood stars have an instinctive sense that there is something distinctive and vital about marriage. Liam Hemsworth, who recently married Miley Cyrus after a 10-year on-and-off again relationship, observed: “We’ve been together for a long time and it felt like it was the right time to do it…Not much about the relationship changes [after marriage], but you kind of have… the husband and wife thing, it’s great. I’m loving it.”

Children do too. When a child grows up with a single parent, there will inevitably be a day when that child asks of their own accord, “Where is my Dad?” or “Where is my Mom?” This primordial question about our origins points directly toward what marriage is: the binding, natural, covenantal vow that our Creator designed to keep men and women, mothers and fathers—and therefore society itself—bonded together. When something is missing from this bond, we know it to our core, even as children.

Sadly, the influence of culture has caused many to ignore their intuition, and as a result, marriage is now widely seen as at worst constraining and at best optional. Many now ask, “Why should I bother to get married?” The cultural ubiquity and acceptance of cohabitation, contraception, and divorce has made marriage seem irrelevant in the minds of many.

There’s one simple answer to this question: love. We were created by Love itself (1 John 4:9), we came into the world through an act of love, and our purpose as human beings is to love. Simply put, marriage gives our capacity for love a canvas to paint on, a canvas that is formed by the vow that we make to our beloved. Day in and day out, that canvas is right there in front of us—our spouses and our children—waiting to be loved. And as the years stretch on and we recommit ourselves to our vow on a daily basis, God continually infuses us with His grace, stretching that canvas ever larger and our hearts ever wider, making all things new with each sunrise.

Millennials and the Future of Marriage

by Caleb Sutherlin

October 8, 2018

Millennials are bringing down the divorce rate in America. Research by University of Maryland professor Philip Cohen indicates that the divorce rate has fallen by eight percent from 2008 to 2016. According to Cohen, “the overall drop has been driven entirely by younger women.” While older generations are still getting remarried and divorced, millennials are staying together longer.

But there’s a downside. Few millennials are actually getting married—about 59 percent are unmarried/never married. This is significantly higher than the historical averages for the same age group. Citing the U.S. Census Bureau, Gallup found that at the same age, about “36% of Generation Xers, 48% of baby boomers and 65% of traditionalists were married when they were the age that millennials are now.”

Cohen suggests one reason for this is that millennials are being more selective about who they marry and when. Many are waiting to marry until after they have a stable career and have completed their education. These are good indicators of marriages that will last. For now, divorce rates are likely to continue to fall.

Despite these hopeful signs, we are living in an era marked by a drastic decrease in marriages. The National Center for Family & Marriage Research has found that “the peak marriage rate of 92.3, observed in 1920, is nearly three times the rate in 2016.” The institution of marriage is now a leaning pillar in our society.

With so many unmarried young adults (myself included), the number of single parent households is also rising. Socially, being a single parent or having children out of wedlock is now widely accepted: “The rates of acceptance currently stand at 68 percent amongst millennials.” Having compassion and understanding for single parents is vital, but we must at the same time acknowledge and have compassion for the children who are born out of wedlock and who must bear the consequences of their parents’ choices.

What could this mean for the future? What kind of lives are we encouraging for our children? Let’s look at the numbers. Children from single parent households are more likely to struggle with poverty, have an increased risk of drug and alcohol abuse, are twice as likely to commit suicide, are less likely to finish school, are more likely to commit crimes, and are more likely to become pregnant as a teen than their traditional family counterparts. The fact remains that families do best when they have a married father and mother. Again, saying this is not to denigrate single parents who are doing their utmost to provide for their kids. But there are profound societal consequences as the normalcy of single parenthood increases.

Most importantly, these statistics show a distressing outlook for the future. Millennials no longer find comfort in marriage that has been a staple in generations past. As single parent households rise, the future is foreboding.

Pew Research has found that “Fewer than half (46%) of U.S. kids younger than 18 years of age are living in a home with two married heterosexual parents in their first marriage.” This shift in culture is compounded by the fact that “34% of children today are living with an unmarried parent—up from just 9% in 1960, and 19% in 1980.”

As less marriages take place, there will be fewer examples of healthy marriages for children to emulate. Fortunately, we have the example from the Bible. We know that husbands are to love their wives like Christ loved the Church (Ephesians 5:25). This kind of love requires dying to one’s self for the sake of the other—a lesson that is of the utmost importance in today’s society.

