marriage

“Marriage Markets” – Marriage Beyond Our Means?

Wedding

Wedding

The New York Times has a story on Marriage Markets, a new book on the failure of marriage as lower classes find the legal system expensive, punitive, and unhelpful:

Two professors of family law, June Carbone and Naomi Cahn, have written a crisp and cogent account — rich with detail and utterly free of legalese — of America’s failure to invest in its children.

Their book, “Marriage Markets,” asserts that this failure lies not only in public policy but also in the private lives of Americans. Marriage, the time-honored way of fostering the interests of children, no longer works for many Americans. In an economy ruptured by increasing inequality, millions of men and women are deciding that marriage imposes obligations that they cannot meet. Nearly half of all marriages fail; more than 40 percent of American children are born to single mothers.

This is not a romantic book. Professor Carbone, who teaches at the University of Minnesota, and Professor Cahn, of George Washington University, describe picking a marriage partner as a high-stakes negotiation to find the most promising person, both emotionally and financially, for a lifelong commitment. It is a contract that comes with rights and responsibilities defined and enforced by law.

On the top rungs of American life, the upper 30 percent, marriage still serves as well as ever, if not better, the authors note. “The elite do not lead the way out of marriage,” they write. “They are too busy buying back into it.”

The pill long ago took fear out of premarital sex, and this best serves the college-educated by permitting a couple to delay having children while both parties mature and pursue lucrative careers, the book says. When two professionals eventually tie the knot, they cement an advantage for themselves and their children.

As things now stand, the authors say, only the upper tiers of Americans have the money and time to reasonably hope that their offspring will succeed. The situation is the most dire at the bottom of the economic ladder, where marriage “has all but disappeared in the poorest communities” — though not from a lack of respect for it, the authors say. Both men and women see marriage as highly desirable, but a goal far beyond their means, like a second home at the beach.

The future of marriage in America will be decided in the broad middle class, where it is already in doubt, the authors contend. Divorce is more common than it is among the elite, but women stick with men, in or out of marriage, much longer than they do on the lower rungs. Still, marriage for the middle is teetering toward a point where it, too, may dry up and leave weddings as another rite reserved for the elite.

The realities eroding marriage are no secret. Recent decades have brought far better career opportunities for women, except among the very poorest. Most women do not need to endure an abysmal marriage because they see no way to earn a living. And, not surprisingly, a working-class woman with a decent job won’t commit to a man who can’t find or keep a job or, worse, might end up in prison.

Half a century ago, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, then an assistant secretary of labor, saw that a lack of work for unskilled men made it hard for black fathers in particular to put bread on the table. So, as he argued in his 1965 report, “The Negro Family,” black families became matriarchies, an unhealthy pattern that he said was left over from slavery. His explanations — though not his factual findings — were denounced as racist and anti-feminist.

Professors Carbone and Cahn applaud the prescience of Moynihan, who later became a United States senator from New York. African-American families, they write, proved to be “the canaries in the mine,” the early victims of a misfortune that has now spread much more widely.

[T]hey turn to family law for solutions, but the law has lagged far behind the diverse shapes that American families now assume. The authors contend that the law of marriage — and divorce — serves only the elite, the only couples with enough property to fight over.

On the lowest rungs of society, family law is punitive, typically a fruitless effort to determine the paternity of hapless men who have no money to pay child support. In the middle brackets, neither parent sees much to gain by going to court. Their savings are scant; women fear being stuck with supporting a former husband who has lost his job. Unmarried parents work things out on the mother’s terms, trading access to children for child support.


More on the family, society, SJWs, and modern feminists:

Divorced Men 8 Times as Likely to Commit Suicide as Divorced Women
Life Is Unfair! The Militant Red Pill Movement
Leftover Women: The Chinese Scene
“Divorce in America: Who Really Wants Out and Why”
View Marriage as a Private Contract?
Madmen, Red Pill, and Social Justice Wars
Unrealistic Expectations: Liberal Arts Woman and Amazon Men
Stable is Boring? “Psychology Today” Article on Bad Boyfriends
Ross Douthat on Unstable Families and Culture
Ev Psych: Parental Preferences in Partners
Purge: the Feminist Grievance Bubble
The Social Decay of Black Neighborhoods (And Yours!)
Modern Feminism: Victim-Based Special Pleading
Stereotype Inaccuracy: False Dichotomies
Real-Life “Hunger Games”: Soft Oppression Destroys the Poor
Red Pill Women — Female MRAs
Why Did Black Crime Syndicates Fail to Go Legit?
The “Fairy Tale” Myth: Both False and Destructive
Feminism’s Heritage: Freedom vs. Special Protections
Evolve or Die: Survival Value of the Feminine Imperative
“Why Are Great Husbands Being Abandoned?”
Divorce and Alimony: State-By-State Reform, Massachusetts Edition
Reading “50 Shades of Grey” Gives You Anorexia and an Abusive Partner!
Why We Are Attracted to Bad Partners (Who Resemble a Parent)
Gaming and Science Fiction: Social Justice Warriors Strike Again
Culture Wars: Peace Through Limited Government

