Advice Goddess Blog
« Previous | Home | Next »

Why You Shouldn't Marry For Love
You can't guarantee that a feeling will last a lifetime. Unless you're raising kids, I see no reason to marry; and if you do have kids (in that department, I'm just to the right of Dr. Laura), whether you marry or not, I think you should have a delivery room to dorm room commitment to do what's best for your kids (like staying together as a family, despite, say, having the hots for your secretary).

Until about 200 years ago, according to historian Stephanie Coontz, author of Marriage: A History, people used to marry to combine her daddy's pigs with his daddy's cows, or to raise children. Coontz writes of the years prior:

Certainly, people fell in love during those thousands of years, sometimes even with their own spouses. But marriage was not fundamentally about love. It was too vital an economic and political institution to be entered into solely on the basis of something as irrational as love.

...And not until the late eighteenth century, and then only in Western Europe and North America, did the notion of free choice and marriage for love triumph as a cultural ideal.

CNN's Roland Martin is on a campaign to save marriages.

And here's my column on the topic, "Holding On For Dear Wife":

Love isn’t the answer, it’s the problem. As Coontz observes, once people started marrying for love, they started getting divorced for lack of it. Nobody wants to ask whether it makes sense to tell another person you’ll love them until you drop. Yes, it can happen. Everybody’s got a story of that one couple, still madly in love at 89, and chasing each other around the canasta table. Guess what: They lucked out. You can’t make yourself love somebody, or continue loving somebody after the love is gone; you can only make an effort to act lovingly toward them (and hope they don’t find you too patronizing). Love is a feeling. It might come, it might go, it might stick around for a lifetime. It’s possible to set the stage for it, but impossible to control -- which is why people in the market for durability should stop looking for love and start shopping for steel-belted radials.

I’ve always thought a marriage license should be like a driver’s license, renewable every five years or so. If your spouse engages in weapons-grade nagging or starts saving sex for special occasions -- like leap year -- well, at the end of the term, give them bus fare and a change of clothes, and send them on their way. But, what about the chi-l-l-ldren?! Maybe people who want them should sign up for a “delivery room to dorm room” plan, with an option to renew. It’s counterproductive to preserve some abusive or unhealthy family situation, but maybe more people would buck up and make parenting their priority if they knew they just had to get through 18 years on family track: “We’re very sorry you’re in love with your secretary, but there are children involved, so zip up your pants and take the daddy place at the dinner table.”

Some people do have to settle. They’re afraid to be alone, or they aren’t brave or creative enough to thumb their nose at convention, or it’s closing time in the egg aisle, and if it’s male and willing, they’ll take it. According to your friend’s father, “it doesn’t matter who you marry.” Maybe it didn’t matter to him because he’s one of those guys who really just wants a tidy house, regular sex, and hot meals -- and he never figured out he could come close with carryout food, topless bars, and a cleaning lady. Do you have what it takes to hold out for a woman who really lights you up? You might -- providing you don’t need another half to be whole. If you let this girl go, you may feel empty, bored, and lonely for a while -- but it beats marrying her and feeling that way for a lifetime. Maybe you can’t order up “happily ever after,” but if you try for “realistically ever after,” you might find “happily ever now.”

And here is one more reason not to get married -- or, at the very least, have a serious prenup.

As for how it plays out for those who stay single, another column of mine, responding to a woman who was worried that she hadn't partnered up, "For Bitter Or For Worse":

But, what will become of you if you don’t lock in a man like an interest rate? Who will change the rubber sheet on your bed and put tennis balls on the bottom of your walker? This is an understandable concern, but maybe you could just put a few bucks aside for that, as it seems kind of insulting to get together with somebody now as a means of saving big on elder-care. Beyond the need for good nursing, maybe you fear being all alone in your twilight years (or, worse yet, dying alone and being turned into a Purina substitute by your 26 cats). The truth is, according to studies referenced in Bella DePaulo’s terrific book (just out in paperback) Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After, women who’ve never been married have some of the strongest friendships and sense of community in their lives, and are the least likely to feel lonely when they’re old bags.

Assuming your friendships aren’t as fleeting as your relationships, and serial monogamy isn’t an excuse to avoid fixing something in your psychology that’s broken, what’s the problem? Your current approach actually seems pretty wise -- not planning in advance how long your relationships will last but being honest about how long they actually do. Until you start longing for something longterm, why not have the love that works for you instead of the love that’s supposed to work for you? Despite all the people who’ll ask how long you’ve been with somebody, not how happy you are, the real tragedy isn’t the relationship that ends after a few years, but the relationship that’s allowed to drag on like the ballet (forever) or a bad play (about 10 minutes longer than the ballet).

