Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Women & Commitment & Compromise--UPDATE

UPDATE II: James Lileks writes about this questionable piece:

Anyway. Since the story’s methodology is fubar, what’s the point? Lay some snark on marriage, add another questionable statistic to the pool of Things Smart People Know To Be So, give aid and comfort to the readers who see the prospects of marriage slipping away for good, and erode, ever so gently, the stature of a venerable but quaintly outdated institution. I imagine the tone of the piece would be different if a majority of men divorced their lives to throw some hose in the trophy-babe pool, and pronounced their new freedom from responsibility and duty a great revelation. Sure, my kids don’t get to come home for Christmas and have Mom and Dad and the old ornaments and traditions, but the other night I slept with a 20-year old on the other side of the bed, and I thought, I like this.

Is it just me? Am I nuts? Or would a Times piece by this author about surging rates of marriage – especially among the young – somehow communicate a sense of dread and regret, of oppurtunities lost?
Yup. Marriage is for fools. Marriage is for those too ignorant to realize they limit themselves. Or is marriage for those who can make a relationship work and that's the secret envy of these authors?

: These thoughts have occurred to me and I posted them at Protein Wisdom, too. Jeff Goldstein is back, by the way, and you should make sure to stop by his place every day. He always has something to say in a way that I'll guarantee you you won't read anywhere else. Jeff and I both saw the significance of Kucinich's attempts to bring back the Fairness Doctrine, but here is what he says:
In the time it takes you to read this post, Congressional alien Denis Kucinich, in what he will eventually argue is simply a commonsense appendix to his attempt to rehabilitate the Fairness Doctrine, will use his position on a House government-reform subcommittee to introduce legislation promising to make turning down his invites to Star Trek conventions “an offense against the integrity of Starfleet Command”—a misdemeanor punishable by having to agree to go duckpin bowling with the creepy little manstump.
Not only did he only use one sentence to make his point, he also painted a most revolting picture of Kucinich. Is there any other picture of the man? But I digress....

Back to Women:
Is political compromise possible if 50% of adult Americans can’t compromise in relationships? Will we disintegrate into a splintered nation of conflicting interests with no common purpose or are we already there?
What is the U.S.'s common purpose? Do we have one? Is it necessary to have one? Thinking out loud here......

Sam Roberts of the New York Times reports:
In 2005, 51 percent of women said they were living without a spouse, up from 35 percent in 1950 and 49 percent in 2000.

Several factors are driving the statistical shift. At one end of the age spectrum, women are marrying later or living with unmarried partners more often and for longer periods. At the other end, women are living longer as widows and, after a divorce, are more likely than men to delay remarriage, sometimes delighting in their newfound freedom.
Wow. What to make of this information.
  1. Women work and so don't need the man for income and security in the way she needed the man before. Let's face it. We all wondered how a good number of men ended up married. It turns out many ended up that way because a woman was desperate.
  2. The culture encourages "try before you buy" and now adds, "toss when there's an imperfection."
  3. Women, while liberated, still are culturally encouraged (and I would say biologically programmed) to not pursue a man in the same way that men pursue women. Moreover, men are programmed to hunt and while don't mind coupling with a woman who has pursued them, want a life-mate that they pursue. If a man doesn't have the courage to ask a woman out, he doesn't care enough about her to overcome his inhibitions, he doesn't really dig her.
  4. While women may not marry, they will live with a man hoping eventually to get a commitment. That 30% of black women living with a spouse only tells part of the story. A good chunk of women of all colors possess the "Revolving Door of Hope"--letting men into their lives hoping the man will marry. After he's done, or sick of the kids, or sick of her, or she's sick of him, out he goes.
  5. Everyone, men and women, is more selfish. I have a girlfriend who told me,"I"m never doing laundry for a man again." She is in her 50s and there is a bit of a cultural divide. Men of that age (not all) expect a level of service that men in their 30s just don't. Men in their 30s, though, tend to believe a woman isn't "pulling her weight" if she doesn't work outside the home--even if there are kids.
  6. After divorce, women often have kids to raise and don't want outside men around. Or, outside men don't want to date a woman with "baggage". So a girlfriend of mine is single raising her kids while her ex married the woman he cheated with and raises the woman's kids (not his biological kids). This is not a rare phenomenon. It should be noted that the woman with kids cheated on her husband and now he's single.
  7. Women associate marriage with slavery. Some from experience (see above), some from taking in feminist dogma. A close friend of mine lives with her boyfriend (who's smitten and wants to marry) but freaked out when he said, "You're the one I want to come home to every night." "What?! I want to be coming home to you! See, that's why I don't want to get married. I want to have a life." While he has romantic family notions, she imagines wife-hood to being stuck in a boring, servile life.
What does all this mean for society? Children suffer. Adults remain children. Families are under stress. Adults are happier because they don't have to compromise.

The only time this situation poses a problem is during health crises, financial upheaval (job loss), catastrophes like an ice storm or hurricane (men come in handy). Basically, when you're married, you have someone looking out for you. Evidently the trade-off of supportive companionship doesn't outweigh the trouble of learning to sacrifice, compromise, communicate effectively and letting go of some desires to serve the whole.

Ultimately, I don't see how this is good for America.


Anonymous said...

Yes, that's what it comes down to--"supportive companionship." I often regret that I married at 44 instead of staying single, for purely selfish reasons of course. But when things get rough it's so good to have someone close and committed.

Just as kind of a preview of our coming old age, we just went through reciprocal knee surgeries, each of us doing the whole hospital duty, rehab duty, cooking, cleaning, driving duty of looking after the other in turn for 2-3 months. It was actually kind of a pleasant thing.

I think I'd be feeling pretty sorry for myself if I had had to go through it alone.

But as an experienced Boomer, I know that kind of thinking is considered *shallow* or *selfish* and not altrustic enough. It's either *love* or it's nothing--companionship was for Old People, which we would never be.

Dr. Melissa said...

Why not do what you want to do, when you want to, while married? Isn't that what's great about single-hood? And then just be companions the rest of the time.

Christy're said...

I'm married and I think it's great. It's so much better than singlehood--I mean really, what are we going to do that is that cool without each other? I don't understand the rationale of staying single just because, especially when people are "partnered."

With marriage we have a trusted companion for the duration of our lives. We have public vows we've taken before God to which we are accountable by law. We nuture our friendship and get along very well. I would say, hands down, the marrying my husband was the best thing I ever did.

And I'm not a boomer, I'm 26 (generation x/y)

lunarpuff said...

I must say, the concern about this statistic has made me a bit defensive.

I didn't plan on staying single forever; I fully expected to be married.

But when they asked, I was always so surprised. Why on earth would we get married? I only said yes once, and thank god that didn't happen!

I know plenty of other women who probably could have made it work, but I felt like I would lose myself.

I absolutely have commitment issues, but I don't think society is the worse for them.

Dr. Melissa said...


I appreciate your honesty. Seeing all the pain of divorce or the pain of a difficult relationship can make one cautious. And what are you going to do if the "right" one hasn't shown up yet?

It can be comforting and satisfying to be in a happy relationship. And the joy of children defies the capability of our language to express. And yet, there are times when the challenges seem almost too much. And that pendulum swings sometimes daily.

So while I can understand living alone and happily (I really think I could and some days I really, really would like to try it out, oh, for a decade or so), it might be worth risking that happiness for an even more profound joy.

Marriage and parenthood have pushed me to be a better person. And I have experienced love and sorrow that I could never have predicted.

I wouldn't trade it for anything.

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