Tag Archives: Marriage

What do research studies say about the bond between fathers and daughters?

Texas senator Ted Cruz, his wife Heidi Cruz and their two daughters
Texas senator Ted Cruz, his wife Heidi Cruz and their two daughters

Many people today think that biological fathers are not essential for raising daughters. In fact, we even support this view by passing no-fault divorce laws, single-mother welfare laws, and by opposing shared parenting laws. The story goes that children do fine without their biological father in the home. Having children is something that women decide to do, and the man is superfluous. So I thought it might be a good idea to take a look at the research.

Here is a recent article from the centrist Institute for Family Studies.

It says:

The dynamic between fathers and their daughters has been characterized by one expert as the most “fragile and unstable” when compared to other parent-child relationships.1 It can be further described as one of the most powerful and vital relationships to individuals, communities, and nations. For instance, fathers have a profound impact on their daughters’ body image,clinical depression, eating disorders,self-esteem, and life satisfaction,to name but a few.

But of all the unique contributions a father makes in his daughter’s life, perhaps there is none of greater significance than in the area of sexual development and activity and romantic relationships.

  • Numerous studies have discovered female pubertal timing occurs later in girls whose fathers are consistently present in their life.5
  • An extensive body of research has revealed that early pubertal maturation in girls is associated with a variety of negative biological, psychological, and social outcomes, including, mood disorders,substance abuse,adolescent pregnancy,and a variety of cancers of the reproductive system.9
  • Fatherless daughters are seven times more likely to become pregnant as teens.10

[…]The conditions in our culture of both rampant fatherlessness and sexual promiscuity are incompatible with forming secure and healthy relationships with boys and with establishing stable families for the next generation. A young girl’s sexual development can significantly outpace her neurological and emotional development—the very resources needed to guide her sexual choices.

Herein lies the danger. Much of our culture today promotes sexual activity but void of healthy attachment or true intimacy. There is a great deal of evidence to suggest that high levels of father involvement (regardless of dad’s marital status) are predictive of high levels of intimacy, commitment, and trust in young female adults’ romantic relationships; whereas low levels of father involvement are predictive of the opposite.11

And:

How a father treats both his daughter and her mother can help a young woman feel safe and secure in her relationships with the boys and men in her life, including her future husband. Family scientists and evolutionary psychologists have discovered that girls appear to be born with an emotional, relational, and evolutionary void that a father is designated to fill. If left vacant, girls will be more likely to seek to fill it in with other, unhealthier substitutes. The father-daughter relationship is the one that best teaches young women about true love and intimacy, self-worth, and respect.

Professor Linda Nielsen summarized this in one profound sentence: “[T]he father has the greater impact on the daughter’s ability to trust, enjoy, and relate well to the males in her life.”

So, a father’s love keeps her from getting into relationships with boys before the boys are ready to commit to her. By the way, I don’t think that boys should even be allowed to TALK to girls about a relationship, unless they have a STEM degree, and two years of private sector work experience. I really hate when unemployed, penniless boys waste a girl’s time when they can’t afford to commit to her. People think I am pretty rough on women, but I really am much meaner to men who don’t have STEM degrees and gapless resumes. (I guess a skilled trade would work as well, in place of the STEM degree – something like electrician, for example).

Anyway, back to the research. When a woman is deciding which men to have sex with, she has to be thinking of more than just her own needs. She has to choose a man who is going to stick around long enough to raise her daughters, so that they grow up with the confidence to resist the advances of boys who aren’t ready to commit. To be pro-woman means to be pro-daughter, and that means that women need to be persuaded to be careful about the choice of sex partner, and the timing of sexual activity. This is why people used to keep sex for marriage in the past: to protect children by making sure that they would get the stability and engagement they need from their parents.

Also, I have talked about the research about father-son bond in a different post.

