The Words of the Saunders Family
June Saunders is the author, with her husband Alan, of the UPF monograph The Centrality of Marriage and Family in Creating World Peace.
More and more, the developed world has become used to certain ideas that contribute to a divorce culture. It is the purpose of this article to review some of the ideas in a divorce culture by using the United States, which has had a divorce culture for about forty years now, as an example. Much common wisdom of the past has been lost and replaced with ideas that are antithetical to marriage. Many of these ideas are being promulgated through the media and other vehicles of culture to countries around the world. In order to preserve and establish marriage-friendly cultures, these ideas need to be identified, shaken loose and discarded. Common wisdom needs to be restored.
A study of young American girls' diaries in the early twentieth century showed that most young women felt their portion in marriage preparation was to work on their characters -- to devote their time to learning to be patient, kind, charitable and forgiving. This common sense approach to making an agreeable future life with someone of the opposite sex was replaced with the idea -- inimical to a happy marriage -- that the most important thing to concentrate on was being physically (sexually) attractive. A study of modern young girls' diaries shows that they are more interested in their coiffures than in their characters. They spend most of their journal time talking about how to enhance their looks rather than their hearts, in the hopes of attracting love.
Women have always been interested in enhancing their looks. Father has said that women are natural artists, applying colors and styles to their physical appearances out of a desire to be beautiful for their husbands. While a certain amount of this is natural, when external appearance and appeal become major concerns, at the expense of grooming the spirit in the beauty of virtue, a highly detrimental imbalance of body over mind has taken place. This imbalance bodes ill for successful marriages.
Modern young men have been affected by this emphasis on external attractiveness too. Through magazines and advertisements, men are encouraged to groom and consume in order to enhance their looks. Men's grooming products, gym memberships and fashion are becoming booming industries. No one tells young men that they would do better to develop patience than pecs, altruism than abs.
What is more, men in general are bombarded with media images of extremely physically attractive, provocative women. These images breed a sexualized mentality toward women. The modern male might easily overlook an average girl, no matter how virtuous and appealing in heart she might be, in favor of a hyped up sexual type he has been culturally conditioned to desire.
C.S. Lewis pointed out in The Screwtape Letters that it is Satan's work to produce in each culture an ideal of sexual beauty that no living woman can attain, at least not for long. This is done to undermine marriage and happiness. In the current American culture, that woman is blonde, buxom, yet thin everywhere else on her body, long hared and probably tan. The facts that the model dyes her hair, augments her breasts with silicone, goes to a tanning salon to garner enough ultraviolet light to bronze her skin and pays a personal trainer to help her tone are not mentioned. In addition to these artifices, models and actresses are photographed with hordes of hairstylists, makeup artists and other handlers just out of camera range. They are there to make the women look perfect for the few seconds they will be on screen.
It is impossible for the average woman to compete with that without sacrificing most other concerns in life. Thus, a man is kept starving for an unattainable sexual ideal that may well beckon to him from the young co-worker who has the funds, time and determination to do all she can to imitate the models. This may be in direct opposition to his wife, who may be overweight with the bearing of children, overtired with the need to bring in a second paycheck and to take care of the house and kids, and overstressed by a culture that demands she not only do all these things but be a siren into the bargain.
The culture breeds male dissatisfaction with one partner by continually emphasizing the sexual attractiveness of multiple women. Even an advertisement for a televised rodeo called out enticingly, "The girl riders are next!" and the camera panned to a close-up of a young woman's jeans-clad derriere. (The male riders were not subjected to such indignities.) What man could withstand the constant media onslaught of such sexualized images? The Cowboy of the Remote has to be mighty quick on the trigger to blot out the images that entice him to watch an endless parade of (implicitly) sexually available women.
The delusion that happiness in love is vested in sexual attractiveness has a tenacious grip on the mind-set of America. It has ready allies in the advertising and entertainment industries, which profit from the delusion and so do all they can to fan its fires.
