National Catholic Register

Books

Dispelling Marriage Myths

Book review of The Seven Big Myths About Marriage

BY Christopher White

June 1-14, 2014 Issue | Posted 5/31/14 at 8:34 AM

 

The Seven Big Myths About Marriage

What Science, Faith and Philosophy Teach Us About Love and Happiness

By Christopher and Jennifer Kaczor

Ignatius Press, 2014

$19.95, 207 pages

To order: ignatius.com

 

In an era where both cohabitation and divorce are rampant, the dream of marriage refuses to go away. A recent survey from the Pew Foundation revealed that only 26% of Millennials (ages 18-33) are married — compared to 36% of Generation X and 48% of baby boomers. Yet despite this unprecedented low, 69% of these Millennials say they would like to marry.

In their new book, The Seven Big Myths About Marriage, Christopher and Jennifer Kaczor offer a fine summation of what marriage is and a how-to guide of navigating its complexities. In order to achieve this, however, they focus much of their time and attention on dispelling popular misconceptions about what marriage isn’t.

Essential to their approach to marriage is a wonderfully useful opening chapter on happiness and identity. Why begin a book on marriage with happiness? Many couples have false notions that their spouses will simply fulfill their desires and satisfy that deep longing for happiness that we all experience. The book shows that such a view is shortsighted, as it reduces our understanding of happiness in a way that limits the role of faith and elevates one’s spouse to a "hero" level, equivalent or above that of God.

After this introductory chapter, the Kaczors explore many of the false notions of marriage that have dominated discourse on the subject today: that it’s simply a recognition of an emotional connection between two persons; that it’s a 50-50 contract; that it’s only based on the feelings of love; and that it can be disconnected from the possibility of children. All of these conceptions of marriage are wrongheaded and cheapen our understanding of marriage in ways that are both harmful and misleading.

One of the most appealing aspects of this book is that it is written by a couple who openly shares with humor and humility the successes and failures of their own marriage. They do not try to hide the fact that marriage is hard, but they do evidence that it is worthwhile.

Among the finest achievements of this book are its arguments that sex cannot be separated from marriage and that reproduction is never an individual project, but must always be viewed as a gift. The final chapter that debunks the idea that "All Reproductive Choices Are Equal" is an instructive resource for couples struggling with fertility and those tempted with the allure of reproductive technologies.

The Seven Big Myths About Marriage is not only a must-read for individuals or couples contemplating marriage, but also for couples already married, as it will provide an opportunity for active reflection and assessment. It’s also an effective pastoral tool for priests and pastoral staff looking to improve their own training. Christopher and Jennifer Kaczor have provided the Church a valuable resource — and a powerful reminder of the many fruits that marriage can yield.

Christopher White

writes from New York.