If you want to do right for your children, then you need to control yourself and make wise choices. And if you’re struggling to make good choices, then don’t leave it up to your emotions and peer approval. Disregard your emotions. Disregard peer approval. Instead, let your decision-making be guided by your Christian convictions, and strengthened with scientific evidence. The Bible tells you not to have sex before you’re married, and science tells you why this is good policy. The Bible gives you the goals, and science tells you how to how the world works, so you know how to make plans that will make sure you are never in a place where you are pressured to do the wrong thing. The more science you pack into your head, the easier it will be for you to convince yourself to do the right thing, and to convince your partner to do the right thing. Science takes moral decision-making outside the realm of feelings and opinions.

And if your partner says “I don’t care about the needs of our future children”, then you have a good reason to dump them and move on. You can’t be in a relationship with someone who thinks that children’s needs are less important than adult desires. In fact, the whole design for relationships should start with what children need from the marriage and parents, and work backward from there to the obligations on the man and the woman. And men and women ought to discuss this. What are we trying to achieve with this relationship anyway? And what is the right way to achieve it? This is where the research comes in – it shows you how to do it right.

Research from the Heritage Foundation

How to avoid being the victim of toxic masculinity

Telling a woman how to make wise decisions protects her
Telling a woman how to make wise decisions protects her

I see that Gillette has come out with a male-bashing ad that blames all men for the sins of a few very bad men. I thought it might be a good idea for me to write something to women to help them to avoid being the victim of toxic masculinity. My post will have two parts: 1) choosing good men and 2) policies that produce good men.

Preparing to evaluate a man

If you don’t want toxic masculinity, then you have to choose a man who is not toxic. Men must be evaluated, and the toxic ones must be rejected – even if they are attractive and produce feelings of desire and excitement. How do you learn how to evaluate men? Well, you have to know how to talk to them about the things that are relevant to their roles as husbands and fathers. It’s not enough to ask a man “how did your day go?” Shallow questions don’t protect you from toxic masculinity. You need to ask questions that actually surface the true character of the man, and whether he has done anything verifiable to prepare himself to lead a family. The only way to evaluate HIM is to have prepared YOURSELF in advance. You prepare yourself by reading serious papers and books about men and marriage and parenting. Only then will you be able to judge how much he knows, and how good he is at doing what a man does in a committed relationship. It’s just like a job interview.

For example, men should be pro-life, because they should care about protecting the weak from the strong. If you – as a woman – do not understand how to make a case for the right to life of unborn children YOURSELF, then how will you be able to evaluate men to determine whether THEY take seriously the obligation to protect the weak from the strong?  If you don’t know anything about pro-life legislation and Supreme Court cases, then how will you evaluate a man’s knowledge of those areas? You have to do YOUR homework first, so that you are able to evaluate the character of a man.

Which policies create men who are toxic?

Fatherlessness creates toxic masculinity.

If a man is growing up without a father, then he will never see a man treating a woman well, even after she has lost her youth and beauty. The first thing that children notice about their fathers is that he lives at home. But they also know that he gets up early each day to go to work for the family. And they know that if there is anything scary, like a spider or a noise, then father is the one who protects the mother. Father is the one who teaches a child that authority (and punishment) is not done out of anger, but out of love. Father is the one who sets moral boundaries, lives out moral rules, and reads the Bible to the children. Fathers demonstrate how to control superior strength, because can never act towards his wife in a way that could destroy the marriage.

Boys learn the complexity of women by watching their fathers interact with their mothers. Growing up with a father and a mother is the complete opposite of pornography. In porn, boys see only the woman’s outward appearance with no context of a commitment, and no long-term plan where husband and wife are partners. Porn reduces her to an object designed only to please his needs. Marriage shows cooperation between man and woman in order to make the relationship stable and productive. Boys in father-present homes have a much broader and deeper database of interactions to draw on when dealing with women. In particular, boys learn what skills and abilities a man demonstrates to a woman in order to signal to her that he is interested in marrying her.