P.S. A note to those who'd like to read my column in your local papers: Write to the editor of the local alt weekly or the features editor of your local daily. Letters from readers do make a difference in the content they run.

Posted by aalkon at November 2, 2007 2:50 PM

Comments

Great post. People should be expected to choose their partners well, and almost no one in society asks them to do that... But months or years later, we're all expected to be very patient with a woman who's had three kids with a guy before suddenly figuring out that he's an asshole. And we're asked to be patient with a guy who thinks alimony rates and child support rates are too high. (This from fathers! Speaking about their own children!) When divorcees demand that the society around them take such an interest in their personal affairs, they show more than incompetence... They're conveying loneliness. I don't like these people enough to pay for the family courts that sort out their lives.

Five-year renewables for people with no kids is a great idea, and a twenty-year minimum for babymakers sounds good too (delivery room to dorm room). Meanwhile, we should be busybodies enough to tell our friends if we think they're making a mistake. My wedding fantasy is of being that guy in Four Weddings and a Funeral who stands up when a loved one is at the alter and says, "Uh, dude, you sure about this?"

Posted by: Crid at November 2, 2007 8:34 AM

My wedding fantasy is of being that guy in Four Weddings and a Funeral who stands up when a loved one is at the alter and says, "Uh, dude, you sure about this?"

Hehehehe! Crid, how very like you! o_O

Posted by: Flynne at November 2, 2007 8:40 AM

Altar, not alter, but you knew what I meant. Time for coffee

Posted by: Crid at November 2, 2007 9:14 AM

When I was 3 months into grade 11 (sophomore year), working full time at a good job, I wanted to quit school. I worked not in a fast food joint with other teenagers, but in a newsroom with reporters in their mid-twenties.

One of my colleagues sat me down and sternly convinced me that another 2 years out of my entire lifetime was not a bad deal. He told me that I could choose to make it better if I just stuck it out.

I stayed. I now have a BA and a master's degree, a professional job I love, and a salary well above average.

Too bad that guy wasn't around three years later to talk me out of getting married and pregnant in my early twenties.

I wouldn't hesitate to say to one of my children or my friends: "You can wait another year or two to decide if you want to get married or not. You're thinking about spending a lifetime with a person, another 12 months shouldn't be too long to wait and be sure." In my case, we would have broken up within the year.

Posted by: Twice divorced, now anti-marriage. at November 2, 2007 9:17 AM

how adorable.

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at November 2, 2007 9:19 AM

"grade 11 (sophomore year)"

thought 10th grade was sophomore year?

Posted by: ? at November 2, 2007 9:38 AM

I don't entirely agree with the Delivery Room to Dorm Room plan. I had several friends whose parents (finally) got divorced while they were in college. None of them really took it very well at all. They had to put up with unhappy parents for 18 years, only to find out while in college that THEY were the reason their parents were miserable. One of my friends had to take a whole year off school to deal with it.

I have no way of knowing if the divorce would have been easier for the kids had it happened earlier in their life, perhaps it was better this way. I do know that it would have assuaged the guilt that they felt, and possibly saved them several years of listening to their parents fight.

It seems to me that if parents can be mature and responsible enough to stay together, they can also be mature and responsible enough to separate without scarring their child(ren) for life. The parents whose divorces are harmful to their children are probably the same parents who would never think about staying together for the kids in the first place.

Posted by: Shinobi at November 2, 2007 10:04 AM

Shinobi, that presumes that the separation of your parents during your childhood can be non-scarring, and I think that's almost never true. It's not just about avoiding raised voices during family dinner. Kids want and deserve two loving parents, which is why this is a great post: It asks grown-ups to know what the fuck they're doing.

Posted by: Crid at November 2, 2007 10:08 AM

That is the reality. There really is no such thing as a "good divorce," except as compared to a terrible divorce.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 2, 2007 10:12 AM

I have dated a couple guys who were divorced and sharing custody of their kids with ex-wives, and in both cases they spent MORE time with their kids and took more active roles as parents after the divorce than before.

