Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably know the name Kate Middleton. She and Prince William plan to wed on April 29, 2011. Statistically speaking, the couple’s future looks bleak: they’ve been shacking up for years; his parents suffered a nasty divorce; and neither will live a normal, everyday life. Being in the spotlight, with all that power and pressure, is a recipe for disaster.
I don’t mean to sound fatalistic. Naturally, I wish them well. But Kate Middleton and Prince William make a great case study of modern marriage. Fame aside, they represent a glimpse into young love and the future of marriage.
But is it true what Time magazine reported last week: is marriage becoming extinct? What is marriage really about? Has its meaning changed?
Not by a long shot. Marriage continues to be revered by most Americans, reservations notwithstanding. That’s because it’s natural to want to be married (though somewhat unnatural to be married, I admit, and therein lies the conundrum). This is particularly true if you’re female. I have a daughter, age 10, and a son, age 7. Marriage is not on my son’s radar screen. Not only has he never dressed up as a groom, he’s unlikely to ever fantasize about being married. My daughter, on the other hand, has both fantasized about her future marriage and dressed up like a bride.
As politically incorrect as it may be to admit, females are the driving force behind the institution of marriage: they either lead men to it — or they don’t.
‘Without a durable relationship with a woman, a man’s sexual life is a series of brief and temporary exchanges. With love, sex becomes refined by selectivity. The man himself is refined, and his sexuality becomes not a mere impulse but a commitment in society,’ wrote George Gilder in Men and Marriage.
So how do we prepare young people, women in particular, for marriage? There are two ways: the culture can foster it, and parents can model what a good marriage looks like — or at the very least teach their kids what they need to know. Unfortunately, we have failed at this task. The culture’s mores have declined considerably, and parents have dropped the ball.
But in the end it comes down to poor role modeling. Most of the parents of the modern generation are baby boomers who have been at the forefront of the divorce revolution — they’ve spent years hailing its supposed liberation. Boomers also have a warped view of parenting: they think that if they’ve failed at something, they’re in no position to offer advice. (The phrase “Do as I say, not as I do” stems from people who’ve learned something the hard way and want to pass on their wisdom…) So they don’t. Instead they leave their children alone to figure things out for themselves. But what’s the point of living and learning, what’s the point of parenting, if not to give direction to the young?
Why not say to young people, “Look, here’s the deal: marriage is nothing like what you’ve been taught to believe. Here’s what you need to know”:
1. A wedding is lovely but irrelevant in the scheme of things.
2. Living with a guy (or gal) will not teach you how to be married; in fact, it lessens your chance of a happy ending.
3. Postponing marriage and motherhood indefinitely, or treating these institutions as an afterthought (as feminism has taught you to do), will cause fertility problems and create other conflicts you don’t need. You can only get out of something what you put into it — so make marriage and motherhood the focus of your life, not the side dish.
4. Divorce should not be considered an option. Assume marriage is not dissolvable, even though it is. Your attitude toward it matters a great deal.
5. Getting married because it’s the next logical step, or because you’ve been together with someone so long you can’t imagine life without him or her, is not a reason to get married.
6. Getting married because you’re in love is not good enough. Love will only take you so far.
The truth is that marriage is a lifelong task — and its primary purpose is procreation. Over time, the rules may change (as the Time article stressed) — but children don’t. Children need two parents who are on the same page most of the time and can weather the storms when things get tough. The goal should not be whether your guy (or gal) makes you feel good. The goal is to find someone who shares your values.
Because as most of us who’ve been married a long time (or even divorced once, as I have) know all too well that in the end, it’s about values. With the same goal and the same values, marriage works — even in this modern age.
Anything less is tenuous.
Suzanne Venker is co-author of the forthcoming book The Flipside of Feminism: What Conservative Women Know – and Men Can’t Say (WND Books). Her website is www.suzannevenker.com.