The ‘60s are remembered fondly by some as the moment in history when the restricting social norms of Western society were once and for all destroyed. While the reckless abandon of the 1960s no doubt felt good to the youth at the time, the repercussions of the shift in culture and thinking about marriage and family have been disastrous and long lasting.
Propaganda in films and television at the time lampooned married life and made it seem boring, unfulfilling, and loveless. Our visual culture began glorifying sexual promiscuity and downplaying the seriousness of infidelity. This had a profound effect on people's thinking about taking marriage seriously or if it was worth it to get married at all.
As the rate of divorce rose in English speaking countries during the ‘60s, so too did rates of drug use, suicide, and mental illness. Along with the rise in divorce came an explosion of non-marital births and births without even cohabiting parents.
Is It Better To Stay Together for the Kids?
As the reins which kept the institution of family intact broke, with it went all conventions previously considered before bringing children into the world. Single motherhood became common, as did the disfunction of children raised in such circumstances. Such dire aftermath brings up the age-old question: Is it better to stay together for the kids? The answer, while complex, can be boiled down in simple terms to: most of the time, yes.
The effects of children being raised in broken or fatherless homes has a huge affect on wider society. Children of non-married parents are vastly over-represented in the mental health system and having divorced parents has been proven to reduce a child’s future success in all areas of life.
Children of divorce are more likely to end up divorced themselves.
Children of divorce are more likely to end up divorced themselves. They’re also more likely to engage in anti-social behavior like drug abuse and crime. They’re less likely to excel in education and less likely to earn as much as peers from intact families. Divorce is the most vicious of vicious circles, perpetuating the very suffering it creates.
Cohabitation Is Inferior to Marriage
The cost and prevalence of divorce have made marriage an unappealing option to Millennials who are marrying in such low numbers that divorce rates have actually decreased in the past decade. The Millennials who do tend to get married are older, well educated, and have their careers established – meaning less divorce overall.
While this may seem like a silver lining, the parallel rise in cohabitation instead of marriage among those less educated and less economically stable tells a different story. Marriage was never a class issue before and the upward mobility of the poorest and most disadvantaged in society was supported by married parents.
This is no longer the case, and we now see people who are in the lowest income bracket to be significantly more likely to move down in income distribution as a result of being raised in unstable, fatherless, one-parent households.
When Staying Together Doesn’t Make Sense
If someone finds themselves the victim of domestic abuse or violence, or has had their vows nulled due to infidelity, there is little recourse available but to cut your losses and leave (although some couples have been able to heal after infidelity). In many situations though, where lines of decency haven’t been crossed, troubled marriages can be repaired, and doing so for your children is about the best reason I can think of.
It’s not good for children to grow up in homes with parents who are always angry at one another, where fighting and screaming are commonplace. This type of home environment can be detrimental to kids. Children who grow up in these unhappy homes have higher rates of aggression, more stress-related disorders, and depression.
Homes where fighting and screaming are commonplace are detrimental to kids’ mental health.
So when trying to determine whether or not it’s worth it to stay together for the kids, we have to consider whether or not the issues married couples face can be worked through and healed. If counseling, communication, and healing the broken connection can’t be done, in these situations it seems that it is better to try to end marriages on amicable terms so that co-parenting can be negotiated with the least amount of anguish for the children.
Divorce has become so common that it can be easy to overlook the grave and long-term consequences it has on children and wider society. Certainly staying in a loveless marriage where one spouse refuses to negotiate, cooperate, and find the middle ground is impossible, regardless of how hard the other spouse may try. It’s important that while we try to realize the severity of divorce we don’t encourage shaming of divorcées when they have done their due diligence to keep their families together.
When We Can Make It Work
As parents, we’re called to make sacrifices for our kids’ wellbeing, and sometimes that means learning humility. A great deal of conflict between men and women these days are matters chiefly of pride. Petty disputes breed resentment over time and a feeling of stubbornness can emerge in resolving new disputes as they arise.
In these situations, what can feel like a failed marriage is really a failure to communicate needs and inner feelings effectively. If even one person finds themselves emotionally unsupported in small ways over time this can lead to big problems. Rather than falling victim to this immature mentality, we should be trying to renew our marriages constantly in treating our significant others the way we did in the beginning of our relationship and in also learning to fight fair.
We should expect rough patches in marriage, and we should welcome the opportunity to grow with our spouse. Long-lasting marriages are not without their struggles. In most cases though, they’re comprised of people who are willing to see the struggles they encounter as worthwhile and meaningful when overcome together. After triumphing over the challenges life throws at a couple, they begin to see how enduring hardships as a team bonds them together more solidly than the good times.
What can feel like a failed marriage is sometimes really a failure to communicate needs and feelings.
For people who are struggling through a season of marriage that has caused a break in the connection, don’t even put divorce on the table. Committing to working it out regardless of what trouble you face is always a better option. Seek marriage counseling from a professional or a priest, talk to family members with decades-long marriages for advice, and remember that comparison is the thief of joy.
What we see on social media about other people’s marriages is always a highlight reel. Life is not a Disney movie, and expecting your marriage to look like a happily ever after 24/7 is dooming you to feeling unsatisfied and missing out. Unrealistic expectations such as these are bound to lead to wandering eyes and an ungrateful perception of what we have.
People who are in intact families have higher degrees of health, education, and economic welfare. Present fathers and loving marriages provide indispensable structure for children that’s the fertile ground for them to form authentic identities and to have the security to pursue their dreams. The loss of a parent’s presence in everyday life can’t be understated; in many ways, it changes the course of a child’s entire life for the worse.
Studies conclusively show children benefit more greatly from parents who stay together and work out their problems rather than get a divorce. For this reason, men and women alike must take extreme caution in choosing a person to marry. When we entrust our lives and our children’s future to a person, we must attempt to be certain beyond all doubt that we’re not choosing someone for the wrong reasons.
Though this is a difficult task for everyone, it’s not impossible. It’s right to think of choosing your wife or husband as one of the single most important decisions you will ever make in life, do so with great caution and the willingness to mean it when you say ‘til death.
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