Sexuality, commitment, marriage, divorce - FamilyEducation
Sexuality, commitment, marriage, divorce
01/03/2008 at 12:04 PM

multi-contributor blog about
sexuality, commitment, marriage, divorce

SinglDad and others with opinions, let's take the gloves off and have a discussion about these issues. They are foundational to parenting, as sex (uniting sperm and egg) is what causes children. Can we try it, and see if we can keep it respectful, both of one another's reasoning skills and emotional responses? I think that reasoning and emotion are both valid modes of response to this core issue. I don't think we need to use any biological terms, either scientific or vulgar, as what I would like to be discussing is the social and relationship context of sexual activity. I would also like to include ideas about discussing the context of sexual activity with our children. I posit as a basic idea that educating our children is an "early and often" point, like Mayor Daley said about voting.

Hey everyone,


I think this would be a great discussion but let's keep the gloves on a bit so we don't insult anyone or get too wound up.


I think a good debate is a great thing, just remember that we are all real people here with feelings and try to talk about it with respect for others views.


Now, lets discuss!




  Sex has as much to do with parenting as a car manufacturer has to do with how the new owners take care of their new car. Most anyone can have sex and create a new life. Unfortunately it has proven time and time again that being able to produce a child is no indicator of how one will care for a child. So I would say, sex and sexuality are not foundational to parenting.

  Commitment is something we hope to attain, but few ever do attain true commitment. The only commitment that a child needs is a commitment from an adult that the child will be raised in a loving and secure home. The idea of the nuclear family is a nice thought, but so is winning the lottery

  Marriage could be grouped with commitment, but I will address marriage separately. Marriage is not the end all of our existence. Marriage will not define us as people, nor will it define us as parents. There are many marriages where alcoholism and abuse of all natures takes place. The fact that the people are married has absolutely nothing to do with how they will conduct themselves, as people, or as parents. People are people, a marriage certificate will not change them. What will change them is not filed with the records department, instead, it is found within themselves. They need to have a true desire to want to change.

  Divorce often effects children more than any adult should allow it to. Parents fight over material things, and mixed in that fight more often than not are the children. Divorce is a battle where adults act out their frustrations, and play petty games, all the while the Lawyers get richer. The true casualties are the children. Children with little, to no life experience in this area. Divorce is not part of parenting. But it can be a test of your ability as a parent.

  The foundation of a home is strong. Many times in disasters we see homes destroyed or even taken away by wind or water. The one thing that remains to let us know that there was a home there is the foundation. The things mentioned above are not what I would consider foundational. The strongest foundations are not pieced together, but are one solid structure. My foundation which I choose to build my relationship on with my children is love. No matter how strong the storm, or how high the flood waters when the storm has passed we will still have a solid and stable foundation on which to rebuild.


Would you agree with this idea? When one has sex with another person, one is nominating them to be a parent. Whether they achieve the status is like winning the lottery, a matter of chance, with odds affected by things like contraception, maturity of reproductive system, and health. I don't want to make my entry really long, so

No I would not agree. Happily sex in the 21st Century is is an experience which can be enjoyed without fear of parenting [unless that is what you want] . Contraception has come a long way.
 I understand that if you have religious convictions, then you may be tied down by what you choose to interpret from the Bible.
I am not advocating sleeping around, but nor am I advocating marriage. I do not run with the celibacy before marriage lobby although I agree with  fidelity in a loving relationship.


Would you agree with me that until recently, through evolutionary history, that when one had sex, one was nominating the other for parenting?  And don't think I'm dragging in "your" notion of evolution.  I do believe that evolution led to current organisms, including us.


How far back down evolutionary history do you want to go? Even in early times, people were having sex with very little successful means of contraception and it was just like playing Russian Roulette for them. The only way for a woman not to get pregnant was to either abstain or let the man take his pleasure in 'other ways'. If you mean did they nominate a partner to be a parent then I guess you must mean in a metaphorical way. I would still say no.


 Gail, you asked for the gloves to be taken off. Now you are more concerned with not making a long entry. To have sex with another person is not to nominate that person to be a parent. It is simply nominating that person to be a sexual partner. I have addressed all your other questions. Would you agree with them?


I'll give them a shot, but I prefer to make my own entries short--my own limitation, not meant to be a criticism, sorry if it was taken as such. And perhaps I will spend too much time on things that are "a nice thought." but that is how I think. Would you agree that people who tend to take good care of their cars are also more likely to research the safety, and maintenance and repair history of car manufacturers? I have no basis for this pure speculation. It just seems sensible to me that those characteristics would go hand in hand. I would be willing to forgo the "foundational." I think it is important to parenting in the same way as all teaching. Teaching children a context for sexual behavior is important, just as teaching them hygeine, nutrition, goal setting, and social skills are important. And teaching goes better if example matches precept.

thanks for the opportunity to clarify my fuzzy thinking and sloppy self-expression!


So what is an appropriate social or relationship context for sexual activity with a real-live person of the opposite sex?


Mutual attraction and chemistry, respect for each other, and the knowledge that you are harming nobody else with your sexual activity. I do wonder why you specify someone of the opposite sex though! 


Because babies never result from unassisted homosexual activity.  And I am not saying that homosexuals are not fit parents. I'm just saying that, the number of parents who became parents because of homosexual activity alone,added to the number that became parents because of celibacy alone, that number is statistically insignificant.  Even if you believe in the Immaculate Conception and the Virgin Birth.   Less than three out of tens of billions.

