Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Should you marry someone who promises you that “there will be no divorce”?

I was having a chat with a friend of mine who just got out of a serious relationship and I was trying to pick his brain to find out everything about the woman he was intending to marry so I could see why things went wrong. He told me that she had told him over and over that “there would be no divorce” and that he found that very convincing, despite very obvious warning signs in the area of respect (which I wrote about yesterday).

Well. I was very surprised to hear this, and so I asked him whether he thought it was enough that this woman told him that “three will be no divorce”. He said yes. This woman had experienced the divorce of her own parents and she was resolved (by act of will) never to let that happen to her. He found that acceptable, but I didn’t because I know the numbers on this, and I know that children of divorced parents are more likely to divorce themselves. So the pain of divorce is no deterrent here.

So should we believe that people can avoid a divorce just by saying they will? I told him no. And for an example, I offered a thought experiment. I said to imagine two runners on a track who are charged with completing 10 laps. One runner is a Navy SEAL like Mike Murphy, who has been trained to run miles and miles carrying a 60 pound load. In the mountains. The other is a 300-lb couch potato whose idea of exercise is reaching for the TV remote control. Suppose I ask both runners: do you intend to finish the 10 laps? Should I believe them if they both say yes?

Look, marriage is like building a house. People can say whatever they want about their prospects for success, but the will doesn’t decide here. You have to certain skills, you have to have a certain amount of money, you have to have a plan, you have to be able to read blueprints, you have to be able to hire specialists, you understand the differences between materials, etc. When you think about it, no long-term enterprise can be accomplished by act of will. Piano recitals, math exams, investing for retirement… nothing can be done by sheer act of will.

Now with that being said, let’s take a look at an example.

An example

I found this article in the Wall Street Journal way back in 2011, but it fits my conversation with my friend.

The author, Susan Gregory Thomas, lists some of the mistakes she made that led her to get a divorce in her first marriage.

This is the first thing I saw that caught my eye:

“Whatever happens, we’re never going to get divorced.” Over the course of 16 years, I said that often to my husband, especially after our children were born.

So she is trying to express an intention here, repeatedly, to her husband. I think the point here is that she did have good intentions but as we shall see that was not enough to prevent the divorce. That’s a warning to others that good intentions are not enough.

Here is the second thing:

I believed that I had married my best friend as fervently as I believed that I’d never get divorced. No marital scenario, I told myself, could become so bleak or hopeless as to compel me to embed my children in the torture of a split family. And I wasn’t the only one with strong personal reasons to make this commitment.

I noticed that a lot of people seem to think that being compatible is very important to marriage. But I don’t think that it is the most important thing. For example, you would not expect two cocaine addicts or two gambling addicts, etc. to have a stable marriage. I think marriage is more like a job interview where there are specific things that each person has to be able to do in order to make it work. So again, she’s giving a warning to others that compatibility is not a guarantee of marriage success.

And there’s more:

My husband and I were as obvious as points on a graph in a Generation X marriage study. We were together for nearly eight years before we got married, and even though statistics show that divorce rates are 48% higher for those who have lived together previously, we paid no heed.

We also paid no heed to his Catholic parents, who comprised one of the rare reassuringly unified couples I’d ever met, when they warned us that we should wait until we were married to live together. As they put it, being pals and roommates is different from being husband and wife. How bizarrely old-fashioned and sexist! We didn’t need anything so naïve or retro as “marriage.” Please. We were best friends.

Sociologists, anthropologists and other cultural observers tell us that members of Generation X are more emotionally invested in our spouses than previous generations were. We are best friends; our marriages are genuine partnerships. Many studies have found that Generation X family men help around the house a good deal more than their forefathers. We depend on each other and work together.

So here I am seeing that she rejected sex roles, parental advice, or the moral guidelines of Christianity. Again, she is discussing some of the factors that I at least think contribute to divorce. I think that she is right to highlight the fact that she was wrong to disregard the statistics on cohabitation.

So here are some of the mistakes:

  • reject advice from parents
  • avoid chastity
  • cohabitate for EIGHT YEARS
  • embrace feminism, reject complementarian sex roles
  • thinking that good intentions would overcome every challenge

So, what does the research show works to have a stable marriage?

