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“Living in sin,” a now rarely used phrase, perhaps because it’s no longer considered sinful to cohabit. If “shacking-up” with your partner is a perfectly acceptable practice, marriage may well become obsolete. Wedding dress designers take heed!

According to the UK Office of National Statistics, we are seeing the lowest marriage rates since they were first calculated in 1862. So is marriage just going to die out, or is there a way to salvage this age-old institution?

People who cohabit commonly believe that by living together, they can “test the water” of marriage to see if it will work. Cohabitation is fast becoming an intimate extension or even a replacement for dating. The theory is that if living together turns out to be a bad idea, a couple can simply break up and avoid a bad marriage.

The National Marriage Institute in the UK strongly criticize this theory by saying: “The longer you live together with a partner, the more likely it is that the low-commitment ethic of cohabitation will take hold, the opposite of what is required for a successful marriage.” So far from being a safe option, cohabitation merely permits a permanent get-out clause in the relationship. You could liken it to a “scrappage” scheme for your loved ones.

A successful marriage is built on trust, commitment, loyalty and longevity. These components all require the one thing that is lacking in many relationships today…time.

So if marriage isn’t important, why should we consider it at all? Many teachers are blaming the decline of marriage on widespread underachievement and indiscipline in schools.

It is also suggested that children with chaotic home lives arrive at school too troubled to learn, wrecking their prospects of success in exams.

A growing number of children are being brought up in splintered families by mothers whose children have been fathered by different men. This, according to teachers is contributing to the children developing behavioural and mental health problems, including eating disorders and suicidal thoughts. The children are more likely to lead “dysfunctional” lives themselves, destroying the concept of a “family unit.”

The social influences of our secular society and the decline in marriage may be acting as a catalyst for each other. Paradoxically the problem of our disinterest in the Christian church may be solved by looking at the behaviour of those following other religions, such as young Muslims. There’s an underlying social stigma attached to being a practising young Christian. Young Muslims, however, take a different view. Being religious is a way that they can show that they are proud of their heritage. It is this attitude that permits young Muslims to assert their identity by being more observant than their parents.

So by embracing the sacred vows of marriage, it may serve to not only create a stronger family bond, but also to encourage men and women back into the pews as they seek out the religious, moral and social support provided by a congregation when starting a family of their own.

Let us then ignore the politically influenced benefits system of the Labour party in the UK, which disregards the status of husbands and wives and pays parents extra to stay single.

We should also turn a blind eye to the social influence of the celebrities, who seek to marry capriciously in Vegas, only to shout for divorce, before you can say, “Love me tender.”

Let us then embrace the institution of marriage and preservation of moral values, if only to criticize the delivery of the best man’s speech over a slap-up dinner and copious quantities of after dinner drinks…Hic!

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