More on Divorce, Marriage, and Mateseeking

Marriages Happening Late, Are Good for You
Monogamy and Relationship Failure; “Love Illuminated”
“Millionaire Matchmaker”
More reasons to find a good partner: lower heart disease!
“Princeton Mom” Susan Patton: “Marry Smart” not so smart
“Blue Valentine”
“All the Taken Men are Best” – why women poach married men….
“Marriage Rate Lowest in a Century”
Making Divorce Hard to Strengthen Marriages?
Student Loan Debt: Problems in Divorce
“The Upside of ‘Marrying Down’”
The High Cost of Divorce
Separate Beds Save Marriages?
Marital Discord Linked to Depression
Marriage Contracts: Give People More Legal Options
Older Couples Avoiding Marriage For Financial Reasons
Divorced Men 8 Times as Likely to Commit Suicide as Divorced Women
Vox Charts Millennial Marriage Depression
What’s the Matter with Marriage?
Life Is Unfair! The Great Chain of Dysfunction Ends With You.
Leftover Women: The Chinese Scene
Constant Arguing Can Be Deadly…
“If a fraught relationship significantly shortens your life, are you better off alone?
“Divorce in America: Who Really Wants Out and Why”
View Marriage as a Private Contract?
“It’s up there with ‘Men Are From Mars’ and ‘The Road Less Travelled’”
Free Love, eHarmony, Matchmaking Pseudoscience
Love Songs of the Secure Attachment Type
“The New ‘I Do’”
Unrealistic Expectations: Liberal Arts Woman and Amazon Men
Mark Manson’s “Six Healthy Relationship Habits”
“The Science of Happily Ever After” – Couples Communications
Free Dating Sites: Which Have Attachment Type Screening?
Dating Pool Danger: Harder to Find Good Partners After 30
Mate-Seeking: The Science of Finding Your Best Partner
Perfect Soulmates or Fellow Travelers: Being Happy Depends on Perspective
No Marriage, Please: Cohabiting Taking Over
“Marriage Markets” – Marriage Beyond Our Means?
Rules for Relationships: Realism and Empathy
Limerence vs. Love
The “Fairy Tale” Myth: Both False and Destructive
When to Break Up or Divorce? The Economic View
“Why Are Great Husbands Being Abandoned?”
Divorce and Alimony: State-By-State Reform, Massachusetts Edition
“Sliding” Into Marriage, Small Weddings Associated with Poor Outcomes
Subconscious Positivity Predicts Marriage Success…
Why We Are Attracted to Bad Partners (Who Resemble a Parent)

Stable is Boring? “Psychology Today” Article on Bad Boyfriends

Bad Boy

Bad Boy – Shutterstock

Attachment studies, Red Pill writings, and Psychology Today agree: women especially have a problem they need to recognize. The kind of intensely activating, sexy and dominant partner they may crave is the least likely to be a good long-term mate. This Psychology Today column by Jeremy Nicholson has some good bits:

Dating and relationships have always been hard. In this day and age, however, they can sometimes seem impossible. Particularly, women I speak to say that they can’t find a good man. They lament over the guys that they say are stuck in childhood, not taking responsibility for their lives. They complain about the men they call “nice guy, push-over” types, who don’t stir passionate feelings. They also have difficulty with men they label attractive “jerks”, who disrespect them, ignore their needs, and break hearts.

This states the general problem: for anxious-preoccupied women (but for others as well), the “nice,” sensitive, thoughtful guys don’t wake them up even though they might be the wisest choice for partnering up with. Meanwhile, the rough, aggressive, dominating sorts giving off testosterone and sexual fitness get their attention, but can’t be relied on and may well end up being abusive. A Secure person will tend to react against the thoughtless and self-centered and so avoid the harm these “bad boys” do, but for the insecure this drama-filled interaction — with intermittent reinforcement, sexual excitement, and extra-strong hormones — is a lure that’s hard to stay away from even when they know it’s not a good choice.

