I was enjoying a good debate with a friend the other day on the reasons why people marry. Initially it came from the story behind the blog last week about the heterosexual couple who want a civil partnership instead of a marriage but cannot because they are not a same sex couple. That got us onto talking about the reason people get married. Of course, I said, it’s for love, security and to show commitment. He agreed but cited a number of other reasons, and among the more cynical ones (for money, to throw a big party, for attention!) the one that stopped me in my tracks was “for the children”.
Now we hear a lot about couples staying together or the kids. A survey conducted on our divorce myths website recently showed that 89% of people knew a couple who had stayed together for this reason. This could mean that there are thousands of youngsters out there growing up in a less-than-happy household with parents who cannot stand the sight of each other but think it is better for their offspring to grow up in a family home with both parents.
However, I am not sure I could say I have ever knowingly come across a couple who have got married because of the children (I'm talking about children who are already born and growing up ratehr than unborn ones shooting up the aisle in a shotgun style). Initially I was incredulous that anyone would do this, but as we discussed it, I think I became confident that it wasn’t as bad as it sounded on the face of it. By the end, I had convinced myself that if this was really happening, it was a good thing and maybe it was the start of the backlash against not getting married?
The accepted trend in recent years is that fewer people are getting married. Statistics released earlier this year showed that marriage rates were at their lowest since 1895, with around 232,990 weddings in 2008. Let’s not get into the reasons behind that, but I have said many times before that politicians and campaigners seem to want to take away everything special about getting married, which can only exacerbate the problem.
So more coupes are living together without tying knot – but just maybe some people are rediscovering the love of being married and we will start to see a turn of the tide. People get married for many reasons, as I touched on earlier. If they have children out of wedlock, while there is no longer a social stigma attached to it, some couples might now think that their children would be better with married parents as they grow up. It means mummy and daddy have the same surname (sometimes) to avoid confusion at school, dads are automatically named on the birth certificate and so have parental responsibility, and when the Government sorts out what it is doing on tax credits, it could be that there is actually some financial advantage as well. So while children aren’t the only reason why a couple may finally decide to tie the knot, then can perhaps be the galvanising factor for a generation who grew up in the 1980s and 1990s for whom marriage was never really high on their agenda. And I, for one, think this is a good thing.
Comments and response - Marrying for the sake of the children
Well, I too see the trends changing, and in my opinion for the better. Yes, few adults seem to be getting married and having children, at least later in life, but I also see a more positive spin on couples that do divorce have the children’s best interests considered more than previously. I don’t know if it is due to 2nd or 3rd generation adults of divorce knowing the emotional harm that divorce can have when the parents fight, and there are still a lot of mean custody battles in court, but I see a shift happening where couples are making a better attempt at working out the divorce with the kids best interests at heart. I also see a shift in the universe as a whole seeking more happiness, less stress, and better relationships. Maybe my perspective has just changed, but I like to think we have gotten wiser and are more in tune with our spiritual essence than we have been in the past 50 years. ...
By Wendy Mackay on Thursday November 4, 2010
Is it time for a return to family values where children grow up with married parents? Maybe parenting /social/community/life classes that teach people not to hit / shout at each other might be better value for society than more marriage. It might be an idea to teach people in prision those type of classes too, might help marriages last longer - I hear so many couples arguing in the family houses when I walk the dogs around the block, reminds me why I am better off single.
By Zara Lockwood on Thursday November 4, 2010
To my knowledge, there is no credible, emprical research that demonstrates that children whose parents are married fare better than children whose parents are in a committed relatinship but unmarried. The factors that do appear to predict positive adjustment in children have more to do with whether the child’s parents, if they are in relationship, have a healthy, nurturing and supportive relationsihp with one another. Other factors include the quality of parent-child interactions. Further, there is an absence of research that demonstrates that children fare better when their parents are in a heterosexual relationship versus those raised in a same-sex relationship family. ...
