By / Mar 17

It was 1996. I was 23 years old, and nothing could’ve prepared me for our first years of marriage. Married life was new and wonderful, but I was caught by surprise at how inept my leadership was and how different my wife and I were. I was not prepared for the disagreements, the fertility issues, the financial pressure, the stress. What might we have done differently? How could we have anticipated some of the problems and planned ahead? 

In our society, many see cohabitating before a later-in-life marriage as the solution — a trial run before the big commitment. And it’s happening in the church, too. The prevailing thought is that getting married without living together first — as Woody Allen quipped in his 1969 interview of Billy Graham — is “like getting a driver’s license without [getting] a learner’s permit first.”

Research challenging culture’s embrace of cohabitation

A February 2022 Wall Street Journal article by Brad Wilcox and Lyman Stone captures the thought around this conventional wisdom. “[T]he majority of young adults believe that living together is a good way to pretest the quality of your partner and your partnership, thereby increasing the quality and stability of your marriage.”

Yet according to Wilcox and Stone, recent research challenges this assumption. Citing a survey of 50,000 women, Wilcox and Stone identify a significant exception to the trial-run perspective: “There is a group of women for whom marriage before 30 is not risky: women who married directly, without ever cohabiting prior to marriage. . . . [A] growing body of research indicates that Americans who live together before marriage are less likely to be happily married and more likely to land in divorce court.”

There are good reasons why couples should share rings before they share house keys. Why? Wilcox and Stone offer three arguments against cohabitation. First, experience in cohabiting often leads to experience in breaking up — a pattern that may be more easily repeated in marriage. Second, experience in cohabitation may encourage comparison of a spouse with former roommates. Judging a spouse with a “you’re not as good as” mindset may more easily lead a couple before another kind of judge. Third, living like husband and wife, without being husband and wife, calls into question the uniqueness of marriage in the first place. What’s the difference — a ring, some papers, tax benefits? Any relationship of love is special, right? 

The right kind of practice 

But while Wilcox and Stone acknowledge that one’s religious loyalties may also play some factor in the longevity of a marriage, they missed one vital reality. The advocates of premarital cohabitation are essentially affirming the mantra that probably hangs on the wall of nearly every music instructor on the planet: “Practice Makes Perfect.” This is true — because what we do (“practice”) indeed shapes us (“makes perfect”). Even our environments exert their own kind of shaping influence. We are, after all, talking about co-habit-ation. Living together is habit-forming. 

Yet any good music teacher will also add this correction: “The right kind of practice makes perfect.” Apply Malcom Gladwell’s “10,000 hour rule” to the wrong guitar fingering, and you can have prodigy-level mastery of a mistake. Instead, you have to know the proper goal toward which you’re striving. 

The reality that Wilcox and Stone don’t cover — the truth that the Bible teaches — is that marriage is designed to be a loving and life-long commitment (covenant) between a husband and wife (and as Christians, we would add: “before God”). As I mentioned above, nothing could have prepared me for marriage — except marriage. The nature of the goal determines the nature of the preparations. The right kind of practice makes perfect. 

Cohabitation is not like marriage. They are different in essential nature. When a couple live together, there’s a shared mailing address, a shared bed, shared utility bills, shared furniture, and shared groceries. But there’s not shared commitment. And without this commitment, you’ll have shared living arrangements but no true analog, or preparation, for marriage. 

Cohabitation and marriage are also different in their results. Living together without marital commitment feeds the need to perform. Each potential spouse is always on audition for the big show. After all, there’s no pretest without a test — without evaluation. The so-called “freedom” of cohabitation forges its own kind of chains — the shackles of performance. If I mess up, this could be over. In contrast, the commitment of marriage aims to free each spouse to serve and also to fail. These divergent results mean that cohabitation is incapable of providing real preparation for marriage. 