  • chastity
  • rejection of feminism
  • regular church attendance
  • parental involvement in the courting
  • parents of both spouses married
  • no previous divorces

Guess what? You can’t break all the rules and still succeed by sheer force of will.  If you break all the rules like that woman in the story, you can’t have a working marriage. Not without repudiating everything you believed, and taking steps to undo all the damage from everything you’ve done. You can’t keep all the bad beliefs and bad habits you’ve built up and marry them to a marriage that will stand the test of time.

A good marriage is an enterprise, and it requires that your character be changed to fit the requirements. There is no way to short-circuit the preparation / selection processes by act of will. And just because your friends are getting married, that’s no reason for you to rush into it unprepared. The best way to prepare for marriage is pick people of the opposite sex and practice marriage behaviors (e.g. – listening, helping) with them – even with people you don’t intend to marry. Take an interest in their lives and practice denying yourself to help them with their problems. That’s better than making idle promises you’re not able to keep. And this works the same for men and for women. Both people need to get this right.

Filed under: Polemics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How premarital sex damages a woman’s ability to be in a relationship

Here’s an interesting article from the radically leftist New York Times to me. I was pleasantly surprised how much I agreed with it.

Excerpt:

I recently overhead two students talking in a dining hall at the university where I teach. “Yeah, I might get married, too,” one confided. “But not until I’m at least 30 and have a career.” Then she grinned. “Until then? I’m going to party it up.”

This young woman was practically following a script. An increasing number of studies show that many millennials want to marry — someday.

Generation Y is postponing marriage until, on average, age 29 for men and 27 for women. College-educated millennials in particular view it as a “capstone” to their lives rather than as a “cornerstone,” according to a report whose sponsors include the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia.

Yet for all of their future designs on marriage, many of them may not get there. Their romance operandi — hooking up and hanging out — flouts the golden rule of what makes marriages and love work: emotional vulnerability.

[...]Research led by the social psychologist Sara H. Konrath at the University of Michigan has shown that college students’ self-described levels of empathy have declined since 1980, especially so in the past 10 years, as quantifiable levels of self-esteem and narcissism have skyrocketed. Add to this the hypercompetitive reflex that hooking up triggers (the peer pressure to take part in the hookup culture and then to be first to unhook) and the noncommittal mind-set that hanging out breeds. The result is a generation that’s terrified of and clueless about the A B C’s of romantic intimacy.

In “The End of Sex: How Hookup Culture Is Leaving a Generation Unhappy, Sexually Unfulfilled, and Confused About Intimacy,” Donna Freitas chronicles the ways in which this trend is creating the first generation in history that has no idea how to court a potential partner, let alone find the language to do so.

If this fear of vulnerability began and ended with mere bumbling attempts at courtship, then all of this might seem harmless, charming even. But so much more is at stake.

During class discussions, my students often admit to hoping that relationships will simply unfold through hooking up. “After all,” one student recently said, “nobody wants to have The Talk,” the dreaded confrontation that clarifies romantic hopes and expectations. “You come off as too needy.”

This fear sets up the dicey precedent Dr. Brown warns us about: Dodging vulnerability cheats us of the chance to not just create intimacy but also to make relationships work.

Then there’s the emotional fallout of hooking up. This kind of sexual intimacy inevitably leads to becoming “emotionally empty,” writes Dr. Freitas. “In gearing themselves up for sex, they must at the same time drain themselves of feeling.”

This dynamic is about more than simply quelling nerves with “liquid courage” at college parties or clubs. It’s about swallowing back emotions that are perceived as annoying obstacles. And this can start a dangerous cycle.

“We cannot selectively numb emotions,” writes Dr. Brown. “When we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions.”

I’ve personally observed women who had sexual histories firsthand, during my college years as an undergraduate student and graduate student. I noticed that it caused them some trouble when they were trying to see a relationship through to marriage. The more a woman chooses men purely for looks rather than husband-qualities, the more likely she is to see a bad side of men. You don’t see the good side of men when you hook up with men who are willing to have sex before marriage. If women have enough of these bad experiences with men, it gets very hard for women to continue to invest in relationships and to serve and care for men. The very things that men are looking for from women – support, empathy, understanding, trust, vulnerability – disappear from the woman, and she is left trying to get a man to commit to her using her sex appeal alone. What a scary thought. What kind of man can you land with sex alone? Not the kind that makes a good husband and father, that’s for sure.

