Marriage’s Vanishing Act

Is it possible that secular liberals, some of them anyway, are starting to realize  that knocking the supports out from under traditional marriage may not be such a great idea? If so, and if their next step is to think seriously about how to halt this destructive process, it will be the dawning of a new day.

The latest indication of such stirrings on the left that I’ve come across is an op-ed piece by Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus. “If current trends hold,” Marcus writes, “within a few years, less than half the U.S. adult population will be married.” And that, she adds solemnly, is bad news.

Bad news indeed, but not exactly new. The numbers have been piling up for a long time. The U.S. marriage rate (marriages per 1,000 population) was 8.4 in 1958, 10.9 in 1972, and 10.6 in 1981. But by 2009, the rate had fallen to 7.1 and in 2010 it declined still further, to 6.8. The birth rate has followed a similar trajectory, falling from 23.7 in 1960 to 13.5 in 2009.

One obvious reason for what’s happening is that people are marrying later. The median age of first marriage in 1960 was 22.8 for men and 20.3 for women, but by 2003 it had risen to 27.1 and 25.3 respectively.

Another large part of the explanation, however, is that more people aren’t getting married at all. Put the late-marriers and the non-marriers together and then add people who are in-between marriages, and you find that while nearly three-fourths of Americans 18 and older were married in 1960, the figure was a measly 51% in 2010, with the trend still headed down. (Among the college-educated, 27% say marriage is obsolete, while the percentage is 45% among those without college educations.)

Drawing her numbers from a new Pew Rearch Center study that Marcus calls “startling and disturbing,” the Post columnist informs us that the falling marriage rate “isn’t just a social problem. It’s also an economic problem.”

Well, yes. There’s a very visible correlation between marriage and education (nearly two-thirds with college degrees are married but fewer than half of those with high school diplomas or less) and between education and income. (The more education, the higher the income.) As marriages decline, the gap between rich and poor grows wider.

But even though the cluster of problems here has very real economic dimensions, reducing it all to economics while ignoring the links to cultural pathologies and destructive personal values is a mistake. Marcus touches on this other dimension when she speaks of “generational impact”—the impact on children of being raised by cohabiting parents or a single parent. Less education and lower income are part of it—but so are psychological and behavioral difficulties expressed in dropping out of school, law-breaking and incarceration, and other life-destroying behaviors including those that militate against stable marriage.

Unfortunately, Marcus weakens her argument by knee-jerk sneering at  conservative “rhapsodizing about the benefits of marriage.” (Maybe good secular liberals don’t  rhapsodize.) Remember: “promoting marriage among welfare recipients was a big deal during the George W. Bush administration.” Which makes it wrong? Ideological blinders like that are obstacles to seeking and finding solutions.

Catholics both share in and contribute to the multiple problems of marriage in America. But that subject requires another column, where there may also be an opportunity to suggest a modest solution or two. For now, it’s enough to face up to the fact that we’ve got a marriage crisis on our hands.

I was chatting with a priest who is a judge with the marriage tribunal of his large Eastern diocese when he shared an interesting tidbit of information. In his diocese and the other dioceses of his state, the number of requests for marriage annulments has lately fallen by 10%.

Good news? Fewer marriages on the rocks? Not really, he explained. “People are getting married later, some don’t bother to marry at all, others marry outside the Church, and others don’t come to the tribunal when their marriages break down.”

“Then,” I hazarded, “this 10% drop is just a new phase in the same old set of problems?” The tribunal judge nodded—that was the size of it.

All of which is confirmation that the Catholic sector of the crisis of American marriage is going strong. The most telling statistic may be the sharp drop-off in the sheer number of Catholic marriages. Back in 1990, with the Catholic population at 55 million, there were 334,000 of them; in 2010, when Catholics numbered 68.5 million, marriages had fallen by nearly half to around 179,000.

If it’s any consolation, what has been happening to Catholic marriage reflects developments in American marriage. Marriages in this country dropped from 2.44 million in 1990 to 2.08 million in 2009, even as the population of the United States was rising 60 million. A Pew Research Center study says that just 51% of American adults are married now. (The figure in 2000 was 57%.)

Many factors combine to account for the decline of marriage—from economic pressures to the campaign to recognize homosexual relationships as marriages, which undermines the unique status of traditional marriage understood to be a relationship between a man and a woman—and only that.

