Don’t Be Shamed into Marriage

shotgun-weddingWhile many women bemoan the lack of good men, traditional conservatives are attempting to shame men into marriage. Case in point, the Blaze article Dear Millennial Men, Don’t Be Afraid of Marriage And Fatherhood by Matt Walsh. Even the title attempts to impugn men as fearful, recalling the old childhood tactic: “what, are you scared?”. Let’s examine his arguments.

Childhood ended and manhood began precisely when I became a husband and then a father.

While I understand this can be the case, it isn’t something to be proud of. The transition to adulthood is meant to be one of dependence to independence. Unless one lives as an adult unmarried, at least for a short time, they are likely entering married life, which requires them to become interdependent to be successful, before they are ready.

I walk through life as a man, feeling like a man, because I have a wife to love, children to raise, … and a family to provide for and protect.

While there is nothing wrong with having your marriage and your family be the inspiration of your life, there is no reason that they need to be the only inspiration, nor is there anything wrong with having something else, such as art or business, be your sole inspiration.

That’s why it pains me to see what’s happening in my generation — how so many of us men are so deathly afraid of marriage and fatherhood. Young men these days desperately hang onto their adolescence, unwilling to grow up and graduate to the next stage of their lives. Record numbers are living at home. Millions supposedly can’t find jobs and can’t support themselves.

The claim that young men are immature because they are afraid of marriage and fatherhood is baseless. The next stage of a young man’s life is to become independent of his parents. Why are so many men failing to do so? Could it because jobs actually are hard to find? Could it be that they lack motivation to want to become independent?

On average we’re waiting almost until our 30s to get married, and a large number will never get married or have kids at all. Of course, we’ll still move in with women, and maybe procreate with them, but we’re often satisfied just to have a glorified roommate, not a wife. We substitute marriage with “living together” because cohabitation gives us all the selfish perks (less loneliness, more sex) but none of the petrifying commitment, responsibility and sacrifice that comes with forming a family fortified by the covenant of marriage.

Again, the claim that the reason for these changes is due to men being petrified of commitment is baseless. This smacks of a blatant attempt by the author to shame men who decide against adopting the traditional lifestyle.

But love that avoids commitment and sacrifice is no love at all… As men, we either give ourselves entirely to the women we love, or not at all. Increasingly, we seem to be choosing the latter. We turn away from marriage but grasp for some pale reflection of its joys. We don’t want to be family men, but neither do we want to be celibate and single.  We don’t want to give, in other words, but we won’t hesitate to take.

The statement that men must give themselves entirely to the women they love or not at all is absurd. A man who is willing to give up his individuality and completely subsume his life to the whims of his wife is no man.  What is wrong with not wanting to be a family man, but still wanting to have relationships with women? Why is marriage the only way to give, and why is having an unmarried relationship with a woman taking?

In our fear we’ve become stagnate, and in our stagnation we’ve lost focus and ambition. That, I believe, is the disease that plagues our generation more than anything.

Again, claiming that fear is the motive for men who don’t want to marry, that doing so is “stagnation”, and that only married men have focus and ambition is complete bullshit. The author then calls being unmarried a disease. This is shaming.

Often it seems they have no direction; no sense of who they are, why they’re here, and what they’re supposed to be doing with their lives. Depression rates are soaring in our ranks, not just because of the diseasification of every difficult human emotion, but because we have no ambition, no overarching goal or motivation. We’re running in place, terrified of what we’ll encounter if we progress down the road a bit.

I agree that many people today are lacking in direction and are depressed. Yet this can be said of many who are married and who have children. While marriage and children can give life some meaning, they are not the be all and end all. Progressing down the road to marriage and family before you find your own purpose and ambition in life is actually putting the cart before the horse, if you are a person who will not be content to merely be a family man.

Look, I realize there are other elements to this. Yes, of course I know some men are truly not called to this vocation. But the men who are meant to be single or childless for a while, or permanently, are still meant to sacrifice themselves and live devoted to another. To be fathers, essentially, in another sense.

Why must men sacrifice themselves and live devoted to others? Art, science, creating a great company, even serving in government, all seem fine vocations to devote oneself to.

Some men will find the Other in religious life, or military service, or something else. These are noble, fatherly callings. The young men pouring themselves into these causes are certainly very mature, masculine, and selfless. I admire those men. But I’m sure you’d agree they are the exception, not the rule. Let’s be real: most of the guys our age aren’t shirking marriage because they’ve dedicated themselves to celibate lives of benevolent and humble service to God or country.

One can be devoted to religion or military service without being celibate. The fact that the author chooses these vocations, rather than the arts, science, or business, as his only “virtuous callings” is telling.

Our women, poisoned by feminism and materialism, often choose to be frivolous, self-centered, and self-seeking in the extreme. Our society celebrates whorish, vulgar, cowardly, violent qualities in women, and many have taken that to heart. Some women today have no problem expressing hatred towards men and children, even killing their babies and bragging about it publicly.