The instinct to want to practice for marriage may be genuine for some, not wanting to repeat the marriage failures of past generations. But cohabitation isn’t the way to go about it. Instead, you should publicly enter into a covenant relationship that officially blocks all the easy exits, that clearly forbids all rivals, that frees the other person to make mistakes and still be loved, and that commits to all of this for four or five decades or more. It’s not easy, but with practice and fully dependent on God’s grace, it will get better over time. 

By / Feb 10

A happy and healthy marriage is one of God’s sweetest gifts to us. And one of the best ways to nurture your marriage is through the power of prayer. In their new book, 5 Things to Pray for Your Spouse, Michael and Melissa Kruger help you to pray bold and biblical prayers for your husband or wife that will strengthen and enrich your marriage. As Nancy Guthrie says in her forward:

There is a great deal we can do for our spouses. But there is so much that only God can do, so much that only he can develop, and so much that only he can provide. So we pray. And as we pray instead of worry, pray instead of complain, pray instead of strategize, we find that God is not only doing a work in our spouse, he’s doing a work in us too.

The book makes a great wedding, anniversary, or Valentine’s Day gift. It covers 21 prayer themes, and each one includes five prayer prompts from a particular passage of Scripture. You’ll be equipped to pray deep and effective prayers for your spouse’s character and spiritual walk, for your life together as a couple, and through challenging seasons.

Below is a sample passage from the book — five prayer prompts for handling conflict in your marriage based on Ephesians 4:25–32:

Father, if we have conflict with one another let us . . . 

1. Speak truthfully.

“ Each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully.” (v. 25)

In every quarrel there is always the temptation to exaggerate the other person’s sins and downplay our own. Pray that God would allow each of you to speak truthfully in the midst of conflict. Also, ask the Lord to give you the courage to speak the truth, even if it’s difficult or awkward, knowing that it’s better to be honest than to suppress the truth and let bitterness grow.

2. Reconcile quickly.

“Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.” (v. 26)

When conflict is left unresolved sometimes it can become entrenched. As a result, some conflicts can last days, weeks, and even years. Pray that any conflict you face would be resolved as quickly as possible. Ask for grace to be the first to apologize, the first to forgive, and the first to move toward the other person.

3. Put away bitterness.

“Get rid of all bitterness.” (v. 31)

If conflict occurs over the course of many years, bitterness has a way of setting in. Spouses can begin to resent one another if they have been hurt over and over again. Pray that the Lord would prevent a root of bitterness from taking hold in your marriage. Ask the Lord to reveal in what ways you might need to apologize to your spouse for past wrongs.

4. Be kind.

“ Be kind . . .  to one another.” (v. 32)

Praise God today for his kindness to you — even though you did nothing to deserve it. Ask God to give you a heart that is tender and affectionate toward your spouse, demonstrated in simple acts of kindness toward them each day. Pray also that the Lord would show you tangible ways to do good to your spouse, even if they are not always good to you in return.

5. Forgive one another.

“Forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (v 32)

It’s hard to truly forgive those who wrong us. Sometimes we may even want to withhold forgiveness. Rejoice that Christ forgave you when you were undeserving. Pray that God would give both you and your spouse a heart that recognizes how much you’ve been forgiven so that you can, in turn, freely and readily forgive one another. 

By / Oct 6

Singleness is a long hike up a steep hill. Chances are, you’re either on the hike yourself or you know someone who is. Most single people have some stories to tell — about the breathtaking views and the arduous climb. Singleness is just that kind of hike, that kind of hill.

I’m so grateful for my 34-year ascent up that beautiful, arduous path. It was harder than I could hope to describe, and I’m left with some hardy callouses, a few long-term injuries, and a smidge of PTSD. But I look back at the climb as one of the greatest experiences God has entrusted to me.

I’ve been married for over a decade now. I didn’t hike nearly as far as some, and yet I still smell strongly of the earth and pine of that trail. Contrary to popular opinion, I didn’t arrive when I finally married; life didn’t begin when I got a ring on my finger and a baby in my womb. Yes, the path altered significantly, but the goal and the Guide remained the same.

