Thursday 5 November 2015

Georgian Men

I have no time to write really but I have one thought about Single life today and it is that in the 18th century young Englishmen men longed to get married and set up household. There was just as much premarital sex then as now, only naturally less among women, which is to say, women who were not prostitutes of one class or another. However, aspiring middle-class men longed to quit (or avoid) all that and just earn enough money to buy a house and get married on. "Domestic felicity" was what they dreamed of, and such domestic felicity made them feel they had grown up and arrived.

So what happened? Feel free to answer in the combox even though moderation will be on until I get back from Polish class. There has been combox weirdness of late, and so the drawbridge is up for the time being.


  1. I think most men still do want to set up house. Most young men still get married. Most young women still get married. The "player" and "hookup" lifestyle prevalence are exaggerated to sell newspapers etc. Some of the top pickup artists are now married. Married men are still viewed by employers, society, etc. as more stable, reliable, and adult. The only difference may be the age at which marriage becomes a priority. The men of my acquaintance above college age all have either wives or long-term girlfriends. Reports of the downfall of monogamy are false heralds.

    1. Not in my part of the world. The men of my acquaintance who are above undergrad age are almost all unmarried and without girlfriends.


  2. Hmm...

    1) sexual revolution happens, making cohabitation (among other things) more acceptable. Young men now spend the first part of their adult lives in "domestic felicity" with nice young women and no one has to risk divorce.

    2) Paradox of choice. more people have access to education, more access to different career choices because of that education (no more farming or apprenticing to your father's trade just because it's your only option in your small town - writing from a USA perspective though, maybe it would be different in other countries once you consider their class systems). Marrying and settling down means closing off many your potential choices not just for romance but for career paths. Having a wife to whom you have to justify your career moves puts a damper on any crazy plans you may have to chuck everything and travel the world for a few years.

    3) everything is (or feels) more expensive and work doesn't pay enough to cover everything when you're first starting out, so everyone takes longer to get from having hobbies like "going to bars for $2 draft beer" to hobbies like "saving for a downpayment". In other words, people these days take so much longer to get to financial adulthood (for lots of reasons, not all our fault) that they spend their time and money enjoying an extended adolescence, not seeing another option.

    Just some thoughts quickly dashed off over lunch. This is a very interesting question. Maybe I'm just describing symptoms and not the cause of the phenomenon but I'll consider it more.

  3. I feel like there was also a lot more pressure in the 1800's (from society, their mothers, sisters etc.) for young men to get married? Nowadays mothers do sometimes, but they definitely aren't getting that from society. And young women certainly can't pressure them to get married.

    Although, it's not always a bad thing.I think a society that encourages marriage is important, but I'm not a fan of pressuring people to settle down with someone just for the sake of getting married.

    I've been reading Georgette Heyer recently and as a little scandalized by the super-casual attitude they had towards mistresses. So, I guess, at least pressuring men into 'suitable' marriages with women that they aren't crazy about and then turning a blind eye to their 'indiscretions' with women they are doesn't happen anymore? Of course, I guess this was mostly the upper classes?

  4. Well, those men in Georgette Heyer are aristocrats and the super-rich. Middle-class men were different. And apparently they really just wanted to make enough money to set up a household and attract a nice woman to marry. See "A Man's Place" if you can access BBC iPlayer.

    1. Darn, I can't access it. It looks interesting, though!!

  5. Where are these $2 beers of which you speak?!?

    I really don't think men are avoiding getting married, especially the men of my generation. Even the seculars have an idea of one day getting married. They are not like the slightly older generation that I'll openly hear rejecting marriage. The problem is threefold. 1. Economy - how can they afford to keep a wife and children when even a DINK situation is not tenable. 2. There is a great amount of idealizing having to 'have it all' before you settle down. Need to own a car, a house, and whatever else before getting married - and also having an 'ideal' wedding too. 3. There's a lot of missing knowledge in what married life looks like - maybe their parents divorced or maybe they have these older marriage-rejecting friends - the mechanics of going from dating, to engaged, to married is not a process they see often enough.
    Of course, I could also mention immaturity, and although it's an argument with merits, I think it gets harped on a bit too much.

  6. What happened?

    Society has lost any concept of sin and of what is right and what is wrong.

    God bless.

  7. Tangentially related: What do you think of this idea?

  8. It's a great article. I think it would be a good idea. If the Church examined people about their relationship before their wedding day anywhere near as vigorously as she does in an annulment process, that would really be something. But maybe she would be accused of paternalism? At any rate, BA and I did the absolute minimum of marriage prep--it was a bit funny--and here we are, snug as bugs in a rug. Of course, we were both over age 35 and had been transformed by God and life into mature adults actually capable of marriage. (I most definitely wasn't grown up until I was 32 or so, which is a sad thing to admit, but alas it is true.)

