Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

New study: cohabitation produces far inferior outcomes to marriage

This study is from the American College of Pediatricians.

The Stream writes about the study:

The American College of Pediatricians recently published a paper, Cohabitation, which cautions adolescents and young adults about the negative consequences of cohabitation for both themselves and their children, and urges parents to teach their children about the advantages of waiting until marriage.

More young people are now first cohabiting than are marrying without prior cohabitation, yet research shows that, rather than being a stepping-stone to a healthy marriage, living together before marriage (cohabitation) makes couples more likely to break-up and more likely to divorce if they do marry. It results in lower marital satisfaction and increased negative communication.  Cohabiting couples spend less time together; men are more likely to spend their time on personal pleasure than do married men.

Commitment failure:

Cohabiting couples are now less likely to later marry than 40 years ago. Controlling for other factors that increase risk of divorce, marriages preceded by cohabitation are still 50 percent more likely to end in divorce.  (Some recent studies challenge this, but are scientifically flawed and omit the raw data.)  Also 27 percent of cohabitations dissolve without marriage in the first three years.

Domestic violence:

Cohabiters commit increased violence against their partner. Women are nine times more likely to be killed by a cohabiting partner than by their husband. Severe violence is four times as common among cohabiting couples; any violence is nearly 50 percent more common among couples cohabiting before marrying and doubled among couples continuing to cohabit after five years.

Alcohol abuse:

Men who cohabit without marrying in 5 to 10 years have more than double the rate of alcohol abuse as married men; women who cohabit without marrying have 4 to 7 times the rate of alcohol abuse as married women.

Infidelity:

Cohabiters, both men and women, have rates of infidelity in the preceding year more than triple that of married spouses. Among the married, those cohabiting prior to marriage were 50 percent more likely to be unfaithful as those marrying without cohabiting.

Poverty:

Poverty is more common among cohabitating women and their children. Their male partners have both a higher unemployment rate (15 percent vs 8 percent), and work less hours if employed.

Abortion:

Cohabitating women are ten times more likely to have an abortion than married women, and suffer from its associated mortality and morbidity. In fact, 89 percent of women who have had abortions have at one time cohabited; 40 percent have lived with three or more men. Abortion also puts future children at risk, especially from extremely premature birth.

Harm to children:

Children who survive also suffer due to parental cohabitation.  They have increased risk of losing a parent to divorce or separation, possibly multiple times.  Children born of cohabiting parents are over four times more likely to suffer separation of their parents by their third birthdays (49 percent) than those born to married parents (11 percent).

[…]Nearly one-third of couples enter into cohabitation with a child from a previous relationship, as do half of those cohabitating for six years or longer. Children living with a parent and unmarried partner (live-in boyfriend) have 20 times the risk of sexual abuse and eight times the risk of all maltreatment compared to children living with married biological parents.  Even if the couple marries, stepchildren have over eight times the risk of sexual abuse and triple the overall risk of abuse of neglect. Girls living with a stepparent had 60 percent higher risk of being raped than girls living with their biological parents.

Depression:

Women in cohabiting relationships have more depression than married women, and poorer responsiveness to their children’s emotional needs.  Children whose mothers are depressed have increased cortisol responses to stress (which may explain their increased hypertension in adulthood). Children with unmarried mothers are half as likely to be breastfed, leading to higher rates of asthma, pneumonia, ear and intestinal infections, diabetes, obesity, and lower intelligence.

Please believe me when I say that you should click through to the Stream and read the entire article.

So what do I want to say about this in my 500 words? Well, I want to say that the cohabitation issue is a good opportunity for us to reason about whether there should be any rules around sexuality and relationships.

Our culture is absolutely poisoned right now with a kind of feelings-oriented non-judgmentalism that prevents debate. Everything has been reduced to people feeling “offended” and using the power of government to stifle debate. Nowhere is this more evident than on the university campus, which is the source of the problem. This hyper-tolerance and emotional non-judgmentalism leaves people open to making poor decisions that cause self-destruction and harm to others. As a result, young people are blindly accepting a script for sexuality and relationships from the culture, e.g. – Hollywood, celebrities, and ideologically-driven academics. A script made by professional story-tellers insulated from the consequences of their ideas.

As Christians, we seem to have so much trouble talking to young people about rules around sexuality and relationships. So many young people think that premarital sex is benign. That cohabitation is no big deal. And that redefining marriage cannot be opposed. Christian parents and pastors are not preparing themselves to discuss these things with young people. If there is a battle of ideas, and one side shows up with a bunch of feelings and lies, that side still wins – if the other side doesn’t show up at all. Don’t be so focused on your career and your own self that you fail your children by failing to discuss and debate with them about the issues. Don’t assume that just because your children look OK on the surface that there are not serious questions underneath.