SinglDad made a good point about commitment--that what a child needs is parental commitment to the child.  


I suggest that respect for each other is important, but all you can be sure of is your own respect for the other.  That behaviors that would lead you to believe that the other respects you (and I admit, marriage is one of those behaviors) can be feigned. 

And feel free to bring up your own sidelights to expose these topics, anybody.  I don't have a script here.  Just thinking outloud--in ASCII

Back to the statement that contraception has come a long way. That is very true. And I am willing to move on from this idea of "nomination", its not the only important thing, but I think you guys have proved my point. It may not be the process of nomination that you would have chosen, as the people doing the nominating only have to have the qualification of being fertile. Nothing about emotional maturity or commitment. Just any two fertile people can nominate each other. The only two contraceptive strategies that are 100% are no intercourse and abortion. So women can erase their nomination, but men are more limited about taking it back. A woman can unilaterally decide to abort. If she wishes instead to abdicate as a parent-in-the-trenches, one who rears the child, then the biofather only has the options of either rearing the child himself, or vetoing or agreeing to the adoption. Vetoing the adoption would only re-confirm the nomination. If the woman wishes to accept the responsibility, then the bio-father is most likely going to have some parental responsibility. That may be all I have come up with on the subject, but who knows where my mind will take me next?

I can see that I look at things from the other end than SinglDad.  I believe that people who consider consequences are more likely to be good parents, so people who are either meticulous about contraception, or who do not engage in casual sex, are likely to be good parents.  Excuse me, if they are meticulous about contraception, they are unlikely to be parents, but if there is a failure, they are likely to be good parents.  You can be sure about your own meticulous behavior, but, as I said previously, such things can be feigned.  As can abstaining from casual sex, but at least you are sure that a person who didn't have casual sex with you didn't have casual sex wth you.

I just noticed that I talk in metaphors a lot, so if it gets too flaky, ask for clarification, or just call me on it. Also, I looked after I finished this, at the length of it, and so, I will put my thesis here. The nuclear family is the best practice in providing for the well-being of the child, but is neither necessary nor sufficient for the well-being of the child..

The only commitment a child needs is the commitment from an adult that the child will be reared in a loving and secure home.  Here, I think the engineering principal of redundancy applies. 

Two parents who are each committed to the rearing of a child, along with extended family, add to the security of the home.  A truly single parent carries the load alone.  And a heavy load can break the most devoted parent.  Extended family can help with the load, but a pair of devoted parents (married or not) share the load, which makes it less likely that either parent will break, and if that happens, the  remaining parent still provides security. 

What about adding children of a third party to the home?  I guess I need to make this clear,  I'd skip reading the rest of this paragraph if I were you.   Example, A and B have a child or a few, then A has a child with C (which demonstrates unreliability in A, unless there was a contraceptive failure).    Unless polygyny or polyandry is being practiced, we have family AB and family AC which  both stress parent A, making parent A more likely to break.  Parent B is likely to be more stressed (because of feelings of betrayal, and of decreased personal security), also.  Polygamy is unusual, and a polygamous marriage is not legal in most states, I believe, so if we do have family ABC, there will also be additional stress on parents A,B and C, if that is the case.  I do wonder if family ABC might not be a good choice, if B and C were able to make it work.  Not an experiment I'd be willing to make. 


So, in order to provide that commitment of security, if A and B have children, the best situation is for A and B to not add children from a third party. If parent A and parent B can manage to live in the same household, that is a nuclear family.  Living in the same household removes a lot of barriers to communication.  More than a nice thought, a best practice.  Easily attainable?  No.    Essential? also NO. 

The commitment of one adult is necessary and sufficient to the well-being of the child.  The nuclear family is the best practice, but is neither necessary nor sufficient. to the well-being of the child. 



Sorry Gail but I don't have the time or the energy to read and debate any more on this subject as I disagree with so much of it.  I do wonder if this thread was solely intended to be a soapbox for your theories and opinions.


My intention was to see if there were reasonable arguments for "conventional" morality which did not resort to That's how it's always been, or That's what God says.  \Also, to explore people's understanding of what a correct context for sexual activity is.  To see if there is justification for teaching the conventional context to the rising generation. 

You were very succinct in expressing what is a commonly held context.  I agree with you that those things are important, I just think that ignoring the failure rate of contraception methods is a mistake.

The context which I advocate, within a marriage, is also commonly held, is "conventional," is old-fashioned.    If you are not interested in defending the context that you provided, I respect that, but I would invite others to take issue with me, or you can, if you change your mind.

Also, I can't prove that the context I advocate is common. I seem to be a lone voice. Anybody want to agree with me?


Abolutely! Wholeheartedly! To make a personal comment on how "far" birth control has come... my married daughter and her husband decided after the birth of son #1 that they would put some time between their first and next. They tried birth control. Their beautiful daughter was born 16 months later. After this child, the decided to go with an IUD which had to be sugically removed a month later after it slipped out of place and punctured a hole in her uterus. So back to the pill but a stronger and more "successful" brand. Their son will be born in 2 months only 15 months after the last. Birth control hasn't come as far as one might think. And some people are allergic to everything including condoms as is the case with our son in law. Seems for them the only option is abstinence at times. And believe it or not, the law also agrees with your idea of "nominating". When my ex-husband was complaining to the judge about the "quality" of a person his daughter's mother was - an alcoholic drug addict, (his ex-wife before me) the judge got very sarcastic with him and told him to get off his high horse and told him the minute he chose her for a bed partner he chose the consequences that went with that choice including the parentage of his child whether planned or unplanned.


thanks.  I promised myself I wouldn't make this a solo act.  I had some additional thoughts. 

