Posted by: bridget | 16 July 2007

“I Do” Until I Don’t Particularly Want to Anymore

Proving Neil’s point about certain states being haz-mat zones, The Boston Globe has come out with an article about how lifelong commitment is just so ten years ago.  The general theory is that marriage is now a matter of personal happiness, success (to lord your handsome hubby over all of your single friends?), and emotional fulfillment.  When one of those elements is lacking, people get divorced.

Now, the choice is “a matter of personal happiness,” Cherlin says. It used to be that a union was judged by how well it fulfilled both parties’ economic and social needs, while today, young people judge the success of a marriage by how well it fulfills their emotional needs.

To state the obvious: your spouse is not a new pair of heels.  Marriage cannot be egocentric: it is the state entered into when a relationship is more important than oneself.  Such a state can only survive when the other person in the relationship is so bound: otherwise, marriage is either glorified dating or exploitation.

Let’s review the nature of the contract in question:

I ___ take you, ___, to be my (husband/wife), to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, for as long as we both shall live. This is my solemn vow.

“For as long as we both shall live” does not mean “so long as it is convenient/you retain your good looks/you can support me.”  In no other area of the law (or of society) do we tolerate people who break contracts at will.  Yet, we are supposed to ignore those who marry and divorce at will, up to a point:

There are no data to indicate whether an early divorce has any effect on either happiness or longevity in later marriages, but some of those who divorce young do feel an added pressure to get it right the second time around…. He used to joke that if you get divorced once, everybody will sympathize, but if you get divorced twice, the only person who will talk to you is Jerry Springer.  It is, perhaps, a peculiar distinction: If there’s no stigma surrounding a first divorce, why should there be a stigma surrounding a second?

Do any of us really think that this “peculiar distinction” will subsist for more than a generation?  Will it not eventually become the norm to marry and divorce multiple times, without any social stigma?

What really kills this elephant is that the supposedly feminist, pro-woman crowd comes up with this tripe. Consider that  two of the main reasons for the feminisation of poverty are increased divorce rates and increased out-of-wedlock births. The traditional model is extremely protective of women: it allows them to balance career and family without economic ruin.

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Responses

  1. Strange coincidence. I was thinking along these lines tonight while making a 3 hour drive to my appointment for tomorrow morning. So if a man explains to his little boy, “sorry, son, your mother and I just don’t love each other any more” how can he then say “I’ll love you forever”. Hmmm, I think kids will see a problem with that.

    For the record I am now in my second marriage as is my wife. I’ll share the details via email (not on a blog) to anyone who is interested.

  2. It’s a pretty sad state of affairs, this business of turning marriage into glorified dating.

  3. Well said, and how tragic for all involved. I especially feel for the kids. Easy divorce was built on the lie that adults are vulnerable and kids are not.

    Seems like this whole trend is sort of like the abortion topic. It is sold as being good for women but ultimately they suffer the most.

  4. Our culture gives us some pretty bad advice about marriage.
    It starts out by saying “find a man or woman who gives you the warm fuzzies and tingly feelings.” Then it tells us, “Well you don’t have to bother getting married, but if you do get married that is fine. Whatever, it isn’t all that important.” And then when problems arise (which they ALWAYS do) the world says, “Fixing that seems like a lot of work. Why not end this and start over? Surely you can do better next time.”

    So instead of hanging around and fixing the relationships (and by extension ourselves) we end it and start over with a new marriage that is equally condemned from the start. Neither person has fixed the problems that ended their first marriage- so how could this marriage work better. Once you get to this point it seems you either repeat the process as long as you can or you simply accept being in a miserable marriage and live with it.

    I still remember when my girlfriend’s mom left her husband of 20 years. I asked her why. Her mom had decided that at the age of 50 she wanted to “explore new opportunities” (I kid you not) in employment and her husband wasn’t willing to move.

    Marriage used to be a selfless endeavor. Where both parties sacrificed for each other and tried to achieved the best ends for both parties.

