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How Religious Views Affect Our Approach

with Elizabeth Marquardt | August 15, 2007

Do your religious views affect the way you approach relationships? Family researcher Elizabeth Marquardt tells Dennis Rainey about the findings she has uncovered through her surveys and interactions with college students.

Do your religious views affect the way you approach relationships? Family researcher Elizabeth Marquardt tells Dennis Rainey about the findings she has uncovered through her surveys and interactions with college students.

How Religious Views Affect Our Approach

With Elizabeth Marquardt
|
August 15, 2007
| Download Transcript PDF

Bob: When you look at life on today's college campuses, it's obvious that times have changed.

[medley of old and new college-theme songs]

Bob: Author and researcher, Elizabeth Marquardt, says maybe we shouldn't have let things change as much as they have.

Elizabeth: One of the things that really struck me was how many fathers would say to me kind of off-the-record.  They would sort of take me aside and say, "The day I dropped my off at college, and she's got this co-ed dorm, and there's these guys who live right in the hall, and they're sharing the bathroom, and that just really seemed really weird to me.  Of course, I didn't say anything about it because I don't want to seem uncool," and blah blah blah, and they would sort of dismiss it, and I just thought here are all these dads forking out all this money for tuition really troubled by this co-ed dorm thing and feeling like they can't say anything because that will make them square or nobody will listen or that somehow it's the college who is in control and not them.  It's like no, they should speak up if they're concerned about this.                           

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, August 15th.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  A co-ed dorm isn't the only thing that dads and moms need to be speaking up about as children are heading back to college.  Stay with us.

 And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us.  I know I've told you this story, but I don't know if I've every told ours listeners – back when I was first looking at colleges with my oldest daughter, first time that we were headed out to kind of investigate the college scene, we took a tour of a women's college in the South, and we just happened to be in this particular city, and so we thought, let's go see what this college is like and take the campus tour.

Dennis: I know where you're going with this story.

Bob: We got to the dormitory, and I asked the young woman who was showing us around, I said, "Are there any rules in the dorm?"  And she said, "Well, freshmen are told that you can't have a guy in the dorm after 1 on" – I think it was after 1 on the weekends.  And she said, "After your first semester your freshman year you just kind of work out whatever with your roommate." 

 And here I'm a dad with my high school senior daughter here.

Dennis: Your first daughter.

Bob: Right.

Dennis: Firstborn daughter.

Bob: And I thought, "Okay, thank you for your candor," and I said, "as long as we're being open," I said, "What is the lesbian situation like here.  It's an all-girls school.  Do you have a lot of lesbians on campus?"  And she said, "Oh, no more than most college campuses.  You know, 10 percent to 15 percent of the girls are lesbians."

 I thought, "College is different than when I went to college, and the rules are different, and do you really want to send your daughter off to college?"

Dennis: Well, the reality is for a lot of young people today college is in their future, and I think parents need to be informed about the norms and that which is normative on the college campus as they send their sons and daughters there.

 And to help us do that, we have a guest who has been with us before here on FamilyLife Today – Elizabeth Marquardt joins us on FamilyLife Today.  Elizabeth, welcome back.

Elizabeth: Thank you.

Dennis: It's good to have you.  Elizabeth is the director of the Center for Marriage and Families at the Institute of American Values.  It's a nonpartisan think tank, and Elizabeth did a research project about how college women think about dating and mating and marriage and families today.  It's called "Hooking Up, Hanging Out, and Hoping for Mr. Right," and, Elizabeth, one of the things that you mentioned in your research in the executive summary was that women are really frustrated with young men who not only are not asking them out, but when they do get a relationship going, maybe through this hooking up or joined at the hip or these other concepts you talk about in your research, the guys are not defining the relationship.

Elizabeth: Right.  There's a funny kind of power that the men still have, even though they are often quite passive about it.  One of the things we asked these young women is, "How do you get a boyfriend?"  And, generally, the answer was something like, "I don't know, because you could kind of like hook up or you could – but that doesn't really" – and, basically, they had no answer.

 Well, then you say something about, "Okay, do you currently have a boyfriend?"  Some would say yes, and so you'd say "How did you know when you were boyfriend and girlfriend?"  I remember one young woman at Yale saying, "Well, we were e-mailing back and forth, and then he forwarded me an e-mail he'd sent to somebody else in which he referred to me as his girlfriend so that's how I knew that I was his girlfriend."

 And you're just thinking, "Could there be any more oblique, insecure way of finding out your status with someone?"  So they say that when they need to know what's going on here, they have to initiate what's called "the talk."  On every campus we went to, people talked about "the talk," or "the conversation."

Dennis: It's called a DTR, "define the relationship."