Trends and statistics can give us an idea of what is to come, but the future is never set in stone. The importance of marriage is not and should never be a partisan issue. Everyone should stand to protect and promote the family for the betterment of society.

Caleb Sutherlin is an intern at Family Research Council.

How to Find Healing When Your Spouse is an Addict

by Caleb Anderson

March 26, 2018

Marriage is an empowering act of love. Countless difficulties can be faced together in marriage, but sometimes complex issues can arise that can seem too much to bear. Substance addiction is one such issue. It can cause immeasurable hurt and wreak havoc in marriages. However, there are ways to manage the strains caused by addiction, and seek healing as a couple.

Make an Early Intervention

Addiction can have a destructive impact on all aspects of life. It can alienate loved ones, fracture families, and have serious consequences on finances. Unfortunately, communication, which is key to recovery, can be lost to the secrecy and tension addiction can create. It’s important to take action immediately once the signs of addiction are noticed in order to prevent enabling. Don’t rationalize addiction or excuse symptoms, either to yourself or to others—this will only perpetuate the problem. Instead, talk to your spouse when they are sober and explain how their addiction is hurtful and upsetting and how it is damaging the relationship. Do so calmly and sympathetically—arguing will only cause further conflict and denial. Marriage thrives on open communication, and recovery can be galvanized by it.

Push for Treatment

The best option for addiction istreatment. Your spouse may be reluctant to seek help, perhaps fearful of the consequences of doing so, so stress its importance to the relationship’s future. Don’t, however, make hollow threats. It’s crucial that what’s said be conveyed as sincere concern for your partner’s well-being and the relationship. Thankfully, there are a number of options to aid recovery and self-care.

Treatment can include inpatient and outpatient care, providing a supportive environment to achieve sobriety. A doctor can be valuable in determining what’s best for your spouse. This time will be difficult. Your spouse may be scared and anxious, so reassure them of your support throughout the process. Participating incouples therapy, during and after treatment, can provide additional tools to manage the stresses and strains faced. It may also assist in restoring trust and intimacy, as well as aiding in mutual understanding.

Pursue Healing

Being married to an addict can be emotionally and mentally exhausting, but it’s important to trust that addiction can be overcome. With this in mind, it’s imperative to recognize that addiction doesn’tdefine your loved one. They may be feeling shame and guilt, so try to focus on progress and an addiction-free future. Feeling hurt and upset is understandable, but layingblame on your addicted spouse can sustain a cycle of negative emotions. Their perception of reality will likely be influenced by addiction, and their behaviors may not seem as egregious to them as it does to others.

It’s important to try to separate the person suffering from addiction with the actions that addiction causes. It won’t be easy, but it can help you remember that the person you love is still there, and can be reclaimed from addiction.

Treatment can hopefully give them an appreciation for the struggles you’ve gone through, and you can both try to encourage a return to a positive family life. This form of reciprocal self-care can involve things like dates and family outings. A therapist will be able to offer additional exercises and activities that can facilitate the practice of self-care, both as a couple and as individuals.

When the Situation is Untenable

If your partner resists treatment or you feel they’ve become a threat to you or your children, then a temporaryseparation may be the best option. The actions caused by addiction do not mean they don’t care for their loved ones, but sometimes you have to put your own and your children’s well-being first. In addition, for some who suffer from addiction, separation can be the catalyst to start confronting their problems. Separation can be a source of heartbreak for all involved, yet some couples may find that it is the only way to start to repair the damage wrought by addiction and begin to start the healing process.

Healing is Possible

Though it may be a challenge, the condition of addiction can be confronted. As the author of this article and a recovering addict myself, I can attest to the importance of a supportive spouse. When I went into recovery for opiate addiction, my wife stuck by my side through the good and the bad. In fact, she was the one who helped me see my downward spiral and find help to turn my life back around. It was hard on both of us, and there were some trying couple’s therapy sessions, but we approached my recovery as partners rather than me trying to go it alone. It’s a long-term process, but, with intervention, treatment, and time, your marriage can be brought back from the brink and your family can find healing.

Caleb Anderson and his wife Molly are the founders of RecoveryHope.org, which helps couples and individuals by providing research and resources regarding the many challenges of overcoming drug and alcohol addictions.

