Love and romance can “flourish” when married couples share a deep sense of trust and commitment, according to Janice Shaw Crouse, Ph.D. In her new book, “Marriage Matters: Perspectives on the Private and Public Importance of Marriage,” she not only outlines the groundwork for creating and maintaining strong marriages, but talks about why marriage is important for individuals, children and society.
Crouse is a senior fellow at the Beverly LaHaye Institute, the think tank for Concerned Women for America. In addition to being a columnist for United Press International, she writes a weekly column for Townhall.com, American Thinker and HumanEvents.com.
She recently took some time to talk with CitizenLink about her book and what she hopes people gain from reading it.
CitizenLink: In Chapter 1, you write about the groundwork for creating and maintaining strong marriages. What are some ways to preserve love and romance in a marriage?
Janice Shaw Crouse: Love and romance flourish in proportion to the growth of trust and commitment. Those invisible bonds between a man and woman only become strong, meaningful and effective when both parties develop the strength of character to curb self-centeredness. What is more delightful than seeing the growing oneness of a married couple learning to connect with each other in a multitude of different ways? Sometimes this shows up in humorous exchanges, other times simply in the way they glance at each other. One thing I especially enjoy seeing is when a couple manages to coordinate things despite little being said — a little like dancers or skaters who know each other’s moves by heart. Whether married five years or 20, the telltale signs of connectedness sparkle as they share the joys of life or exhibit their true affection by the way they support one another in the hard places.
Also, it is gratifying to see the ever-growing sureness of one another as couples deepen in their understanding, respect, and acceptance of each other. All these things flow from a commitment that translates into making the spouse a focus of one’s attention, a priority in one’s schedule, and developing the relationship as a mutual project. A lot of couples’ advice centers on remembering holidays and planning special times, but romance truly flourishes when the couple meet each others’ everyday needs. Personally, I’m not big on surprises or gifts, but I love weekends when my husband brings me breakfast in bed so that I can wake up slowly. He also helps with the laundry, dishes and other chores so that we can make time for us to do the fun things together.
CL: What are some of the benefits of marriage for individuals?
JSC: Study after study comparing the various types of household arrangements indicates conclusively that no other family structure produces such consistently positive outcomes as the married couple — i.e., mom and dad — family. Regardless of the outcome being measured, the married couple family is far superior in measureable positive outcomes to any other household arrangement. No wonder the institution of marriage is so universal and so pervasive across otherwise diverse societies throughout history. Civilized societies have always considered marriage to be a “contract of natural law” and, thus, a foundation of stable societies. All the available social science data points to the superiority of marriage over singleness or cohabitation; married couples will have “healthier and more satisfying” lives. Both men and women live longer, happier, healthier and more financially secure lives when they are married.
CL: In what ways do children benefit from marriage?
JSC: The benefits of marriage for children could fill a book; indeed, my book, “Children at Risk,” focuses on the necessity of marriage for children’s well-being. Every other household arrangement is far, far inferior in measurable ways to children being raised by their biological, married mom and dad. Almost all of the problems facing children today (poverty, abuse, etc.) are exacerbated by the decline in marriage and the fact that over 41 percent of the nation’s children are born into fatherless households and, sadly, fully more than one-third of the nation’s children live without their dads. A married mom and dad are best at providing children with the moral foundation and solid value system that they need to thrive in a complicated world. Many cultural critics today argue that family breakdown — the absence of married father-mother families — is producing a generation of children devoid of both morals and human decency and that many of them are becoming predators who threaten the safety of communities and neighborhoods. Further, the family is best for inculcating educational and cultural advantages for children.
CL: What are some of the ramifications of same-sex marriage legislation for society, families and future generations?
JSC: Frankly, the push for same-sex marriage is more about adult desires than about children’s needs. The evidence is overwhelming across the ideological spectrum: a married mom-and-dad is best for raising children and best for society. There are mountains of empirical evidence showing the negative effects on society that occur when the family structure breaks down. Social scientists uniformly declare that altering our understanding of marriage would be a “culture-shifting event” and would “massively reshape the social landscape,” and yet the activists continue to push in that direction. The nation has a vital interest in producing children who will be well-prepared to make a positive contribution to the survival and quality of society and to strengthen the foundations of the culture. Yet activists continue to push for an alternative to natural marriage and family.
