commitment

commitment

Millennials: a Dilemma for Social Conservatives

chastity, child well-being, commitment, community, family, fathers, happiness, intact family, monogamy, mothers, parents 1 comment
Society is a network of relationships between its citizens. Each citizen’s capacity to relate to others increases or decreases the social cohesiveness and strength of a nation, and each one of those individual citizens’ capacities to relate has been significantly shaped by the family which formed them. As any family therapist will tell you, these family relationships, in turn, are significantly tied to the relationship between the father and mother of that family. As their marital relationship goes, so goes the intra-psychic strength and the social capacity of their children. The marital relationship changes everything in the family. Multiplied a hundred million times in the U.S., it has a massively compounding effect on society—for strength or weakness.

Thus, the relationship between the mother and father figures in a family is the most foundational relationship in society, the “DNA” that influences all the relationships that emanate from it. How the shopkeeper responds to his customers, or the professor to her students, is often quite tied to how they experienced their parents’ marriage. When a marriage breaks apart, it affects a child’s behavior and relational capacity. When a parental relationship is never transformed into marriage (e.g, in out-of-wedlock births or cohabiting households that break up) it alters the child’s social capacity.

Thus, the future of society is structured by the social ordering of this primary sexual relationship. That is the heart of the culture wars.

Change the DNA of the body, and you change the body by altering its whole functioning process. Alter the sexual relationship, and you alter everything else. Political philosophers are very aware of this. Marx and Engels saw this as absolutely necessary for their massive project: the permanent altering of society along the lines of their utopian dream.

Others see this connection even if they do not desire the same outcome as did Marx and Engels. Most bright Millennials understand it. They see that society has to pay a certain price for the sexual choices permitted to them today —choices that were not sanctioned in times past. They will even admit and accept that the innocent children of these sexual acts will have to pay the price. Many are prepared to see such prices paid, and therein lies the dilemma.

Marx and Engels wanted this sexual restructuring; many Millennials accept it. Though Millennials are certainly not all Marxists, it hardly matters: In the cultural and political contest of the day, they will stand aside and let the coercive liberal state march forward in the direction laid out by Marx and Engels.

Are we doomed to some form of coercive Marxist state as our future because of the sexual choices many in our society treasure? Other than widespread religious conversion, I do not see much potential for change in the right direction; hence, I invite your comments. Is religious conversion the only route?

Marriage vs. Alluring Images of Infidelity

commitment, community, culture, divorce, Hollywood, intact family No comments

The seven-decade tradition of TV watching continues apace in the Internet Age: 34.2 percent of the internet bandwidth is occupied by Netflix during primetime according to Sandvine the provider of such data. But there is a link between TV viewing and the state of marriage.

A natural experiment occurred in Brazil between 1960 and 1990 as the government there pursued a TV expansion strategy, moving into a new state every few years and building the infrastructure for TV watching. This staggered project provided a staggered change in behavior as peoples TV viewing changed in each newly furbished state. The end result: a significant rise, and a staggered rise province by province, as TV viewing spread. Soap opera viewing (i.e., infidelity-viewing) was identified as one of the most significant aspects of the change.  Henry Potrykus of MARRI summarizes the research in a brief paper.

We in the states have been watching TV for so long, and its content increasingly depicts family lifestyles that we have come to accept and condone (sex outside of marriage, divorce, and cohabitation), that we are likely totally unaware of the effect of TV watching on the family behavior of ourselves and of our children. Even mature adults are affected. Divorce among those fifty and above has grown very significantly in the last few decades. Instead of seeking marital therapy that works, the divorce court seems to be the route of choice.

Where lies this power to change? One of the most powerful resources of the mind is the faculty of the imagination. Skilled hypnotherapists use it all the time, and to great effect. Top athletes become experts at using it constantly in their preparation and even during peak contests. One of the greatest, if not the greatest, psychotherapists ever, Milton Erickson, started early in his career with traditional hypnosis but forty years later had evolved to getting the right helpful image into the mind of his client… By the art of storytelling. TV combines the story, the image, and the idea. No wonder it has such powerful effects.

Americans watch an average of 2.8 hours of TV per dayaccording to one of the best sources, the Department of Labor’s Time Use Survey. Can we have a strong culture that feeds on so much family-weakening imagery? Brazil says no. 

It may not be the picture or what is viewed as much as the ideas—conveyed most powerfully through the image—that have the impact, as Richard Weaver in 1948 contended and as he foretold the generalized effects of TV, which he called “The Great Stereopticon” in his classic “Ideas Have Consequences.” Ideas with story images have even greater consequences for good or for ill. Parents, take note. And my wife and I had better be careful about what we watch on TV. We become what we think about.