    Now, the world has perverted marriage into something entirely selfish. Both people go in thinking, what will I get out of this. And when you go in with that mindset (barring a serious change) your marriage is doomed.

  5. BTW Theo get a load of this. A harbinger of more to come…

    “The federal government has proposed raising taxes on premium cigars, the kind Newman’s family has been rolling for decades in Ybor City, by as much as 20,000 percent.”
    http://www.sptimes.com/2007/07/17/Business/Cigarmakers_in_a_pani.shtml

  6. I honestly think that this is a huge part of the problem in our society today. The breakdown of the family has contributed so many problems to society and I don’t believe things will get better until people begin to recognize that having healthy families is a key factor in having a healthy society. I am a product of divorced parents and I can tell you that it is NOT fun. I can’t even imagine how different my life would have been if my father had stuck around and fulfilled the vows he took. I love that you put the marriage vows in there because I’ve often wondered the same thing – how people can stand there and say that and then when they decide it’s a little tough it all goes out the window! UGH!

    Total, I loved your comment. It’s so true – statistics show that with each marriage the chances of divorce just climb higher and higher.

    Great post, theobromophile!!

  7. This post has particular significance to me, Theo. Being a young man who has just begun courting a young lady, we’re both, at least verbally, committed to the long term. I believe the euphemism is “divorce is not in our vocabulary”. And then, early this year, the couple teaching Sunday School in my young adult/college/career class separated and are now divorced. I moved to the area and began attending the class just as the separation and subsequent stepping down from that position occurred. I’d like to say that as an outsider familiar with the situation I see what mistakes were made by each to a certain extent, but it does make me sensitive to those situations. I thank God that my parents have modeled an outstanding relationship with ups and downs and loads of grace and forgiveness between them, as have my girlfriends parents.

  8. “Marriage cannot be egocentric: it is the state entered into when a relationship is more important than oneself.”

    I can certainly understand this when children are involved. But in situations when they are not, in what way is the relationship more important than one’s happiness? Of course it the marriage should not be given up on easily, but what is the point of marriage if not happiness (again, when there are no kids)?

    Under what circumstances–other than abusive relationships–do you guys think divorce is the right decision?

  9. What a great post briget, I’m linking to it if not today- later this week. You hit the nail on the head and the Bible supports you once again in this even though you are an athiest. You, an atheist, gets this so much better than many Christians even do.

    What a great post.

  10. Neil,

    You are right – women do suffer the most in these situations. A lot of single-mom households are in poverty (I’ll find the stats sometime).

    Generally, anything that really tugs at your heartstrings to want to give people the ability to divorce – abuse, adultery, or abandonment – were covered under “fault” divorce laws. Feminism ought to have made fault go both ways and expanded the notion of abuse (so that gently hitting your wife was no longer considered part of a husband’s duty), not gutted the entire institution.

    I’m the child of divorced parents. The only way that it can work is if the parents are willing to put the kids first; with the mentality seen here, that’s not gonna happen, because the parents are putting themselves first anyway.

  11. TotalTransformation:

    You should blog for me. Great points regarding how our culture dooms marriage from the start. (If you read the Globe article, it mentions a lot of things about how marriage is part of the “success” culture and is another check box. It had an interesting effect upon my gastric reflexes. Really – you get married so you can lord it over your friends? That’s beyond selfish.)

    That’s so sad about the woman who took off after 20 years. Again, “until death do us part,” not “until I don’t feel like it anymore.” (You’ve been to law school – the latter is an illusory contract, which isn’t really a contract at all.) If her husband never let her do anything, and if she spent 20 years catering to him while he never did a thing for her, well, that might be a different story, but that’s not “I want to explore the world.” That’s “I spent 20 years with this selfish b*&@#$& and I’m done.”

  12. I love that you put the marriage vows in there because I’ve often wondered the same thing – how people can stand there and say that and then when they decide it’s a little tough it all goes out the window! UGH!

    Thanks, MomLovesBeingAtHome!

    I really want to know why people take those vows if they don’t mean them. Really, if you are all about the warm fuzzies and would leave when they end, why not say so? If it embarrasses you do assemble 100 of your friends and say that, maybe you ought to reconsider your decision.