  So here's a person who has had a child/children.  The person is no longer in a monogamous relationship with the other parent.  What are the options for a responsible parent?  The first option to consider is re-establishing the monogamous relationship.  But if that isn't going to work, we'll take dad first.  Dad can either be abstinent, or be sexually active and meticulous about contraception.  If the contraception fails, dad's best option is--never tell existing children or extended family/close friends about new sibling.  Never try to establish a relationship with the new child.  Never try to tell the mom how to raise the child.  Comply with child-support.  That is the best option for maintaining his own divided or single-support nuclear family, and the new child's single-support nuclear family.  That sounds harder than being abstinent.  That sounds more painful than almost anything I can imagine.

    Now let's take mom.  Mom can either be abstinent, or be sexually active and meticulous about birth control.  If the birth control fails, mom aborts child, never tells other children, sexual partner, extended family, close friends, casual acquaintances who may become friends. Never puts it on a message board. 

   I'm going to make another too-long entry, because I am not putting anything else up without intervening input, and I think this is really important. 

    What if you have already messed this up.  What if you already have children from more than one relationship?  And I think, more often than not, if you are a step-parent and you have your own baby with the parent, you have made a multi-nuclear family.  Your step-kids foundation is not as secure as it was before you had the baby.  Your baby's foundation is also less secure, And I'm sorry if that hurts. 

   I messed up in a totally different way.  I put my children in a really bad situation and I'm going to leave that to your imaginations.  When I figured it out, The first thing I did was to change it, which is not an option for you.  The only option you have in that realm is to not repeat it.  Then I took opportunities, immediately and over the years, to express to my children that I had made a bad decision (not a mistake).  That I had noticed that they were paying for my bad decision.  I might even talk with them about how they were paying.  That I was sorry.  That I would check before I made important decisions now, and that if they noticed something that I was doing wrong, they were to tell me.  That I might get mad when they told me, but I would say right now, in advance, thank you for being brave enough to speak up.  \


An apology (and it's important you don't explain or justify the bad decision) is the only thing that can help restore their security. 

  And I know this isn't part of the debate, but I thought it was important to put this where people can see it.

  People like SinglDad, who have a single-support nuclear family.  I would give you a medal if I could.  Also a subsidy, a full-time housekeeper, a staff of other professionals, and bowling passes for life.  I can't.  I remember sitting in my car outside a convenience store at 11:55 on a Saturday night over 20 years ago with snow falling lightly on the windshield, deciding if I would stay married.  The reason I did is because I knew I didn't have the right stuff to be the support of even  a divided-support nuclear family.  I wasn't and am not capable of  being the kind of parent that so many good people are.  You have risen to the occasion.  It has to be so hard, and if I come off as complacent, believe me, I am only grateful that I have not been put to such a difficult test.

My bad decision came later. 

Any new thoughts about Sexuality, commitment, marriage, divorce?


I feel like I'm missing part of this discussion, is this a continuation of a previous thread?


I went off half-cocked on a thread (dating a parttime dad please help) and SinglDad very correctly called me on it.

   I wanted to "take it outside" (like two guys fighting in an old movie) and I am grateful a few people are courageous enough to enter the fray.


SinglDad said a lot of things about marriage. I refer you to his post. I think the statements he makes are true but I have a different take on the institution of marriage. First, I understand an institution to be people formally organized for a purpose. Institutions include schools, governments, hospitals, banks, along with marriage. Marriage is a means to an end--in support of goals, which, nowadays are defined by the laws of the state in which you live, along with whatever you and your partner bring to it. It is our job to define the purpose of our marriage, those goals. And the meaning of any symbolic action is dependent on what you bring to it. If you have a desire to change the nature of your partner, buy a magic wand, don't get married. If you have a desire to change yourself, do so, but not by getting married.   If you want to provide a setting so that children have 3 sources of security, (2 parents and a piece of paper), get married.  If you have another purpose (like to demonstrate mature love), get married.  Even if you are too old,  or unable to have children, or if you just don't intent to have children.  Children aren't the only people who thrive when there is a commitment to love and security.

  But, if you are divorced already, with minor children, I re-affirm my prior argument.  Wait till they are 18.  Even if you don't have custody.

  I wanted to put this up to see if SinglDad or others wished to dispute the points I make. (or agree)


Tried hard to resist answering but felt I had to say something about last part at least.

But, if you are divorced already, with minor children, I re-affirm my prior argument.  Wait till they are 18.  Even if you don't have custody.

I grew up in a single parent home because my father left my mother with two young children and pregnant with me. He had another woman and she was pregnant too. He apparently was abusive to my mother.
I am divorced. I was married 22 years and my husband's drink addiction just got worse and worse. We had known each other for three years and had been engaged for two of them, so it was not a quick marriage. He was not much of a drinker when we met but couldn't cope with family life. I stayed with him because I wanted my children to have two parents..He was abusive and all the family were suffering. My youngest son was only 4 at the time and the last straw came when we lost our home and were on the streets. Luckily my older three children were by that time left school and working so found accomodation with friends. I took my little boy to some accomodation they found me. Six months later, I met my now partner and I have never regretted a single day of our relationship. My son has ADHD and Asperger's but with my partner's help, we have brought him up together to be a fine young man. My partner has done more for my son than his own father ever could. I don't know what his life would have turned out to be had I not met my wonderful partner.I do not accept your premise to wait until the child is 18. This is something which has to be played strictly by ear. There are no hard and fast rules or time scales. And I also have to say, was I not entitled to some happiness too, even though I made the mistake of marrying the wrong person. My other three children like my partner very much and they are very happy to see me so content.


