Wednesday, January 16, 2013

"The End of Courtship?" is Really About The Subculture of Courtship Incompetents

The New York Times has a story that those of us in the pro-marriage business are obliged to read.  It is a popular theme in upper-middle class publications that hope to attract young adult readers: courtship is impossible now because men are incompetent and/or women are incomprehensible. She wants a traditional date, but he only wants to hang out in a group.  He tries to be traditional and romantic, but she attacks his macho presumption.  And they don't have enough money for courtship.  And Facebook Ruins Everything.

I think the good news is that the extreme incompetence that such stories highlight is not universal, but is the kind of anecdote that makes a good hook - the sort of stuff that forms the core of most stand-up comedy.

I think the core of the problem is that there are two groups here, working at cross-purposes.  One group wants a game with sex; the other wants a clear path to marriage.  Most of the players in the first group are men, and most of the players in the second group are women.  Clearly, though, there are overlaps - which adds to the confusion.

One of the core features of dysfunctional relationships is unclear communication.  Therefore,  I think our best hope in ending the "end of courtship" story is to say clearly which game - that is, which kind of social relationship - you are seeking.  To that end, by the authority vested in me by having a blog, I offer three pieces of advice:

1) Figure out what you want, say so, and stick to it.  Ambivalence kills.

2) The earlier sex comes into a relationship, the less likely it is to last.  Women control sex - this is just a basic, asymmetrical fact - so if you want marriage, don't allow sex early.

3) Use social media to your advantage.  If you want a traditional courtship leading to marriage, spell it out.  If you just want to hang out and not get serious, say that, too.  And whichever side of that divide you are on, Don't Go Out With the Other Kind.  Period.

Following these simple rules are more likely to keep the two games separated, and to get you want you want.

11 comments:

John said...

Your link is pointing to a TED talk instead of a NYTimes article. Not sure which is correct.

MMMSecret said...

Assuming that the number of women looking for the "traditional courtship leading to marriage" type of relationship is higher than the number of men in that category (which you seem to posit) and if single folks are only to date those interested in the same kind of relationship as they are, does that not necessitate that a certain number of women are dooming themselves to not have any relationship at all, if they follow your advice?

Beatrice123 said...

Sister wives...

MMMSecret said...

Lol Beatrice!

gruntled said...

John - Eep! Thanks for catching erroneous link. The TED talk is for a class.

gruntled said...

MMM: Most men grow up. And the clearer it is that women are more likely to want marriage than endless hookups, the quicker the men are likely to change track.

Anonymous said...

As a geeky nice guy I have found that girls tend to be a little shallow and go for the bad boy type...

gruntled said...

Anonymous: most women grow up, to.

John said...

There's a period of time when the opposite sex becomes icky toward the tail end of elementary school. This may be because girls mature a little faster than boys. At any rate, this separation seems to allow for a new way to relate to one another.

It seems like we need a new separation ritual that gets us away from the hang out culture to one aimed at pair-bonding and marriage.

People frequently find the Amish practice of rumschlag amusing and quaint, but it provides a hard decision point. I'm not sure going away to college is materially different from rumschlag. We just don't get to a point of looking at each other differently.

gruntled said...

John:

I agree that courtship would be done better if we could make a clear distinction between two pools - the marriage-seeking and the ambiguous-relationship seeking. I don't know how to make a clear decision point or ritual, but I do think that we could create clearly differentiated institutions and statuses.

John said...

Another option is becoming celibate after college or your around the world trip or insert-your-favorite-sowing-wild-oats-period-here. I'm no endocrinologist, but I suspect your Oxytocin levels drop after sequences of partners and you lose the ability to fall deeply in love and bond. Said another way, we may have too much eros not enough agape.