The Sunday Times: Marshmallow or marriage? The greatest test of a human being


It’s tempting to think of marriage as old-fashioned. Why not just live with someone and be done with it? Yet it survives. All kinds of practical benefits seem associated with being married, writes Alain de Botton

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Tie the knot to boost children’s mental health, couples told


New research by Marriage Foundation shows that marriage significantly improves the self-esteem of teenagers and improves their life chances. Children with parents in a stable long-term cohabiting relationship did not see any benefit.

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Speeches and Statements made at the Launch of the Marriage Foundation

Sir Paul Coleridge:

(Watch the video.)

The most important single feature in the healthy and happy development of children is the stable and healthy relationship of the parents. Despite the glossy magazine image of a so-called happy marriage, it does not fall from the sky ready made onto the beautiful people in white linen suits. No, it is hewn out of the rock of human stubbornness and selfishness, with cold chisels and day by day, over the lifetime of the relationship. It involves endless hard work, compromise, forgiveness and love. It is often held together with string and rusty nails but it is, in the end, beautiful and, like everything which is really worthwhile, it is worth the investment. And the longer it endures the better and easier it gets. Let us reinforce and promote that message for our children’s sake by backing this project.  (The full text of Sir Paul's remarks can be found here.)

Lord Sacks, the Chief Rabbi:

(Watch the video.)

“It is marriage that makes the greatest difference to the prospects, the life chances of our children”


“The breakdown of marriage carries with it not just a financial cost, not just a social cost, but a human and psychological cost. The greatest way of endowing our children with happiness is to give them the opportunity to form a stable and loving relationship with the two people who brought them into being.”


“Anyone who thinks that cohabitation without marriage can have the same effect is, I am afraid, wrong. Some do but most do not and I don’t think we should take that risk with our children who never asked to be born, but having been brought into this world deserve us to make that act of commitment to be there for them as they are growing up.”

“I wish every blessing to the Marriage Foundation. Its success will send blessing to many many lives.”


Baroness Butler-Sloss:

“May I start by congratulating Paul for a wonderful vision, aspiration, for how marriage might be improved.”


“The important thing, I think, about marriage is that it is capable of being the most stable of all relationships.”


“The important thing about marriage is it is not a religious ceremony . . . . It is important that this marriage foundation is not being based on any sort of religious basis.”


“Marriage is capable of being the most stable of all relationships but you have to work at it. And there are two ways, it seems to me, that the Marriage Foundation can in particular help: one is to teach people who are not yet married its benefits, the stability; and two, both for those who are about to get married and those who are married but going through a difficult time, that you’ve got to work at it.”

Sir Roger Toulson:

“The Foundation believes there is no inevitability. It can change. For that reason I am delighted to support it.”

Baroness Deech, Chair, Bar Standards Board:

"Marriage is the strongest bond ever invented to link together two people and two families, for now and for posterity - intimately, legally, politically, religiously, civilly and publicly. Not only is it the safest environment for children, it provides a link to history, to previous generations and generations yet to come.

Since this is so incontrovertible, why have news reports this week indicated that Paul is being 'brave' (as Sir Humphrey would have put it) in tackling this topic? That is because it has become a no-go area. We live in a world where we are encouraged to take care of our own and our children's health: we are constantly admonished to take exercise, eat healthily, stop smoking, combat global warming, control our drinking habits. But when it comes to the one issue that does more harm to the next generation than any of these - the departure of the father of the family - there is a conspiracy of silence. 

Politicians fear to address it; politically correct academic family lawyers shy away from it. No one knows this better than a judge who has spent decades as a barrister and adjudicator resolving marriage breakdown problems that, fortunately, most of us have never had to address - or at least not more than once or twice. We should all be grateful to Paul and wish him and the Marriage Foundation a long, stable and fruitful existence."

Dr John Sentamu, Archbishop of York:

I am sorry not to join you at the launch of the Marriage Foundation because of the train strike. You’re on the right track though! I welcome and fully support your efforts to promote marriage in public life. I believe we should advocate marriage as the gold standard, especially where children are involved. Please be assured of my prayers for your work in championing long-standing relationships within marriage.

Rachel Gardner of the Romance Academy:

Watch the video of Rachel Gardner speaking at the launch. Also see the video of slam poet Harry Baker's "Dino Love".

Rachel's text:

"In school last week, 15 year old Sasha told me that having sex with different boys to deaden the pain of her Dad leaving was cheaper than taking paracetamol.

Teenage Dad Tom wants to be everything to his son that his Dad never was to him. At 17, Tom is already being a great Father, but I worry that without the clear model in his life of what a functioning family looks like, he will repeat his Dad’s mistakes and walk away when things get too tough.

For Sasha and Tom, their family break-up is a powerful story that is already shaping their lives, and their approach to relationships.

Contemporary culture is also telling teens a powerful story about relationships, and it’s the idea that faithfulness in relationships is an illusion: you’re just as likely to find a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow as you are to find someone who will stick with you for the whole night let along for life! But even with all this going on, are we right to suppose that young people don’t want to hear about how to sustain strong relationships?

Sasha and her friends want to get married, yet they’re unsure if that will be a reality forthem. Why? Have we always demonstrated enough what it takes to sustain a good relationship or have we brought them up to be consumers of stuff, including relationships?

We seem to be witnessing a generation of young people whose inherited story about love is paved with the inevitability of relationship breakdown. It has always been a fact of life that some relationships break up, but how did we get to the point where we help teens manage the damage, without equipping them with the robust tools to help them build strong relationships in the first place? I’m not talking about teaching kids about Hollywood Romance, but that they have the right to pursue stable, loving and long-term relationships. That an argument doesn’t need to mean the end. That having a child is a better reason to stay together than because you share a phone contract.

Where young people feel under emotional duress from broken families or relationships, accessing places and people where they can lay down the weapons of defence and attack and simply be is a line life. This is why I set up the Romance Academy; a charity that helps young people access different kinds of role models and stories about relationships. In our projects, young people explore the foundations for strong relationships and grow in the confidence and skills needed to one day make this a reality for themselves. Whatever their background, we find that the serious commitment of marriage is a conversation many young people want to have. And we are confident that we can have them in positive, non-judgemental ways.

Not all young people want to get married. But as an educator, I am keen that we make messages about healthy marriage available to young people to debate and discuss. It seems to me a tragedy that children with no role models of strong relationships in their lives don’t have the opportunity to hear the positive real stories of love that lasts to help them make truly informed choices. We are passionate about young people being released into relationships in the future where they are able to sustain intimacy and commitment and build families that stick together because they have the relational muscle and resilience to do so.

I would like to encourage you to support Sir Paul in setting up the Marriage Foundation because I believe that the future of our society depends on people being brought into the world in an environment that enables them to flourish. The evidence tells us that children born into families committed to sticking together are more likely to achieve their potential.

We want better opportunities for children so they can be the best version of themselves for their and our collective benefit."