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Article Re: Declining Interest in Marriage (by Men)


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8 Reasons Straight Men Don’t Want To Get Married

I thought it might be interesting to see how many of these reasons are present amongst the members of the Church.  Some excerpts:

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It seems that fewer and fewer people in general are getting married these days, and even fewer men seem interested. Men no longer see marriage as being as important as they did even 15 years ago.   “According to Pew Research Center, the share of women ages eighteen to thirty-four that say having a successful marriage is one of the most important things in their lives rose nine percentage points since 1997—from 28 percent to 37%. For men, the opposite occurred. The share voicing this opinion dropped, from 35 percent to 29  percent.”  Why?

The author asks a succinct and important question.

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In the course of researching my new book, Men On Strike: Why Men Are Boycotting Marriage, Fatherhood, and the American Dream - And Why It Matters, I talked with men all over America about why they’re avoiding marriage.  It turns out that the problem isn’t that men are immature, or lazy.  Instead, they’re responding rationally to the incentives in today’s society.  Here are some of the answers I found.

Okay, here goes:

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1. You’ll lose respect.  A couple of generations ago, a man wasn’t considered fully adult until he was married with kids. But today, fathers are figures of fun more than figures of respect: The schlubby guy with the flowered diaper bag at the mall, or one of the endless array of buffoonish TV dads in sitcoms and commercials. In today’s culture, father never knows best. It’s no better in the news media. As communications professor James Macnamara reports, “by volume, 69 percent of mass media reporting and commentary on men was unfavorable, compared with just 12 percent favorable and 19 percent neutral or balanced.”

I admit that I do dislike much of the characterization of men in today's "mass media."  But I think this poor characterization is often of men in general, not just married men.

So how is the Church doing in this regard?  Is marriage and husbandhood/fatherhood held up and honored?  I think so.  Nevertheless, the external influences on young Latter-day Saint are significant.

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2. You’ll lose out on sex. Married men have more sex than single men, on average - but much less than men who are cohabiting with their partners outside of marriage, especially as time goes on. Research even suggests that married women are more likely to gain weight than women who are cohabiting without marriage. A Men’s Health article mentioned one study that followed 2,737 people for six years and found that cohabiters said they were happier and more confident than married couples and singles.

Observant Latter-day Saints commit to being celibate outside of marriage.  So this one is sort of inverted for Latter-day Saint men, who look at marriage as a doorway to sexual activity, rather than an impediment to it.

However, as to sex as a general element of marriage, I think it's having an influence on Latter-day Saint men.  We are living in an increasingly sexualized society.  Pornography is pervasive and instantly and discretely available.  Social mores have eroded significantly, such that improper sexual behaviors are now commonplace, even mundane.  And as men are waiting longer to get married, the duration of celibacy during the peak years of men's sexual lives (the 20s) is increasing.  This can and does lead to problems with the Law of Chastity, which can lead to feelings of guilt, depression, or alternatively indifference and rejection of the commandments.

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3. You’ll lose friends. “Those wedding bells are breaking up that old gang of mine.” That’s an old song, but it’s true. When married, men’s ties with friends from school and work tend to fade.  Although both men and women lose friends after marriage, it tends to affect men’s self-esteem more, perhaps because men tend to be less social in general. 

I'm not sure this is anything new.  Or even bad.  Friendships come and go.  That's part of life.  And it doesn't take into account the new friendships that are acquired after marriage (including, most importantly, friendship with one's spouse).  Moreover, Latter-day Saint men have plenty of socialization options.  When I married I acquired a new set of parents and four more siblings.

One issue, however, is that I think men in the Church often do not have the same sort of camaraderie in Elders Quorum that women seem to often experience in Relief Society.  I've been in the same ward for 15 years, and I have a number of friends there.  However, I don't really feel like I can foster these friendships as much as I should, partly because I'm really busy, but also perhaps because - as the article notes - "men tend to be less social in general."  I have little spare time, and I guess I feel that any such spare time should be devoted to family and self-improvement, such that fostering friendships with other men becomes less of a priority.

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4. You’ll lose space.  We hear a lot about men retreating to their “man caves,” but why do they retreat?  Because they’ve lost the battle for the rest of the house.  The Art of Manliness blog mourns “The Decline of Male Space,” and notes that the development of suburban lifestyles, intended to bring the family together, resulted in the elimination of male spaces in the main part of the house, and the exile of men to attics, garages, basements - the least desirable part of the home. As a commenter to the post observes: “There was no sadder scene to a movie than in ‘Juno’ when married guy Jason Bateman realized that in his entire huge, house, he had only a large closet to keep all the stuff he loved in. That hit me like a punch in the face.”

I read this and thought "Meh.  This is a classic 'First World' problem."  Having an exclusively "male space" is a luxury, not a necessity.  And my wife doesn't have a "female space," either.

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5. You could lose your kids, and your money. And they may not even be your kids. Lots of men I spoke with were keenly aware of the dangers of divorce, and worried that if they were married and it went sour, the woman might take everything, including the kids. 
...
6. You’ll lose in court. Men often complain that the family court legal system is stacked against them, and in fact it seems to be. Women gain custody and child support the majority of the time, as pointed out in this ABC News article: “Despite the increases in men seeking and receiving alimony, advocates warn against linking the trend to equality in the courtroom. Family court judges still tend to favor women, said Ned Holstein, the founder of Fathers & Families, a group advocating family court reform. “‘Family court still gives custody overwhelmingly to mothers, child support overwhelmingly to mothers, and courts still give alimony overwhelmingly to mothers and women,’ he said. ‘The family courts came into existence years ago in order to give things to mothers that mothers needed,” he said. ‘The times have changed and the courts have not.’”  

