Thursday, September 17, 2009

Lost in a World Without Courtship



I'd like to make a few critiques of Michael Gerson's article, Lost in a World Without Courtship (Washington Post, Sep. 16, 2009)...

The facts of life for 20-somethings are challenging…It doesn't seem realistic to expect most men and women to delay sex until marriage at 26 or 28. Such virtue is both admirable and possible -- but it can hardly be a general social expectation. So religious institutions, for example, often avoid this thorny topic, content to live with silence, hypocrisy and active singles groups.

Yes, and notice that Gerson doesn't make any recommendations, either. That's fine, of course. It's a tricky subject. But it can't be avoided much longer. I took a stab at a solution in The Mustard Seed.

The age of first marriage is important to marital survival and happiness. Teen marriage is generally a bad idea, with much higher rates of divorce. Romeo and Juliet were, in fact, young fools. Later marriage has been one of the reasons for declining national divorce rates. But this does not mean the later the better. Divorce rates trend downward until leveling off in the early 20s. But people who marry after 27 tend to have less happy marriages -- perhaps because partners are set in their ways or have unrealistically high standards. The marital sweet spot seems to be in the early to mid-20s.

Yes, this is sound logic. I made a similar observation here.

High school romances which turn into marriage are extremely vulnerable to divorce. In these types of relationships, both women and men are likely to feel - 7,10, 12 years later - that they didn't "play the field" enough and that "better opportunities" are out there. Somewhere.

With very few exceptions, I think people should wait until at least the age of 24 to get married. And you should be married at least 2 years before having children.

There's no rush. And since most couples these days only want 1-2 kids, you can't even use the fertility argument, anymore.

My advice to young people: Be smart. And be prudent. Always let your mind guide your heart, and not the other way around.

Finally, Gerson makes a sly dig at "Game."

Having a series of low-commitment relationships does not bode well for later marital commitment. Some of this expresses preexisting traits -- people who already have a "nontraditional" view of commitment are less likely to be committed in marriage. But there is also evidence, according to Wilcox, that multiple failed relationships can "poison one's view of the opposite sex." Serial cohabitation trains people for divorce. In contrast, cohabitation by engaged couples seems to have no adverse effect on eventual marriage.


I've tried to avoid psychoanalyzing my opponents in the Game debate, but I've long believed that most of them (perhaps 80% or more) suffered from continuous rejection at a young age (teens/early twenties), felt a growing contempt for women, and then turned to "Game" as a way to intellectually justify their contempt for women while morally justifying their new lifestyle of casual sex.

Sadly, as Gerson points out, "having a series of low-commitment relationships does not bode well for later marital commitment." Then again, a lot of these guys don't want a marital commitment.

Sigh. What a loss for the ladies!!




5 comments:

Justin said...

Reading Game techniques is great, the better to prepare my daughter to fend them off, that is!

Great analysis. The problem is, I think there should ideally be a separation in ages between bride and groom as well, so I would recommend the ideal marriage age as 22 for women, 26 for men.

Could I expect my daughter to remain a virgin until 22, yes, I would encourage it. Could I expect my son to wait until 26, no not really. Therein lies a paradox.

Todd White said...

Thanks, Justin.

You wrote, "I would recommend the ideal marriage age as 22 for women, 26 for men."

That's interesting. Can you explain your reasoning a bit more?

Personally, when it comes to my relationships, there's never been a gap of more than a year between me and my girlfriend, and I feel that's worked out pretty well.

Justin said...

Todd, I think I read somewhere that the 4 year age gap produces the most successful marriages, I don't have the source handy though. I would say it matches nicely with the developmental advantage that females have over males. Traditionally, as recently as within the last 100 years in America, 14-16 year old girls were married off to promising young men in their early 20s. Frankly, I think that is the psychological and physiological ideal, although, obviously, totally impossible to achieve in today's culture.

Todd White said...

J: "Frankly, I think that is the psychological and physiological ideal, although, obviously, totally impossible to achieve in today's culture."

T: Yeah, in today's culture, I think the 1-2 year age difference works out pretty well for most couples (especially if they're in their 20s) but every relationship is different, and I certainly have an open mind on the issue.

Todd White said...

Justin:

This post pertains to our discussion.

http://www.halfsigma.com/2009/09/gannon-proved-wrong.html