The winning Yes vote on same-sex marriage, and the subsequent passing of the legislation, means relief for so many couples, but possibly discomfort for others—the people who voted No. But people whom, for whatever reason, disapprove of gay marriage, are missing a larger point: the institution of marriage is making a comeback, and that’s good for everyone.
This Yes vote, and the law and changes that have resulted from it, are going to inject much needed energy into marriage as a societal institution. The rate of marriages, in Australia and elsewhere, has been on a decline for over two decades, while divorce rates are on the rise—over one out of three marriages ends in divorce.
Why the institution of marriage is in need of help
People are waiting longer to get married now than they did in earlier generations. The average age for men to marry is 34, and for women, 29. A lot of people—3/4 of Australians—live together before they get married. None of these trends are either good or bad, but they do mean that our society is changing, in a direction of instability.
People don’t stay together, they wait longer to start families (if it all), and there’s more than enough financial pressure on spouses to strain marriages even further. How many 20-somethings that you know have any real desire to settle down? Or even understand the point of getting married? It’s been somehow devalued, has gotten dusty.
So a yes vote means a whole new group of people, many of them young, can now participate in this out-dated system that has kept them out since its beginning. Makes marriage sound really good, right? Same-sex couples may save the institution.
Why marriage is still important—and what the Yes vote may do for it
What makes marriage different from just living together for fun or economics is that it’s a choice two people make that affects many other people. Whether your church, family, or friends supports your choice is up to them, but when more people choose marriage, our society becomes more grounded and our families are more stable—regardless of what they look like. When you’re married, you are far less likely to toss out your relationship after a bad fight, because you put the relationship ahead of your own passing desires and emotions. You put in more work, and reap greater rewards.
As Australians, we agree that marriage has an important place in our society. It’s important enough that people have fought for centuries for the right to marry the person they choose. In the recent weeks ahead of the vote, we showed up in the millions to support each other and have our say, matching participation rates of our compulsory elections. We voted yes for equality, and yes for the importance of marriage.
One politician who did show some true feeling around the postal survey results is Labor Senator Penny Wong, who sobbed with relief on national television—she was relieved her country voted for equality and fairness. “Thank you Australia,” she said.
The issue of same-sex marriage brought energy to our nation that’s been missing for some time. Respect for politicians is at a rock bottom low, religion is not adding much in the way of comfort, and other issues—like first tribal reparation, for instance—continue to evade resolution.
Everywhere something wants to divide people, keep us seeing the differences in each other and not our basic, common humanity. We all want to be loved and understood, and the Yes vote is a big step in that direction. So take some heart in our decision as Australians to open the institution of marriage and bring so many more people together. Who knows where this new energy will take us.
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Clinton Power is a relationship counsellor and Gestalt therapist with over a decade of experience helping individuals and couples move out of relationship pain and create great relationships. Get Clinton’s FREE report: 10 Tips for Moving Out of Relationship Pain, by clicking the button below.