4 Unforgettable Thoughts On Marriage

by Daniel Hart

February 7, 2018

Anyone who has spent any time perusing the blogosphere knows that there are thousands upon thousands of articles out there giving advice on marriage. I’ve certainly read my fair share, so I thought it would be helpful to distill the reflections that I thought were most insightful into one place. In honor of National Marriage Week, here are my four favorite musings on the beauty of marriage.

1.  Take Your Vows Seriously So That You Will Always Have Someone to Tell the Truth To

One of the primary blessings of marriage is that it gives us a lifelong partner to confide in, no matter how unbearable life may become. The freedom that comes with the ability to be completely open and honest with our spouses is a wonderful thing. Jordan Peterson put it this way:

What do you do when you get married? You take someone who’s just as useless and horrible as you are, and then you shackle yourself to them. And then you say, we’re not running away no matter what happens…If you can run away, you can’t tell each other the truth…If you don’t have someone around that can’t run away, then you can’t tell them the truth. If you can leave, then you don’t have to tell each other the truth. It’s as simple as that, because you can just leave. And then you don’t have anyone to tell the truth to.

2. Use Your Spouse’s Criticism as an Opportunity to Deepen Your Love

Best-selling author Dr. Warren Farrell speaks of the critical importance of how we handle criticism from our spouse:

Making marriages better serves everyone. Many couples with children who are legally married are psychologically divorced. Divorces are due less to problems with money, sex or children, and more to each partner feeling that her or his perspectives on money, sex, or children are rarely heard. When our partner airs her or his perspective, we often take it as criticism, and the Achilles’ heel of human beings is our inability to handle personal criticism from a loved one without becoming defensive.

I introduce in The Boy Crisis my “Altered Mindsets Method of Non-defensive Communication,” which has allowed couples to emotionally associate their partner’s criticism as an opportunity to deepen their love. It’s a method I have honed over two decades via couples’ communication workshops… [E]mpathy communication skills need to be part of every elementary school’s core curriculum… This is the most important single global change for love in our families and peace in the world.

3. Sustaining Love Does Not Come Naturally

Dr. Farrell further explains how sustaining love within a marriage does not come naturally, but yet this is an absolute must not only for the couple themselves, but for their children: “…[W]e have a ‘love dilemma’: while ‘falling in love’ is biologically natural, sustaining love is biologically unnatural. For our children to not fear marriage, then, they need to see that their parents have learned how to do what does not come naturally: sustain love.”

So how can couples sustain love? Here is a great compilation of ways to do this in everyday life.

4. ‘Thank you for choosing me.’

This is from “Marriage According to 10 Couples”:

‘Thank you for choosing me.’ We often spontaneously use this line, communicating how grateful or undeserving we feel to be given such a genuine love. We’ve quickly learned that it is a choice that comes with each new sunrise in marriage, and it’s the deep confidence found in the other’s daily commitment that has moved mountains internally in our first year as newlyweds. ‘Thank you for choosing me …’ They are words we’ll whisper in each other’s ear well into old age; I’m certain of it.”—Angela Hoyer

Human Sexuality and the Goodness of Marriage

by Clara Ramos and Shania Burch

August 10, 2017

The place and value of sex is a complex issue in modern American culture. The view of sex as the intimate union between a man and woman brought together by marriage under God has largely been lost. It has been replaced by an entitled inclination toward convenience and conceding to a desire for the instant gratification of sexual and emotional fulfillment.

Being a part of a culture engulfed in endless choices, including the choice to have sex at any point in life regardless of the type of relationship between the partners, makes it necessary for Christians to bear witness to God’s intention for human sexuality. Using the guidance of the Bible, early Church fathers, and Christian scholars, Christians can promote God’s will for sexual intimacy as the exclusive and supreme physical act of unity between a man and woman who are drawn together under Him in marriage.

The Modern View of Sex

Contemporary Americans place utmost importance in their happiness and freedom of choice. What often defines happiness, according to Dr. Martin E. P. Seligman, is summarized by the acronym PERMA: pleasure, engagement, relationships, meaning, and accomplishments. Many seek their purpose, freedom, and sources of fulfillment in their activities, contribution to their environment, and ability to enjoy such pleasures as food, sex, and material comforts.

From the Christian perspective, true freedom is attained by dedicating one’s life to the glorification of God and living in liberation from sin. Paul the Apostle verifies this by asserting that man should glorify God in body and spirit and flee from sins, such as sexual immorality, in order to uphold God’s sacred gift that is the human body (1 Corinthians 6:18-20). In the modern view, however, individuals tend to perceive their sexuality as a part of their humanness that demands and deserves total autonomy, and, as a result, use it to exercise their freedom of choice and self-expression.