There is so much I could say about this problem of talking to young people. As I argued in a previous post, I truly believe that apologists should not neglect these social / cultural / fiscal issues. We have to study them and know how to argue for our values using secular arguments and evidence, such as you see in the study above. Once young people have decided that Christian teachings on sexuality (e.g. – chastity, courting) are primitive and irrational, or worse, then getting them to accept Christianity becomes that much harder. And that goes double for marriage. If they think that cohabitation, no-fault divorce, same-sex marriage and gay adoption are opposed for no other reason than blind prejudice or even hatred, then we’ve lost before we even begin to make our first philosophical argument. We have to use a combined arms approach.

Let’s attack! Now is the time!

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

Are you ready for marriage? 10 questions to find out how prepared you are

Marriage and family

Marriage and family

Would you like your marriage to be long-lasting and fulfilling? Well, check out the questions below and see if you are ready for life-long wedded bliss.

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 6 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 $18.5 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. 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 fist 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, budgeting and saving 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.

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The first redefinition of marriage was much worse for children than same-sex marriage

% of Marriages Remaining Intact

% of Marriages Remaining Intact

I am speaking about no-fault divorce, of course.  Let’s take a look at it with a few articles.

First, let’s take a look at what Jesus says about divorce.

Matthew 19:1-9:

1 Now when Jesus had finished these sayings, he went away from Galilee and entered the region of Judea beyond the Jordan.

2 And large crowds followed him, and he healed them there.

3 And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?”

4 He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female,

5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?

6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

7 They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?”

8 He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.

9 And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”

I’ll just link to one study to prove divorce is bad, but everyone knows that.

Now, let Theologian and cultural analyst Al Mohler explain how we got no-fault (unilateral) divorce:

The story behind America’s love affair with no-fault divorce is a sad and instructive tale. As Baskerville documents, no-fault divorce laws emerged in the United States during the 1970s and quickly spread across the nation. Even though only nine states had no-fault divorce laws in 1977, by 1995, every state had legalized no-fault divorce.

Behind all this is an ideological revolution driven by feminism and facilitated by this society’s embrace of autonomous individualism. Baskerville argues that divorce “became the most devastating weapon in the arsenal of feminism, because it creates millions of gender battles on the most personal level.” As far back as 1947, the National Association of Women Lawyers [NAWL] was pushing for what we now know as no-fault divorce. More recently, NAWL claims credit for the divorce revolution, describing it as “the greatest project NAWL has ever undertaken.”

The feminists and NAWL were not working alone, of course. Baskerville explains that the American Bar Association “persuaded the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws [NCCUSL] to produce the Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act.” Eventually, this led to a revolution in law and convulsions in society at large. This legal revolution effectively drove a stake into the heart of marriage itself, with inevitable consequences. In effect, no-fault divorce has become the catalyst for one of the most destructive cultural shifts in human history. Now, no-fault divorce is championed by many governments in the name of human rights, and America’s divorce revolution is spreading around the world under the banner of “liberation.”

Baskerville gets right to the heart of the matter, labeling no-fault divorce as a “misnomer.” In reality, the “no-fault” language was taken from the world of automobile insurance. These new divorce laws did not really remove fault from the context of divorce, but they “did create unilateral and involuntary divorce, so that one spouse may end a marriage without any agreement or fault by the other.” As Baskerville explains, “Moreover, the spouse who divorces or otherwise abrogates the marriage contract incurs no liability for the cost or consequences, creating a unique and unprecedented legal anomaly.”

In many cases, the reality is even worse. In effect, no-fault divorce means that the courts now assist the violator of marriage vows. Any spouse can now demand a divorce for any reason and be assured that the courts will award the divorce–and will often grant disproportionate favor to the party seeking the divorce.

As Judy Parejko, author of Stolen Vows, argues, no-fault divorce means that legislators created an “automatic outcome” in issues of divorce. “A defendant is automatically found ‘guilty’ of irreconcilable differences and is not allowed a defense,” Parejko notes.

Researcher Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, author of the influential book, The Divorce Culture, points to the therapeutic seduction of the culture as a contributing factor. “According to therapeutic precepts,” she explains, “the fault for marital breakup must be shared, even when one spouse unilaterally seeks a divorce.”

