Tag Archives: Commitment

Why is it so hard to get married these days?

Marriage and family
Marriage and family

A long, long time ago when I was in my “read one or two books about everything important” phase, I remember coming to marriage and picking out two books to read on that. The first was the Judith Wallerstein study on “The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce”, which talked about children’s experience of divorce over the 25-year period following their parent’s decision to divorce. The second was F. Carolyn Graglia’s book “Domestic Tranquility”.

I found an essay about the latter book that seems to be either the introduction or chapter one. I just thought I would share it here to clear up why people are not getting married as much as they used to.

Let’s see how it happened:

Since the late 1960s, feminists have very successfully waged war against the traditional family, in which husbands are the principal breadwinners and wives are primarily homemakers. This war’s immediate purpose has been to undermine the homemaker’s position within both her family and society in order to drive her into the work force. Its long-term goal is to create a society in which women behave as much like men as possible, devoting as much time and energy to the pursuit of a career as men do, so that women will eventually hold equal political and economic power with men. This book examines feminism’s successful onslaught against the traditional family, considers the possible ramifications of that success, and defends a woman’s choice to be a homemaker. Feminists have used a variety of methods to achieve their goal. They have promoted a sexual revolution that encouraged women to mimic male sexual promiscuity. They have supported the enactment of no-fault divorce laws that have undermined housewives’ social and economic security. And they obtained the application of affirmative action requirements to women as a class, gaining educational and job preferences for women and undermining the ability of men who are victimized by this discrimination to function as family breadwinners.

Sexual promiscuity, no-fault divorce laws and affirmative action laws that discriminate against male providers, were the goals of radical feminists. There may have been some men who went along with these things, but the main force behind it was radical feminism.

We continue:

Certainly, feminism is not alone responsible for our families’ sufferings. As Charles Murray details in Losing Ground,[1] President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programs, for example, have often hurt families, particularly black families, and these programs were supported by a large constituency beyond the women’s movement. What distinguishes the women’s movement, however, is the fact that, despite the pro-family motives it sometimes ascribes to itself, it has actively sought the traditional family’s destruction. In its avowed aims and the programs it promotes, the movement has adopted Kate Millett’s goal, set forth in her Sexual Politics, in which she endorses Friedrich Engels’s conclusion that “the family, as that term is presently understood, must go”; “a kind fate,” she remarks, in “view of the institution’s history.[2] This goal has never changed: feminists view traditional nuclear families as inconsistent with feminism’s commitment to women’s independence and sexual freedom.[3]

To counter radical feminism, women should be reading books that offer a serious, scholarly defense to feminism (e.g. – Christina Hoff Sommers, Carrie Lukas, F. Carolyn Graglia, etc.). You can tell whether a woman is a feminist based on how brittle she is with the idea that women have certain roles like wife and mother. Another good indicator is whether she is comfortable with the idea that relationships require each person to have certain responsibilities and obligations to the other that override their desire for happiness. Everyone in a relationship has responsibilities and obligations to the other person. For example, with few exceptions, a man ought to get up and go to work to support his family, just as the woman, with few exceptions, should try to keep fit and be available for her husband sexually. Feelings and desires should not override responsibilities and obligations in a relationship.

More:

Emerging as a revitalized movement in the 1960s, feminism reflected women’s social discontent, which had arisen in response to the decline of the male breadwinner ethic and to the perception — heralded in Philip Wylie’s 1940s castigation of the evil “mom”[4] — that Western society does not value highly the roles of wife and mother. Women’s dissatisfactions, nevertheless, have often been aggravated rather than alleviated by the feminist reaction. To mitigate their discontent, feminists argued, women should pattern their lives after men’s, engaging in casual sexual intercourse on the same terms as sexually predatory males and making the same career commitments as men. In pursuit of these objectives, feminists have fought unceasingly for the ready availability of legal abortion and consistently derogated both motherhood and the worth of fulltime homemakers.

[…]Contemporary feminism has been remarkably successful in bringing about the institutionalization in our society of the two beliefs underlying its offensive: denial of the social worth of traditional homemakers and rejection of traditional sexual morality. The consequences have been pernicious and enduring. General societal assent to these beliefs has profoundly distorted men’s perceptions of their relationships with and obligations to women, women’s perceptions of their own needs, and the way in which women make decisions about their lives.