Among Catholics, poor religious formation—or nonevery often has a central role. Undoubtedly, too, divorce plays a key part, especially no-fault divorce, which Michael McManus says should be called “unilateral divorce.” There have been more than a million divorces yearly in the United States since 1975, and very many of these were of the no-fault variety.

Significant in this context is the huge increase in cohabitation—523,000 cohabiting couples in the U.S. in 1970 and 7.5 million in 2010. McManus, a non-Catholic journalist who is founder of a group called Marriage Savers, says the rise is driven partly by “understandable fear of divorce” among couples who anticipate fewer hassles ahead if they don’t bother marrying at all.

The social costs of divorce are well established, and to a great extent it’s the children of divorced couples who are paying them. Kids from non-intact families are three times as likely as other kids to be expelled from school or become teenage out-of-wedlock parents, six times as likely to live in poverty, twelve times as likely to land in jail.

Various solutions have been proposed to the no-fault plague, among them legislation called the Second Chances Act. It provides a one-year waiting period before divorce along with education in reconciliation as an option. Sponsors William J. Doherty, a University of Minnesota scholar, and Leah Ward Sears, former Chief Justice of the Georgia Supreme Court, cite studies showing that among 40% of divorcing couples, at least one spouse is open to reconciliation.

McManus scoffs at the cliché “you can’t legislate morality.” He writes: “Nonsense. For forty years public policy has been legi1slating immorality by favoring divorce and cohabitation over marriage, and the consequences have been devastating….The timeless institution of marriage can be revived.”

It’s sure worth a try.

Russell Shaw

By

Russell Shaw is the author of Catholic Laity in the Mission of the Church (Requiem Press), Nothing to Hide: Secrecy, Communication, and Communion in the Catholic Church (Ignatius Press), and other works.

  • Michael PS

    The collapse of marriage appears to be a world-wide phenomenon and it cannot be entirely blamed on cohabitation as a replacement.

    In 2009, a worried Japanese government commissioned a survey that revealed that a quarter of unmarried men and women between the ages of 30 and 34 are virgins and 50% of unmarried men and women in Japan said they were not “going out with anybody.”

  • moves like Jagger

    It would be interesting to see the divorce rate amongst those groups that have physical interdependence….ie real earthly community…..Amish, Hutterites, Hasidim etc. Catholics have mystical community in the Eucharist if they receive worthily but no earthly community in which other Catholics share their disasters with them. Hell….recently I couldn’t get two separate Catholic neighbors to help jump a dying car battery so I paid a garage guy who came and did it…..and Amish rebuild each others houses in a fire.
    Where there is real community of this earth type, you have marriages that last, many children, and Sunday observance of assembly….Amish. Where you don’t have community on this earth, you have moves like Jagger….impermanence of bonding.

    • digdigby

      The Amish are going, going gone. I guess you haven’t heard. I’d rather co-habit than run a ‘successful’ Amish puppy mill.

      • moves like Jagger

        Digdigby
        And what percent of Amish have puppy mills…1%…99%….2%…less than 1%? What percent of Catholics are trafficing cocaine in Catholic Peru, Columbia, and Bolivia? 1%…67%…3.5%?

        • digdigby

          Cruelty to animals has become a BIG business and a big issue in Lancaster County and elsewhere. Amish culture, under assault by tourists, greed and ‘marketing’ is on the verge of collapse in many places. I am a traditional Catholic and I take issue with many of the ‘beautiful fruits’ of the followers of Menno, the Quakers, LDS etc. The attitude that leads to mistreatment of dogs and horses is directly related to Mennonite beliefs (unlike what you incongruously call ‘Catholic’ cocaine trafficking).

          • moves like Jagger

            Still no percentage from you. What’s the Mennonite belief that leads to dog abuse?

            • digdigby

              The ‘us vs. them’ mentality has created a rather sickening ‘culture of hypocrisy’ among the Amish. They are Pharisaic and unChristian and very clannish. Many are involved in the puppy mills and everyone, of course knows about them but does nothing.

              In areas of the U.S. where Amish dwell, there is a high number of puppy mills. The Pennsylvania Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement lists 243 kennels in Lancaster County. Pennsylvania, 98% of them owned by Amish. Holmes County, Ohio, has 470 kennels — more than any other county in the nation.