    As a religious matter, it’s upsetting that our courts allow divorce so easily. I know several Christians who have been forced to divorce against their will, because their spouses walked out on them. You cannot uphold your vows unless the other person does, too.

  13. Matthew,

    Thanks for stopping by. My best to you and your girlfriend – whether or not you choose to get married.

  14. Zabs,

    Thank you. :) Now, I’ve heard differing things about when it is acceptable to divorce, based on the Bible. I believe that the Catholic Church does not condone it, even in cases of abuse. The Bible does seem to be a bit one-sided (I believe that a man can divorce a woman who is not a virgin, but there is nothing allowing her the same).

    All of that aside, however, there is some passage about “what God has made, let no man tear asunder.” (That’s a really rough paraphrase.) To go off what Neil said, it’s tremendously beneficial to women to have strong marriage laws, especially back in those days when she would be destitute if her husband divorced her.

  15. “You should blog for me.”

    Maybe we could work out some kind of blog post exchange someday.

  16. “Under what circumstances–other than abusive relationships–do you guys think divorce is the right decision?”

    Abuse and adultery. If enter into an agreement for better or worse for so long as you both shall live, you should abide by it. I am terribly old fashioned- I know.

    Aside from the two aforementioned reasons there are few problems that can’t be worked out in a marriage. The worst part is that many people divorce over problems that almost every couple has, they just don’t realize how normal their problems are (arguments and such). My own parents divorced because both had serious issues (but substance use on one side was the primary cause).

    I for one know [3 years into my own marriage] that I don’t want the same fate for my child. I do everything I can to keep this relationship healthy. And that is another thing many married couples don’t realize- marriages don’t just maintain themselves, it takes work. Too many people (me included [in the past]) think that when the warm fuzzies fade and reality sets in, maybe they made the wrong choice. Such doubt is only human. But they let it fester and every little problem in their marriage leads them close and close to divorce.

  17. That’s why I advocate for the end of marriage entirely. Scandinavian countries are largely “post-marriage” societies and are doing much better than ourselves by virtually any metric. Traditional marriage has always been about a property transfer — transfer a woman from her owner, her father, to her new owner, her husband. It just doesn’t make sense anymore in the 21st century.

  18. Ditto abuse, adultery, and abandonment. I might add “abortion” or “forcing an abortion on” to that list, mostly because it’s a subset of abuse. If the husband encourages or coerces his wife to abort, he’s encouraging abuse (IMHO). Likewise, a wife who aborts against her husband’s will is killing his child.

    But in situations when they are not, in what way is the relationship more important than one’s happiness? Of course it the marriage should not be given up on easily, but what is the point of marriage if not happiness (again, when there are no kids)?

    Well, I’m eternally single, so why ask me? But you did, and, because I’m full of opinions, I’ll answer:

    If the long-term health of a relationship is less important to you than your own happiness (either short-term or long term), or you do not believe that the relationship will bring you long-term happiness, why are you getting married?

    I do not want children (although I could do well as a stepmom to older kids). Nevertheless, if I were to wed, it would not be for my own happiness, at the expense of this hypoethetical husband. It would be because the relationship and my happiness would be inextricably intertwined.

    I’m a huge Ayn Rand fan. At one point, she said that there is no such thing as sacrifice. If a mother, for example, sacrifices for her child, it is because that child is more important to her than herself. Likewise, if the health of a marriage is more important than short-term selfish happiness (distinguish from rational self-interest), then marriage makes sense. If the long-term health of a marriage is subordinate to one’s own happiness, or the former would not bring about the latter, then you have no business getting married. You’re screwing over someone else.

    David,

    An interesting take. How do you propose to deal with the following issues upon separation:
    -compensating SAHMs (or dads) for their reduced income, assets, and career opportunities?
    -dividing property gained before and during the couple’s period together: house, IRAs, cars, jewelry, college fund for the child?
    -compensating one partner for assets or the like given to another partner (for example, if a woman works and puts her husband through law school, upon the expectation of life-long commitment; he then turns around and leaves her)?

    or, upon death or incapacitation of one partner:
    -inheritance?
    -medical proxy?
    -trusts for the children of previous partnerships?
    -allowing the children to inherit?