What does the hook-up culture teach women? It teaches them to work on their educations and careers first. It teaches them to choose the best-looking men. It teaches them to worry more about what their friends will think than about what a man does in a marriage. It teaches them to turn off their emotions for fear of getting hurt. It teaches them that offering recreational sex to a man is the way to get male attention and engagement. In the old days, before feminism, women couldn’t even use sexuality to impress a man. Everything had to be done the old-fashioned way. You would hear phrases like “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach”. Women would look at men who were good husband candidates and think about getting their attention by cooking and helping and caring. That’s all gone now, and many women aren’t even cultivating domestic skills. Domestic skills are still very much sought after by men, although sometimes they can’t articulate their needs very well.

I asked a friend of mine who had experience dating a woman who had a sexual past about this post, and he said that past sexual relationships with good-looking, non-committal men has the same effect on women that pornography has on men. He said that it changes their expectations, so that they become more and more fixated on the man’s appearance, and less and less concerned about his ability to do husband and father tasks. Another man who also has a lot of sexual experience told me that the effect of hook-up sex on women’s perception of men would be even stronger than the effect of pornography on men. Hooking-up with men for status and fun causes a change in how women evaluate men. After all, if a wedding cermemony guarantees you “happily ever after” then why not just try to make a relationship “work out” by jumping right into bed and see if easy access to recreational sex makes the man see the value of long-term, exclusive commitment and self-sacrifice.

So we have a situation where women are not looking at what a man does in a family – working, discovering the truth, setting moral boundaries, helping others to be related to God. Instead, women are trained by the hook-up culture to think about appearances and how a good looking man will make others think about her in her social group. It seems to me to be as counterproductive as if a man were choosing computer based on how the case looked on the outside, rather than the performance and cost of the parts on the inside of the case. It makes no sense. Speaking as a man, I have a list of things that I am looking for from a woman, because I have specific goals that I want marriage to achieve. A woman’s decision and ability to hook-up with me tells me nothing about her ability to perform the tasks I need her to perform in a marriage. The antidote to the strains and stress of marriage and parenting cannot be found in a hook-up, or even in a woman’s career. That’s not going to help a husband the way a husband needs to be helped.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Five-year old girl punished by school for pointing crayon at classmate

Martha L. Peek, Superintendent

Martha L. Peek, Superintendent

Reason #54,993 why you should not send your child to public schools.

Excerpt:

Mobile mother is not happy about a controversial Mobile County School contract her daughter signed without her consent. The contract promises that her daughter will not kill or injure herself and others.

Rebecca is angry.

“This isn’t right. She’s 5-years-old,” said Rebecca.

Rebecca did not want Local 15 News to use her last name. She said E R Dickson school officials crossed the line when they had her daughter sign a Mobile County Public Safety Contract without her being present.

Rebecca said, “Most of these words on here, she’s never heard in her life.”

School officials told Rebecca they had to send Elizabeth home after an incident in class.

“They told me she drew something that resembled a gun,” said Rebecca. “According to them she pointed a crayon at another student and said, ‘pew pew,” said Rebecca.

She said her child was given a questionnaire to evaluate her for suicidal thoughts.

“[They] Asked her if she was depressed now,” said Rebecca.

Without her permission, Rebecca said her child was given the Mobile County Public School Safety Contract to sign stating she wouldn’t kill herself or others.

“While I was in the lobby waiting they had my 5-year-old sign a contract about suicide and homicide,” said Rebecca.

According to state law, minors cannot legally sign a contract.

“There should be a different way to handle this situation. If this is protocol it needs to be looked at again,” said Rebecca.

Local 15 News contacted school officials to see what the proper protocol is when handling “violent-like” behavior. Local 15 News has not heard back.

“My child interrupted us and said, ‘What is suicide mommy? Daddy what is suicide?” said Rebecca. “As a parent that’s not right. I’m the one should be able to talk to my child and not have someone else mention words like this in front of her at all.”

Rebecca is pushing to have the incident removed from her child’s record. She said school officials have requested Elizabeth see a psychiatrist.

How long will it be until the school doesn’t just request that children see psychiatrists, but they just go right ahead and take the child from you, like what happened with the Boston children’s hospital? After all, they are very sure they are right. They are the experts, you are just the parent. They know better than you – they have college degrees from the “education” department. You should be grateful for their guidance about how to raise your children. You should be grateful the opportunity to pay taxes for the salaries of people with degrees in “education”.

By the way if you want to e-mail the four women who work in the superintendent’s office, you can click here.

Filed under: News, , , , , , ,

Are young, unmarried women sincere about wanting to be married “some day”?