              Most people who visit Lancaster County, Pennsylvania and Holmes County, Ohio go there to experience the Amish Culture. Yes, the Amish in general are a hard working, modest people. But ethical? NO! Hypocritical? ABSOLUTELY. Selling your religion for tourism bucks and international trade does not seem ethical to me. On top of that, they have others (“the English” as they call outsiders) post on the internet for them. Isn’t it amazing how these Godly people who shun the outside world have no qualms about using a third party to do what God has forbidden them from doing. I would say that the majority of Amish are living double lives or have double standards.
              The conditions in these puppy mills is beyond sickening.

              • moves like Jagger

                So the conditions for the chickens you and I eat are different? They get to boogaloo down Broadway every four hours. Please. And you did not show how their beliefs or ours by the way lead to immobile animals.
                Catholicism is the true Church which has a spotty record…producing wonderful religious orders doing the works of mercy for centuries….but also producing in part the conditions that make some countries basket cases of immorality after 400 years of Church prescense. Phillipines is no.4 in child prostitution in the world and Brazil is no.2. El Salvador is worst on earth for murder and Honduras is no.2 for murder. Phillipines, Brazil,Uruguay, and East Timor have substantial street children populations. We just had a forty year sex abuse tragedy with not a soul from the magisterium as hero in taking extraordinary measures to stop it including every Pope of the last 40 years.
                And you are deriding the Amish as about to collapse as an entity… for doing to dogs what is done to all the beef and chickens you and I eat throughout Western civilization.

  • Rebecca

    This is a huge problem and Catholics need to figure out how to fix this problem within the Church. We can’t fix the culture until we fix the problem internally.

    Though changing the no-fault divorce law would help.

    • Michael PS

      I am old enough to have practiced law in Scotland, before divorce by consent. Adultery, even if the action was undefended, had to be proved beyond reasonable doubt and on corroborated evidence.

      There were a good many undefended actions. The pursuer (always the wife, for some reason) would produce her marriage certificate and identify a recent photograph of the defender. Then a hotel receptionist would produce the register and confirm that the Mr Smith who signed the register was the gentleman in the photograph and that the lady described as Mrs Smith was not the pursuer. Then a chambermaid would relate how, the following morning, she took the couple an early morning pot of tea; that they were in bed together; that the gentleman was the gentleman in the photograph and that the lady was not the pursuer.

      “Hotel cases,” we called them. I once saw four such proofs led in one morning (about three-quarters of an hour each). The witnesses might as well have been reading from a script (and yet everything they said was true) I am not sure the new system is not preferable to the old pantomime.

      • Rebecca

        I’m not sure how it is in Scotland, but in America one spouse does not need the consent of the other in order to get a divorce.

        • Michael PS

          Under the modern law, a divorce can be granted after one year’s separation, with consent, or after two years without/

          The “hotel case” procedure is still used occasionally, where the parties do not want to wait for the qualifying period, but judges have grown more sceptical, where the woman is not named and there is no evidence of prior association

          • Rebecca

            You have to be separated for a year before you can divorce in Scotland? That’s pretty strict.

            I live in the US, and my parents separated at the end of April, and were legally divorced three months later.

            That being said, my brother and I begged our mother to divorce our father for a year, so no complaints.

            • moves like Jagger

              Why didn’t you urge separation until his repentance? A legal divorce can be urged if the person is destroying assets and putting the family in debt as long as spiritually the divorcing spouse is committed to remarrying him legally if he repents AND reforms….and she will wait for him til death.
              …regardless. If he was always like this, divorce and annullment may be in order because he was never capable of a vow.
              BUT a person who was orderly for years and fell into sin….must be waited for til death.

            • Michael PS

              Unless you prove adultery or unreasonable behaviour, yes, you have to be separated for one year if both parties agree to a decree and two years, if one objects.

    • Sarto

      Or maybe the pro family hierarchy could set the good example by allowing priests to marry.

      • Sarto

        A reply to myself: What a great idea, Sarto. In this era of sexual hedonism and people avoiding a lifetime commitment to each other, what could be more counter-culture and prophetic than the witness of gret marriages led by priests and bishops who can then stand in the pulpit and speak frankly and honestly about the joys and pitfalls and joys again of the married state. Great idea, Sarto. Keep at it.