Read the rest, it’s a good introduction to the book.

So how have men responded to the sexual revolution and no-fault divorce? Well, most non-Christian men are going to take the free sex that’s being offered to them, and back away from a life-long commitment to protect and provide. Even a number of “Christian” men are now finding it easy to work premarital sex into their relationships, something that would have been unthinkable to Bible-believers of earlier generations. Also, a woman who has a lot of premarital sexual experience is a red flag to most men – they worry that she will not be able to be faithful to them since she is already accustomed to recreational sex rather than married sex within a covenant. Premarital sex generally makes women less trusting, less vulnerable and less capable at being feminine in order to love a man. Research shows that the more premarital sex partners a woman has, the more unstable her marriage becomes. This is also true for men, but the effect is slightly less for men. It’s definitely something that has to be worked through, because it’s a risk factor for relationship instability.

If you ask any man today about what is holding him up from getting married, the first thing he will tell you is no-fault divorce laws. Whereas women may shy away from marriage because they are worried about being unhappy or losing their freedom, men have a much, much more pressing danger in mind – the danger of having your entire life savings wiped out in an instant. And that’s not to mention the prospect of only being able to see your kids for a few hours every month if you don’t get joint custody – which is the vast majority of cases (about 90%).

Why don’t men talk to women about commitment and marriage any more?

Painting:
Painting: “Courtship”, by Edmund Blair Leighton (1888)

I saw this essay from a young woman named Jordana Narin who is explaining how she feels about not being able to talk seriously to a man she had sex with.

The essay was published in the radically leftist New York Times.

First kiss:

I met [a guy] at summer camp in the Poconos at 14, playing pickup basketball by day and talking in the mess hall late into the night. Back home we lived only 30 minutes apart, but I didn’t see him again until 11th grade, when we ran into each other at a Halloween party in a Lower Manhattan warehouse.

[…]Under the muted flashes of a strobe light, we shared our first kiss.

Why do you think that she kissed a guy she barely knew? It makes no sense to me.

This is how they talked:

We stayed in touch for the rest of high school, mostly by text message.

Oh my goodness. What can you find out about a person in 140-character messages? It makes no sense to me.

More:

Every time his name popped up on my phone, my heart raced.

Still, we were never more than semiaffiliated, two people who spoke and loved to speak and kissed and loved to kiss and connected and were scared of connecting. I told myself it was because we went to different schools, because teenage boys don’t want relationships, because it was all in my head.

Two years after our first kiss, we were exchanging “I’ve missed you” messages again. It was a brisk Friday evening in our first semesters of college when I stepped off a train and into his comfortable arms.

He had texted weeks earlier on Halloween (technically our anniversary) to ask if I would visit. We had not talked since summer, and I was trying to forget him. We had graduated from high school into the same inexpressive void we first entered in costume, where an “I’ve missed you” was as emotive as one got. I decided to leave him behind when I left for college.

But he wouldn’t let me. Whenever I believed he was out of my life, I’d get a text or Facebook comment that would reel me back in.

And I wouldn’t let me, either. His affection, however sporadic, always loomed like a promise. So I accepted his invitation, asking myself what I had to lose.

She had sex with him, losing her virginity, and then:

Naïvely, I had expected to gain clarity, to finally admit my feelings and ask if he felt the same. But I couldn’t confess, couldn’t probe. Periodically I opened my mouth to ask: “What are we doing? Who am I to you?” He stopped me with a smile, a wink or a handhold, gestures that persuaded me to shut my mouth or risk jeopardizing what we already had.

On the Saturday-night train back to Manhattan, I cried. Back in my dorm room, buried under the covers so my roommates wouldn’t hear, I fell asleep with a wet pillow and puffy eyes.

The next morning I awoke to a string of texts from him: “You get back OK?” “Let’s do it again soon :)”

Yes. She had sex with him because of text messages, Facebook comments and because he “missed her”. Not because he had presented his resume and balance sheet to her father, then bought her an engagement ring, then a wedding ring, then walked down the aisle with her. And of course that opened her up for hurt. Sex binds people together. It’s supposed to be for people who first commit to each other, self-sacrificially, for life – through all trials and hardships.

