Love and marriage don’t have to go together, say British majority

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Living together is just as good as being married, even when it comes to bringing up children, British people now believe.

Fewer than a fifth of people think there is much difference between being married or living together and more than half (53 per cent) say that weddings are more about celebration than life-long commitment.

A comprehensive study of public opinion found that only 28 per cent think married couples make better parents than unmarried pairs and there is broad support for step-families, who are widely seen to be doing a good job. More than three quarters of the public believe that a mother and a stepfather could bring up a child just as well as two biological parents.

The research also discovered that most people think divorce is a normal part of life, with two thirds saying that it can be “a positive step towards a new life”. Even when children are involved divorce is no longer seen as a disaster, with 78 per cent of the public saying the end of a marriage in itself does not harm children, although conflict between parents does.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchMarriage & Family* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK

18 Comments
Posted January 30, 2008 at 4:55 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. RichardKew wrote:

One of the things I have become most conscious of since returning to live in Britain five months ago is the lack of respect that there is toward the institution of marriage. There is no doubt to me that what people think about marriage is more to do with justifying their own behavior than looking at the realities that accompany its absence or its breakdown. If you look at the responses to this article on the Times site you will see the aggressive individualism that now pervades Britain, the mentality being that I am free to do what I want to do and that isn’t anyone else’s business.

January 30, 8:44 am | [comment link]
2. Anglicanum wrote:

**long drippy sigh**  I’ve really got to stop reading this blog first thing in the morning.

January 30, 8:51 am | [comment link]
3. Hoskyns wrote:

In the best British tradition this is another classic case of “don’t confuse me with the facts”. As noted on T19 here, the same newspaper reported just three months ago on the overwhelming evidence that “married couples live longer, enjoy better health and can rely on more home care in old age than their divorced, widowed, single and cohabiting peers. Children who live with their married parents are also healthier, and can expect to stay in full-time education for longer, whatever their economic background.”

January 30, 9:13 am | [comment link]
4. Larry Morse wrote:

T his iis what sophistication means. How…....European, how cultured, how admirable.
  But #1 is dead right on, isn’t he, that t he numbers merely show that people justify their own behavior be changing their opinions to match their acts. And we can see this in the “normalizing” of sexuyal promiscuit y of all sorts in this country. LM

January 30, 9:48 am | [comment link]
5. RichardKew wrote:

I am not sure this is particularly European…

January 30, 10:07 am | [comment link]
6. Bob Lee wrote:

Well…...What would Jesus Do?

bl

January 30, 11:40 am | [comment link]
7. Dale Rye wrote:

A few facts for those who think that traditional views of sexual morality are broadly held by a great silent majority and only rejected by a few radical-liberal wackos:

(1) An American survey as long ago as 1970 showed that 60% of married respondents reported at least one premarital sexual experience, with the rate approaching 75% for those born after 1935. Klassen, Williams, and Levitt 1989, 139.

(2) A recent American study of 18–24 year olds reported an 83% incidence of premarital intercourse (14% were still unmarried virgins [counting only vaginal sex] and 2.5% had been virgins when they married). Within the sample population, virginity rates dropped sharply with age. Brückner and Bearman 2005, 275.

(3) The U.S. median age at first intercourse is 16.8 years. CDC 2001. About 25% have become sexually active by 14.8.

(4) The median age for a first marriage is 25.3 for females and 27.1 for males. U.S. Census Bureau 2003. The median courtship from first date to a first marriage in America is 2.33 years (in Britain, only 1.1). Hill 2005. Thus, a typical American bride and groom had been sexually active for a collective 14 years before they even met for the first time.

(5) Permanent celibacy has virtually disappeared; among U.S. adults 25–44 years of age, 97% of males and 98% of females have had heterosexual vaginal intercourse. Over 3% of each sex is primarily attracted to persons of the same gender, with 6% of males and 11% of females reporting same-sex experience. Mosher, Chandra, and Jones 2005, 2–3.

(6) This is not just an American or English issue. In Brazil, roughly 96% of university-educated men and women 18-24 years old have had both oral and vaginal sex. Heilborn and Cabral 2006.