  • Cord Hamrick

    One of the biggest reasons, if not the biggest reason, why more and more people aren’t getting married is this:

    Marriage, as it is structured in the United States today, is destructive to men in very visible and measurable ways.

    Meanwhile, its advantages are either in the realm of intangibles or the extreme long term, or dependent upon the wife resisting multiple perverse disincentives and treating her husband and marriage in a countercultural and selfless way.

    Finally, for men, the unmarried state has increasingly become both more viscerally desirable and poses less risk of an unrecoverable life-implosion.

    Since marriage has become an anti-male institution in an increasingly visible way, men who in former decades would have married have increasingly and loudly decided to opt out.

    This is one source of the complaint from women that “all the good ones are taken or gay.” Well, yes: Because men whom they’d have otherwise characterized as being among the “good ones” have taken themselves “off the market” not by marrying (being “taken”) but by being uninterested in anything more than prolonged, uncommitted, casual dating.

    Because women interested in marriage consider such men to be cads or shallow, they categorize them as not being in the set “the good ones.”

    But men, increasingly aware of the danger that marriage represents to their own well-being, are increasingly opting out of pursuing it. That means that the category “the good ones” is smaller every year. Increasingly, “the good ones” consists of that shrinking set of men who are oblivious to the danger that marriage (as practiced in our society) represents to them. These poor dupes are picked off quickly by the women who find them, making them “taken.” Thus, “all the good ones are taken or gay.”

    Please be aware that, in this analysis, I am not discussing the Christian sacrament. I am discussing the popular institution of marriage, the secular world’s ethos of marriage, the way it typically works among couples of whom one or both are not particularly serious and orthodox and traditional-minded Christians or Jews.

    I myself am happily married to a woman who, praise be to God, doesn’t represent a danger to my well-being or that of my children, but is instead a positive boon. I consequently am one of the lucky ones: A “dupe” who still believed marriage was a good deal for men, and who, by the grace of God, wound up with one of the rare women that allowed that belief to be vindicated. I am “taken,” but I do not feel that I was taken to the cleaners, taken for everything I had, taken for a ride.

    But had I wound up with a different woman, I’d be one of the dupes for whom the traditional marriage trajectory worked out as a tragedy.

    It is increasing awareness of the prevalence of those tragic stories, coupled with the casual sex culture, which has led secular minded men to ask,

    1. “Why get married when it only exposes me to the risk of divorce, in which my ex will make off with my kids and much of my income, and thus has no immediate incentive to work hard to prevent divorce or to get along with me?”

    2. The answer to question 1 was, traditionally, “So I can have fun companionship and a sex life.” But these days I can have that without marriage. “So, why buy a cow when I can get milk for free? …especially when, these days, more than half the cows have horns and evil tempers and I have a 50%+ chance of getting gored?”

    The answer to Question 2 is found in Proverbs 25:24: “It is better to live in a corner of the roof than in a house shared with a contentious woman.”

    So the man, recognizing the wisdom of this, opts to live on the corner of the roof — you can read that as “a loft apartment bachelor pad” if you like — and date each woman until she becomes contentious, at which point he moves on.

    Meantime, his earning potential increases year-by-year, so that he can progressively attract higher-quality women (measured in secular terms: attractiveness, fun personality, not insisting on a commitment from him).

    Not a bad life, measured in secular terms.

    • Rebecca

      If this post is representitive of how men think about women, it is better not to marry.

      • moves like Jagger

        He is talking about the many bad women in an abortion culture. When they divorce, they take more money from a man than if he were mugged three hundred times in an alley. He is not talking about the good women…

        Sirach 25:

        15There is no poison worse than that of a serpent,

        no venom greater than that of a woman.

        16I would rather live with a dragon or a lion

        than live with a wicked woman.

        17A woman’s wicked disposition changes her appearance,

        and makes her face as dark as a bear.

        • Rebecca

          Perhaps I should talk about the bad men in a pornographic culture, and my friends who have experienced sexual assault, including one who was molested by her own father. When a woman divorces a man, she takes his money. When a man rapes a woman, he destroys her soul.

          • moves like Jagger

            You’re all over the board. A woman doesn’t marry a rapist or a molesting father. Keep the comparisons parallel. Your other example holds.

            • Rebecca

              Sure they do! Have you never heard of marital rape? Or do you not believe that any man rape or beat their wives? The damage that men endure from bad wives is NOTHING compared to the damage women endure from bad husbands.

