A while back I was checking out a rental car at the Nashville airport. I was on business so I was paying with my business credit card. The young lady at the counter looked at the credit card and asked me what kind of business this was, so, I explained to her that I work with marriages.
Her eyes grew wide. She didn’t utter a word, but fairly shouted with her look: Ah hah! At last, someone credible who can confirm that I’m right in my debate with my relative/friend/co-worker/significant other.
Sure enough, she said, “So, let me ask you a question. What do you think about people living together before marriage?
From that point, I could have written the script. I have an elevator speech for many such topics, and wasn’t three words in when she interrupted: “Tina! Come listen to this guy. He’s a marriage expert. I just asked him what he thought about living together.”
Tina, her co-worker, sidled down the counter and stood with her arms crossed, while a familiar-looking wave of emotions – curiosity? skepticism? hope? – flashed across her face.
Me: “Let me guess. You’re both living with someone, but you’re not married.”
They nodded in unison.
“And your parents are telling you it’s wrong.”
Me: “Okay, without getting into the moral question, there’s a lot of data on the topic. And the scales just don’t tip in your favor.”
The first young lady spoke: “But that doesn’t make sense. You wouldn’t buy a car without taking it for a test drive. Why would you make a lifelong commitment to marriage without really knowing what it’s like living together?”
I didn’t have the time, nor did I think I would have changed their made-up-minds in the moment, so I simply replied, “You should google the research on the subject. You will be very surprised!”
In my experience, this example is indicative of the vast majority of our culture. It’s not that people don’t want to do relationships in a healthy way. People just assume that the cultural norm is intellectually and scientifically superior to all the ways of the past. Instead of keeping what is good from past ways and culling out what is not, we have thrown the baby out with the bath water. We believe that the new mindset and practices are the result of moving toward greater enlightenment.
At the same time, I am not an advocate for “going back to the old ways”. Many of the old ways were wrong. For example, it is good that we get away from practicing the sexism of our forefathers. However, much of our “moving forward” is not based on truth, as many would like to believe. A great deal of the way our culture goes about coupling is, at best, making assumptions that are vaguely correlated with empirical evidence and, more often, harmful concepts that have gained credibility simply because so many people are doing them. On the other hand, most of the voices that attempt to counter these harmful practices end up sounding more like irrational fear or clinging to tradition for the sake of tradition. The result is an increasing polarity of two opposing camps that are both losing out because of the blindness that is so often the result of efforts to discredit the other side, instead of trying to learn.
My hope is that this space will become part of a growing voice that actually wants what is best for us.
So, please engage in the conversation! But, please don’t use this space for ranting or vilifying others.