They couldn't expect the little woman to do all the grunt work and then just show up for a convenient little Kodak moment, tossing a ball back and forth in the yard. When the kids were with them, and the ex-wife wasn't around, they had to do all the icky, messy stuff too.

That said, in both cases, the guys got along pretty well with their exes - enough that they weren't fighting about whose night was whose, and they cooperated well with them. And the kids were so little when the divorces happened, I don't think they even remember it - the kids are now teenagers and doing fine.

But yeah, once you have kids with someone, you are going to be tethered to them for the rest of your life, whether the marriage works out or not. Scary stuff.

Posted by: Pirate Jo at November 2, 2007 10:15 AM

Also, we're a tell way too much society. Parents who do divorce when the kids have gone on their way don't need to say they were MISERABLE for the kids' well-being. When you make a choice to be a parent, parenting supersedes your needs -- at least the way I see it. And people should take the notion that they need to put in this time and commitment -- to the kids, for the kids -- very seriously. Too many people go into marriage with this glowy, romantic idea of how it'll play out. I have a letter I'm answering this week from a woman who regrets that she married too young and missed out on on a lot of fun, and now wants to have an affair. Sorry, lady -- the opportunity to have hot sex with a hot new guy is for the people who used condoms.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 2, 2007 10:17 AM

Divorce isn't necessarily scarring for children, if handled correctly. Provided, of course, that the parents involved are mature enough to handle it correclty.
I was three when my parents (who had me when they were 17 and 19) divorced. Part of my lack of angst may stem from the fact that I was so young. However, they were always pleasant to each other. They never put me in the middle, or clued me into any ill feelings or drama. When I point blank asked my mom what happened, she said that they were very young, both loved me but were not happy together. I accepted this and saw our situation as normal. As an adult I now know that the situation was not so rosy, but I can also see why they never would have gotten along. I love them both, but I would have had a miserable childhood had they tried to stay together.
Not to mention, having two Christmases rocked!

Posted by: Allison at November 2, 2007 10:37 AM

I have dated a couple guys who were divorced and sharing custody of their kids with ex-wives, and in both cases they spent MORE time with their kids and took more active roles as parents after the divorce than before.

They couldn't expect the little woman to do all the grunt work and then just show up for a convenient little Kodak moment, tossing a ball back and forth in the yard. When the kids were with them, and the ex-wife wasn't around, they had to do all the icky, messy stuff too.

I tend to think this is not the norm, based on what I've had to deal with regarding my ex. It's wonderful when the exes can work it out, that means both are responsible people. When you're dealing with someone who is not, it's much more of a chore. My ex just flat out refused to deal with the younger until she was potty-trained, and he still only sees them one day a week, for about 6 hours. I truly believe that's all he can handle. He's pathetic.

Posted by: Flynne at November 2, 2007 10:38 AM

There is an excellent book that all parents contemplating divorce should read. It is called "The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce" and is based on long term case studies done by Dr. Judith Wallerstein from San Francisco. One of the kids had parents who didn't like each other very much, but they did not divorce until all the kids were grown and they made sure that the kids never knew they were unhappy. Dr. Wallerstein's conclusion was that divorce is always harmful to the child, except in cases of "cruel marriages" where abuse of any kind is present. Her book is here: http://www.amazon.com/Unexpected-Legacy-Divorce-Judith-Wallerstein/dp/1901250946/ref=sr_1_1/002-3239414-2246421?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1194026251&sr=1-1

Now that I am an adult, I am glad my parents got a divorce because they were so different. I'm surprised that they even go married in the first place. I think they are a good example of why you should not get married until you are at least 30. This book was very helpful to me in working through some of the lingering issues of that divorce (and my mother's second divorce from my stepdad 10 years later.)

Posted by: Amy at November 2, 2007 11:09 AM

"Sorry, lady -- the opportunity to have hot sex with a hot new guy is for the people who used condoms."

I'm glad you told her that, Amy. On the one hand, I'm with you - this life is the only one I'm going to get, and I want to enjoy it before I'm food for worms. Staying in a dull, platonic relationship seems like such a waste of time when the clock is ticking. But you are right - when you make the choice to bring a child into the world, your responsibility goes a lot farther than when you only have yourself to take care of. (This would be one of the key reasons why I don't want to have kids.) I wish more people would figure that out before they have kids and screw them all up.

