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How to Be Happy Though Married

At first glance, it seemed like strange advice from a man who has devoted his career to helping couples get together: Don't get married, he says.

Dr. Neil Warren, a Christian psychologist and founder of the online dating service, eHarmony, says he is shocked at new statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau. As he recently wrote in the Huffington Post, for the first time in America's history, “fewer than half of the households in the United States are married couples.” Is marriage becoming obsolete, like horse-drawn carriages and typewriters?

Not at all, according to Warren: Studies reveal that most people want to get married and stay married. They just can't seem to figure out how to go about it. This is why Warren recommends that of the 2 million couples who planned to get married this year, “several hundred thousand...should reconsider, postpone their weddings, or not get married” at all. Why?

Because they simply aren't compatible.

Why are people having so much trouble finding the right person? Warren says it's because learning how to choose the right partner in life has been given short shrift in our culture. People often marry simply because they're attracted to each other. What they don't realize is that happy marriages are built on “highly informed and carefully reasoned choices,” along with commitment and hard work after the knot is tied, Warren says.

He's right, of course. But there's another factor at work. Marriage itself has been redefined, at least in the minds of modern couples.

A generation or two ago, engaged couples, influenced by their Judeo-Christian heritage, viewed marriage as a relationship situated within a larger context. This context included their families, places of worship, and communities. Vows were taken seriously, and most couples — understanding the importance of stable marriages for their children — went into marriage with a strong commitment to staying wed for life.

But today that's all changed. While we're much freer to marry whom we choose, modern couples view marriage as a private affair, of no concern to anyone but the participants. Many brides and grooms go into marriage knowing they can easily get out when the attraction wears off or they find someone new. And without the bonds of religion, there is little to keep the couple together when the going gets tough, and it will get tough sooner or later.

Dr. Warren is right: Couples need to choose their spouses much more carefully if they hope to be happy. But they shouldn't stop there. Once they begin to think about weddings, they should turn to their churches for marriage classes. In particular, they should take a test called PREPARE, which helps them understand how compatible they really are. Some couples who take the test end up breaking their engagement — rightly so, because PREPARE predicts with 90 percent accuracy which couples will stay happily married.

You and I need to make sure that we, our kids, and grandkids understand the true meaning of marriage, despite what our culture is say or teaching. Understanding what marriage is really all about is the best guarantee that they will marry well, and give them the best chance of living happily ever after.

Chuck Colson's daily BreakPoint commentary airs each weekday on more than one thousand outlets with an estimated listening audience of one million people. BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today's news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print.

Publication date: August 4, 2011

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