              • moves like Jagger

                I’d have to know in rapes by husbands why the woman said no to him in the first place and how many nights ….to then possibly set the stage for rape. In others words, was this the sins of two people since I Corinthians says neither has the right over their body but the other does:
                7:4
                The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife.
                ………………………….
                On this passage Aquinas held denial of rights with no good reason to be mortal sin….period.

                • Sarto

                  Urp. Excuse me while I get sick.

            • Rebecca

              Women also men who they later find out are molesting their children.

            • Sarto

              You preach it, Rebecca! In my small rural state, seventeen men murdered their wives/girlfriends last year. My sister lived in fear and never told anybody. When she finally divorced the psychopath who called himself her husband, it was years too late.

        • Rebecca

          Oh, btw, is this how you speak about your mother? Is your mother’s poison greater than a serpant’s venom? Does your mother have a wicked disposition?

          Your mother is a woman too.

          If this is how men think of women, I would rather die single. Too bad there’s no verse in the Bible about the suffering that vicious, cruel men inflict on their wives.

          • moves like Jagger

            Non rational. Cord and I are talking about the wicked woman and you are taking it repeatedly as being about all women.

            • Rebecca

              I wouldn’t want to marry a man who talked about ANY woman like that, regardless of how wicked she was.

              • moves like Jagger

                Then you disagree with what the Holy Spirit inspired since Dei Verbum says “both testaments in all their parts have God as their author.”

                • Sarto

                  And both testaments are the words of God in the words of men, reflecting their ignorance and shortcomings as well as their dialogue with God.

                  • moves like Jagger

                    Translation: If I don’t like a verse, it’s not really God behind it….if I do like a verse, it’s high Christology.

                    Prediction: By the time you die, you will have read maybe 5% of the Bible in private….at most.

                    • Sarto

                      I have read the Bible front to back since I was sixteen, several times over. I use it almost every day as part of my prayer. I just don’t buy your literalist understanding of the holy Word of God.

                    • moves like Jagger

                      Sarto
                      Then…were that true, you should be able to tell us what God is saying non literally through Sirach 25:15-17….

                      Sirach 25:

                      15There is no poison worse than that of a serpent,

                      no venom greater than that of a woman.

                      16I would rather live with a dragon or a lion

                      than live with a wicked woman.

                      17A woman’s wicked disposition changes her appearance,

                      and makes her face as dark as a bear.
                      ……………………………………
                      Jerome said the literal couldn’t be discarded unless under necessity. Show us the necessity through your non literalist interpretation of the above.

      • Cord Hamrick

        Rebecca:

        I think I should respond to your post (which was a response to mine).

        But, for formatting reasons, I don’t wish my response to be mixed in with the existing dialog with Moves Like Jagger, so I’ll just put it as a separate statement at the bottom.

        • moves like Jagger

          And I will help you by leaving this whirlwind of emotion….in short, I will….move like Jagger.

  • moves like Jagger

    What he said.

  • Cord Hamrick

    Rebecca:

    You said…

    If this post is representitive of how men think about women, it is better not to marry.

    I can’t tell from your statement whether you understand that there are two ways of “thinking about women” represented in my post: My own (which I hope is somewhat close to the mind of Christ and His Church) and those of men in general, whose worldviews are often either entirely worldly or a mix of worldly and Christian perspectives.

    So, just for clarity’s sake, allow me to assert: There is a difference!

    However, the topic of this thread (“Marriage’s Vanishing Act”) deals with how marriage is vanishing as a society-wide phenomenon.

    And, as I’m sure you know, only a small percentage of men in society are both (a.) deeply immersed in a Christian worldview, such that it is their “native” worldview; and (b.) intent on retaining the “mind of the Church” with regards to marriage.

    So in any post dealing with how men look at marriage, if I’m to be relevant to the society-wide unpopularity of marriage, I must express the attitudes of men outside that small percentage.

    That is what I did. Keep in mind that my own views differ somewhat.

    Now that I have clarified that, I want to respond more directly to your concerns….

  • Cord Hamrick

    Rebecca:

    You said,

    If this post is representitive of how men think about women, it is better not to marry.

    Now that I’ve clarified that my post is representative of men, though not necessarily of me, I hope my own opinions are outside the line-of-fire.