Elizabeth: Define the relationship – I think older – women beyond college age struggle with this, too, and so are the college girls, and they have to ask the guy, "What are we?"

Dennis: You know, it's interesting, as you were talking about this, you can deny certain natural genetic laws that God has created within men and women …

Elizabeth: But not for very long, though.

[laughter]

Dennis: Yeah, you know, if you step outside of a 20-story building, outside the window, you're going to fall under the law of gravity.  You can say it doesn't exist, but, you know …

Elizabeth: But there you go.

Dennis: Three-point-two seconds later …

Elizabeth: You're dead.

Dennis: And you can say there are no differences between the sexes but genetically young ladies have something within their being that says, "This man needs to tell me if I'm an item or not, if I'm his woman." 

Elizabeth: Sure.

Bob: Has he set me apart?

Dennis: Yeah.

Bob: I mean, that's what she's really asking – am I different than the other women that you have in your life, and how do you define that difference?  What are we and where do I stand with you, and that matters to me," right?

Elizabeth: Sure, sure, and what's interesting, too, how the hard sciences are just confirming all this.  I mean, what we're seeing now about women's sexuality is when women become in relationship, when they fall in love, when they have a physical relationship with someone, their oxytocin starts moving, it's the same stuff that moves in pregnancy and labor and childbirth.  These things are all connected – the spiritual, the emotional, the physical – it's all connected and women, in particular, are shaped by this stuff.

 So just the idea that you can go out there and be this free agent hooking up, kind of playing around with the physical thing and not feel anything about it – it doesn't work for human beings and especially doesn't work for women.

Dennis: Elizabeth, you have to children.

Elizabeth: Yes.

Dennis: Do you have a daughter?

Elizabeth: Yes.

Dennis: How old is she?

Elizabeth: Four.

Dennis: Okay, fast-forward …

Elizabeth: I don't want to.

Dennis: Yeah, I'm going to force you, as a researcher, to do something very personal.  Fast-forward 14 years.  It's now the spring of her senior year, back what Bob was talking about, taking his daughter, Amy, to all these colleges.  You're out visiting, you're going from campus to campus.  Based upon what you know right now, you're going to have more than one conversation with your daughter, but what is going to be the essence of what you're going to say to your daughter as she makes the journey into college?

Elizabeth: It's a great question, and it's one I've already thought a fair bit about and have been glad I have a few more years to think it through.  The honest answer is the biggest thing that I want her to know is that she is special, and we all are, but the message that I did not get growing up was that as a young woman I was special, and that should not be wasted on someone, and that should not be minimized.

 I think it's a beautiful message to give to a girl because it's true and because I think by knowing how special she is, she knows she shouldn't just give that away, you know?  So that's the center of the message that I want to give to her, growing up.

 And the other thing I try to do not always successfully is just model the Golden Rule in our house, you know, treat people well.  And I don't see hooking up as treating people well.  You're not treating the other person well, and you're certainly not being treated well in something like that.  So do unto others as you would have them do unto you and know that you are just a special gift from God to be given very carefully at the right time in the right circumstances.  And I'm not just talking about sex, but I'm talking about your heart, too.

Dennis: God did make your daughter to be a unique person, and I don't think we have the foggiest idea of all that's wrapped up in God's ingenuity when He made a woman.

[laughter]

Dennis: Now, you're laughing.

Elizabeth: I've heard some men are a little puzzled about this, and I can understand why.

Dennis: I'm not talking about the puzzle part.  I'm just talking about – as I've raised four daughters and appreciate my wife increasingly, we are different.  And you know what?  There is nobility in that difference.

Elizabeth: Yes, and beauty and fire and interest.  I mean, my goodness, if we were all the same what a boring world it would be.

Dennis: What a boring world – and my daughters, they melt my heart.  My sons don't – they hardly ever melt my heart.

[laughter]

 I mean, I'm sorry, I love my sons …

Elizabeth: I know you do.

Dennis: I love my sons, and it's fun to go …

Elizabeth: But melting is not what comes to mind.

Dennis: No, it's standing side-by-side going pheasant hunting or conquering something together, but my daughter – oh, my daughters.  And what I hear you saying is as moms and dads launch their daughters to college, give them a sense of God's purpose, of God's uniqueness in their design so that, as you just said so beautifully, they don't just go giving it away.  They do expect to be treated differently.  They're not a pal or a buddy or like a pet dog for a guy to have around, but they should expect men to be men, and they should expect men to treat them like a young lady.

Bob: If a young woman on the college campus today, or if your daughter, 14 years from now, said to you, "Mom, look, it's just not that big a deal, okay?  I get together with a guy to play tennis because he's a good tennis player, and we like playing tennis.  I get together with another guy, and we study, because he's smart, and we do better studying.  I get together with this guy, we hook up, because he's good.  It's just a part of normal life – chill."

