Marriage-Oriented Magazines Take on `Divorce Culture': Pushing Matrimony an Uphill Fight

Article excerpt

Millions of Promise Keepers are pledging to work harder at it.

"Covenant marriage" couples in Louisiana are promising to work longer at it.

With all the high-profile attention to marriage, could a magazine devoted to it be far behind?

Married, a glossy quarterly magazine, debuted recently as a project of the Phoenix-based National Association of Marriage Enhancement (NAME).

It joins at least two other marriage-minded magazines. Christianity Today has published Marriage Partnership since the early 1980s, and International Marriage Encounter offers Marriage: The Celebration of Couples.

Married's timing may be providential, since divorce-weary Americans finally may be ready to hear how to find and keep good marriages, says Editor Leo Godzich, a former newspaperman who is now associate pastor at Phoenix First Assembly of God church.

"We just felt a need for a vehicle that would call people back to emphasizing their marriages," Mr. Godzich says. "Most people spend more time planning their wedding than they do their marriage."

But such a message runs counter to the "divorce culture" and its widespread acceptance of easy divorce, unmarried couples living together and children born out of wedlock, notes Cristopher Rapp of the Center for the Study of Popular Culture in Los Angeles.

Marriage has become "this temporary thing that is supposed to last as long as it is fulfilling to you and at any time it can be called off," Mr. Rapp says. Changing this attitude will not be easy, he adds.

Marriage is becoming a more fashionable subject, agrees Mike McManus, leader of Marriage Savers Institute in Bethesda.

But promoting marriage remains an uphill battle. Even though statistics show that cohabiting before marriage leads to divorce 85 percent of the time, twice as many people live together as marry, he says, citing new Census Bureau figures.

Mr. Godzich says a 1996 trip to a newsstand with all its magazines inspired Married.

"I saw Us and People and Self and Divorce, but I saw nothing that said `Marriage.' And I thought wouldn't it be great to have a magazine . . . that would give people something to sink their teeth into - practical tips and deep truths that they could build their marriages on," he says.

Mr. Godzich brought his idea to NAME, a new trade association for marriage ministries. "And everyone was in unanimous agreement that if I wanted to bite off that big a bite, let's see if we could chew it," the pastor and editor said.

Married's first issue went to 130,000 persons, most of whom were on the ministries' mailing lists, he says. Now the magazine has about 80,000 subscribers, many of whom paid the $17. …