One simple note stood out to me in Timothy Keller's The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God, which analyzes attitudinal shifts toward marriage in culture: Marrying was once considered a masculine thing for a man to do.
Getting married expressed discipline, commitment, and self-sacrifice on the part of the man. Such virtues are still considered intrinsic to many other masculine choices, such as going to war or participating in sports. Of course the major difference between being a soldier or an athlete and being a husband is the question of sexual integrity. And that just isn't a thing in American culture.
To the Christian, it is common to think of marriage as promoting the moral good both in ourselves as individuals and in our society at large. Nevertheless, it is difficult not to imbibe cultural norms which represent marriage—indeed any form of a monogamous, committed relationship—as feminizing, even shameful. This view is problematic for reasons too many to enumerate, but one I find particularly insidious is that such a view automatically puts all women asking for any level of commitment in the functional position of the shrew. That is to say, marriage is redefined as a social force that denies a man his identity and dignity and that further makes the woman the culprit.
A few years ago, I remember absolutely gritting my teeth at a car commercial that depicted a man driving in his fast car, finally divesting himself of the various nagging requests of his wife. (My favorite was her request that he put the toilet seat down.) In his cool, fast car he could finally be free of the feminizing force of marriage and truly be a man!
Interestingly, a parallel trend has occurred in the very language we use to talk about marriage. Take, for example, the word “virtue,” which derives from the Latin word “vir,” meaning “man,” and “virtus,” meaning “manliness.” In fact, in the whole canon of Classical Latin literature the word virtus was applied to a woman only once, who happened to be a conquering warrior-queen. Now virtue has the exclusively feminine connotation of a woman’s sexual purity. The word has not only been feminized, but also sexualized in the pattern that duplicates the shift in our cultural view of marriage as well. A similar trend can be followed on the French-derived word “courtesy,” which was originally a descriptor applied to the most adept of gentlemen in the royal court who abided by the intricacies of the rules of hospitality and nobility. Proper courtesy was as necessary for the social success of the titled gentleman as hunting, jousting, and waging war. Though less pronounced in its gender shift than “virtue,” this word too has an increasingly feminine connotation in modern usage.
Unsurprisingly, worldly culture attacks marriage because it protects our sexual integrity and “all other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body” (1 Corinthians 6:18). God loves marriage because it is a divine picture of His love for us; God loves families because children are a direct blessing from His prodigious creative gift. To sissify both the institution of marriage and the very language we use to describe it is extremely clever, really. If you add to that the pop-culture belief that the institution of marriage is anti-feminist and then further capitalize upon its opposition to the self-gratifying, oversexed paradigm that is American Modern Culture, you really put the nail in the coffin. But in the end, the truth of God reveals itself as Truth Universal, as our souls struggle with the sorrow of serving the self. Marriage quickly exposes the greatest conflict of all humanity with God: to serve the ego or to serve Him.