It’s understandable – if, in some ways, regrettable – that this week’s National Marriage Week celebrations are tied to Valentine’s Day. Insofar as the connection suggests that the ultimate goal of what we call “romance” is a genuine, enduring, and yes, formal, legal commitment, well … that’s a good thing.
C.S. Lewis once pointed out that many marriages would be stronger if the couple involved understood that, in the end, love is a lot less about sitting in your room writing sweet poems than it is about going down to the kitchen and helping with the dishes. That sounds so unromantic, though, to a society increasingly obsessed with “love” as sex. Valentine’s Day, for many in America, is more a celebration of neurochemistry and hyper-heated passions than a reminder of how precious and deeply satisfying it can be to share life with someone whose heart is looking in the same direction.
It’s in that troubling misunderstanding of what, deep down, we really long for, that the pairing of National Marriage Week and Valentine’s Days perhaps misleads. The earnest, ceaseless effort of so many in recent years to rewrite history and redefine marriage hinges on the misapprehension that marriage is only about love.
Yes, love is the commitment that makes marriage attractive. On the other hand, we all know that it is possible to love another person without marrying him or her. What it’s not possible to do, apart from marriage, is present to the world around us a public testimony of what God intended – and created – the lifelong relationship between a man and a woman to be. It’s also not possible (even if God’s intentions are not especially important to you) to provide a supremely healthy, nurturing, psychologically solid environment for children.
That environment is so quintessential to youngsters’ healthy psyches – and to the health of the nation those children will one day populate and lead – that the government takes a particular interest in it: issuing licenses, legalizing specific benefits, and – until recently – endorsing and promoting the proven ideal of marriage as the union of one man and one woman for life.
“Love,” someone pointed out years ago, “is not what makes the world go ‘round. Love is what makes the ride worthwhile.” Marriage, though, in many ways, does make the world go around – it is the glue that holds cultures and societies and ultimately, nations together … one healthy child at a time.
If you follow the news, then you know that, just now, the glue isn’t holding too well. Those pressing the current fad for same-sex unions and the growing embrace of cohabitation may can argue all they want to that marriage is about love, that it’s just a piece of paper, that boys and girls grow up just as well with two moms or two dads as they do with one of each. Hollywood, the media, and an increasing number of politicians are on their side. Socially, politically, they’re all sitting in a very crowded driver’s seat.
But the less intoxicated, more enduring verities of biology, history, our unswerving common sense, and the eternal truths of the Hebrew and Christian scriptures continue to pump the brake. And in the end, truth will win out.
Meanwhile, perhaps the best way to celebrate National Marriage Week – and Valentine’s Day – is to look beyond the hearts and flowers and candy-coated messages and into the faces of children. They are the living, breathing product of our love, the ones who, in the end, will be left with the psychological and spiritual residue of the terrible fallout we’re precipitating.
They will pay the dues for all these wrong-headed “I dos” between same-sex couples, just as they are paying dues for all the divorces, and co-habitations, hook-ups and adulteries that have come before.
They watch us, these children – they watch us, and they listen, and they learn. And too often, today, what they’re learning is … marriage is not about love. If it was, it would be about them.
This post is the the fourth in a series celebrating National Marriage Week. Here’s the rest:
1. 5 Reasons Marriage is Your Future
2. Marriage Isn’t Just Your Story, It’s THE Story
3. 5 Myths Crushing Marriage