And Flynne, that sucks that your ex isn't stepping up to the plate. I mean, he wanted kids too, right? What did he think, they'd pop right out of the womb all prepared to brush their own teeth and remember to flush? At least your kids have you. It's hard for me to say whether cooperative shared custody between exes is the norm or not. I'd say, based on the people I see and know in my life, it runs maybe 50/50. If I was trying to deal with a guy like your ex, I still think I'd be happier raising my kids on my own than having his inept ass around to be like an extra kid.

Posted by: Pirate Jo at November 2, 2007 11:30 AM

Amy, that's interesting. Seeing as how this is a mostly anonymous place, would you be interested in saying how that book was helpful to you?

Back when it was published, it really seemed to hit the spot. Wallerstein's harshest critics could only cry out that she wasn't doing double-blind studies of millions of people, which seemed beside the point. I remember her radio interview on Fresh Air, where Terry Gross was just appalled that someone could reject that most precious piece of boomer cant: "It's better for the kids when unhappy parents divorce." (As if they should be grateful.) The sound of a fresh platitude being knocked apart is sweeter than a cracking Creme Brulée.

The sound of cracking creme brulee is

Posted by: Crid at November 2, 2007 11:38 AM

Bad edit! Demerits! Demerits!

Posted by: Crid at November 2, 2007 11:39 AM

I still think I'd be happier raising my kids on my own than having his inept ass around to be like an extra kid.


Exactly, Pirate Jo, exactly.

Posted by: Flynne at November 2, 2007 12:42 PM

Flynne, you seem like an intelligent person, so I have to ask: why did you marry the losah in the first place?!

"When you make a choice to be a parent, parenting supersedes your needs"

Agreed, but keeping the marriage healthy and happy should be a priority. It's good for the kids, not to mention that being deeply in love w/ someone was the reason for the little buggers in the first place. (Exception: women who get married to people who are "so-so" in order to have kids. If I wanted kids but had no hubby I'd do it solo.)

My parents SHOULD get divorced but won't (could they be addicted to the misery?). If I could afford to take my younger brother and sister away and raise them I would!! Having them stay together has not benefited anyone - except that it's allowed them to continue living in an expensive house. Glad their priorities are straight.

I guess the key, as someone mentioned, is to not let the kids know you're miserable SOBs. Unfortunately, there are VERY FEW miserably married people who can actually achieve such a high level foolery for so long. Trust me, kids KNOW. Even if there isn't fighting, the post-fight tension and lack of warmth is just as loud as a screaming match. Even w/o the name calling and object-chucking it sets a bad example for the kids as to what a relationship is.

What parents do owe their children is to address the issues. If they are fighting and hate each other they MUST get into counseling both individually and as a couple. I think a lot of people are shitty communicators, they are defensive, they are unable to critically analyze themselves and how they act...a little shrinking could make the situation more bearable for the couple and their kids.

Posted by: Gretchen at November 2, 2007 1:34 PM

Crid, I don't mind sharing. I just didn't want to bore people by oversharing.

My parents divorced when I was 8, and then my mother's second divorce was when I was 21. I have found that I am emotionally closed off in terms of trying to have a healthy relationship. I find it easier to avoid and ignore guys that are interested in me, and I tend to be interested in guys that are unavailable. I know it stems from seeing the one relationship that was supposed to last dissolving while I was young. It is safer to be alone. I read Wallerstein's book about 6 months ago and really identified with a lot of the kids in the book. Just about every kid in the book had the same stunted emotional growth that I have experienced. I also tended to take on a parenting role toward my younger brother. Both of us now have more of a sibling relationship rather than parent-child. The book helped me to work though some lingering issues and understand that while it may seem "safer" to be alone, I am really just closing myself off from the world.

I am not sure if I would like to get married or have children. Ideally, if I do have children, I would like to be married when it happens. I do know that if I do have children, I will definitely be on the delivery to dorm room plan.

My goals right now are just to try dating people without any expectations. If we click, it will continue. If not, it won't. This may sound like the most obvious thing in the world, but it is a very scary proposition to me.

Posted by: Amy at November 2, 2007 1:39 PM

Amy, sorry to hear all that.

But just to come from the other side of the coin:
My parents stayed together "for the kids" and I am completely convinced that they shouldn't have. While I am in a great relationship, I find myself struggling to trust that he is actually content with me. Fighting with me scares me to pieces so sometimes, if I'm upset, I won't address it when it should just get out in the open and get it done with. I love him so much and I am completely terrified that we will wake up some morning and hate each other, not be attracted to each other, etc.