So, if you oppose toxic masculinity, then you have to be against fatherlessness. You have to be for marriage as the best place for children to grow up. And to be for marriage, is to be against every policy that threatens marriage. You must be against no-fault divorce. Against single-mother welfare. Against the Sexual Revolution. Against recreational premarital sex. Against delaying marriage for fun and careers. And against feminism – which teaches women that evaluating a man for traditional marriage roles is “sexist”.

People on the secular left complain the most about toxic masculinity but they are the ones doing the most to promote policies that create it. Secular leftists can’t tear down the theism that rationally grounds morality, and then complain when institutions like marriage – which are built on objective moral values and duties – are destroyed. It doesn’t matter if a secular leftist wishes for toxic masculinity to disappear. If they say nothing about women choosing hot bad boys for relationships, then they are in favor of toxic masculinity. If they say nothing about the destruction of marriage and fatherless children, then they are in favor of toxic masculinity. You can’t kill the engine that produces good men, and then complain that the bad men who are left don’t treat you well.

Conclusion

To review: to avoid toxic masculinity, you should 1) prepare yourself (by studying) so you can evaluate men for their ability to perform distinct male marriage roles, and 2) promote policies in which boys are raised in homes with a father loving their mother in a lifelong commitment. If you deny either of these things, then you’re not opposed to toxic masculinity at all. You might say you don’t like it, but you’re not doing anything to avoid choosing it, and you’re not doing anything to produce young men who avoid it.

I think that women today are complaining about “toxic masculinity” precisely because they feel entitled to choose men based on outward appearance, give them recreational premarital sex, and then expect that those men will treat them with respect and care. It doesn’t work that way. Hot bad boys don’t respond to recreational premarital sex by transforming themselves into faithful husbands with impeccable moral character. If you want good character, then evaluate men to find it and then choose it. Period.

New study: men and women have different goals and expectations when cohabitating

Men who cohabitate are not certain that the relationship is permanent
Cohabitating men don’t see cohabitation as permanent, but married men do see marriage as permanent

Consider this fascinating article from the radically-leftist The Atlantic, authored by marriage researcher W. Bradford Wilcox. The article discusses the different beliefs of cohabitating men and women regarding goals and expectations for relationships.

Excerpt:

According to a new paper from RAND by sociologists Michael Pollard and Kathleen Mullan Harris, cohabiting young adults have significantly lower levels of commitment than their married peers. This aversion to commitment is particularly prevalent among young men who live with their partners.

Pollard and Harris found that the majority of cohabiting young men do not endorse the maximum indicator of relationship permanence: 52 percent of cohabiting men between ages 18 and 26 are not “almost certain” that their relationship is permanent. Moreover, a large minority (41 percent) of men report that they are not “completely committed” to their live-in girlfriends. By contrast, only 39 percent of cohabiting women in the same age group are not “almost certain” their relationship will go the distance, and only 26 percent say they are not “completely committed”. Not surprisingly, the figures above and below also indicate that married women and men are much less likely to exhibit the low levels of commitment characteristic of many cohabiting relationships today.

[…]The only thing worse than being in a relationship for years with an uncommitted person, it would seem, is marrying one. Research by psychologists Scott Stanley and Galena Rhoades, spotlighted in a New York Times op-ed last year, suggests that cohabiting couples are in for trouble when they “slide” into cohabitation and then marriage rather than “decide” to take the same steps. Their work indicates that many couples begin living together without clear expectations, common values, or a shared commitment to one another. And after a time, some of these couples get married, in part because friends, family, and they themselves think it’s the logical next step. But without common values and a shared sense of commitment, the couples who slide into cohabitation and marriage, instead of purposely deciding to deepen their commitment to one another, are more likely to divorce.

Stanley and Rhoades illustrate this point by pointing to the research on cohabitation, engagement, and divorce. Women who cohabit prior to engagement are about 40 percent more likely to divorce, compared to those who do not cohabit. By contrast, couples who cohabit after an engagement do not face a higher divorce risk. Those who cohabit only after engagement or marriage also report higher marital quality, not just lower odds of divorce. Stanley and Rhoades think that “sliders” are more likely than “deciders” to cohabit prior to an engagement, and to have trouble in their marriage if they go on to tie the knot. On the other hand, couples who deliberately choose to move in together after a public engagement or wedding are more likely to enjoy the shared commitment that will enable their relationship to last.