These are a big factors for a lot of men, I think, including for members of the Church.  And I think this concern becomes more acute when the Latter-day Saint male looks with open eyes at A) the Church's teachings about the sanctity, beauty, meaning, and eternal significance of marriage and children, and then contrasts such things with B) the prevalence of divorce.  

Generally speaking, I think men, Latter-day Saint or not, do not object the concept of child support, but take issue with the apparent favoritism toward women in child custody and child support matters.  I would be open to discussion as to whether this perception is accurate.

Further, I think that in 2020 men are increasingly resistant to the idea of alimony, which seems like a vestige of a time when women could not find work outside the home.  Now that they can (and are often out-earning men), alimony seems antiquated and unfair.  Again, I am open to discussion as to whether this perception is accurate.

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7. You’ll lose your freedom. At least, if you’re charged with child support that you can’t pay, you can be put in jail - and if you can’t afford a lawyer, you don’t have the right to have one appointed because, according to the Supreme Court, it’s technically a civil matter, never mind the jail time. Fathers and Families found that it’s the men who are jailed rather than women: “A new report concludes that between 95% and 98.5% of all incarcerations in Massachusetts sentenced from the Massachusetts Probate and Family Courts from 2001 through 2011 have been men. Moreover, this percentage may be increasing, with an average of 94.5% from 2001 to 2008, and 96.2% from 2009 through 2011. It is likely that most of these incarcerations are for incomplete payment of child support.  Further analysis suggests that women who fail to pay all of their child support are incarcerated only one-eighth as often as men with similar violations.”  

I'm not sure this one is as big a concern for members of the Church.  That is, I suspect few single Latter-day Saint men are thinking "I don't want to get married because we'll probably have kids, and if we get divorced, I might not keep up on my child support / alimony payments, and if that happens I might go to jail."  I am, however, open to correction here.

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8. Single life is better than ever. While the value of marriage to men has declined, the quality of single life has improved. Single men were once looked on with suspicion, passed over for promotion for important jobs, which usually valued “stable family men,” and often subjected to social opprobrium. It was hard to have a love life that wasn’t aimed at marriage, and premarital sex was risky and frowned upon. Now, no one looks askance at the single lifestyle, dating is easy, and employers probably prefer employees with no conflicting family responsibilities.  Plus, video games, cable TV, and the Internet provide entertainment that didn’t used to be available. Is this good for society? Probably not, as falling birth rates and increasing single-motherhood demonstrate. But people respond to incentives.  If you want more men to marry, it needs to be a more attractive proposition.

I think this, like items 5 and 6 above, is a very big factor.  The attractive features of the single life, when viewed alongside the specter of divorce and financial/emotional/social turmoil that are the eminently foreseeable risks inherent in marriage, combine to create some pretty significant disincentives to marriage.

Nevertheless, I think this factor is, contrary to the author's precursor statement, an indication of immaturity by some men.  Growing up, getting married, and taking on the responsibilities inherent in husbandhood and fatherhood is a mark of maturity.  Avoiding these things to have an endless, responsibility-free adolescence is a mark of immaturity.  And, as the author notes, these things are probably not good for society.  The author is correct to say that "people respond to incentives," but we are not Pavlovian creatures, destined to merely respond to stimuli.  We can choose.

Anyway, those are my preliminary thoughts.  I welcome yours.

Thanks,

-Smac

Edited by smac97
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20 minutes ago, smac97 said:

So how is the Church doing in this regard?  Is marriage and husbandhood/fatherhood held up and honored?  I think so.  Nevertheless, the external influences on young Latter-day Saint are significant.

Just a quick comment on this observation you made.  Yes, I think the church holds up and honors fatherhood.  However, I don't think we feel as free to talk about it locally as we once were for fear of leaving out those who aren't husbands or fathers.  I even temper my words when teaching elders quorum when speaking about the joys of family life because, as I look around the room (virtually now), half of the people there live alone.  We don't want them to feel left out.

I think the same goes for being a wife and mother.  If we hold up those virtues too high then we feel we risk leaving out those women in the ward who aren't wives or mothers.  We'd have this conversation when I served in the bishopric as we approached Mother's Day.  Does the ward give a gift to the mothers or to all women, so that no one will feel left out, hurt, or offended that they didn't receive a gift.

As the world moves further and further away from valuing the traditional family it becomes more and more difficult for the church to hold up these traditional family values while still maintaining a place for those who aren't married or are parents.  In some ways this helps us become more sensitive to the needs of others, but I feel we've lost something in the process.

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40 minutes ago, ksfisher said:

Just a quick comment on this observation you made.  Yes, I think the church holds up and honors fatherhood.  However, I don't think we feel as free to talk about it locally as we once were for fear of leaving out those who aren't husbands or fathers.  I even temper my words when teaching elders quorum when speaking about the joys of family life because, as I look around the room (virtually now), half of the people there live alone.  We don't want them to feel left out.

I think the same goes for being a wife and mother.  If we hold up those virtues too high then we feel we risk leaving out those women in the ward who aren't wives or mothers.  We'd have this conversation when I served in the bishopric as we approached Mother's Day.  Does the ward give a gift to the mothers or to all women, so that no one will feel left out, hurt, or offended that they didn't receive a gift.