(7) The median age of Australian women having intercourse for the first time is about sixteen, which is at or below the legal age of consent in every Australian state. The median age of Australian women having their first child is 29.1, marking an average thirteen-year gap between sex for pleasure and for procreation, not counting the sizable number of sexually-active women who never have children. 31% of all Australian children are born to unmarried mothers. McDonald 2005, 8.

(8) In Iceland, only about one in four first-born children have married parents (and this does not include children conceived before a pre-birth wedding).

PLEASE note that I am not suggesting that the breakdown of traditional values is a good thing, only that it is a reality that the Christian Church must deal with realistically, not by pretending that most people still agree with its position.

January 30, 12:26 pm | [comment link]
8. Paula Loughlin wrote:

Why is it surprising that people who are told over and over again by the papers,  magazines, movies, TV shows, teachers, scholars, sociologists and other so called experts, that living together is equal to marriage.  Come to the conclusion that marriage ( except for committed gay couples) is no longer necessary.

January 30, 2:12 pm | [comment link]
9. Harvey wrote:

#8 Paula You have got it right.  May I add fuel to your fire by quoting Scripture?  What I see here is truly a case of the “..the blind leading the blind..” “..and both falling in the ditch..”

January 30, 2:27 pm | [comment link]
10. Dale Rye wrote:

Re #8: It is certainly not surprising.

What is surprising is that so much more energy has been spent defending the Church, marriage, and the traditional family against the 3% or so of the mature population who are gay than against the nearly 95% who have had nonmarital heterosexual relations.

January 30, 2:33 pm | [comment link]
11. AnglicanFirst wrote:

#10. said,
“What is surprising is that so much more energy has been spent defending the Church, marriage, and the traditional family against the 3% or so of the mature population who are gay than against the nearly 95% who have had nonmarital heterosexual relations.”

And the answer is,

“Sex other than that between a man and a woman who are married to each other is a sin.”

Its much easier to ‘dodge’ Scripture and tradition and change the definition.

January 30, 3:13 pm | [comment link]
12. MargaretG wrote:

These folk clearly don’t believe in the findings of science. Time and again people in a married state are shown to have better outcomes—whether it is in their children’s school performance, their own income, their own happiness, or the contribution to society.

January 30, 6:22 pm | [comment link]
13. Charming Billy wrote:

#10,

The 95% are not mounting a concerted and conscious effort to change the teachings of the church on marriage and the family. However, at least some among the 3%, along with those from the 95% who support their efforts, are making such an effort. The church is fighting two battles here: against sin and ignorance among the 95% and against false teaching propogated by some of the 3% and their supporters among the 95%.

January 30, 6:35 pm | [comment link]
14. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

This kind of sad and sobering dose of harsh social reality is exactly what leads me to keep harping on the fact that we are in a “Post-Christendom” cultural context.  And England is much farther down the road to a neo-pagan society than we are in the U.S., despite the fact (or perhaps to a significant degree BECAUSE) they still have an offical state church.

I am sympathetic to Dale Rye’s critique that it’s all too easy and convenient to focus on same-sex unions or behavior as a threat to marriage when the bigger problem, statistically and socailly, is heterosexual cohabitation and a general disregard of the sinfulness of sex outside of marriage.  Nevertheless, the fact remains that there is something especially pernicious about overturning the biblical consdemnations of homosexual behavior as “unnatural” (Romans 1:24-27) and declaring vice virtuous.  It’s one thing to sort of wink at extra-marital sex between men and women, as our permissive, lenient western culture does so easily.  It’s another thing entirely to turn the biblical witness upside down and declare evil good.  Namely, there is a different kind of challenge here to the authority of Scripture and and the historic Christian moral tradition.

To me, the saddest thing is that numerous surveys have shown that there is little difference between the sexual behavior of Christians and non-Christians in the West, even among those who claim to be born again evangelicals.  I myself question how representative are some of those studies that Dale Rye cites; there are opposing studies that show that virginity and chastity is still significantly more common than his post claims.  But his basic point stands and is extremely important.  The institution of marriage is under cultural seige in many ways in the West, especially through the widespread acceptance of cohabitation as a normal or permissible option.

