Divorced Parent Concerned That Grown Child Is Skeptical About Marriage

How can I convince my adult son that matrimony is valuable and worthwhile when his own parents couldn't make it work? My ex-spouse and I split up when my children were still small, and I thought it was all water under the bridge. Now I find that my son blames me and his dad for his negative view of marriage. He doesn't intend to marry his live-in girlfriend, since, in his words, "marriage is a valueless, old-fashioned institution," and "divorce is inevitable anyway." What should I tell him?

Perhaps you should begin by being honest about your own mistakes and imperfections. Family brokenness has been the cause of untold pain and disillusion among the members of today’s up-and-coming generation. From a certain perspective, it’s hard to blame them for their negative attitudes toward marriage and the traditional family; their parents really do owe them an apology and an explanation. If you can muster up the courage to be open with your son about the circumstances and the causes of your divorce, you may discover that your candor has the effect of opening up unforeseen avenues of understanding and communication between the two of you. You may also help him avoid similar errors and brokenness in his own love life.

Once that’s settled, you can tell your son that in spite of your own disappointing experience, you still regard 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, there is nothing in this world more important than the relationship between 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).

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, 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. What’s more, a study published in Psychological Reports reveals that married persons are less likely to feel lonely. This 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 live 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 whatsoever 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 provide additional statistics in support of this perspective, but we realize that this kind of information won’t help your son much if his cynicism regarding 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 is also capable of listening with compassion and understanding. If either you or your son would like to discuss your feelings or your family history with a member of our staff, feel free to call Focus on the Family’s Counseling department.


If a title is currently unavailable through Focus on the Family, we encourage you to use another retailer.

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God’s Design for Marriage

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