As the world moves further and further away from valuing the traditional family it becomes more and more difficult for the church to hold up these traditional family values while still maintaining a place for those who aren't married or are parents.  In some ways this helps us become more sensitive to the needs of others, but I feel we've lost something in the process.

I think we need to continue to emphasize the importance and sanctity and beauty of marriage.  I think there are ways we can do that while being mindful of the feelings of those who have had a marriage end in divorce, or who are in an unhappy marriage.

Thanks,

-Smac

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1 hour ago, smac97 said:

So how is the Church doing in this regard?  Is marriage and husbandhood/fatherhood held up and honored?

I agree that a surface reading of what we say would suggest that we honor manhood/fatherhood, but I also think there are some undercurrents that can sabotage our message. Our benevolent patriarchy has a habit of pedastalizing women. I recall sitting in a GD lesson a couple of years ago where the (male) teacher got the men in the class started on gushing on their wives. As the men in the class started to gain some steam, he had us read a quote from Elder Wirthlin gushing over his wife and saying how much better she was then he. When a nice sister in the class like a wet blanket really slows the whole thing down by pointing out that women have faults, too, and that, really, men and women are more equal (maybe they stereotypically have different faults). It didn't quite stop the momentum, but it slowed the men down some. Just an example of how we might honor manhood/fatherhood, but it still isn't as good or worthy as womanhood/motherhood.

Among the more complementarian among us, I see some subtle denigrations of manhood in how we justify our prescribed gender roles. I frequently hear someone claim that the reason men are designated to preside in the home is because otherwise men would not engage in the home at all. Among the justifications for why men are given the priesthood is some form of men would not otherwise engage in the Church at all if we didn't throw them the priesthood bone. Again, yes, we honor manhood/fatherhood, but men are so disengaged and lazy and unambitious that we have to deny women (the clearly superior gender) certain roles so that we can force those roles upon incompetent and unwilling men (okay, maybe I'm exaggerating a little bit here).

I guess what I see is that instead of simply honoring manhood/fatherhood we need to make manhood/fatherhood equal to womanhood/motherhood. On the surface we say they are equal (different but equal, however that works out), but I think we have some undercurrents in our rhetoric that undermine the message.

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16 minutes ago, MrShorty said:

I agree that a surface reading of what we say would suggest that we honor manhood/fatherhood, but I also think there are some undercurrents that can sabotage our message. Our benevolent patriarchy has a habit of pedastalizing women.

I think you may have a point.

16 minutes ago, MrShorty said:

I recall sitting in a GD lesson a couple of years ago where the (male) teacher got the men in the class started on gushing on their wives. As the men in the class started to gain some steam, he had us read a quote from Elder Wirthlin gushing over his wife and saying how much better she was then he. When a nice sister in the class like a wet blanket really slows the whole thing down by pointing out that women have faults, too, and that, really, men and women are more equal (maybe they stereotypically have different faults). It didn't quite stop the momentum, but it slowed the men down some. Just an example of how we might honor manhood/fatherhood, but it still isn't as good or worthy as womanhood/motherhood.

I think it is fine to lionize women, but agree that we should not put them on a pedestal.

I also think the virtues of women can be proclaimed without doing so by contrasting them with men, by disparaging men.

16 minutes ago, MrShorty said:

Among the more complementarian among us, I see some subtle denigrations of manhood in how we justify our prescribed gender roles. I frequently hear someone claim that the reason men are designated to preside in the home is because otherwise men would not engage in the home at all. Among the justifications for why men are given the priesthood is some form of men would not otherwise engage in the Church at all if we didn't throw them the priesthood bone. Again, yes, we honor manhood/fatherhood, but men are so disengaged and lazy and unambitious that we have to deny women (the clearly superior gender) certain roles so that we can force those roles upon incompetent and unwilling men (okay, maybe I'm exaggerating a little bit here).

I think we are better off relying on revelation to guide us, and to minimize speculation where revelation is silent.  The "men are so disengaged and lazy and unambitious"-type of explanations are a good example.

16 minutes ago, MrShorty said:

I guess what I see is that instead of simply honoring manhood/fatherhood we need to make manhood/fatherhood equal to womanhood/motherhood.

My wife is a wonderful person.  My children all adore her and regularly express affection for her and all that she does as their mother.  My wife often goes out of her way to point out the things that I do for our family, and it is appreciated.

Thanks,

-Smac

16 minutes ago, MrShorty said:

On the surface we say they are equal (different but equal, however that works out), but I think we have some undercurrents in our rhetoric that undermine the message.

 

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On the topic of sex, I find some very interesting undercurrents. I follow several internet spaces that talk about sexuality in LDS and Christian contexts, and a very common thread in those spaces is the discussion of sexless marriages and other sexual frustrations. It is common in these circles for divorced/widow(er?)ed men, as they talk about their sexual frustrations in their previous marriage, to talk about the things they are doing/want to do to avoid such sexual frustrations in any subsequent marriages. Some specifically talk about seeking out sexually experienced women in hopes that such past experience will bode well for future experience. Some still married men will ask about the propriety of divorce and remarriage in seeking sexual satisfaction.

