Strong marriages make a difference

I shall never forget the look in my daughter's face as she took both of his hands and “pledged her troth” to her nearly husband. Her voice was so clear.

I shall never forget the look in my daughter's face as she took both of his hands and “pledged her troth” to her nearly husband. Her voice was so clear. Her look so full of love and happiness as they stood facing each other. His gaze on her mirrored it. They had known each other since meeting at school when they were only seventeen, now over eight years later they were tying the knot.

Why, when so many men are deciding not to commit, did he propose. I think it was because he came from a Christian family. He had experienced what it was like to grow up in a secure environment, surrounded by love and supported through his school life and career choices. I think for him it was a natural step.

He is unusual and I thank God for him. I know that my daughter is also unusual and that they are a declining breed. Fewer and fewer people are getting married. In fact, numbers are now lower than when they started collecting the statistics back over two centuries ago. Marriage is not fashionable, and yet it is what most young women still aspire to.

I spend some of my working life answering a national helpline for women and men with unplanned pregnancies. Time and again, I hear the same thing. I don't want to be a single mum. This is not how I want to bring up my children. When pressed, out comes the dream, almost a “roses round the door” dream, but their instinct is towards marriage, only these days they can mostly dream on.

At last, someone is going against political correctness and advocating marriage as part of the cure for society's ills. David Cameron has put it back on the agenda, even going so far as to propose tax breaks for married couples. I can guarantee there will be a back-lash because it will be said that in doing so he is making people who are living together into second-class citizens. Rubbish! They have a choice; just they don't want to make that strong a commitment. They want a get-out clause that is cheaper, easier, but no less painful, than divorce.

Thank goodness someone has had the courage to stop pussyfooting around the reasons why we have gangs of disaffected, rootless teenagers blasting the hell out of each other. The sadness is that listening to some young women on the radio on Thursday night; they see no sense in having the men around. For them it only brings trouble, but I bet their background is one of not having their own father's around. It probably was not their cultural experience, but why should we take it as norm for society. Even a young man, newly out of prison for gun crime, said on the lunch-time news last week that he would have benefited from having a man in his life to be a role model.

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The change of policy from the Conservatives seems to have come out of Iain Duncan-Smith's deliberations as he has travelled all over the country. He was unapologetic in presenting his findings.

The figures back him up. Most co-habiting couples do not stay together for the long-term and will break up before their children are five years old. Dare I say that the lack of commitment towards marriage is actually the result of an increasingly individualist and selfish society.

I have not done the exercise, but I bet that if you plotted the decline in marriage against the decrease in the age at which young people first have sex, there is a correlation. Why bother waiting. Sex is just another experience. It has no intrinsic value. Except in our heart of hearts we know otherwise. Else it would not hurt so much when our feelings are trashed.

Society is in a mess because we have thrown out the boundaries. There is no moral code other than the mantra that says, “It does not matter what I do as long as I don't hurt anyone else.” We use it to justify our selfishness, ignoring the fact that all our actions affect others. God gave us those boundaries, not because he wanted to limit our freedom but because he wanted us to be free to express ourselves within a framework that protected all of us.

I visited the retired vicar who married my daughter and son-in-law last week. He and his wife have been together for well over forty years. I don't suppose it has been a bed of roses, it never is, but their love for each other seemed as fresh and true as that of my young couple as they entered into marriage.

If the next Conservatives manifesto is truly committed to backing marriage, then they will have my vote.