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Romantic love and the nuclear family

Juan Zorreguieta and Andrea Wolf get married at Servite Church on June 07, 2014 in Vienna, Austria.
Juan Zorreguieta and Andrea Wolf get married at Servite Church on June 07, 2014 in Vienna, Austria.
Photo by Monika Fellner/Getty Images

Most of us have a somewhat romantic view of romantic love. We hope that one day we will fall in love with someone, that someone will fall in love with us. It's a magical place, or at least that's how we see it.

A recent study of women has made a connection between romantic love and the relationships they had with their fathers. There is a tendency for women to have this attractive reaction to men who exhibit personality traits consistent with those of their fathers, whether or not they had good relationships with those fathers, and in fact for women with bad father relationships to fall into bad relationships of a very similar sort.

To some degree, it seems like the kind of study that proved what everyone already knew; but it highlights something not obvious on its face. It suggests that for women to have a romantic attraction of that sort toward a man, she has to have had a male father figure in her life. Maybe that's not true; but then, what is the truth here? We have been told by progressivist thinkers that men and women are interchangeable, that as long as a child has two parents who love each other there's no particular reason they have to be one of each gender. Yet if a girl gets her baseline for romantic feelings from her relationship with her father, where does she get such a baseline without a father?

We might suppose that a girl born heterosexual but raised in a lesbian household would find a man outside the home as her pattern. Certainly there have been girls who grew up without father figures in the home, and some of them fell in love with someone, so they must have gotten that from an uncle, or a neighbor, or a grandfather. Yet how many girls have a father/daughter relationship with someone who is not part of their family?--and in our time, we are already suspect of such relationships, of older men who are too affectionate toward young girls. Besides, children of "broken homes" have a higher divorce rate, so it is difficult to assess the impact of any particular facet of that failure.

We might suppose that such a girl attaches to one of her two female parents and identifies that one as the putative "father". That would mean that her romantic baseline would be looking for a man who had the qualities which attracted her to a female parent. It is not even clear at this point that a young girl could make such an identification of a female parent as the surrogate father. Nor is it clear what kind of man might have those qualities.

We might hazard a guess that a girl who grew up in a family where she chose one of her lesbian female parents as her father figure would herself grow up to be a lesbian. After all, she would be attracted to those qualities in the woman she identifies as her father, and so find another woman who had those qualities. The homosexual community would see no problem with this, and say that anyone who does is homophobic; but if in fact a girl who connects to a female father figure because there is no male father figure in the household becomes a lesbian, then the notion that homosexuality is determined before birth is falsified--it would be demonstrably determined by upbringing.

Of course, this is all speculative. It may be that the study overlooked something, or that further data will support a different conclusion. That in itself, though, should give us pause. We make the casual claim that men and women parents are interchangeable, that having two parents is better than having one and otherwise the gender of the parents does not matter. Yet this study demonstrates that we do not know that. We do not yet know the potential repercussions of changing the model of the nuclear family, whether indeed homosexual and lesbian couples provide the same kind of upbringing for children as heterosexual couples.

In sports they often say Don't mess with success. Heterosexual couples have been raising kids for millennia. Things have changed, but always that has been at the core of it. We do not know what kind of impact a different model will have on children. Is it worth the price to our children to change to another model without examining it more carefully first?