As I navigate my own sexless marriage and talk to sexually frustrated men (and women) about how sexual satisfaction (or lack thereof) impacts marriage, I see a lot of confusion over what the Church really believes about sex in marriage. Into that vacuum, sexually frustrated voices are perhaps swaying young men away from marriage, and the Church is not contributing anything to the discussion of how to improve your chances of creating a sexually fulfilling marriage. Some say that it isn't the Church's place to say anything about that, so maybe the Church is justified in its silence. Personally, I could see some value in the Church speaking into that space with some well constructed messages to help men understand healthy sexuality and help them gain the necessary relationship skills that make sexual satisfaction more likely.

Maybe this bullet point boils down to men's fears of getting stuck in a sexually unfulfilling marriage. Even when you believe in abstinence outside of marriage, is it better to remain single and celibate and hold out hope for future sexual satisfaction than to get yourself stuck in a sexually unfulfilling marriage? From my own experience and what I see from men who have been in that boat, I'm not sure I even know which is better.

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25 minutes ago, MrShorty said:

I agree that a surface reading of what we say would suggest that we honor manhood/fatherhood, but I also think there are some undercurrents that can sabotage our message. Our benevolent patriarchy has a habit of pedastalizing women. I recall sitting in a GD lesson a couple of years ago where the (male) teacher got the men in the class started on gushing on their wives. As the men in the class started to gain some steam, he had us read a quote from Elder Wirthlin gushing over his wife and saying how much better she was then he. When a nice sister in the class like a wet blanket really slows the whole thing down by pointing out that women have faults, too, and that, really, men and women are more equal (maybe they stereotypically have different faults). It didn't quite stop the momentum, but it slowed the men down some. Just an example of how we might honor manhood/fatherhood, but it still isn't as good or worthy as womanhood/motherhood.

Yes this is unfair. It’s doubtless a push back for the decades of putting women in a simply supportive role to their priesthood husbands. I remember a particular Sunday in the 90s when some stake priesthood members came into our Relief society and gave a lesson on the priesthood. Even the most faithful women in the ward almost had smoke coming out of their ears.

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1 hour ago, smac97 said:

I think we need to continue to emphasize the importance and sanctity and beauty of marriage.  I think there are ways we can do that while being mindful of the feelings of those who have had a marriage end in divorce, or who are in an unhappy marriage.

Thanks,

-Smac

Until you change the way divorce is handled in the courts, good luck.  I know we're on other sides of the fence here, i'll be sitting back and watching.  BTW it's not just you who's thought of this, the likes of Bishop Barron is really going all out on concepts like beauty and the Catholic Church.  Kinda entertaining to watch the fallout from all this I think. 

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6 minutes ago, katherine the great said:

Fascinating research-especially the media section. I must admit that my 3 sons took very well to marriage and I love having a supportive role in child care and basic emotional support (sometimes financial early on). Its my daughters who have the commitment issues. 

I knew an attorney a few years back (male), who had three adult daughters and regularly commented about how "whipped" their husbands were, about how his daughters "run the show," make all the decisions for their families, etc., and his sons-in-law just go along with it all.  

The thing is, he thought this was hilarious (he would snigger and chuckle whenever the topic came up).  Cool.  The way things ought to be.  He was clearly quite proud of his daughters.  He spoke of these things not out of concern, but rather to brag and boast of how "strong" his daughters were.

At the time I found this to be a strange thing to be proud about and brag on.  

Thanks,

-Smac

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7 minutes ago, poptart said:
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I think we need to continue to emphasize the importance and sanctity and beauty of marriage.  I think there are ways we can do that while being mindful of the feelings of those who have had a marriage end in divorce, or who are in an unhappy marriage.

Until you change the way divorce is handled in the courts, good luck. 

Well, I think we can address these things in our own community, even if "the way divorce is handled in the courts" creates challenges and frustrations.

7 minutes ago, poptart said:

I know we're on other sides of the fence here, i'll be sitting back and watching.  BTW it's not just you who's thought of this, the likes of Bishop Barron is really going all out on concepts like beauty and the Catholic Church.  Kinda entertaining to watch the fallout from all this I think. 

"Entertaining?"

I have a dear friend who is divorced.  He is devoted to the Church and its teachings about marriage.  He seems to be a cross purposes regarding whether he should seek to re-marry, as his marriage ended badly and it took years for him to recover (financially, emotionally, spiritually, etc.), but he still believes in the sanctity and significance of the marriage covenant.

Thanks,

-Smac

 

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2 hours ago, ksfisher said:

Just a quick comment on this observation you made.  Yes, I think the church holds up and honors fatherhood.  However, I don't think we feel as free to talk about it locally as we once were for fear of leaving out those who aren't husbands or fathers.  I even temper my words when teaching elders quorum when speaking about the joys of family life because, as I look around the room (virtually now), half of the people there live alone.  We don't want them to feel left out.

I think the same goes for being a wife and mother.  If we hold up those virtues too high then we feel we risk leaving out those women in the ward who aren't wives or mothers.  We'd have this conversation when I served in the bishopric as we approached Mother's Day.  Does the ward give a gift to the mothers or to all women, so that no one will feel left out, hurt, or offended that they didn't receive a gift.

As the world moves further and further away from valuing the traditional family it becomes more and more difficult for the church to hold up these traditional family values while still maintaining a place for those who aren't married or are parents.  In some ways this helps us become more sensitive to the needs of others, but I feel we've lost something in the process.

This is a knotty problem that has gotten worse with political correctness and fragility.

