Tag Archives: Commitment

How parents and churches can make better women than the Bachelorette Hannah Brown

Do young women understand how to get to a stable marriage?
Do young women understand how to get to a stable marriage?

My friend Carla sent me a video from a TV show called the Bachelorette, in which a woman named Hannah Brown explains why she thinks that having recreational premarital sex is compatible with Christianity. In this post, I wanted to explain to Christian parents and churches why serious Christian men do not consider women like Hannah Brown to be appropriate candidates for marriage.

First, if you haven’t seen the clip, you can watch it here:

So I just wanted to go over what I think marriage is for, and then try to judge whether Hannah Brown’s view of men, sex and marriage offers me any value. I think this will be useful for parents and churches, because I think a lot of Christian men see marriage the same way as I do.

So, when I think of marriage, I’m looking for a partner who can help me to achieve goals that are consistent with the character of God revealed in the ministry of his son Jesus. So, what did Jesus do? Jesus demonstrated the existence of God by showing people evidence (miracles). Jesus taught people about what moral choices they should make and how to treat others. Jesus taught people that marriage is for one man and one woman, and that children should not be prevented from knowing God. And Jesus taught that people who sin can be forgiven, but that they should “sin no more”.

So, let’s take a look at what marriage-minded Christian men are looking for, and then decide whether Hannah Brown is doing a good job of preparing herself for marriage.

I’d like to model a successful, fruitful marriage to non-Christians, e.g. college students, neighbors, co-workers

A lot of people these days aspire to be married with children, and I want my marriage to be an advertisement to them for how Christianity provides a moral framework for that. So, a marriage candidate should demonstrate that she is good at making and keeping commitments, and investing in other people’s lives self-sacrificially, with a goal of making them grow in their knowledge and influence as Christians. She should also be good at tasks that are related to being a wife and mother, like cooking, cleaning, caring for children, managing money, and so on. She should be a virgin and demonstrate self-control when it comes to things like drinking alcohol, frivolous travel, and managing money. Regarding sex, men are aware of studies that show that the number of premarital sex partners that a woman has is related to her contentment in her future marriage. The more no-commitment hawt bad boys a woman has sex with before marriage, the less content she will be with the “loser” she has to “settle for” when she hits 30. Marriage-minded men understand that women who “settle” for them later on were never attracted to commitment skills. We don’t want to deal with sex-withholding, porn usage, emotional affairs, adultery, and divorce.

I’d like to facilitate discussions with students and faculty about whether the claims of Christian worldview are true

I would like my wife to be familiar with how to discuss and defend the claims of Christianity using evidence. For example, God’s existence, Jesus’ resurrection, etc. I do not mean that she should share her feelings and experiences with non-Christians. I do not mean that she should give her opinions or quote Bible verses to non-Christians. I mean that she should be able to appeal to mainstream scientific and historical evidence when making her case for the core claims of the Christian worldview. Being familiar with the work of people like William Lane Craig, Lee Strobel, Sean McDowell, J. Warner Wallace, etc. is sufficient. She should also be able to defend against objections to the Christian worldview, e.g. – suffering, hiddenness, pluralism, postmodernism, etc. I’m really looking for evidence that she is aware of areas where the culture is challenging Christianity, e.g. – abortion, natural marriage, socialism, border security, environmental stewardship, etc. and that she is able to be persuasive against the secular left with reasons and evidence.

I’d like to raise many effective and influential children who promote the Christian worldview and conditions that allow the practice of Christianity to flourish to society as a whole

In order to have many children, the woman has to be serious about making herself ready or marriage early, and pursuing marriage-ready men early. She should not be spending her late teens and 20s using her finite supply of youth and beauty trying pursuing temporary relationships with men who have superficial qualities. It eats into the “honeymoon period” that she could be giving her future husband, and it reduces the time available for making more children. Regular sex and emotional support are huge gifts that a woman gives to a man, and they should be reserved for a man who commits to love her, lead her, and provide for her and her children. Since she is busy in her 20s riding the carousel with not-her-husband men, she won’t have any effect on her husband’s early career, which means that her husband will have less money to support having more children later on. I’m also looking for evidence that she is investing in relationships with other people that causes them to be more competent and effective in their Christian lives. For example, she could be getting people to be better with money – leading them by example to study hard STEM subjects, get real jobs in the private sector, avoid student loans. Something that shows that she is able to navigate the real world successfully, and isn’t just wasting her time chasing fun and thrills.