I often think about my single years, even occasionally dream about them. In a crowd of people, I find myself drawn to the woman who also knows the ways of the hill. In fact, my own story has become inextricably woven into the stories of many single women who I’ve met over the years. I’ve learned that we each shoulder a unique load; we each view the hill through different eyes. Truth is, you could talk to a hundred different single women and get a hundred different versions of the hike.

We’re not meant to walk alone 

But all of us have agreed on one thing in particular: We’re not meant to go it alone. We’re meant for joyful relationships with Christ and his people. Our one great good is God himself, and one of the best ways we can experience him is by being in relationship with each other.

The psalmist David put it this way: 

I said to the Lord, “You are my Lord; I have nothing good besides you.” As for the holy people who are in the land, they are the noble ones. All my delight is in them (Psa. 16:2–3, emphasis mine). 

These two things can sound contrary, but in fact, they perfectly coexist: God is our only good, and his people are all our delight.

An uphill climb requires gargantuan good and strong doses of delight. This relational joy we share with each other and our God enables us to do feats otherwise impossible. And, at least in my own experience, singleness sometimes felt like an impossible feat. I knew it was part of God’s good plan for me. It was the conduit of incredible blessings in my life, but it wasn’t what I had prepared for, and it definitely wasn’t the norm in my social circles — hence the uphill feeling.

To every grief there is a gift 

The problem was actually a good one: as a single woman who loved Jesus and his church, I held a high view of marriage, sex, and childbearing. I was convinced God is the Creator and sustainer of these beautiful gifts — gifts he chooses to give most women.

I also understood that marriage would not be the answer to all of my problems. And I wasn’t duped by the notion that a man (or children) would fulfill my deepest desires. Only Christ could do that.

But when nearly every friend of mine had made it to the altar, and I was still standing on the sidelines with half a dozen bridesmaid dresses in hand, I felt somewhat disoriented — even occasionally distressed — as I figured out how to function outside the natural order of things. I deeply wanted what God wanted for me, and on those days when I didn’t want it, I asked him to help me want it. But I was a square peg in a round hole. I didn’t know how to fit into a world made for couples and families.

It wasn’t that I lacked friends. I had an ever-expanding social circle and more relationships than I knew what to do with. But for all practical purposes, I was flying solo. I paid my own bills, made my own meals, haggled with the repairman at the car shop, held down high-pressure jobs, cleaned, and calendared, and dealt with conflict all by myself. (Day after day, year after year.) Even though I was blessed with friends and family and roommates who shared in some of my life tasks, I bore a tremendous amount of responsibility alone.

One of my former roommates, Sarah, expressed my feelings perfectly: “The hardest part of being single,” she said, “is knowing I’m no one’s first priority.” Sarah was not one to view singleness as suffering, but she grieved the reality that there wasn’t one main person to do life with and for. I’ve had many single friends echo this sentiment. I felt it keenly myself. What a bizarre experience it was to spend my days in the company of so many wonderful people, to be busy and fulfilled doing work that mattered — yet all the while feel so . . . on my own.

But to every grief there is a gift, and the absence of a first-priority relationship afforded me the time and motivation to seek Christ in focused ways. While some of my married friends confessed they were struggling to perceive God’s presence, I was experiencing his nearness in almost palpable ways. He was my first love, and I felt like his beloved. As much as I didn’t like the Apostle Paul’s enthusiasm for singleness, I had to admit he was right: I was enjoying a unique and beautiful devotion to Christ (1 Cor. 7:32–35).

Where our maturity comes from 

Over the years, I came to be known as a strong, self-sufficient woman (an identity not without its own issues), but still there was this underlying tone in many people’s comments to me — an unintentional message that I was not as complete or mature as my married and mommied friends. We’ve all been guilty of spouting folly in our eagerness to help a friend, yes? (In my 20s, I practically buried people alive with my zealous advice.) But ignorant counsel is a lot like a knife in the hand of a drunkard (Prov. 26:9), and many a single woman has been slain by comments such as:

Motherhood is the most sanctifying thing in the world! I was so selfish and immature before I had kids!

