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, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Domestic violence rates are higher for homosexual couples than for heterosexual couples

From the left-leaning Atlantic Monthly.

Excerpt:

Data on the rates of same-sex partner abuse have only become available in recent years. Even today, many of the statistics and materials on domestic violence put out by organizations like the Center for Disease Control and the Department of Justice still focus exclusively on heterosexual relationships, and specifically heterosexual women. While the CDC does provide some resources on its website for the LGBT population, the vast majority of the information is targeted at women.  Materials provided by the CDC for violence prevention and survivor empowerment prominently feature women in their statistics and photographs.

In 2013, the CDC released the results of a 2010 study on victimization by sexual orientation, and admitted that “little is known about the national prevalence of intimate partner violence, sexual violence, and stalking among lesbian, gay, and bisexual women and men in the United States.” The report found that bisexual women had an overwhelming prevalence of violent partners in their lives: 75 percent had been with a violent partner, as opposed to 46 percent of lesbian women and 43 percent of straight women. For bisexual men, that number was 47 percent. For gay men, it was 40 percent, and 21 percent for straight men.

The most recent statistics available on same-sex intimate partner violence from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, which focuses on LGBT relationships, reported 21 incidents of intimate partner homicides in the LGBT community, the highest ever. Nearly half of them were gay men and, for the second year in a row, the majority of survivors were people of color—62 percent.

In 2012, NCAVP programs around the country received 2,679 reports of intimate partner violence, a decrease of around 32 percent from 2011. However the report noted that many of the NCAVP’s member organizations were operating at decreased capacity due to limiting the number of cases they were able to take. The report said that excluding data from organizations, there was actually a 29 percent increase in reports of violence from 2011 to 2012.

That article comes from a source with a very clear pro-gay-agenda bias, so let’s take a look at an article from the Family Research Council to balance it out. They rely on mainstream data sources as well, like the CDC, the DOJ, the US Census, etc.

Excerpt:

A study in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence examined conflict and violence in lesbian relationships. The researchers found that 90 percent of the lesbians surveyed had been recipients of one or more acts of verbal aggression from their intimate partners during the year prior to this study, with 31 percent reporting one or more incidents of physical abuse.[69]

In a survey of 1,099 lesbians, the Journal of Social Service Research found that “slightly more than half of the [lesbians] reported that they had been abused by a female lover/partner. The most frequently indicated forms of abuse were verbal/emotional/psychological abuse and combined physical-psychological abuse.”[70]

In their book Men Who Beat the Men Who Love Them: Battered Gay Men and Domestic Violence,D. Island and P. Letellier report that “the incidence of domestic violence among gay men is nearly double that in the heterosexual population.”[71]

[...]Homosexual and lesbian relationships are far more violent than are traditional married households:

The Bureau of Justice Statistics (U.S. Department of Justice) reports that married women in traditional families experience the lowest rate of violence compared with women in other types of relationships.[72]

A report by the Medical Institute for Sexual Health concurred,

It should be noted that most studies of family violence do not differentiate between married and unmarried partner status. Studies that do make these distinctions have found that marriage relationships tend to have the least intimate partner violence when compared to cohabiting or dating relationships.[73]

In lesbian relationships, the rate of domestic violence is extremely high, from 17% to 45%, depending on the study. I do think that men exert a calming influence on women’s emotions, helping them to channel their feelings into words and reasoned arguments. That short-circuits the tendency toward violent outbursts. That’s why I urge men, if they must marry, to practice disagreeing and debating with women before the marriage is actualized. You need to find out what this other person does in a conflict situation before you commit to her for life.

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

Ross Douthat: challenges facing the modern family, and some pro-family policy ideas

This is from the Family Studies blog. It’s an interview with moderately conservative New York Times columnist Ross Douthat.

I just want to highlight the problem and a couple of his solutions. If you find it interesting, read the whole thing.

First, the problem:

IFS:  Why should we be so concerned about the state of the American family today?  Of all of the family issues on the nation’s agenda—marriage, divorce, cohabitation, single parenthood, the fatherhood crisis, or something else—which one has you most concerned?

