No Dads Needed?
The New York Times published an article yesterday titled For Women Under 30, Most Births Occur Outside Marriage.
It's a wonderful thing that women can now support themselves and their children. I know this firsthand, as I became a single mom at 34, when my first husband died. I was in no shape to remarry just to support myself and our son, and I did not want to place this burden on my parents or my in-laws. Both helped us many times, but I was very glad to be able to handle most of the expense and time it took on my own.
It's wonderful, too, that no young woman who finds herself pregnant from a foolish misjudgment of a young man's character must marry him now, as they generally felt required to do when I was a young woman.
What bothers me, though, is the gap between the people today's young men and women are willing to have sex with and the ones they are willing to marry.
I am not willing to believe more than half the women under 30 and the men they have sex with are unsuitable marriage partners. We know they are sexually attractive. We know many of them live together. We can surmise it is not about protecting assets, as they are young and only 8% of those with college degrees avoid marrying.
So, what is it about? I suspect two things. One is a confusion of marriage and weddings. Young people delay marriage while they try to raise the cash for a "real" wedding. Why? Perhaps because their own unmarried parents are in no position to provide this for them. Definitely because we still promote the white-dress ceremony and catered dinner with open bar and glass clinking as the big rite of passage for women.
I can only hope for some trendsetter to change this.
The second cause, though, I can do something about. Fear of marriage failure is rampant in our society. And any kid who has been through their parents' divorce knows how painful it is. No one wants to inflict this on their own kids. Is it really better for the kids to know from the start that dad is temporary? Is it better to know mom does not trust dad to provide as much care as the government will if she's unmarried? I doubt it, but I can understand a woman without a lot of earning power or good marriage role models fearing marriage failure and an inability to afford a divorce.
We need to teach marriage skills, and we must not wait until a marriage is failing. We need to teach them while people are making choices about their sex partners, about whether to marry, about how to deal with growing apart or facing temptation while in a marriage or a serious relationship.
If you are a parent, make sure you learn marriage skills, so you can teach them to your teen, your grown children, your nieces and nephews and grandchildren. If you are a teacher, teach your students to find Third Alternatives, to spot the connection between expectations and resentments, and to stop and consider alternative explanations for upsetting events.
If you produce TV or radio programming, please start incorporating the benefits of marriage education in your story lines. If you run a business, take a look at the financial benefits of marriage education for employees at H.H. Gregg and Chick Fil-A, or talk to me. I have a presentation for managers on job-relevant skills to cut the business costs of marriage problems, based on my 38 years as a management consultant.
I will keep sharing everything I can on this blog and on Enjoy Being Married. You can find more at Smart Marriages, the Dibble Institute, Compassion Power, PREP, the National Healthy Marriage Resource Center, and the California Healthy Marriages Coalition. We need our dads.