I believe that parents should set up marriages for their children.
Make sure you know the whole range of what "set up" could mean before you jump to cultural knee-jerk conclusions. Think this whole issue through- this issue of parental guidance and help in marriage- in light of where our culture has been going.
I also wonder about appropriate age difference. What if women married older men? What if girls were "set up" to be wooed and to marry in their late teens, marrying a gentleman in his late twenties or early thirties- a gentleman fairly well established in his career, who has been examined and approved by the family of the girl? Wouldn't this result in stronger more enduring attractions and a stabler economic and psycological buttress for an enduring marriage?
How old should girls be when they meet these men they may marry? How much of a waiting period should there be after they meet? How much older should the men be?
What are the ideal ages for marriage for the full enjoyment of life's sexual, relational, and economic potential for men and women?
Should parents seek to influence thier unmarried children to consider mates with an ideal age difference?
Begun with high ideals, the secular education movement sought to help the common person by extending its social program through high school. Everyone was urged to finish high school. The "business" of education grew as other business grew with it. Agribusiness pushed people off of the small farm, while the attractions of the city, the sophistication of higher culture, and the new corporate economic growth drew people into the cities. Then the pressure was on to attend college. Courses were gradually "dumbed down" in order to accomodate the droves of young people who are culturally trained in them and for them. Education was billed as the path to success, and it was true, if over stated. Competition in the work force led many to seek higher degrees still, postponing marriage in many cases well past their sexual prime or desirability.
The growth of mass education in this century led to the herding of our young people together with others the same age. More and more, coeducation became the norm at higher and higher age levels. Young people found themselves away from their parents more, and developed romantic relationships, apart from their parents supervision, with friends in high school. Later this was also the case in colleges which were taking in more and more students and were becoming coed. This tended to effect cultural feelings about a the relative difference in age in a young couple.
The "extended adolesence" of our young has proved profitable for these institutions and for other big businesses as well, but it effectively competed with many of the "regular people" it claimed to help, financially and culturally defrauding them to some extent, if unintentionally.
Is it possible that these developments have weakened marriage? Has our marriage culture been vulnerable to commercial forces? Have we been sold a bill of goods? Have we lost our culture to supra-culture?
Let me tell you a true story about myself; it may shed some light on our cultural problems. The names are changed.
I went back to college as an older male, suddenly surrounded by young freshman females.
I really liked a girl named Angel, but she was a little reluctant, and I took her nervousness as indicating a total impossiblity, so I backed off temporarily. I tried to forget about her and attempted to concentrate on my studies.
Angel used to baby sit, and I would see her occasionally with children in the park. She looked so beautiful and natural with children.
Joe Counselor, a friend of mine, befriended Angel and told me about their talks together. Joe, like me, was older than Angel. He was acting as a sort of big brother to her, helping her sort out issues in her life. It sounded like a platonic friendship. But then suddenly, it was not.
He came first to me, his friend, confiding in me that something had gone wrong. He felt ashamed. He had been goofing around, teasing her and then playfully wrestling with her, and then he found that he got turned on. He violated her in a moment of passion and lack of self control.
Soon after his telling me, Angel reported it to the dean of students as date rape. Soon it was also apparent that Angel was pregnant from this incident. She went through an awful ordeal, with all her friends telling her what they thought she should do- some suggesting abortion, others, suggesting adoption. Finally she decided that she would carry and then raise the child herself, much to everyone's dismay. She loved children. What a great gal.
She had some feelings for Joe, and she waited to see what he would do. Joe also still had hopes in a long distance relationship with a European girl who was going to be coming to the States. Joe Counselor wrestled with his sense of duty, but he really was not interested in Angel.
Angel then showed renewed interest in me. She told me about guys she would often meet, who would compliment her but would'nt follow through with asking her out. Hint, hint. I didn't take the bait, though I never said why. I remained a supportive friend. I admired her for choosing to carry her child to full term, and understood and admired her maternal desire to keep the child. But as I knew who the father was, and was still hurt by her prior rejection, I just couldn't be the one to woo her and marry her, it seemed to me at the time.
