happiness

happiness

Preparing for the Rebuilding of America (and Western Civilization)

child well-being, family, happiness, human capital, marriage, religion No comments

A few years ago I met Don Renzo Bonetti, parish priest near Verona, Italy. He is the founder of a family movement, The Great Mystery Project (“Mistero Grande” in Italian).  He said he was “forming the families who will rebuild Western Civilization after it collapses” and wished me luck with my work in the social sciences, which he thought could play its own role (rather limited) in this rebuilding.

Western civilization is collapsing very quickly — silently in Italy and other European countries, as they gradually disappear, demographically, before our eyes — raucously in US.  Our debate may be the first stage of the next great awakening.  It is not yet a response but there is a widespread awakening to the level of the crisis and a growing desire to do something about it.

The solution, the rebuilding of America, will be aided by our deepest roots as a nation, which are not in our being a particular people or race but in the ideals of freedom, articulated by our Founders as “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”   But these ideals alone will not be enough to carry the day.

Many institutions need rebuilding: schools, universities, media, movies, and churches. The reform needed for our ideals to flourish again in these will never take hold without the first and most basic reform – the rebuilding of our families.

Such rebuilding of the family is most likely to happen within communities of worship, because it is there that our national experts in “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” are most to be found: the intact married family that worships God weekly.

Where is life most abundant?  In the intact married family that worships God weekly.  Where is death most absent? In the very same place.

Where is liberty most abundant? Where are children free? Where are women and men most free to achieve the good they desire?  In that same place.

Where are people happiest?  In that same place.  The data is incontrovertible.

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness occur most in the intact married family that worships God weekly.

This is the place where the two great loves are most present: love of others and love of God.  And these loves are both the seed and the soil of the rebirth of America.  These families know what to do and they are the most likely to help. This is America’s “Great Mystery”, its great resource.

Spread the word.

 

Pat Fagan

Prenuptials for Indissoluble Marriages

divorce, happiness, marriage 1 comment

“Divorce? Never. Murder? Maybe.”    So said an Irish wife in 1986 when Ireland was debating divorce law.  Divorce was unthinkable for her generation, particularly for Catholics.  “Prenups” were a waste of time and thought.  Today is very different – even for devout Christians and for couples who seem to have everything going for them.  No one has the culture “going for them”.

Today’s culture accepts pornography, divorce, cohabitation, one-night-stands, deliberate single-parenthood, materialism, and pleasure-seeking.  (Just yesterday in Union Station in Washington DC I saw a millennial wearing a cap that said “Sex, drugs and money.”)  American culture today rejects chastity, prayer and religious worship, the Ten Commandments, God, and even children.  Marriage thrives on the “flip side” of all these.

The prenuptial I propose is not about preserving wealth but preserving the marriage to come.  It is a vaccination against that divorce which will be a high temptation even for those who have good marriages.  Our toxic environment guarantees this.

There are issues a couple should clear up before saying “I do” because there are  marriage-destroying habits they may need to drop before they set out on their life-long expedition or else they will later find out they were never really “together”.

This prenuptial inoculation should be agreed to at least a year before the marriage so that there is time to “clean out the garbage” before the great day.  If the garbage does not get cleared out then better to call the wedding off than destroy the lives of their children with a divorce later on.

Here is the prenuptial to fill in and sign after discussing the contents.  This discussion itself will be a great eye-opener for many couples, even before they embark on fulfilling the terms.

OUR PRENUPTIAL

(Click here to Download)

 

Marriage preparation is much more than taking in ideas.  It involves starting to make the changes needed to build a good marriage.

Parenthood is Still a Good Thing

happiness, parenthood 1 comment

Margolis and Myrskyla’s parenthood study initially gained notoriety from a misleading claim that parenthood is worse than divorce, unemployment, and even the death of a partner. To draw this conclusion, researchers compared the dissatisfaction, allegedly due to parenthood, to the dissatisfaction due to divorce, unemployment, and death of a partner of an entirely different sample. This assertion can be refuted with basic logic, biology and research.

  1. Simple logic is proof enough to discredit this assertion: Parents are always eager to talk and brag about their kids, but rarely does that kind of joy and praise come from someone who just lost a parent or has recently become unemployed.
  2. Biology and social science also substantiate this logic. During childbirth women release a package of hormones associated with euphoria—oxytocin, endorphins, adrenaline and noradrenaline, and prolactin. Oxytocin and prolactin are also released during breastfeeding.
  3. Other studies have found that overall parents (especially fathers) report relatively higher levels of happiness, positive emotion, and meaning in life than nonparents. Dr. Arthur Stone, author of a study on parental happiness published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, put it this way: “[Parents] have higher highs. They have more joy in their lives, but also they have more stress and negative emotions as well.” All in all, Stone and colleagues assert that it is a matter of choice: people who want kids will derive more joy out of parenthood, and those who desire to remain childless will derive happiness from that. 

Margolis and Myrskyla’s study is limited in scope and should be appreciated only at face value. The researchers found that life satisfaction increases leading up to and in the year after first birth, that satisfaction decreases from the baseline level after the first year of birth, and that those who have a second birth gained more in life satisfaction around the time of the first birth than those who do not bear more children.

Margolis and Myrskyla are correct that these findings lend insight into the low fertility rates afflicting many countries. The fertility crisis is a consequence of a growing abhorrence for anything that requires self-sacrifice, even if it could produce long term joy. It is far more likely that the true cause of this shortage in births is the rise in non-intact families and decrease in religious practice.