Knight in shining armor – a dying dream?

commitment, culture, fathers, feminism, MARRI, marriage, women No comments
Obed Bazikian, Intern
International Women’s Day on March 8 began as women stood up for their freedom against various oppressions. Yet, while many women stand up against oppression, certain aspirations in our culture are increasingly suppressed, including the longing for lasting commitment. Jim Anderson, in his book “Unmasked: Exposing the Cultural Sexual Assault,” goes into painful explanation of how so many women have, in search for commitment, given up what is most precious to them. Anderson says that women have subconsciously accepted that their worth is found in what they can offer a man, namely their sexuality. Many will sacrifice their body again and again thinking perhaps tonight, this man will be different. But with each hookup and breakup, the faint hope in their hearts for commitment fades.

Western culture has trained women to set their standards and expectations so low to accommodate an increasing population of men who have few to no standards at all. A recent article in the NY Times interviewed a 21-year-old single mom, Ms. Kidd, who had experienced her father abandoning her family at age 13 for her mom’s friend. Even though she expressed love for her child’s father, she could “not imagine marrying” him because she said, “I don’t want to wind up like my mom.” Acts like that of Ms. Kidd’s father are also teaching the current generation that commitment and marriage is not only a thing of the past, but instills belief and a fear to even think of entering it.

The question must be asked: How do we shift this culture around to value women and commitment? Research shows the value of marriage and commitment. Our society must pay attention to the empirical truths about marriage. A recent paper by the Marriage and Religion Research Institute, “162 Reasons to Marry,“ finds that “women raised in stable married families are more likely to marry,” and goes on to list 162 benefits to marriage, for both the couple and the children. Our culture lacks commitment, but an alternative exists. Paying attention to the research shows the strength of the family, and can help women see that a desire for commitment is not dead.

 

Huffington Post on the Male “Need” to Cheat

commitment, family, MARRI, marriage, men, monogamy, pornography, sexuality 1 comment

By Anna Dorminey, Staff

The Huffington Post’s Vicki Larson writes:

Monogamy is failing men.

Not only is it failing them, but it’s a “socially compelled sexual incarceration” that can lead to a life of anger and contempt, or so says Eric Anderson, an American sociologist at England’s University of Winchester and author of the provocative new book, The Monogamy Gap: Men, Love, and the Reality of Cheating (Oxford University Press, $49.99).

Cheating, however, serves men pretty well. An undiscovered affair allows them to keep their relationship and emotional intimacy, and even if they’re busted it’s a lot easier than admitting that they wanted to screw someone else in the first place, he writes.

In his study of 120 undergraduate men, 78 percent of those who had a partner cheated, “even though they said that they loved and intended to stay with their partner.” Contrary to what we may think, most men aren’t cheating because they don’t love their partner, he says; they cheat because they just want to have sex with others. And society shouldn’t pooh-pooh that.

Monogamy’s stronghold on our beliefs—what he calls monogamism—brings ostracism and judgment to anyone who questions or strays from its boundaries. That doesn’t make sense to Anderson, who wonders why we stigmatize someone who has a fling more than couples who divorce—throwing away a marriage rich in history and love, upsetting their kids’ lives—over something like sex.

Monogamy isn’t the only “proper” way to be in a relationship, and he says it’s time that society finds “multiple forms of acceptable sexual relationship types—including sexually open relationships—that coexist without hierarchy or hegemony.” It’s especially important for today’s young men, for whom monogamous sex seems more boring than in generations past because of easy premarital sex and pornography.

I’m dubious, to say the least, about Anderson’s research. His study consisted of interviews with 120 undergraduate males, a rather bizarre sample for a study of monogamy and commitment. The article itself is too long to address point by point, so I’ll say just two things:

1. Anderson writes, “Humans are largely lousy at controlling our bodies’ desires. We say we don’t want to eat that Snickers bar, but we also really do want to eat it. We eat it, we feel guilty about it, and afterwards we promise ourselves not to eat one again; but we nonetheless do.” His analogy is positively ludicrous. Marriage is not a diet. Marriage is a covenant. And whereas the occasional candy bar will not destroy the human body, the violation of the necessary marital commitment to fidelity will absolutely destroy a marriage. Furthermore, the difficulty that self-denial poses is no reason to completely eschew the discipline of fidelity. And though Anderson rationalizes that the sex is “just sex” and not an emotional relationship, the reality is that the divorce of sexual relationship from emotion and intimacy is deadening, when it is not impossible.

2. “Premarital sex” is, as the author says, “easy” to get. Pornography damages not only individuals’ perceptions of monogamous, married sexual relationships, it damages actual people. (For more on the harms of pornography, see the MARRI synthesis paper “The Effects of Pornography on Individuals, Marriage, Family, and Community”). The fact remains, though, that married persons enjoy the most sexual fulfillment. Don’t believe me? Check the following resources: Robert T. Michael, et al., Sex in America: A Definitive Survey (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1994), 124-129; Edward O. Laumann, et al., The Social Organization of Sexuality: Sexual Practices in the United States (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994), 364, table 10.5; Andrew Greeley, Faithful Attraction: Discovering Intimacy, Love and Fidelity in American Marriage (New York: Tom Doherty Association, 1991), see chapter 6 (as cited in Glenn T. Stanton, “Why Marriage Matters”).