Marriage is so hard. Don’t get your hopes up.

You’re so lucky to be single! I’d give anything to have a day all to myself!

As soon as you’re perfectly content, God will bring along your husband.

Maybe you should try online dating/wear more makeup/’put yourself out there more.’

Singleness is easily misunderstood. It takes time to truly listen to someone’s heart and pursue knowing them past our own limited experiences. For this reason, the single woman is often treated as a problem to solve or as a lesser citizen instead of as an example to emulate and an integral part of the community.

My single friends who are lovers of Jesus and his Word are wellsprings of wisdom and maturity. They live out their faith in secular workplaces and high-profile ministries; they know how to do life with multiple roommates and in transitory housing. They have diversified skill sets and life experiences that offer invaluable perspective to the one who has ears to hear and eyes to see.

The Psalmist understood it is the power of Scripture, not a particular status in life, that forms wisdom and maturity in us:

I have more insight than all my teachers because your decrees are my meditation. I understand more than the elders because I obey your precepts (Psa. 119:99–100).

Yes, marriage and motherhood mature us in big ways. We could even say they are the normative plan for life maturity. But when God chooses to work outside the norm, does he leave his beloved daughter stuck in a lower life cycle? Should we automatically assume the 40-year-old single woman has less wisdom than the 40-year-old wife married for two decades? Of course not. God desires all of his daughters to grow up into his fullness — and he shows them the way to complete maturity:

Consider it a great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing (James 1:2–4).

It takes joyful endurance to stay married.
It takes joyful endurance to parent children.
It takes joyful endurance to be single.

So all of us, in every season of life, have the same shot at maturity — as we remain in the Word and in relationship with each other, and we endure with joy.

Pursuing purity in a sexually-crazed culture 

Endurance in singleness can come in a variety of forms, one of which is the pursuit of purity in a sexually-crazed and confused culture. For the woman who believes sex is a sacred gift from God kept for marriage — regardless of her background and experiences — she faces the Sisyphean task of purity over years and even decades. (Although, unlike Sisyphus, her task is ultimately fruitful, not futile.)

What’s more, as intense as this war is, single women do most of their battling alone, and isolation can feel more grueling than a bout with the Grim Reaper.

For example, when I was diagnosed with cancer two years ago, I began sending out regular email updates with specific ways people could pray for our family. To a certain extent, people understand cancer; they know what’s at stake and comprehend the vocabulary. Words like invasive, aggressive, and chemotherapy clearly communicated our family’s grave reality, and as a result, we received an outpouring of love and support.

In stark contrast, I felt incredibly isolated and without a vocabulary for my sexual reality in singleness. How could I describe what it was like to daily deny the strong impulses of my flesh without sounding disturbing, inappropriate, or desperate? How could I share my struggle just enough to not feel so alone?

But again, grief is accompanied by gift, and when God called me to something as difficult (i.e., humanly impossible) as abstinence into my mid-30s, he gave me such a breathtaking experience of his presence that I enjoyed soul intimacy with him even more than I longed for physical intimacy with a man. During those years, I knew that Isaiah 62 had been written just for me:

You will no longer be called Deserted,
And your land will not be called Desolate;
Instead, you will be called My Delight Is in Her . . .
As a groom rejoices over his bride, so your God will rejoice over you (vv. 4, 5 CSB).

Community. Maturity. Sexuality. These are just a few snapshots of the Beautiful Arduous Hill. And while many wiser women have said much about this hike, I add my own small voice in celebration of the incredible women in my life who daily wield mighty weapons, endure with joy, and model what it is to love Jesus more than husband, children, and home. To them I say, “All my delight is in you.”

This article originally appeared here

By / Mar 31

Brad Hambrick shares advice for husbands who want to cultivate their marriage. 

By / Feb 4

Kay Warren shares what she would say to her younger self in the early years of marriage.