Later in her pregnancy Angel casually mentioned something about some guy, Sam Ugly, who was "bugging her". I guess I was supposed to rescue her from Sam. She was signaling to me her impending decision, and I was too slow to understand, or did'nt want to. SAM UGLY WON HER, because he didn't mind the fact that she had Joe Counselor's child. I did mind, so I was the loser, twice: first as a poor wooer, then as a poor adapter to the thought of raising my friend's Joe's child. As it turned out, the child was sickly at birth, and died in the hospital soon after they were married.
"Too proud" says the culture to me, speaking with a woman's point of view especially. Well, ladies, men need a certain amount of pride. Kill a man's pride completely, and he's a goner. Women's fears and vulnerability create humiliating situations for many young men.
Why do young women entering college have fears? Because they are not under the protection of their family. Generally there is the lack of a conscious family and community culture around the setting up of marriage. Women need this to feel safe and to sort out their choices of suitors. Teenage women are not getting enough support from their parents in judging their suitors. In high school and college they must make do with the council and support of their friends. There are few adults who take a personal interest in them. There is really no one around who can let them know which guys they can trust and what they think of them. They thus take longer to make a decision. They discourage their shy suitors and lose them. They give in to their bolder suitor's sexual demands and still sometimes lose them. They remain ummarried in college and then seek advice about dwindling suitors in their twenties from friends in their work place. They finally marry someone marginally acceptable out of desperation in their late twenties.
The small town and the family often served as screening grounds for young women, protecting them from insincere suitors. The larger urban society can't protect young women very well, because of it's large anonymity and unaccountability. Some men can be proud of playing the field in such a free environment. Many men cannot. A culture that does not shield its women from bad suitors is a shameful culture.
Young women are to be protected, primarily by their fathers. Fathers are traditionally understood to be their authority and protection- the ones who "give (them)in marriage" to another protector, their future husband. The larger society cannot protect them. Thus our single young women should not move about so freely among young men as is done currently in our fornicating, aborting, single mom culture. Suitors should woo with the girl's parents nearby. Parties where marriageable young people meet should be arranged by the parents in the community.
Our coeducation culture has set up a "romantic" ideal that emphasises the women's mobility and choice, but also leaves women vulnerable and uncertain. The ladies find themselves insulting their suitors out of fear and nervousness. This takes its toll on male pride and doesn't work out well generally for the women either. The women get bounced around "romantically", learning "lessons" and "growing" while men seek self-improvement as well, learning how to "score" better. Nonvirgins capitulate to a very wild kind of sexual politics, which is understandable, since the sex drive is like a built in natural addiction- once you start, you want to have it often. This tension between the "fast" sex and the "slow" relationship is culturally confusing, and consequently, some hurt people, who can never seem to figure out how to manipulate the confusing and conflicting set of cultural rules, never find a mate or settle for a marginal one.
Everybody says arranged marriages are wrong, but they were good enough for the chosen family of Abraham and the human parents of Christ.
People say that older cultures (such as in the Bible) were too restrictive on women and on marriage in general. We of course are so much happier with our "progress" in fornication, unwanted pregnancies, broken hearts, abortion guilt, enflamed and economically exploited lust, and comercialized exploitation of postponed marriage frustration, which we call "youth culture", aren't we?
Well, if arranged marriages seem too "strict" to our cultural sensibilities, what about arranged meetings and parentally chaperoned "coming out parties"? Problem. This will require time and effort by the parents. But parents can find at least some time for this important phase of their children's life. I think they had better do something for their children, and not just leave their opportunities completely to the larger culture which does such a poor job. "Arranged courtship" is a less strict option than "arranged marriage." "Arranged courtship" has the advantage of giving the young woman leeway for her own decision without leaving her vulnerable to bad suitors. In any case, certainly even arranged marriages, for all their strictness, would be better than our culture's flacidity. Our culture revels in distracting and wasting its youth's years of greatest sexual and economic strength.