One of the biblical texts we need to hear preached much more often is Hebrews 13:4.  “Let marriage be held in honor by all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the immoral…”

The New Reformation must include not only a call to orthodoxy (right doctrine and worship), but to orthopraxis (right behavior).

David Handy+
Passionate Advocate of High Commitment, Post-Christendom Anglicanism

January 30, 6:41 pm | [comment link]
15. SaintCyprian wrote:

“These folk clearly don’t believe in the findings of science. Time and again people in a married state are shown to have better outcomes—whether it is in their children’s school performance, their own income, their own happiness, or the contribution to society.”

The tories are so keen on pushing stats about how great marriage is for a relationship, I’m a bit uncertain about what that sort of statistic actually means. If you assume that the people who choose to get married are naturally involved in more committed relationships to begin with, it only follows logically that married couples are statistically more likely to stay in a committed relationship than those who weren’t in that sort of relationship to begin with. The problem is that often marriage is seen as some sort of magic bullet that with keep families together and stop the moral erosion of society - what needs to happen is a reinvigoration of the moral and spiritual fibre of british society. People need to understand why commitment is important, not why marriage is important. If commitment is more highly valued, then marriage will follow.

I’m getting married to my fiancee this summer because I value the commitment we have to one another, to God, and to our future children. I’m not getting married because I think marriage is the best hope we have of staying together, or that somehow it will help me live for longer, or that my kids will be less likely to get into drugs, etc…

January 30, 9:58 pm | [comment link]
16. SaintCyprian wrote:

exchange “will keep families together” for “with keep families together”

January 30, 10:02 pm | [comment link]
17. SaintCyprian wrote:

Or the other way around. Whatever.

January 30, 10:05 pm | [comment link]
18. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

SaintCyprian,

Congratulations on your engagement!  Of course, you are right that the primary motivation to get married can’t be simply out of self-interest, even though it is indeed true that married people do enjoy lots of proven benefits that unmarried people don’t.  And yes, to some degree it is a somewhat circular argument, or a chicken and egg type question as to what comes first and is decisive.  Namely,  do couples marry because they have a better relationship or are somehow more mature and more willing to make commitments in general, or is there something about the act of choosing to exchange those solemn marriage vows that inherently strengthens a relationship?  Personally, I think it’s a both/and, but that clearly there is a big payoff to choosing to marry instead of cohabit.

Although you didn’t mention it, with a screen name like SaintCyprian and your participation in a conservative Anglican blog like this, I’m assuming that you’re a Christian and thus that pleasing God and conforming to his will is also a significant motivation for you.

May you and your fiancee experience marriage as God intended it to be, and so often is.  And that divine intention is what the late Senate Chaplain in the 1950s, Peter Marshall called, “the halls of highest human happiness.”  Alas, as we all know through observation if not through personal experience, it can also amount to the very opposite when things go sour.  There is no misery like a marriage gone bad. 

But there are many ways of strengthening your chances of making your marriage virtually divorce-proof.  One of those is to take advantage of one of the now standard premarital inventories that helps you and your fiancee discover areas where you agree and disagree about key issues.  I’m fond of FOCCUS myself.  Other clergy use alternatives like PREPARE or PREP, or Les and Leslie Parrot’s fine little version, “Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts.”

The best thing you can do, however, is to find what is often called “a mento couple,” i.e., an older couple that’s been married at least 10 to 15 years and can share with you tips on how to make your marriage work and go the distance.  But I also recommend engaged couples read at least a couple good books on marriage.  And I personally am fond of the best-selling books by the Jewish marriage researcher, John Gottman.  One of those is his classic, “The Seven Principles that Make Marriage Work.”  I can’t recommend his work too highly, even if he isn’t a Christian.

David Handy+
(married 30 years myself, by the grace of God)

January 31, 1:38 pm | [comment link]
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