I know it's because the example of marriage in front of me is not a good one. My parents didn't try to solve their problems via counseling or divorce and I consider that failure.

"I will definitely be on the delivery to dorm room plan." that sounds great - and if you've been emotionally upset by the divorce I am sorry to sound harsh and insensitive. But divorce isn't always bad and in fact can show kids that "hey, sometimes it doesn't work out but we still love you and we're trying to all be happy."

Again - faking "not hating each other" is pretty unrealistic in most cases, making "delivery to dorm" a preposterous proposition.

Posted by: Gretchen at November 2, 2007 2:03 PM

This is a general purpose comment to many of the thoughts expressed here:

I think that if people thought things through, really strove to anticipate and prepare for contingencies, gave deep contemplation to their own mental stability and the stability of their relationships and how having children would affect these things, what would they do with kids if divorced, etc., nobody would have kids. It's probably a good thing for the survival of the species that most people don't do that.

Posted by: justin case at November 2, 2007 2:08 PM

My parents divorced when I was 18 and away at college. I went through a lot of angst thinking it was my fault they'd split because I wasn't there to play peacemaker anymore. I was constantly put in the middle during their marriage. I was devastated by the divorce. But I was also damaged by their marriage. I don't know which damage was worse. What's sad is they managed to inflict the same damage on my younger sister even after they were no longer living together. Some people should not have kids together. Divorced or together they are just too toxic to interact with each other.

Posted by: SarahBeth at November 2, 2007 2:34 PM

Gretchen, Thank you for sharing your experience with me. I appreciate your views.

Posted by: Amy at November 2, 2007 2:45 PM

General to children of divorced parents: Was it hard b/c you didn't see it coming?

Or...If it was clear that your parents didn't love each other and the home was a battle ground, was the outcome of divorce a relief to some?

It's just interesting how different people handle things. My sister, 18, came to me and said "I want them to get a divorce." She said this in a matter-of-fact fashion with full knowledge of what it would mean. I guess the pain of having an unloving household was worse than the upset of a legal battle.

I think SarahBeth is hitting on what I feel: a divorce is traumatizing, but sometimes the marriage is worse...both have lasting effects on the kids, aka, the victims of a reckless relationship.

Amy - just an FYI, I hope it didn't seem like I was minimizing your pain. Not my intention! Just trying to put in my $0.02 from the other end.

Posted by: Gretchen at November 2, 2007 3:01 PM

Gretchen - When I was younger I used to pray for my parents to divorce. I was the peacemaker. They would fight and then my mom would tell me her side and I would go talk to my dad, who would tell me his side and then I would go back and forth til I had "solved" the problem. The divorce hit me hard not because I didn't see it coming, or because I didn't think it was for the best, but because I saw it as a failure on my part. Once I got into therapy I realized that it wasn't my fault it fell apart and I was find with the divorce. Now if I could only undo the damage done by me being their gobetween for years. I'm still working on that.

Posted by: SarahBeth at November 2, 2007 3:21 PM

"I think that if people thought things through, really strove to anticipate and prepare for contingencies, gave deep contemplation to their own mental stability and the stability of their relationships and how having children would affect these things, what would they do with kids if divorced, etc., nobody would have kids. It's probably a good thing for the survival of the species that most people don't do that."

Justin, I have sometimes thought the same thing, but now I don't agree. Believe it or not, there are some people who do all that thinking and still want kids. They are wired differently than me, for sure, but some people honestly like kids, want to have them, and understand how important it is to make sure they are prepared to do it properly. Regardless of what they are giving up, having kids still makes for the happiest life they could have. Some people really enjoy it!

I have heard lots of people say that there is no rational reason to have kids, but it's rational and makes sense to have kids if you 1) Have a TRUE understanding of what it will be like (how boring/expensive/stressful it can be) and still want them anyway, and 2) Have the resources (time and money) to do it. I'll grant you that a lot of people wouldn't have kids under those circumstances, but some people would.

That said, let's just say that what you're saying IS true. That the entire human population only reproduces due to lack of thought and outright stupidity. Well I'd prefer an intelligent human race that non-reproduced out of existence to a bunch of dummies making themselves and their children miserable and being of no use to anyone. We're all going to die anyway - does it really matter whether other people keep on going after we die? I'm pretty sure the planet wouldn't care, the animals wouldn't care, and there really is no being in existence that WOULD care, so the only people it matters to are humans themselves. And if they all got more out of their short lifespans by not reproducing, well why SHOULD they reproduce?