Our society also puts enormous pressure on women to work. If a woman dedicates years of her life to mastering a discipline, she may justifiably resent the idea of giving up her career to start a family. While I agree that feminism may need to take some of the blame for pushing women to value career over family, corporate greed has something to do with it as well.

Meanwhile, as men take heat (rightly so, in my mind) for being fixated on toys and comic book characters invented to appeal to 12 year olds, women generally get off the hook for their own juvenile, ridiculous affection for adolescent pop music and trashy romance novels. Indeed, there are plenty of immature, resentful, selfish, immodest, anti-maternal women out there, and I know that makes it harder for the men who do wish to become husbands and fathers.

Smearing comic books as appealing to children shows the author’s ignorance of the genre. Graphic novels are a legitimate art form. Next, he will start slagging Homer because his great epic was made into a Brad Pitt movie. There is nothing wrong with men (and women) having hobbies, enjoying any kind of music, and especially reading. Equating lack of desire to become a mother to immaturity in women is exactly the same as saying maturity in men is achieved only by marriage and family.

We’re men; we’re supposed to be the leaders. We’re supposed to take the reins, not just in our families, but in society as a whole. Sure, feminism has made many in our culture hostile to masculine, assertive men, but that doesn’t mean we should just surrender and take a back seat.

Marriage is supposed to be an interdependent partnership. I agree that men should not surrender or take the back seat, but if they see no chance of achieving a fair partnership in marriage, why shouldn’t they follow other pursuits? Each person should be free to pursue his own happiness.

In truth, even most of these deluded feminists still fiercely and quietly yearn for a man who will come into their lives and be that protector and leader. These roles are natural and ingrained, fundamentally desirable to almost everyone, and it’s up to us to reassert them. Nobody will do it for us.

This seems completely false. While most feminists may indeed want men in their lives, they are hardly looking for someone to lead them. The great thing about being conscious beings is that we are able to overcome instinctual behaviors. If men’s fundamental desires aren’t leading to happiness, they can choose another path, as can women.

Men are right to hate modern feminism with a raw and fiery passion, but they aren’t right to slink away to their basements and throw up the white flag. They aren’t right to devolve back into adolescence and blame that decision on environmental factors. Regardless of feminism or “the system” or whatever, we have to go on being men.

Again, the author is implying that anyone who is not marrying is giving up and is not a real man.

So I’m here to tell you don’t be afraid of marriage and fatherhood. Only 50 years ago, men were getting married and starting families at the age of 22. Today we’re waiting until we’re practically middle aged. And what greater cause are we pursuing during that time? Usually, the answer is nothing. We’re watching a lot of Netflix and playing a lot of video games, but that’s not enough.

50 years ago, far fewer marriages ended in divorce. 50 years ago, laws where more equitable. 50 years ago, the party at fault in the marriage got nothing in a divorce. Now, the party initiating the divorce, which is far more commonly the woman, gets half of the assets and alimony payments in future. Rather than shaming men, traditionalists should ask themselves how they allowed this to happen. The laws that their elected representatives enacted have made marriage far less attractive to men. Is it any wonder that they are waiting?

Marriage and family should be the bedrock, the birth, the foundation of adulthood, because it rips you out of that cycle of self-involvement.

But if the institution of marriage has been corrupted, you will see cracks in the foundation, and, lo and behold, you are. Is it any wonder men are turning to other avocations?

This is what I try to explain to my single friends who are single mostly because marriage makes them nervous. Sure, it can be a challenging vocation — life is challenge. But we find truth and joy in overcoming it, not avoiding it. And yes, parenthood can drain and exhaust you, but it also infuses you with a strength and energy you didn’t know you had. Most of all, in family there is love. For me, the love found in family has been all encompassing, fulfilling, affirming, and transformative. It is what turned me from a boy into a man. I believe all men search for this kind of love.

Tell this to a man who has had his family ripped from him by divorce, which is now close to half of all married men. With those kind of odds, shame on you for shaming men who choose not to marry.

Traditional conservatives think that ignoring the changes that have been wrought to the institution of marriage since the sixties and then using shaming tactics to force men to marry is somehow righteous. If they want more men to marry, they should focus on the real reasons men are avoiding the institution. Until marriage is made equitable once more, I expect the trend among men to avoiding it to continue to strengthen. I don’t think calling them “chicken” is going to work.

NOTE: I am married and have three children. Marriage and raising a family have indeed been rewarding experiences for me. If you want to marry, do your best to make sure you have found the right person, and then by all means, go for it. Expect to work at it, and I wish you luck beating the odds on divorce. But, if you choose not to marry, that is your business. Do your best to be a good person and live a good life, no matter what path you choose.

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About jimbelton

I'm a software developer, and a writer of both fiction and non-fiction, and I blog about movies, books, and philosophy. My interest in religious philosophy and the search for the truth inspires much of my writing.
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