In other words, no-fault divorce laws actually assume that both parties are equally at fault, since no party could be innocent. The perverse assumption inherent in this argument is that if any individual is unhappy, someone else must necessarily be at fault. Once no-fault divorce became a reality, spouses found themselves simply informed of the fact that their marriage was effectively over. Many of these spouses were not even aware that the marriage was in trouble–and trouble is not even necessary.

Why did all this happen? How could an institution as fundamental and basic as marriage become transformed in less than a decade’s time? Baskerville insists that no-fault divorce laws were not demanded by the public. “No popular clamor to dispense with divorce restrictions preceded their passage; no public outrage at any perceived injustice provided the impetus; no public debate was ever held in the media.” As Baskerville summarizes: “In retrospect, these laws can be seen as one of the boldest social experiments in history. The result effectively abolished marriage as a legal contract. As a result, it’s no longer possible to form a binding agreement to create a family.”

No-fault divorce is worse than same-sex marriage, and there is almost no support among Christians for taking it on, although my view is that both no-fault divorce and same-sex marriage need to be repealed. I don’t know how we are going to fix this unless Christians start to get serious about marrying well, and for the long-term. But more is needed – we have to make it harder for people to get divorced, and harder for people to get money from the government just for having children outside of marriage. We have to shame behaviors that harm children, and shrink government so that men become more indispensable, and staying married becomes more important to women. (over two-thirds of divorces are initiated by women)

And (in response to a comment below) we should be showing young people the benefits of getting married and staying married – not just for children, but for society as a whole. That’s especially true for young Christians in church – in my experience, the men often don’t see marriage as an exciting enterprise that could make a difference for Christ, and the women often think of marriage as something boring to put off for as long as possible. I think one of the great ways of evangelizing the culture is showing them a romantic marriage, a home that is warm and welcoming, and happy, healthy children who are respectful and hard-working.

You can read more in this article about no-fault divorce by Dr. Stephen Baskerville. (The Baskerville that Mohler mentioned)

He covers 5 myths about no-fault divorce:

  1. No-fault divorce permitted divorce by mutual consent, thus making divorce less acrimonious
  2. We cannot force people to remain married and should not try
  3. No-fault divorce has led men to abandon their wives and children
  4. When couples cannot agree or cooperate about matters like how the children should be raised, a judge must decide according to “the best interest of the child”
  5. Divorce must be made easy because of domestic violence

I hope this clears up the false charge that people who oppose same-sex marriage do so only because of animus towards homosexuals. There are many reasons to oppose same-sex marriage – religious liberty concerns, concerns about the needs of children, public health concerns, and so on. But social conservatives like me are consistent. We oppose no-fault divorce because it harms children, and we oppose unrestricted welfare for single mothers for the same reason, because it pays people to have fatherless children. There are reasons for socially conservative views, it’s not just “dislike”. Only someone who has never been presented with conservative views by conservative scholars would think such things. But that’s what happens to students in universities – it’s just indoctrination.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , ,

Adult children of gay parents testify against same-sex marriage at Supreme Court

Marriage and family

Marriage and family

This story is from the Washington Times. (H/T William)

They write:

Six adult children of gay parents have filed briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court to dissuade the justices from legalizing same-sex marriage, citing their childhood experiences.

The group and their attorney — David Boyle of Long Beach, California — were in Washington on Friday to visit congressional offices and meet with scholars and advocacy groups. Mr. Boyle and five of the adult children sat for a short interview with The Washington Times.

“We don’t have childhoods,” said Dawn Stefanowicz, who grew up with two brothers in a chaotic world dominated by their gay father and his many lovers.

“There were no safe boundaries in my home,” said Denise Shick, who explained in her amicus brief how her transgender father spied on and fondled her, stole her clothes and tried to step into her shoes because, as a girl blossoming into womanhood, she was the very thing he wanted to be.

Robert Oscar Lopez, founder and president of the International Children’s Rights Institute, noted that judges often have asked attorneys if gay marriage “harms” anyone. The answer to that question is in the briefs and other publications, said Mr. Lopez, who was raised by his lesbian mother and her partner. He filed a brief with colleague B.N. Klein, who grew up with her lesbian mother and her partners.

The briefs reveal children’s struggles with gender confusion, pressures to conform to gay values and attitudes, and feelings of isolation and sadness without being able to talk about those things with anyone.

The inconsolable longing for the “missing” parent is another common theme.

“When you have kids, all of a sudden it hits you,” said Mr. Lopez, who reconnected with his biological father in his late 20s.