    But I do wish to defend these men and their views, to a limited degree.

    These men, when considering the prospect of marrying a woman, often take the view that by doing so they can obtain a lifelong source of respect, friendship, affection, a second set of hands, and regular sex.

    To whatever degree their minds have been influenced by a Christian worldview, they may be aware that children should be a part of this, and that marriage is much more than this (though not, except by necessity, less than this).

    And, to whatever degree their minds have been influenced by Christian morality, they may also be willing to rule out all other sources of regular sex.

    But keep in mind that when we are generalizing about our post-Christian society, the degree of Christian influence will vary widely.

    So for most men, their loyalty to the Christian ideal of avoiding sex outside marriage will be half-hearted at best. I was a virgin when I married, because I desired to be loyal to Christ in that way: But that’s no longer the norm.

    So what happens when you say to the average man: “Here are the things you hope to get out of marriage. You may get those things, if your wife happens to be an unusually good and loving mate. But she may not be, in which case you may have disappointments and get less out of marriage than you hoped: Not so much sexual interest (or very half-hearted, infrequent interest), levels of affection and friendship that are distracted by work and kids, and perhaps not even that much respect.

    “Meanwhile, there’s a 50% your wife will leave you in order to trade-up to another man. No amount of effort on your part will reliably prevent it; society makes it extremely easy for her to do this. Various instincts of which she’s only dimly aware will encourage her in that direction at various times in your marriage. If she opts to leave, she will take your children with her and your influence will be greatly reduced. She will also take a huge chunk out of your earning potential and you’ll never get it back.”

    How will a rational man, exercising the wisdom of mere self-preservation, respond to that?

    He will, naturally, not marry; and he’ll date for sex, and if he ever dreamed of having children (as men sometimes do), he’ll probably write those dreams off as largely unrealizable fantasies.

    This will, by-the-way, give him more time for work. If he is clever and industrious, his income will increase. This puts him in a position to be a particularly attractive mate for a woman. His “sexual market value” will rise. If he does quite well, is confident, has good social skills, and isn’t terribly ugly, he may be able to date two or three attractive women at a time, bed them regularly, and marry none of them.

    Now, the type of women who’ll pursue him in this way are not the type of women he’d want to have for the mother of his children — if he still thinks about that at all.

    So, on occasion, he may make an effort to date a church girl. But if he’s had good success with relatively attractive worldly girls, he may find that many church girls are beneath his standards for beauty. (Not that church girls are intrinsically less attractive, mind you; but they often have no idea how to present themselves attractively.)

    Assuming he find a church girl who doesn’t dress like a wallflower and who exudes the kind of self-confidence that he regularly encounters in worldly women, he will begin to pursue a romantic relationship with her.

    But now comes a quandary: She may claim to be interested in life-long marriage, in being a good mother, and all of that. But she probably has an intermixture of secular worldview, too, just like he does.

    Will she refuse to get sexually involved with him until the ring is on her finger?

    If the answer to that question is “yes,” then the question so far as the man is concerned is: Does her winsome personality and beauty and character make her seem so valuable to him that he’s willing to risk entering a marriage — and forgo all those other girls who don’t require marriage prior to sex — in order to be able to make love to her?

    Wow, she’d better be a pretty special lady, in that case. She’s setting her price-tag pretty high, so the perceived value had better be higher, or he won’t make the purchase.

    On the other hand, what if she isn’t faithful to the law of God, and gets sexually involved with him prior to marriage?

    Then, the question becomes: Why should he marry her? Hasn’t she just given evidence of not being ideal mother material? What makes her different from all the worldly girls he’s accustomed to dating?

    Do you see the no-win situation, here?

    That situation exists because marriage is a very grave risk to the man. His wife can leave for whatever flighty reason she chooses, and the courts will support her and loot him on her behalf, and give her custody of the kids.

    Were that not the case, the no-win situation would balance the power relationships differently, producing men more willing to marry.

    But we have altered our society so radically from 100 years ago that marriage is a fool’s bargain for any man unless he happens to find a 1-in-100 girl who won’t knife him in the back and take his income and his children away from him after a brief, unsatisfying marriage.

    This is the outcome, in a nutshell, of feminism and the sexual revolution, from the early 20th century to the present.

    Incentives work.

    Even perverse ones.

