When out-of-wedlock births are nearing 40 percent, when most children will reach age 18 without both of their parents together, celebrating St. Valentine's Day has less and less the note of joy and romance in it.
Yet America needs a real Valentine tradition precisely because the messages we give our teenagers pushes more and more young men and women to reject each other rather than to belong to each other. The vast majority of teenage young men putting on condoms and teenage young women taking the pill has no intention of marrying those whom they bed. They join in the embrace meant to last forever, knowing all the while that they will likely walk away from each other. Thus they reject — and get used to being rejected — in their intimate lives, and in the process build not a culture of belonging and romance but one of rejection and suffering. They pay a price bigger than most suspect.
A few years ago Robert Rector and Kirk Johnson of the Heritage Foundation did an analysis of the 1995 National Survey of Family Growth and found that for women 30 or older those who were monogamous (only one sexual partner in a lifetime) were by far most likely to be still in a stable relationship (80 percent). Sleeping with just one extra partner dropped that probability to 54 percent. Two extra partners brought it down to 44 percent. Who would have thought that the price of sleeping with even one partner would lead to divorce for almost half of those who had only one extra tryst?
It would seem virgins make not only the best Valentines but the best mothers — for raising children well means developing their capacity to be married parents who know how to stay married and how to select a mate who can do the same — a long-term task made for two parents who love each other. Making babies is the easy part of parenting: It hardly takes any effort or acculturation, hence all the effort Planned Parenthood puts into its agenda.
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