I am glad that you were able to provide a good situation for yourself and your little boy.  And I agree that every person has an obligation to carefully make decisions for their own life that will lead to good situations. 


   I think that most marriages/relationships depend heavily on luck for success.  I know that I was more lucky than wise in my choice of husband.  I just think that it is not fair to existing children to count on luck.  Luck is often bad luck.  And here follows the rest of my response to singlDad's points.


   Divorce is the acknowledgment of a particular marriage which failed, usually because one or both of the people were unable or unwilling to commit to the shared goal(s). It is a necessary remedy, because people do deceive one another, or themselves. And the lawyers do get rich, but often perform a necessary function, to protect someone who has already been abused and deceived. And if there is no piece of paper filed, no marriage recorded, it's hard to prove that you had any reasonable expectation of anything other than abuse and deceit.


  Remarriage/new sexual relationship that leads to more children. The psychologists and psychiatrists and lawyers and prison guards and emergency rooms and funeral parlors get rich off this one. Just look at the posts on these boards. There are two in particular that break my heart. There were not on the same thread, but when you put them together it makes my point.  One said, "children are more resilient than they are often given credit for."  Another said, of a step-daughter, "now she is dying of AIDS." It is not a "nice idea." It is like "winning the lottery." You can increase the odds of it happening, have kids with a new partner.

    SinglDad is right.  What a child needs is a commitment from an adult, a commitment of a loving and secure home.  That foundation is jeopardized by a child from a new relationship.  Do parents deserve some happiness?  Everybody deserves happiness.  But we are only guaranteed the pursuit of happiness.  Is it OK to be a parent who is ready to move on?   The point singlDad makes is that foundations DON'T MOVE.  I agree.  And it is too hard.  And I wish it wasn't so.   

   Argue with me.  Prove me wrong.  Because chastity before marriage and fidelity afterward are not the norm, and it would be a nice idea that children were not in danger in current society. 


  So why do we need to talk to our children about pregnancy as the evolutionary purpose of sexual activity?  The purpose of the reproductive system is to REPRODUCE!   That is what a healthy reproductive system does, just as a healthy digestive system digests  and a healthy circulatory system circulates.  You can take hormones and place barriers to interfere with normal function,  and they often work.   But not always, so it is  important to be wise as you choose life-stage and partner for sexual activity.  The rising generation is being taught that respect for yourself and your body will mean everything else will fall into place!  NOT!  Respect for yourself and your body are attitudes. Attitudes are mental activities that influence and are influenced by your sense of well being.  They will not prevent fertilization, implantation of a fertilized egg, nor interfere with nourishment of the growing fetus.  They are the least effective form of birth control, and they do not enhance the effectiveness of other forms. 

   The main reason women have a hard time finding decent partners to rear children with is because that is not what they are looking for, until after they get pregnant. All too often the obvious partner, the bio-father, is not "father material," and the men who are "father material" consider impulsive behavior as a less attractive quality in a mate. 

  People with opposing opinions--I don't own this space.  You can write, too. 

  People who think this stuff isn't important to talk about--you are silly!  This stuff is absolutely life and death. 

  I haven't even had anybody call me on my apparently casual attitude about abortion--just a form of contraception to use when others fail.  Come on!  I hold my opinions strongly, but that doesn't mean I'm right.  Just that I'm loud.


I can't help noticing that you aren't willing to argue with me on the points I made.  Is it really because I am all-knowing and wise?  Scary?  So out-of-touch with reality that you can't even begin to communicate with me?  What?  Last post 10 days ago, and you are reading this now, so . . . what is it? 

  The evidence keeps piling up, even just on these message boards.  Stepdaughters keep going all flaky.  Bioparents won't take action, possibly because they feel guilty, step-parents can't take action, because the relationships won't hold up under that kind of stress. 

 Nuclear families are stressful and complicated.  step-families are also. There are a few step-families that make it work.  They don't post on these boards.  I bet most of them have contributed at least some of their income to the upkeep of counselors, but I don't have any solid info.  more later--will you or nil you.



No matter how many times we go back and forth, I do not see the world through the same eyes as you. We are two different people, who have lived different lives, each having our own experiences which have made us who we are today. I do not share your idea that marriage is the ultimate goal, and necessary in order to raise healthy and happy children. The fact that more than ½ of all marriages end in divorce is nothing to be proud of, yet you wave the flag of marriage as if it is the answer to all. If a sign outside a doctors office read that half of all his patients lived, I doubt many would be making appointments.

I have seen where you have said that a single parent should stay single until their children are grown. You then point out, as a way of validating your idea, that step-families are stressed out and don’t work. For the most part, a step parent is a sign that the original marriage failed. The argument could be made that step families have a better chance of success because the parents are aware of what ended that last failed marriage, but someone else can run with that torch.

I am not under the impression, or delusion that my advice is an answer. My advice is just that, advice. I give what I have learned through my life, to those who may be in a similar situation that I have gone through. For most topics on this board there is no right or wrong answer, just different ideas as to how to solve their problems. As I see it I will not change your opinion on these issues, nor do I care to do so, and you will not change mine. Lets just agree to disagree. I think those seeking advice will be better served by having several different opinions rather than everyone agreeing with each other.


