Recently a favorite nephew of mine confided that his marriage was in critical condition. Married for nearly 15 years to a woman with whom he had enjoyed a brief whirlwind courtship, he has since had plenty of time to reflect on their relationship. He is quick to acknowledge that he is the primary cause of the unrest in his marriage, a factor he attributes to the challenging conditions under which he grew up. To his credit, his wife and he remain willing to work on their relationship when in some respects it would be easier to simply call it quits, especially since there are no children involved.
I admire his willingness to continue working at making his marriage better. This summer I attended three weddings, all lavish affairs reflecting the joy and promise these young people have for their lives together. At one wedding, the minister told the couple that in describing marriage, he refers to it as ‘maturimony’ – as it is a relationship between a mature couple. The truth of this definition will unfold as these couples face the rewards and challenges of married life.
I responded to my nephew that marriage is a critical condition. It is the foundation of the family structure upon which societies have operated for centuries. As a sociologist, I know of no societies which have survived without a strong family structure. There are people who for whatever reason will never marry, but this does not diminish the importance of the institution as the recent efforts of those traditionally denied the privilege have demonstrated.
Numerous studies have delineated the social, economic, physical and psychological benefits of a successful marriage. Every long lasting marriage has its own narrative on how these benefits are achieved. Common to all of them is the recognition that the marriage is critically important to their personal well-being, and well worth the effort to sustain.