Numerous Americans declare that having same-sex marriage will not harm them or anyone else, but counterfeits always devalue the real thing. As the definition of marriage expands to include arrangements of various characteristics, marriage will become irrelevant and meaningless. In those countries where same-sex marriage is already legalized, cohabitation (not marriage) is the prevalent household arrangement. Further, those who argue that same-sex marriage is an “equal rights” issue misunderstand that the whole issue of same-sex marriage is not about benefits and protections; instead it is about approval for behavior and gaining “normal” standing in society. Our legal system already guarantees civil rights and our contract law guarantees the right to designate beneficiaries and visitation rights. The same-sex marriage effort is about condoning behaviors, legitimizing, gaining approval and mainstreaming values and behaviors. The homosexual activists are demanding special rights above and beyond the human rights we all are guaranteed as Americans.
The activists argue that children just need “love” in the home in order to thrive, that same-sex marriage is a matter of religious freedom, and that these unions are just like heterosexual marriages. None of these myths could be further from the truth. Different household arrangements have profoundly different impacts on the children raised in those different environments. Nothing contributes to the well-being of children like living with their own married mother and father. Many of the efforts to sideline religious faith in the public square stem from the fact that the major religions oppose same-sex marriage based on the central tenets of the faith.
CL: Why is it important for people from a variety of backgrounds to read this book, and what do you hope they gain from it?
JSC: I wrote this book to provide perspectives on both the private and the public importance of marriage. I think it is beneficial to look at the historic trends that are so troubling to those of us who are immersed in the social science research that tracks the decline of marriage and the breakdown of the family. After several decades of changes that undermined marriage, there are public policymakers and opinion leaders who are taking courageous stands to promote stable marriages and discourage out-of-wedlock births. At the same time that numerous good things are happening in the public arena, other relationship and household structures are becoming more acceptable alternatives to marriage. While the trends can be dismaying, experience with “marriage lite” alternatives is causing more and more young people to see the benefits of marriage — not just as a personal choice, but also as a solution for many of society’s problems.
A common problem acknowledged by massive social science data is the prevalence today of loneliness; it seems that an environment of “carefree” sex leaves couples feeling pretty empty and alone. Trusting is necessary for mutual respect and caring, as well as for insight and understanding. But developing trust involves the indispensable ingredient of vulnerability; aloofness is the opposite of all the favorable ingredients necessary for camaraderie. Likewise, pride is a quality that isolates us from each other and keeps us from attaining interdependency with our family and friends. In other words, autonomy is just another way to be alone. It appears that the creation story may have had it right all along: “It is not good for man [or woman] to be alone.”
There is a longing in the heart of virtually all of us for someone permanent who will accept us unconditionally and love us wholeheartedly, always and forever. And there is an emptiness in children that can only be filled by a mom and dad who are absolutely crazy about them and are “there” for them consistently, always and forever. Furthermore, there is a desperate need in our communities for the stabilizing influence of married-couple families as anchors that will hold the community’s ship of state steady when it faces the howling winds of change, crisis, and unpredictable events. Marriage matters, in all those circumstances; it is both a personal relationship and a social institution of society. Both functions are essential for an individual’s happiness and well-being — and for the effective functioning and stability of neighborhoods, communities, and the nation. This two-pronged vision of marriage is an ideal to be promoted and embodied in public policies.
The historical wedding ceremony gives three unambiguous reasons for marriage: First, so that children can be “brought up in the fear and nurture of the Lord”; second, so that the “natural instincts and affections, implanted by God, should be allowed and directed aright . . . in pureness of living”; third, so that it will benefit the “mutual society” in that the couple will have each other for “help and comfort” in both “prosperity and adversity.” While there is no mention of the community and national involvement in a couple’s wedding, the fact that it is a public ceremony makes it clear, it is not only those who personally know and love the couple that have a vested interest in the success of their marriage. It is also, collectively, all of us. It is my prayer that my book will help to bring back a right and proper perspective of marriage.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Learn about “Marriage Matters.”
Learn more about Janice Shaw Crouse.