They had a lot more sex, but never talked about why or to what end:

I’m told my generation will be remembered for our callous commitments and rudimentary romances. We hook up. We sext. We swipe right.

All the while, we avoid labels and try to bury our emotions. We aren’t supposed to want anything serious; not now, anyway.

“Swipe right” refers to a hooking-up app called Tinder. Who would use that? It makes no sense to me.

She praises the “control” that the Sexual Revolution gave her:

To this day, if I ever let a guy’s name slip out to my father, his response is always, “Are you two going steady?”

He means to ask if we’re dating exclusively, if I have a boyfriend. I used to hate it.

“People don’t go steady nowadays,” I explain. “No one says that anymore. And almost no one does it. Women today have more power. We don’t crave attachment to just one man. We keep our options open. We’re in control.”

Anyway, there’s also an interview that goes with it on the radically leftist NPR web site, but I saved a copy of the MP3 file here in case it disappears.

Moderate Christian Rod Dreher comments on the interview:

I wouldn’t have understood the full scope of what this young woman is saying in her essay without the interview, which is short. In the segment, Narin says that men and women in her generation don’t have actual romantic relationships anymore. It’s all casual, non-committal sex. “Nobody knows whether their own feelings are real,” she says.

Our generation doesn’t have relationships anymore. Nobody to call their own. Just casual. Nobody knows whether their own feelings are real.

She tells the interviewer that there’s lots of making out and sex, but nobody wants to be emotionally vulnerable to anybody else.

[…]“Everyone in college uses Tinder,” she said, referring to the wildly popular dating and hook-up app. “You can literally swipe right and find someone just to hang out for the night. There’s no commitments required, and I think that makes committing to someone even harder, because it’s so normal, and so expected even, to not want to commit.”

In a different time, my grandparents, my great grandparents, they might have thought they were missing out on casual sex,” she says. “But since my generation has been saddled down with that, we kind of look to the past and say well, wasn’t that nice. I think both are optimal. I’m a huge feminist, and I think women should be able to do whatever they want to do. If a woman wants to have tons of casual sex, she totally should. But I think that there should be the option. And they shouldn’t be gendered, women and men. But there should be the option of being in a relationship.”

Right. Young women like her who have swallowed radical feminism hook, line and sinker don’t want to miss out on casual sex right now, but they want to get married “some day”.

But what do they think marriage is? I think this popular song sheds some light on it.

I heard this popular song by Meghan Trainor being deconstructed on the Ben Shapiro show last week – look at the lyrics:

You got that 9 to 5
But, baby, so do I
So don’t be thinking I’ll be home and baking apple pies
I never learned to cook

After every fight
Just apologize
And maybe then I’ll let you try and rock my body right
Even if I was wrong
You know I’m never wrong

Make time for me
Don’t leave me lonely
And know we’ll never see your family more than mine

Even when I’m acting crazy
Tell me everything’s alright

This is what women today understand marriage to be. They expect to be pursuing their own careers, not supporting their husbands and raising children. An independent flow of money is important to feminists, because it allows them to insulate themselves from the husband’s vision of stewardship, which is important to his primary goal of making the marriage serve God above all. I have also heard that women want to work because they view the roles of wife and mother as demeaning, and they don’t trust men to provide. Well, that’s why they ought to be choosing men who 1) have a resume with long-term commitments, 2) are used to sharing with others and donating to causes. But I personally know two women who chose men 5 years younger than they were, students who had never earned a dime – presumably because they were easier to manipulate and control. (One of the women has chosen younger, unemployed, penniless men three times in a row, and then she complains that men are not financially prepared for marriage!) The lyrics also say that wives don’t do cooking, and probably implies not being domestic at all.

