When Sara and Stephen (our son) married, “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” kept playing in my head. The Beach Boys song reminds us of how times have changed.
Sara and Stephen were married eight years ago this month. That was 45 years after Brian Wilson, Tony Asher, and Mike Love wrote “Wouldn’t It Be Nice.” The Beach Boys song was featured on their 1966 album Pet Sounds. It was released as a single two months later, peaking on The Billboard Hot 100 at #8 in September.
Take two minutes and enjoy the 1966 video. Looks attractive to live in a world where we wait to be married so we can “say goodnight and stay together.”
Doesn’t look that way today. Peter Christensen, a media studies professor at Lewis & Clark College considers The Billboard Hot 100 a treasure trove for trend-watchers. It’s one of our cultural antennae. Two weeks ago I said authors like C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien are our cultural antennae. Last week I suggested film. This week, music.
Music is our antennae because it’s primal. It bypasses our rational faculties. You don’t think about it. You feel it. We see this in newborns. They’re born sensitive to the rhythms of music before language. Music reflects what we intuitively feel.
So what do we feel today? Conflicted. We see this in two trends Christensen has discovered in studying words in music. The first is the number of songs extolling “love and romantic relationships” has been declining since 1980. But the number of songs about “sex and desire” has risen dramatically since 1960. Why these conflicting trends?
For starters, the peak in the divorce rate was in 1979, right as the oldest Millennials were being born. At the same times, songs extolling “love and romantic relationships” began to decline. That’s because many Millennials and GenX were scarred by their parents’ divorces. The notion of love, romance, and marriage feels illusory.
But like most folks, Millennials and GenX still yearn for sexual intimacy. That might be why unmarried couples are more likely to cohabit than they were a decade ago. Forget marriage. Enjoy sex. That might account for the rise in songs about “sex and desire.” But today’s songs depict sex in ways which, as portrayed, are rarely attained.
We see this played out in marriages that don’t divorce. Plateaued marriages. A study of 522 couples found that marriage quality begins to decline after four years. But most couples don’t divorce. They plateau, settling for a functional put-on-a-happy-face marriage. Pay the bills, get the kids to soccer practice, and so on. But there’s a price tag. Studies indicate these couples are having a lot less sex with each other.
So what can be done? For starters, I’m rewriting my pre-marital course. Why? I guesstimate that 20 percent of couples I married are now divorced (the average for evangelicals is 38 percent). But I wonder if the number of plateaued marriages is higher.
I recognize I didn’t start with a deep enough why—why marriage? I probably depicted marriage in ways which, as portrayed, couples found difficult to attain. Now I take couples deeper into the mystical nature of marriage, how it depicts the gospel, the mystical, mind-blowing, romantic marriage to Jesus. Kathy and I are currently counseling three couples engaged to be married. We’ll see how it goes.
My sense is this course would also be beneficial for married couples. If you’re interested in knowing our why—the mystical reason for marriage, love, and romance—let us know. If enough folks are interested, Kathy and I will pull together a weekend retreat. Or we’ll facilitate a Saturday morning get-together. Let us know.
It would be nice to live in a world where we wait to be married so we can say goodnight and stay together. That’s the world the Song of Solomon depicts. Also called the Song of Songs (meaning the song for all time), it depicts love, romance, marriage, and sexual desire. But how many folks today consider the Bible to be our cultural antennae?
Not many. So I sprinkle in U2 songs. A song for our times is All I Want Is You, Bono’s love song to his wife, Ali. Recorded in 1989 for U2’s “Rattle and Hum,” it celebrates love, romance, marriage, and sexual desire. Bono and Ali celebrate 37 years of marriage this August. Kathy and I are one year ahead. We celebrate 38 years this August.
There are other words in music indicating yet another cultural trend. It has to do with college, affluence, and why the US is the unhappiest it’s ever been.
That’s grist for next week’s mill.
I would love to come to. Saturday Morning meeting about love, romance, marriage and sexual desire. With lots of music today being throat sung and full of hate , is d like to hear you and Kathy’s approach to your 38 year union. Thanks
You’re on the list we’re starting. Anyone else?
Mary and I would be very interested to participate if even remotely via Zoom or Google Hangout…!!!
Count us in for a Saturday morning retreat. Bob & I will be celebrating 39 years of love & laughter this September, and would very much enjoy talking about life, love and the why of marriage. Looking forward to seeing you & Kathy soon! ??????
Hi Mike. 35 years and counting for my wife and I. As you know, “Rocky Road” is not just a delicious ice cream flavor. But God is still good all the time. 🙂 let me know if you set something up. Grace & Peace. -bdc
Sammy and I would be interested. We also mentor engaged couples and would love to be sharpened.
Anyone else want to join us for a marriage weekend (or at least a Saturday morning)?
Maryland is a little far from Oklahoma for us to do a Saturday morning. Laura has put up with me now for 42 years come June.
Still remember Ocean City, inviting girls to cook for us and our thank you was writing new words to Beach Boys songs and singing it to them.
Always eager to learn more and it’s 41 years for Betsy and me. It’s been a gift to us and others to talk about the bigger “Why” with people. Anything we can do to get better at it we’re all in…..
My husband and I have been married for 16 years, we have 3 children, and each have a full time job. Your description of Plateaued Marriages sounds very familiar. Would love an opportunity to attend a session on marriage with you and your wife!