Friday, February 24, 2006

In Sweden, All Romance is Teen Romance

Deborah Tannen, in I Only Say This Because I Love You, tells the story of a Swedish couple talking with their daughter about how she should and should not spend time with her boyfriend. The daughter wants to have an adult romance with her boyfriend. Her mom wants their meetings to be like a play date among children. Tannen tells this story as an illustration of the clash of parental and teenage frameworks for the same activity.

What strikes me about this story, though is that the Swedish mom can’t contrast casual dating with the marriage narrative, because Sweden doesn’t have a marriage narrative anymore. In the way that has become normal these days in Sweden, the parents are not married. Their daughter is 14 and her boyfriend is 17.

The mother and her boyfriend hung out, had sex, had kids, moved in together, all of which was supported by the state. If they broke up, little in their lives would change materially or socially. There was no marriage that they entered into on purpose and before the world that made them one flesh, and there would be no divorce to sever that tie.

The daughter wants to do the same thing. The parents can't say "wait until you are ready for marriage," or even "wait until you can support a family," because there is no normal marriage narrative either way, and there is a normal state support narrative either way.

In Sweden, without marriage teen romance and adult mating are becoming the same.


Anonymous said...

Im 21 yers old, in sweden and i an woman. yes i live whit my boyfrend and yes we have had sex. no we probobly wont marry but ?continju? to live together. my boyfrend is not cristian. you now its not supose to be the fakt that you ar married that hold you together its the love, angament to one another and of corse hard work and love. long time ago marrige vas praktikal and not done by love, had nothing to do with God, more with the churth and money and hirarki.
to understand me you can read
1 kor 7:12-16
1 kor 7:25-40

not every one is like you wrote my parents ar not devorsed and not my boyfrends, its not commen for junger pursons to have children, and the fainansial "suport" is taxes we all agreed to pay, we also pay for edukation hospitals and for the old to have good life even if they dont have famelys to suport them. the children suld not be held rsponsible for ther parents aktions.

Gruntled said...

Emma, I thank you for that first-hand report. I think what you say supports my argument -- there is no longer a marriage narrative in Sweden.

I am not sure what you meant by the references to 1 Corinthians. When Paul urges unmarried people not to marry "in the present crisis," he surely did not mean that they should cohabit instead.

Aaron B. Brown said...

Perhaps the Swedes are proving what many have come to believe these days... that marriage is passé.

The institution which was once perhaps necessary for the creation of stable human communities, has now outlived its usefulness, and in the final analysis creates more problems than it solves in the modern world.

Next up religion.


Gruntled said...

Rich people in stable societies with few external threats seem best able to do without marriage or religion (at least as long as they don't get sick). That is to say, Sweden, and the parts of NATO and Japan that are like Sweden. I just don't see the rest of the world, or even the rest of America, enjoying that kind of worldly security.

Héctor said...

Congratulations for your blog.

First i want to apologize because i´m spanish and i speak english very bad.

Your analysis is very great. You have made a good job.

I study sociology and your blog is very interesting for me.

See you!