You said that step-families don't post on this site? We are a step family. I was divorced 1 after a nightmare 22 years of marriage. My partner helped me bring up my child who was four when we met. He is now 18, and we are a wonderful example that step-families can and do work. We are a great little family unit. 


You keep presenting as my idea the notion that marriage is the ultimate goal and necessary in order to raise happy and healthy children.  I have never said that.  I have said that children are not the only ones to thrive when there is a commitment to love and security.  I have said things to the effect that a formalized relationship helps address some of the deception and abuse that occurs in cohabitation as well as in marriages, I have never said that marriage is necessary to rear happy and healthy children.  I tried to make the point that marriage does not change people--in response to your assumption that that was the purpose of marriage.

  Just wanted to clarify that, but yes, I will agree to disagree, I just will not agree to being misrepresented. I stated that nuclear families are stressful and complicated. 

  Stephy, you are correct.  There are step-families who make it work, and who post on these boards.  And as I have said before, I am glad that your family made it work.  You brought additional sound support into your life, and that was a good thing.  If everybody were as wise or lucky as you were, I would have no problem endorsing new relationships.



Those of you who are familiar with me know what I'm going to say.  The chaos that is generated in children's minds when people are having sexual relations without a commitment is detrimental to the psychological well-being of the children.  And anybody who says "we're committed, but we just aren't married" is delusional.  I absolutely applaud your boyfriend.  He values his son's perception of appropriate sexual behavior, although he thinks it is ok as long as his son doesn't see it.  (Read krein's message to see if finding out the reality will just be something to get through.)  If you need someone to relieve your sexual tension, find somebody who doesn't have a child.  Apart from that-- the pursuit of happiness, which is guaranteed in the constitution, does not translate to sexual activity.  You're not entitled.   Grow up.


caught me!  I was over-emotional on that post, that is why I decided I needed to get out of that forum to explore ideas.  Good on ya!  There are people who are committed who are not married. 

    But, additional note. Nothing here about marriage being the ultimate goal. If you have the Freudian attitude that sexual activity is the ultimate goal, then you can go on to marriage being the ultimate goal. If you have the idea that a parent having sexual relations is necessary for raising happy and healthy children, then you can go on to marriage being necessary to happy and healthy children, but I have never seen anything about the relationship between sexual activity and child-rearing success.

   Have I missed something? I do remember something like "Sex has as much to do with parenting as a car manufacturer has to do with how the new owners take care of their new car." But that is your metaphor and I take it out of context here.

  Consider my actual thesis.  The nuclear family is the best practice, but is neither necessary nor sufficient for rearing happy and healthy children.  And yes, I do believe that legal marriage provides societal and governmental support to the nuclear family, and that within the context of legal marriage, sexual activity is important for maintaining the marital relationship. 

  Stephy, I am sincerely glad that you have established the relationship you have with your partner.  I would not suggest that you mess with it.  But your situation is unusual. 

  I wonder about the complications that other couples face. 

  The multi-nuclear family, the "Smith" kids, the "Jones" kids, and then sometimes the "Smith-Jones" kids. stressing the relationship between Ms. Smith and Mr. Jones, and this is one thing that seems to get worse if Ms. Smith and Mr. Jones marry. I say again.  Wait till the children are up and out.  Because you do deserve some happiness, and the evidence on these boards, as well as in studies, shows that minor children and their parents have a better chance at happiness if the nuclear family, even in divorce, is not superceded by new parental sexual relationships.

  Oh, and the pursuit of happiness is mentioned in the Declaration of Independence. 


  Thoughts about marriage--in response to you wouldn't go to a doctor with a 50% survival rate. Oh the danger of metaphors. You pick yours, and I'll pick mine.

    Committing to a long-term monogamous relationship is like climbing Mt. Everest, most of the people who make the attempt fail. I believe that all of those who make a serious attempt to climb the mountain know that they are likely to fail--it would be good if those who contemplated the other endeavor understood the failure rate. But we encounter people at work and at the grocery store and in our own families, the most ordinary people, and they seem to be succeeding in the commitment endeavor. Like climbing Everest, careful preparation (which takes long term effort) does not guarantee success. Like climbing Everest, requires a team effort. Like climbing Everest, choosing the team members thoughtfully and with an understanding of their preparation is important. Like climbing Everest, if you have started the journey and discover your team lacks the necessary skills or equipment or commitment, it is a real good idea to give up quickly and get everybody safely back to where they started and also, like climbing Everest without the complication of pregnancy. Like climbing Everest, you need to learn from the successes and failures of those who have gone before and if you make a new attempt, learn from your own experience. And, like climbing Everest, you need to file paperwork, partly to show you have a plan, and partly so it is easier to rescue you if you fail.  But if you need to (metaphorically) be under a doctor's care, wait until you are healed before you make a trip up this metaphorical Everest.  It isn't wise or fair for you to join such an expedition


   Some people trap themselves into commitment by having sexual intercourse and initiating an unintended pregnancy.

   Some people take on commitment as if it were a dance, Everybody else is on the dance-floor, I want to come, too. Oh, the rules say you need a partner? Somebody, pick me!

   Some people take on commitment as if it were a hike up a ridge. Metaphorically, they meet somebody at the trailhead who looks like they could make it, and head off up the path together, knowing little about the character of their partner. Suddenly, before they know it, they find themselves at 12,000 feet, or 20,000 feet, and it is dang cold and steep and there are none of the comforts of home and too often, they fail. If they are lucky, they live.

