Summer is a popular time for weddings, and one of my favorite things is watching the bride and groom as they look at each other. Do you remember admiring your spouse that way? When was the last time you and your spouse just looked into each other's eyes?
After the honeymoon is over and the marriage is blessed with children,
there is precious little time for gazing at our loved one. In fact, children or careers often become the focal
point of the family, rather than the marriage. The effects of this neglect can be extensive.
Unless current trends change significantly, a young couple marrying for the first time today has a lifetime divorce risk of 40 percent. Why is there such a breakdown in marriages in this country? One could easily blame society, which, as usual, gets it wrong. The current culture glorifies celebrity relationships, which are usually a mess. In fact, the messier they are, the more we like them.
We could also point a finger at feminism, which preaches the message "Men aren't necessary." From TV shows to the court system to inside the seemingly functional family, fathers are devalued in America. Men are portrayed as beer-swilling, lazy morons unworthy of respect.
In an article titled "The Deinstitutionalization of American Marriage," Andrew Cherlin, Ph.D., of John Hopkins University, argues "marriage has been transformed from a partnership in which couples thought of themselves as friends and companions working together to raise a family to a new form, in which each partner evaluates how well the marriage is enhancing his or her own personal self-development."
The best place to look, however, is in the mirror. Change occurs when we take responsibility for our own actions and attitude. You may not be able to change your spouse, but you can change how you react. Albert Einstein said the definition of insanity was "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." If you never change your own behavior, you can hardly expect your spouse to.
We must also reevaluate our expectations of marriage. Many people enter a marriage simply because they are in love. In a recent sermon, Pastor Rob Devens of First Evangelical Free Church in Onalaska said, "I don't believe we can make marriages better by teaching people more. What has to happen is each partner must be willing to sacrifice their life for the other."
He was talking about being willing to daily yield our own desires for the greater good of the marriage. I wonder how many couples would go through with the wedding if they understood that was part of the deal. There would likely be a significant drop in the number of marriages, but an even larger decrease in divorces.
We do not have to live out the prevailing societal trends. We have the opportunity to provide a foundation for our children's future marriages by keeping our own strong and healthy. That's a legacy worth leaving. Now, go look lovingly in your spouse's eyes.
Lisa Grant is one of 13 Tribune community columnists, whose writing appears on the Sunday Opinion pages.