Carefully arranged and chaperoned events would improve a girl's chances of being courted by serious suitors. Parents can be helpful by keeping it fun and light hearted, or at least casual. They should not make it seem like a big deal, because this will make the young people tense.
Now in view of the desirability of a lifelong marriage in which sexual attraction does not quickly wane, should'nt society move toward an acceptance of older male suitor's?
Acceptance of moderate age difference has been hard to find at coeducational institutions. Young people, naturally influenced by the environment in which they are placed, feel safer and more natural with friends their own age, having been educated for years with their age group, and they care a great deal about what their friends think. Seniors and graduates are embarrased about their attraction to freshmen girls. Potential couples try to tell themselves and others that they are "just friends."
Parents who themselves where raised in a coeducation culture find themselves resistant to older suitors. But in light of earlier traditions where a ten to 15 year age difference was common, should parents object to the attraction of late twenties unmarried men to their late teens daughter? A ten year difference in age- is that objectionable? With marriages in older cultures, such as Joseph and Mary in the New Testament, it was probably a 15 year difference, the typical age difference of that time and culture.
Whatever age difference is decided as best for the average, our culture needs a makeover in many aspects of its thinking and habits. Strong cultural concepts are needed to create stronger marriages than what we now have. These must come through the parents more than through educational institutions and the mass media. Sex drives must be channeled honorably and happily, and pride must be channeled through cultural influences, for the safety of young women, the proper matchmaking of future couples, and the happiness and economic security of the children they will bring into the world.
Families should channel their influence and economic resourses into preparing their sons so that they can attract, keep, and support future wives financially and emotionally. The male should be trained. This takes money and time. Males should not marry until they are a bit older and have a good job and some money saved.
Each family should be putting away money for the empowerment of their sons or daughters' future marriage. Parents ought not to think only of their selfish retirements, leaving their children money only at the last gasp, giving what remains in their will. Young people need their parents help sooner, when they are proving themselves ready for marriage. Marriage costs alot. Think of it as a loan. If the parents give to the marriage what they can, then it is only right that the children are culturally trained to give to their parent's retirement age what they can.
The young man's parents ought to pay for his professional education and/or establishment in a trade or business; the girl's family ought to provide a "dowery"- perhaps a down payment on the young family's new home.
The young man's parents pay for his education or training. The girl's parents pay for her dowery. The young man's savings also contribute to the marriage, so that he is able to pay for his wife's education after at least two children are at least past the toddler stage.
These are general suggestions; the families together can work out these things. That is why, if we are to have an economic strong base for marriage and realistic hopes by the couple, we must have the parents of the young people planning in the earliest stages, even discussing who shall meet whom. The parents have a right to be a bit controlling and protective, scince they are spending this time planning courtship opportunities, and financially preparing for their adolescent sons' training and their daughters' dowery. They have a right to guide them with a strong hand for a time, without shaming by the larger society.
Men should generally marry in their late twenties or early thirties generally. Girls should often be married in their late teens. The money that families are spending on their daughter's college education should more often be going into marriage, providing substantial doweries to empower the young family. Fathers should be seeking out good suitors for their daughters, either by chaperoned parties, or by meetings arranged with other families. A young man should not be too forward with a girl he has just met; he should ask his parents to contact the girl's parents and arrange a time when they can meet. This will respect the girl's need for safety and protection.
A man should marry a girl about ten or fifteen years younger than himself. If this were the general practice, it would provide strong motivation for a man's labor. Men would be more encouraged to work for their families and would be more faithful to their wives.
Discouraged and demotivated men are the sign of the weakening of a culture. Such men are easily exploited by distractions. Work becomes less important to them than entertainment and escape. They waste money trying to deceive themselves and impress others.
Postponed marriage is great for the entertainment industry. Young people place great emotional reliance on the escape mechanisms of commercial youth culture, because they don't see the older culture taking seriously its duty to prepare them for marriage, careers and living arrangements.