I’d like to have an influence on the laws and policies in my community so that behaving as a consistent Christian is not subject to interference from the secular left

I’d like her to demonstrate that she’s going to keep the Christian worldview that she has in the face of pressures from the secular left culture. So, I’m looking for her to be aware of where Christian values are impacted by laws and policies. And I’m looking for her to have strong convictions herself and also to be persuasive to others in debates and discussions. It’s very easy for women to tell men what they want to hear when it comes to issues like abortion, gay rights, definition of marriage, socialism, environmentalism, border security, national debt, etc. Opinions are easy. What’s not easy is having conversations where arguments are made, and supported by factual evidence. I would definitely want to see her taking pro-marriage and pro-family views in her conversations, but also in her writings, and in her activism. A man needs support and understanding when he is engaged in providing for a family, being a spiritual and moral leader, and protecting his family from outside threats. Many of the laws and policies that young Christian women find attractive are incompatible with what a Christian man does as a father and husband.

Conclusion

So, I think it’s pretty clear when you look at Hannah Brown that she has none of these things. But she is a perfect example of what I see being produced by Christian parents and Christian pastors today. She really is not exceptional in any way, she is the normal Christian woman. On the one hand, she hollers Jesus, reads the Bible, sings praise hymns, attends church, and knows just enough about Christianity to satisfy parents and pastors that she is serious about her faith (until she throws the mask off on the first day of college). But to the Christian men who evaluate her for marriage, she has nothing at all that we want in a wife and mother.

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

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 chose to have premarital sex with on multiple occasions. She is a radical feminist and has a non-STEM degree in creative writing. 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.

No communication:

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

[…]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.

Where is this relationship going? This boy has no job and no savings and no proven record of steady work – and therefore he cannot afford to marry anyone. Why is she even talking to a man who cannot afford to marry her? He is not able to marry her, and handle getting her pregnant.

More:

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.

Long gaps in between text messages – they have nothing to talk about, and there is no purpose to the relationship.  This is the man she chose. Nevertheless, they are away from their parents, and so she had sex with him, choosing to lose her virginity to a man she was not married to.

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 :)”

So my question for you is this: should a woman who has recreational sex with a jobless man she barely knows expect to have real relationships, including a marriage relationship?

There’s 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.

In the interview, she says:

“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. 

And:

In a different time, my grandparents, my great grandparents, they might have thought they were missing out on casual sex. 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 accept radical feminism, which basically means that they think that the traditional path to marriage must be avoided, because it’s “sexist” and “controlling”. Chastity is sexist. Stay at home wife is sexist. Stay at home motherhood is sexist. She believes that women should prioritize recreational sex and career, marry later, and continue her career by placing the children in daycare and public schools. Any attempt by a marriage-minded man to get her to stop drinking, being promiscuous, having a career, and giving the kids to strangers is “sexist” and “controlling”. Is radical feminism a path to relationships and marriage?

How should marriage-minded men perceive a woman’s past choices to have premarital sex?

Consider this story from the Ottawa Sun about a woman who didn’t want to say no to sex right now, but wanted to get married “some day”:

A New York woman is facing charges after police say she lied about being raped by two football players at a party to get sympathy from a prospective love interest.

Nikki Yovino, 18, has been charged with falsely reporting an incident and tampering with or fabricating physical evidence.

Last October Yovino reported that she had been sexually assaulted in a bathroom by two Sacred Heart University football players at an off-campus party.

The men, however, said it had been consensual.

Capt. Brian Fitzgerald tells WABC-TV another student informed authorities of explicit text messages between the three. He says one man also recorded some of the incident on his cellphone.

“She admitted that she made up the allegation of sexual assault against (the football players) because it was the first thing that came to mind and she didn’t want to lose (another male student) as a friend and potential boyfriend. She stated that she believed when (the other male student) heard the allegation it would make him angry and sympathetic to her,” said an affidavit, according to the New York Post.

Two. Football. Players. At the same time.