Douthat:  We should be concerned because the family is the taproot of identity and community, the pre-political unit on which politics depend, the place where all the ladders of psychology and personality start. And right now, a familial experience (growing up in an intimate relationship with both your natural parents) that used to be average, boring, typical is increasingly a luxury good, an aspiration that’s rising out of reach for people whose talents and resources are limited or modest.

But in thinking about why this is happening, and what’s going wrong, I wouldn’t single out just  one issue, because they’re all too deeply intertwined. The biggest problem the American family faces right now is a problem of compounding: The way that many of the trends you cite have, since the 1960s but in certain ways especially in the last generation, effectively all been pushing in the same direction, with each problem making other problems worse. There’s a perverse cycle, in other words, that’s hard for people to escape: A higher divorce rate creates a cultural context in which young people don’t see lifelong monogamy as a plausible goal and don’t want to take the chance of being hurt in the way that one or both of their parents were . . . which, in turn, prompts them to delay marriage and cohabit for an extended period instead, to effectively test their partner . . . which makes it more likely that they’ll have a child during such a “test” period, without a marital bond with the other parent . . . which raises the odds, whether they marry or not, that the relationship will dissolve, creating more instability in the life of their child or children . . . who in turn will grow up with an even-more pessimistic view of marriage and family life than their own divorce-shy parents did. All of these effects are then amplified by the “social contagion” aspect of family breakdown, in which just having peers or neighbors whose marriages are failing or who have had kids out of wedlock creates a context in which that seems like the norm, and a stable or flourishing family life like an exceptional, nearly-unattainable ideal.

The first three solutions I think of when I read this are: 1) eliminate single mother welfare, 2) get the normalization of premarital sex out of the schools, and 3) repeal no-fault divorce. The trouble is that feminists oppose all three of these policies. They want money to be transferred from traditional families where one man works to single mother households. They want women to get away from “sexist” notions like chastity, courtship and chivalry. They want women to be able to get out of her obligations to her husband and children if she feels “unhappy”. So unless we roll back radical feminism, none of those ideas are going to happen.

But does Douthat have any other policy ideas?

This one for no-fault divorce:

IFS:  With one recent study indicating that divorce has actually been on the rise over the last generation or so, what do you make of the recent efforts of some states to tighten up their no-fault divorce laws?  Is there a way for the state to encourage couples to think twice about ending their marriages without returning to an era where spouses and their children could be stuck in violent relationships?

Douthat:  I’m basically supportive of the mix of proposals in (IFS Senior Fellow!) Brad Wilcox’s 2009 essay on divorce for National Affairs—waiting periods and counseling for divorcing couples (especially couples with children), preferential treatment in court for spouses who are being divorced against their will (in the absence of evidence of abuse)—and I know that some of those ideas have been taken up by the Coalition for Divorce Reform, which is trying to push state-level changes. My sense is that this kind of incremental tightening of divorce law is a better bet than the “covenant marriage” approach that some social conservatives pressed in the 1990s, where couples would be given the option of entering into a marriage without a no-fault escape hatch. The evidence we have from the three states that adopted the convenant option suggests that almost nobody actually opted into it, and I think it’s safe to assume that the people who did choose it were at pretty low risks for divorce already. Better, I think, to push for legal changes—however modest—that might apply across the board, and thus shape incentives for the marginal, most-at-risk couples.

And this one for welfare:

IFS:  If you could magically pass a set of policies aimed at strengthening marriage and families, what would those policies be? (Set aside, for now, budget constraints and the chances of getting the proposals through Congress.)