Women's best time to give birth is between 17 and 23. "They pop them out like peas from a pod," said one midwife. Let us encourage women to generally hold off on thier other interests until after marriage. After their children are more grown, women can obtain great cultural honor in the workplace.
Men's attraction to younger women, so overwhelmingly typical for the greater part of their active sexual lives, should be taken into account from the start of a marriage. We as a culture must admit to the truth about the tension that similar age marriages bring to the male over time in a marriage.
On the other hand, marriage to an older man costs something for the woman, and so society as a whole has to think this through, men and women, younger and older, together discussing candidly what age difference is a fair comprimise on the whole for men and women in marriages in the future, and how to encourage the agreed on age difference to become the norm or average, for the general good.
Older men should counsel younger men to choose a younger mate that they will be attracted to permanently, scince older men know what it is like to make the long journey. Boys and young men should not be playing the field with girls their own age that they meet at high school, college and at work. Really, it is not even fair for young men in the long run to be forced to be around young women very much at that critcal "initiation" point of their careers. The men should not be plagued with too many such distractions until they are economically and emotionally ready for marriage responsibilities.
Perhaps some institutions of learning and some workplaces could agree that young men in their early twenties should be shielded from too much torturous contact with young attractive women. This would help them stay focused on their careers during their early twenties. This "initiation period" might be a few years after they get out of school and begin to work. They ought to be working very hard during that time, rather than chasing illusions and partying with same-age girls. A manly work culture would provide plenty of comraderie and emotional support.
When the young man is working hard and his value as a provider is visible to the community, let families present their teenage daughers for him to choose from. While he continues working hard, let him have something to work for. Let him see a sixteen year old girl blossom into a woman before his eyes, and then let him marry her at eighteen. The young man's family has provided for his education. Let the girl's family provide for her marriage, giving a dowery to give the young couple a jump start. Marriages often break up today because of financial difficulty.
The sometimes wishy-washy "romantic" interludes of same-age couples often result in break-ups and wasted emotional energy. So then, let's not waste young people's time. Get the families involved. Plan parties. Get the girls to "strut their stuff" for older, proven serious guys, in a chaperoned, community-visible, morally accountable environment. There is nothing degrading about the man's sexual attraction to the nubile female form, accept when this natural function is placed elsewhere than for the purpose of moving toward marriage in a sincere expression of love and commitment.
We see 17 year old Brittany Spears strut her stuff, not for marriagable young men in a chaperoned party, but for the mass comercialization of her beauty. These powerful attractions are comercialized. This is not fair or effective culturally; it is not what beauty was primarily meant to do. Such images over time prevail over men; they disipate their sexual focus and strength through fantasy and masterbation. These images are sold for the economic exploitation of men's distractability. Young men are led away from focusing their energies on getting the real thing in the right way and the right time with the right person.
Let us help men by training them in all-male schools or all-male work apprenticeship situations whenever possible. Only after this "initiation" period, let the "party" begin. Bring on the girls. Bring the undeniable power and cultural strength of the blossoming young woman. Present their beauty at the time when the young man's sublimation toward his career is difficult, when a reward for his labor is needed in order to go on happily.
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Ideally, a young woman should be at home or near home until she is twenty. She may continue studies or do work while living at home, while her father finds suitors for her and the suitors that magically appear are screened by the father. If a young woman is not courted or doesn't take to the wooing of her suitors by age 20, then let the father begin to relax his efforts to provide her with suitors, and let him grant her mobility to pursue further education outside her father's home if she wishes. Let the father regard her as now old enough to handle suitors without her father's protective screening. Leaving home, she is under the protection of the larger society, such as that protection is.
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The last five years of a girl's teenage life should be regarded as the time for her parents to set her up with suitors and a dowery for marriage. If she refuses her suitors, then let her parents send her into the workforce or off to college. They can loosen their restrictive protection and lessen their efforts to provide her with suitors as thier daughter approaches twenty years of age. It should be more the exception than the rule that eighteen year old girls leave their parents to go off to coed "party" schools. It should be less the norm than it is, in view of the general good of men and women and of the culture.