We all know that such a mind-set does not prepare people for lasting happiness in a loving marriage. Rather, it prepares them for divorce. When people do not train themselves in character to become lifelong partners who are able to share responsibilities equitably and pleasantly-faithful to their families and to one another-getting married is like going out on the open ocean in a leaky boat. Modern people are being duped into spending a great deal more time and care on grooming their bodies than grooming their souls and on judging the opposite sex on the basis of how physically appealing they have managed to make themselves. The results are predictable: the dissolution of marriages.
"We don't need a piece of paper." "We're committed to one another. We don't need a piece of paper to tell us that." These are the words of the cohabitants -- people who live together without benefit of marriage -- who are practicing what is becoming the relationship of choice in much of the developed world. By its very nature, cohabitation is anti-marriage. By its very nature, it both postpones and erodes the commitment that is the core of marriage.
Cohabitants do not understand this. They are almost morally indignant when their commitment to one another is questioned. In fact, they sometimes see their cohabitation as a test run for commitment. They want to find out if they are compatible, they say, in order to avoid the trauma of divorce. Their cohabitation is actually, in their eyes, a responsible way to approach marriage.
Yet statistics show that cohabitation does not lead to lasting marriages. Statistically, cohabiting couples are more prone toward the marriage-disrupting practices of arguing, domestic violence and abuse. Statistically, when couples who have cohabited do marry, they divorce more frequently than couples who did not live together before marriage.
Anecdotal evidence shows that cohabitation does not lead to commitment. A conversation on a city bus in New York City was revealing. A young woman complained that each time she brought up marriage with her live-in boyfriend, he got angry with her and said that he would postpone marriage longer each time she brought it up in conversation. Another young woman, Mary, chimed in that she had been shocked to find that her girlfriend, Tanicia, who was a virgin, was getting married. Mary had been cohabiting with her boyfriend for five years; Tanicia had only been dating her fiancé for a year. "I never thought Tanicia would get married before I did!" Mary cried out. The New York City bus driver, long used to the vagaries of human nature, commented, "Why should these young men buy the cow if they're getting the milk for free?"
Indeed. Young women's magazines of the nineteenth century taught young women that being sexually available might bring them a lot of male attention, but it would not bring them marriage. Girls who abstained, however plain and dull they might seem, made it to the altar ahead of their more daring sisters because men genuinely respected them as good marriage material.
In the shuffle of the sexual revolution, this common wisdom got lost. Modern young women believe that having sex with their boyfriends would encourage the men to marry them. Instead, it has the opposite effect. Sex before marriage erodes the commitment that is the bedrock of marriage. The "piece of paper" gets blown away in the wind, and only after it's gone do young people, especially young women, realize how important it really was.
Many cohabitants say that they are living together explicitly to test their "sexual compatibility." Yet sexuality without commitment and exclusivity is destructive. Sex is known to produce "bonding" chemicals in the brain, similar to the bonding hormones that are stimulated by the process of breast- feeding a child. These physical acts were designed by God to trigger body chemicals that glue the two together in mind and heart as well as body. When a sexual relationship has triggered these bonding chemicals, if it is broken off, as so many cohabiting relationships break off, the people are left with an almost physical sense of being torn apart. What is more, like any glue, the bonding chemicals lose some of their power when used more than once. Any subsequent sexual relationships, even marriage, will have less staying power.
Marital psychotherapist Harville Hendrix maintains that, psychologically, lifelong commitment in marriage is necessary to the growth of a truly intimate and satisfying relationship between a man and a woman. He said that in true intimacy, sexual and otherwise, the deepest inner self must be involved. The relationship must be exclusive and standing on the firm ground of trust and commitment in order for the most vulnerable parts of our beings -- our hearts -- to venture out to love and be loved. Cohabitation simply does not provide firm enough ground for the true self to come out and interact meaningfully with another human being at the deepest levels.