And in marriage, women expect to win every disagreement. One woman told me that her opinions about financial matters were as good as mine. I have a BS, MS and a very high net worth. She is in debt 25K in her 30s, is living at home with her parents and working an easy minimum wage job. She expects to win any disagreements about career and money, because, like the song says, she is never wrong. The lyrics also say that sex is conditional on whether the woman feels validated and happy. But men are expected to go to work regardless of whether their needs are met. When it comes to visiting family and holidays – two frequent disagreements even in complementarian couples – she lets us know that her family is more important than his. And she is allowed to act crazy, which could involve a whole host of selfish, wasteful, narcissistic behaviors, (e.g. – skydving, ziplining, surfing), and he is just supposed to accept it – and pay for it. For the rest of his life. How does any of this craziness help him in his plan to build a marriage that serves God? But even Christian women often think that relationships and marriage are about their needs, not serving God. It’s very important to understand that women today are only able to sustain relationships with men by giving them sex and then shutting up about what it means and where the relationship is headed – they have nothing that a man wants with respect to the role of wife, so there will be no marriage.

So is it worth it for a man to make a lifelong commitment to provide for a woman like this?

Let me explain to you why men are not interested in committing to, or discussing commitment with, radical feminists. Men will have sex with a radical feminist, but they will never commit to them. Why not? If a man’s role is just to please the “huge feminist”, then there is no reason to commit to her. Because of no-fault divorce laws, a man loses all leverage in negotiations the minute he marries a radical feminist. The only leverage he has with her is before the marriage. Radical feminists believe that relationships are about their plans and their needs. They are not interested in responsibilities, expectations or obligations to men or to children. But men, even secular men, understand that they must not marry a woman who thinks that relationships should impose no obligations on her. Men play dumb with women to keep the sex coming, but there is no way they would commit to such women.

Let me speak about the men who are interested in commitment. A man marries a woman if she is interested in supporting his plan to change the world. For Christian men, that means making sure that the marriage and children will build up the Kingdom of God. Although you might think that every woman who claims to be a Christian would be interested in a man who has a plan to build the Kingdom of God, that is not a common view of relationships, even among Christian women. Every Christian woman needs to be evaluated to understand what they expect marriage to be like. If they don’t show evidence in their own choices that they are used to self-denial, self-sacrifice, etc. (which all Christians ought to be), then it’s not a good idea to marry her.

The problem with feminism is that it makes women think that marriage is about them getting their needs met, with no obligations to men or children. That’s what the sexual revolution and abortion taught women. Relationships should be recreational. You get a man to pay attention to you with sex, not with support or love. If a baby arrives, don’t let it impose obligations on you – just kill it. But marriage – lifelong commitment to have a home and raise kids – requires that women have a certain character. Marriage is hard work, especially with kids. Men who are interested in marriage will prefer a woman who thinks less of herself (“hugely feminist”), and more about others (husbands and children), and who accepts that the needs of others create obligations on her, which she is responsible for. That’s why I recommend women who go into STEM fields in college and have solid resumes. STEM helps to break the selfishness of women. (Jordana has a degree in creative writing) But many women will not want to be led to do hard things that prepare her for marriage, and that’s why commitment-minded men don’t talk to them. If a woman is not interested in the obligations that a life-long commitment imposes on her, then she will be stuck with men who are only interested in sex with her.

Now there is one exception to this rule, and that’s young, naive men. If a woman is a “huge feminist” then she might be able to get attention from a doormat man without having to give him sex. Typically, these men have no work experience, no savings, are much younger, and are so desperate for attention that they do what Meghan Trainor says in the song: apologize, grovel, condone craziness and selfishness, etc. Although a woman may think she wants a man like that in the short-term, in the long-term, those men prove unattractive and unsatisfactory. In order to be masculine, a man needs to be a good moral leader and a good spiritual leader. And that means that he needs to call a woman higher, away from her self-centeredness, so she can serve God and serve other people. He cannot just agree with whatever crazy, emotional thing that she thinks up that is fun, thrilling and bound to fail. A good leader has experience as a provider, protector and leader that he brings to bear on decision-making, and proven ability achieving and leading others to greatness. I think women with low self-esteem will be interested in men who are doormats, but that is not the solution to the commitment problem. The real solution is for them to let themselves be led by a good man into doing harder and harder things – graduate school, non-trivial work (if there are no young children at home), organizing Christian speakers on campus, teaching classes in apologetics, defending the unborn, defending marriage, getting herself out of debt, moving out of her parents’ house, etc. The self-esteem she needs has to come from doing hard work – that is what builds her into the kind of person who can handle responsibilities, expectations and obligations in a marriage. There is no shortcut to an effective, influential marriage that goes through a doormat man.