So, given the low levels of commitment and the gender mismatch in expectations often found among today’s cohabiting couples, young men and especially women who aspire to a strong and stable marriage should take caution when considering moving in together.

You can click through the article to see the graphs he is talking about in the excerpt. Highly recommended. Just be aware Wilcox that accepts feminism (i.e. – promiscuity, no-fault-divorce, career-focus, day care, etc.) as non-negotiable improvements that should not be rolled back. His view is that men should just man up and continue to marry feminists like they used to marry non-feminists, even though marriage isn’t as good of a deal for men as it used to be before feminism.

It turns out that women cannot just pick a good-looking guy and drift into a commitment by stringing together good days and good experiences. A man who is looking for recreational premarital sex with a woman before marriage is not looking for marriage, but recreation. Marriage is a commitment to work hard, be disciplined, be self-sacrificial and to compromise with another person – all in close quarters. When choosing a mate, you need to look for someone who is good at commitments. Not someone who is good at fun.

The ability to have fun with a man is not a good predictor of marital success because fun is unrelated to the things that a man really does in a marriage: protect, provide, and lead on moral and spiritual issues. Similarly, the ability to impress your friends with a man’s appearance or entertainment value does not make a commitment work. What makes a commitment work… is a man who demonstrates that he is good at making plans and achieving goals through discipline and hard work. Marriage requires making plans and achieving goals more than it requires having fun. Recreational premarital sex is about having fun – not making plans and achieving goals. Instead of talking about the next good time with a man, maybe women need to learn to talk about the mechanics of marriage with a man. And talk about the man’s roles in a marriage with a man. And then they need to learn to avoid men who don’t have plans and who aren’t ready to perform those roles. There are plenty of men who are not “bad boys” who do have plans and who are ready to perform traditional male roles. Young women: don’t waste your youth and beauty on men who are not ready to commit.

A final point. I have noticed today that women tend to avoid men who have strong, exclusive views on moral questions and spiritual questions. The minute a man expresses a moral point of view or a theological argument, women tend to want to avoid him. Sometimes they fear rejection from men with definite convictions. Sometimes they resent male leadership. And there are other reasons to avoid strong men. The problem is that a man who has definite moral views is exactly the kind of man who is likely to be trustworthy and predictable in the marriage. And a man who has definite spiritual views is exactly the kind of man who is going to have some sort of overarching plan for the marriage (AND PARENTING) beyond mere pleasure. You wouldn’t choose someone who was guided by hedonism to be your stock broker or your medical doctor, because doing a hard job requires self-sacrifice and discipline. The same rule applies to choosing husbands. Husbands have duties that are typically best performed by moral, spiritual men.

Study: children of same-sex couples do less well than those of married couples

A family praying and reading the Bible
A family praying and reading the Bible

The Public Discourse reports on a recent study out of Canada.

Excerpt:

A new academic study based on the Canadian census suggests that a married mom and dad matter for children. Children of same-sex coupled households do not fare as well.

There is a new and significant piece of evidence in the social science debate about gay parenting and the unique contributions that mothers and fathers make to their children’s flourishing. A study published last week in the journal Review of the Economics of the Household—analyzing data from a very large, population-based sample—reveals that the children of gay and lesbian couples are only about 65 percent as likely to have graduated from high school as the children of married, opposite-sex couples. And gender matters, too: girls are more apt to struggle than boys, with daughters of gay parents displaying dramatically low graduation rates.

Unlike US-based studies, this one evaluates a 20 percent sample of the Canadian census, where same-sex couples have had access to all taxation and government benefits since 1997 and to marriage since 2005.

