Tag Archives: Marriage

Can relationships succeed independently of the efforts of the people involved?

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

A few years ago, I blogged about the soul mate / fairy tale view of marriage, which I think is the dominant view of marriage among young people today – even among Christians. This view of marriage basically says that there is a person in the world out there who will match up so perfectly with each one of us that we will have to expend no effort and perform no actions and take responsibility for nothing in order for the relationship to work. it will just work on its own!

I’ve decided to link to this recent article by Matt Walsh which is on that same topic.

He writes:

The disease is the fanciful, unrealistic, fictionalized perceptions that both males and females harbor about marriage.

For example, think of the glamorization of the “mysterious” and “damaged” guy from the “wrong side of the tracks.” Hollywood makes him seem alluring and sexy, but forgets to mention that most of the time, in the real world, that dude probably has herpes, a coke habit, and a criminal record.

Still, that bit of propaganda is nothing compared to the underlying misconception that so many of us carry around consciously or subconsciously, because we’ve seen it on TV and in the movies, and read it in books a million times since childhood: namely, that there is just one person out there for us. Our soul mate. Our Mr. or Mrs. Right. The person we are “meant to be with.”

Matt thinks this view of relationships is not realistic:

I didn’t marry my wife because she’s The One, she’s The One because I married her. Until we were married, she was one, I was one, and we were both one of many. I didn’t marry The One, I married this one, and the two of us became one. I didn’t marry her because I was “meant to be with her,” I married her because that was my choice, and it was her choice, and the Sacrament of marriage is that choice. I married her because I love her — I chose to love her — and I chose to live the rest of my life in service to her. We were not following a script, we chose to write our own, and it’s a story that contains more love and happiness than any romantic fable ever conjured up by Hollywood.

Indeed, marriage is a decision, not the inevitable result of unseen forces outside of our control. When we got married, the pastor asked us if we had “come here freely.” If I had said, “well, not really, you see destiny drew us together,” that would have brought the evening to an abrupt and unpleasant end. Marriage has to be a free choice or it is not a marriage. That’s a beautiful thing, really.

God gave us Free Will. It is His greatest gift to us because without it, nothing is possible. Love is not possible without Will. If we cannot choose to love, then we cannot love. God did not program us like robots to be compatible with only one other machine. He created us as individuals, endowed with the incredible, unprecedented power to choose. And with that choice, we are to go out and find a partner, and make that partner our soul mate.

That’s what we do. We make our spouses into our soul mates by marrying them. We don’t simply recognize that they are soul mates and then just sort of symbolically consecrate that recognition through what would then be an effectively meaningless marriage sacrament. Instead, we find another unique, dynamic, wholly individualized human being, and we make the monumental, supernatural decision to bind ourselves to them for eternity.

It’s a bold and risky move, no matter how you look at it. It’s important to recognize this, not so that you can run away like a petrified little puppy and never tie the knot with anyone, but so that you can go into marriage knowing, at least to some extent, what you’re really doing. This person wasn’t made for you. It wasn’t “designed” to be. There will be some parts of your relationship that are incongruous and conflicting. It won’t all click together like a set of Legos, as you might expect if you think this coupling was fated in the stars.

It’s funny that people get divorced and often cite “irreconcilable differences.” Well what did they think was going to happen? Did they think every difference would be reconcilable? Did they think every bit of contention between them could be perfectly and permanently solved?

Finally, regarding his own marriage:

There were literally millions of things that either of us could have done. An innumerable multitude of possible outcomes, but this was our outcome because we chose it. Not because we were destined or predetermined, not because it was “meant to happen,” but because we chose it. That, to me, is much more romantic than getting pulled along by fate until the two of us inevitably collide and all that was written in our horoscopes passively comes to unavoidable fruition.

We are the protagonists of our love story, not the spectators.

I see this problem everywhere, even with Christian women who have been raised as Disney princesses. I was just told by one last week that she will marry when she meets “the right man” – the man who will require her to do nothing. This magical relationship will require no communication, no working through disagreements, no problem solving, no compromise, no effort, no self-sacrifice of any kind. it will just “work”, without any growing up by anyone. Two unemployed people with degrees in English can have a fine marriage, I suppose, traveling the world and skydiving every Tuesday.

I think that when problems arise between two people who are largely compatible, the right thing to do is to engage and solve the problems. Yes, work isn’t required in pop culture notions of romance, but those things don’t reflect the real world anyway. In the real world, actions to solve a problem count for more than words that avoid the problem. Engineering principles and self-sacrificial attitude are infinitely more useful in a relationship than all the pop culture descriptions of ideal men and ideal women and ideal relationships combined.

By the way, the best book on this problem is Dr. Laura’s “The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands”, which clearly sets out how a woman’s choices influence her husband’s ability to perform well. The myth of the mind-reading “right man” is also debunked.

