Spirituality for Today – June 2012 – Volume 16, Issue 11

Why Bother?

By Rev. Raymond K. Petrucci

Over the course of their careers, limousine drivers have the opportunity to chat with innumerable clients. Some time ago, I was being driven back to my rectory in Danbury, Connecticut from New York City. I had just returned from serving as a chaplain on a cruise ship (someone has to do it). We started talking about his wife and family and, then, he told me about a conversation that he had with a group of young executives from New York that he was bringing to their corporate headquarters north of the city. Somehow their comments turned to personal relationships. Nearly predictably these days, the passengers were all cohabitating with someone. My driver asked them why they were not planning on getting married. They replied, "Why bother?" They have the woman with all of the concomitant benefits and no strings attached. What could be better? And with the terrible rate of divorce, it doesn't seem that marriage is a good bet anyway.

A photo of limo driver

Do these young upwardly mobile fellows have a point? The rate of divorce still hovers around fifty percent and two-thirds of those divorces involve couples with minor children. Second marriages are even more of a disaster with a divorce rate of sixty-five percent. The two major reasons for divorces are problems involving money and children. Our modern culture does not appear to be well disposed for the production of successful marriages. Individuals are encouraged to view the value of life as lying in personal accomplishment, singular satisfaction, and legal freedoms. Marriage and all that comes with it are judged inimical to these values. Why bother?

The free and happy life of uncommitted pleasure seeking and ease of escape is promoted as the way to go. A thoughtful person is compelled to ask how successful are these marriage free relationships? After all, living together sans the rite of marriage should fall under the same scrutiny and judgment. Concubinage falls under two types: as a trial marriage and as an agreement to live together for an undetermined period of time – that sinisterly ambiguous term: relationship. The grim statistics regarding "relationships" are most revealing. Looking at the first reason noted for a couple deciding to live together: compatibility for marriage. This approach to determining readiness for marriage has proved to result in a higher divorce rate than couples who do not live together before marriage. Those who do not understand this forget that human beings are not kitchen appliances or automobiles; their suitability is not compatible with a trial run. The depth of committed love must exist first and become the foundation for making each other satisfactory partners for life. Being bound to each other in marriage becomes the motivation for two people to value one another and their mutual devotion toward being a true couple. There can be no other way to venture into all the different stages of life with all of their unique challenges and rewards.

A successful marriage is an edifice that must be rebuilt every day.
– Andre Mourois

The next reason for cohabitation denies the requisite of marriage all together. You can play house and have a family without all the nuisance of attaining that legalistic document called a marriage certificate. The reality is that "relationships" have proven to be less stable than marriage. I would think that the incidences of domestic violence and abandonment would prove much higher in these "ease of escape" arrangements. Couples appear indifferent toward the effects of such relationships built upon self-serving attitudes and ends. Documentation of the result of a generation raised in this milieu can be garnered from the lives of the "Me" generation. They are now in middle age and their lives so often reflect the alienation and loneliness of a failed system of irreligion, selfishness, and fallacious happiness.

Where there is no religion, hypocrisy becomes good taste.
– George Bernard Shaw

Lest we leave the subject in total despair, let us look at what qualities result in the most happy and enduring marriages. Studies reveal that a couple entering their marriage having been exposed to some structured program of marriage preparation or marriage counseling and are active in their religious faith have a very high success rate in marriage. Therefore, couples who do not plunge into some play acting expression of being a couple, but seriously are guided in investigating the elements of personal growth and maturity as well as mutual values and are devoted to the practice of their religion are best prepared to enter into marriage. Now, it is up to our people, especially the young, to "bother" about what makes a strong marriage and thus a strong society happen in their lives.