When so many marital relationships end in divorce, why should I even bother tying the knot? It's hard to avoid the conclusion that the institution of matrimony has outlived its usefulness and doesn't mean much these days. Can you say anything to convince me otherwise?
The first thing you need to know is that we strongly disagree with your assessment of marriage. In fact, we see marriage as one of God's greatest gifts, and place the highest possible value on the sanctity of the marital bond. Next to an individual's relationship with God, we believe that there is nothing in this world more important than the relationship between a husband and wife. That relationship is central to the divine plan for human procreation and the meaning of human sexuality; as the Bible says, "From the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh..." (Mark 10:6-8, quoting Genesis 2:24). That's why we're dedicated to doing everything we can to strengthen good marriages and bring healing and restoration to those that are struggling to survive.
These biblical and theological considerations might be enough in and of themselves to counter the claim that "marriage is a valueless, old-fashioned institution." But there's more to be said. On the practical side of the question, reliable research consistently demonstrates that married people are healthier, happier, live longer, enjoy better mental health, have a greater sense of fulfillment, and are less likely to suffer physical abuse than their unmarried counterparts. In addition to this, a study published in Psychological Reports reveals that married persons are less likely to feel lonely – a piece of data that takes on added significance when we note that, according to the authors' definition, loneliness is "not synonymous with aloneness, solitude, or isolation," but rather refers to "the absence or perceived absence of satisfying social relationships."
By way of contrast, it's been shown that couples who opt for premarital or extramarital cohabitation (living together outside of legal marriage) experience a greater degree of conflict and aggression in their relationships. And in a review of more than 130 published empirical studies measuring how marital status affects personal well-being, Dr. Robert H. Coombs of UCLA's Biobehavioral Sciences Department found that alcoholism, suicide, morbidity, mortality, and a variety of psychiatric problems are all far more prevalent among the unmarried than among the married.
It's important to add that there is no basis at all for the popular idea that cohabitation can serve as an effective testing ground for marriage. As a matter of fact, living together increases a couple's chances of divorce in later marriages. As one group of scholars put it, "The expectation of a positive relationship between cohabitation and marital stability … has been shattered in recent years by studies conducted in several western countries, including Canada, Sweden, New Zealand, and the United States."
We could go on citing statistics in support of our perspective, but we realize that this kind of information won't help you much if your cynicism about marriage is based primarily on "sour" personal experience. In that case, there's no substitute for a good heart-to-heart talk with a caring professional who not only knows the psychological and sociological facts, but who will also listen to your concerns with compassion and understanding. If you'd like to discuss your feelings or your family history, we invite you to call Focus on the Family's Counseling department.