So my wife and I are coming up on 15 years of marriage. We’ve got the kids, the dog, the house, the people-mover vehicle, and a wealth of experience to prove it.
While she comes from a home in which her parents soon will be celebrating 40 years of marriage, I came from a home that was quickly shattered by divorce, with all that encompasses. It may have been better for my parents, but I doubt it was better for me. Divorce-kids know the experience.
No marriage is perfect … there will be fights, romance will fade, and you will occasionally wonder what the hell you got yourself into. But there can also be a deep, slow burning love if you cultivate it and then, if you’re so blessed, there are the kids.
If we’re honest, the romantic love that starts things out certainly doesn’t need marriage. It clearly exists prior to marriage. Even the slow, burning love doesn’t necessarily need marriage. But the kids, they need marriage. They need something that prevents their parents from blowing their world up – figuratively, of course.
A child does not choose to be brought into this world, the parents are the ones responsible for the act of procreation. And once the child is brought into this world, she is in a state of utter dependency for many, many years. The utilitarian philosopher John Stuart Mill hints at this truth in On Liberty (1859):
“It still remains unrecognized that to bring a child into existence without a fair prospect of being able, not only to provide food for its body, but instruction and training for its mind is a moral crime, both against the unfortunate offspring and against society…”
Food, clothing, shelter, education. All fine and important things. But what about security? Do children have an innate need for both parents and the security they provide? The plethora of studies revealing the psychological and behavioral differences between kids living with their biological parents compared to those of single-parent households or other types of childcare arrangements would strongly indicate that they do. Anxiety, depression, drug use, etc. are quite often more likely for kids coming from broken homes. And if that is the case, do children have a natural right to their parents?
That question brings us to marriage. Was marriage created to protect the love of the husband and wife or to protect the children? Arguably, the latter, though marriage has been used for other purposes in the past. It is only recently that the bond of marriage could so easily be shattered by parents through no-fault divorce. Prior to that legal innovation, parents couldn’t dissolve their marriage because they were unhappy or unfulfilled or whatever other excuse is used today. To break up a marriage required a tremendous amount of legal effort and there was enormous societal pressure to keep it going.
What would things be like if we went back to such a legal environment and parents had to work harder at keeping things together? If it was almost impossible to get divorced so as to preserve the security and natural rights of the children, would adults approach love and marriage differently? Would both kids and society be better for it?
Today, we often look at things through the lens of personal fulfillment or happiness for adults. We are “nice” to the adults so that they may live as they want, even though they may be making any number of decisions that harm their children. Perhaps it’s time to be nice to the kids, and require the adults to be responsible for their decisions.