   Traditionally, a long engagement served the purpose of a trial marriage. The advice was given, before you marry keep your eyes wide open. Take the opportunity to test one's self and observe the partner under stressful circumstances, like practice climbs in preparation for that Everest climb. One could discover things like attitudes toward money, household obligations, extended family and disciplining children by talking together and by observing one another within the context of daily life, without the psychological effect of a sexual relationship. The crippling S's and A's could often be detected. (S's Self-centered, self-righteous, short-sighted, short-tempered, A's Addiction, Abuse, Adultery). Even the fuss of the major production that a wedding has become gives one the opportunity to observe these things, before the I do's are done.

   And as I said before; careful preparation and wise choice of team member do not guarantee success. Even if you both do everything right, you can fail.

   I join the chorus in the question, WHY would anybody attempt this? I don't know the answer. But we do make the attempt. "Because it is there?" "The reproductive imperative?" "Safe sex?"

    Maybe because when a family does work, it is an amazing thing. A creative effort that produces a masterpiece. A safe haven. Giggles emanating from the blanket-fort we built. A treasure that all of us can strive for. And so, worth the attempt, and the risk of failure.



There goes another one.  The thing that led me to start this thread.  Some female exchanging real sex for pretend intimacy, destabilizing the foundation of 2 kids, excuse me 3, with the cooperation of the dad, who deserves some happiness and who also equates happiness with orgasms.  And instead of whaling on her, I'm just going to say, over here, on this thread, see!  The amazing kids, instead of confronting her and telling her to go take care of her own family, are washing the dog in the shower she uses.  I like the symbolism, vulgar poetry. The children don't have a say, and probably don't recognize in the front part of their brains what they are doing, but it's pretty obvious.   They can't lay down an ultimatum, so they will make things increasingly uncomfortable for her.  The sad thing is that their relationship with their father will deteriorate.  I repeat, find somebody without children to satisfy your sexual needs.  And wait until your own children are grown.


Gail, are you starting your own blog on here because you seem to be on your own. I'm afraid I can't get my teeth into what you are saying either.


  I was responding to a thread by tamz whose boyfriend has kids who are demonstrating a tad of hostility by using the shower she shares with him on weekends.  I'm not sure where her 7 year-old son is in the picture.  Anyway, I thought it would be unhelpful to put my opinion on that thread, just as it was when armyof1 wanted to wake up in the morning and make pancakes for her boyfriend's kids. 

  Anybody's welcome to disagree with me.  I just thought it was unproductive of me to tell people off when I thought (and it is just my opinion) that the stuff that they were doing was harmful to children.  So I'm keeping it over here, where people don't have to listen.  I spent a lot of time thoughtfully responding to singlDad's points, which he challenged me to do.  I have repeatedly requested responses to my points.  All I get is "we'll agree to disagree."  That's good too, but what I have been seeking all along is the opportunity to refine my own thinking.  

  When I am wrong or unclear, and I have been, often, I don't mind being told.  But nobody is obligated to either read or respond to these points.  In the future I will make note if I am responding to a particular thread so that it isn't confusing.  It's hard to strike a balance between making things clear and attacking somebody.  I figure that if somebody trudges through thousands of words to get to the last posting, they aren't going to be ambushed by my opinion, and they can just return to the other boards if they don't want to hear it.  I also think reading through the whole thing will make clear that I am not attacking them personally, I am just frustrated with the universally callous attitude towards the children's pain in these situations.


Hi gail... I wanted to let you know that my son makes the drive with me every weekend to my bf home.  He has a great relationship with the kids and my bf.  Everyone treats each other with respect and we all enjoy being together.  I am surprised that you view the kids using the shower as hostile... It never occured to me that maybe there was anything behind it except that the bathroom is much more elegant than theirs.  The reason I posed the question here first was  to see if I was being unreasonable before I approach it or just stop staying overnight. Thank you for your opinion ... I do see that at times his daughter may feel a little left out and if she is trying to feel important by sharing the facility with us then maybe i should back off like one person suggested. 


Me and my best friend are reading your thoughts... You are a poet... she posted a questions and I responded .. I could not really help her but thought you all would give a different perspective ... WOW!  Your responses are intense ... more than we expected from a family education site ... -


I (we) think it is unproductive to tell people off anyway... Most of us will defend our position because we came here to have others validate our feelings not offer a new perspective even if we pretend we wanted one.  I am glad that you are an advocate of the children and I think (our) question here  offered a perspective that I was surprised by.  I wanted a simple answer to what I thought was a simple question and I came away with much more.  HOWEVER, I think she washed the dog int he shower cuz he was dirty not because she is sending a message to me. 


I understand that I am offering opinions on things that I am not observing, as are others who are responding. An outsider's perspective can help you understand what your situation really is, but sometimes outsiders are clueless. I mean to say that you know your own situation best.

    Sometimes as I read the posts here, I think that it is like watching somebody park the car with the children inside on a railroad track. I can't just stand by and let it happen without saying something. But I get over-emotional and just look like a crazy woman. So I'll keep it over here. I do appreciate your very kind responses.


After reading many of you responses to many ppl here, i would say that if you "keep it over here" some ppl would not benefit from your (most of the time) sound perspective.  I think you have given some real solid advise and this is all about helping other parents & families. So, in my opinion, you should use your gift to keep helping ppl.  I could have benefited from a focused look at my issue and a genuine suggestion.