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.

Even alpha male bad boys are disappointed by the Sexual Revolution

Marriage stability vs sexual partners,(Teachman et al. JAMF, August 2010)
Marriage stability vs sexual partners,(Teachman et al. JAMF, August 2010)

Thanks to radical feminism’s dominance in the culture, young unmarried women are no longer desiring marriage, nor selecting men for husband and father roles. In my experience, I would say that about 80% of young unmarried women are competing for 20% of the men. Instead of evaluating these men for husband and father roles, they just evaluate them on externals.

This article from the UK Daily Mail illustrates the problem:

Women are often said to be the less shallow sex when it comes to what they find attractive.

But a study of an online gallery of ‘hot male commuters’ has found that the fairer sex are just as superficial as men – as they find muscles and money the sexiest male attributes.

The study based its findings on a website called Tube Crush, where women and gay men secretly take pictures of the capital’s attractive men on the London Underground.

[…]While the authors acknowledge that gay men also use the site, they say that female responses to the ‘hot commuters’ suggest females have not moved on in what they find attractive beyond ‘money and strength’ – despite their advancement in society.

Signs that the man is wealthy – such as a flashy watch or an expensive suit – were considered highly attractive by site users, as were powerful arm and chest muscles.

But the classic image of the ‘new man’ – a man holding a baby – or skinnier or nerdier types of man were far less represented.

This is a good illustration of what the marriage-minded men now see on college campuses. Today, marriage-minded men who focus on sobriety, chastity and providing for a family are ignored until women tire of chasing the minority of “bad boys” who have these shallow, external characteristics. On campus, marriage-minded men  are ignored while young, unmarried women hope to boost their self-esteem and have fun by having sex with guys who possess shallow external qualities. Alcohol is used as a lubricant for this operation, reducing inhibitions and providing an alibi to the woman’s peer group for the slutty behavior. It seems as if women have completely given up on marriage – at least until their youth start to fade in their early 30s.

Now, as one of the 80% of men who are marriage-minded, I am dissatisfied with women’s decisions to delay marriage for fun with bad boys. But it turns out that even the other 20% of men who are “bad boys” are also dissatisfied with women’s choices.

Consider this article from the UK Sun: (H/T Sarah)

It sounds like every young man’s idea of heaven: endless sex with a constant stream of gorgeous, up-for-it women who don’t even expect a pizza date before, or a conversation afterwards – and all via a tap on your smartphone.

Yet incredibly, a new generation of handsome, successful – and sexually prolific – Tinder-weary lads are claiming sex with hundreds of one-night stands is leaving them burned out, bored – and lonely.

Despite bedding a bevvie of beauties, they claim they’re desperate for lasting romance – and broody for children with a new wave of sexually-liberated young women who just don’t want to commit.

I got to know a group of these seemingly lucky men after I co-wrote the UK’s biggest ever academic study into more than 2,000 British men, released this week.

Called the Harry’s Masculinity Report, the survey was conducted by University College London and Harry’s, a new men’s grooming company that’s just launched in the UK.

Harry’s wanted to shatter the myths around masculinity, and discover what truly made modern men tick in 2017.

Here are some details:

One of these was Simone Ippolito, 25, from Bournemouth, a self-confessed Tinder “player” for two years.

The salesman and part-time model claimed: “When I first got Tinder two years ago, it was heaven. In three months I got 300 matches. They were coming so fast I couldn’t keep up.

“People on Tinder are only there for sex. I’ve been on 200 dates, and I get a result 99 per cent of the time.

“Getting sex is too easy. You get bored of it. Tinder takes all the pleasure out of flirting. It’s not fun anymore. Tinder is literally two glasses of wine then back home for sex. There is no emotion.

“It is boring, empty and lonely. You can’t have a nice conversation after mechanical sex. It’s just sex and go. Now I just want to stop it and settle down”.

Talking to other single men, it rapidly became clear that while dating apps like Tinder means it’s never been easier to get sex, it’s never been harder to fall in love.

This sentiment was echoed by Gary Barnett, 34, social media manager from Brighton, who’s been single for three months.

“For the first time ever in human history, sex is on tap,” he says.

“Nine times out of ten you don’t even have to go out on a date. If a girl likes your photos, they just come round.

“If you’re half attractive you’re bombarded with offers. You can go on Tinder dates every single night of the week.

“The social interaction is totally lacking. You can have sex and never talk again.

“They always ask the same three questions. ‘Hi how are you?’ ‘how’s your week been?’ or ‘I love your beard/tattoos’. That’s literally code for ‘do you want to f***?’

“That was really good for the first year. I filled my boots. After 50 Tinder dates, including 20 in the last two months with no sign of any ‘keepers,’ I’m over it. You get to the point where you can’t be bothered to do it anymore”.

