Three 20-something women trying to figure out what it means to be lay, Catholic, and modern all at once.


October 3, 2009

The "We Do Love Each Other...So We Shack Up, and to Testify to Our Love -- We Have A Dog Together!" Phenomenon

So, as you already know, I have been reading Elizabeth Fox-Genovese's book on marriage. I like this book, but I have one critique so far. Genovese spends much of the book ripping into modern society's skewed understanding of marriage -- like the possibility of 'homosexual marriages,' and cohabitation as viable alternatives to this last-standout-of-slavery-institution-that-we-call-marriage. And she's right. And I agree with her. The arguments we frequently hear for these 'marriage alternatives' are so insidious, I just want to scream. BUT -- we can spend our time talking about how insidious they are, or we can do something about it. Which is the question I propose in this post.

Have you ever looked around you and noticed the "My-boyfriend-and-I-shack-up-and-have-dogs-together phenomenon? I think it's a serious problem. It's this totally wacky version of the desire to be united to someone else and to nurture that love together with a being outside of yourselves which, given the natural consequence of married love, aka, children, tends to happen in marriage. But more and more, young people who do not commit to marriage are just living together and not having children, but rather dogs, whom they treat as children. I have extended family members doing this, calling their dogs "the grand puppies" of their parents and sending photo updates and stories about their dogs in Christmas cards. What!!?? How, why *confusing head shake*??

This phenomenon in our culture is that young people think this is a sort of 'rite of passage' on the way to marriage, when in reality, it typically stifles any possibility of marriage. Now, don't get me wrong, there are some who do this and it might work out. But it also might not. And it usually does not. So what are we to do to those we see around us living in this situation? Do we just stand there, let it happen, and pray they figure it out? How do we become proactive facilitators in changing minds and hearts to recognize the necessity of having a culture that recognizes marriage as...well...the seed bed of culture itself!!!

1 comment:

Aaron said...

Two things come to mind. First, we can encourage people to marry. One possible outcome, of course, is that they take our advice and actually do it. But the more likely benefit is that they will at least get a little more perspective on their on lives:

You: "When are you guys planning on getting married?"

Up-Shackers: "Well, you know, we're not sure we're ready for that kind of commitment..."

You: "Um, you guys share a car, an apartment, the rent, the utilities, most of your meals, all your friends and the care of your three dogs. That sounds like a fairly high degree of commitment to me."

Up-Shackers: "Well, we're just not sure how long we want to be together."

You: "Oh. So how are you going to split three dogs two ways when you break up? I mean, if you do?"

You get the drift. A lot of people simply fail to think clearly about the life they're living. By gently prodding them, I think we can help them sort some of that out.

Secondly, we can be examples. In our singleness (and dating) we can make it clear that there are limits to the kind of intimacy we share with others. And in our marriages we can make clear that our love is open to - even eager for - the responsibility and commitment of being shared with children.


PS I picked up Eugene Genovese's Miss Betsey after you mentioned it the other day. Probably not the greatest memoir ever, but it has its moments. And his clever sense of self-deprecating humor manages to sneak up on you when you least expect it.

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