  • Cord Hamrick

    Rebecca:

    As a final note, I see that in replying to Moves Like Jagger, you said,

    I wouldn’t want to marry a man who talked about ANY woman like that, regardless of how wicked she was.

    Really?

    What particular statement are you referring to, when you say, “talked like that?”

    I know you’re not referring to anything I myself think, because (a.) I didn’t express much of my own views, but focused instead on allowing you to “walk a mile in a worldly man’s moccasins,” so to speak, and see the situation from his viewpoint; and, (b.) my own view, as much as I can make it so, is the Church’s view, and I know you don’t object to that.

    So: What particular statement about women did I depict a worldly-minded man thinking, that you regard as particularly monstrous?

    Was it the statement that the worldly-minded man is hoping to get respect, friendship, affection, and regular sex out of being married?

    If so, keep in mind that the worldly-minded woman is hoping to get financial stability, affection, friendship, a pleasurable and sometimes exciting life, and sex when she feels like it, out of being married.

    (I don’t see that the one approach to marriage is particularly more ignoble than the other.)

    But perhaps there’s some other thing you found objectionable?

    If it’s the desire not to marry because of the grave risks of doing so, then…what part of self-preservation is objectionable?

    Perhaps you find objectionable the notion that a man would be afraid of marrying a woman, for fear of her backstabbing him and making off with his money and children?

    But that’s a very well-founded fear. The statistics are widely available. Women depart marriages these days more often that men, and often in order to “trade-up” for a hotter and richer new husband, and the ex-husband has to pay her alimony anyway.

    So while I disagree with the worldview of these men and think that they’re spiritually shooting themselves in the foot by their constrained view of marriage and of women; nevertheless, within the boundaries of what they know, I have to admit they’re playing it smart. They’re not taking the sucker’s bet of marrying.

  • digdigby

    Rebecca-
    You have a lot of issues with men. I was married 15 years and was an abused husband. I have had cameras and toasters thrown at my head, it was normal to be kicked in the shins till I was bleeding. I was raised never to strike a woman and did not. I’ve done a little research and it is just as often the WOMAN who begins getting physical in a domestic quarrel. It is ALWAYS the man who goes to jail. False accusations against men of rape and child molestation are so common now it is considered the norm in bitter divorce cases. I really don’t care if you ‘get the vapors’ when I talk about the pitiful subject of most 21st century American women.

  • Jennifer Roche

    Wow, digdigby, what a terrible person who would kick their husband. She should have been told by her priest that she was totally out of line. As Catholics we should never strike anyone in anyway, and that is why we vote against such things as Catholic voters.

  • Cord Hamrick

    Let’s keep in mind (should Rebecca happen to return to comment) that she herself may have been a victim of an abusive husband, or know someone who was.

    We can all get behind certain things Rebecca has said, for example,

    Perhaps I should talk about the bad men in a pornographic culture, and my friends who have experienced sexual assault, including one who was molested by her own father.

    …and,

    Have you never heard of marital rape? Or do you not believe that any man rape or beat their wives?

    This was somewhat hyperbolic…

    When a woman divorces a man, she takes his money. When a man rapes a woman, he destroys her soul.

    …in that it neglects the fact that when a woman suddenly drops her unsuspecting husband who’s been working his backside off to keep her happy and the family out of debt, and takes up with a more macho guy who drives a nicer car and makes more money, but still takes the kids with her and gets her ex to give her alimony, his pocketbook is not the only thing adversely affected.

    And, this is a bit silly:

    The damage that men endure from bad wives is NOTHING compared to the damage women endure from bad husbands.

    …as many of us could multiply stories quite to the contrary. There is plenty of evil to go around.

    In short: It isn’t always the man’s fault; sometimes it’s the woman’s; it isn’t always the woman’s; sometimes it’s the man’s; it isn’t always one person’s fault; sometimes it’s both of them; it isn’t always both of them; sometimes it’s just one of them. There’s no telling which it will turn out to be.

    If Rebecca happens to have been in a position to observe a lot of evil perpetrated by men against women; she’s likely to take that rather personally. Those like Digbydigby (and perhaps Moves Like Jagger?) have been in a position to viscerally experience evil perpetrated by women against men; he’s apt to take that personally. I’ve been in a position to see one-sided male nastiness, one-sided female nastiness, and symmetrical mutual nastiness. So I tend to come down with a balanced sense of outrage.

