what I can share is the collective experience of my generation, the first fruits of the sexual revolution and radical feminism, first to have easy cheap ABC, the Pill, to enter college with the expectation (if not the goal) of losing one’s virginity. For many of us Catholics to hear and react against Humanae Vitae was a more defining event than even V2 and the new Mass. When I was in high school living together openly before marriage simply was not done, except by those deliberately flouting convention. By the time I married it was fast becoming the cultural expectation it is today.
When I went to my first feminist consciousness raising session it was about sisterhood, supporting other women, equal pay for equal work, and recognising the dignity and economic contribution of housework. When I went to my last and gave up feminism forever it was about proving your credentials by having an abortion, either hating men and becoming lesbian, or making yourself available sexually to any man who came down the pike (esp. one of another race) to prove your liberations.
When I was in HS the only people who had sex before marriage were those who “hadda” get married. By the time I married if you had not anticipated your wedding night several months previously to “prove compatibility” even your doctor assumed there was something seriously wrong with you. When I was a young married Masters and Johnson and their ilk were promoting open marriage, swinging, masturbation, viewing porn together and other disgusting habits as secrets to marital success.
What are the fruits? More and more research is coming out, which bears out my personal experience of couples in my generation (coming up on 40 yrs of marriage) about the unhappiness and fragility of unions that began with premarital sex. IMO the early sexual intimacy forestalled growth of true intimacy which is supposed to be the hallmark of the engagement period. These couples never talked, just had sex, and learned to measure the health of their relationship solely on the basis of personal satisfaction with their sex life.
Those marriages who have not broken up earlier because of infidelity promoted by the self-satisfaction priority of this mindset, are breaking up now because once children are gone, financial goals have been met, and sex no longer has the urgency or frequency it did when they were younger, and there is simply no other basis for the relationship. There is simply an epidemic, even among “good Catholics” of long term marriages dissolving because these couples never learned to communicate and share on an intimate level of mind, heart, intellect and spirit because they never learned to go beyond the physical, and because the physical union was driven by self-satisfaction and self-fulfillment and “meeting MY needs.” Sad and tragic.
solution I suppose would be emergency therapy on establishing true communication and intimacy, but don’t know where one would go to find it, other than Marriage Encounter or Retrouville in a Catholic mindset. Every retreat I go to with other older married women seems to revolve around issues such as those raised by OP. There is a sea of hurt out there, but for spiritual health we have to learn to confess, express contrition, accept absolution, do penance and move on. We have to grieve and heal by the same slow process as is required by other forms of grieving and healing. This includes, for many women in my generation, grieving for unborn children lost through aggressive contraception.