The only people our existence matters to is us, and we should make it the most positive existence we can while we're here, in the end - whether that means having kids or not.

Posted by: Pirate Jo at November 2, 2007 3:24 PM

"Well I'd prefer an intelligent human race that non-reproduced out of existence to a bunch of dummies making themselves and their children miserable and being of no use to anyone."

Stop being a twit.

I'm a child of divorced parents - when I was 13 - with two younger brothers. My mother is a bitch, my father is a kind but weak man. My mother should not have had children; thank christ she never had a daughter, who would undoubtedly be a hot but miserable tatooed whore. My father is a good man, but incapable of dominating and uninterested in dominating, I think, such a person. Their divorce ended the thermonuclear fighting, but it suddenly gave my mother dozens of new pretexts - and some good reasons (financial anxiety) - to fail to control herself. It resulted in my father's loneliness. It also made our finances much, much more difficult.

Ultimately, I am annoyed at my fated parents. They've got some good qualities, and since menopause set in mom's much less of a bitch than she once was. In fact, so much so I can't believe how nice she is and actually find myself asking her that, although I've never expressed to her what I think of her personality. My dad is stil lonely; the finances are less of strain now that I and my younger 2 brothers are out of the house.

But there is no doubt that divorce set the 5 of us out on a path that led to atomization of our lives. The family-ness is sort of strained, since as most of us went off to college and down our respective paths the fact is you don't really have that solid unit to look back on. You just have this persistent and indissoluble relationship.

Of course, this could happen, or worse, in a non-divorce situation - just throwing my own $.02 out there. I do think, however, that all this theorizing is completely futile effeminate bullshit, however. People should be forced to work things out, in my opinion. Why? Because people are selfish assholes, and their children need them. Suck it up. Aside from that, there is no solution - so hey, maybe there is no solution. Good luck!

Posted by: dan at November 2, 2007 4:08 PM

Dan,

Your anger leaks from your post. I hope you are getting help for that.

Posted by: DaveG at November 2, 2007 4:37 PM

> parents divorced when
> I was 8

Apparently girls who suffer profound family disruptions between 4 and 8 are really vulnerable... I've seen some of this in my own family. Anyway, best wishes, and thanks truly for sharing. If there's any good news about it, it's that at least you know what the problem is. I'll pull Wallerstein off the shelf tonight and think of you. I think the effect of divorce on our children is the holocaust of these generations. If America continues to improve in the next two hundred years as we've improved since our nation's founding, our descendants will be as appalled by our family patterns as we are by slavery.

> If I wanted kids but
> had no hubby I'd do
> it solo.

And I'd never speak to you again. Or to your kids.

> Divorce isn't necessarily
> scarring for children, if
> handled correctly

...and...

> divorce is traumatizing,
> but sometimes the marriage
> is worse...

Just keep telling yourself that. Say it over and over and over. In magazines; on afternoon TV shows; at cocktail parties; and in the occasional political debate. Just keep on saying it, and it'll eventually be true....

Is anyone here old enough to remember when the Reagan Administration tried to get ketchup classified as a vegetable for school lunch programs? It's like that. Instead of trickle-down economics, it's trickle-down soulcraft. We just gotta believe! Once we're convinced that the we're not responsible for the most important choices of our lifetime, but that our fulfillment is more important than the spiritual development of our own children, then every day is Christmas!

> It's probably a good thing
> for the survival of the
> species that most people
> don't do that.

Maybe survival isn't the highest value, maybe decency is. I sincerely believe this ties intimately with the popular faith in intelligence as the greatest virtue, because intelligence is the human tool for survival, just like the bird has wings. If you're a bird, nothing's as cool as flying.

> Some people should not
> have kids together

Exactly ExactlyExactlyExactly. This is why Amy's post is so great, she's asking that people who are old enough to do this be disciplined enough to do it well.

Posted by: Crid at November 2, 2007 4:42 PM

> Your anger leaks from
> your post. I hope you
> are getting help for that.

That's a bullshit thing to say. It's just inane. Pull off your bib and tug your thumb out of your mouth; are you saying dan's wrong? Apparently you're more distracted by his emotions than he is... He's still thinking clearly.