Children raised in non-intact families face parental rejection, which can make giving to others more difficult. These children are also less likely to want to have children of their own. Religious practice on the other hand, improves fertility rates. Religious worship contributes to a sense of selflessness: religious people contribute more to charity and are more likely to volunteer their time. Not surprisingly, very religious women are also more likely to want more kids and to have more kids. 

Overall, parenthood is a rewarding, joy-filled adventure if the parents are willing to share their life. Although a couple’s first birth can, and frequently does, bring unanticipated stress and marital discord, it also concurrently brings much happiness. Future research should control for and then highlight the benefits of religious worship and intact families, and the likely dangers of self-centeredness. A revival of the intact married family that worships weekly is an essential, natural solution for the fertility crisis. It will make parents happier, children more abundant, and countries richer.

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?

The Benefits and Costs of Young Marriage

divorce, happiness, MARRI, marriage, National Marriage Project, young adults, youth 1 comment

By Pat Fagan, MARRI Senior Fellow
     Joshua Kelsey, MARRI Intern

There is an interesting debate going on between Ashley Maguire and Susan Patton on whether or not to marry young.

Patton argues that colleges harbor a great number of smart men, one only grows older after college, and it is generally a virtue for women to marry young.  McGuire disagrees with Patton and uses data collected by The National Marriage Project’s “Knot Yet” Report to prove her point that women should wait until their late 20s and early 30s to get married, because the lower the age at marriage, the higher the risk of divorce.

The research does indeed show that women who get married before the age of 20 face a proposed divorce rate of 52 percent.  It drops to 34 percent for women who get married between the ages of 20-23, and even lower to 14 percent for women ages 24-26.  Women who get married between the ages of 27-29 have a 20 percent chance of divorce and women who are 30 years or older only have an 8 percent chance of divorce.  Just looking at these percentages, one would agree that women should wait until they are approaching 30 to find a life partner.

However when one looks at the level of happiness within marriage another dimension comes forth:  

The risk of divorce and the risk of unhappiness may not follow the same trajectory, according to the Knot Yet Report.  Of women who marry before the age of 20, only 31 percent say they are very happily married.  Forty-six percent of women married between the ages of 20-23 report that they are very happily married, and 49 percent of women married between the ages of 27-29 report the same.  Forty-two percent of women who marry at 30 or older report being very happily married.  But, remarkably, a significantly higher 66 percent of women who marry between the ages of 24-26 report that they are very happily married.  No other age group even breaks 50 percent in the very happily married category.

So how are we to make sense of this data?

Looking at the divorce risk alone gives us the benefit of objective concrete reality.  Happiness on the other hand is a subjective and fluid measure.

The benefit of younger marriage is that the couple can mold their characters together rather than individually, while they are still young and flexible.  If they work at it, their virtues develop alongside each other and they learn to be more harmonious as they face the formative twenties with each other.

Many questions are left unasked in the Knot Yet report:

How chaste are they (a virtue with a big impact on marital stability); what are their intentions on children (are they family focused or self-focused as they go into marriage)?  What is their education attainment and GPA?  Hard work is a good indication of responsibility and dedication — qualities needed for a successful marriage.  

Developing norms for marriage in our new mobile age is a much needed discourse and both McGuire and Patton contribute to the discussion.  The data give us clues to behavior and behavior gives us clues to habits and virtue, but the data is still a fair distance removed from this last point: character.   When a young man of great character marries a young woman of great character and they are both working on developing the necessary virtues (good habits) to make the other happy and to make family life better, then the chance of divorce is rather remote.  Add in frequent prayer and worship (not addressed by the Knot Yet report) and divorce almost disappears.  Add virginity at marriage and you have a totally different ball game.  Add natural family planning rather than contraception and the game shifts even more.   When were these the norms?  What was marital stability like then?  For those who choose to build a strong future (as opposed to pining for a distant past) the norms are the same.

Those who marry young will indeed face many hardships as the pieces of their lives continue to come together during their twenties, so the divorce risk makes sense. However, our goal is to encourage intact and happy-healthy marriage in our nation. Perhaps the answer is therefore to encourage young marriage…if four things are present:

1) Both man and woman are educated.  Research shows the lower divorce risk for couples who have gone through the stabilizing and enriching experience of higher education (college degree).
2) Both man and woman have the virtue of chastity.  Couples who are concerned with chastity—before and during marriage—tend to be dedicated to relational health, intactness, and service.
3) Both are people of regular prayer and worship.
4) The couple talks through, and agrees on, the functions of the five big tasks (institutions)—family, church, school, marketplace, and government.  Marriage and parenting will be intertwined with these institutions, and conflict regarding them can quickly destabilize a marriage.
5) The man and woman come from healthy families.   Such couples have working models for dealing with hardship and living for a greater good than self.  If they don’t have such backgrounds, they must discuss the potential baggage and bad habits (of thought or feeling) that may encumber them.

If these five factors are in place, I suggest a couple should by all means marry young.  Life is full of adversity—it is simply about which adversities to take on.  The “adversity” of starting young is a natural good.  If you have all these things going for you, then “Go for it”.  Guys: she may be gone with someone else if you wait.  Ladies: the same for you too.  If a businessman comes across a really great deal does he wait? The great deal here is character.  Does he have it? Does she?