Robert Buffington and his colleagues expand upon the value of sexual freedom in their book, A Global History of Human Sexuality: The Modern Era, by highlighting the way in which the fight for sexual freedom has become a major political issue in contemporary culture. Due to the strongly Western ideal of liberty, sexuality has become yet another aspect of life that can be expressed at the discretion of the individual and supported by advocates within mainstream culture who believe that one’s sexual identity can be self-created.

The Implications of the Modern View of Sex

The values of modern Americans show that what is deemed to be most important is the idea of choice. Choosing to be involved in relationships, to engage in one’s community, and to enjoy pleasure in proper ways are important for human flourishing, but they are often overemphasized. When we concede to the desire for personal happiness in this way, we distance ourselves from God and move closer to a false self-identity that dictates our choices. Aspects of sexual freedom, such as freedom from sex trafficking and gender-based bullying, are certainly important; but placing sexuality at the center of one’s identity and using it without discretion degrades God’s purpose for human sexuality.

In contemporary culture, sex is no longer the act of a man and woman united under God, engaging in sexual unity to raise a godly generation; rather, it is an act of personal choice and freedom where reproduction is often seen as an undesirable consequence.

Christians know that true freedom is not anchored in a sexual identity, but in an identity in Christ (Colossians 3:3). Christians have the opportunity to share with others that God’s intention for human sexuality is an exclusive act of union that follows, rather than precedes, deep, God-centered love. Genesis 1:24 demonstrates that kind of love by stating that “a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh,” making it clear that God first created men and women, then united them in one flesh by the goodness of marriage.

The Goodness of Marriage

Marriage is a profound mystery, one that God has planned from the beginning of time. When God created Adam, He gave him the task to name and rule over all the animals of the field and of the air; yet, God saw that Adam was lonely and had “not found a helper like himself” (Genesis 2:20). The beasts of the land, the birds of the air, and all living creatures brought a sense of joy and delight to him, but were not and could not be a fulfilling match for him.

So God created woman from the rib of Adam and brought her into Adam’s sight. He exclaimed, “This now is bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman” (Genesis 2:23). God blessed this first marriage, saying “increase and multiply,” (Genesis 1:28) for they were to become the models of marriage for humanity as the first parents in complimentary union.

The Trinity and Marriage

Marriage is true, good, and beautiful because it resembles the oneness of the three divine Persons of the Trinity. The perfect bond and oneness of the Blessed Trinity makes them inseparable; this also occurs in the sacrament of matrimony when the marital bond of husband and wife is sealed by God.

Sam Allberry further reflects that “by virtue of their marital union, man and wife are able to arrive at a kind of oneness that can reflect the oneness of God the Trinity.” This oneness is possible by the gifts that proceed from the Trinity and should reflect in marriage: totality, unity, and fidelity. The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church states:

…the characteristic traits of marriage are: totality, by which the spouse gives themselves to each other mutually in every aspect of their person, physical and spiritual; unity, which makes them “one flesh” (Gen 2:24); indissolubility and fidelity which the definitive mutual giving of self requires; the fruitfulness to which this naturally opens itself.

Marriage also images the Trinity by way of the Holy Spirit, which is the fruit of the Father and the Son’s reciprocal love. In the same way, a child is the fruit of the husband and wife’s love.

These traits seem to have faded away in modern society. The totality of marriage has been degraded to merely pleasure and selfishness. Pornography has objectified women and men by taking the sexual act out of its proper context within marriage, thereby debasing it by taking away its inherent beauty and unity. This perversion of marital fidelity and privacy, which continues to grow with an ever-increasing number of porn websites and a consuming public that justifies its consumption through a relativistic mindset, prevents the world from seeing the goodness and dignity of marriage.

The Purpose of Marriage

God’s oneness, which only He can give, can be seen in the creation of man when God made woman from the rib of Adam, her husband. God did not take a foot or a strand of hair from Adam to create Eve. No: He took a rib to show man the equal dignity of male and female. Matthew Henry expands upon this: “[T]he woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam; not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved.”

