I grew up listening to country music, especially during my teen years. I was the kind of country fan who even liked the “classics,” the older, scratchy-sounding songs on the radio that most of my friends thought were cheesy. What I loved most about the older country music was that even though there were lots of drinking and cheating songs, there were also plenty of songs about strong families and faith. One classic song that I loved as teen that still makes me cry is Michael Martin Murphy’s hit, “Long Line of Love.” In it, a young man who is engaged and wonders if he’s ready to be married is told by his father:
“You come from a long line of love
When the times get hard, we don’t give up
Forever is in your heart and in your blood
Son, you come from a long line of love.”
Whenever I heard that song, I would think about my family’s history and how I didn’t come from a “long line of love,” but of divorce and broken promises. I couldn’t help but wonder, “What does a legacy of divorce mean for my chances of a happy marriage one day?”
It’s a question I asked more and more as I started dating, and when I got engaged, and one that still haunts me today, especially during the hard times of married life. I think many of us from broken homes often look at a happy, lasting marriage as something we want but are not sure we can have. We doubt our chances of success, and think, “What’s the point when marriage never seems to last?”
Although I was not really afraid to get married, once I did marry and have children, fear crept in and doubts began to plague me, especially whenever my husband and I would fight or face a stressful period. During hard times, I sometimes can’t help but think, “How do we make it when our parents didn’t?” I’ve also heard some of my unmarried friends ask, “What’s the point of getting married when the odds are stacked against us?”
Here are three things I’d say to singles who might question the point of marriage, or who are married and wonder during the hard times if the struggle is worth it.
- Marriage is still the “gold standard.” Even though we have a lot of relationship choices offered to us these days, from parenting alone to cohabiting, marriage is still the best and safest place to raise a family. Studies show that no other relationship even compares to marriage when it comes to the benefits for men, women, and children, including being more likely to last than other relationships.
- Marriage is therapeutic. What I didn’t realize before I was married but know now is that we can be restored through the family community we are creating. There really is nothing that compares to parenting children together in a marriage and knowing that with God’s help, you are giving your kids the future and the legacy you never had. This can help us heal and serve as reminder of what we are fighting so hard to build.
- Marriage doesn’t have to be “perfect” or problem-free to last. Going into marriage, I expected perfection from myself and from my husband. It did not take long for reality to crush those expectations. Because I’d never seen a lasting marriage, only unhealthy or violent or unfaithful unions, I had no idea what to expect or how hard a normal marriage can be at times. When you come from a broken family, it is so easy to think, “We’re doomed” when things go wrong or our spouse lets us down in some way. What I am still learning is that marriage can and will be messy at times, but that is not a reason to give up or to let go. The best advice I’ve heard from older couples who have been married for more than thirty years is that a lasting marriage is ultimately about mutual respect and learning to forgive each other.
Ultimately, marriage is how we build a legacy of love for future generations. When I am feeling sad about what we missed out on as kids, my husband often reminds me that we are going to have that “big, whole family” one day, because that’s what we are building for our children. In marriage, we have the opportunity to make a fresh start and make different choices than our parents made—choices that will benefit us and our kids. So, even though many of us don’t have a legacy of love to draw from, that legacy can start with us when we choose to embrace marriage as the gift that it is meant to be.