Valentine’s Day seemed an appropriate time to highlight research which dispels some common myths about marriage. Marriage works and the church still has a key role to play in weddings, at least in Northern Ireland.
Top 10 myths about marriage:
- Young people aren’t interested in marriage. Myth – 89% of young people still want to get married.
- Less people are getting married. Myth – marriage rates are actually rising in NI. There were 8156 in 2010, 8366 in 2011 and 8480 in 2012 – a rise of 4% over the two years.
- Marriage is the same as cohabitation. Myth – Only 48% of cohabiting couples are still together by their child’s fifth birthday whereas 92% of married couples are.
- Marriage and divorce are private decisions. Myth – Relationship breakdown in the UK costs £44bn – the annual cost per taxpayer is now £1,470. Costs include – tax and benefits, housing, health and social care, civil & criminal justice and education.
- Marriage makes no difference to spouses. Myth – Married people live longer, healthier, happier lives. They are far less likely to suffer psychological illness. Married men earn between 10 and 40 percent more than do single men with similar education and job histories.
- Marriage makes no difference to children. Myth – Studies consistently indicate that children raised by two happily and continuously married parents have the best chance of developing into competent and successful adults. Children whose parents marry and stay married are more likely to have stable marriages themselves and to wait until marriage to become parents.
- People don’t get married in churches anymore. Myth – 69% of marriages in Northern Ireland are in churches. Of those 50% are Roman Catholic ceremonies, 19% Presbyterian, 14% Church of Ireland, 4% Methodist and 13% other denominations.
- Cohabitation has replaced marriage. Myth – 75% of those under 35 currently in cohabiting relationships want to get married.
- Most marriages end in divorce. Myth – Two thirds of first marriages survive until one partner dies. The average length of a marriage in Northern Ireland ending in divorce in 2012 was just under 18 years, significantly longer than the UK average of 11years.
- There is no support for a marriage tax allowance. Myth – 85% of people support giving some financial incentive to married couples through the tax system as a way of promoting marriage.
The first bond of society is marriage. Cicero
This basic relationship has remained a constant in our ever changing world. Yet today marriage is so revolutionary that our culture seeks to redefine it.
Its a commitment centred around fidelity, monogamy and selfless love. It is not just a legal contract that can be easily ended when one party breaches their terms and conditions. It transcends the constructs of our law and culture.
Marriage is the fundamental building block of society. It is not simply about two people coming together, but about the commitment of two extended families. Any resulting children don’t simply have two parents, but potentially four grandparents and numerous aunts, uncles and cousins, all of whom can provide relational support.
Encouragingly over 70% of churches in northern Ireland offer marriage preparation courses and more than 30% offer marriage enrichment courses.
We need to speak the truth about marriage in the public square – telling family, friends, neighbours and politicians about the benefits of marriage. We need to set the tone in how we speak about marriage and publicly support newly weds and not so newly weds. Married or not, each of us has a vital contribution to make to the strong marriages of our family, friends and community – we need to have the courage to speak into the marriages of others.
Happy Valentine’s Day!