Newly confirmed House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) was relatively unknown to most Americans when he secured the Speaker's gavel last week, and some Americans and media figures are surprised to learn that he is a devout Christian of the Southern Baptist variety.
One aspect of Johnson's faith that has caused some shock is his deep devotion to the commitment of marriage and decided aversion to such bonds ending in divorce, as The Washington Post recently reported.
That outlet, in a clear partisan attempt to smear the new Speaker over his faith-based stances on topics like abortion and homosexuality, also highlighted with some measure of concern the "covenant marriage" that Johnson and his wife Kelly entered into in 1999, a type of marriage that makes it more difficult for wedded couples to get divorced.
People magazine, in a profile piece about Kelly Johnson, also highlighted her covenant marriage to the new House Speaker, which it described as "a stricter type of marriage that prevents couples from divorcing until at least two years after their wedding and only under certain circumstances."
To be sure, the covenant marriage between Mike and Kelly Johnson is not really a secret, as the couple have openly discussed it on multiple occasions.
In fact, People pointed to a 2001 interview Kelly did on "Good Morning America" with Diane Sawyer, in which she said, "From a woman’s perspective, I’ve been in some bad relationships before, and I just knew that when I met the man that I was supposed to marry, I wanted to know it was for a lifetime. ... It gives me such peace and security."
The Johnsons also spoke about their covenant marriage in a 2005 interview with ABC News, which noted that Louisiana was one of just a few states that allowed that particular type of legal bond that "requires premarital counseling and further counseling before a couple can be granted a divorce," and even then only in certain circumstances.
Such marriages stand in stark contrast to the standard sort of marriage that allows for no-fault divorce, the relatively easy splitting of marital bonds, and the break-up of families.
Saying that a covenant marriage was "kind of a no-brainer" for them, Johnson explained to ABC, "My wife and I both come from traditional Christian households. My own parents are divorced. As anyone who goes through that knows, that was a traumatic thing for our whole family. I'm a big proponent of marriage and fidelity and all the things that go with it, and I've seen firsthand the devastation [divorce] can cause."
Kelly agreed, and said, "To me, I thought, 'OK, if a man is willing to enter into a covenant marriage with me, then that really shows me that he wants it to be forever,'" and added, "I think that it would be a pretty big red flag if you asked your mate or your fiancé, 'Let's do a covenant marriage,' and they said they don't want to do that."
While not necessarily involved in a strict covenant marriage, statistics compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau show that Americans increasingly agree that divorce is generally a bad thing that should be avoided, as evidenced by declining rates of such legal endings to marriage over the past decade.
Indeed, while the national average divorce rate among women in 2011 was 9.7 per 1,000, that number fell to 6.9 per 1,000 by 2021 -- though it should be noted that numbers varied on a per-state basis and the national average marriage rate had also decreased from 16.3 to 14.9 per 1,000 women over the same 10-year period.
Statistical changes don't do justice to the rather personal topic, however, and the nation's changing attitudes about divorce are perhaps better reflected by a recent compilation of various celebrities lamenting the regret they feel over splitting up with a significant other they once loved and cared for deeply, and in some cases still did.
As for the Johnsons and their happy marriage of 24 years thus far, which has produced four beloved children, People noted that Mike marked the occasion of his anniversary with Kelly this year with a Franz Schubert quote posted to social media that read: "Happy is the man who finds a true friend, and far happier is he who finds that true friend in his wife."