My own research with working-class young adults leads me to believe that they have basically made peace with sexual permissiveness—at least outside of marriage—even as they retain some ambivalence about it. They tend to move in quickly with new romantic partners, even as they worry that people rush too quickly into relationships. From survey data, we know that people without a college education have more lifetime sexual partners than those with a college education, and that most of them see no problem with premarital sex.
But there is one problem: easy access to sex with multiple partners can make for complicated relationships. As sexual partners accumulate, so does the potential for distrust. As one man whose ex-girlfriend had cheated on him explained, “It’s gonna take a lot more time for me to ever trust somebody again like that. I let her in quick, and now it’s never gonna happen again.” One divorced man said simply, “Everyone has to watch their ass all the time.” There is the feeling that no one is safe—even in marriage. As another young man claimed, “Nowadays, even though you got a ring on your finger, people tend to look past that.”
So people describe keeping vigilant watch over their partners’ cell phones, policing for messages from exes. They live an all but married lifestyle, yet they say that they are hesitant to make the commitment of marriage. Why? Part of the reason is that they don’t trust their partner, or themselves, to remain in the marriage. In one survey, 42.5 percent of low-income, unmarried respondents cited “worry that the marriage would end in divorce” as a reason they might not be pursuing marriage, and 23.5 percent cited “questions about whether your partner is trustworthy.” As one young man that I interviewed said after learning that his fiancée was cheating on him, “I don’t trust nobody.”
That distrust is at least partly the legacy of the libertarian sexual ethic, which assumes that sexual activity outside of marriage is typically okay so long as people are mutually consenting to the acts. And that distrust is why I have a hard time believing—as Noah Smith does—that sexual permissiveness will somehow evolve into more stable marriages for the working class. (Indeed, having more sexual partners prior to marriage is linked to greater odds of divorce, as Nicholas Wolfinger and W. Bradford Wilcox recently documented.) There is no invisible hand that will transform James and Jessica’s distrust and cynicism, which stems in part from their multiple past sexual relationships, into trust and an enduring marriage. What the working class needs—what we all need—to achieve our shared aspirations for lifelong love and a stable family is social permission to date without immediately having sex.
That’s important because today young people often assume that withholding sex is a sign of distrust. As James said, if you begin a relationship and don’t have sex, “they automatically assume that you’re cheating.” But sliding into sex often translates into sliding into a relationship—and children—without first building trust and discerning for character and compatibility. And that slide often contributes to the erosion of trust in the opposite sex and in lifelong love. We must confront that reality if we’re serious about empowering working young adults to achieve trusting relationships.
“Withholding sex” makes it sound bad. You don’t have sex or even do sexual things before marriage because you are trying to prove to your partner that you have self-control enough that when you are married, he/she need not be concerned that you are OK with sex outside of a lifelong commitment. You restrain yourself in order to prove to the other person that you have what it takes in order to be trusted, and the other person does the same to you. It’s not that you are trying to reduce the amount of “fun” you are having, it’s that you are auditioning for a role, and this is what the other person needs to see from you during the courtship – chastity. Chastity demonstrates to them that the commitment you are offering is not based on things that fade, like beauty or youth.
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!
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.
Would you like your marriage to be long-lasting and fulfilling? Marriage isn’t just about two people who have a lot in common getting together to have fun. Marriage is a commitment, and it requires specific character traits like the willingness to take responsibility to care for others self-sacrificially. Some of these marriage-friendly character traits can be difficult to detect, but you can evaluate a person’s character by asking them about what policies they oppose and support.
1. Are you opposed to no-fault divorce laws?
No-fault divorce laws allow one spouse to leave the marriage at any time, for any reason, or for no reason at all. If you support no-fault divorce, then your view of marriage is that it’s something to be entered into lightly, because it can be exited easily. You’ll be walking down the aisle thinking “oh well, if it doesn’t work out, I can always get a divorce”. If you oppose no-fault divorce laws, then your view of marriage is that there is no escape hatch. You’ll probably be a lot more careful about getting married. Since you are convinced that marriage is built to last forever, you’ll have a courtship of at least 12 months, and involve both sets of parents in the process. If you put commitment above happiness, you’re ready for marriage.
