States have people read a manual and take a test before they can operate a vehicle. Navigating a marriage can require more skill than driving, so it makes some sense that in Florida right now, two lawmakers are proposing bills that would have citizens read a handbook before tying the knot. No test is required afterward, other than the marriage itself. House Bill 1163 and Senate Bill 1586 would have people who are applying for marriage licenses read a handbook that addresses communication, conflict resolution, domestic violence, parenting and financial management. It would also list where to seek help with marriage, if help is needed when the honeymoon is over or if marriage-required selflessness ends. After marriage applicants read it, they would check a box online or sign a paper in person saying they did.
It’s something that’s always astonished me. You need a license to drive a car, own a business, go hunting and/or fishing, etc., ad infinitum, ad nauseum…but virtually anyone can get a marriage license and (perhaps even worse) bring children into the world. Being married is challenge enough; parenthood, besides being the most difficult (and rewarding) job known to mankind, is something not to be undertaken lightly. Yet almost every parent undertakes the journey of raising children with no training or education and even less support. If that isn’t a “WTF???” moment, then I’m not certain what would be.
It’s no wonder so many children graduate into adulthood thoroughly and completed messed up; they were raised by parents who didn’t have a freakin’ clue. They may have meant well, but they spent 18 years (or more) doing the moral equivalent of flying an airplane as they were building it. Who teaches us how to be married? And if we don’t know how to be married, how in the world are we supposed to raise children?
The problem, of course, is how do (or should) we go about addressing this problem? It doesn’t take a Ph.D. to determine the costs that inadequate parenting skills can have on society. Our prisons are full of examples of men and women raised in broken homes. Before you go off crying “NANNY STATE!!”, stop and think about it for a moment. Raising a children is arguably the most important job in the world…and yet there is very little available in the way of training or support. That would seem argument enough for some form of public involvement, don’tchathink? Could a marriage manual help keep couples together?
I have no idea if it could work, but perhaps it’s time to look at giving it a try. Hey, what have we got to lose? Besides, how often do I get to give credit to Floriduh for having an original (and sensible) idea?