New study: cohabitation produces far inferior outcomes to marriage

This study is from the American College of Pediatricians.

The Stream writes about the study:

The American College of Pediatricians recently published a paper, Cohabitation, which cautions adolescents and young adults about the negative consequences of cohabitation for both themselves and their children, and urges parents to teach their children about the advantages of waiting until marriage.

More young people are now first cohabiting than are marrying without prior cohabitation, yet research shows that, rather than being a stepping-stone to a healthy marriage, living together before marriage (cohabitation) makes couples more likely to break-up and more likely to divorce if they do marry. It results in lower marital satisfaction and increased negative communication.  Cohabiting couples spend less time together; men are more likely to spend their time on personal pleasure than do married men.

Commitment failure:

Cohabiting couples are now less likely to later marry than 40 years ago. Controlling for other factors that increase risk of divorce, marriages preceded by cohabitation are still 50 percent more likely to end in divorce.  (Some recent studies challenge this, but are scientifically flawed and omit the raw data.)  Also 27 percent of cohabitations dissolve without marriage in the first three years.

Domestic violence:

Cohabiters commit increased violence against their partner. Women are nine times more likely to be killed by a cohabiting partner than by their husband. Severe violence is four times as common among cohabiting couples; any violence is nearly 50 percent more common among couples cohabiting before marrying and doubled among couples continuing to cohabit after five years.

Alcohol abuse:

Men who cohabit without marrying in 5 to 10 years have more than double the rate of alcohol abuse as married men; women who cohabit without marrying have 4 to 7 times the rate of alcohol abuse as married women.

Infidelity:

Cohabiters, both men and women, have rates of infidelity in the preceding year more than triple that of married spouses. Among the married, those cohabiting prior to marriage were 50 percent more likely to be unfaithful as those marrying without cohabiting.

Poverty:

Poverty is more common among cohabitating women and their children. Their male partners have both a higher unemployment rate (15 percent vs 8 percent), and work less hours if employed.

Abortion:

Cohabitating women are ten times more likely to have an abortion than married women, and suffer from its associated mortality and morbidity. In fact, 89 percent of women who have had abortions have at one time cohabited; 40 percent have lived with three or more men. Abortion also puts future children at risk, especially from extremely premature birth.

Harm to children:

Children who survive also suffer due to parental cohabitation.  They have increased risk of losing a parent to divorce or separation, possibly multiple times.  Children born of cohabiting parents are over four times more likely to suffer separation of their parents by their third birthdays (49 percent) than those born to married parents (11 percent).

[…]Nearly one-third of couples enter into cohabitation with a child from a previous relationship, as do half of those cohabitating for six years or longer. Children living with a parent and unmarried partner (live-in boyfriend) have 20 times the risk of sexual abuse and eight times the risk of all maltreatment compared to children living with married biological parents.  Even if the couple marries, stepchildren have over eight times the risk of sexual abuse and triple the overall risk of abuse of neglect. Girls living with a stepparent had 60 percent higher risk of being raped than girls living with their biological parents.

Depression:

Women in cohabiting relationships have more depression than married women, and poorer responsiveness to their children’s emotional needs.  Children whose mothers are depressed have increased cortisol responses to stress (which may explain their increased hypertension in adulthood). Children with unmarried mothers are half as likely to be breastfed, leading to higher rates of asthma, pneumonia, ear and intestinal infections, diabetes, obesity, and lower intelligence.

Please believe me when I say that you should click through to the Stream and read the entire article.

So what do I want to say about this in my 500 words? Well, I want to say that the cohabitation issue is a good opportunity for us to reason about whether there should be any rules around sexuality and relationships.

