Some see marriage as something they can enter into, and out of, if it becomes unrewarding or complicating to their lives. Others see it as unnecessary to complete their lives. But deep down, most people wish they could have a lifelong commitment with a partner. In the midst of so many external challenges and the nonchalant attitude toward marriage breakups, we are forgetting the benefits marriage can bring to our personal lives and losing the determination and skills to keep our marriages healthy and strong.

Marriage is in crisis. A new marriage index released in 2009 reported that in 1970 nearly 80 percent of all adult Americans were married; that number has since dropped to 57 percent. In the same report, 40 percent of all American children were found to be born out of wedlock, with 70 percent of babies in African-American families born without a married mother and father.

Who cares? We all should because marriage is the best way to overcome poverty, and it is the best environment in which to raise children. Research overwhelmingly shows that lack of marriage or divorce impoverishes women and children. Boys raised without the benefit of a father are twice as likely to spend time in prison by age 32 as those who were raised in a married home headed by their own mother and father.

Teenage girls who are raised by their own father are much more likely to resist the advances of boys and young men who do not have their best interest at heart. In fact, 35 percent of adolescent girls whose father left before the age of six became pregnant, compared to just 5 percent of girls who were raised by their mothers and fathers.

Research also shows that married folks live longer, enjoy better health, greater personal happiness, more well-adjusted children, and greater financial stability.

We need to once again recognize the personal, social and cultural value of marriage. In 2008, economists reported that U.S. taxpayers laid out more than $112 billion a year for divorce and unwed childbearing. Americans, regardless of their color, political persuasion or economic status, need to put on their activist hats and get to work to re-build a culture that values traditional marriage and learn again — as many from former generations did — how to become responsible and thriving married people.

There are stresses and challenges in the midst of raising children, maintaining jobs and paying bills. But throughout history there are countless instances of profound endurance where couples commit to work through their issues, learn about themselves and make changes to become the person they need to be. At the end of every conflict, there is always comfort, companionship and greater financial stability. There is no better way to enter into old age than with the person with whom you have weathered life’s storms — the one who has been a witness to your life’s journey.

We need to stop thinking of marriage as a consumer relationship where we can get a refund or exchange because there is no perfect product. When we view marriage as a covenant relationship between a man and a woman until death, the chances are enormously higher for personal growth, better health, greater happiness, a longer life, and greater well-being for our children.

— Linda Brown, marketing director