My wife was called to be the Relief Society president when we moved to a new ward. There were a number of otherwise active sisters who always took grave offense at any lessons encouraging families to do the basics (family and personal prayer, scripture study, FHE, church activity and service, etc.). They had children who were inactive, and they insisted that lessons like this made them feel like failures and made people judge others. And, they would talk at length about how lessons like this were a major reason why people went inactive --- because of Church culture that made some people fee like they never measure up. They reacted like this no matter how skilled, diplomatic, and Christlike the teachers or presidency handled it. It was frustrating for the presidency, because these very vocal sisters were forcefully insisting that lessons and exhortation only ever be designed to not make anyone feel guilty or like they needed to make some changes or try to improve. 

I compared this to a similar point made on a message board critical of the Church. An LDS man from England and a non-member from Arizona were very vocal that the displays of missionary plaques in the halls of churches should be done away with, because they make those who chose not to or couldn't go on missions feel bad. When I asked if they were saying missionaries should never be honored or acknowledged because that might make people who hadn't served missions feel bad, they refused to answer. I think this kind of thinking is a strong undercurrent in society today, and in the Church --- not wanting to honor or acknowledge and not wanting to exhort and encourage to do better because it makes people feel bad. 

It is difficult to be unmarried/divorced, childless, not in full fellowship or unworthy, etc. in a church that (rightly) emphasizes the importance of eternal families and worthiness. In my experience, the two biggest risk factors for otherwise faithful members in losing their faith are divorce and inability to have children. Definitely, people should be sensitive to this (and other things that can hurt feelings), but I don't think swinging the pendulum the other way and never teaching, exhorting, and encouraging people about the blessings and duties of marriage, parenthood, church service (including missions), etc. is a good thing, either. Neither should people stop teaching and encouraging repentance (including recognizing deficiencies and "making weak things become strengths"), goal-setting, and progress and improvement in the Church, even though there are some people who don't like this because by definition it involves letting people know that they have improvement they can make. 

I think that there is markedly less of this now than formerly, because of social fragility. 

Edited by rongo
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Just now, smac97 said:

Well, I think we can address these things in our own community, even if "the way divorce is handled in the courts" creates challenges and frustrations.

"Entertaining?"

I have a dear friend who is divorced.  He is devoted to the Church and its teachings about marriage.  He seems to be a cross purposes regarding whether he should seek to re-marry, as his marriage ended badly and it took years for him to recover (financially, emotionally, spiritually, etc.), but he still believes in the sanctity and significance of the marriage covenant.

Thanks,

-Smac

 

Lol come on you know me, like I said we're on different sides of the fence, also I'm far, far from what someone like you would call marriage material.  Chaos entertains me from afar.  Also, after the horrible, violent and miserable childhood I had, I marvel at the sate of marriage in this country and shake my head at the foolishness of some people.  Play stupid games, win stupid prizes, there was no compassion nor mercy for me, I show none.  Now if we could fix things in the court and handle things the way countries like say Germany do?  Different story, at least for me.  Also your friend?  Lol that's his problem.  I say let the idiots tear each other apart like animals.  If people won't get along and live like decent people should I could care less what happens to them, not like I ever counted in any of this. 

BTW forgot to share this, I do wish they'd make divorce harder and just yank kids out of bad relationships.  Till this country fixes things you're going to see more and more people like me outside of your religious institution making things difficult and voting against what the various religious orgs want.  Wanna make friends with us?  Quit making it so easy for parents to use their children as pawns to hurt their wives/husbands. 

 

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4 minutes ago, rongo said:

This is a knotty problem that has gotten worse with political correctness and fragility.

My wife was called to be the Relief Society president when we moved to a new ward. There were a number of otherwise active sisters who always took grave offense at any lessons encouraging families to do the basics (family and personal prayer, scripture study, FHE, church activity and service, etc.). They had children who were inactive, and they insisted that lessons like this made them feel like failures and made people judge others. And, they would talk at length about how lessons like this were a major reason why people went inactive --- because of Church culture that made some people fee like they never measure up. They reacted like this no matter how skilled, diplomatic, and Christlike the teachers or presidency handled it. It was frustrating for the presidency, because these very vocal sisters were forcefully insisting that lessons and exhortation only ever be designed to not make anyone feel guilty or like they needed to make some changes or try to improve. 

I compared this to a similar point made on a message board critical of the Church. An LDS man from England and a non-member from Arizona were very vocal that the displays of missionary plaques in the halls of churches should be done away with, because they make those who chose not to or couldn't go on missions feel bad. When I asked if they were saying missionaries should never be honored or acknowledged because that might make people who hadn't served missions feel bad, they refused to answer. I think this kind of thinking is a strong undercurrent in society today, and in the Church --- not wanting to honor or acknowledge and not wanting to exhort and encourage to do better because it makes people feel bad. 

It is difficult to be unmarried/divorced, childless, not in full fellowship or unworthy, etc. in a church that (rightly) emphasizes the importance of eternal families and worthiness. In my experience, the two biggest risk factors for otherwise faithful members in losing their faith are divorce and inability to have children. Definitely, people should be sensitive to this (and other things that can hurt feelings), but I don't think swinging the pendulum the other way and never teaching, exhorting, and encouraging people about the blessings and duties of marriage, parenthood, church service (including missions), etc. is a good thing, either. Neither should people stop teaching and encouraging repentance (including recognizing deficiencies and "making weak things become strengths"), goal-setting, and progress and improvement in the Church, even though there are some people who don't like this because by definition it involves letting people know that they have improvement they can make. 

I think that there is markedly less of this now than formerly, because of social fragility. 