Many young women will protest that marriage is not what they are looking for, so their sexual relationships don't matter. They do not, they inform you, need a man in their lives. This is another idea that is being fed to women as part of a divorce culture -- the idea that women don't need men. Women's liberationist Gloria Steinem said it: "A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle." This idea holds that a woman and her children do not really need a man and can do just as well (if not better) without him. Most divorce proceedings are initiated by women, and this idea of not needing men contributes to the process.
While it is true that the "glass ceiling" holding women down from promotion is lifting (America may soon have a woman president), and the gap between men's and women's wages is lessening, this does not mean that women need men any the less. Increasing financial independence does not mean that men are not needed in the home.
For raising young boys and especially teenagers, a male hand is undeniably needed. In Little Women, Louisa May Alcott doled out some good marriage and household wisdom. Absorbed in the trials of having given birth to twins, one of the heroines neglects her husband to the point where he begins to hang out elsewhere of an evening. Yet, as the twin boys grow, the mother finds them harder and harder to handle, and they become spoiled, misbehaving and domineering. It is only when she begins to pay attention to her marriage and to draw her husband back to the hearth that the husband begins to take a manly hand with his sons and bring them into line. This fictional story expressed strong common wisdom: it takes men to raise men.
The high crime rates of nations where divorce is prevalent attest to this fact. Numerous international studies have shown that high crime rates perpetrated by violent young men are a direct result of family breakdown in the form of divorce. Ninety percent of divorce cases lead to the woman having custody of the children. Women are not able to raise men by themselves; therefore, many male children reared by women alone wind up in some sort of trouble with the law.
Fathers are also extremely important to the psychological and spiritual development of their daughters. The mere presence of a father in a home is a protective factor for that family against crime and sexual abuse. What is more, daughters take a great deal of their self-concepts from their fathers' opinions of them. An encouraging, loving father who cherishes his daughter gives her a strong sense of her own value. Such a girl will look upon the world of men trustingly but with enough sense of her own integrity to be uncompromising in her virtue and her expectations of male behavior.
Women do not fare well without men, and men without women do not do well either. Married men live longer, eat better, are wealthier and suffer fewer psychological difficulties than unmarried men. Studies have also shown that men become more predatory and violent when they are not committed to women, risking their own chances of being injured or dying. During times and places in history when there were many unwed young men in a population, homicide rates skyrocketed. One example is the American Wild West. When the women started arriving out West, men channeled their energies into building families and communities rather than getting into fights and gun battles. Thus the Wild West was won. Homicide and other crime rates went down, and civilization began to reign.
Men without women and women without men do not make for a happy, healthy culture. A divorce culture, a culture inimical to marriage, is a much less safe and civilized environment to live in than a marriage culture. Men and women need one another, and civilization depends upon their ability to recognize and fulfill that need.
Another dangerous thought pattern in a divorce culture is the idea that individual satisfaction counts for everything -- that it is more important than marriage and family commitments.
In the 1970s in America, the term "finding oneself" became popular. Although no one has ever adequately explained what that phrase meant or how one was supposed to know if one had indeed found oneself, the idea was responsible for the break up of many marriages. People in their forties and fifties deserted their families in order to "find" themselves -- often with a new spouse. Personal satisfaction and fulfillment were considered paramount. If one wasn't fully satisfied and fulfilled, marriage and family were to be thrown out the window in favor of self.
Like all of Satan's myths and falsities, there is a grain of truth in this. The unhappy, unfulfilled person needs to do something to help him or herself. Yet leaving a marriage in search of personal fulfillment is immature and probably futile. It causes pain not only to one's significant others, but increases dissatisfaction for the seeker as well. Finding a new partner is not the answer either. Statistics show that as high as the divorce rate for first marriages is in a divorce culture, the divorce rate for second marriages is even higher. Seeking individual happiness at the sacrifice of one's original marriage and family will not increase personal satisfaction and will likely decrease it.