While in the US Census same-sex households have to be guessed at based on the gender and number of self-reported heads-of-household, young adults in the Canadian census were asked, “Are you the child of a male or female same-sex married or common law couple?” While study author and economist Douglas Allen noted that very many children in Canada who live with a gay or lesbian parent are actually living with a single mother—a finding consonant with that detected in the 2012 New Family Structures Study—he was able to isolate and analyze hundreds of children living with a gay or lesbian couple (either married or in a “common law” relationship akin to cohabitation).

So the study is able to compare—side by side—the young-adult children of same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples, as well as children growing up in single-parent homes and other types of households. Three key findings stood out to Allen:

children of married opposite-sex families have a high graduation rate compared to the others; children of lesbian families have a very low graduation rate compared to the others; and the other four types [common law, gay, single mother, single father] are similar to each other and lie in between the married/lesbian extremes.

Employing regression models and series of control variables, Allen concludes that the substandard performance cannot be attributed to lower school attendance or the more modest education of gay or lesbian parents. Indeed, same-sex parents were characterized by higher levels of education, and their children were more likely to be enrolled in school than even those of married, opposite-sex couples. And yet their children are notably more likely to lag in finishing their own schooling.

[…]The truly unique aspect of Allen’s study, however, may be its ability to distinguish gender-specific effects of same-sex households on children. He writes:

the particular gender mix of a same-sex household has a dramatic difference in the association with child graduation. Consider the case of girls. . . . Regardless of the controls and whether or not girls are currently living in a gay or lesbian household, the odds of graduating from high school are considerably lower than any other household type. Indeed, girls living in gay households are only 15 percent as likely to graduate compared to girls from opposite sex married homes.

Thus although the children of same-sex couples fare worse overall, the disparity is unequally shared, but is instead based on the combination of the gender of child and gender of parents. Boys fare better—that is, they’re more likely to have finished high school—in gay households than in lesbian households. For girls, the opposite is true. Thus the study undermines not only claims about “no differences” but also assertions that moms and dads are interchangeable. They’re not.

With a little digging, I found the abstract of the study:

Almost all studies of same-sex parenting have concluded there is “no difference” in a range of outcome measures for children who live in a household with same-sex parents compared to children living with married opposite-sex parents. Recently, some work based on the US census has suggested otherwise, but those studies have considerable drawbacks. Here, a 20% sample of the 2006 Canada census is used to identify self-reported children living with same-sex parents, and to examine the association of household type with children’s high school graduation rates. This large random sample allows for control of parental marital status, distinguishes between gay and lesbian families, and is large enough to evaluate differences in gender between parents and children. Children living with gay and lesbian families in 2006 were about 65 % as likely to graduate compared to children living in opposite sex marriage families. Daughters of same-sex parents do considerably worse than sons.

The author of the study is a professor of economics at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia. His PhD in economics is from the University of Washington. A previous study had shown that gay relationships typically have far more instability (they last for more shorter times). That’s not good for children either. Another study featured in the Atlantic talked about how gay relationships have much higher rates of domestic violence. That’s not good for children either. So we have three reasons to think that normalizing gay relationships as “marriage” would not be good for children.

The reason I am posting this is because I want people to understand why social conservatives like me propose these laws defining and promoting marriage. We do favor natural marriage for the same reason that we oppose no-fault divorce, and for the same reason why we oppose welfare for single mothers (it encourages single motherhood). We don’t want to encourage people to deprive children of their mother or their father. We look at the research, and we decide that children need their mother and father. Given the choice between the needs of the child and restraining the freedom of the adults, we prefer the child’s need for her mother and father. It’s not just arbitrary rules, there is a reason behind the rules.

But children are not commodities. They have certain needs right out of the box. Adults should NOT be thinking about how to duct-tape a child onto any old relationship that doesn’t offer the same safety and stability that opposite sex marriage offers. We should be passing laws to strengthen marriage in order to protect children, not to weaken it. Libertarians don’t want to do that, because they want adults to be free to do as they please, at the expense of children.  Libertarians think that the adults should be able to negotiate private contracts and have no obligations to any children who are present, or who may be present later.

