MAN'S MARRIAGE BLUES
Adam: I don't want to be alone.
Eve: You can be single and not alone. Marriage bites!
Adam: I didn't know that.
Eve: Everyone knows that. Ask my divorced sisters. Or ask my divorced mom and dad.
Adam: They're all divorced?
Eve: Everybody's divorced.
Adam: It didn't used to be that way.
Brendan Frasier and Alicia Silverstone, Blast From the Past
After reading your last column on men’s rights, I have to ask, what are your thoughts on whether or not men should get married?She quotes from several writers, and a bleak picture is painted. Women used to rely on men for their protection and survival, but with women in the work place and society basically safe, women are treating marriage as less a future and a way of life and more a way of getting the things they want or just a tradition, what everybody does when they get to a certain point. Men are on the whole more romantic than they are given credit for, and there are some deeply sad stories of men looking for a life and finding a woman looking for herself and a good time.
Wow, that is a tough question. Let me start by saying that many of you emailed me about my last column on men’s rights to say that I was wrong to blame men for “not showing up” to fight against the courts and laws that treat them worse than common criminals—without due process, constitutional rights or any say in government intervention into their private lives. But it seems that women are getting ahead in the workplace (in NYC and other large cities, they earn more than men) but men are falling behind in the domestic realm which includes marriage. I understand that many of you feel that I am “blaming the victim”—in this case men—but I will use in my defense the refrain preached by Martin Luther King: “Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor, it must be demanded by the oppressed.”
Readers responded to this column:
You ask for advice to young men regarding marriage. I've only been married 25 years, so may not have enough experience to have worthwhile comments, but here are some quick thoughts.Here's the really sad part. I know good marriages, my friends seem to have good ones, my parents did, my aunt does. The problem is, I know many more bad marriages, so many more it makes me look at it like russian roulette in reverse. Spin the revolver, five of the chambers have split nosed bullets in 'em, chum. Maybe you'll get the empty one. I'm not exaggerating here, my oldest brother has been married three times. The next older one was married once. I know a guy whose wife left him because he was "old and boring" when he was neither. I know a guy whose wife was sleeping around because he worked too hard and wasn't paying enough attention to her. I guess she figured it was fair play.
I'm sure more reflection would bring more thoughts, but these are the first, and subject to modification upon reflection.
- Ensure that you and your intended are committed to the marriage and not just to 'love'. There will be times when you will be extremely exasperated by, angry at, or hurt by her. You will do the same to her at times. Both of you should be committed to getting through any problems which arrive: forgive and work things out.
- No matter how you are feeling (see above), each of you should endeavor to treat your spouse in a loving manner.
- Have the same or adequately similar religious views. Mixed marriages can work, but they are harder.
- No sex outside of marriage. Ever. Marriages can sometimes recover from betrayal, but why risk it. (See the first item, above.)
- Always try to be kind to your intended, now and when you are married. Kindness smooths a lot of frictions. When you show love, you start to feel love.
- You and your spouse should agree that, absence physical abuse or adultery, divorce is never an option.
- Have children: biological or adopted. Plural. It will help both of you to mature.
I am a mid-thirties unmarried male, who has spent an inordinate amount of my life in long-term relationships with women. I have found that marriage is somewhat of an anachronism if you discount adding children to the relationship; until fairly recently, the 'marriage tax' was an economic hindrance, as well as the ramifications of divorce (I live in a no-fault state). My personal advice to men contemplating marriage is this: ask yourself if she would stay with you if she had to support you. Based on the notion that we're all supposed to marry our best friend, whomever makes the money shouldn't be the basis for the marriage. Yes, money isn't the reason for a marriage, but most divorces sure have money at their roots.
