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When people think of couples on the verge of breakup they ask, "Can this marriage be saved?" There's a bigger question, however: "Can marriage be saved?"

Marriage is in trouble in America, assaulted by a fearful divorce rate, soaring cohabitation, sex and childbearing increasingly detached from wedlock, and now, thanks to gay activists, a fundamental redefining.

If you doubt the institution is at risk, consider Scandinavia, where marriage has become virtually a minority option. Or look at African American society, where children are more likely to be born outside of marriage than not. Or take media celebrities, whose marriages and divorces seem more like PR stunts than solemn, life-defining events. One can imagine an American society in which marriage has lost the central, anchoring role it has held throughout the history of the republic. The human loss would be terrible. In fact, the loss already is terrible—a poisonous rain that falls on every community and practically every family.

I attended a conference called Smart Marriages to ask, "Can marriage be saved?" Almost 2,000 people gathered in Dallas for the eighth-annual conference, run by the Coalition for Marriage, Family and Couples Education. Researchers came, as did psychologists and therapists, pastors and church workers, social service providers, military chaplains, government officials, and—most noticeably—a colorful assortment of entrepreneurs offering seminars, books, and videos, many with marketable titles like "How Not to Marry a Jerk" and "Divorce Busting."

In few places do such diverse worlds come together, especially when they pay their own way. According to coalition founder and director Diane Sollee, even famous speakers like John Gray (Men Are from Mars, ...

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Can This Institution Be Saved?
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In the Magazine

November 2004

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