AUTHOR: Michael Gerson
RESUME: Washington Post columnist, Council on Foreign Relations fellow, Bush speechwriter
THESIS: Americans are having more pre-marital sex, cohabitating, tearing society apart.
CONCERNS: Behavior that "opens a hormone-filled gap," "the real world of fragile hearts and STDs"
IDEAL MARRIAGE AGE: "The early to mid-20s."
REQUESTS: "Apart from the counsel of cold showers or 'let the good times roll,' is there any good advice for those traversing the relational wilderness?"
THOUGHTS ON SHAKESPEARE: "Romeo and Juliet were, in fact, young fools."
THE LAST WORD:
Having a series of low-commitment relationships does not bode well for later marital commitment. Some of this expresses preexisting traits -- people who already have a "nontraditional" view of commitment are less likely to be committed in marriage. But there is also evidence, according to Wilcox, that multiple failed relationships can "poison one's view of the opposite sex." Serial cohabitation trains people for divorce. In contrast, cohabitation by engaged couples seems to have no adverse effect on eventual marriage.

There is little use in preaching against a hurricane of social change. But delaying marriage creates moral, emotional and practical complications. The challenge, as always, is to humanize change. The answer, even in the relational wasteland, is responsibility, commitment and sacrifice for the sake of children.