I guess I'm one of the boycotters. I'm 44, single, never married. In the past I had a few long term relationships that seemed headed toward marriage, one even involved cohabitation. In the end none worked out. The most serious one it seemed that all the effort to maintain the relationship was coming from me, and it wasn't enough. I was expected to put more and more effort into making things work out for her. In the end, when I felt I'd gone as far as I could without damaging my career (actually I did damage my career to a degree, just not irreparably) it wasn't enough for her and she dumped me. I was actually a bit relieved mixed in with all the other emotions because I knew that the question would come down to marriage or not soon enough, and while I felt like it was expected that we'd be married I wasn't sure I wanted to go forward with this particular woman. Afterward I heard from our mutual friends that she basically dumped me because she thought she could do better.
All that happened in my late 20's and early 30's. I dated for a number of years after that, only seriously once or twice. About 6 or 7 years ago I gradually just quit dating. Without really thinking about it I came to the decision that I would not get married, so I wasn't interested in going through the hassle of dating. The interesting part is that I share a house with two other guys in similar situations. We all seem to have voluntarily removed ourselves not just from the population of marriagable men, but from the dating pool. One is a few years older than me, the other in his early 30's. Both of them were previously married and don't seem eager to repeat the experience.
Don't do it fellas.
I'm married, and happily so, but the more I see, the more I feel like a guy who played a slot machine while walking through the airport in Vegas, and just happened to hit the jackpot on the first try. Marriage is exactly like gambling. Yes, you're going to see a few winners, and the fact that they exist encourages a lot of other people to gamble, but that doesn't mean gambling is a good investment strategy.
Also, bear in mind that marriage isn't just one gamble. You're not going to be the same person in ten years, and she isn't either. Particularly if you have kids, an event that can significantly change your outlook on life. What are the odds that the people you'll be in a decade will get along with each other?
Find a girlfriend, treat her well, but don't ever let her take you for granted.
We tend to forget that marriage used to perform functions for society that have since been displaced by governmental social programs. A mere hundred years ago, women on the average lived shorter lives than men due to the complications of child birth. The need to address issues like property were less pressing. Women didn’t vote and had restricted contract rights let alone right to property, as they themselves were often treated as property. To protect one’s daughters, one married them off to someone to manage what ever the family gave them. If a women were to survive her husband, the possibility existed that the eldest son or another male member of the blood family would make play for the assets. Government was rather unconcerned about one’s existence other than as part of the 10 year census for apportionment because there was no income tax. So, if the birth was of a girl, the birth was just as much recorded locally in the parish records or family bible, cause dad wasn’t about to hitch up the buggy for a long trip to the county seat to file an official record when property was not going to be in issue, because a hundred years ago most Americans live in the country, on small farms, villages and towns. To protect females and their human rights within the context of the period, women were given the exclusivity of sex. While not perfect and saddled with a lot of hypocrisy, people a hundred years ago were prosecuted, harassed, and ostracized for sex outside of marriage. The imperfect institution meant that women were provided for in a world that did not integrate them as equals in the market place.
Give us the vote and subsequent property contract reform. Give us Social Security and lessen , if not remove, the need for the next generation of family to care for the elders. Systematically disassemble the monopoly on sex. Give us no fault divorce and cultural acceptable serial polygamy and polyandry. Give us open sex between consenting adults. It appears only commercial sex still carries the stigma society operated under a hundred years ago. Now throw in the negatives as so amply demonstrated, the real question is why does marriage survive?
I've been lucky and unlucky. My first marriage ended after 13 years (relativelly amicably and still hurt like hell) and basically so did my career/business. This was before widespread no-fault divorce, but my wife got a shark (paid for by her boyfriend) who I finally just said, "fine. Let her take whatever she wants. I quit." She was pretty good about letting me see the kids. There were other, later attempts by the lawyer (like attaching my income tax refund by claiming unpaid child support even though I had receipts and the County records showed I had paid up.) I couldn't take it and closed by business, put enough money (borrowed, mostly) into a drawing account that paid out child support once a month and dropped out.
Later, after I decided I'd probably be single the rest of my life, I met my current wife. We dated for five years, lived together (two different times) for 3 of those and finally got married. Our 15th anniversary is rapidly approaching. We have no children and both work. We have joint everything. We both try to put the other first.