Socially, today’s woman is encouraged, empowered (and perhaps expected) to do it all. This, in itself, often causes extreme stress for the “super woman” and “super mom.” Social norms tell her she is expected to succeed in work, run her home, raise the perfect children, and be attractive and chipper too. It is a tall order. It is also an order that requires women to be intelligent, motivated, powerful, and in control.

Given those social instructions, women are motivated to “choose” men for how well they mesh with their life plan, goals, and ideals. Essentially then, some women choose to “attach” to men who are cooperative, agreeable, supportive, and often take their lead in areas the woman finds important. From a cultural standpoint, men who are categorized as “disagreeable,” “opinionated,” or expect women to “acquiesce” may be considered unappealing as “attachment” partners.

Unfortunately, however, many of those “culturally undesirable” male traits are similar and overlapping with the traits that are biologically “attractive.” Although not always true, often the man who is intelligent, high status, and ambitious will be unlikely to take a back seat, follow, and submit in a romantic relationship. Generally speaking, men who have “leadership characteristics” may want to lead in many situations.

With those two “feelings” juxtaposed, women often find themselves unfulfilled in love. Many that I talk to seem to hover between what they call “nice guys” and “jerks” in their dating life. They become attracted to “jerks” for their status, ambition, and dominance—only to be hurt when those men don’t live up to the cooperative and considerate cultural standard for an attachment partner. Women then may gravitate towards a culturally prescribed “nice guy,” only to find that they become bored, their libido wanes, and their eyes wander back to “jerks.” Either way, they find the relationships largely frustrating and unsatisfying.

The new customs have delayed marriage, leaving an expected period (college years until 30 or so) of experimentation and “finding yourself.” Red Pill types talk about the “sexual carousel” (or more rudely, the “cock carousel”), of Sex and the City-style promiscuity or rapid serial monogamy. Sexually exciting partners are tried and found wanting over and over, until finally the young person is no longer young and realizes the most obviously exciting are not the partners who will stick by you no matter what. And by that time, most the best partners have already bonded and are unavailable, so what’s left is more avoidant, more used up, and more set in their ways.

The article goes on to suggest some strategies (for women, but it’s valid for everyone):

1) Learning to Love Leading—one strategy adopted by some women is to learn to love being the leader of a “nice guy”. Think empowered business woman, cougar, or even dominatrix. All of these women relish being in charge, empowered, and having their desires fulfilled. Getting what you want can be pretty attractive after all. This dominant approach may have a downside in resentment and rebellion however. So, be considerate (and persuasive)….

2) Following Wisely—other women choose to be cautious in love, looking for the “right” guy to be with, and enjoying their attraction to strong, male leadership. This is more of the compatibility, eHarmony approach. These women evaluate and “test” men to find the right guy, a guy who will lead with their hopes, dreams, and goals in mind. They know that, if you’re not driving, it is wise to pick the driver carefully. Thus, they find a man with strong, attractive attributes to swoon over, who will not end up treating them like a “jerk….”

3) Mixed-Mating—yet other women join the “best of both worlds” club. Here, think polyamory, open relationships, or a hot boyfriend on the side. Evolutionary psychology indicates that women sometimes use this strategy to seek the most stable and supportive partnership from one man, and the best genes for children from another. When women can’t find it all in one guy, some choose to mix-and-match….

4) Negotiation, Sharing, and Balance—finally, some women choose to negotiate and share leadership roles with their partner. They divide life tasks and duties into different areas, with each being the “boss” of different things. Perhaps she leads with the finances, and he takes charge of the kids (or vice versa). That way, everyone has a bit of leadership, responsibility, agreeableness…and therefore attraction and attachment too.

This is too simple — animal dominance and submission is not the best model for human partnerships or marriage. We are far more sophisticated as a species, and good marriages typically have a division of labor as in choice 4, so that one partner tends to handle some kinds of tasks while the other partner does others; this specialization makes the marriage stronger because tasks are handled by the most competent member at that type of task. In a good marriage of equals, both partners leave decisionmaking in some spheres to the other, and even the most aggressive and dominant in, say, external business affairs is not threatened by ceding control of, say, entertaining to the other; and nothing says this has to be conventional. Most of us know a couple where the husband is the great cook and the wife handles all the investments. This happens naturally for the most part, without any conscious negotiation — it’s not bargaining for dominance.