If the marriage itself is the source of personal dissatisfaction, it is heartening to know that statistically many couples experiencing marital dissatisfaction find themselves happier a few years down the road once they have chosen to "stick it out" rather than seek other avenues of fulfillment. What is more, children are not harmed by marriages that are less than fulfilling (as long as conflict is managed and controlled) and they are harmed by divorce. Rather than throwing in the towel on a tough marriage, it is better (and often more fulfilling) to work things out in the situation one has.
One marital therapist said that in regard to marital happiness, "It is more important to be the right person than to find the right person." Working on our characters is one of the most personally satisfying things an individual can do. This is the road to true personal fulfillment, not changing situations or partners. It has the added benefits of enhancing our marriage and family relationships, leading to greater happiness all around.
The biggest myth of all in a divorce culture is that feelings should rule all. This notion was promulgated primarily by pop psychology. While it is important to get in touch with our feelings and it is important to express them constructively, there are times when cool, sweet reason must be applied to the emotions to keep them in check. There are times when we must exercise self-control.
We cannot give voice to every passing feeling we have, for feelings are just that-passing. Catch us in a good mood and we may feel entirely differently than we did just a short while ago. Our feelings are not the measure of all that is good, true and beautiful. (Deeper elements, like the heart and the conscience are, but these are very different from "feelings.") Feelings are changeable. The idea that feelings should be expressed fully and taken into account at all times is a divorce culture specialty, all dressed up in the clothing of psychology.
A marriage cannot withstand the onslaughts of the partners endlessly expressing every feeling they have to one another, good and bad. Forbearance and self-control last a lot longer than any feeling, and, what is more, they engender both respect from others and self-respect -- two strong marriage boosters. (Reverend Kwak has said that respect is the foundational beginning of a solid marriage.)
Anger is an interesting example of a feeling that has been debated and debated in the divorce culture of the United States. In the time of the "cult of feelings," psychologists argued that people needed to "vent" their anger, albeit in a controlled way. "Bottling it up" was considered unhealthy both physically and psychologically. Other psychologists maintained that it was better to transform feelings of anger into feelings of compassion through psychological techniques and greater understanding.
This divide in the psychological community over anger led to research that is more thorough. The experts have now found that those who control their anger rather than expressing it become less angry in the end. Unificationists will recognize this as the simple law of give and take. Have enough give and take with your anger through expressing it, and it will multiply; end give and take with it, and it will diminish. Then, when one is calm, there is some hope of dealing constructively with the issue that made one angry.
Related to the cult of feelings is the notion that love is a feeling. This is an extremely dangerous divorce culture idea. Of course, love is a feeling, but love is also a discipline and a practice and an effort. Feelings come and go. It is easy to be nice to your spouse when you feel good; it is less easy to be nice when you don't. The discipline of love is to be nice even when you don't feel good, to be kind even when you'd rather be selfish, to be patient even when you are steaming up to your eyebrows. That's the discipline of love. And, after the discipline, come the feelings, like the sunlight after a storm.
Feelings are a roiling sea and almost as uncontrollable. Our feelings are all over the place. Feelings can pull us up or pull us down -- which is why Father says never to allow ourselves to become too low in feelings or too high. Feelings are just too tricky to govern our lives or our marriages. They can all too easily lead us astray. They may even lead to betrayal if our feelings for another are allowed free rein to develop.
A marriage culture needs both to acknowledge and to discipline feelings. A culture where feelings are given too much obeisance is a culture that will become rife with divorce.
One of Satan's greatest weapons is muddy thinking. He is the great obscurantist. We need to be forewarned and forearmed against divorce-promoting thinking in our cultures, clearly picking it apart in our own minds and in the minds of the people around us to prevent it from undermining the marriage-friendly societies we hope to live in. This article has presented several important divorce culture ideas. We are affected by these ideas more than we know. It is never a bad idea to confront them again to keep the culture of our own minds clear, so that we can clear the culture around us of the ideas that would lead to its destruction.