Our culture is absolutely poisoned right now with a kind of feelings-oriented non-judgmentalism that prevents debate. Everything has been reduced to people feeling “offended” and using the power of government to stifle debate. Nowhere is this more evident than on the university campus, which is the source of the problem. This hyper-tolerance and emotional non-judgmentalism leaves people open to making poor decisions that cause self-destruction and harm to others. As a result, young people are blindly accepting a script for sexuality and relationships from the culture, e.g. – Hollywood, celebrities, and ideologically-driven academics. A script made by professional story-tellers insulated from the consequences of their ideas.

As Christians, we seem to have so much trouble talking to young people about rules around sexuality and relationships. So many young people think that premarital sex is benign. That cohabitation is no big deal. And that redefining marriage cannot be opposed. Christian parents and pastors are not preparing themselves to discuss these things with young people. If there is a battle of ideas, and one side shows up with a bunch of feelings and lies, that side still wins – if the other side doesn’t show up at all. Don’t be so focused on your career and your own self that you fail your children by failing to discuss and debate with them about the issues. Don’t assume that just because your children look OK on the surface that there are not serious questions underneath.

There is so much I could say about this problem of talking to young people. As I argued in a previous post, I truly believe that apologists should not neglect these social / cultural / fiscal issues. We have to study them and know how to argue for our values using secular arguments and evidence, such as you see in the study above. Once young people have decided that Christian teachings on sexuality (e.g. – chastity, courting) are primitive and irrational, or worse, then getting them to accept Christianity becomes that much harder. And that goes double for marriage. If they think that cohabitation, no-fault divorce, same-sex marriage and gay adoption are opposed for no other reason than blind prejudice or even hatred, then we’ve lost before we even begin to make our first philosophical argument. We have to use a combined arms approach.

Let’s attack! Now is the time!

Why do some people not move in together before marriage?

I find Lindsay’s blog useful for getting a bird’s eye view of marriage. I like it because she and her husband Doug are running such a tight game plan and it’s clearly working. It makes me feel good about not blindly following the culture’s rules for relationships. One of the cultural norms that’s really popular these days is cohabitation.

Here’s a post by Lindsay about cohabitation.

I’m going to quote some stuff from her post, and you see if you catch sight of something she is talking about that is missing from relationships today:

Marriage is meant to be a lifetime commitment between a man and a woman in which they physically, spiritually, and emotionally bond to become one. This bonding of the entire self only works properly when all other options are permanently rejected. It is the nature of erotic love to include only two people. Each person has only one self and can only give that self wholly to one other. In order to bind oneself so tightly to another, it is necessary to forego binding in that way with any other at any time. Thus true love requires commitment.

[…]A person who is “keeping their options open” is not exhibiting love.

Marriage is designed to be a safe and loving environment for the sharing of self. When two people commit to each other before sexual intimacy, they affirm that their love for the other person is not contingent on bedroom performance (or anything else). True love says “I love you, whatever the cost may be, no matter what I may find out about you in the future, and nothing you do will ever change that.” When two people who have remained sexually pure commit to one another in marriage, they show the ultimate expression of love. They commit to one another without reservation, without exception clauses, without knowing everything, but having decided that whatever they may learn will not induce them to reject the other person. It takes courage and sacrifice to love like that. But anything less than full commitment is not true love. Conversely, cohabitation before marriage is not an environment that builds love and trust. Cohabitation, as a “trial period,” says to the other that they better measure up or else. It is an inherently selfish relationship that objectifies the other person. The emphasis in cohabitation is on getting what you want out of the relationship, which is the exact opposite of the emphasis in marriage, which is giving of yourself for the good of the other person. What is loving about taking pleasure in another’s body with the understanding that you may simply walk away if they don’t please you enough?  Cohabiting couples end up evaluating each other’s merits rather than giving of themselves. Their relationship is based on scrutiny rather than acceptance. Such an environment is not likely to build a healthy and lasting relationship.

Cohabitation before marriage also takes the joy of discovery out of the first part of marriage. The first few months of marriage are meant to have a lot of surprises. The newlyweds should have fun finding out what the other likes and how to please one another in an environment of mutual trust and commitment. There should be an air of excitement as they try new things together for the first time. Experiencing new and intimate things with the other person under the umbrella of a marriage commitment takes much of the performance pressure off and is crucial in building a strong and lasting bond between them. It allows both partners to be themselves without fear of rejection since the other person has already committed to them for life.

