A new study from the University of Virginia, polling men and women from all segments of the population, all educational backgrounds, and all levels of income, finds that stable marriage is a luxury item for those who can pay for it.
“Working-class people with insecure work and few resources, little stability, and no ability to plan for a foreseeable future become concerned with their own survival and often become unable to imagine being able to provide materially and emotionally for others,” says Sarah Corse, an associate professor of sociology in UVA’s College of Arts & Sciences and the lead author of the study, “Intimate Inequalities: Love and Work in a Post-Industrial Landscape.”
The study found that because educated middle-class workers are better able to recover from the effects of “insecure work” than the less educated working class, they are more capable of seeking the stability of a committed relationship.
“Marriage is becoming a distinctive social institution marking middle-class status,” Corse said.
While it is certainly true that the sense of security that derives from being able to pay our bills, buy food, provide for our children, and pay for health care, is fundamental, it cannot tell the whole story. Otherwise, there would be no marriages to speak of in poverty-stricken areas of the world.
Clearly, this sense that marriage is a luxury, derives from our western individualism and sense of entitlement: the ideal of what we “ought” to have as a married couple: gym membership, date night once a week, private schools for our kids, yearly vacations, personal self-actualization, and other material items that “shore up” our sense of being happily married.
The key point left out of the study is faith. Not only is faith integral to happiness but it is integral—no, foundational—to marriage.
The relationship that depends fundamentally on “good times” will crumble like the house built on sand. The relationship built on the rock of Christ will have the firm foundation that can weather the storms.
I am not saying that every Christian marriage will be a happy all the time. But a marriage built on the foundation of faith has the non-material resources (grace!) that will bolster us during the inevitable bad times. As Jesus tells us, “In the world, you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world” (John 16:33).
God calls each of us to a vocation of love; just as we are created in his image, our own marriages are images of God’s unfailing and eternal love! Nevertheless, without God’s help, we cannot achieve this intimate communion of life and love to which he calls us.
So, let’s be courageous. Let’s worry less about whether we have the material resources necessary to get married or to have a happy marriage. Let’s be that beacon on the hill, proving that love is possible in this world. In good times, and in bad.