Isn't just you, Catholics do it too.  Good friend of mine was pretty much shunned when his parents split.  All of a sudden because his parents divorced he was looked at as unclean.  It's harsh but true, people do generalize and judge by affiliation.  I went through a similar thing too growing up. 

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17 minutes ago, smac97 said:
38 minutes ago, katherine the great said:

 

I knew an attorney a few years back (male), who had three adult daughters and regularly commented about how "whipped" their husbands were, about how his daughters "run the show," make all the decisions for their families, etc., and his sons-in-law just go along with it all.  

What a weirdo. 

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29 minutes ago, MrShorty said:

the Church is not contributing anything to the discussion of how to improve your chances of creating a sexually fulfilling marriage. Some say that it isn't the Church's place to say anything about that, so maybe the Church is justified in its silence. Personally, I could see some value in the Church speaking into that space with some well constructed messages to help men understand healthy sexuality and help them gain the necessary relationship skills that make sexual satisfaction more likely.

Really? How about couples taking responsibility for their own sex lives? The conversation should start before marriage and never stop. Spouses should meet each other’s needs and men and women’s needs are quite different. People should not be passive about something so basic. 

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4 minutes ago, rongo said:

This is a knotty problem that has gotten worse with political correctness and fragility.

My wife was called to be the Relief Society president when we moved to a new ward. There were a number of otherwise active sisters who always took grave offense at any lessons encouraging families to do the basics (family and personal prayer, scripture study, FHE, church activity and service, etc.). They had children who were inactive, and they insisted that lessons like this made them feel like failures and made people judge others. And, they would talk at length about how lessons like this were a major reason why people went inactive --- because of Church culture that made some people fee like they never measure up. They reacted like this no matter how skilled, diplomatic, and Christlike the teachers or presidency handled it. It was frustrating for the presidency, because these very vocal sisters were forcefully insisting that lessons and exhortation only ever be designed to not make anyone feel guilty or like they needed to make some changes or try to improve. 

I compared this to a similar point made on a message board critical of the Church. An LDS man from England and a non-member from Arizona were very vocal that the displays of missionary plaques in the halls of churches should be done away with, because they make those who chose not to or couldn't go on missions feel bad. When I asked if they were saying missionaries should never be honored or acknowledged because that might make people who hadn't served missions feel bad, they refused to answer. I think this kind of thinking is a strong undercurrent in society today, and in the Church --- not wanting to honor or acknowledge and not wanting to exhort and encourage to do better because it makes people feel bad. 

It is difficult to be unmarried/divorced, childless, not in full fellowship or unworthy, etc. in the Church. In my experience, the two biggest risk factors for otherwise faithful members in losing their faith are divorce and inability to have children. Definitely, people should be sensitive to this (and other things that can hurt feelings), but I don't think swinging the pendulum the other way and never teaching, exhorting, and encouraging people about the blessings and duties of marriage, parenthood, church service (including missions), etc. is a good thing, either. Neither should people stop teaching and encouraging repentance (including recognizing deficiencies and "making weak things become strengths"), goal-setting, and progress and improvement in the Church, even though there are some people who don't like this because by definition it involves letting people know that they have improvement they can make. 

I think that there is markedly less of this now than formerly, because of social fragility. 

I have three friends, two divorced and one never married, who have spoken to me about what you describe above (regarding it being "difficult to be unmarried/divorced").  

One has gone the route you describe: Resenting and getting emotionally upset at any teaching about marriage because his/her marriage ended badly.  He/she got to the point of it affecting her activity in the ward.

Another acknowledged this difficulty (his/her marriage ended badly as well), but he/she recognized that the Church's teachings about marriage remain true and valid and vibrant, and his/her unmarried state does not diminish that.  In other words, he/she did not let this emotional reaction to spiritual truths alter his/her faith.

As for the one who never married, he was pretty sanguine about it all.  He had hoped to marry, but it never worked out.  He passed away earlier this year, and I visited him many times prior to his passing.  He spoke often of how much he had to look forward to.  

Thanks,

-Smac

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I think the availability of LDS potential marriage partners affects your desire to marry. If you live in an area where there isn't really anyone you either date or marry a nonmember-sometimes or most times breaking the LOC and you're limited as to your service in the Church or inactivity. Divorce happens and that's tough, again with limitations as to service. You either hope to heaven above you meet someone you and they actually like or you settle. I know a lot of lonely marriages.

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10 minutes ago, poptart said:

Lol come on you know me, like I said we're on different sides of the fence, also I'm far, far from what someone like you would call marriage material. 

I've never met you, and don't know you in any material sense.

10 minutes ago, poptart said:

Chaos entertains me from afar. 

Well, okay.  I have seen the unhappiness and misery that stems from these issues.  They are anything but "entertaining."

10 minutes ago, poptart said:

Also, after the horrible, violent and miserable childhood I had, I marvel at the sate of marriage in this country and shake my head at the foolishness of some people. 

I am sorry you had a bad childhood.  There were parts of my childhood that I did not enjoy.  I am very grateful to have found much happiness and hope through my faith, family and friends.

10 minutes ago, poptart said:

Play stupid games, win stupid prizes, there was no compassion nor mercy for me, I show none.  Now if we could fix things in the court and handle things the way countries like say Germany do?  Different story, at least for me. 

How does Germany handle such things?

10 minutes ago, poptart said:

Also your friend?  Lol that's his problem.  I say let the idiots tear each other apart like animals. 