By / Oct 18

It might surprise you to learn that one of the most consistent questions I get emails about at the ERLC is whether it is ethical or biblical for pastors to officiate religious wedding ceremonies or “commitment ceremonies” for widowed or widower church members who do not want to get legally remarried for fear it would jeopardize their Social Security survivor benefit. 

The answer, I believe, is an easy “no” to this question, which I’ll explain more below. This isn’t actually an ethical dilemma inasmuch as it is a painful circumstance with monetary implications.

I cannot speak to the specifics of Social Security, as I’m not an expert in that area. It may be the case that remarriage might have no effect at all. I would advise consulting the Social Security Administration’s website on how remarriage can impact individuals’ SSI benefit.

Without getting into the weeds of what triggers particular situations, the larger ethical question, stated more bluntly, is this: If Social Security is negatively impacted by remarriage, would it be okay to get remarried only in the eyes of God and not the state so that I can protect my income? 

Two ethical horizons

There are at least two ways to answer this question. 

The first ethical horizon is to acknowledge one of the motives underneath this scenario: Deceit. While a couple may have positive intentions to rightly marry in the eyes of God, as our laws in the United States now dictate, marriages are to be brought before the jurisdiction of the state. Marriage does not belong to the state. Rather, marriage is an institution the state believes is necessary to protect the safety and well-being of its citizens. Government, for example, needs to know who to hold accountable for the well-being of children that result from a marriage. I believe Christians are to obey just laws, which I believe this is, even if some do not like the implications of it (Matt. 22:15-22; Rom. 13:1-7; 1 Pet. 2:13-17).

The second ethical horizon to discuss is how marriage is understood in this scenario, which I think is a mistaken one. I referenced above that marriage does not belong to the state; it does not come into existence or find its legitimacy just because the government says so. Marriage is a creation ordinance ordered by God, but belonging to both the creational order and sacred order (Gen. 2:18-24). Marriage exists within the architecture of creation necessary for human civilization. Marriage simply reflects the reality of male-female complementarity. 

Seen from this perspective, government necessarily has an interest in it because it serves the common good by uniting man and woman in a bond of permanence, sealed by procreative potential. At the same time, marriage is ultimately understood, not as just a male-female creational relationship, but as a shadow of the Christ-Church union (Eph. 5:22-23). Marriage is something more than an institution that exists under the canopy of the state and the common good, but it is never less than that.

Render unto Caesar

A reader might respond, “Okay, but marriage ultimately belongs to God, not the state, so I can have my spiritual marriage legitimately authorized by God without it needing authorized by the state. In this case, I am rendering marriage to its highest authority, God.”

The problem is that the “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's” statement of Matthew 22:21 does not mean that Christians can give to God what belongs to God while forgoing the legitimate areas that also belong to Caesar. It simply means that marriage has dual and legitimate overlapping interests that impact it as both a sacred and legal institution.

So, to make this clear: Pastors should not facilitate deceit, which is what is happening if a couple desires to be married in the eyes of God but refuses to submit to the laws of the state.

By / Aug 12

Even before the Supreme Court exercised raw judicial power and wrongly redefined marriage, social conservatives predicted that removing the conjugal (or complementary) basis of marriage would leave marriage open to further redefinition. 

Their warnings were met with scorn by progressives, who believed that conservative fears were unfounded. 

In yet another episode vindicating the predictions of social conservatives, the American Psychological Association has organized what it is calling a “Consensual Non-Monogamy Task Force.” The description of the task force is illuminating in itself: 

The Task Force on Consensual Non-Monogamy promotes awareness and inclusivity about consensual non-monogamy and diverse expressions of intimate relationships. These include but are not limited to: people who practice polyamory, open relationships, swinging, relationship anarchy and other types of ethical, non-monogamous relationships.

Finding love and/or sexual intimacy is a central part of most people’s life experience. However, the ability to engage in desired intimacy without social and medical stigmatization is not a liberty for all. This task force seeks to address the needs of people who practice consensual non-monogamy, including their intersecting marginalized identities.