This comment by Gaza on the Elusive Wapiti blog deserves a post of it’s own. He is responding to the video posted in this post.

He writes [in full]: (one part redacted)

One thing that Helen seems to miss is how women value and prioritize marriage and what role this plays vis a vis the male corollary. 

The “story” isn’t just about men being “on strike” or even (to Helen’s credit) rationally choosing to delay and/or avoid; it must also include how women treat marriage WRT their own valuation and prioritization and life decisions (NOT merely stated desires). 

There are not swarms of 25 y/o female college-grads looking for a husband with no willing men within sight. There are, however, swarms of 25 y/o/ female college-grads looking to have fun, travel, chase dreams, build careers, and explore their options. 

I’ve “dated” a few of these women; most (and their social circles included) are so focused on the self-indulgence (“experience”) and the status associated with sexual conquest/power that any mention of marriage is usually as a joke (enter the “boyfriends/husbands are boring/stupid/lazy” meme); marriage is merely some distant thing to be acquired at some seemingly distant age. 

Sure, over time (cue: the wall), the distant thing becomes a stated desire, but the transition from stated-desire to behavioral change and actual prioritization often takes years. I meet women well into their 30’s who still can’t alter their behaviors to demonstrate congruence with their stated desires. 

But that is when we start to hear how important marriage is, how men are avoiding commitment, why men should value marriage. All bacon-wrapped in various shaming mechanisms. The women singing the “Man-up and marry me” tune are not the 25 y/o versions; they are too busy singing the “you go girl” showtunes, exactly as prescribed by the Sandberg, lean-in, [binge drinking, continuous alpha male hookups, alpha male cohabitation], [and later, jump off the carousel into a marriage to a beta provider that makes her perpetually feel that she married down compared to the alphas that she used to hookup with while drunk].

So we can plainly see how something is valued based on the prioritization of one’s choices. Most young women value marriage as an idea, as a capstone to her personal journey; an indicator of status and achievement but not as a goal in-of-itself and not as a life decision that supersedes the accumulation of personal experience, the flexing her sexual and relationship power, or the kindling her optionality. 

These women desire to “hang-out” with the most attractive men they can, under any number of relationship approximations while pursuing their personal journeys and then suddenly desire to elevate commitment and marriage as something paramount, right around the same time their ability to define and opt-in/out of those indulgent relationship approximations wanes. Hmm.

After 10+ years of treating men and relationships as consumable commodities, marriage is now so valuable? So sacred that it will magically be more robust in the face of challenges, requiring more giving and less taking than those previous marital approximations, and yet because it is now a “Marriage”, it won’t be treated as merely a vehicle for the pursuit of her apparently perpetually fleeting “happiness”? Convince me.

There is a false premise at work that assumes that it is men who are devaluing marriage. Sure, there is some truth to this, but woman are messaging their own valuation of marriage as well; in real-time, often in very overt means and often at the expense of men who are still clinging to some idealistic view of marriage. 

And likely those are the very men who are willing and able to be husbands at 25. The very same men who will grow to become self-sufficient 35 y/o men feeling their own blossoming optionality, harvesting their own “experiences” with the 25 y/o versions of the suddenly-marriage-minded women, while a decade of observational and experiential evidence of what women truly value buries what remains of their marital idealism.

Tl:dr
I’d consider marriage to a woman who has demonstrated through her choices, prioritization, sacrifice and delayed gratification that marriage is valuable to her and who can articulate how it would be valuable to me. [not holding breath]

What do you think? Is that something that you are seeing more of in the current generation of young, unmarried women? I have to confess, I see a lot of emphasis among Christian women on short-term missions trips and on careers, but not much planning on how to be prepared for marriage. In my experience, there is not much preparation work going on, and marriage is put off later and later. This is despite the fact that a woman’s fertility declines starting at age 27 and is pretty much dead at 35. IVF is very expensive, but has a higher risk of birth defects and and can often lead to too many embryos, some of which will then need to be aborted.

It would be nice if there were some wisdom being transferred from older, married women to young, unmarried women, but I don’t see it happening. What I see happening is young women, including ones raised in Christian homes, going off to college to binge drink and hookup and cohabitate, and always expressing the desire for marriage “some day”. But marriage is something you prepare for early with every decision. Some decisions are not good preparation for marriage. I get the impression that young, unmarried women think that marriage is “boring” and not the way to “make a difference”, and so in practice, they are trying other things.