Douthat:  My economic program would expand on some of the ideas being kicked around already. There would be an even larger child tax credit than the one Republicans like Mike Lee and Marco Rubio have endorsed, and the existing earned-income tax credit would be expanded and converted to a direct wage subsidy. I would impose—I’m the enlightened despot here, right, so federalism no longer applies?—various regulatory reforms on states and municipalities aimed at eliminating a lot of zoning and licensing rules that impose particularly steep costs on working class families. I’d cut and cap tax subsidies that disproportionately benefit upper middle class rentiers. I’d pursue some version of the Paul Ryan vision for welfare reform, with much more state-based experimentation in the provision of non-cash benefits. More broadly, I’d combine relatively loose monetary policy with relatively tight immigration rules, seeking a lower unemployment rate and higher wages at the bottom rungs of the economic ladder. And then I’d spend less on prisons and put more money into hiring and training (but not heavily-arming!) cops, and I’d put UCLA’s Mark Kleiman in charge of reviewing sentencing policies at both the state and federal level, with an eye toward achieving significant reductions in incarceration rates wherever possible.

So maybe my ideas are not realistic, because I am too conservative, but I’d certainly like his to be enacted if mine can’t be. How about you? Do you have any ideas to save marriage? We can’t keep going life this – eventually we are going to run out of money for the social programs that prop up the people who bought into the sexual revolution. The spending on social programs for broken homes has got to stop somehow, one way or the other.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , ,

Supreme Court decision not to hear cases legalizes same-sex marriage in five states

From ScotusBlog.

Excerpt:

In June 2013, in United States v. Windsor, a divided Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which until then had defined “marriage” – for purposes of over a thousand federal laws and programs – as a union between a man and a woman.

[...]But on the same day, the Court sidestepped a ruling on whether the Constitution includes a right to marry someone of the same sex.

[...]We all assumed that the issue would be back again at the Court before too long, and that expectation only increased as lower federal courts around the country started to rely on the Court’s decision in Windsor to strike down other states’ bans on same-sex marriage – in Utah, Virginia, Oklahoma, Indiana, and Wisconsin.   All told, by last Monday the Court had before it seven different petitions asking the Court to weigh in on whether states can prohibit same-sex marriage.  With all of the parties on both sides in all of the cases in agreement that the Supreme Court should take up the question, review seemed inevitable.

Until this morning at 9:30, when the Court turned down all seven of the petitions, without comment. 

Since the Supreme Court refused to hear the case, that means that the marriage amendments passed by these five states are null and void, and same-sex marriage is now legal, despite what the legislatures passed.

Ryan Anderson comments on this over at the Daily Signal.

Excerpt:

The truth of the matter is that the marriage laws in these five states—as in many states across our nation—are good laws that reflect the truth about marriage. Frequently they were passed with overwhelming democratic support. The Supreme Court should have reviewed these cases and should have upheld the authority of citizens and their elected representatives to make good marriage policy. Instead, the Supreme Court left standing bad rulings from lower federal courts that usurped authority from the people by striking down good laws.

The cases at issue involve lower court rulings that struck down state marriage laws, claiming that they violated the U.S. Constitution. But the courts never provided compelling arguments that laws that reflect the truth about marriage are unconstitutional. Indeed, as former Attorney General Ed Meese and I argued last week in The Washington Post, the Supreme Court should have reviewed these cases and declared the laws constitutional.

In a system of limited constitutional self-government, the people and their elected representatives should be making decisions about marriage policy. And there are reasonable arguments on both sides of this debate. Judges should not insert their own policy preferences about marriage and declare them to be required by the Constitution.

[...]Declining to review these cases does not speak one way or the other to the merits of the cases. But it does leave in place bad rulings from lower courts—and it will make it harder for courts to do the right thing in the future.

So we now have gay marriage in five states thanks to the Supreme Court, and to a handful of judges who overruled the votes of the majority of the people in their states. How did we ever go from a republic to an oligarchy? And how did more than half the people in this country vote for this – not just once, but twice? Are we that ignorant of history and government that we are willing to be ruled by a handful of elites instead of by laws passed by elected representatives? Sometimes I think that even asking questions like this to people on the secular left is like trying to teach calculus to a wall. They just don’t understand a thing about how and why this country was founded in the first place. It’s all been reduced, in their minds, to doing what feels good, and forcing people who disagree to affirm their destructive behavior.

Filed under: News, , , , ,

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