The

MEANING of
MARRIAGE
MATTERS

It’s no secret that marriage has been changing. This website explores the changing meanings of marriage and their implications for young adults today who aspire to forming and sustaining a healthy, life-long marriage. “Whatever” doesn’t work well when it comes to the meaning of marriage because meaning quietly but powerfully shapes our attitudes and behaviors. Yes, people experience marriage in highly personal ways, but it is not a privatized commodity. It is a public institution that guides our behavior. What marriage means in society matters because it affects the capacity of the institution to bless the lives of children, women, and men.

Picture of a family

INTRODUCTION

The meaning of marriage is hardly fixed in granite; over time and space, marriage has changed. In some ways this has been good news. There have been some pretty ugly warts on this crucial social institution, distortions that weakened marriage’s positive effects on individuals and society. So some changes have made marriage stronger. But other recent changes to the meaning of marriage have pushed in the other direction, weakening the institution, making it harder to do the essential tasks society needs marriage to do for children and adults.

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CAPSTONES VS. CORNERSTONES: DIVERGING BLUEPRINTS FOR MODERN MARRIAGE

For many, marriage is changing from a cornerstone to a capstone of young adult life. Rather than building an adult life on a foundation of marital commitment, many young adults postpone marriage until they have accomplished a set of tasks and achieved certain personal marks of success. Is the capstone approach to marriage a sensible evolution of the way we do relationships and family now to fit a new century? Or is it a revolution in the meaning of marriage, one that impacts its capacity to benefit bless individuals and society?

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PERMANENCE VS. DIVORCE: FINDING A SAFE PLACE TO KEEP OUR HEARTS

A high divorce rate makes it harder for us all to aspire to forever. We come to see marriage as fragile rather than strong, as something that succumbs instead of overcomes. While divorce is necessary in some cases, a high rate of divorce makes it harder to trust that marriage is a safe place to keep our hearts. As a result, the decision to marry is bigger and harder to make and the fear that marriage may not be permanent may restrict our ability to fully commit.

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SAME-SEX MARRIAGE: GENDER COMPLEMENTARITY VS. GENDER IRRELEVANCE

The tremors you felt on June 26, 2015, were aftershocks from the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision that the constitutional right to marry includes same-sex couples. As a result, same-sex marriage is now legal in all U.S. states. “Whatever” is now the answer to the question, “What is the gender composition of marriage?” What does whatever mean? If there are benefits to this change for same-sex couples and their families, are there also risks for heterosexual society that accompany this redefinition of marriage?

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