Ah yes, the beard and tattoos. These are apparently very important for attracting women today. But it doesn’t work to attract a serious marriage-minded women to settle down with. Men are designed to want relationships with women. But not every woman is capable of having a relationship with a man. Especially after so many women have been taught by feminism not to prefer commitment-minded men who can perform the traditional male roles: protecting, providing and leading on moral and spiritual issues. Bears, muscles, shiny watches and tattoos might attract women, but it doesn’t make those women marriage-ready. They’re not marriage ready at all.

Who is there today who is teaching women to be ready for marriage? They’re being taught to look for shiny watches, beards, piercings and tattoos. After a while of smashing up their character with bad boys, they aren’t good for marriage any more. Women who choose men based on shallow externals quickly lose their ability to trust any man – even if the right man comes along. And no amount of bad boy attractiveness can fix up a woman who has chosen over and over in favor of fun and thrills.

The Sexual Revolution have messed up love and commitment for everyone, it seems.

The downside of the soul mate / fairy tale view of relationships

 

Husband and wife doing some woodworking together

(Image: Husband and wife doing some woodworking together)

Astonishing article from the leftist Huffington Post, of all places. (links removed)

Excerpt:

As millennial women, we were groomed for a white knight fantasy. From childhood favorites such as Snow White to adult rom-com staples such as How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days or Sleepless in Seattle, the media perpetuates a romantic storyline in which compatibility and lasting romance is something effortless, built on chance, sustained by good looks, fun dates and electric sexual chemistry. These story lines shape our expectations for romantic happiness. It is not enough to find someone with whom we are mostly compatible, who would make a good parent, with whom we could learn and grow wrinkly; now, we expect a perfect fit and an easy, instantaneous “connection.” In short, we want a soul mate. But it is this desire for a soul mate that is actually the undoing of our happy ending.

A “soul mate” is defined as one who is ideally suited to us, perfectly completes us, one with whom the relationship feels easy and natural. With them, a relationship is just “meant to be”… A survey of young adults conducted by the National Marriage Project found that while 84% of young adults report finding a marriage partner “very important,” a full 94% of young adults say they would like to marry a soul mate, and 73% of people ages 18 – 29 believe that there is a soul mate out there for them.

Wow. That doesn’t sound like a good approach to me. My approach has always been to pick the girl who was most willing to learn new things. And then to explain to her my vision for marriage and see if I could get her to work independently on that plan before I married her. I don’t favor this soul mate approach at all.

Does the “soul mate” approach work?

We heard that those who get married later and possess a college degree have fewer divorces and more stable marriages. So we spend our twenties trying to find ourselves through travel, accumulating degrees and building a career. Marriage will be the capstone of our achievements, and nothing less than tying the knot with a soul mate will suffice. But the tragic irony is that soul mate thinking makes us increasingly likely to divorce. A study of 1,400 married men and women shows that people who hold soul mate orientations are 150% more likely to end up divorced than those who do not.

The widespread cultural belief in “soul mate ideology” undermines our chances at happiness because it makes us passive receivers of idyllic romantic expectations. Further, it fosters self-centeredness; one rarely longs to be a soul mate for someone else, which would require effort. For this reason, believing in soul mates is one of the most dis-empowering belief systems we can adopt. As millennials, we pride ourselves on actively pursuing the life we want to live, rather than simply accepting whatever hand we are dealt. We are innovative, passionate, proactive and not afraid to take risks. Yet, there is a disconnect when it comes to our desire for lasting love. Though there are prospects around us, we forgo taking the concrete steps needed to build happy compatible relationships because we do not “feel a spark.” We are passively waiting on the sidelines for love to “happen,” and then wonder why it is so difficult.

I’ve always felt that the soul mate approach was like the evil villain in opposition to my noble plan-based approach. My approach is to pick a woman who wants to learn and work hard. Explain your marriage plan to her, and how your marriage plan serves God. My marriage plan accomplishes four goals, for example. 1) Influence the university with apologetics, 2) influence the church with apologetics, 3) provide a model of a good marriage to people in the community, including co-workers, college students and neighbors, and 4) raise effective, influential children who will have an impact for God. Now if you are a Christian woman raised in a church that affirms the soul mate / fairy tale view of marriage with this “God has a wonderful plan for your life” stuff, then a specific, non-emotional plan from a man is the last thing you want to hear about.

Their solution is for people to work at compatibility:

Compatibility is something co-created through intentionality and conscious choice. It involves mutual sacrifice, effort and commitment for the sake of the other’s benefit. A recent study found that of the couples who demonstrate above average daily generosity, 50% of them report being “very happy” in marriage; among the low generosity scores, only 14% can say the same. As studies indicate, selflessness is required to create mutual compatibility. It is not instantaneous, nor does it usually begin with true love’s kiss.