If the Supreme Court “rules to redefine marriage, it rules to redefine parenthood as well,” Katy Faust and Heather Barwick wrote in a joint brief.

The women, who both grew up with loving lesbian mothers, said they realized gay marriage is wrong for kids when they saw their husbands interact with their children.

“Adult desires do not trump child rights,” Ms. Faust said.

There’s “no reason to write out of civil code the need for a mother and a father,” she said. “This court must either side with adult desires or side with children’s rights. But it cannot do both.”

Indeed – that is the issue. It’s a conflict between adult selfishness and children’s needs.

I found a very moving long-form essay at The Public Discourse by one of the women mentioned in the news story above.

Denise Shick writes:

What was your biggest concern when you were nine years old? Was it trying to memorize your multiplication tables? Was it that the school cafeteria might serve your least favorite vegetable at lunch? Perhaps it was something more serious; perhaps your parents were talking of getting divorced. My biggest concern at age nine was how to keep my daddy’s secret, the one he revealed to me as we sat alone on a hill near our home. In a sense, I lost my dad that day, when he told me he wanted to become a woman.

[…]His confessions left me confused and hurt. After all, I just wanted a dad who would love and cherish me, who would make me feel special as a daughter. I felt rejected and abandoned by my own father. By the time I was eleven, my dad had begun to abuse me emotionally and sexually. Even so, I continued to keep my dad’s secret locked away, deep down in my heart.

My dad created a home environment that made me feel as if I was walking on pins and needles. His resentment over my possession of what he so deeply desired for himself—a woman’s body—turned into anger and abuse. As his desires intensified, he began to borrow my clothing. Many times I discovered my underclothes and tops under bathroom towels, or in the attic—often in places I had not been. I learned to organize my clothes just so, in order to know if he had been in my dresser drawers. When I confirmed that he’d worn an article of my clothing, I simply could not bring myself to ever wear that item again.

As an adolescent, I had to be careful about how I dressed. I always had to ask myself how he would react to my outfit. Would it make him so envious that he’d “borrow” it (without my consent, of course)? I began to hate my body. It was a constant reminder of what my father wanted to become. When I began to wear makeup, I had to block out the images I had of him applying makeup or eye shadow or lipstick. He was destroying my desire to become a woman.

I looked elsewhere for comfort. Attending school dances and overnights at friends’ homes gave me opportunities to seek some emotional escape through alcohol. Even on school days, a friend and I sometimes met in a school restroom to share bottles of Jack Daniel’s. I desperately tried to fit in, but the truth is I was hurting.

I was so hungry to have my father’s love and attention that I tried to fill that void in other ways. I had thirteen boyfriends in seventh grade alone. I also tried, futilely, to soothe my hurting heart with alcohol. By age fifteen, I was struggling with my own sexuality and gender. I began to seriously consider taking drugs, but God had another plan.

I really recommend reading her essay from top to bottom if you want to understand the same-sex marriage issue. The guy who rescues her from her father (and the mother who chose to marry him) is an absolute hero, in my opinion.

Anyway, back to same-sex marriage. The last time we redefined marriage, we removed the presumption of permanence by allowing any spouse to end the marriage for any reason, or no reason at all. We were told by two left-wing constituencies – the feminists and the trial lawyers – that no-fault divorce would have a neutral or even a positive effect on children. Well, we now know that this was a pack of lies. The feminists wanted to destroy the “unequal roles” of marriage, and the trial lawyers wanted to get rich from divorce trials. The primary losers was the generation of children whose parents divorced instead of working out their problems. Now, the same social engineers are at it again with same-sex marriage. I hope we win this one, but since we elected Barack Obama, we lost two picks on the Supreme Court. Without those two picks, we don’t have much hope.

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What are some of the arguments against gay marriage?

Marriage and family

Marriage and family

Here are 10 from the Family Research Council. (H/T Dangerous Idea)

The list:

  1. Children hunger for their biological parents.
  2. Children need fathers.
  3. Children need mothers.
  4. Evidence on parenting by same-sex couples is inadequate.
  5. Evidence suggests children raised by homosexuals are more likely to experience gender and sexual disorders.
  6. Same-sex “marriage” would undercut the norm of sexual fidelity within marriage.
  7. Same-sex “marriage” would further isolate marriage from its procreative purpose.
  8. Same-sex “marriage” would further diminish the expectation of paternal commitment.
  9. Marriages thrive when spouses specialize in gender-typical roles.
  10. Women and marriage domesticate men.