She wanted a “relationship” with this other guy. She didn’t see why the “opportunity” to have premarital sex with two no-commitment bad boys at the same time should be rejected. After all, the man who would eventually have a relationship with her and marry her would presumably be OK with her choice. Because her choice was a good sign that she was ready for wife and mother roles.

I think that every single choice by a woman to have premarital sex with a no-commitment man is committing infidelity and adultery against her future husband. It’s a sign that she doesn’t have the self-control to value commitment over fun. She won’t be able to respect her husband as a leader, and be faithful (and sexually available) to him. She doesn’t see sex as a gift for the man who promises to take care of her. She sees sex as something to give to bad men to get validation and entertainment. And if she does marry later, I doubt that she will be as generous sexually with her husband. There is an epidemic of sex-withholding these days being committed by women who don’t see the man they took wedding vows with as worth of the energetic sex they freely gave to the no-commitment bad boys in their youth. Women who give bad boys premarital sex don’t see husband and father ability as desirable and worth rewarding.

No man can marry a “huge feminist”

Most men are not interested in committing to, or discussing commitment with, women who put pleasure above self-control. Most non-Christian men will have sex with a hedonistic women, but they won’t commit to them. Why would a man commit to a narcissist? If a man’s role is just to be ruled by the “huge feminist”, then there is no reason to discuss commitment or to commit. 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. Most men, even secular men, understand that such women are not suitable for commitment.

Will anyone explain marriage to these women?

Whenever I tell my Christian women mentors about what I am seeing today, they always say that women need to have marriage explained to them. But today, no one has the courage to tell young women that radical feminism is not the path to marriage. Instead, they are taught by parents and pastors to blame and shame men for not marrying them, as if their past decision-making had prepared their character for the roles of wife and mother.

The Economist: marriage is still the best place for children

Marriage and family
Marriage and family

I stopped reading The Economist when they endorsed the socialist failure Barack Obama, who doubled the national debt to $20 trillion in only 8 years. However, even a stopped clock is right twice a day. And here is one of those times.

Excerpt:

However, there is one big reason to worry about the quality and longevity of people’s intimate bonds. It is that relationships often produce children, and children are profoundly affected by how their parents get on.

You could make enough confetti for a summer of weddings with all the academic papers that show how much children gain from being brought up in stable, loving families, and how much they suffer when those families break down. Culture and customs make little difference. In Japan, four-fifths of single-parent households emerge when couples divorce—a much higher share than in the West, where people usually slip into single parenthood without marrying. Japanese children living with only one parent nonetheless perform significantly worse in school tests, just as children from single-parent families do in Europe and America. In poorer countries, family breakdown can kill. According to one recent estimate, the chance that an African child will die before turning five is about 25-30 per 1,000 for those born into stable families, but 35-40 per 1,000 for the children of single, divorced or widowed parents.

Marriage is not always good for children. They do not benefit when a parent marries somebody who is not their mother or father, and seem to suffer if the parent they live with cycles through several relationships. What they seem to need most is for their biological parents to stick together. And one strong claim that can be made for marriage is that it appears to glue parents together more tightly than any other arrangement.

This part is key, especially for those millennials who think that cohabitating before marrying makes the marriage more secure:

Analysis of one large American data set by Kathryn Edin and Laura Tach, two sociologists, shows that 27% of marriages broke down within nine years of a child being born. By contrast, among couples who were merely cohabiting when a child appeared, 53% separated within nine years—and most of the remaining 47% were married by that point. Among couples who were dating but not living together when the child was born, 81% had split up.

Again, this pattern runs across national and cultural borders. Cohabiting couples behave a bit more like married couples in countries where giving birth outside marriage is very common, such as Estonia and Norway. But they seldom attain the same level of stickiness as married couples, even after controlling for the mother’s level of education.

Cohabitation doesn’t work, because it’s basically saying that I’m going to try the other person and see if I like the other person, and that sex is required to know if I like the other person. It doesn’t really matter that you know the other person really well, because you can always get out of cohabitation just by leaving. Marriage says that I’m going to commit to the other person for life, through thick and thin. Here, both people tend to do a more thorough job of selecting their partner, perhaps even consulting fathers for advice. Why? Because getting out of a marriage is a lot harder to do, and more expensive.