2. Are you opposed to abortion laws?
Abortion laws basically make it easy for two people to have recreational sex, and then get rid of any complications that result quickly and easily. This way, both the people that created the effect can escape the responsibility for what they did, and keep right on pursuing their goals and dreams. If you support abortion laws, you’re really saying that you can engage in recreational sex with people who are unwilling to accept responsibility for any children that result. If you are pro-life, then you’re saying that people should be careful about having sex, and be ready to take responsibility for a child, should one appear. Being responsible is good preparation for marriage.
3. Are you supportive of daycare for young kids?
Daycare services are essential for couples who need both the father and the mother to be working. The advantage of both parents working is that you can afford lots of shiny new stuff – like vacations, boats, shoes and handbags. Studies show that children don’t die during daycare, although if you put a child in daycare, there will be effects on the child’s behavior, such as higher anxiety and aggression. If you oppose daycare, you’re putting the needs of your children above your need for shiny stuff. Putting the needs of children first is a sign that you are ready for the self-sacrifice that marriage requires.
4. Are you in favor of smaller government?
If you’re in favor of smaller government, then you would rather keep taxes low so that more money stays in the family. If you support bigger government, then you think that government knows how to spend your money better than you and your spouse do. Additionally, government usually likes to spend more money than they take in. For example, in the last 8 years, we’ve added $10 trillion dollars to the debt, which is now $20 trillion. If you oppose higher taxes and bigger government, then you want government to pass on less debt to your children. Putting your kids’ financial well-being over your own is pro-marriage.
5. Are you in favor of school choice?
If you’re opposed to school choice, then you think that government should decide which schools your children will attend. School choice laws allow parents to give money to the schools they think are best for the children. If a school has excellent teachers and teaches students skills that they can use in their professional lives, then parents can choose that school. When parents have a choice, schools have to compete to provide higher quality to parents, for lower cost. If you support giving parents more choice, then you put the needs of children – especially poor, minority children – above the needs of education administrators and teacher unions. Putting kids first is pro-marriage.
6. Are you in favor of premarital sex?
Premarital sex is really fun (so I’m told). You can have sex with people who are just really attractive, even if these people have lousy character. Your friends will be impressed, and you’ll feel more attractive – like you were climbing a ladder of attractiveness with each new partner. If you combine sex with being drunk, then you can’t remember anything after. And you can’t feel guilty if the booze made you do it, right? On the other hand, if you present yourself to your spouse as a virgin, you are telling them that you have self-control, that you take sex as communication rather than recreation, and that they can trust you to be faithful by keeping sex inside the marriage. Trust is important for a good marriage.
7. Are you in favor of welfare for single mothers?
Sometimes, women find themselves pregnant before they are married. If you think that giving taxpayer money to women who have babies before they have husbands is a good idea, then you are rewarding behavior that creates fatherless children. Raising a child without a father causes serious behavioral problems. Boys tend to become more violent, and are more likely to commit crimes. Girls tend to engage in sex at earlier ages. If you oppose encouraging fatherlessness with welfare, you want women to get married before they have kids. Taking the needs of children seriously is pro-marriage.
8. Are you in favor of same-sex marriage?
When a man and a man get married and acquire children, those children will not be raised with their birth mother. Similarly with lesbians, the children will not grow up with their birth father. Studies show that children suffer from not being raised by their biological parents. For example, children of same-sex parents have lower graduation rates than children raised by heterosexual couples. If you think that children have a right to a stable relationship with their biological mother and father, then you place a higher value on the needs of children as opposed to the needs of adults. That’s a good sign you’re ready for marriage.
9. Are you in favor of radical feminism?
This one comes to us from Lindsay, who blogs at Lindsay’s Logic. She says that opposing radical feminism “shows that you do not think the purpose of marriage is to make women happy, but to work as a team to serve God and raise good children.” Indeed. Marriage doesn’t work if the woman approaches it as an accessory. Marriage is about a man and a woman sacrificing their own interests and compromising in order to work together as a team. Husbands and children have needs that women should care about. Feminism teaches women that husbands and children are less important than their careers, hobbies and interests. Feminism is anti-marriage.
10. Are you responsible with earning, saving and giving away money?
This one comes to us from Bob P. He says that marriages work better when both spouses are “committed to financial planning, budgeting and a renunciation of debt to support a lifestyle. Disagreement about financial issues is one of the greatest causes of marital stress.” If you’re able to choose a college major or a trade that you don’t like, but that pays well, that’s a positive. If you’re able to string together jobs so that your resume is gap-less, that’s a positive. If you’re able to save money even though it means you’re having less fun, that’s a positive. If you’re able to give away money to others to support them, that means you’re able to sacrifice your interests for the benefit of others. That’s pro-marriage.
