There is a growing marriage gap between the middle class and many of those who live in our poorest areas. Basically, the middle class still aspire to marry and get married. In the poorest areas the aspiration to marry is still there – to an extent – but a growing number of people think it’s an unrealistic aspiration.
This article by Eve Tushnet, a woman who has spent ten years doing counselling work at a pro-life crisis pregnancy agency, offers some insight into why this is so.
One reason is the widespread belief that you must be financially secure before you marry. Another is that many of the available men appear to their female counterparts to be unmarriageable or untrustworthy or both.
A further reason is that many of the women are raising a child alone and this automatically lowers their appeal in the eyes of many men who would prefer an unattached woman (unattached from a previous child that is) who is completely free to start a new family with them. This isn’t terribly worthy, but it’s a fact.
In any case, Tushnet in her years of counselling has come to the conclusion that the best way to help the women who come to her is to make marriage seem more realistic and attainable, or failing that, to connect them to other networks of help and support.
She writes: “When I started counseling I saw our work as serving the mother-child dyad. I wanted to help the woman and save her unborn baby. Over time I began to see more and more the frayed communal fabric in which these women and children are wrapped.
"I began to appreciate the connections they lacked—to their own fathers, to their children’s fathers, to happily married couples who could serve as models, to churches where they were nurtured and shown God’s love. Now I see my job primarily as helping women find people in their own communities who can give them support, advice, and most of all the hope that married love is possible.”
She is writing in an American context, but can there be any doubt that much of what she says applies equally to parts of Ireland? In essence, Tushnet, and others like her, are seeking ways to put Humpty Dumpty back together again.
Rebuilding communities and a culture of marriage after they have been smashed to pieces is hard work.