Contrary to everything you heard in the culture, romantic love is not about getting your needs met by someone else who is “perfect” for you. It’s about making a selfless commitment to love someone no matter how much he or she changes, no matter how much he or she fails. The point of the relationship is not to have happy feelings, it’s to enjoy building your little castle around this other person who is building his or her castle around you. Marriage is about enjoying the intimacy that you are building up by making an exclusive promise to that one person, instead of being distracted by everyone else, and even your own changing feelings.

People who know me well know that I have a pet bird. His species normally lives 15-20 years with excellent care. Mine is now 26 years old. When I would fly away to interviews in other cities, I would always get emotional when coming home and flying over my home airport – because I knew he was waiting for me to come home. In graduate school, I would call home from the computer lab to see what he was doing. I can completely understand why women hate leaving their children during the day. Now, I always had big plans for him, like teaching him to talk and teaching him to be toilet-trained. And I spent a lot of time with him trying to get him to do those things. Sometimes he learned, but sometimes he didn’t. I see lots of other birds of his kind who are younger on Youtube. Some can talk and do neat tricks. But my bird is my bird, and because he is mine, I am loyal to him. He is the only bird in the world who flies towards me instead of away from me. He is the only bird in the world who sings to me when I come home.

Love isn’t about thinking about what you can get that’s better than what you have. It’s about making commitments and enjoying the experiences you have together, and how you build familiarity and intimacy with this one other person. I really think that what premarital sex and cohabitation teaches people is to enter relationships with one eye on the exit, and sabotage things at the first opportunity. What break-ups teach you is how to prepare for break-ups, how to hold back, how to not trust, how to separate your feelings from touching, how to not be vulnerable, and how to not invest in other people because something is “wrong” with them. It’s sad that it’s come to this. Everyone seems to be jumping straight into sex thinking that this is what relationships are about, and they are ruining their ability to marry and find out what relationships are really about – giving each other a sense of safety and belonging. What’s much more important than compatibility and happy feelings is the ability to make a commitment that survives disappointments.

William Lane Craig: find a wife who is interested in your field of study or ministry

Don't marry a "follow your heart" woman

Blake sent me this question and answer from Dr. William Lane Craig’s Reasonable Faith web site.

The question is this:

Dear Dr. Craig,

As one who has recently discovered the realm of apologetics in the past couple years, you were one of the first I had come to know, and it has been a pleasure reading some of your material and watching your debates. I am currently only a junior in college and am studying philosophy and religious studies and love it, and hope to attend seminary in the future and get my masters in apologetics, God willing.

My question for you is not necessarily a theological or philosophical question but a question that I am hoping I could get some pastoral advice from you about that I feel you are perhaps the best suited to answer. I recently got married this past summer to an amazing woman I met at a one year bible college I attended a couple years ago and it has been great. But between transferring to a new (secular) school and being constantly busy with school and work I feel like my relationship with God is constantly on the backburner, as I am not getting into the word nearly as much as I used to and my prayer life is nearly nonexistent, and because of this my relationship with my wife is not where it should be either.

I love my major and I love my wife, but they don’t seem to overlap very well, as my studies are normally more time intensive than hers and also she see’s my talking about it more as an annoyance than anything. I guess why I am writing you is because I am getting so spiritually burnt out and need advice on how to ignite/maintain my relationship with God and keep a healthy relationship with my wife and if having an aspiration of being an apologist is worth it. Not only does everyone else not see why I have picked the path I have because they see philosophy as impractical and I won’t be able to support a family with such an aspiration, but the path itself is difficult as I do not have many other fellow Christians in my classes and so I am being practically scorned in all directions. I often ask myself if it is worth it and if I should find some other path that would be more conducive to married life and family life that her and I hope to start in the foreseen future.

Dr. Craig is there a light at the end of the tunnel? Even if I make it through my undergraduate years, will seminary be any easier? I hope to seek out a spiritual mentor in the future but am still getting acquainted with our new local church and would love to have some direction until then. Thanks for your help and your great ministry!