In the past, I’ve blogged about some factors that can make your marriage pretty much divorce proof: things like chastity, not spending too much on the wedding, age of the man and woman at marriage, education levels of each spouse, number of people attending the wedding ceremony, isolation from other divorced people, church attendance, and so on. The truth is that you can engineer a marriage that’s practically divorce proof. But if you insist on spontaneity and following your heart, then you aren’t going to care what studies say works best. A stable marriage takes preparation, and that means making pro-marriage choices all throughout your life before your marriage, instead of doing what feels right to you in the moment. What feels good in the moment is almost never the right choice if your goal is a stable marriage.

“The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands” is required reading for women who want to marry

Man helping a woman with proper handgun marksmanship
Man helping a woman with proper handgun marksmanship

I’ve been re-reading my favorite book on marriage, and so I thought I would re-post something about it.

Sue Bohlin of Probe Ministries read “The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands“, and her assessment is here.

Excerpt:

Talk show host Dr. Laura Schlessinger has written a book that is improving thousands of marriages: The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands.{1} We need this book because millions of wives either don’t know how to love their husbands wisely and well, or they’re too self-centered to see it as important. Dr. Laura credits this dismal condition to forty years of feminist philosophy, “with its condemnation of just about everything male as evil, stupid, and oppressive, and the denigration of female and male roles in families.”{2} While the women’s movement certainly had a hand to play in the disintegration of relationships and the family, I believe the core cause is our sinful self-centeredness, just as the Bible says.{3}

Which is why we need help, and God instructs older women to train younger women to love their husband and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.{4} The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands is a great resource for learning these important values and skills.

She talks about men’s needs for direct communication, respect, appreciation, support, and sex.

And ends with this:

I can’t recommend The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands highly enough. In fact, I gave a copy to my new daughter-in-law! Let me close with one more piece of wisdom from Dr. Laura: “[M]en are simple creatures who come from a woman, are nurtured and brought up by a woman, and yearn for the continued love, admiration and approval of a woman. . . Women need to better appreciate the magnitude of their power and influence over men, and not misuse or abuse it.”{25}

Sue is the husband of famous Christian scholar Ray Bohlin, PhD, and they’ve been married for a very long time.

And here’s another summary of the book that I found.

Full text:

Dr. Laura Schlessinger has written another book that deserves a place on the best seller list with six of her other books, such as Ten Stupid Things Women Do to Mess Up Their Lives and Ten Stupid Things Men Do to Mess Up Their Lives. The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands, from this unmarried man’s perspective, is an excellent manual for women on how to get want they want from men and marriage and, generally, how to be happy. Dr. Laura makes a number of important, practical points, based on her experience in private practice, from advising her radio callers, and from literally hundreds of letters and emails she received from men and women while she was writing the book. Here are the points that struck this writer, together with commentary:

1. Men Need Women, and This Need Gives Women Huge Influence. Dr. Laura states the point as follows: “[M]en are simple creatures who come from a woman, are nurtured and brought up by a woman, and yearn for the continued love, admiration, and approval from a woman.” Women have great power and influence over men, and wives in particular have tremendous power over their husbands. How they use this power essentially controls the relationship, because women are the masters of most relationships and marriages. That’s why Dr. Laura says that she probably won’t write The Proper Care and Feeding of Wives: wives already have most of the power and their marriages depend, for the most part, on them.

2. Women Err in Favoring Children Over Husband. A friend once told this writer that once a woman has children, her husband is relegated to the moral equivalence of a piece of furniture. How sad if this is true in many marriages. Here’s how Dr. Laura puts it: “Once wives became mothers, they had no time to be wives. The men would even compliment their wives on being great mothers, but expressed considerable pain over not being shown love, affection, or sexual interest. The typical reply from a wife challenged with this was ‘I only have time to take care of one person, and our child is that person. I’m just too tired for you.’ This puts fathers in the ugly and uncomfortable position of feeling competitive with and resentful of their children, whom they love so much.”

