Second, the preparation must take people through what we call "stages of intimacy" or perhaps better "aspects of intimacy". You have courtship and then you have the honeymoon period. That is all very well but then you have conflict brought about by competition. Married people are just like other human beings: as they occupy the same space, they each want to get their share of the space and their share of the resources. Newly-weds should know that this will happen, that after courtship and perhaps even during the honeymoon, there will be competition for scarce resources even within the marriage (after all, it is the basic unit of society). As there will sometimes be conflict, and they should learn how to deal with these issues, rather than allow the marriage to hit the rocks. And they should know too that this process can lead to co-operation, to that unity of mind and being that Augustine called the sacramental bond and Hegel the mystical union. I do hope that with the help of psychologists, and of those, such as the clergy, who have so much experience in these matters, that sound preparation can be made available not only for people who get married in church but most importantly for those entering into civil marriage.
Third, parenting. There is an increased consciousness of the importance of parenting, but the word is to some extent a misnomer. There is really no such thing as parenting: there is mothering and fathering, because mothers look after their children differently from fathers. Fathers even play with their children differently. The difference is obvious to anyone who has brought up children and is confirmed by research. It is vital from a developmental point of view that both parents are able to relate to their children adequately. The campaigns (extremism notwithstanding) to make sure that fathers are present for their children are very important as they have to do with a child's sense of identity, with developing good all-round relationships and with proper nurture. I salute single parents who bring up their children alone and do so as well as they can. Nevertheless, I think they would be the first to say that it takes two to bring up a child. They know best of all, in fact. Support should not be withdrawn from the charity Home-Start and other agencies that are involved in showing people how to be mothers and fathers.
What about prenuptial agreements? In the press, prenuptials are taken to mean agreements about money in the event of divorce. In the US, there are experiments to allow couples to undertake what they call "covenant marriage". At the beginning of a marriage, the couple agree about what will happen if it runs into difficulties so there may be a requirement to undertake counselling, for example, but also to specify the conditions under which there may be divorce. If we adopted such covenants we would move from a situation where there is in effect no-fault divorce without consent to couples agreeing between themselves what would be sufficient reason for a divorce — desertion, adultery, cruelty and so on. We ought to think about how we can encourage people to take marriage as a step that is solemn and serious, and more difficult to bring to an end than it currently is in our culture.
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