Modern Marriage: The Teenage Dilemma
3. Infantilization and the Myth of Youthful Innocence
An additional reason for marriage is due to a disturbing disparity between the ages of social and physical maturity.
In the state where I live, a person is not legally permitted to apply for most jobs until the age of 16, with a very small selection of jobs permitted to 14 and 15 year olds. The political system does not consider someone a person until they reach the age of 18. A person cannot make legal decisions for him or herself until the age of 19. In some states this is as high as 21. And large portions of the establishment will continue to refer to a person as a "kid", etc., until they are in their mid-thirties.
Contrast this to the fact that puberty generally takes place between the ages of nine to fourteen for girls and ten to seventeen for boys. So it is often even before the teen years that youths begin to be flooded with hormones, which invoke powerful sexual urges, etc. Sexual appetite generally reaches its peak somewhere in the late teens.
These biological facts are at odds with the facts of social practice today. Marriages typically occur much later in life - statistically in the very-late twenties. This is because it has become expected that the husband and wife be more or less self-sufficient and "established" enough to provide for a new family unit before they marry.
Now, that is all well and good economically speaking. I myself have chosen to follow this model for economic reasons. But late in the game, I realize that this is not the optimal model for marriage.
Consider this. By the late twenties, both the male and female are well past their sexual peak...on a definite decline in both physical attractiveness as well as appetite. Their "best years" have already passed. If they have saved themselves for each other, then they have essentially allowed the beautiful gift God gave them (to give to their spouse) to go to waste. If they did not...worse...then they have squandered the best part of that beautiful gift on others and left the moldy leftovers for their spouse - and the memories left to be made with their spouse will be lessened. That's speaking in terms of sex, of course.
The traditional and biblical model for marriage was authored for a society in which marriages occurred much earlier in life. In some cases, before puberty! YES, they married when they were still (by today's standards) children, and grew up together (either still living in their respective parents homes, or in the home of the husband or wife's parents), went through adolescence as a couple.
Not such a bad idea, in my opinion. It seems there would be a strong, powerful bond that could grow out of such a joined experience. God certainly seemed to think it was a good thing - the Bible was very protective of it in the exhortations to young men about "the wife of your youth".
In contrast to this, today our moral leaders teach our youth that sex is only acceptable in marriage (correct) and counsel our "youngsters" that they shouldn't get married "too young" for fear that they are not mature enough. In effect, they condemn these desperate, hormone-crazed sexual adults to "wait". "True love waits." FOR YEARS!!! In fact, they are expected to wait until the optimal (physical) window for that amazing and powerful event called "consummation" has long passed...and then finally do it when he doesn't want it quite as bad he used to, and she isn't nearly as hot as she used to be.
We wonder why pre-marital sex is the norm in our society? I'll tell you why. It's because we refuse to acknowledge the facts of biology. Children grow up physically/sexually in their early teens - well before they are usually emotionally mature. By using that fact against them, parents rob children of the chance to grow up emotionally with their spouse. As a result, they share that traumatic experience primarily with their parents, as prisoners locked away from the proper remedy for their turmoil.
The resentment from this treatment absolutely natural and well-deserved, it amounts to essentially stomping all over a biological function God created by prohibiting (or delaying) the legitimate purpose it was created for. Parents may cite Ephesians 6:1 all they wish as authority, but they must not forget the following verse - it's a two-way relationship (much like marriage, actually).
There's only so much that preaching and guilt-tripping can do when "the way of escape" God promises to provide has been so effectively blocked off by a society of over-protective parents who still want to believe their young adult is still a child.
I suspect most parents feel threatened by the fact that their sons wife or their daughters husband will suddenly replace them as the most important figure in his/her life?
If you're a parent, guess what? That's exactly how it's supposed to happen. And sooner, rather than later. If your child is old enough to want a boyfriend or a girlfriend...your godly duty is to channel that desire for sex into its proper outlet - the search for a lifetime mate.
4. Liquid Relationships and the Dating Culture
Last year at Manchester University, i researched and wrote a paper exploring the way the nature of relationships has changed with the advent of globalization. In my research, I found that a word has been coined that is used by sociologists to describe it. "Liquidity"
In an interview published in The Future of Social Theory Bauman comments on how the transformation of a formerly solid (structured and routinized) society into a liquid (transient and constantly changing) one has effected the way in which the former “solid” concept of “relationship” has been replaced with the more temporary process of relating. (Future of Social Theory: 22) The commercial attitude of “shopping around” for goods seems to have invaded the world of romance, and in Liquid Love Bauman explores this innovation with little affection, describing the modern form of love as “fragile and emaciated, haunted by the ambivalence that there might be someone better to ‘invest your time in’ just around the corner.” (Radice 2004: 2)
The modern practice of finding a "significant other" as a temporary source of companionship is learned at a very young age. Consider the modern junior high school. This maelstrom of relationships is an abyss of liquidity that defies most adult observation - merely keeping track of who is speaking with whom, and who is "going out" with whom is a full time job.
The practice of acquiring a "boyfriend" or "girlfriend" is, of course, both a learned trait and an unfortunate side-effect of the gap in sexual/social maturity I discussed in the last section. The need for a "significant other" is most definitely there at a young age. Unfortunately adults fail to channel this desire towards the pursuit of a meaningful permanent relationship until much later. Instead, in order to avoid that unwanted outcome, parents and teachers encourage the relationships that form to be treated as temporary and relatively unimportant.
This attitude survives into adulthood, of course. The sudden switch of moral leaders from "don't get too close, don't let a temporary romantic feeling ruin your future" to "now be faithful to your spouse" somewhere around the mid-twenties is most incongruous.
After nearly ten years of being socialized to view relationships as temporary, and preferably of a casual character more akin to friendship, of course this attitude prevails! The result is that the actual inclination and capability to commit to a truly stable, permanent relationship often does not resolve itself until some ten more years of this new message being preached have passed!
We wonder why men have committment issues? There it is in a nutshell - their parents, teachers, and pastors teach them to have committment problems from the first onset of puberty. Disturbing, no?
Consider this. My 15 year old sister, who has a very sweet and loving Christian spirit, has gone through at least three hugely dramatic breakups in the last year alone. I'd say she now qualifies as an expert on ending a relationship. By the time she gets married around the age of 20, lets say, we could project some 10-15 more guys that she may meet, give her heart to, and either break their heart, have her heart broken, or part amicably because they "dont work out".
The same is true of the overwhelmingly vast majority of boys and girls in America today. By the time they get married, they'll all be old pros at ending relationships that are no longer enjoyable to them anymore.
What would you say their future spouses' chances are about a year after, when they suddenly discover they aren't the "match made in heaven" they envisioned on their wedding night?