The “best of both worlds” club (“polyamory, open relationships, or a hot boyfriend on the side”) is controversial. One of the Red Pill resentments is that women will accept the support of a good man, then pursue cheating with sexually exciting bad boys; of course stereotypically this was always something “bad boys” did, having a respectable “madonna” wife at home while chasing “whore” skirt on the side (see Mad Men for examples of how it used to be for upper-class men!) It goes against the grain of both societal expectations and evolutionary psychology for males to tolerate being used to support children of less responsible men, so open marriages with honest pursuit of outside sexual partners are likely to remain a minority choice for couples able to have children. But the excitement of cheating will always tempt those who crave more stimulation, and so one of our primary sources of fictional and real-life drama will continue.

The Latest from Jeb Kinnison:


Related Posts:

Sex is Better With Love (Claim Women)
Why We Are Attracted to Bad Partners (Who Resemble a Parent)
Evolve or Die: Survival Value of the Feminine Imperative
The “Fairy Tale” Myth: Both False and Destructive
Perfect Soulmates or Fellow Travelers: Being Happy Depends on Perspective
Mate-Seeking: The Science of Finding Your Best Partner
Dating Pool Danger: Harder to Find Good Partners After 30

“The New ‘I Do'”

New-I-Do-3251

I haven’t been able to read it yet, but the forthcoming book The New “I Do”” looks like it will be a useful exploration of reform ideas for marriage. As I’ve pointed out here and here, the one-size-fits-all, state-legislature-designed marriage laws are not suitable for most of the couples getting married today, and the emotion surrounding the topic makes it hard to address some of those problems with prenups, which most people can’t afford to draft anyway. But if you thought it was expensive to hire two lawyers to work out your prenup, you will find it far more expensive to hire two lawyers for your divorce who may successfully make it an adversarial proceeding.

Co-authors Susan Pease Gadoua and Vicki Larson have a web site for the new book which links to some thoughtful material. From their site:

What [author Susan Pease Gadoua] found so striking was the amount of shame people felt if they did not fit the marital mold. Virtually everyone whose marriage ended said he or she felt like a failure or described the dissolution as a “failed marriage.” But admitting something isn’t working does not equal failure. In fact, it often takes more courage to go separate ways than it does to stay and pretend to the world that everything is fine.

Sadly, too many still think that way. If a marriage ends in divorce, people are all too eager to start pointing fingers at what went wrong — either the couple didn’t understand what commitment means, or they didn’t work hard enough on their marriage, or they were too focused on their own happiness, or they were too selfish or lazy.

It’s still all about blame, shame, and personal failure, instead of looking at the institution of marriage itself and asking, why isn’t it working well for about half of those who enter into it? Actually, it isn’t working well for more people than that; many couples remain married in name only because the wife or husband needs the health benefits, or they own a business and it would lead to financial ruin, or they can’t afford to sell the house, or they live separate lives but decide to stick it out, unhappily, “for the kids.”

… Couples are tweaking the institution to make it work for them even if it looks pretty much like a “traditional” marriage from the outside. Serial monogamy, open marriages, covenant marriages, commuter marriages — these variations-on-a-theme arrangements are already happening. What hasn’t happened, however, is the end of the blaming, shaming, and sense of failure many feel, as well as the need to keep their marital choices in the closet lest they be judged.

Our book hopes to change that. We hope to normalize what is already happening. And, just as important, we want to offer those who may want to marry one day — perhaps even you — or those who would like to transform their marriage new marital road maps that will set them up for success.

The New I Do will get you to think consciously about the kind of marriage you want, not the marriage your parents, relatives, friends and — heaven forbid — celebrities have. If you have seen marriages around you end in separation and divorce, or remain intact — unhappy, sexless and perhaps loveless — and you are questioning whether marriage is still worth it, then this book is for you.