What do you think? Do men need to cheat? Is monogamy an unrealistic and unnatural demand to apply to a partner?

The Second Annual Index of Family Belonging and Rejection

child well-being, commitment, family, MARRI, marriage, poverty, single parents, youth No comments
By Anna Dorminey, Staff

Did you miss the release of our Second Annual Index of Family Belonging and Rejection? You can read it hereand watch the webcast of the event here!

An excerpt from the Index’s introduction:

The Index of Family Belonging was 45.8 percent with a corresponding Family Rejection score of 54.2 percent for the United States for the year 2009. The action of parents determines the belonging or rejection score: whether they marry and belong to each other, or they reject one another through divorce or otherwise. Rejection leaves children without married parents committed to one another and to the intact family in which the child was to be brought up.

Index Highlights:

· Only 45.8% of American children reach the age of 17 with both their biological parents married (since before or around the time of their birth).
· The Index of Family Belonging is highest in the Northeast (49.6%) and lowest in the South (41.8%).
· Minnesota (57%) and Utah (56.5%) have the highest Index of Family Belonging values of all the states; Mississippi (34%) has the lowest. The District of Columbia had an abysmally low Family Belonging Index score of 18.6%.
· Family Belonging is strongest among Asians (65.8%) and weakest among Blacks (16.7%).
· Once differences across states in Family Belonging, adult educational attainment, foreign-born residents, and population density are taken into account, differences in state racial and ethnic composition are no longer significant in accounting for variations in child well-being outcomes (the exception being that the proportion of Hispanics in a state is very significant in determining the number of births to unmarried teenagers).
· While the effects of government spending on high school graduation rates are curvilinear and offer diminishing returns, family belonging is positively and significantly associated with high school graduation rates.
· Family belonging and child poverty are significantly, inversely related: States with high Index values have relatively low child poverty rates, and vice versa.
· There is a significant, inverse relationship between family belonging and the incidence of births to unmarried teenagers.

Four Weddings, a Funeral, and Chastity

cohabitation, commitment, Hollywood, marriage, sexual revolution No comments

By Anna Dorminey, Staff

When it comes to relationships, at times it’s difficult to determine whose advice to take to heart and whose to ignore. While I don’t consider myself an authority on the subject, I don’t think I’ll meet much resistance when I say that romantic comedies are not a fount of realistic or wise counsel.
Case in point: “Four Weddings and a Funeral.” The film was a major hit when it premiered in 1994; it was the highest-grossing British film to that point and received warm praise from critics. The story is set in Englandand follows a set of seven or eight single friends as they attend weddings and funerals. Among them is charmingly awkward and bumbling Charles, played by Hugh Grant.
At the first wedding, Charles meets a beautiful American woman named Carrie, played by Andie McDowell. The pair spend the night together, after which she returns home to America. They are intimate a few other times, even after she becomes engaged to another man. I’ll spare you a full plot synopsis, but when the two get around to discussing their sexual history, Charles reveals that he has had relations with several women. This, however, is nothing to Carrie’s admitted 33 sexual conquests.
The film ends on Charles’s wedding day. Carrie is in attendance and we find she is already separated from her husband. Charles abandons his bride at the altar and asks Carrie, “Do you think…you might agree not to marry me? And do you think not being married to me might maybe be something you could consider doing for the rest of your life?” Carrie responds, “I do.” The film ends in a montage of happy photos, including a shot of Charles, Carrie, and a baby boy.
What the plot of “Four Weddings” implies is that it’s possible to have dozens of sexual liaisons without slowly destroying your ability to have a healthy relationship. Carrie is physically intimate with 33 men over the course of her lifetime (as far as we can tell), but this isn’t portrayed as detrimental to her ability to settle down with the right man.
Unfortunately, reality is grimmer than the movies. The charts at this link—based on a large data sample in the 1995 National Survey of Family Growth—depict a woman’s likelihood to be in a stable marriage five years to ten years after her wedding day. Though Carrie and Charles do not actually marry, the lesson is clear: one’s statistical likelihood of enjoying a stable relationship without committing to sexual purity is hardly as rosy as “Four Weddings” represents it.

The second falsehood is the film’s assertion that cohabitation is the functional equivalent of marriage. If one’s odds of marital stability after a lifetime of promiscuity are bleak, consider that cohabiting relationships last around one year in the United States—even in France, Britain’s neighbor, the average cohabitation lasts only four years.[1]Lastly, Carrie and Charles have a baby. If unmarried cohabitation is not the lifetime of personally defined bliss that they expect it will be, she will likely end up a single mother. This family structure brings with it all sorts of difficulties, but the long and short of them is that children raised in single-mother homes have to grapple with obstacles that children born into intact, married families struggle with less.
What do you think? Do you think Carrie and Charles really live happily ever after, or do they fall in line with the trends above once the cameras quit rolling?


[1] Patrick Heuveline and Jeffrey Timberlake, “The Role of Cohabitation in Family Formation: The United States in Comparative Perspective,” Journal of Marriage and the Family 66, no. 5 (2004): 1223.