Once again, I thank you.  I will only put the conventional morality responses over here, so that when people see it, they won't be so blind-sided.  I wonder if one of the women who I was corresponding with felt that she was deceived by my kindness when she had time to read this philosophical position.  She disappeared from the boards.  It may have nothing to do with this.


    I don't want you to be ambushed. Here's another conventional, unpopular perspective that will make people mad. You don't have to read the rest. Let me preface this by saying that if you really do need to access child-care in order to provide basic food, clothing, shelter, healthcare, and transportation, I think you should find the best quality care that you can afford and there is excellent care available, but I think that people don't understand what it is that they are sacrificing when they work to get luxuries, and I include in that the luxury of an education, or a nice house (yes, this is in response to I want a baby, baby.). If you need an education so that you can support your family on just one job, and if you can get that education in just one year, that is reasonable, but long-term default, all day daycare is not optimal for children, families, or society.  

     When young children (up to age 5 or 6) are in non-maternal care more than 10 hours a week researchers can easily find negative effects. That means that for some children, 10 hours is too long. And don't get back on the Don't I deserve some happiness bandwagon. The short answer is, no, not if you have taken on the obligation of being a parent. Show the maturity to find happiness in being a parent, providing the necessities of life. And if you are a divorced or never-married father of young children, this is particularly addressed to you. Pay the alimony and child support. Add a little extra if you can.

     If you are the sole support of your family, and you have no partner who can care for the children, hang in there. Do the best you can. Find daycare that looks as much like maternal care as you can at least until your child can speak clearly, and drop in on them if you can, often and unannounced. You have my deepest respect and your children will know that you love them deeply, and your family may well be the strongest family of any. And don't read the next part, it is not addressed to you and it's really snotty.


    My little girl is in a new stage of her life. She is learning so many exciting things. She spends a good part of the day in an enriched learning environment, with mentors providing scaffolding for her as she develops new skills and incorporates new information into her intellectual schema. (I learned that from a child development course on TV.) She is also enhancing her social skills, learning to get along better with others from differing backgrounds, to express her needs and opinions appropriately. She is learning to share things with other children who are about her same age.

    I know there are some parents who think that they can provide these experiences at home, but I just don't think you can do as good a job as the professionals, who have a facility and equipment that you just don't have at home. I don't think we parents understand developmental stages of children as well as the people do who have spent years studying. The people who want to do it themselves claim that knowing your own child is more relevant. They think that they can provide enriched experiences themselves just using things at home, or community resources, but I don't think that is enough. They think that there is more value in a nurturing home environment, but I think kids are going to have to deal with lots of stimulation and a fair amount of chaos sometime in their lives, so they might as well be exposed to it now.

     They have a point about developing a strong maternal attachment. I think that children really benefit from knowing that their parents are really concerned about their well-being, but I don't think you have to be with them all the time for them to know that. And I read that they are smarter if they have multiple care-givers.

     I think, at the end of the day, when my little girl climbs under the covers, she knows how much her Dad and I love her, even if we haven't spent more than a few minutes thinking about her that particular day. We have other obligations that take up our attention, you know, and that's really OK. She probably hasn't spent a whole lot of time thinking about us, either. That's just the way things are in today's world. And there is a special word for the people that you go home to at night. When you are 19, like my little girl, they are called roommates.


Yes I agree the experts are better equipped intelectally and environmentally, but your thoughts are so general ... most of us can't give a kid all he/she needs from our home, but some can.  I have seen it work very well and I have seen the opposite.  Have you read the papers lately about all the predators waiting to take advantage of our children (many of them are teachers) ... I could never give my children all they have gotten from structured public activities and institutions, but some parents are able to keep the kids home and still take advantage of these places/people...


I am new to the boards and think this discussion is quite interesting.  However it isn't anything I'm unfamiliar with as a graduate of a human development and family studies program.  Gail, you seem quite opinionated yet educated, and I wonder why you seem to decide there are concrete conclusions to the subjects you present.  They are all very valid points, that make very interesting discussion, but I feel we cannot have true opinions or conclusions about other's lives unless we know the individual situation, and where they've come from and how they've been taught what values if any, are important in life.  A professor once told a class I was in that most of what happens in our life we can blame our parents for- now I am not saying that I agree whole-heartedly about this statement but I don't think anyone can deny that we live our lives with very similar, or totally opposite values than our parents raised us with.  Either we usually value our parents, or we don't- there doesn't seem to be much in between. I have a sister who married a single dad, and now they have had a child between both of them- I can't deny there are stressful times dealing with the "other mother" involved, but they make it work.  They will only have one child between the two of them because they are aware of the stress it can put on a family, but that doesn't mean that things don't go well at all.  They value a family with two parents even if there are other children from other relationships.  Who is to say it isn't working, or can't?  It happens all the time.  As my generation is becoming parents, there has been a tremendous paradigm shift in father involvement in families- they want to be more than just a paycheck- they need to be, and should be.  More and more fathers are fighting for custoday and placement, I even have fathers come to playgroups with their children ( I work at a family resource center).  Sorry if this is kind of a jumbled mess, but I felt inclined to put my two cents in.


  I don't think my position is the only right one on any of these things, I just think that the conventional point of view is too often dismissed as merely conventional, just old-fashioned.  There is real value to tried-and-true.  I do know stepfamilies that make it work, but it is more difficult, takes more thought and effort and kindness and all the values that I think we can agree on, than the single nuclear family. 

