Chapter Two: What is Marriage?
Marriage was designed by God as a relationship that would provide humans with personal social companionship, allowing them to serve God with a greater sense of contentment and purpose. Marriage was intended to provide each person in the marriage a sense of peace. The first relationship between man and woman serves as a model and the place of illumination for the purpose and practice of human heterosexual relationships. We will explore the relationship dynamics between the first man and first woman later in this book. But we can safely say that a relationship between a man and a woman was the foundation of human creation.
Relationships truly are the bedrock of a society. Relationships are and have always been a very interesting field of study. The discipline of sociology focuses upon human interaction, and great minds such as Emile Durkheim, Max Weber, and Karl Marx have endeavored to study the social relationships among humans. Thus, sociology is the systematic study of social behavior and human groups. This discipline studies the impact that social relationships have upon the attitudes and behaviors of people and how societies are established and changed. Sociology researches the impact that culture, socialization, class, age, sex, race, and groups have upon the personal behavior of individuals and groups. While sociology covers a broad scope of human relationships, the foundation of all relationships is the family.
Family is extremely important when you are discussing the establishment of a society. Family has been thought of as having the greatest impact upon human behavior. Some define “a family” by the nuclear family; for others, the extended family is a family unit. Family consists of two or more people connected by covenant or blood line/DNA. Family programs individuals with an understanding of who is important in terms of family relations (paternal, maternal, kinship), a sense of where one should take up residence, where one should live, and who rules or who is in charge. Family is also fulfills a number of functional roles such as religious training, education, and recreational outlets. Yet, there are five paramount functions performed by the family, and these practices suggest the continuing primacy of the family, which is considered the product of a marriage:
Reproduction or the perpetuation of the family line.
Provision of socialization and protection (security, acceptance, belonging, identity, affirmation).
Regulation of sexual behavior. While over time changes take place in a culture, the family normally sets the tone for sexual behavior within the family circle. The family normally defines what the normal parameters of sexual behavior are for individuals – what is acceptable and what is not, e.g., molestation.
Affection and companionship (the family provides members with warm and intimate relationships that aid in helping them feel satisfied and secure. Family satisfies the emotional needs of its members by caring for them and being there when they need them.)
Provision of social status, subject to the status of the family and its legacy. If the family has a stellar or favorable image in the community or society, it can provide social status.
While many today still desire to have families, research demonstrates that many no longer desire to marry, and many who are married are divorcing. In a study that was conducted on singleness as an alternative to marriage, the following was revealed:
Attractions of Being Single
Attractions of Being Married
Desire for family
Freedom to change and experiment
Security in personal relationships
The State of Marriages in the USA
While the country is experiencing a 50% plus average in the rate of divorces, in the African American community, the rates are believed to be at 70% or higher.
That means that only 3 out of 10 African American marriages are staying together.
Key Findings in Marital Research
Marriage trends in recent decades indicate that Americans have become less likely to marry, and the most recent data show that the marriage rate in the U.S. continues to decline.
Of those who do marry, there has been a moderate drop since the 1970s in the percentage of couples who consider their marriages to be “very happy,” but in the past decade this trend has swung in a positive direction.
Americans have become less likely to marry. This is reflected in a decline of nearly 50%, from 1970 to 2004, in the annual number of marriages per 1000 unmarried adult women. The sharpest decrease in marriage is among African-Americans.
The number of unmarried couples has increased dramatically over the past four decades, and the increase is continuing. Younger Americans now spend some time living together outside of marriage, and unmarried cohabitation commonly precedes marriage.
The belief that living together before marriage is a useful way “to find out whether you really get along,” and thus avoids a bad marriage and an eventual divorce, is now widespread among young people.
However, available data on the effects of cohabitation fail to confirm this belief. In fact, a substantial body of evidence indicates that those who live together before marriage are more likely to break up after marriage.
As you can tell, the relationship we refer to as a “marriage between a man and woman” is having a very difficult time in America. If the current trend doesn’t cease, the whole of our society will be in danger. While my research findings and the quoted research in this book focuses upon North America, other countries are sharing some of the same alarming trends. It has been recorded that in the breakdown or destruction of great nations such as the Roman Empire, one of the trends that led to its destruction was the breakdown or failure of the family, which is a failure of marriage. When a man and a woman become married, they officially become a family.
So, you should understand the definition of marriage and its interconnectedness to family and the importance and role of family in modern societies. Make no mistake about it; marriage is extremely important for the sustainability of a society and the emotional health of individuals. As we explore other variables that are critical to a tolerable marriage, one of the most important things you must leave this chapter with is that marriage is a covenant of purpose that forms the bedrock of society. Your marriage is important, and in this book, you will learn how to make it tolerable.
Now I know some of you are wondering why I continue to use the word “tolerable” when it comes to your marriage fulfillment. I use tolerable because most humans by nature prefer to have event and situations go ‘their way’ in a relationship. Normally in unhealthy and unsuccessful relationships, the stronger of the two personality types emerge and secure their dominance in that relationship. But in a healthy marriage, both people realize that they cannot have their way and learn how to give and take, or compromise. This compromise makes marriage tolerable, which is a positive state. People tend to define happy marriages as those in which they get their way. But I’m defining marriage for you as a tolerable place – a place where you can live for the rest of your life, not one where you are constantly asking yourself, “How long can I put up with this bull?” So, please understand that tolerable is a very good place, especially when you consider that no two people are exactly alike and no two people desire the same exacts things and at the same exact time. People must learn to leave fantasyland and come to the real world, not one of idealism, but of realism. People must also understand that others are not placed here to make them happy, but to serve God.
However, you can create a context in which you can serve God and tolerate each other for the rest of your lives. Toleration is the breaking point of a marriage. It’s when you cannot tolerate a marriage that you begin interpreting your challenges in the extreme, and become very negative about the relationship. In this book, I’m going to teach you the foundational elements that must be present to make you marriage tolerable. Let’s continue to explore the nature of relationships or marriages and what is the current reality of most marriages.