Well, how did you do? Leave your ideas for more policies and points of view that are marriage-friendly in the comments.
While many assume that family rejection is the leading cause of depression among LBGTI individuals, a new study has found that in fact the problem appears to stem predominantly from the higher incidence of relationship problems among homosexuals.
Dr. Delaney Skerrett led a team of researchers from the Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention (AISRAP) in studying suicides in Queensland. He found that a leading cause of suicide among “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex” (LGBTI) people is stress from their romantic partners.
“We tend to assume that the psychological distress LGBTI people are often going through is due to family rejection. But it seems that’s not so much the case. The conflict seems to be largely related to relationship problems, with partners,” Dr. Skerrett said.
In fact, he said, “The numbers are telling us there’s a general acceptance at the family level,” something he said is “great” and “really heartening!”
Instead, the study, which was published on April 2 in Asia Pacific Psychiatry, found that “LGBT individuals experienced relationship problems more often” than heterosexuals, “with relationship conflict also being more frequent than in non‐LGBT cases.”
That confirms previous studies finding that homosexuals also face higher rates of intimate partner violence than heterosexuals. A 2007 study in the Journal of Urban Health, which is published by the New York Academy of Medicine, found that 32 percent of homosexuals have been abused by at least one partner during their lifetime.
The researchers with AISRAP also found that a higher percentage of homosexuals took their lives [out] of despondency, rather than other psychological illnesses. While one-eighth of all Queensland suicide victims had been diagnosed with a psychosis that impaired their judgment, Skerrett reports “there were no such diagnoses among LGBT individuals.” The conclusion adds to the consensus that depression disproportionately besets active homosexuals.
But there’s more to say – let’s look at an individual case now, which will put some meat on the bones of the studies.
Here’s an article from the liberal New York Times.
Here’s the set up:
BOB BERGERON was so relentlessly cheery that people sometimes found it off-putting. If you ran into him at the David Barton Gym on West 23rd Street, where he worked out nearly ever morning at 7, and you complained about the rain, he would smile and say you’d be better off focusing on a problem you could fix.
That’s how Mr. Bergeron was as a therapist as well, always upbeat, somewhat less focused on getting to the root of his clients’ feelings than altering behavior patterns that were detrimental to them: therapy from the outside-in.
Over the last decade, he built a thriving private practice, treating well-to-do gay men for everything from anxiety to coping with H.I.V. Mr. Bergeron had also begun work as a motivational speaker, giving talks at gay and lesbian centers in Los Angeles and Chicago. In February, Magnus Books, a publisher specializing in gay literature, was scheduled to print a self-help guide he had written, “The Right Side of Forty: The Complete Guide to Happiness for Gay Men at Midlife and Beyond.”
It was a topic he knew something about. Having come out as gay in the mid-1980s, Mr. Bergeron, 49, had witnessed the worst years of the AIDS epidemic and emerged on the other side. He had also seen how few public examples there were of gay men growing older gracefully.
He resolved to rewrite the script, and provide a toolbox for better living.
“I’ve got a concise picture of what being over 40 is about and it’s a great perspective filled with happiness, feeling sexy, possessing comfort relating to other men and taking good care of ourselves,” Mr. Bergeron said on his Web site. “This picture will get you results that flourish long-term.”
But right around New Year’s Eve, something went horribly wrong. On Jan. 5, Mr. Bergeron was found dead in his apartment, the result of a suicide that has left his family, his friends and his clients shocked and heartbroken as they attempt to figure out how he could have been so helpful to others and so unable to find help himself.
To his friends, Mr. Bergeron maintained a positive tone. He went on vacation, dated some, visited museums.
Still, he privately expressed misgivings about what the future held. Olivier Van Doorne, a patient of Mr. Bergeron and the creative director of SelectNY, a fashion advertising firm, recalled Mr. Bergeron telling him that every gay man peaks at one point in his life.
“He said a number of times: ‘I peaked when I was 30 or 35. I was super-successful, everyone looked at me, and I felt extremely cool in my sexuality.’ ”
Mr. Siegel, the therapist who supervised Mr. Bergeron in the early days of his career, said: “Bob was a very beautiful younger man, and we talked a lot about how that shapes and creates a life. The thesis of his book is based very much on his own personal experience with that. And the book also emphasized what to do when you’re not attractive or you no longer have the appeal you once had. The idea was to transcend that and expand your sexual possibilities.”
