Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Marriage-Go-Round Conclusion: Engaging the Fight

Andrew Cherlin concludes The Marriage-Go-Round with this claim:

“I would agree that, at its best, the two parent family is hard to beat for child rearing. Stable, low-conflict families with two biological or adoptive parents provide better environments for children, on average, than do other living arrangements. The problem is that most people see marriage in a different light these days. They view it as a private relationship centered on the needs of adults for love and companionship. The postmodern, relationship-based view of marriage has carried the day.” (193)

I disagree.

Some people accept and promote the relationship-centered view of marriage. More people accept and promote the conjugal view of marriage, which sees marriage a society's main institution for raising children - which in turn gives most people their primary project in life. There are many people in the middle. They accept both views - marriage is to make the couple happy and marriage is to raise kids - without really thinking about the potential conflict.

What we have, then, is a competition between a small left and a larger right for the hearts and minds of the majority in the middle. This competition goes on in many venues. The legal fights over divorce, adoption, same-sex marriage, and the coming fight over polygamy are the most public face of this competition, but not the most important. The most important arena for the competition over the meaning of marriage comes within each marriage, and each couple who are considering marriage.

I think this is a fair fight.


Phil 314 said...

So Marriage matters. Beau I appreciate you acknowledge the two dichotomous views of marriage. To put a fine point on it. Which, if either, should the state sanction and/or support?

Katie said...

Hmm...I'm inclined to say that my generation really is focused on the love/relationship aspect of marriage. I've never met anyone who has said "I'm marrying X because he'll make a great father and will support the family well."

If we weren't so focused on the relationship itself, there would be more marriages that tough it out for the sake of the kids. I'm not seeing much of this anymore. In fact, I hear of many women leaving less-than-perfect marriages because they don't want to repeat their mother's "mistake" of staying in an unhappy marriage and missing their chance to start over again while they're still young enough.

What leads you to your more hopeful outlook?