The eleventh one they missed is that a husband’s leadership is beneficial to a woman because it gives her direction and balances her emotional highs and lows. It’s not politically correct to say what women need from men in marriage, but it’s true. Just like men, women have weaknesses that can be corrected and compensated for by the opposite sex. The twelfth one they missed is that same-sex marriage is incompatible with religious liberty, as recent court cases have shown.

Anyway, here are the details on #7:

7. Same-sex “marriage” would further isolate marriage from its procreative purpose.

Traditionally, marriage and procreation have been tightly connected to one another. Indeed, from a sociological perspective, the primary purpose that marriage serves is to secure a mother and father for each child who is born into a society. Now, however, many Westerners see marriage in primarily emotional terms.

Among other things, the danger with this mentality is that it fosters an anti-natalist mindset that fuels population decline, which in turn puts tremendous social, political, and economic strains on the larger society. Same-sex marriage would only further undercut the procreative norm long associated with marriage insofar as it establishes that there is no necessary link between procreation and marriage.

This was spelled out in the Goodridge decision in Massachusetts, where the majority opinion dismissed the procreative meaning of marriage. It is no accident that the countries that have legalized or are considering legalizing same-sex marriage have some of the lowest fertility rates in the world. For instance, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Canada have birthrates that hover around 1.6 children per woman–well below the replacement fertility rate of 2.1.

I chose this one because I wanted to comment.

I think it’s common today for men and women to not put the production and development of children at the center of their marriage plans. They are not working a financial plan to prepare for children. They are not developing the skills they need to mentor and nurture others. They are resentful of any demands placed on them that restrict their freedom. And they want marriage to be about fun and self-fulfillment. This is not compatible with children, however. And that’s the point. The more we redefine marriage to be about adult selfishness – first with no-fault divorce, then with same-sex marriage – the less emphasis there is on the pre-marital preparations for making and raising children.

If you want to know what you should be doing with your life before marriage, then think of the process of having children and raising children. Think of how much it costs, what skills you will need, and how your character has to be trained. Many of the things that you see young people doing these days – binge drinking, hooking up, running up debt, cohabitating, avoiding things that are hard to do – are not preparing their character for the responsibilities, expectations and obligations that people face when they have children.

Suppose you have a friend who is not good at driving a manual transmission car or not good at weight lifting or not good at doing apologetics – are you able to help them do it, or are you incapable of taking responsibility? If you can’t take responsibility for helping an adult, you certainly can’t take responsibility for a child – children are much less capable. Now are you able to say no to doing things for your own happiness? If you are not able to give up your own happiness – and this is a thing that gets easier as you practice more – then you’re liable to look on your duties to your children with resentment – that you are being “manipulated” into it. You don’t suddenly learn how to put up with children just by walking down the aisle at a wedding. It takes training to get good at being generous with your time, money and effort. It takes practice.

In fact, a smart man who is courting a woman would be trying to get her to practice the behaviors of a wife and mother before he marries her. And the same for a smart women who is being courted by a man. For example, a man has to comfortable giving things to the people around him – he can’t be resentful about it. Even when he doesn’t particularly like those people, he has to focus on their needs, think about where he is trying to lead them, and then work a plan to provide for their needs so they get where he wants them to go. If a man doesn’t like the feel of caring for others who may not be grateful – or who may even hate him – then he should take steps to prepare his character to learn to like it. When a little kid says “I hate you!” to his father, who is paying thousands of dollars for him to grow up, it’s not an easy thing. Always being selfish before you marry is not good preparation for what children will demand of you. This is something I struggle with personally – being content to invest in others who turn out to be ungrateful, and even destructive.

So I think this focus on parenting is a wonderful way for people to work backwards from the goal (healthy, happy, successful children) to the interim tasks and required skills. It helps us to get away from thinking that marriage is about us – our happiness, our needs. Unfortunately, not everyone who runs around telling people that they want to get married “some day” is really taking steps to prepare for marriage and parenting right now. Marriage is a commitment to self-sacrificially love another person – however much they change – for the rest of their lives, and to love any children who appear, too. People don’t like to read about marriage and think it through. But just saying “I want to marry someday” is not a proof of preparation for marriage, as the divorce rate attests. To get married, you have to train yourself to think of others, and to do hard things that don’t make you feel “free” or “happy”. There is no path to a successful marriage that does not involve responsibilities, expectations and obligations for husband and wife. It’s not “happily ever after”. It’s hard work!

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