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Two Sides – Same Coin

The week from the 13 – 19 September is Marriage Week. This is a week that we can all get excited about because marriage and fatherhood are two sides of the same coin.

Alison and I have always been passionate about having a good marriage and supporting and encouraging marriages everywhere. Our motivation, on my part, comes from the pain I experienced from growing up in a divided home: when Mum went her way for many years and Dad went his way. The trouble of course was that my brother and I got torn in two, quite literally.

I worked out that before I left home at 17 years of age, I had spent roughly a third of my life in a two-parent home with my mum and dad; another third was spent with a single mum with little interaction with my dad at all (Scotland is a long way from Australia for the standard every-second-weekend-visiting-schedule for a non-custodial parent) and the final third of my life was with a single dad, with regular visits from mum when her work permitted.

No prize for guessing which were the happiest moments of my life growing up? You got it! Life with Mum and Dad living together (when they weren’t having verbal stoushes). Sometimes it felt like we were growing up in World War III while at other times it just seemed picture perfect. For me, Charles Dickens words, “It was the best of times and it was the worst of times” sums up the first 17 years of my life.

No child should have to go to 13 different schools or live in poverty, prevented from going to school because Dad was too embarrassed to send us as we couldn’t afford shoes (though we preferred the carefree life of trapping rabbits and catching quail rather than school and arithmetic).

However the up-side was that I learned to love travelling and not having ‘everything’ makes one very inventive. I am very thankful to my Mum and Dad for the good times and the hard times. I am thankful that my Mum and Dad, while leading separate lives, did not get divorced because it at least gave me hope for a better future.

We don’t have to have a perfect marriage to support National Marriage Week. Their website says, “Marriage Week is an annual celebration, initiated in Australia in 2007, to reinforce and promote the benefits/importance of marriage… The value of marriage, which as a binding public commitment, becomes the foundation of healthy families, healthy children, and a healthy community. Marriage is ‘the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life’.”

The website goes on to say, “The quality of our nation’s marital relationships will be a determining factor in the destiny of Australia. The strength of Australian families depends on the qualities of the relationships between our nation’s mothers and fathers. Therefore marriage should be encouraged, strengthened, valued and supported by society and individuals in every possible way as a social good.”

For this reason some time ago we revised and updated a new edition of ‘21 Reasons Why Marriage Matters’ in 2009 which now adds more Australian and New Zealand authors and contributors with 146 footnotes to research from all over the world. Passionate marriages build stronger families.

1. Marriage helps fathers be better fathers.
2. Cohabitation and marriage are not the same.
3. Marriage prevents divorce in children.
4. Marriage is a universal human institution.
5. Divorce increases poverty.
6. Married couples are wealthier.
7. Married men earn more.
8. Divorce increases school failure.
9. Divorce reduces children’s chance of financial success.
10. Marriage increases children’s health.
11. Marriage lowers infant mortality.
12. Marriage reduces drug abuse in children and young adults.
13. Married people live longer.
14. Married people are healthier.
15. Divorce increases mental illness in children.
16. Divorce increases risk of suicide especially in men.
17. Married women have less depression.
18. Boys raised in single parent homes are more likely to become criminals.
19. Marriage stops criminality.
20. Marriage lowers domestic violence.
21. Marriage protects children from death or injury.

On a sad note the day after we released the new version of 21 Reasons Why Marriage Matters in 2009, I drove back from Canberra to attend my mother’s funeral service. My father had passed away 25 years earlier. The sad reality is you never really appreciate your parents until you lose them. My mother was a great woman. She had enormous integrity and wisdom but an independent streak. She and Dad lived apart for a great deal of their married life, but in spite of their differences, loved each other deeply.

It was only fitting to intern my mother’s ashes in Dad’s grave as the bagpipes played Amazing Grace in the country church yard on the edge of town. This was my mother’s wish.

Lovework

Marriage requires a great deal of amazing grace. Don’t wait to die in order to live together. Give your marriage partner ‘grace’ now, and you will be ‘amazed’ at the difference it will make. Marriage matters and love is stronger than death. On a practical note you can take part in the Great Aussie Date Night on Saturday 19 September or sign up to receive encouragement for your marriage from the Marriage Investment Bank like I have done.

Yours for more love
Warwick Marsh

PS Bulk copies of the new edition of 21 Reasons Why Marriage Matters can be purchased. Phone (02 4272 6677) or email (info@dads4kids.org.au) your orders through. Let’s get the news out – passionate marriages build strong families because marriage and fatherhood are two sides of the same coin.

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