    My whole point was that societal incentives have changed the rules of the game, the relative prices of the “marital marketplace,” in such a way that unless a man is particularly absorbed in the Christian worldview, he’ll have a tough time finding reasons to marry, and an easy time finding reasons not to.

    That the marital statistics are what they are lends credence to that analysis. When human beings suddenly stop behaving as they’ve behaved for hundreds of years, it usually means the system of incentives which promoted the earlier behavior has been replaced by a system of incentives promoting the new behavior.

    I believe that’s what has happened here.

    And I’m glad Rebecca raised the pornographic culture, because that plays a factor, too.

    Pardon me for being blunt to the point of crudeness, but:

    If a man is high-income and attractive, he’ll have plenty of dates with whom he can have sexual relations without worrying about marriage and its attendant risks.

    But what if he’s lower-income or less attractive? Previously, he’d be forced to find a girl willing to marry him, if he’s to ever find gratification for his powerful sexual instinct.

    Not so, in a pornified culture. He can be entertained sexually for hours, for little or no money. Sure, it’s not as good as the real thing…but when he balances the high expense of dating and marriage, and the kind of unattractive woman he’s likely to be able to win (given his lower income and lower attractiveness) against the low price and high physical beauty of porn?

    There’s not much reason for him to go out in an evening; he might be happier staying home.

    (And just wait until certain Japanese robots and virtual reality simulations get better.)

    Summary: For worldly/secular men of all types, the sexual marketplace value of women is dropping. They are in plentiful supply, offering sex without marriage, for the attractive and high-income men. Even for the lower-income men, they are unnecessary for a (moderately) happy life.

    And yet, some of them still want a man to pay the extremely high price marrying them, thereby exposing him to betrayal and the loss of income and of his children? Who are they kidding?

    This is why, except where the Christian worldview is solid, the ethos of marriage is dissolving into history. There’s just no good argument for a man to do it anymore…and too many good arguments for him to stay away.

    P.S. I remind everyone that in the above argument I am articulating the attitude of a normal worldly secular man, not my own view, which is more Christian and Catholic. Please do not call me a cad for describing the perfectly understandable worldview of a bunch of men who mostly were not raised by Christians or in a Christian culture, and who were never really taught anything other than caddishness. I do not condemn them, not because I agree with them, but because “there but for the Grace of God go I.”

  • roxwyfe

    I’ve been on both sides of this question. I had two initial marriages that failed. I can guarantee you that, just like the tango, it takes two to make a marriage work. I think God has a sense of human and since He wanted my two specific children born, I got involved with the wrong guys. I “dated” a lot (euphemism for sexually active) before I was lucky enough to meet my husband.

    Before we met, I had no church affiliation and didn’t think much about the morality of what I was living. About a year after we married, I went through RCIA and joined the Church. Not because he is a cradle Catholic, but because I saw the truth behind the structure and religion. We have been married for over 25 years and he helped me raise two other men’s children. Men, by the way, who just walked out of our lives and left us to fend. One was ordered to pay child support, but it was hit-or-miss at best.

    Short of abuse, whether physical, mental, emotional or substances, I truly feel that if the two people involved want a marriage to work it will. For the first few years after we married, it was a daily act of will to stay committed. He joined the Air Force, we got married and the four of us moved from Kansas to Arizona with no friends, no family, no support structure at all. So I had to adjust to being married to this guy as well as being a military wife. But he had the larger struggle – new husband, new father (even though the kids were older) and new military member. It was VERY trying at times. I would get up in the morning and look in the mirror and say “today I’m going to stay married.”

    I’m not pleased about the checkered past I have, but relieved and loved to know I have been forgiven. The road I have traveled was bumpy and full of potholes, but it got me to the point I’m at today – which I truly love.

    The biggest problem with the marriage rates is the popular culture. Marriage is no longer held up as the “gold standard” for a way of life. We’re constantly being told that homosexual relationships are just as valid as one man and one woman joined together. It is a difficult thing to overcome since we are constantly basted in the juices of secularism.

    It’s well past time that the US Bishops started acting less like politicians and more like shepherds and addressed some of the relevant social problems facing Catholics in this country. They need to lead, not sit by resting on their cassocks.

  • Cord Hamrick

    Roxwyfe:

    Well said, in its entirety. Hear, hear!

MENU