The definition is rather straight forward and not particularly noteworthy, possibly with the exception of the inclusion of “relationship anarchy” which suggests that any type of relational arrangements is acceptable insofar as it’s consensual. But notice how the task force understands the need to study the issue from an explicitly intersectional framework. This is yet another example where the acid of intersectionality is corroding the ability to render moral judgment. Once a personal “identity” is attached to how someone understands their desires, it becomes almost impossible for secular society to find any possible way to speak condemningly. Intersectionality might as well be a synonym for relativism.

To the broader point, however, in the process of how ideas become mainstream, a mainstream guild studying an issue is surely indicative of what will likely become a more accepted sexual arrangement in the years ahead. Even though it exists only on the margins, I have even heard of a few self-identified “progressive Christians” promoting polyamory as an acceptable practice among Christians.

In the response to the news of this task force, I was interviewed by World Magazine and asked why non-monogamy or polyamory is wrong. The article is available here. With the reporter’s permission, below are my responses to the question of why polyamory is unethical, and thus, sinful.

What is wrong with polyamory from a Biblical view? 

Fundamentally, polyamory violates the principle of monogamy that is established in Genesis, and by implication, in creation itself. When God ordered the marriage covenant, He ordered it as a heterosexual, permanent, and monogamous union. Any example of polyamory or polygamy in Scripture is an aberration due to sin and a settled rejection of God’s original design. While the Bible does portray biblical characters as having multiple wives, it does so only descriptively, not prescriptively. If occurring in a marriage, polyamory is a violation of the seventh commandment (the prohibition against adultery). If occurring in a non-marital “open relationship,” it’s a form of relational adultery as well. Christians are commanded to be romantically exclusive to only one person at a time—a spouse. Expanding the boundaries of marriage will inevitably weaken it. This happens whenever we tamper with God’s design. We are not prone to see this because our society views sexual arrangements as consent-based only, but that’s the deception of sin we’re warned against in Scripture.

Why do you think culture is so taken with polyamory? 

For one, there is little within a progressive worldview that would authoritatively explain why marriage or relationships ought to be limited only to two persons. While I think monogamy is indeed a principle deducible from natural law, it is understandable that a culture that has loosened itself from creational limits, and the moral foundations offered by Christianity, would also skirt the monogamy principle as well. The culture is enamored with polyamory because the culture is obsessed with sexual novelty. What was once taboo becomes easily transgressible when there is no moral foundation to prohibit it.

What is the downfall of polyamory? Who are its victims? 

For one, it’s possible to see polyamory as a violation of the tenth commandment prohibition against covetousness. In a polyamorous relationship, it’s impossible for there not to be some sort of power dynamic that leaves one party in the relationship desiring someone else’s position or privilege. Though our culture is obsessed with “mutuality” as a sexual principle, it is simply not achievable in a polyamorous relationship. This is because God has not ordered romantic relationships in triads. Anyone who buys the mutuality myth will find themselves deceived in the long run. The victims of polyamory are those who practice it, and a culture that has no restraints against it. It may appear innocent and consensual, but biblically speaking, those grounds are not sufficient in themselves to justify polyamory, or ward against its insidious consequences.

By / Dec 5

We live in a world where issues arise in the news and culture daily. Behind every issue, however, is a person—a person made in the image of God. This new ERLC Podcast series, “How to Handle,” will tackle tough issues for today with the hopes of equipping the church on how to handle the topic, care for those struggling with sin and temptation, and care for those who have been hurt. 

Subscribe here

 iTunes | Google Play | Stitcher | Tune in

By / Aug 1

The Word of God is sharper than a two-edged sword and will often bring about division when the truth is taught. One of these areas we see this most prominently in our culture is when it comes to marriage. Jim Daly, in his talk “Reconcilable Differences: Building Bridges with Those Who Disagree About Marriage,” helps us see how we can lovingly interact with people who take stances that are opposite than ours.