By Robert Simon on Friday November 5, 2010
I think society is redefining both ‘family’ and ‘values’. The high divorce rates and the increased portion of our society that now has experience with divorce and the family law system is giving pause to the consideration of marriage. The legal concept of creating one responsible entity out of two individuals who can then only regain individual status by navigating a complex legal system has changed attitudes toward marriage. When I was a girl getting married was a goal. Living happily ever after was what we were taught by Disney and the Nelsons and the Brady Bunch. There was no instruction on the legal consequences of signing a marriage license before you did it. We’ve had to learn by our own experiences and the experiences of friends and familly. Now, a greater percentage of those who are marrying are preparing themselve with prenups - addressing the possibilty of the contract not being ‘until death’. In 1862 the life expectancy was 40 years - we’re now looking at 100. That’s a huge change in what ‘until death’ means. I agree with Wendy, we have gotten wiser, and we and our children are learning to make better, more realistic decisions. Happiness, serenity, companionship, loyalty, respect - these values haven’t changed they’ve just moved further up the on list of what is acceptable and what is not. Perhaps as the marriage rate and divorce rate both decline our happiness meter, as a society, will improve. ...
By Sherry Adler on Friday November 5, 2010
There is also a body of research establishing that unresolved conflict when parents are living together—particularly about the children—has the same adverse impact on the children that unresolved conflict about the children has when the parents are not married or living together….
By Leslie Shear on Friday November 5, 2010
For some reason, my last comment didn’t post. There’s also the issue of role models. Most kids aren’t stupid. They can sense when something isn’t right with their parents. To me, marrying for the sake of the children or to keep up appearances doesn’t get you anywhere. It would be a far better example and stronger role model for your children if you are in a healthy, loving relationship. If the parents aren’t suited for a long term relationship then it’s certainly better for them and their children if they accept that and find a healthier relationship. The kids are, on some level, going to emulate their parents or spend a lot of time that could be spent more constructively and productively trying to unravel the messes that will be created if there’s tension in an unhappy marriage. Two households of parents in healthy relationships can be just as beneficial. ...
By Hillary Johns on Saturday November 6, 2010
Hello Andrew, Your article was thought provoking for us. The many reasons people marry certainly has been changing, and the idea that more people would discover the love of being married was a novel and hopeful thought. We founded Divorce Recovery Coaching to assist women with the emotional turmoil this transition brings, using cutting edge, fast acting Mind/Body techniques. We offer sessions in person or on the phone. We offer a free Support Package that is immediately calming. We look forward to connecting with you. All the best, Laura Taylor and Judy Cameron ...
By Laura Taylor on Saturday November 6, 2010
Few things are less inspiring than embarking upon a journey for which failure is predicted. I remember getting married 25 years ago and thinking half the people attending doubted we would stay married more than ten years, now I know they had excellent reasons! If insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results life has no better example than families. How about writing a different script? How about acknowledging relationships and parenting for the very challenging roles they in fact are and committing to a more proactive educational process? Children learn what they live but it’s not genetic inheritance - as teens and adults we can learn more. How about replacing the word “therapy” with “education” for couples learning effective conflict resolutions skills for the first time and “shame” with “pride” in the process? How about preparing ourselves - and supporting one another - a bit better for performing the most important job on earth? When we change, families change, when families change the world changes. Isn’t it worth it?....
By Marlaine Cover on Saturday November 6, 2010
Also, let’s not forget that children stand to learn a great deal about how people can separate from a personal relationship with dignity and respect, rather than selfishness and anger. Since adults don’t usually meet “Mr. or Ms. Right” in their first intimate relationship, perhaps good role models who can teach them that it is okay to leave an intimate relationship without destroying themselves, their partner, or their children can be beneficial. ...
By Barbara Hammers on Sunday November 7, 2010
Thank you, all, for your comments. I’ve been married many years but would I do the same again? Well probably I would. I didn’t marry for children but maybe because it was socially “the done thing” certainly but mainly as I saw it as a commitment and one I wanted to make. Whether I was right in that technically, I was right in as much as it was indeed a commitment to me. Have the days gone when people married as the woman was pregnant? I think so, but not entirely you might be surprised to hear….
By Andrew Woolley on Monday November 15, 2010