Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Sanity in Marriage

Alternet has an article by Amy Marcotte wondering why marriage is idealized.

Old jokes: Marriage is a wonderful institution, but who wants to live in an institution?
Bumper sticker showing a man with a fishing pole, When I gave up smoking, drinking and women I discovered I didn't have to work.

I'm not an expert in marriage, but since I've gone through a failed one and am coming up on 31 years with Grinnygranny I have a few thoughts concerning the subject.

If you look at all cultures the purpose of marriage is to make men work. By restricting sex to a legal and religious commitment rulers, religious leaders and women entered into a pact that makes men be responsible for providing security and shelter for women and children. Rulers get taxes off of their productivity, religioius leaders get power, and women get the security and shelter needed to survive. The only draw back under this pact was that women were the property of their fathers or husbands. The fight over women's rights with abortion, gay marriages, contraception, not to mention what's going on in the rest of the world is that when women stop being property the pact disintigrates.
This equation worked well in hunter-gatherer, pastoral and agricultural life-styles, but industrial and post-industrial lifestyles have changed the dynamic. Marriage is no longer about survival and society has made the focus about emotion. A very shaky foundation for anything.
Today men look at women as a trophy or bed mate or brood mare instead the only way to have sex and to help with their survival. The sanctity of marriage ends when sex becomes available without it. The main reason why prostitution is illegal or heavily regulated. Women and the government today think men are only a walking wallet. Fatherhood has become an exercise in writing out a child support payment.

So what is marriage today?

Marriage is:

  1. A marathon not a sprint. Adrenaline may have sparked the passion which brings the couple to the altar, but it can't be sustained over the long haul. What makes marriage last is trust, respect, sharing, caring, acceptance, and comfort.
  2. Bloody hard work. Compromise, negotiation, apologizing when you weren't wrong, puting up with the other persons quirks that irritate you to no end is not easy.
  3. Economic survival. It takes two wages to live a comfortable life style today. Being able to afford an apartment or buy a house, have transportation, food and entertainment is beyond most single incomes.
  4. Raising children. When you have children stay married, they are not ping-pong balls to be bounced between you. My generation lived in an age where couples stayed together for the sake of the children. Many grew up in loveless homes and vowed they'd never live like that so when the first problems arise in the marriage they got divorced, remarried, divorced, remarried ad nauseum. Almost all studies have concluded that children living with both parents even if they don't get along fare better than children of divorce.
  5. Add some of your own thoughts here if you like.

Marriage is not:

  1. Based only on love or passion. Emotions come and go, marriage needs to last for decades.
  2. Based on sex. Sex may be the glue that holds two people together, but in every long term marriage there will be times when one or both partners are physically not able to have sex.
  3. An ego trip or about property ownership or happiness all short term objectives. Marriage is about the long haul. People age, add weight, become ill, lose jobs, make mistakes; both sides need live with what life throws your way.
  4. Again, add some of your thoughts here.

Bad reasons to get a divorce:

  1. I'm not happy. Divorce will only make your life more miserable.
  2. I don't love him/her anymore. Are your feelings that important that you'll ruin yourself economically, emotionally as well as the lives of your children?
  3. All we do is argue or fight. This is usually a problem in the first years when the couple is working out differences. As long as it's not physical abuse learn to work your problems out, seek counciling. Eventually you'll work out the kinks and things will calm down.
  4. Lack of sex, unfaithfulness. This can go either way. What's lacking here is trust. It's hard to live with someone you don't trust or someone who uses sex as a weapon. With time, hard work and counciling this can be worked out.
  5. Add your thoughts here.

Get out of the marriage now:

  1. Physical, emotional or substance abuse.
  2. Serial cheating. One indiscretion can be mended and healed. Someone that is constantly playing around is treating their partner for a fool.
  3. Desertion
  4. Add your thoughts here.

The biggest problem in that many of those in abusive relationships that should get out don't and many marriages that end in divorce could be saved.

Marriage needs to be looked at realistically instead of idealized or romanticized.


Woody (Tokin Librul/Rogue Scholar/ Helluvafella!) said...

Marriages are made in heaven...

Alongside tornados, hurricanes, drought, and flood...

P M Prescott said...

True. All too true.