3. Men and Women Are Different. That men and women are deeply different ought not to be notable, but for the fact that it is so often challenged today. Dr. Laura says that society tries to make both men and women “unisex.” But men are happiest being men, and women are happiest being women, with few exceptions. The differences start to manifest themselves very early. In one study Dr. Laura mentions, a barrier was placed between 1 year-old babies and their mothers. What did the little boys do? They attempted to get around the barrier or knock it down. The little girls? They cried until their mothers’ picked them up. Men tend to respond to things physically, women verbally. In fact, the two sexes are just right for each other.

4. Not Every Thought and Feeling Needs to be Said. Women tend to be so verbal, so expressive, that they can tire out men easily unless they exercise some restraint. Dr. Laura reports that wives generally overwhelm their husbands with communication. “Husbands imagine (so foolishly) that their wives are telling them something they actually need to know because they’re supposed to do something about it. Otherwise, men can’t imagine why the ‘communication’ is happening at all. It confuses them, frustrates them, and their response is to turn off. That’s when they unfairly become labeled insensitive.” Husbands and fiances are not girlfriends or psychologists, and women who want attention should adjust their communication style accordingly when speaking with them.

5. Men Are Not Mind-Readers. Most men are not very intuitive compared to most women. Many women “get caught up in the absurdly romanticized notion that ‘if he loved me, he’d just know what I’m thinking, what I’d like, what he should say.'” If a woman wants her man to do something, she should just ask him plainly, without nagging, and show appreciation when he does it. To act otherwise, as many women do, shows arrogance and lack of respect for the husband’s difference, and it leads to unhappiness in the marriage and in the family.

6. Man Is an Embodied Soul. No, Dr. Laura didn’t put it that way; “embodied soul” is a Catholic concept. But that concept is what underlies her discussion of how important it is to a man that his wife try to keep up her appearance. What does it mean that we are embodied souls? It means that our bodies are integral parts of who we are. We are not just souls. Our bodies are not like clothing that we can take on or off. There was no time during which we had only souls and not bodies, and in eternity as well we will have bodies. It is through our bodies, in fact, that we communicate to our loved ones and to the rest of the world. One thinks of the beautiful line from the old Anglican marriage rite: bride and groom pledge to each other “with my body I thee worship.” It is ironic, but in many cases men–sex-crazed pigs in the minds of many women–actually have a truer understanding of the beauty of the body and the meaning of the marital embrace than their wives do. “Objectification” may come as much or more from the woman’s side as from the husband’s if the woman sees her own body as being separate from rather than an integral part of herself. Dr. Laura writes: “In reading all the letters from men, I was struck by their depth of senstivity about the issue of women’s appearance. It wasn’t an impersonal, animal reaction (as it is with women the men don’t personally know), it was a deeply personal one. The wife’s comfort with and appreciation of her own body and femininity, and her willingness to share that with her husband, actually fed his sense of well-being, his feeling of being loved as a husband and valued as a ‘man.'”

7. Infidelity by Omission. Brides and grooms make a number of vows, not only of sexual fidelity. Marital vows include and imply words like love, honor, protect, and care for. “[W]hen one breaches those vows by neglect, is that also not a form of infidelity? Perhaps we should start looking at the act of intentionally depriving a spouse of legitimate needs as infidelity, too, because it stems from being unfaithful to the intent of the vows.”

8. In the Bedroom. To her credit, Dr. Laura gives due place to the importance for marriage of the marital act: “The bedroom is the foundation of marriage and family.” St. Josemaria Escriva, founder of Opus Dei, that supposedly conservative institution within the Church, put it this way: “The marriage bed is an altar.” Enough said?

9. Women Should Appreciate Men’s Masculinity. Dr. Laura relates a trip she made recently to a swimming pool. A mom and a dad were wading with their infant child. Mom held the child against her chest, cooed to him, and swooped him up and down. She passed the baby to dad. He turned the baby’s face outward and swooshed him forward and up into the air. “Mom equals protection and nurturance. Dad equals autonomy and adventure. It is the perfect balance that helps produce a functional, secure human being.” Too many women, though, act like Alice Kramdens, constantly belitting their husbands, shooting down their aspirations, treating them like children. Dr. Laura writes: “When a wife treats her man like he’s one of her children, when she puts him down or thwarts his need for autonomy, adventure, risk, competition, challenge, and conquest, she ends up with a sullen, unooperative, unloving, hostile lump.”