Wesley

I just want to quote the first part of Dr. Craig’s answer, then I’ll comment briefly below.

Obviously, Wesley, not knowing you or your wife, I cannot counsel you adequately. Indeed, I’d urge you to treat this crisis with the utmost seriousness by finding a pastoral counselor or older married couple whom you both trust who can advise you on how to go forward.

Before I respond to your concerns, Wesley, I want to alert other readers to the importance of what Wesley has to say. He has married a woman, who, though “amazing,” does not share his interest in or burden for philosophy and apologetics and so finds his talking about such things an annoyance. I strongly urge those of you who are single to make having a shared interest in your field of study and ministry a top criterion in selecting a spouse. It doesn’t matter how beautiful she is or what a great cook she is if she has no interest in your field of study and so sees talking about things that you are passionate about as an annoyance.

That’s enough Dr. Craig – now it’s time for my comments (which disagree with his in places).

First of all, if you are thinking of studying philosophy or New Testament, etc. then you either need to do it full-time and give up marriage and family, or do it part-time and make your main job a STEM job. I have a friend who has actually done the “full time STEM, part-time philosophy/New Testament” plan, and he has 3 Masters degrees (done part-time) and is completing a PhD (part-time) – and has not a stitch of debt. He is in his 30s. He does not intend to marry, so he is more focused on getting these degrees than saving up for his marriage. His first priority is to put points on the scoreboard, and he doesn’t see marriage as a way to help him do that.

Second, if you are a man with a plan whom God has invested with certain resources – degrees, finances, good health, etc. – then you cannot throw it all away for the wrong woman. Talk to the woman you want to marry, and see if she:

  1. has cultivated characteristics that are useful in a wife and mother (chastity, sobriety, self-denial, hard work, frugality, etc.)
  2. has rejected feminism and understands the roles, responsibilities and needs of men, women and children
  3. accepts that the purpose of the relationship is to pool resources and cooperate in order to serve God better – not her and not you
  4. accepts that following a plan is a produces better results than chasing culturally-determined notions of happiness
  5. is able to identify threats to Christianity in the culture and has studied and prepared to respond to them
  6. is able to acknowledge and understand what her husband is trying to achieve and respect his preparations and plans

One positive way to learn how to make good decisions about women is to take some time out to study economics, politics, etc. and develop a marriage plan that has realistic measurable goals and a realistic interim steps to reach them. That project plan enables you to prepare yourself for marriage and your male roles (provider!) by getting the right skills and resources. And it also allows you to lead a woman so that she can develop herself to be ready for marriage to you. I hope that she would already have done a lot of the work by herself, (chastity, STEM degree, debt-free, good job, apologetics, conservative politics), before she even meets you. Then what’s left is just the final alterations to each of you so the fit is hand in glove.

I have always believed that I could lead any woman and make her more suitable for being a good wife and mother, no matter how badly she had screwed up her life before. So long as she takes responsibility for her own decisions, does not blame anyone else for her mistakes, and is willing to grow. That is the only way that she will be a suitable helper and the mother of effective, influential children. I think the women I have mentored would agree that however far we got, I left them better than when I found them. But some women do not want to be better, and that’s the kind you need to avoid in order to avoid squandering your resources that God has entrusted to you to produce a return for him.

A good marriage cannot be finessed with emotions and intuitions and pursuing fun and thrills. It cannot be undertaken by people who refuse to grow up. It takes planning and work. You can’t go to an Olympic ski jump, put on skis for the first time and slide down the ramp and stick the landing the first time. You have to train and practice first – a lot.

Nobody ever showed up at the Olympics and got a gold medal by doing what was easy and fun at every opportunity, throughout their teens and 20s.

My courting questions would have been very useful for detecting whether a woman is willing to develop herself so that she will be a good wife and mother. I don’t think that the wife described in the original question above would have passed any of these questions. It’s not the time to start asking these questions after you are already married, either. It was a huge mistake to be swayed by appearance, youth and fun. It was the man’s mistake – he chose her. Don’t you make the same mistake as this guy.