Related posts

More and more women are asking why they can’t find a good man to marry

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

In the last few months, I’ve met 5 different Christian women in their 30s who all asked me the same question: where are all the good men who want to marry me?

Christian men’s rights blogger Dalrock had two different posts where he described the answer to this question.

Here is the first post from Dalrock that concisely illustrates the problem:

As I wrote in A very long season, feminists don’t want to waste a day more of their youth and fertility on their husbands than absolutely necessary. As if to prove this very point, 30 year old Mona Chalabi writes in the NY Times* I Want My 2.3 Bonus Years:

If I could prolong my time as a young adult by, say, 2.3 years, here is a list of things I would like to do:

• Go to more parties. Preferably wild parties that I can think about, years later, at mild parties.

[…]• Have more romantic partners.

[…]• Get a bit higher up the career ladder a bit earlier on. That would probably boost my earnings, giving me more financial security. I could use that money to go to more parties, get a membership to a fancy gym and maybe even meet a romantic partner on the ab machines.

To drive the message home, the image at the top of the article is a cartoon of a resentful Chalabi giving her future husband the side eye for her lost years of sampling penises!

Surely, this must be an isolated case just for New York Times feminists, right? It’s not widespread, is it?

Second post from Dalrock:

Margaret Wente at the Globe and Mail* asks where all the good men have gone.  Wente comes to the conclusion that women need a sex cartel:

…it’s up to us to make the rules. “Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?” my father used to say. It drove me crazy when he said that. Now, it’s dawned on me that he was right.

Since the women’s cartel collapsed, women’s bargaining power has seriously eroded. That’s why so many single women hate Tinder, which has further commodified sex for the benefit of men. Women are just another consumer good in the shop window.

The apex fallacy aside, Wente is partially right.  Women (as a group) have signaled to men that what they really want are exciting sexy badboys, not boring loyal dudes. It isn’t that women no longer want to marry beta providers, they just don’t want to waste a day more of their youth and fertility on their husband than absolutely necessary.

As a result, some up and coming boring loyal dudes aren’t knocking themselves out in their twenties while they wait for their future wife to tire of having sex with other men.

If you wonder why men are no longer performing in school, and exchanging careers for video games, the answer is simple. Men have realized that young women today, under the influence of feminism, are not interested in traditional husbands during their late teens and 20s. During these years, women are interested in travel, fun, drinking, hook-ups and cohabitation with amoral atheists. This is what I have personally observed. In the minds of young women, the highest value men are good-looking men who have no religion, and make no moral judgments, and are left of center politically – especially on abortion. There are many good men who are romantic about women from their youth, and want to get married. But when they see what young women really want, they just give up on school and work, since doing the traditional male roles has no value to young women. Many good men even give up on morality and Christianity because they want a relationship with a woman so badly.

More from second post:

What Wente doesn’t understand is that timing is everything.  From an economic point of view, women are dividing up sexual access that traditionally would have been reserved only for their husband into two blocks.  The first block contains their most attractive and fertile years, and it is dedicated to no strings sex with exciting badboys.  Then, once women reach what Rollo calls the epiphany phase, they want to bargain sexual access in their remaining (older and less fertile) years for maximum beta bucks.

The problem with this strategy is (generally speaking) not that the previously overlooked beta men will refuse to marry the suddenly reformed party girls.  The problem is that young men now look at the men 3-5 (and even 5-10) years older than them and don’t see an indication that signaling provider status will make them attractive to women.  They also see a society that holds married fathers in contempt**.  Most of these men are still working hard in their late teens and twenties to prepare to signal provider status in their 30s.  But a growing minority of young men are no longer doing so.  These men are instead working like women.  Once the reformed party girls are ready to find Mr. Beta Bucks, there is a shortage of 30 something men who fit the bill.  Even worse, no amount of complaining or shaming will cause the missing beta providers to go back in time and spend the prior decade preparing for this moment.