    1. I can understand the desire to implement much more solid and substantial prenuptial preparation. Don't priests require six years of full-time formation? Even permanent deacons often require 4 years of (very) part-time formation. As a church we probably provide more formation for lectors and altar servers (Ordinary form) than we do for a couple about to join themselves together in holy matrimony. The reason, I think, that official preparation for marriage was so scant in the past was that one was, since birth, already in a program of marriage formation: the family. We learned about marriage through the example of faithful, lifelong, and fruitful love by our parents and extended family. The failures of such commitment were often seen as such. We apprenticed in chastity by being sons or daughters or a brothers or sisters where we learned to love and respect members of the opposite sex outside the context of erotic desire (pace Freud). Now, the family has more or less disintegrated. Even someone who has been lucky enough to be part of a family that has survived somewhat intact is still shell shocked from sexual revolution's half century assault on family as a social institution.

      Nevertheless, people still have a natural right to marry, a right of the natural law. Also, Catholics are obliged to marry in the Church. To do otherwise (absent a dispensation, which is almost never given to two Catholics getting married) is simply to remain unmarried. Any process or program that makes getting married too onerous or burdensome, such as requiring extensive psychological testing (this exists!) or making participation in a year long marriage 'catechumenate' not only is excessively limiting the right of Catholics to access marriage, but these obstacles can put souls in great risk. Why? Well, as one well-intentioned prenuptial preparation person has told couples, "If you want a religious marriage, you'll have to do this." The implication, obviously, is that couples who don't want to commit to a year's worth of premarital preparation are free to go to city hall. Subtly encouraging Catholics to enter into an objective situation of grave sin is hardly an exercise in pastoral solicitude.

      The solution, if one exists, is to reevaluate how we catechize in general. The school model - go and take these classes, pass the test, and get your sacrament - is totally inadequate. Simply adding more classes, or making the test harder, won't be very helpful.

      Just my two bits worth :).

    2. Agree! Some former classmates of mine have designed a marriage mentor program that continues for the first five years of marriage and I think that actually might be a reasonable way to go. The couple-to-be-married gets to choose a mentoring couple from among the people they know and then the mentoring couple is trained by the program to mentor.

  9. I found marriage prep exhausting and burdensome. Please, don't pile on more! If marriage prep gets tweaked or altered, fine, but please, there is only so much discussion of private life that one can take. Any more hoops and we could open a circus.

    I think the stupidest thing about the fretful urge to stack up more marriage prep is that so many of life's decisions cannot be made years in advance. If the couple's core values clash, that's bad. If they don't know about each other's drug abuse, criminal records, etc. that's bad. But there are a lot of things that can't be prevented by a long questionnaire that you discuss with a couple of married strangers, and I think divorce is one of them.

  10. Going back to the original question: I think extreme feminists are the reason why men seem to not want to get married anymore. I'm a CCD instructor for 10-year-olds and every year it's the girls who I see poo-pooing the idea of marriage and kids. Being married and transforming babies into adults is not seen as "successful" by my students (the girls are more vocal about it than the few male students I have). I mention this because this was a discussion I had with my students just last night. From my own time in secular grade school I remember the push for "choosing your career" and never being encouraged to discuss being a wife or mother. "Home ec" was considered a course designed for those who weren't college material or needed a grade booster... if you were an honors student you had no business being in a "home ec" class.

    Meanwhile, in my college classroom, just in the last two weeks, I had a female student associate "children" with "slavery." If a young man admits to wanting a wife and children he could very easily be portrayed as "sexist." I see a lot of push in the college scene to change men and make men more friendly to the careerist woman. What the men get out of this is that "women don't want to be married." And why should a man who wants to beget children get married to a careerist* woman? A careerist woman is not going to want to have children (because they will hamper her advancement in her career).

    The secular world is anti-marriage and it has geared the conversation to be a lose-lose situation for both young men and women. But it has made it much more difficult for a young man to confess "I want a wife and children!" than it has for women (and it is difficult, these days, for a woman to say "I want a husband and children!"). In order for this to change, it is going to have to come from the women. Men who stand up for fatherhood and good husbandry are all too often shouted down as 'sexist pigs upholding the patriarchy' by the state, secular colleges. Unfortunately, it is how the college education goes that trickles down to how we perceive our relationships (at least, what I see here in the US).

    It's not that men don't want to be married, it's that, much like women, they are discouraged from expressing their desire to be married by the surround culture. But, unlike women, men receive the harsher social stigma should they go against the current social trend. There is irony in this situation.

    *Careerist: one who is obsessed with climbing the corporate ladder or similar. Not a woman who wants to work or who is successful in her chosen field (you should hear the pride in the voices of my young men friends when they talk of their girlfriend's / wife's / fiancee's accomplishments). Note: I see that young women (who are especially interested in getting married) are not interested in careerist men, either.


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