Marriage Week 2015
This month, as part of Marriage Week Mothers’ Union groups across the UK will be celebrating marriage and the benefit it brings to couples, to the wider family and to all of us. Marriage is known to make couples happier, healthier and bring financial stability. But it is romance, rather than research, that brings couples together, a loving relationship that the couple desire to take on to be a life-long flourishing relationship.
In an increasingly “pick and mix” world of free choice and fewer social constraints or judgemental behaviour than in previous generations, Marriage remains a popular life choice in the UK – 262,240 couples married in 2012* (last published statistics), an increase of 5.3%. And this reflects not just a choice of those couple with faith – only 30% of marriages in the UK are religious, with many couples now choosing to marry in a civil marriage in places such as hotels or historic buildings.
Why is it that marriage remains so popular, and what is it about that way of expressing relationship that is so beneficial to society?
Research by relationship experts has demonstrated that the benefits of a supportive marriage (and conversely the costs of an unsupported one) can be very great indeed . A supportive marriage can bring years of satisfying interactions and a sense of personal effectiveness and security; an unsupporting marriage can bring extreme loneliness, resentment and insecurity.
We all love LOVE, the romance, that sense of oneness with another human being that is so celebrated in the marriage service in the Christian Church when two become one, each part of the whole that is the instituted relationship. That love and commitment lay down important foundations for life-long support. The social support within that relationship brings what relationship scientists identify as “basic needs” – approval, esteem, succour. It is through a committed married relationship that we gain a sense of security and safety, which brings well-being. In times of trouble or stress couples benefit from each other’s guidance, affirmation and unconditional support. The liturgists knew what they were about when they devised marriage promises that were to offer support “for better, for worse; for richer for poorer; in sickness and in health” – because it is in these times that married couples benefit strongly from each other – and in doing so provide a supportive example for those around them.
Weddings are wonderful – if sometimes dauntingly expensive – and rightly celebrate the love and commitment of a couple starting out on their life-time relationship. But as with childbirth, the wedding is simply day one. Marriage is the real gift to couple relationships and it can be in the testing times when couples realise that the wisest decision they ever made was to commit themselves to their partner in marriage.
Mothers’ Union promote marriage and support couples setting out on their married life, because we believe that not only is marriage beneficial to the couple, but to all of us. Marriage is not simply a private emotional relationship that has the potential to benefit only the individuals involved. The more happy, health and productive individual are, the more society will flourish too . Marriage – and the social support relationship it models – is good for us all.
Of course marriage is by no means the only relationship to offer unconditional support or affirmation, trust or a sense of belonging. We all need wider relationships in which we both give and receive these relational qualities. That is why Mothers’ Union seeks to support not only marriage has a vision of a world where God’s love is shown through loving, respectful or flourishing relationships. But this month we encourage you to celebrate all that marriage brings – to couples and to those who see and value the interdependence of marriage as of benefit to all of us.
Prayer for Marriage Week
God of relationship,
We thank you that marriage is enriched
when you are at the centre;
the third strand in a cord of love.
We pray for those who prepare couples for marriage
and all who counsel when challenges arise.
May they advise with the wisdom of God,
the source and sustainer of love.
We pray that couples will be helped
to build their marriage on solid foundations.
May they reflect the love of God
in their care for one another.