More on Divorce, Marriage, and Mateseeking

Marriages Happening Late, Are Good for You
Monogamy and Relationship Failure; “Love Illuminated”
“Millionaire Matchmaker”
More reasons to find a good partner: lower heart disease!
“Princeton Mom” Susan Patton: “Marry Smart” not so smart
“Blue Valentine”
“All the Taken Men are Best” – why women poach married men….
“Marriage Rate Lowest in a Century”
Making Divorce Hard to Strengthen Marriages?
Student Loan Debt: Problems in Divorce
“The Upside of ‘Marrying Down’”
The High Cost of Divorce
Separate Beds Save Marriages?
Marital Discord Linked to Depression
Marriage Contracts: Give People More Legal Options
Older Couples Avoiding Marriage For Financial Reasons
Divorced Men 8 Times as Likely to Commit Suicide as Divorced Women
Vox Charts Millennial Marriage Depression
What’s the Matter with Marriage?
Life Is Unfair! The Great Chain of Dysfunction Ends With You.
Leftover Women: The Chinese Scene
Constant Arguing Can Be Deadly…
“If a fraught relationship significantly shortens your life, are you better off alone?
“Divorce in America: Who Really Wants Out and Why”
View Marriage as a Private Contract?
“It’s up there with ‘Men Are From Mars’ and ‘The Road Less Travelled’”
Free Love, eHarmony, Matchmaking Pseudoscience
Love Songs of the Secure Attachment Type
“The New ‘I Do’”
Unrealistic Expectations: Liberal Arts Woman and Amazon Men
Mark Manson’s “Six Healthy Relationship Habits”
“The Science of Happily Ever After” – Couples Communications
Free Dating Sites: Which Have Attachment Type Screening?
Dating Pool Danger: Harder to Find Good Partners After 30
Mate-Seeking: The Science of Finding Your Best Partner
Perfect Soulmates or Fellow Travelers: Being Happy Depends on Perspective
No Marriage, Please: Cohabiting Taking Over
“Marriage Markets” – Marriage Beyond Our Means?
Rules for Relationships: Realism and Empathy
Limerence vs. Love
The “Fairy Tale” Myth: Both False and Destructive
When to Break Up or Divorce? The Economic View
“Why Are Great Husbands Being Abandoned?”
Divorce and Alimony: State-By-State Reform, Massachusetts Edition
“Sliding” Into Marriage, Small Weddings Associated with Poor Outcomes
Subconscious Positivity Predicts Marriage Success…
Why We Are Attracted to Bad Partners (Who Resemble a Parent)

“If a fraught relationship significantly shortens your life, are you better off alone?”

couple_argues

From The Atlantic, a good read about that Danish study we covered here showing relationship conflict can be surprisingly deadly, comparing it with alternative of social isolation. The study adjusted for all the usual health risk factors but found that even for people who seemed equally healthy, conflict with people near them, especially spouses, greatly increased the risk of death:

“In your everyday life, do you experience conflicts with any of the following people?”

Partner
Children
Other family
Friends
Neighbors

A Danish health survey asked almost 10,000 people between ages 36 and 52 to answer, “always,” “often,” “sometimes,” “seldom,” or “never” for their applicable relationships.

Eleven years later, 422 of them were no longer living. That’s a typical number. What’s compelling, Rikke Lund and her colleagues at University of Copenhagen say, is that the people who answered “always” or “often” in any of these cases were two to three times more likely to be among the dead. (And the deaths were from standard causes: cancer, heart disease, alcohol-related liver disease, etc.—not murder. Were you thinking murder?)

The stress of constant conflict degrades health and eventually kills, it seems. But being isolated was not great, either:

In isolation, most of us wither psychologically and crumble physically. In 1979, a California epidemiological study showed that the risk of death during a given period among people with the fewest social ties was more than twice as high as in those with the most. Some experts have suggested that isolation, perceived or objective, should be commonly considered alongside things like obesity as a serious health hazard. One study found social isolation was as strong of a predictor of mortality as smoking. People with heart disease are 2.4 times more likely to die of it if they are socially isolated. We could go on and on with these decades of pro-social correlations.

So the point here is relationships are like almonds. We know that if you eat almonds, you increase your odds of living longer—unless you hate almonds so much that eating them sends you into a rage, raising your blood pressure, and you eat them every day until at some point the hypertension eventually causes a stroke. Yes, just like almonds. The objective nature of what’s said or done between people converges with our personalities to create perceptions of that relationship, and that’s what matters and (seems to) significantly influence our bodies. “Certain personality traits may promote the reporting of any social relation as stressful,” the researchers write, “and therefore strong correlations between measures of stressful social relations would be expected.”

Men did seem more physically vulnerable to worries and demands from their partner than did women, which is in keeping with a scientific understanding of men’s health as especially relationship-dependent. Men release more cortisol in response to stress than women do, and marriage has proven more beneficial to men’s health than to women’s. And it was Harry Nilsson, not Mariah Carey, who was first moved to popularize Badfinger’s “Without You” in 1971 by really drawing out the emotive i in the line, “I can’t liiive if living is without you.”