He's not an idiot.  He is a good and decent man.

10 minutes ago, poptart said:

If people won't get along and live like decent people should I could care less what happens to them, not like I ever counted in any of this. 

Again, I am sorry for your difficulties.  But in the end I cannot go along with nihilistic pessimism.  I think we can and ought to help people who are not "get{ting} along and liv{ing} like decent people."

10 minutes ago, poptart said:

BTW forgot to share this, I do wish they'd make divorce harder and just yank kids out of bad relationships. 

"They" being the courts?  

Where would these kids go?

10 minutes ago, poptart said:

Till this country fixes things you're going to see more and more people like me outside of your religious institution making things difficult and voting against what the various religious orgs want. 

I'm not sure what you are saying here.  What is it that "various religious orgs want" that you find problematic?

10 minutes ago, poptart said:

Wanna make friends with us?  Quit making it so easy for parents to use their children as pawns to hurt their wives/husbands. 

Are you suggesting this is what "various religious orgs" are doing?

Thanks,

-Smac

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1 minute ago, smac97 said:

I've never met you, and don't know you in any material sense.

Well, okay.  I have seen the unhappiness and misery that stems from these issues.  They are anything but "entertaining."

I am sorry you had a bad childhood.  There were parts of my childhood that I did not enjoy.  I am very grateful to have found much happiness and hope through my faith, family and friends.

How does Germany handle such things?

He's not an idiot.  He is a good and decent man.

Again, I am sorry for your difficulties.  But in the end I cannot go along with nihilistic pessimism.  I think we can and ought to help people who are not "get{ting} along and liv{ing} like decent people."

"They" being the courts?  

Where would these kids go?

I'm not sure what you are saying here.  What is it that "various religious orgs want" that you find problematic?

Are you suggesting this is what "various religious orgs" are doing?

Thanks,

-Smac

You're not me, also going to guess you were probably far more privileged than I was.  Good for you.  Germany has better family courts, they won't hesitate to yank kids from violent households.  Also, their abortion laws are quite a bit stricter.  Considering the US likes to consider themselves a Christian country it blows my mind they do as little as they do for child welfare.  People here like to rip on places like Germany due to whatever opinion they have on the Christian religion, in practice Germany blows them out of the water, I think.  Bavaria has a law where a crucifix is on display and the whole country is closed on Sundays, by law.  Try getting that passed here....

If your buddy was hosed that badly in court and he wants to try again?  Hmmm, doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result, isn't that the definition of insanity?

If I had my way this country would have an education, child support and foster care system that many Euro countries have.  As someone who had the life I did it irritates me when I see some entitled WASP suburbanite go on about muh religions being persecuted while voting against the interests of the least of these.  That being said, I don't trust a lot of people here with the welfare of the vulnerable, they've proven we need gov't regulation considering how so many children just slip through the cracks and few seem to care. 

I'm not going to go into religious orgs, there's a nice red banner that says no politics and for me it is very, very political.  I look at religion as basically another political engine of sorts so that's that.

 

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52 minutes ago, MrShorty said:

On the topic of sex, I find some very interesting undercurrents. I follow several internet spaces that talk about sexuality in LDS and Christian contexts, and a very common thread in those spaces is the discussion of sexless marriages and other sexual frustrations. It is common in these circles for divorced/widow(er?)ed men, as they talk about their sexual frustrations in their previous marriage, to talk about the things they are doing/want to do to avoid such sexual frustrations in any subsequent marriages. Some specifically talk about seeking out sexually experienced women in hopes that such past experience will bode well for future experience. Some still married men will ask about the propriety of divorce and remarriage in seeking sexual satisfaction.

As I navigate my own sexless marriage and talk to sexually frustrated men (and women) about how sexual satisfaction (or lack thereof) impacts marriage, I see a lot of confusion over what the Church really believes about sex in marriage. Into that vacuum, sexually frustrated voices are perhaps swaying young men away from marriage, and the Church is not contributing anything to the discussion of how to improve your chances of creating a sexually fulfilling marriage. Some say that it isn't the Church's place to say anything about that, so maybe the Church is justified in its silence. Personally, I could see some value in the Church speaking into that space with some well constructed messages to help men understand healthy sexuality and help them gain the necessary relationship skills that make sexual satisfaction more likely.

Maybe this bullet point boils down to men's fears of getting stuck in a sexually unfulfilling marriage. Even when you believe in abstinence outside of marriage, is it better to remain single and celibate and hold out hope for future sexual satisfaction than to get yourself stuck in a sexually unfulfilling marriage? From my own experience and what I see from men who have been in that boat, I'm not sure I even know which is better.

Some very impactful questions here, most of which as you point out are rarely discussed.  Worthy of its own thread, I believe. 

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3 hours ago, ksfisher said:

Just a quick comment on this observation you made.  Yes, I think the church holds up and honors fatherhood.  However, I don't think we feel as free to talk about it locally as we once were for fear of leaving out those who aren't husbands or fathers.  I even temper my words when teaching elders quorum when speaking about the joys of family life because, as I look around the room (virtually now), half of the people there live alone.  We don't want them to feel left out. ...

 

I can, of course, speak only for myself, and perhaps the situations of the single men in your ward or area are completely different than mine is, but, by no means, no, don't stop preaching and extolling the ideal simply because some (perhaps many) have not yet achieved it.  I'm not equating singleness and sin here, but, to me, failing to continue to preach and to extol the ideal of marriage because many in the room are single (most, if not all, through no fault of their own) would be akin to ceasing to preach and to extol the ideal of righteousness just because the room is full of sinners (see Romans 3:23).  If we're not going to do the latter, we shouldn't do the former.