Subscribe here

 iTunes | Google Play | Stitcher | Tune in

By / Jul 29

NOTE: Jennifer A. Marshall will be one of the speakers at the ERLC National Conference: “The Gospel, Homosexuality, and the Future of Marriage.” The conference is designed to equip Christians to apply the gospel on these issues with convictional kindness in their communities, their families and their churches. This event will be held at the iconic Opryland Hotel on October 27-29, 2014. To learn more go here.

Alongside The Atlantic magazine’s November 2011 cover story, “All the Single Ladies,” ran a photograph of its then 39-year-old author. In a fawn-colored silk dress and up-do, Kate Bolick contemplatively sips champagne as a bridal bouquet flies over her head. 

Like many of her never-married peers, she’s scrupulously ignoring the traditional toss. Indeed, as the age of first marriage climbs higher, more single wedding-goers are evading the bouquet, having years ago disproved the catch confirms the next bride-to-be. 

The ritual is yet another reminder of an unrealized longing for marriage. 

Bolick, however, is not just escaping the reminder — she’s turning her back to it. It’s time, her piece argues, “to acknowledge the end of ‘traditional’ marriage as society’s highest ideal.” 

But should we give up on an ideal just because it hasn’t worked out for us personally? 

Bolick writes that she aspired to wed, though she “spent her early 30s actively putting off marriage” and is now ambivalent about having children. 

The quest for independence is no doubt a product of the prevailing feminist winds that carried along today’s 30-somethings as we grew up amid “The Girl Project.” 

That’s the moniker Barbara Dafoe Whitehead has given the “you-go-girl” era ushered in by the 1972 signing of Title IX, the federal law mandating gender equity in education. 

By 1982 in the United States, women had outstripped men in the number of bachelor’s degrees earned each year; by 1986 the same was true for master’s degrees. 

While women have advanced, Bolick argues, men have declined. Outpacing their male counterparts in various education and employment indicators leaves women with fewer “marriageable” men, as they are traditionally defined: men with better education and better jobs. This “new scarcity,” she writes, “disrupts what economists call the ‘marriage market.’ ” 

If we’re concerned about the dip in the marriage market, we should be concerned about government policies that pick winners and losers. 

Official favoritism for females has taken its toll. In May 2000, the very same Atlantic ran a cover story titled “The War Against Boys.” “It’s a bad time to be a boy in America,” wrote author Christina Hoff Sommers. 

That girls languished was a myth. To the contrary, Sommers’ research showed girls outnumbering boys in student government, study abroad, honor societies, school newspapers and debate clubs. 

Even so, teachers and other observers tended “to reflexively dismiss any challenge to the myth, or any evidence pointing to the very real crisis among boys.” 

If you take “The Girl Project,” add “The War Against Boys,” and mix in some sexual revolution (“Dan Quayle Was Right,” after all, per The Atlantic’s April ’93 cover story), is it any surprise you’re left with “All the Single Ladies?” 

Our feminist forebears were frustrated by barriers to fulfilling work. Today, we’re frustrated by obstacles to lasting love. 

For too long, the dominant framework of male-female relations has been that storied battle between the sexes. Antagonism expressed in power struggle is the default perspective. 

Which brings us back to our views of marriage. Is marriage an ideal because the majority, the powerful or forces such as evolution or economics made it so? Or is marriage an ideal because it is rooted, timelessly, in the universal nature of man and woman? 

Many marriage-minded women struggle with the unexpected in-between of today’s prolonged singleness. That includes Bolick: “If I stopped seeing my present life as provisional,” she writes, “perhaps I’d be a little … happier.” 

Bolick seems to have resolved her sense of being betwixt-and-between by demoting marriage. But must we abandon our unique esteem and deep desire for marriage to find fulfillment today without it? 

We need to restore cultural respect for the marriage ideal. In the meantime, the marriage aspiration is alive and well. 

Far from giving up on marriage, the single ladies — a la Beyonce — are looking for a man to “put a ring on it.” 

This commentary was originally published by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.