As the cultural war on marriage continues, barrages of white-hot contempt are released with every new celebrity divorce and Beltway sex scandal. Yet the critics of marriage, those considering it a biological illusion and social imposition because 50% end in failure, don’t take their argument to its obvious and tragic conclusion. While many sociologists and jilted spouses point to prairie voles and your shitzu for evidence that humans aren’t wired for lifelong faithfulness and to think otherwise is ignoring the obvious, they stop short of admitting that we’re little more than highly evolved sluts.
Believing marriage is well on it’s way to becoming the relationship equivalent of a Blackberry, the open-minded have now turned their sites to monogamy claiming sexual fidelity, in general, is abnormal. Yet with all this ridicule against the thought that a man and woman can remain sexually faithful for a lifetime, (the legitimacy of marriage or monogamy is never talked about with homosexual relationships) they continue to uphold relationship commitment, even in serial form, as a great moral necessity.
It seems odd then that commitment retains such a soft spot in the collective conscience. The reason for this seems two-fold. To reject that we are capable of being faithful ever and instead are slaves to sexual novelty would smack on evolution and imply we never really left the caves. But more baffling is the preposterous idea put forth by many that the less formal our romantic relationships are – legally, traditionally, or religiously i.e. marriage – the better those relationships can and will be. Their belief is that absent any formal declaration or theological obligation, relationships are free to naturally ebb and flow without the binding expectations of faith, family, or a judicial decree; making commitment like living together, instead of marriage, the better alternative.
This is supported with phrases like ‘real love shouldn’t have limits’. Which I admit sounds good, if someone must be coerced to stay in a relationship, for fear losing half, can it really be called love? Instead, they say if we just relied on promises and pillow talk we would experience more fulfilling relationships, because of the assurance that our partner is in it by choice not affidavit. This in turn would lead to deeper love, hotter sex, and greater happiness.
But there is a serious flaw with that way of thinking – it gives us far more credit than we deserve. Humans aren’t nearly as virtuous as we think and our characters are corroded by our own self-interests. So when we lower the standard for romantic relationships to that of commitment, because we think it’s seems less complicated and has a better ring to it, we only serve to nurture that selfishness.
You don’t have to look any further than the current debate on income inequality for evidence of this.
According to Census Bureau information, among families headed by two married parents in 2012, just 7.5% lived in poverty. By contrast, when families are headed by a single mother the poverty level jumps to 33.9%.
And the number of children raised in female-headed families is growing throughout America. A 2012 study by the Heritage Foundation found that 28.6% of children born to a white mother were out of wedlock. For Hispanics, the figure was 52.5% and for African-Americans 72.3%.
Did these women willingly choose to bring their child into a world of poverty? Did they purposefully doom their daughters to a life of teen pregnancy and domestic violence and put their sons on the path of drug addiction and prison? Can it be as simple as to say these women are just irresponsible and thoughtless, or is there something more here?
What these numbers are missing, is that for every impoverished mother – and out of wedlock child – struggling to get ahead there is a father; a father who somehow led this woman to believe he was ‘committed’ to her and their relationship. Through his pillow talk promises she became convinced this man, and now father of her child, was in it for more than the good time, and his devotion would endure far beyond the next orgasm or first ‘we need to talk’. But now these 4 million single mothers, and their children, are learning just how exaggerated that commitment was.
I have two daughters and all this leaves me to wonder what I should be doing to show them that pillow talk promises can never be enough and how they must demand far more from a man than afterglow assurances? How should I teach them to see beyond the beautiful roses, sweet texts, and good intentions? How do I impress upon them to notice his character well before his flattering smile? How should I persuade them to look into his heart before getting into his car? And how do I convince them, in a world saying otherwise, that commitment is overrated?