My advice to young men is:
1) Never, ever marry anyone you haven't spent serious time togehter with for at least 2 years. It takes time to really know anyone.
2) Have a written understanding of how finances will be handled. A pre-nup isn't all bad, either, even if you currently have few/no assets.
3) Lower your expectations, and hers. Life is not always going to be a dream. What will you do when you hit the inevitable rough spot?
4) Talk about the serious stuff frequently. One or the other of you may change your mind about something important. It is essential that both of you *know* how the other feels about the important stuff.
5) Understand that even a good marriage may end. What will you do? Plan ahead.
6) Try never to be mean. Women remember such acts pretty much forever. It's not worth it even if you stay together.
7) Practice give-and-take, but try not to keep score.
There's lots more, but this is a start.
Historically, the most remarkable change in marriage is that it is no longer governed by contract law, where it had resided for thousands of years. Marriage vows, promises, and ceremonial statements, such as, “To have and to hold, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, until death do us part”, bear little legal weight, are no longer a legal contract, and are unenforceable in law.
Marriage and divorce law is generally too unwieldy to remediate most unethical, immoral, or even illegal spousal conduct. Divorce proceedings in North America are rife with deception, fraud, embezzlement, perjury, defamation, and catastrophic financial and emotional outcomes. Children are especially victimized. The philosophy of “Marriage for Love”, relatively recent in human history, has not provided adequate guidelines about what to do when love breaks down.
Pre-nuptial contracts have begun to replace marriage vows, because they can be written in myriad ways, are enforceable, and are supported by all the power and precedence of thousands of years of contract law, with enforcement processes and procedures clearly understood by most litigation experts.
The simplest method to bypass the problems of typical marriages and divorces made on impulse is for couples to write and sign their own “cohabitation” contract, to replace marriage licenses and pre-nuptial agreements. This method is feasible right now by couples of any gender combination or sexual orientation.
The contract can specify certain benefits exchanges and obligations, with certain penalties for abrogating parts and/or all of the contract. Specific legal marriage documents would not be used, but a ceremony marking the signing of this cohabitation contract is feasible.
If the couple later have conflict over the contract provisions, it could be settled by standard litigation procedures. As in all important contracts, great care is needed for each signatory to commit fully to the process, with a clear understanding of the consequences of abrogating the contract and its provisions.
This may seem cold, but it’s actually quite hot. Couples who love and trust each other deeply would sign the contract willingly, because they wrote it, and “to have and to hold” would be legally defined and enforceable.
If they cannot negotiate such a contract, they may well not be ready for any type of cohabitation arrangement. It would also force irresponsible signatories to reconsider their negative behaviors in light of tangible legal consequences.
This contract method would not replace marriage for everyone, but it would create another legal route to recognize romantic commitment. It would motivate both signatories to stick together through “thick and thin”, since they would know that easy, no-fault, consequence-free divorce or abandonment was not possible. There would be serious and clear legal consequences for signatories who let themselves fall out of love.
I know men sometimes are awful, I know there are bad guys out there. It just seems, from my point of view, that women in America at least have gone berserk, that they've lost all sense of duty, honor, commitment, and giving. It seems that all too many women have no idea that they have to care at least as much about the one they claim to love as they do about themselves, that marriage is a covenant, a commitment. That "you go girl" is not a proper slogan for a mature woman.
Sure, I'm a little bitter - and so are all these other guys I know. But maybe there's some basis for that, too. When you come down to it, given the difficulties and sadness around you, given the bad marriages we're surrounded by and the difficulty to find a single woman who is remotely worth the time and commitment can you blame us?
Eve: Adam says that this is simply how things work. First the parents take care of the children and then the children take care of the parents. He says historically, that's how it works.
Whenever Adam gives me such obviously incorrect information, I just smile, slap him on the knee, and look out the window.
Why spoil his dreams? They're such wonderful dreams.
-the end of Blast from the Past