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Ethics & Religion
Column #2,074
May 11, 2021
Reaching Age 80
By Mike McManus

George Will, the Washington Post columnist, and I have just turned aged 80. However, as Mark Twain put it, "Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter."

When we were born in 1941, life expectancy at birth was 64.8 years. Today it's 77.8. Will notes that when we were born 63% of homes did not have a telephone and less than half the population age 25 or older had a high school diploma while 90% have one today.

I have now outlived my father by 14 years, and my mother by 7 years. They both smoked and drank - which I do not.

I feel blessed by the Lord, with three sons in their 50s, still married to their original wives - who are parents of our nine beloved grandchildren.

My wife, Harriet, and I start our day reading 10-20 verses of Scripture and a daily commentary, "Encounter with God," published by Scripture Union (800 621-5267). In April we read much of Joshua and are now reading Paul's letter to the Ephesians. It is our way to begin each day with the Lord and with prayers for those in need and each other.

George Will notes that to have lived to age 80 is to have lived through almost a third of our nation's life. He comments: "To live a long life braided with the life of a nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to an imperishable proposition is simply delightful."

That is correct. We are blessed indeed.

Like George Will, I am a newspaper columnist. I began my career as a newspaper reporter, and then was a correspondent for TIME in Argentina and then Washington. In six weeks, I will have completed 40 years of writing this column I call "Ethics & Religion." I am also author of books on marriage. What is distressing is that that half of America's marriages have failed since the 1970s. Also, the number of marriages has fallen from 2.5 million in 1990 to only 2.24 million in 2017, though America's population grew by 47 million in just 19 years.

What matters most is not how many years we live, but how fruitfully we do so. For many decades, my wife and I worked with pastors and priests in 230 cities to create what we called "Community Marriage Policies." In 10,000 churches we trained couples in healthy marriages to mentor couples who were preparing for marriage, or who wanted to enrich their marriage - or save it from divorce.

In my reporting, I interviewed a pastor in Florida who asked his congregation if there were couples whose marriages were once in crisis, but who had healed them. He found seven such couples and trained them to walk alongside couples with similar problems. Over five years, those couples helped 40 couples in crisis and saved 38 of them! We incorporated that model into our training.

Another church found a way to save stepfamilies, couples who married after a previous failed marriage. Stepfamilies normally divorce at a 70% rate. But if a church creates a Stepfamily Support Group, 80% of these marriages can succeed, as couples learn from each other how to be successful parents and partners.

An independent group studied scores of our cities with Community Marriage Policies and reported that the city/county divorce rate fell by an average of 17.5% - enough to save perhaps 200,000 marriages from divorce.

The book I wrote which sparked the creation of Community Marriage Policies is called Marriage Savers: Helping Your Friends and Family Avoid Divorce. It sold well.

However, in 2008 I wrote a book to discourage cohabitation, which has diverted millions from marrying. Unfortunately, that book, Living Together: Myths, Risks & Answers - sold poorly - and therefore had no impact.

At present about 9 million couples are living together, only a handful of whom marry. And those who do tie the knot have high divorce rates.

I have recently written a book consciously designed to reverse these trends which is entitled How To Save Marriages.

It offers a detailed and documented strategy that any church can use to restore marriage in America. It is based on decades of experience and proven strategies.

"Getting old is like climbing a mountain; you get a little out of breath, but the view is much better!" as Ingrid Bergman noted.

Abraham Lincoln was more profound: "In the end, it is not the years in your life that count. It is the life in your years."

Copyright (c)2021 Michael J. McManus, a syndicated columnist and past president of Marriage Savers. To read past columns, go to Hit Search for any topic.


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