The marriage rate is now the lowest it has ever been. Does it matter?
After rising for many years, the divorce rate in the United States is lower today than it was ten years ago. But before we celebrate, the reason isn’t because of a sudden increase in happy marriages; it is because fewer of them choose to marry.
Indeed, the marriage rate is today the the lowest level since the US government began keeping marriage records for the country in 1867. Of those who marry, 50% will divorce, with the average length of marriage lasting just 8.2 years.
With these odds, it’s no surprise that fewer and fewer young people embrace the whole institution of marriage or see any significance in it. After all, if two people love each other, isn’t marriage just a piece of paper, an outdated tradition, a social construct? And if someone is happy alone, why consider marriage?
So why should young people marry?
Work on yourself
Adam was originally created alone. An essential part of a person’s core is being alone, comfortable being alone, and pursuing one’s own interests. But soon after, God said, “It is not good for Man to be alone; I will make him a suitable counterpart. Only man is the taker; God wants man to become a giver, and so He creates marriage, the need to compromise, to prioritize one partner and make room for another. Marriage forces us to grow and helps us become better versions of ourselves.
Marriage promotes maturity, reliability and loyalty. This is the main place to work on our character.
This is why the Torah says when the time comes: “A man must leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, so that they become one flesh. A child is a receiver, self-centered and dependent on others. When a person clings to a spouse and becomes one, they become independent together, they must be concerned and responsible for each other. Marriage promotes maturity, reliability and loyalty. Rabbi Chaim Vital, a big 16e mystic of the century, said, “A person’s character traits are measured primarily by how well they are with their spouse.”
The Torah teaches that on the sixth day of creation, God fashioned a figure composed of man and woman, then He divided them into two, Adam and Eve. If God is Omnipotent and Infinite, if He knew He would eventually create two, why didn’t He create them that way to begin with?
If God had created man and woman separate and apart, their union would have been a case of one plus one, a collaboration of two. Instead, God wants us to realize that alone we are one. half and when the time is right, we must look for our other half, the person who completes us so that we can become whole. This is why the Talmud (Yevamot 62a) comments: “Any man who does not have a wife is not a complete man”, and continues: “His wife is like his own body.
Marriage is not for convenience or comfort. A spouse completes his soul.
In a healthy marriage, the spouse is not just a roommate or someone to share responsibilities and tasks with. Marriage is not for convenience or comfort. A spouse completes his personality, completes his soul, and is the exclusive person who combines to be one flesh.
On one occasion, Rav Aryeh Levin accompanied his wife to a clinic in Jerusalem. The doctor asked what was wrong and he replied, “Doctor, my wife’s foot is hurting us. Another time Rav Aryeh Levin was traveling in a taxi and the driver asked, “What is your home address?” Rav Aryeh told him that I had a house, but my wife passed away and now all I have is an address.
Innumerable to research shows the mental, physical and emotional benefits of marriage. Studies To display that married couples are the happiest overall, even if they no longer just live on their own terms. In contrast, half of cohabiting couples break up, and people who cohabit before marriage are more likely to divorce.
Thus, in Judaism, marriage is not just a tradition or a way of life; it is a sacred institution (that is why it is called Kiddushin in Hebrew, from the root kadosh, Holy). Holy means distinguished, separate and apart. Marriage is an exclusive bond and commitment; it is a unique relationship shared by husband and wife to the exclusion of all others.
Rabbi Akiva teaches (Sotah 17a) If a man [ish in Hebrew] and wife [isha] establish a faithful marriage, the Divine Presence rests between them. Hebrew words ish and isa are almost identical; the difference between them is the middle letter thereyouD in ishand the last letter he h in isa. These two letters can be joined to form the name of God. Marriage promotes altruism, compromise, responsibility and fidelity, all attributes which mimic and attract the presence of the Divine.
The mystical unification forged by the marriage bond creates a concrete commitment that lasts for eternity.
The marriage certificate only creates the union of a complete unit. Marriage is not just a piece of paper. The mystical unification forged by the bond of marriage, making two halves a whole, creates a concrete commitment. It is to invest in the deepest, most meaningful and consequential way. This means the relationship is anything but casual; it is not disposable and cannot be dissolved without consequences.
Judaism teaches to marry with the mentality of until death do us part. Abraham’s commitment to Sarah that lasted throughout their lives and continued even after Sarah’s death. We derive the mechanism of marriage, the giving and receiving of a ring from husband to wife, from how Abraham obtained a burial place for Sarah. This source is not a mere coincidence; it communicates that a healthy marriage is built on commitment to the very end. We don’t leave or abandon a relationship when the going gets tough. Marriage is a precious commitment that must be honored until all options and efforts have been exhausted.
Good for society
But marriage is not only good for individuals to fulfill their potential and become better versions of themselves, marriage benefits society as a whole. A society made up of distinct individuals living for themselves, pursuing their own happiness and seeking the best out of life, is a splintered and divided society of those who put their personal interests first.
A society made up of people who have learned to put others first, to give in addition to taking, who have entered into a meaningful and consistent covenant and contract with one another is a higher society, a nobler community. The lessons and growth inherent in marriage improve people as a whole, producing a better functioning, more engaged and selfless society and community. A society made up of physically, emotionally and mentally happier and healthier people is a happier and healthier society and better for everyone.
Marriage is not only good for individuals, it is a sacred and indispensable institution that benefits all.