Remember, the offer that a woman such as Gaza describes to a man is not the same as the offer of marriage that was made by 20-year-old women in the 1950s.

Marriage no longer means:

  • Being the legally and socially recognized head of the household.
  • An expectation of regular sex.
  • Legal rights to children.
  • Lifetime commitment.
  • That you are guaranteed a chaste bride on your wedding night.

Men liked the original version of marriage without the modern debasements. Should they feel obligated to settle for the new version of marriage which is influenced by radical feminism? I would have to be convinced.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Study: recessions result in lower birth rates

A new study from Princeton University caught my eye.

Excerpt:

[...][N]ew research from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs shows that women who were in their early 20s during the Great Recession will have fewer children in both the short and long term. This result is driven largely by an increase in the number of women who will remain childless at age 40.

The paper, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is the first to show that recessions have long-term effects on fertility, which actually increase exponentially over time.

[...]Their calculations show that a one-percentage point increase in the unemployment rate experienced between ages 20 and 24 reduces the short-term fertility of women by six conceptions per 1,000 women. When following these women to age 40, the same unemployment rate increase leads to an overall loss of 14.2 conceptions per 1,000 women. This increasing effect over time is largely accounted for by an increase in the fraction of women who remain unmarried and childless at age 40. These women not only forego first births, but forego later births as well.

In terms of the Great Recession, the researchers estimate that the increase in unemployment rates experienced between 2008 and 2013 will result in an additional 151,082 women who will remain childless at age 40, leading to a long-term loss of 420,957 conceptions (and 426,850 live births) – a 2.4 percent decrease.

People don’t just marry and have kids whenever they feel like it. However individual people may feel about romance and recklessness and risk-taking, the general behavior pattern is that if the economy is lousy, then people have fewer children. That’s because they can’t afford them. Maybe grown-ups should be thinking more about economic growth, by lowering taxes and reducing wasteful spending.

But there’s more to it than that:

But what are the economic mechanisms driving these results? Currie and Schwandt cite recent empirical studies showing that young adults – especially young men – who enter the job market during an economic downturn are likely to have persistently lower earnings as they age. This phenomenon may make young men less attractive matches for women, explaining the increase in the number of women who forego childbearing.

This quote made me think of another post from the liberal 538 blog.

Ben Casselman writes:

In its report last week, Pew suggested that one reason for falling marriage rates is the decline in employment among young men. That may also help explain the education gap in marriage. Put simply, men without jobs are much less likely to get married, and men without a college degree are much less likely to get jobs.

In the Pew survey, 78 percent of never-married women said it was “very important” for a prospective spouse (in most cases, a husband) to have a steady job. That ranked above any other requirement, including “same moral and religious beliefs” (38 percent), “at least as much education” (28 percent) and even “similar ideas about having and raising children” (70 percent). The survey results are borne out by women’s actual behavior. About half of men ages 25 to 34 with a steady job have been married, compared to just a third of those without a steady job.

For men without a steady job, having more education doesn’t help much in terms of finding a spouse — marriage rates are nearly identical regardless of education. But having a degree makes men much more likely to be employed — and therefore more likely to get married. According to the Current Population Survey, more than 20 percent of men ages 25 to 34 with a high school diploma are out of work, versus 10 percent of young men with a college degree. And when they do have jobs, less-educated men earn less and are more likely to be laid off.

For a long time in this country, we have had schools that discriminate against young men and punish them. There are virtually no male teachers in the classrooms. This has a profound effect on young men, causing them to become disinterested in school, which makes it harder for them to find jobs.

USA Today reports on a relevant study:

For all the differences between the sexes, here’s one that might stir up debate in the teacher’s lounge: Boys learn more from men and girls learn more from women.

That’s the upshot of a provocative study by Thomas Dee, an associate professor of economics at Swarthmore College and visiting scholar at Stanford University. His study was to appear Monday in Education Next, a quarterly journal published by the Hoover Institution.

Vetted and approved by peer reviewers, Dee’s research faces a fight for acceptance. Some leading education advocates dispute his conclusions and the way in which he reached them.

But Dee says his research supports his point, that gender matters when it comes to learning. Specifically, as he describes it, having a teacher of the opposite sex hurts a student’s academic progress.

Everything is connected together. We need a strong economy and well-educated young men in order to make marriage and child-bearing reasonable to men.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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