 How would you respond to her?

Elizabeth: "I don't believe you."

[laughter]

 It's just not playing tennis, you know, there's something – it's …

Dennis: No, it isn't …

Elizabeth: … big, deep stuff there.  We're talking about generativity and the potential for new life, even if it doesn't – the potential for new life to come from this thing, and it's bigger than any of us understand, and it is a big deal.

Bob: That message, that it's bigger than any of us understand, and it is a big deal, is a countercultural message today.

Elizabeth: It is countercultural because we've grown up in a very – just this horribly mechanized flattened view of sexuality.  It's "You get yours, I get mine," you know, it's all on the cover of the magazines at the grocery store – "Ten Steps to How You Do It."  It's flat, it's depressing.  It lacks beauty, and it's not true.  It just leads to depression.  We are not machines who can just push the right buttons and then have everything we want.  We are spiritual creatures who have needs, and our sexuality is tied up in this desire we have to bridge the sexual divide and to connect with another person in a lasting and meaningful way with the potential of welcoming new life into that.

 And marriage is the radical thing today.  You know, this idea of just kind of like you live together, or you hang out, or you do this or you do that, there's nothing very radical in that, but the idea of a lifelong coming together with another person across the sexual divide, through thick and thin, in a world in which everything else is just tearing people apart all the time. 

 We move all the time for our jobs and the Information Age moves faster and faster every day.  We hear this stuff all the time.  The world is atomized around us, and this idea of finding one person and going through life together with them in a union called marriage that's bigger than both of you, that's a radical idea, and that's how I talk to young people about marriage now.  It's not an old-fashioned thing.  It is a radical idea for our age.

Dennis: Well said.  Elizabeth, you've alluded to this several times as we've talked this week.  I'm wondering, do you think this culture of divorce and a generation of young people coming out of homes where they don't have a model of commitment, they haven't seen enduring relationships but instead have seen mom and dad split, all of a sudden, in their junior high, high school, or maybe even college years.  Do you think that has contributed to this hooking up concept?

Elizabeth: Absolutely.  I think it's no coincidence that the women in our study from divorced families were much more likely to hook up and to do so more frequently than those from intact families.

 I think there is a lot of fear among children of divorce, among many young people in this generation, because they've seen divorce all around them, even if their parents have not divorced, but a lot of fear, especially among the children of divorce, of loss. 

 You know, if I love someone, if I reveal my love for someone to that person, what will they do with it?  Will they be here tomorrow?  You know, for many of these young people, their first experience of the loss of a love relationship was the day their dad or mom left the house.  And even if they kept seeing their dad or mom after the divorce, their experience so much is of absence not presence, you know, they are always missing a parent.

 And so, for them to – love is always a long-distance love, it's always stretched out and unfulfilled in some way.  You are always missing somebody when you're a child of divorce.  And so the idea to grow up and risk you heart on that and to trust that another person will be there when your own parents could not be there for each other, it's a big risk to take.

 And I think a lot of people see this hookup thing as a way to avoid that risk.  It's a way to try to avoid feeling.  It doesn't work.  I think it hurts.

Bob: So I don't want to risk love, so I'll get drunk and hook up – why is that my response rather than just staying at home on Friday night and reading a book?

Elizabeth: I think some might choose the latter, but I think the funny thing, when you talk to these college women about the hookup thing is how much young people have bought this idea that sexual need is just like any other need.  It's just like eating, you know, when you're hungry, you go to Burger King.  You have sexual appetite, so you hook up.

Dennis: Has it been reduced to that?

Elizabeth: For some, yes.  I mean, I don't give up hope for this generation, and I think there's a lot who have a much better understanding than that, but some of them would just talk very matter-of-factly about you have these needs, and you're busy. You don't have time for a relationship, but you have your sexual needs, so that's why you hook up.

Dennis: Yes, reading about your report and how these young people shared their feelings with you, you did get the feeling it was like a handshake.

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Bob: It's back to the tennis match, isn't it?

Elizabeth: It's back to the tennis match, and they're seeing it that way, you know, in the abstract. It doesn't – of course, it's not a handshake, so the after math …

Bob: It's not just a physical workout.

Elizabeth: It's not just a physical workout, and in the aftermath they're still waiting by the phone for the guy to call because it does mean something.  And what you see a lot of them – they're doing this kind of – all these things in their mind at once.  They think that it doesn't mean something, but they also think that once they hook up with a guy, he'll see how special you are, and then it will mean something afterwards.

Bob: But when you see Hugh Hefner as the prototype of the – "this is just a physical sensation" – and that message keeps getting sold in the culture …

Elizabeth: Yeah, you stand in line at the grocery store, that's all you see on the cover of the magazines.

