Relationship columns flabbergast me. One after another columnist fails to apply to relationships the same pragmatic advice they would extend in any other situation.
Dennie Hughes in her Relationtips column offered the most idiotic response to a 28-year-old who intended to remain a virgin until she married. She wrote asking if her friends were right when they said that abstaining from sex until marriage would cause her marriage to fail.
Hughes responded, “This doesn’t have to be an all – or nothing proposition. Based on the level of commitment and your own comfort zone, consider exploring other types of intimacy with your partner. Not only will this help you establish trust and respect, but it will allow you to figure out what makes each other tick and get a good idea of how sexually in sync you are.”
Hughes acknowledges that sizzle in the bedroom is not enough to keep a relationship from fizzling … but “you should be aware that most men will want a sexual relationship before getting serious. … so while you don’t have to give up a moral or religious decision to remain a virgin, Hughes says, “it does not have to be an all-or-nothing proposition.”
In other words, “you can find ways to compromise your commitment – and you should – if you want to catch a man.”
But how would she have responded if another woman had written, “I’m 18 and resolved to not indulge in alcohol when I go off to college this fall. My friends say that I will miss out on a lot of parties and fun and that I will never establish the network needed to get a great job.”
Would Hughes applaud her for deciding to stay safe and sober instead of getting sloshed every weekend? Would she warn her about how many good friends she will not make if they are not puking it up together at 1 a.m. Saturday?
What if the writer had said, “I am 14, and resolved to not smoke cigarettes because I want to play sports and keep a healthy body.” Would one of today’s relationship advisors have responded, “You don’t have to be a complete prude about this sort of thing. You can smoke socially – just enough to establish a common ground with others. Other teens won’t want to be your friend if you don’t take a few puffs now and then.”
What if the woman who wrote wants to marry a man who also has waited until marriage for physical intimacy? Would Hughes compromise both on the incorrect assumption that some want “a little compromising” before they will become serious? She stereotypes all men with her advice and totally overlooks the men who have vowed to wait until their wedding day for intimacy.
The number one fallacy with her commonly spewed advice is that experimenting a little bit here and there insures a stable marriage. The sexual revolution of the 60s coincided with the decline of the rate of marriages and the sharp increase in the divorce rate after the mid-1960s, according to the “Future of Children” reports. Divorce rates have leveled out at around 33 percent – primarily because couples who choose to co-habitat – and then split – are not “legally” married or divorced – even though the couple may have a child or two together and have accumulated an assortment of possessions to divide.
Just because some yield to societal pressures and current customs, does not mean all do. Taking a stand and sticking with a commitment – whether it is a college degree, a healthy life style or a sexual standard, is worth the effort – no matter what friends may say.
(Joan Hershberger is a reporter at the News-Times. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.)