I’m one of the last men who followed the marriage-preparedness script for traditional men who wanted to marry and have four children and have a stay-at-home homeschooling mom to raise them from birth to graduate school. I find myself now in my early 40s, with a 6-figure income and a nearly 7-figure net worth. I declined to use those assets to play the field with hot bad girls, preferring instead to keep my sexual past completely clean for my eventual wife. However, what I observed in my late teens and 20s and even early 30s was a complete lack of interest in marriage ability, from non-Christian women and Christian women alike. Christian women aren’t learning to value early marriage from their married parents or their evangelical churches. None of the traditional husband skills are valued by young women, i.e. – chastity, gapless resume, alcohol abstinence, undergraduate and graduate STEM degrees, experience nurturing and mentoring others, stewardship of earned income.

I recently caused an uproar on my Facebook page by saying that even if the perfect woman showed up right now to marry me, I would not pursue her because the critical time where the woman could have applied maximum youth, beauty and fertility as a wife to make an impact on my education, early career, health, and finances has passed. A younger woman develops value to her husband precisely by applying herself to him and to her family in these critical early years. Men who have experienced this self-sacrificial love and support are loyal to their wives even after their wives lose their youth and beauty. Why? Because the men know that they are much better than they could have been, having enjoyed that early investment of value made by their young wives.

Young women very supportive of premarital sex
Young women very supportive of premarital sex

As Christian writer Matt Walsh notes in a recent article at the Daily Wire, this “follow your heart” focus on happiness in women is lethal to marital stability, and men know it.

Excerpt:

There was an article in Cosmo this week with a title that summarizes all that’s wrong with Cosmo and modern society as a whole: “I eloped at 25, divorced at 26, and dated my way across Europe all summer.” Of course, by “dated my way across Europe” she means that she slept with half the continent.

The author, Elise, says she “started fighting” with her husband and within a few months they both decided that their differences were irreconcilable. Despite counseling, she says, “neither of us was happy.” So, exhausted from 12 whole months of marriage, Elise embarked on a voyage of self-discovery and STD cultivation. She met random dudes in half a dozen countries and had sex with them, learning quite a lot as she went, though she can’t really explain what exactly she learned or why sex was a necessary component in learning it. Finally, she came home and started dating some other guy. The end.

Well, not really the end. 20 years from now I’m sure we’ll get the follow up article: “I’m alone and miserable and it’s everyone’s fault but mine.” After all, you may be able to fill the emptiness in your soul with frivolous sex when you’re young and physically desirable, but that phase is fleeting. People who don’t want to “waste” their beauty and youth on a spouse, so they waste it instead on strangers who don’t love them or even care what happens to them tomorrow, will be shocked when a tomorrow comes where even strangers aren’t interested anymore. This is where the single-minded, utterly selfish pursuit of “happiness” at all costs inevitably leads: to rejection, despair, and a quiet, unnoticed death on a lonely hospital bed.

As Elise helpfully demonstrated, “do what makes you happy” is poison in a marriage. Many a vow has been broken because one or both partners decide to chase “happiness” instead of commitment, fidelity, and love. “I deserve to be happy,” reports the legion of serial divorcees, as they drift on to the next spouse, and the next, and the next, and the next, looking for the one — the one, finally — who might cure the misery they’ve inflicted on themselves. Increasingly unhappy, yet increasingly convinced that they deserve to be.

And this follow your heart to happiness situation is alive and well in the church today. Marriage-minded Christian men who have prepared for husband roles are surprised to find that there is often little or no difference between Elise and the Christian women the church produces. Christian men who desire to invest in a marriage that is stable, productive and influential have nowhere to turn for a wife who is able and willing to help. In my experience, the problem with happiness-focused women who delay marriage is never discussed in churches from the pulpit. The “good men to marry” that today’s 30-something women are looking for were plentiful back when those same women were in their early-to-mid 20s.