   A sequential family, by its very nature, starts at a deficit condition.  If a couple understands that and are willing to make the sacrifices, they make it work.  Because they anticipate problems and take action to prevent them, they seem to end up with very--I can't find a single word, honed perhaps--relationships.  If they don't understand it, they are blind-sided by the deficit, they struggle, and the  children pay more than their share of the price.

   If you can manage to make a first marriage with children hold together through its difficulties, the sound foundation that we wish to provide for our children is easier to achieve.  If you can't, the complications of divided loyalties and divided resources that happen in sequential families make that foundation less sure.  Before one undertakes the sequential family, one should consider the very real problems that can result so one can be prepared.

   That is why it is so important to teach our children to be particular about the life-stage at which and partner with whom they have sexual relations.  The will have a nearly 19-year commitment if contraception fails.  It's a practical path, not just conventional.  The conventional title for this board would be ordered in this way:  Commitment, long abstinent engagement = trial commitment, marriage = formal commitment, sexuality, continually and purposefully renewed commitment.  The order that troubles me is sexuality, temporary commitment, different commitment, different commitment.  It denies the psychological and reproductive realities of sexual activity.  

   But I don't want to pick on people who are in the midst of real life, so I put the conventional view-point over here, because I KNOW that I don't know the particulars of their situation. 

  I am really glad that this is turning into a discussion.  These are such personal issues that it is very difficult to find a forum where discussion is safe. 

I am still waiting for someone to take issue with the positions I have presented, there have to be more arguments than "Don't I deserve some happiness?" The children and former partners of the people we love also deserve happiness (in reference to should it be about the son or the son's mother). We can move the discussion to consider those who choose the path of sequential families.

   Those of you who have made a succesful sequential family, what are the attitudes and strategies that make it work?


Am I off base to think it's abnormal for my wife to sleep with our daughter in our daughters bed?  My wife has been doing this for over three years and ultimately it had a profound  effect on our marrige.  Funny thing is I told her when this started that our marrige will suffer in the long run...Our daughter is 3 and a half years old.  Any suggestions.......

Wow!  That's not normal and I bet you posted it here because your marriage and sex life is suffering.  However, MAYBE mom should get out of your daughters bed now for your daughters sake too.


If your wife is that "close" with your daughter in sleeping arrangements does she also control every moment and interaction of your daughters life? 


Do you and your wife have time to be alone in bed becides bedtime? 


Try returning to courtship--or else try counseling.  I think there is something your wife is not telling you about your relationship / her sexual feelings / something else.  If it is your relationship and you try to win her heart again, perhaps that will build a new, strong, appropriate relationship between the two of you.  If it is her feelings about sex, perhaps an old trauma or a learned attitude that she needs to deal with, joint and individual therapy may help.  

       Some girls who were sexually abused as children seem to confront the abuse at significant points in their children's lives.  The birth of a child, or when the child reaches the age at which the abuse of the mother began, or the age at which the abuse ended, or puberty, or the child's marriage,even the birth of a grandchild,  these can trigger problems.  And of course, this may have nothing at all to do with the problem you face.  


This is commentary on another thread again. Sexually active at 14. There are more consequences to early sexual activity than simply disease and pregnancy. Those are the obvious ones, but the other consequences are just as profound. There are developmental tasks that should happen in adolescence that do not happen when teenagers are sexually active. There is social development that does not occur when teenagers are sexually active. There are academic consequences when teenagers are sexually active, even if they avoid pregnancy and disease. This gets me back on what I started this thread about. What values, behaviors, and facts do we teach our children, when do we start, how do we teach? That's the discussion I think would be useful. I think a couple of viewpoints on what values to teach have been expressed, the conventional, and the other, we'll call it "consenting adults" that sexual behavior is appropriate as long as you aren't hurting anybody else, and there is muutal attraction and respect. If there are other values, and/or if I have not correctly described the consenting adult value, please feel free to articulate them. But perhaps we could progress to behaviors and facts that need to be taught, and how and when to teach.

I have used the phrase "Disneyland Dad or Mom" to describe parents who use their time with their kids to curry favor with the kids instead of help them develop admirable character traits. My son just came up with a better term. --Carnivalist--one who practices carnivalism. Just wanted to share!

Still waiting for some input from someone who has made a success of a sequential family. Stephy, am I right in assuming that you didn't have children with your partner? Is the battle still so close and intense that others of you hesitate to judge that you are being successful? Do we need to establish a definition of successful family? If so, here's a proposal we can argue about. 1. Everybody is civil more than half of the time. 2. People respect one another's privacy and property rights. 3. School age children are actively learning at school or home-school. 4. Parents are aware of children's activities/whereabouts. There is increasing mutual trust. 5. Children are gaining competence in self-care and upkeep of house. 6. Medical conditions including psychiatric problems are appropriately addressed. What did I leave out? What should I have left out? Bugaboo, any thoughts?

Help with problem with 16 year old. The guy's problem is that he has to find someplace else to sleep when his sex-partner (fiancee) has visitation with her daughter. The grown man moved in on a thirteen-year old girl's mom--don't know when he moved in with her. The child expressed her dislike for the man. The upshot was that the child lives with her verbally abusive father and has visitation with her mother. Mother chooses new honey over nurturing relationship with child. Yep, that 16 year old has a problem. Her mom is a weasel. Apologies to weasels.