The purpose of marriage is not, as John Chrysostom puts it, for “indecency and laughter,” but “for the sake of begetting offspring and in the fidelity of chastity” (Augustine). Chrysostom understood that the unique beauty of marriage will dissipate in the swamps of infidelity. Thus, marriage is and can only be between one man and one woman. Anything other than this is contrary to God’s plan. Its purpose is unitive and fruitful, and glows in the eyes of God. It is precious and holy, for it has the potential to bring into this world another human being that is capable of knowing God.

The nature of marriage is ordained for “the procreation and education of the offspring, and it is in them that it finds its crowning glory.” Yet, God’s merciful love and compassion not only enriches the fertile womb, but exceeds in bounty to marriages that have gone through the hardships of infertility and miscarriage, thus making marriage not only procreative in nature, but also unitive. God’s love ensures that experiencing these great trials can still bear the fruit of unitive marital love. The Catechism of the Catholic Church plainly states: “Spouses to whom God has not granted children can nevertheless have a conjugal life full of meaning, in both human and Christian terms. Their marriage can radiate a fruitfulness of charity, of hospitality, and of sacrifice.” This shows the infinite goodness and love of God, whose love makes “the human person the authentic image of the Blessed Trinity, [the] image of God.”

Clara Ramos and Shania Burch are students at Regent University.

We’re Better Together

by Daniel Hart

June 7, 2017

In a recent column for The Daily Signal, Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) makes a striking observation about the current unease that has infused our society:

…[M]any Americans—poor, middle class, and wealthy—feel that something is amiss. It is a feeling that cannot be reduced to economic anxiety. Rather, there is a sense that our social fabric is fraying.

And these concerns are reflected in objective measures of family and community health.

To cite just a few of the trends that may be grouped under the rubric of “social capital”: marriage and churchgoing have declined, distrust of the nation’s institutions has grown, mixed-income neighborhoods have become rarer, regional polarization has increased, and young men who are neither working nor looking for work have become more numerous and more isolated.

We do less together than in the past, and we are worse off for it, economically and otherwise…

We do less together than in the past…” This insight hits on a deep need that all human beings share: a sense of belonging. We all have the innate desire to be needed and to belong in a community. To accomplish this, human beings need to be together. This seems painfully obvious, but as Mike Lee observed, our society has seen a decline in two of the primary institutions that foster “togetherness”: marriage and churchgoing.

The benefits of marriage to individuals and to society as a whole are incalculable, but let’s focus on the particular power of marriage to bring people together. When a man and a woman marry, they are participating in something far beyond themselves. This is most apparent in the wedding celebration itself, which attracts family and friends from far and wide who gather in one place to rejoice in the mysterious union of two people. This union stretches far beyond the wedding day, however—from that day forward, two wholly separate families are now forever joined to each other “in law.” Marriage, therefore, brings people together in a truly unique and profound way, creating an “extended family” even beyond the newly minted immediate family.

While there are countless jokes that can be made about the drudgeries of “in-laws,” there is no disputing that marriage forges new familial bonds that last a lifetime, providing husbands and wives with both the trials and joys of having a larger family than they did before marriage. This in turn creates new networks of opportunity for “togetherness,” whether it be through expanded family reunions that yield new friendships and shared passions, or new job opportunities that are made possible through extended family businesses. In the same way, marriage creates a whole new network of friends and acquaintances for the bride and groom, who each essentially have the size of their social circle doubled.

The church provides the other great venue for bringing people together. Houses of worship will forever draw us to them because of the God-sized hole in our hearts—the innate desire to reach beyond ourselves and give thanks to our Creator for giving us the gift of life and every blessing in it, and for the ability to belong to a body of believers that gives us a particular identity as sons and daughters of Christ. Furthermore, churches provide avenues for ministering to one another in both practical and spiritual ways, whether it be hosting soup kitchens and clothing drives for the needy, hosting fundraisers for a family affected by tragedy, prison ministry, running youth groups and Bible studies, and on and on. In short, a church is a place where anyone can come and feel like they belong to a community and where they can find a helping hand when in need, either physically or spiritually.

The overarching point here is this: when we are brought together in genuine and deeply rooted ways, we find true fulfilment. Marriage and the church are the primary institutions of permanence in society that provide this union of persons. God, after all, is a union of Three Persons. When we are in communion with each other, we grow in virtue. Therefore, when we as a culture diminish and abandon these institutions, we deny our intrinsic human need to belong, and we miss out on the resulting opportunities to grow in virtue by ministering to our fellow man. So let us champion marriage and the church as the great forgers of “togetherness,” and therefore of human flourishing.

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