Too many young people, male and female are competing for high positions through higher education. The benefits of college education have a point of diminishing returns when too many young people are pursuing it with unrealistic expectations either of finding sucess in careers or in relationships with the opposite sex.
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There will always be exceptional people who transcend cultural norms. The culture as a whole needs to have a sense of the general good, however, and not promote undue ambition that is unrealistic and foolish. Too many today are trying to be a big shot, and are encouraged, yea, exploited in this desire. Prevelant ambition is easily exploited. Many "pyramid schemes" prevail in such a cultural climate. Many are disappointed, and their energies and desires are exploited and disipated.
And what about girls marrying young into the working class culture? That's not always so bad. Better to live in a trailer and have love, than to go off to college, gain a hype-degree, and then possibly still end up in a trailer- older and without love. But girls who marry young often do so ignorantly or rebelliously, without parental counsel, and without sufficient parental or spousal financial support. A young man in the working class culture will have skipped college and spent that time working hard for a few years. If he is a bit older than the young girl, he should, if he is wise, have some money saved up, and if both sets of parents can help just a little, I think it can work out wonderfully for the couple. Such marriages need the blessing of both sets of parents, that is, whatever financial help they can give, whatever help they can give in time with watching the kids, and whatever help they can give with advice, loans at no interest, and so on.
Let mothers be content when their daughters marry men in their own class and culture. Let them support the work ethic and pride of that sector of society. Let not scores of women abandon their culture and discourage their men.
Let young women be content to marry men somewhat older who have some money saved. At 17 years age, many young women are much more responsible than our present culture admits, but they will need their parents guidance and financial support. Shouldn't parents reward a stable marriage, more than college coed shenanigans? The girl's husband will have been saving money; he can help with her education after she is married. If a girl marries a fella who sublimated his sexual drives when he was 18 and older, and focused his energies on education and/or work, in order to prepare for marriage, then let her agree to the fairness of sublimating some of her intellectual interests temporarily. The conflict for women between career and marriage is better worked out in this way. Child-rearing can be somewhat coordinated with part time work or studies, or the young bride could take courses at a school nearby. With present technology such a bride could obtain degrees from some colleges on the internet while still keeping an eye on young children. At this point, in the prime of her youthful beauty and of her husband's sexual need, I would discourage her from being so ambitious as to go to school far away from her husband or for her to insist that he go with her and uproot financial investments; by this time the young couple should have made a down payment on a home and the husband's career should be in progress.
The noble woman described by Solomon is an older woman who works hard for her family, providing extra income, ideally working from her home and selling her goods abroad. Her husband and her children honor her. Older women who married young are free of child rearing responsibilites sooner. By the age of 25 or 30 they are freer to enter the workforce more ambitiously and with less guilt feelings than women who postponed marriage and had children after their careers were established. There are no hard and fast rules about this, only natural differences in the opportunies of different ages of a woman's life and in the age of her children.
Let the father have increasing influence on his children as they mature, so that as the woman increases her efforts in the workplace, the man relaxes his work a little, and focuses on his children in their teens. The gift of male leadership in the family ensures the passing on of cultural mores. Let fathers take up their responsibility to protect their daughters, and not be ashamed of their authority to "give (their) daughters in marriage". Let society as a whole channel the energies and ambitions of men in their twenties, guiding them with a strong hand, and highly regarding their potential for the future honor and strength of the culture. Let society realize the truth about fatherhood and accept the father's right to guide his son, as this is only right in that he must also empower him, either paying for his education or else helping with a down payment on his home. The father empowers his son with some of his "glory" such as will woo a girl and gain the approval of her family and community.
O parents, put your best efforts into what is best for the future sexual pleasure, emotional health, and financial security of your children! Children, honor your parents!
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1. The Culture of Fornication
2. The Economics of Culture
3. The Economics of Marriage
4. Age Difference
Let's Build a Community!
St. Pius counsels age difference