It looks like people who have had less sexual partners before marriage.
There is a National Survey of Family Growth with numbers from 2006-2010 that indicates, after the first five years of marriage, almost 95% of both men and women (who had only one sexual partner – each other) were still married. That percentage dramatically declines as the number of sexual partners before marriage increases.
It’s just a correlation – it doesn’t tell us which causes which. Does promiscuity before marriage cause the union to crumble afterwards? Is being married too much of a commitment for people who were promiscuous?
But it does indicate that lasting marriages and promiscuity don’t mix well. Marriage has always been about someone else. Promiscuity has always been about me.
Our values about sexual behavior have dramatically changed in the recent decades. Our behaviors may not have changed that much, but the stigma associated with having sex…
- as a teenager, still in school,
- before marriage,
- on a first date,
- with a stranger, or
- with someone of the same sex
has faded as our values (what we believe) about freedom and sexual activity have changed, especially for women. People are acting and thinking differently about sexuality because American values about personal freedom, social liberty and individuality inspire new values and come into conflict with others.
If the local Christian community can’t demonstrate and communicate effectively the reasons and rewards for marriage, faithfulness, commitment and sacrifice, values that have sustained the family will never stick. Families will continue to fragment.
“No long-term marriage is made easily, and there have been times when I’ve been so angry or so hurt that I thought my love would never recover. And then, in the midst of near despair, something has happened beneath the surface. A bright little flashing fish of hope has flicked silver fins and the water is bright and suddenly I am returned to a state of love again — till next time. I’ve learned that there will always be a next time, and that I will submerge in darkness and misery, but that I won’t stay submerged. And each time something has been learned under the waters; something has been gained; and a new kind of love has grown. The best I can ask for is that this love, which has been built on countless failures, will continue to grow. I can say no more than that this is mystery, and gift, and that somehow or other, through grace, our failures can be redeemed and blessed.”
― Madeleine L’Engle
In this day and age – family is sometimes all you’ve got. So many around us don’t even have that. Fragments are all that’s left. L’Engle describes her marriage as a construction project that travels like a roller coaster up and down through life. I get the sense that she felt it was something worth hanging on to – a relationship like no other that couldn’t be found elsewhere. A relationship that mattered, for the sake of her children, for the sake of her spouse and always – through the long haul – for her own sake.
- We sometimes get exasperated with one another too quickly. Family has to learn how to stick it out to the bitter end. Take a long road trip together or get snowed in during Christmas. Make sure there’s only one bathroom.
- When you’re feeling sorry for yourself is the best time to start doing something for others. Families are where our children learn to live by seeing examples. Show them how to give instead of take.
- Call your adult children and ask them how you can pray for them this week. Be sure you pray and then follow up, keep following up. Tell your children how they can pray for you.
- Treat each moment together as if it were you last. That helps you to put things into better perspective. It helps you to stay in the moment and not lose sight of what is really important – right now.
- The most important activity that members of a relationship and families learn how to do is to “get over themselves.”
The building of relationships is an ongoing project of success and failure. All that matters is that we never give up. Marriage and family takes work – a task that each generation has to put it’s shoulder to with a committed heart. No half measures will work. It’s encouraging to read the words of famous figures who affirm what a difficult journey it often is. It’s typically very discouraging to see every single week another famous couple calling it quits and then rationalizing their failure as a sensible decision. Your children have been raised watching this “play” over and over again. It will compete with the story you tell with your own lives together.
Building a civilization is accomplished in each daily decision to . It’s never perfect, it’s but a love built on failure, it is a mystery that can endure.
“In a word, live together in the forgiveness of your sins, for without it no human fellowship, least of all a marriage, can survive. Don’t insist on your rights, don’t blame each other, don’t judge or condemn each other, don’t find fault with each other, but accept each other as you are, and forgive each other every day from the bottom of your hearts…” ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison