Different ways in which people are attracted to one another today
There are numerous ways to describe how people are described to one another in society today. They include:
- Heterosexual 3. Bisexual
Opposite gender/sex Either/both
- Homosexual 4. Pansexual
Same sex Whatever they want at that
2 kinds of relationships
No longer are people ‘bound’ to one relationship for life.
Some people decide not to commit to marriage, whilst others practice monogamy (one - one / exclusive relationship)
Legal age of consent for relationships
The age of consent for both heterosexual and homosexual relationships is 16
By 2015 All countries in the UK have legalised same sex marriage apart from Northern Ireland which continues to offer civil partnerships to same sex partners. This enables same sex partners to have the same rights as marriage and enjoy a legal union. Civil partnership was legalised in the UK in 2004. Some people believe that Northern Ireland should also allow same sex marriage as this provides equality and stops discrimination towards homosexuals. Others believe that marriage should not be redefined to include same sex partners.
Many Christians believe that God should decide what relationship choices are right or wrong. In Genesis Adam and Eve are described as the first humans to enjoy a physical relationship and some believe that from the start of the human race God has it made it clear that sexual relationships should take place in a marriage between a woman and a man. 1 Corinthians 6:9 states that people who practice homosexuality will not inherit God’s Kingdom and Romans 1 refers to the practice as ‘unnatural’.
Many Christian denominations condemn the practice of homosexuality whilst trying to show compassion towards individuals who have homosexual feelings. The Catholic Church state homosexual people should live in ‘chastity’ (refrain from having a sexual relationship) in order to obey God. The Presbyterian Church have explained various reasons why people might have feelings towards persons of the same sex and explain that they may need help in working through these issues. The Church of Ireland similarly condemns the practice of homosexuality.
Other Christian viewpoints
Some Christians believe that homosexuality is a relationship choice that Christian individuals are free to make. One viewpoint is that God is a God of love and he does not reject people regardless of their sexuality. Others argue that it is unrealistic to ask people to be single forever and not experience the joy of a loving relationship. Some people also question the meaning of passages which seem to condemn homosexuality. During the time of the Roman Empire homosexuality was often in a promiscuous form and closely associated with pedophilia. Today many homosexual people are seeking a loving and committed relationship and do not believe that the Bible condemns this. Many people are calling for marriage to be redefined in Northern Ireland as they believe it to be a civil rights and equality issue.
(1/3) - points ‘for’
From the age of 16 heterosexual couples have the legal choice to enter into a sexual relationship. Many people are influenced in their opinions regarding pre-marital sex by the media. Movies, magazines, music and tv-shows all emphasise a strong message that sex outside of marriage is a normal occurrence. Reasons why people will choose to enter into a sexual relationship include:
- The desire to make their partner feel loved
- To experiment living with and having a sexual relationship with someone before they marry them
- A strong sexual desire and the wish to carry this out in consensual relationships
- To gain acceptance with another person or approval from others
(2/3) - points ‘against’
Many Christians however believe that marriage is a ‘sacred act’ which should be kept for marriage. They believe it is important to keep yourself ‘pure’ for your marriage partner and not to give yourself physically to other people. Christians believe that the act of sex consummates your relationship with your spouse and joins you together with them. Genesis 2:24 states that a man ‘unites with his wife and they become one’. Again Christians believe that God has designed the gift of sex to be enjoyed within the context of marriage. Physical and emotional reasons why Christians believe that sex should be kept for marriage include:
- Prevents unwanted pregnancy outside of marriage
- Lessons the risk of sexually transmitted diseases
- Prevents emotional hurt if the relationship ends where they can feel devalued and used.
(3/3) - Church views
All of the main Churches are in agreement that sex should be kept for marriage. The Presbyterian church believe that ‘sex is to be enjoyed in the commitment of marriage’. The Church of Ireland believe that ‘it is a wonderful gift within the context of marriage’. The Catholic Church emphasise that sex outside of marriage is greatly contrary to human dignity and the purpose of sexual relationships.
Why some people are single
Some people in all age categories can find themselves single and not in a sexual relationship. Sometimes this is through their own choice and sometimes it is due to their circumstances. For example a person may be looking for a relationship but they haven’t found a person they want to spend their lives with yet. Some people may have been married before and when their partner dies they may not desire to be in another relationship. Alternatively some marriages fail and a person may not want to enter into a relationship with another person. For other people there may be religious reasons why they choose to be single. For example nuns, monks and Priests dedicate their lives to to the Church. In the Roman Catholic Church Priests are not allowed to get married. This has led to great debate in this tradition as to whether they should be allowed a marital relationship or not.
Reasons why Priests shouldn’t be allowed to marry
- They can devote their lives to God without the distraction of family life
- God can provide deeper love and meaning in their lives
- They do not have the time to raise their own family while being a leader to their congregation.
Reasons why Priests should be allowed to marry
- There has been a fall in the numbers of men who want to become Priests. If they were allowed to marry then more would take up the profession.
- If they were married they would be able to give first hand experience in their sermons and advice to congregants.
- Protestant ministers have families and many claim that they can balance both roles.
- Marriages can take place in either a registry office, licensed building or a Church. If a wedding takes place outside of a Church it is referred to as a civil marriage.
- The Roman Catholic Church do not recognise marriages outside of the Church.
- Some people choose not to get married as they think a certificate does not prove their commitment.
- For people who choose to get married the wedding ceremony marks the start of their commitment.
Reasons why people marry
Most people at some stage of their lives will choose to marry another person. For some people they marry because they want to enjoy the company of having another person who is devoted to them. For others they want to show their commitment to the person that they love. Another reason for marriage is to provide a stable family in which to have children. Christians may also choose to get married because they don’t believe in sex before marriage and so to have a sexual relationship they may choose to get married sooner. There are also financial benefits of getting married. If both parties are working they can join their wages together to pay bills. Some women would admit they have always dreamed of their wedding day and this is another reason for them to choose to get married. Some couples may face pressure from their parents not to live together before marriage and so they may choose to get married. Others may have faced a difficult childhood in their own family and they may see a marriage commitment as providing more stability for them.
Problems marriages face
It is clear from the divorce statistics that marriages face difficulties. Half of marriages in the UK end in divorce with 1 in 3 marriages ending in divorce within Northern Ireland. There are a range of reasons why marriages end. Some of the reasons include:
- Money Problems
- Family pressures such as taking care of elderly parents or a sick family member
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- False expectations for the marriage in which the reality turns out to be different than what they thought it was going to be like.
- Child abuse - in some cases a parent could actually abuse one of their own children
- Pressures of raising children
Problems marriages face
- Infertility - One or both parents may be incapable of having children
- Lack of communication - feelings, thoughts, plans and desires need to be communicated regularly to keep a healthy marriage. If this is not happening it can lead to break down.
- Health problems - despite vows said during the ceremony, if your spouse has serious health problems it can be emotionally draining to stay in the marriage
- Domestic violence - either partner may be guilty of physical abuse against their spouse
- Sexual problems - the couple may not feel sexually compatible
- Homosexuality - one partner may disclose during the marriage that they have feelings towards the same sex
- Depression - A married person can also struggle with depression and both parties may find it difficult to build a positive marriage with this problem
- Mixed marriages or inter church marriages - there can be different beliefs in how marriage should work or how children should be raised. If the couple have beliefs that clash it can add pressure to their marriage.
- Adultery - Marriages can end because a wife or husband has been unfaithful to their partner.
Often a combination of problems can lead to a divorce.
Solutions for troubled marriages
Not all marriages that face problems end in divorce. Others can work through their problems and have a lasting and successful marriage. There are three main pieces of advice that counsellors will encourage married couples to do:
- Sort out problems as they arise. If this doesn’t happen problems will build up and it is harder to sort out a range of problems than deal with each one as it arises.
- To work at the relationship. All humans make mistakes and couples need to accept that to make marriage last you need to work at it. This attitude enables couples to work through their problems and accept that their partner is not perfect.
- Marriage counselling can help couples to see each other’s point of view and this can help to save a troubled marriage.
Two examples of organisations that provide relationship counselling are Relate and Accord.
The Church of Ireland recognise that marriages can run into problems and have stated, “the couple may prefer to seek help from someone who has a Church background.”
Many couples do not reconcile their differences and one or both partners will apply for a divorce. Divorce can be granted if adultery has occurred with one spouse breaking their marital vows by entering into another relationship. May also be granted if one spouse has abandoned their partner for a period lasting 2 years. In addition if both parties have lived apart for 2 year and both consent to the divorce then it will be granted. If something has occurred that the couple have lived apart for 5 years, then even if the other party doesn’t consent then the divorce may be granted. It should be noted that the process of divorce can take some considerable time. The reason for divorce can also affect how long the process will take.
Effects of divorce
Children of divorced parents can be confused over where their loyalty lies.
Some children will grieve in a similar way to a bereavement because they are sad they will not live together with both parents again.
Some children’s behaviour may also be effected.
Teenagers can start to mis-behave or have an eating disorder with younger children wetting the bed etc.
The parents who are getting divorced can also be badly affected by the process. Both parties can fear what their future holds, have money concerns, suffer from loneliness, suffer from stress, feel unsupported from in-laws, feel to blame for the marriage having broken down or suffer from depression.
Divorce can be an awkward process for friends of those divorced. They may be forced to take sides, become part of arguments, or face losing either party as a friend when separation has occurred.
Biblical teaching on divorce
- Ideally divorce should not take place. God’s plan was for marriage to be life long. Matthew 19:6 ‘let man not separate’.
- God hates divorce as he reveals in Malachi 2:16 ‘I hate divorce’. This is because He knows the hurt and effects that divorce will cause.
Christian thoughts on Re-marriage
Many Christians believe that re-marriage should not happen. Again referring to Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5:31-32 they would argue that if you marry someone whilst your original spouse is still alive then you are committing adultery. Some Christians argue that you should be able to remarry if you are not at fault for the marriage breaking down. If your spouse has left you or had an affair they would believe that they are now free from that relationship and may get remarried after divorce. Some divorces take place when the couple are young and so they argue that it is unrealistic to expect people to live the rest of their lives alone. It can be argued that whilst re-marriage is not ideal that God can bestow grace to believers and work through their new relationship.
Church viewpoints on divorce
Most Protestant Churches teach that divorce should be a last resort and attempts should be made for reconciliation. It is believed that honoring your marriage is a way to show obedience to God. The Catholic Church however forbid divorce and remarriage. As marriage is a sacrament it cannot be dissolved or ended. This means that marriage is a way of God showing His grace to you and that cannot be taken away. The Catholic Church believe you are committing adultery by entering into a romantic relationship with someone who is not your spouse.