    Traditional marriage has always been about a property transfer — transfer a woman from her owner, her father, to her new owner, her husband. It just doesn’t make sense anymore in the 21st century.

    Let it be known that I think this a gross oversimplification of the issue; and, even if it were true, it does not mean that the institution has no place in the 21st century. (The feminisation of poverty ought to make that clear.) Briefly:
    -marriage provided financial stability for women;
    -marriage allows parties to raise children in a stable environment (well, if we would actually make marriage a contract, instead of this nonsense);
    -marriage allows a couple to share property rights (without going through extraordinary legal hassle);
    -the public nature of the vows provides an incentive for the couple to remain together long-term; and
    -marriage allows the government (or whatever social structure is present) to know the nature of the commitment between these two people, such that they are allowed to make legally binding decisions for the other (medical proxies; inheritance; decisions on child-rearing; obtaining loans).

    There’s a lot more to marriage than giving a guy his property. The Old Testament, if I’m not mistaken, is quite clear on this: there are legal obligations that each side bears upon entry into that union, which differ markedly from the legal obligations that one incurs when purchasing a cow or a home.

  19. I always thought marriages was about selfless union:

    “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” Genesis 2:24

    “It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,” Jesus replied. “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” Mark 10:5-9.

    God seems to clearly abhor divorce. He also desires not just a joining of interests in a marriage but the creation of a completely new organic whole. Two people becoming one- something with interesting implications in the Christian religion where there is a trinity defined by its “oneness.”

    Furthermore, the so un-21st century concept of marriage is the basis for one of the strongest metaphors in the church- the church as the bride of Christ. I am not sure you want to look so fondly on “post-marriage” societies.

  20. Again, TT, you should blog for me. :)

    God seems to clearly abhor divorce. He also desires not just a joining of interests in a marriage but the creation of a completely new organic whole. Two people becoming one- something with interesting implications in the Christian religion where there is a trinity defined by its “oneness.”

    Yes. It also represents the love that God has for his people. “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her,” Ephesians 5:25.

    If you want a Christian marriage, be ready to die for your wife. Now, I know a lot of people who would kill for their property, but not those who would be killed for its protection.

  21. Speaking of post-marriage societies, they actually are doing very BADLY. The social welfare and low birth rate model are killing them; they encourage out-of-wedlock births, which shifts the burden of financially supporting a child from the father to the State. In fact, the Swedes themselves don’t particularly like the welfare state:

    https://helvidiuspachyderm.wordpress.com/2006/09/18/mu-to-swedish-pm-election-results/

  22. Total Transformation,

    Why do you send me links like that, dahlin? You just know what it does to my blood pressure.

    Expect blog post soon.

  23. Great post Bridget —
    God designed the family, and it’s been proven over and over again that children thrive in families with healthy marriages. Look at Tieki Rae :)

    Totaltranformation is all over it and I won’t even attempt to say it better than he does. People who base their marriages or any relationship on their emotions will always have failed marriages and relationships.

    I’m speaking from experience of being married 22 years. Like TT says, it isn’t always a cake walk, but who cares? Most things of importance take hard work to maintain and that hard work makes it much more satisfying.

  24. Most things of importance take hard work to maintain and that hard work makes it much more satisfying.

    You’re completely right, Tammi.

  25. Thanks Bridget — of course you’re right, just ask Ted, he’ll tell you who’s always right ;)

  26. Hmmm … my last comment blew away? Oh well. I just said thanks Bridget, just ask Ted, he’ll tell you I’m always right! That’s part of the 22 year key to happiness ;)

  27. Oh, there it is! Don’t you just love it when I play over here?

  28. (Snorts laughing)

    True that. How can a marriage last for 22 years if husband doesn’t realise that his wife is always right? :)

    Yes, I do love it when you mosey on over and ruckus a bit.


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