We both know from experience that there are some you naturally connect with and others you do not. This is not a call towards forced attraction or companionship. But, our romantic futures should not be placed in the hands of blind chance. It is time we roll up our sleeves and shift our expectations from unattainable perfection to realistic romance, one that accounts for imperfection. We must understand that work in a relationship is a necessary key to success, rather than an indication of imminent failure. We will be letting go of a tired plot line that sets us up for disappointment and embracing an active role in our own unique story.

How refreshing to know that we do not have to be perfect to be lovable, and that our romantic success is not solely dependent on finding the “right” fit, but instead built through cultivating daily moments of generosity, sacrifice and conscious coupling.

So in my case, I am looking for a woman who listens to the plan, develops the skills for the plan and then independently engages in activities to achieve the goals of the plan. In the past, I have had women listen to the plan carefully, including my motivations and experiences that caused me to choose this plan. And they have been willing to read books, listen to lectures, watch debates, to gain the skills needed to make a difference. And they have even engaged independently with activities like public speaking, teaching classes, and so forth. But none of the women who had done that accepted the soul mate / fairy tale view of marriage. They all wanted to hear a good plan, learn useful skills and then get to work. Big difference.

How chastity orders your relationships and liberates you for love

Time for examples of real, self-sacrificial love
Time for examples of real, self-sacrificial love

I really recommend chastity to men especially. As long as they are chaste, they free themselves to love others unselfishly. That’s not for every woman, but it’s very useful to do with the right women.

In Salvo magazine, Terrell Clemmons has a good summary of what chastity allows you to do in this post, where she looks at the ideas of Dawn Eden.

She writes:

Contrary to the pervasive bad press it’s gotten from libertines, chastity isn’t about “not having sex.” In fact, it’s about a lot more than just sex. Dawn defines it beautifully: “Chastity is the virtue that enables us to love fully and completely in every relationship, in the manner that is appropriate to the relationship.” Of course, this raises the question of what determines appropriateness, but from both a scriptural and natural law standpoint, this is an easy question to answer. Sexual expression is appropriate to the marriage relationship and inappropriate to all others. Whether or not it’s easy to follow is certainly another matter, and Dawn gives excellent counsel on that and other related matters, but the point here is that the categories are discrete and clearly discernible.

More important, chaste living is grounded in something larger and more permanent than the individual. Whereas in modern singlehood, love is based on feelings, which are apt to change with the wind or even last night’s dinner, chaste love is defined by and grounded in God himself. Love of God—love for God and love from God—becomes the love that orders all other loves. “For each of those whom divine providence places in your life,” Dawn writes, “friends, family, the stranger on the street—you ask yourself, how can I love God through loving this person?”

Whereas the modern single is driven by an inner void that is desperately trying to get filled, the chaste singular looks to God himself to fill the void. Rather than trying to get love through the right match, the chaste singular receives love from God, the ultimate source, and then turns outward with love to give from an inner fullness.

Chaste love is respectful. It behaves with appropriate decorum, which requires forethought. What is the nature of this relationship? Why am I in it? Where is it headed? What are my intentions?

[…]To be sure, chastity will require something of you. First, it requires acknowledging the black hole within that will never be filled by sex and then inviting God himself to fill it. After that, it requires discipline, responsibility, and an ongoing trust in God himself as guarantor of the outcome. It’s the outward lifestyle that proceeds from a sound inward theology of sex and love.

“I learned, through discovering chastity,” Dawn writes, “that the greatest tragedy is not that of being unloved. The greatest tragedy is not loving.” Chaste living is holistic and comprehensive, engaging mind, body, and spirit. It’s about learning to order love as love was meant to be ordered.

Chaste love is basically intelligent, self-sacrificial love. It loves as a way of doing work for your Boss. Instead of trying to make this other person meet your needs, you try to think of how you can make them be a productive person for your Boss. You don’t see them as a commodity, you see them as a fellow soldier. And since you don’t know how far any person can go in serving God, every person you meet has value.

Personally, I think it is a lot more rewarding to chastely love women who have had bad experiences. Not all are safe, but you can tell whether to invest in them by whether they do the things that will build them up. Study something hard. Get good grades. Get a job. Strengthen your faith by reading apologetics. Stop wasting money on alcohol and drugs and cigarettes. Save money instead of spending it. Choose men who are husband material, not boy-toy material.

It’s incredibly fulfilling to see a woman actually listen to you and take your advice, and then to see her experience the rewards of good decision-making. Men sometimes think that sexual submission is a good way to feed the need for respect. But it’s a temporary fix. The permanent fix is to have a place of honor in someone’s life because you helped turn their life around. That’s real respect, and it’s not the kind that the woman takes back later after she sobers up.