10. Thou Shalt Not Covet. Dr. Laura contributes a novel (to this writer) and insightful contemporary application of the commandment, “thou shal not covet.” Specifically, she understands it as a rebuke to people who want it all, especially feminists. “Perhaps the feminist notions about women having power if they do it all has obstructed too many women’s ability to realize that in real life we all make choices, and that the true joy and meaning of life is not in how many things we have or do, but in the sacrifice and commitment we make to others within the context of the choices we’ve made. The Tenth Commandment, about coveting, reminds us that none of us can have everything there is nor everything we want. Without enjoying and appreciating our gifts and blessings, we create a hell on earth for ourselves and for those who love us.”

PCF Husbands is the best basic book on marriage. Easy to read, tons of wisdom. It’s a great book for women to read to find out what men really want from a wife, and to find out what a wife should do to kep her marriage intact and satisfying. Marriage can be a beautiful thing if both people go into the relationship with the view that each person has to put in 100% effort to make it work. Understanding a man’s needs helps a woman to put in her 100%. It would be hard to take care of a parrot or some other strange creature if you didn’t know anything about what their needs and habits were. This book explains a lot of what women need to know about men.

The Economist: marriage is still the best place for children

Marriage and family
Marriage and family

I stopped reading The Economist when they endorsed the socialist failure Barack Obama, who doubled the national debt to $20 trillion in only 8 years. However, even a stopped clock is right twice a day. And here is one of those times.

Excerpt:

However, there is one big reason to worry about the quality and longevity of people’s intimate bonds. It is that relationships often produce children, and children are profoundly affected by how their parents get on.

You could make enough confetti for a summer of weddings with all the academic papers that show how much children gain from being brought up in stable, loving families, and how much they suffer when those families break down. Culture and customs make little difference. In Japan, four-fifths of single-parent households emerge when couples divorce—a much higher share than in the West, where people usually slip into single parenthood without marrying. Japanese children living with only one parent nonetheless perform significantly worse in school tests, just as children from single-parent families do in Europe and America. In poorer countries, family breakdown can kill. According to one recent estimate, the chance that an African child will die before turning five is about 25-30 per 1,000 for those born into stable families, but 35-40 per 1,000 for the children of single, divorced or widowed parents.

Marriage is not always good for children. They do not benefit when a parent marries somebody who is not their mother or father, and seem to suffer if the parent they live with cycles through several relationships. What they seem to need most is for their biological parents to stick together. And one strong claim that can be made for marriage is that it appears to glue parents together more tightly than any other arrangement.

This part is key, especially for those millennials who think that cohabitating before marrying makes the marriage more secure:

Analysis of one large American data set by Kathryn Edin and Laura Tach, two sociologists, shows that 27% of marriages broke down within nine years of a child being born. By contrast, among couples who were merely cohabiting when a child appeared, 53% separated within nine years—and most of the remaining 47% were married by that point. Among couples who were dating but not living together when the child was born, 81% had split up.

Again, this pattern runs across national and cultural borders. Cohabiting couples behave a bit more like married couples in countries where giving birth outside marriage is very common, such as Estonia and Norway. But they seldom attain the same level of stickiness as married couples, even after controlling for the mother’s level of education.

Cohabitation doesn’t work, because it’s basically saying that I’m going to try the other person and see if I like the other person, and that sex is required to know if I like the other person. It doesn’t really matter that you know the other person really well, because you can always get out of cohabitation just by leaving. Marriage says that I’m going to commit to the other person for life, through thick and thin. Here, both people tend to do a more thorough job of selecting their partner, perhaps even consulting fathers for advice. Why? Because getting out of a marriage is a lot harder to do, and more expensive.

In the past, I’ve blogged about some factors that can make your marriage pretty much divorce proof: things like chastity, not spending too much on the wedding, age of the man and woman at marriage, education levels of each spouse, number of people attending the wedding ceremony, isolation from other divorced people, church attendance, and so on. The truth is that you can engineer a marriage that’s practically divorce proof. But if you insist on spontaneity and following your heart, then you aren’t going to care what studies say works best.