Relationships don’t just happen…or persist.

I have often said our cultural system sets up relationships and families to fail. There is no coordinated effort to prepare relationships for permanence and marriage.

For example, Forbes has published:

  • 50% of first marriages last just 8 years
  • 40-50% of first marriages end in divorce
  • 50-67% of second marriage end in divorce
  • 46% of marriages which do not begin with cohabitation end in divorce
  • 57% of marriages which begin with cohabitation end in divorce
    • According to family scholar Scott Stanley, premarital cohabitation is associated with lower odds of divorce in the first year of marriage but increases the odds of divorce in all other years tested, and this finding holds across decades.2 Cohabitation is pervasive, and ever higher levels of serial cohabitation mean that more people are on one of the pathways strongly associated with risks for family instability or divorce.0 Cohabitating couples who marry are about 33% more likely to get divorced than couples who did not live together before marriage.
  • 25-38% of church members and church attenders’ marriages end in divorce
  • Of those who do divorce, listed causes include:
    • 75% Lack of commitment
    • 60% Infidelity
    • 58% Lack of ability to resolve conflict
    • 37% Money issues
    • 70% report a lack of understanding of the realities and/or stages of marriage

Despite this, the practice continues. The “normal” assumption is 1) find someone who will have you, 2) buy a license, and you are automatically equipped to be a husband/wife and parent. That is just wrong on so many counts, and we ignore this at our peril.

If I had a magic genie, I’d insist that relationships which begin as early as the onset of puberty be given clearly articulated research-backed skills-based information on how to be successful.

The most important relationship in this life, IMHO, is a personal relationship with God and His son, Jesus Christ. The second most important relationship is the establishment and maintenance of marriage and family.

None of you would gladly ask a mail order surgeon to remove your gall bladder. You expect adequate training, practice, and certification…and yet with relationships and marriage, nothing is required. It’s harder to get a driver’s license than it is to get a marriage license.

Earlier and earlier, young people are beginning to do marriage things with no clue about what makes one work. No one tells them ‘the new wears off’ over time and then failure to learn relationship skills causes failure and chaos.

If I was in charge, our society would mandate the basic research-backed and skills-based education I speak about beginning in about 7th grade. What is the irreducible minimum such learning would look like?

  • Why do you choose someone with whom to be in relationship?
    • Primitive survival instincts
    • Five finger visual cues (looks good, feels good, smells good, sounds good, tastes good)
    • Impact of Family of Origin (a critical, yet subconscious component)
  • Stages of relationships and how to navigate them
  • What are the dynamics of relationships?
    • Strengths
    • Growth areas
    • Personality components
    • Assertiveness
    • Self Confidence
    • Avoidance (inability to ask for something without expectation of getting)
    • Partner Dominance
    • Role Relationships – whose job is it?
    • Expectations – according to Emerson Eggrichs, they are nothing more than premeditated resentments and how will they be resolved amicably
  • Soul mates – found or created?
  • Behavior Modification – changing the dynamic – acting right regardless of feelings
  • Listening skills – how to listen without judgment and speak without criticism (a learned skill which does not occur naturally in the wild) Learning how to break the cycle of tandem monologues
  • How to be heard and understood and cared about and effect changes in behavior in a safe and secure way
  • Sexual maturity – did you know any relationship which turns sexual stops growing? Then it is all about how, where, and how often can you wash-rinse-repeat
  • Financial maturity – agreeing on how manage resources maturely
  • Social and spiritual engagement and why they are important
  • Developing and maintaining a servant’s heart (ridding self of WIIFM – what’s in it for me…converting it into How Can I Serve You Best!
  • Learning and responding to each other primary Love Languages

There are literally scores, if not hundreds, of trained educators who could populate every school in our nation given the opportunity. The resistance to adding anything so practical as relationship education is staggering. We get answers like:

  • Our curriculum is set
  • We already take care of it (but the evidence of failure decries such assertion)

Any time I ask a group where they went to relationship or marriage school, depending on the group, I get a collective blank stare. Sometimes among a married crowd I’ll get this: “well we did pre-marital counseling”. To which I ask, what did you learn?

  • My personal experience is what my Dad asked me on the way to the church, “Son you got something planned for birth control?”
  • Another common response “we just talked about how the ceremony would go.”
  • Others have said, “we got a lot of Scripture telling us WHAT to do, but virtually nothing on HOW to do it.”

The sad, but gospel, truth is that no relationship ever needs to fail. Any two people who have the five-finger attraction can learn how to live together successfully. All it takes is willing spirits who will learn the basic skills and then commit to make them a life-long practice.

I find it poignantly apparent:

  • Satan’s first attack on humanity came through the family. His lies and the first family’s response has cascaded down over all generations to where each of you today is separated from God by sin, first by nature and then by choice.
  • Family brokenness is at the top of the powers of Evil’s goal to wreck society
  • …and yet, we are reluctant to admit relationships don’t just happen, they must be created and nurtured.

What do you need or how can you put a finger in the dike to stop the cascading flow of failed relationships from continuing?