I don't know what the next life holds, but, as I've said so many times before, the Omniscient, Omnipotent, All-Loving Lord of the Universe isn't going to have to tell anyone who is faithful (whether married or single in my book), "I know you were expecting something more, or something better, or at least something different, and I know this means that it sucks to be you, but ... sorry. :huh::unknw::(  This is the best I could do." https://greatgourdini.wordpress.com/2013/10/31/on-being-single-male-and-lds/

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45 minutes ago, rongo said:

My wife was called to be the Relief Society president when we moved to a new ward. There were a number of otherwise active sisters who always took grave offense at any lessons encouraging families to do the basics (family and personal prayer, scripture study, FHE, church activity and service, etc.). They had children who were inactive, and they insisted that lessons like this made them feel like failures and made people judge others. And, they would talk at length about how lessons like this were a major reason why people went inactive --- because of Church culture that made some people fee like they never measure up. They reacted like this no matter how skilled, diplomatic, and Christlike the teachers or presidency handled it. It was frustrating for the presidency, because these very vocal sisters were forcefully insisting that lessons and exhortation only ever be designed to not make anyone feel guilty or like they needed to make some changes or try to improve. 

Parents with this mindset might want to evaluate their feelings in this context:

 Our Heavenly Parent had “a third” of their children irretrievably lost before sending anyone to their mortal experience.   In mortality, many are estranged from their Heavenly Parents.

Our Heavenly Parents are perfect, so clearly it’s possible to do everything right as parents and still experience loss and estrangement in our relationships with our children.  While we mortal parents could always improve as parents, rather than consider ourselves “failures” or “less than” with respect to our parenting, why not model how our Heavenly Parents seek to interact with their estranged children.  

Moreover, while we’re often reminded that the ability to mourn with those who mourn is a characteristic of a disciple, the desire to rejoice with (rather than feel judged by) those whose children choose discipleship is also a characteristic of discipleship.

 

 

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1 hour ago, MrShorty said:

Maybe this bullet point boils down to men's fears of getting stuck in a sexually unfulfilling marriage. Even when you believe in abstinence outside of marriage, is it better to remain single and celibate and hold out hope for future sexual satisfaction than to get yourself stuck in a sexually unfulfilling marriage? From my own experience and what I see from men who have been in that boat, I'm not sure I even know which is better.

I don't think that fear (and anecdotes) of having a sexually frustrating marriage is driving declining marriage among LDS YSAs. I think among the YSAs, it's much more a matter of incompetence when it comes to dating, courtship, etc. A lot of the blame for this rests on the parents and overall cultural currents, but it is the YSAs who are actually ground zero.

Our son is a junior in high school and out of our three boys most likely to be a ladies' man. He has already dated more than his older brother (currently on a mission) did in high school. I was surprised a few weeks ago in driving home with him, his good friend (also a junior), and my youngest (a freshman boy) from school. They have been dating a girl and her friend (one is LDS, and the other lives with an LDS family and they are working on guardianship or adoption), but we insist on dating variety at their age, so they were talking about their options. I suggested two twins from our former ward, both of whom are very pretty and extremely competent and with-it. All three were horrified --- absolutely horrified --- at the very thought. They are in another ward in another city. It would be so awkward and weird. Just call up their mom and ask if you can speak with one of them (our kids don't have phones)? You have got to be kidding! What came out of our extended conversation about this was that they see calling up girls they aren't close friends with as completely beyond the pale (in reality, they know our son quite well, and we are 100% sure they would say yes and would welcome and look forward to it. They see it as fraught with risk, but we know from our experience as parents that it's close to a sure thing). We walked through how I didn't know well literally every single girl I asked out --- including their mother. This was a completely foreign thought to them, not being assured of a sure thing by only asking out very close friends.

My daughter is also home from college for Christmas, and we asked her if the scenario was weird and awkward, from a girl's perspective. She assured them that it wasn't at all, and wouldn't be seen as weird by the girls. The boys are still very skeptical.

This made my wife and I want to more directly teach and work with our kids on dating and courtship perspective. We found an **outstanding** documentary about a Boston College professor who assigns classes to ask out someone on a traditional date (go somewhere and go somewhere specific, no more than 90 minutes, absolutely no drugs or alcohol involved, etc.). The students are terrified, but also yearn for the traditional courtship dating that is seen by young people today with such fear. It really is an outstanding documentary, and it follows several people. We especially liked her explanation of Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3 of dating. A lot of problems are caused by society's expectations that dates vault people to Level 2 or 3, but in reality, asking someone out implies no commitment and should be risk-free. We've reminded our son that he needs to keep his words and actions at Level 1 (the girl he's dating is quite needy, and she wants to be "boyfriend/girlfriend" and have more commitment, etc.). 

It really is an outstanding documentary (we watched and discussed it for FHE a few weeks ago).

I really think that there is a lot of dysfunction and incompetence on the boys' end as far as dating, courtship, and initiative in the Church, and I think this is driving the steep drop in marriage and rise in marriage age. It's not because they necessarily want it to be that way, but their parents, leaders, etc. haven't done a good job of preparing them and shielding them from the currents of society. I think this is something that can be addressed and corrected, but it will take intentional effort and frankness. 

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