Bob: Yes, and so why is it that the culture – are we screaming that so loud from the magazines because we're trying to get there because then we won't feel the pain we feel, do you think?  Is that …

Elizabeth: I think there's a lot of pain around this in the culture, and I think the kind of radical individualism that we're just barreling towards with every passing day, is resulting in a lot of loneliness and just inability to understand how you just stick with someone– how you compromise your own desires and stick with someone.  And you see the anxiety and the pain and the loss around that all over the place.

Dennis: I think of a quote by – I believe she was a chancellor of Eastern College – Roberta Hestenes, who coined a term called "crowded loneliness," and it does describe our culture and, back to our question, Bob, why is that selling?  It's because, as a nation, we have a generation of people who, like every other generation that has preceded them, wants a relationship, desires to be loved, desires to share life with somebody else, and yet they experience loneliness, and as they look to the world for its template, for a model, of how to relate, it gets none.  There is no model.  The only model they have is hooking up, which is "handshake sex," or joined at the hip, which is a college person …

Elizabeth: It's an overly fast model of commitment with no chance to get to know the person before you're already committed to them.

Dennis: Yeah, it's living together is what it really is, maybe without having the same address.  But what I think stands out in all these discussions we've had this week, Elizabeth, and I do want to thank you for being on our broadcast …

Elizabeth: Oh, thank you.

Dennis: You have pointed out to us the importance and the power of a family and how a mom and a dad still, for society and for civilization, are the most powerful grassroots unit in the universe and how a mom and a dad who hold to a biblical norm, a biblical standard, even in our imperfections and our inadequacies of knowing how to share that with our sons and daughters and how you're doing it with your daughter, you know, in the inadequacies of that, it's still the very best way to train a generation.

Bob: I think the clear call for us, as parents, is that, first of all, we've got to know what's going on; secondly, we've got to have a relationship with our children so that when we do know what's going on, we can have the foundation of that relationship so that we can talk to them about what's going on; and then we've got to be proactive on this.  We can't just sit back and say, "Oh, well, I hope things work out."

 We have got to be diligent to address the kinds of issues we've talked about this week as we raise our teenage sons and our daughters, and one way to help you do that is to give you a copy of the research report that Elizabeth has developed.  It's available at no cost on our website at FamilyLife.com.  If you go there and click the red button that you see in the middle of the screen that says "Go" on it, that will take you to the area of the site where you can download a PDF file that contains the entire report, and from there you can print it out on your printer, if you'd like.

 Again, the website is FamilyLife.com.  Click the red "Go" button and download this report.  You'll also find a number of resources that are available in our FamilyLife Resource Center on this subject of purity and relationships for young adults and for singles.  You'll find not only books, but there are audio resource as well including the message we aired last week from Alistair Begg on what to look for from a prospective husband or a prospective wife and additional resources that are available here at FamilyLife Today.

 The website, again, is FamilyLife.com.  You can also call us, if you'd like, at 1-800-FLTODAY.  That's 1-800-358-6329.  That's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY.  When you call, someone on our team can let you know what resources are available, and they can make sure you can get your hands on the resources you need to help you equip your teens for what's going on in the culture.

 We've been having some fun here during the month of August as listeners have been contacting us.  A lot of listeners are taking part in our Challenge Fund.  We've had some listeners who have been calling, responding to challenges issued by other listeners.  I mentioned the listener from Kansas City who called and encouraged other folks from Kansas City to call and make a donation, and that has happened.

 Or the mom who called from California and encouraged other Californians to help support FamilyLife Today, and that's happened as well.  We've also had folks calling and issuing some new challenges.  For example, one of our listeners called and said, "I want to challenge all those who remember what they did wrong when it came to boys and who want to teach their daughters how to go about dealing with boys in the right way."  And I thought, boy, considering what we've been talking about today, that's a great challenge.

 This particular listener made a donation and wants to challenge others to join her, and we got somebody who had just ordered a copy of your book, "Interviewing Your Daughter's Date," Dennis, and they wanted to challenge others who have benefited from the practical resources that FamilyLife is working to create like this new book.  They made a $50 donation and wanted to challenge others to match or exceed that donation.

 And, of course, you can respond to those challenges by go online at FamilyLife.com and making a donation or calling 1-800-FLTODAY.   And if you want to issue a challenge of your own, as you fill out the form online, there will be a place where you can issue your own challenge or if you make your donation over the phone, just mention who you'd like to challenge to help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today, and let me again mention we appreciate hearing from you and appreciate your partnership with us.

 Well, tomorrow, we're going to hear from a young man who is working with college students every day on the campus at Texas A&M University.  His name is Ben Stuart, and we're going to talk about his observations as what's going on on college campuses today.  I hope you can be back with us for that.

 I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

 FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.

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