On an island in the kitchen, Mr. Bergeron had meticulously laid out his papers. There was a pile of folders with detailed instructions on top about whom to call regarding his finances and his mortgage. Across from that he placed the title page of his book, on which he also wrote his suicide note. In it he told Mr. Sackheim and Mr. Rappaport that he loved them and his family, but that he was “done.”
As his father remembered it, Mr. Bergeron also wrote, “It’s a lie based on bad information.”
An arrow pointed up to the name of the book.
The inference was clear. As Mr. Bergeron saw it at the end of his life, the only right side of 40 was the side that came before it.
I think that the problem is that in the gay lifestyle, you have a typically male emphasis on physical appearance, sex and pleasure. There is none of the moderating influence of women, which tends to push men into commitments, responsibility and stability. Stuff that provides fulfillment and meaning and purpose after you lose your youth and appearance.
If you really love a person, then you don’t tell them that the dangerous thing they want to do is not dangerous. That’s not love. It’s easier for you to approve of them and be liked by everyone, but it’s not love.
I saw this essay from a young woman named Jordana Narin who is explaining how she feels about not being able to talk seriously to a man she had sex with. She is a radical feminist and has a non-STEM degree in creative writing.
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.
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 marry anyone. Why is she even talking to a man who cannot afford to marry her – who has no proven record as a provider?
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 goal. Nevertheless, they are away from their parents, and so she had sex with him, losing her virginity to a man she was not married to.
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 man she barely knows expect to have real relationships, including a marriage relationship?
I wouldn’t have understood the full scope of what this young woman is saying in her essay without the interview, which is short. In the segment, Narin says that men and women in her generation don’t have actual romantic relationships anymore. It’s all casual, non-committal sex. “
[..]She tells the interviewer that there’s lots of making out and sex, but nobody wants to be emotionally vulnerable to anybody else.
[…]“Everyone in college uses Tinder,” she said, referring to the wildly popular dating and hook-up app. “You can literally swipe right and find someone just to hang out for the night. There’s no commitments required, and I think that makes committing to someone even harder, because it’s so normal, and so expected even, to not want to commit.”
“In a different time, my grandparents, my great grandparents, they might have thought they were missing out on casual sex,” she says. “But since my generation has been saddled down with that, we kind of look to the past and say well, wasn’t that nice. I think both are optimal. I’m a huge feminist, and I think women should be able to do whatever they want to do. If a woman wants to have tons of casual sex, she totally should. But I think that there should be the option. And they shouldn’t be gendered, women and men. But there should be the option of being in a relationship.”
Right. Young women like her who have swallowed radical feminism hook, line and sinker don’t want to “miss out” on casual sex right now, but they want to get married “some day” – after they have a lot of fun traveling and doing exciting, fun things. Today, they want to choose to have sex with hot guys, but tomorrow they want the “option” of a man committing to them, even though they have a repeated pattern of putting recreational sex above commitment in their own lives. Basically, they don’t want to pick a man now who can actually do marriage. Right now, they want to pick a man who has no interest in marriage. Later, they want a man to pursue them for marriage.
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.
Nowhere in society is there any man who tells women like this that they should not pursue pleasure right now if they want marriage some day. No father. No pastor. No one has the courage to tell young women that following their emotions leads them to abortion, single motherhood, divorce, infertility and missing marriage completely.
Do women prepare themselves for the self-sacrifice and self-control required in marriage?
You got that 9 to 5
But, baby, so do I
So don’t be thinking I’ll be home and baking apple pies
I never learned to cook
After every fight
And maybe then I’ll let you try and rock my body right
Even if I was wrong
You know I’m never wrong
And know we’ll never see your family more than mine
Even when I’m acting crazy
Tell me everything’s alright
Women today expect to be pursuing their own interests before, during and after marriage. They don’t want the constraints of relationships with a husband or children. I think this will work to get attention from certain men for a while, but when she loses her youth and beauty, it will dry up pretty quickly. Who is there telling women that they need to pick a marriage-minded man and focus on marriage earlier, rather than later?
Will anyone talk about marriage to these women?
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 are too smart to ever commit to them. Why would a man commit to a narcissist? If a man’s role is just to please the “huge feminist”, then there is no reason to commit to her and be the slave of her selfish impulses for the rest of his life. 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 they must not marry a woman who rejects moral obligations for fun. Especially with the looming threat of no-fault divorce.