Posted by: Crid at November 2, 2007 4:46 PM

"Your anger leaks from your post. I hope you are getting help for that."

Ha. Well thank you for your concern, Dave.

Posted by: dan at November 2, 2007 4:58 PM

This is why Amy's post is so great, she's asking that people who are old enough to do this be disciplined enough to do it well.

Good point. It's why (well, in addition to my ambivalence) I don't think being a father is a good idea for me. I don't think I would do it well (and I don't think that about much). I place unreasonable demands on myself; I can't imagine I'd be able to avoid having similar - but even higher - expectations for my child. It wouldn't be fair.

Posted by: justin case at November 2, 2007 5:00 PM

"Well I'd prefer an intelligent human race that non-reproduced out of existence to a bunch of dummies making themselves and their children miserable and being of no use to anyone."

Stop being a twit.

Well what exactly is wrong with what I said? Why do you think it's twitty? Are you suggesting everyone should have kids? Or that if no one decided they wanted them, a few of us should be rounded up for breeding purposes anyway? Or are you suggesting coconuts migrate?

Copyrights on the word twitty, by the way. I'm working on a limerick as we speak.

Posted by: Pirate Jo at November 2, 2007 5:15 PM

Flynne, you seem like an intelligent person, so I have to ask: why did you marry the losah in the first place?!

Ah, Pirate Jo, we're all blessed with 20/20 hindsight! I had thought that he really meant it when he asked me to marry him "because [I'd] make a great mom" - I didn't know he meant for him! He didn't want a wife, he wanted a mother, and I didn't see that clearly until after we got married. (You should know I had child #1 before the marriage, child #2 after). The turning point was when we were living in a trailer (that his parents procured for us; I was paying all the bills, working full time, my parents were babysitting so he could sleep until noon before he went to his part-time job at the photo lab), and I asked him "where do you see us 5 years from now?" and he answered "oh, we'll be here for the next 15 years, or until my parents die and we get their house." The red flag was waving wildly, and I thought "nope. OUTTA here!" and I left.

General to children of divorced parents: Was it hard b/c you didn't see it coming?

It was actually easier for me (and I could be the exception), because I had a full time job and my parents' help. Had the girls been older, there might have been some difficulty, but #1 was not quite 3 years old, and #2 wasn't born until after I left. I love them both with my heart and soul, and would not trade either of them for anything in this world. We're so much better off now, and I'm grateful that they aren't as emotionally damaged as they could have been.

Posted by: Flynne at November 2, 2007 5:15 PM

> Ha. Well thank you for
> your concern, Dave.

You're being handsomely cool about it. Back in the schoolyards of Indiana, "You're crazy!" was fightin' words. In today's very compassionate, introspective psychological environment, weasels will pretend they were only trying to help.

> I place unreasonable
> demands on myself; I can't
> imagine I'd be able to
> avoid having similar - but
> even higher - expectations
> for my child

Same here only backwards. I'm a contented ne'er-do-well, and my brats wouldn't bother getting out of bed in the morning.

Posted by: Crid at November 2, 2007 5:24 PM

"Flynne, you seem like an intelligent person, so I have to ask: why did you marry the losah in the first place?!"

By the way, it wasn't me who said that! But I did post a comment on another post, further down the page (the one about alimony). I know how 20/20 hindsight works and wasn't faulting you for a mistake you made way-back-when. It sounds like you and your kids are getting along fine, my comment on the other post is more along the lines of why not cut this guy out of your life permamently.

Posted by: Pirate Jo at November 2, 2007 5:24 PM

Yep, you're right, it was Gretchen! Oooopsie! But thanks for the other comment, I've just now answered it.
And Gretchen, thanks for asking, I hope I've cleared it up for you! Actually, I'm almost fine with it all; I only wish he would step up and do what's right, he is their father, after all!

Posted by: Flynne at November 2, 2007 5:28 PM

Thanks Crid! Woot!

Yeah the thing is, I'm actually not angry about it, but I have found that describing the situation accurately - especially the fact that my mother (O sacred mother!) is a bitch - pretty much brings down the hammer of No! on you, and you learn to keep your mouth shut about it rather early.

So, if you don't want to hear it, that's ok with me.

My parents' divorce, though, was a "good divorce" - I am grateful for that, as I met many in college with much worse to deal with (testifying, complete financial ruination, etc.) - so I thought my perspective might be useful.

The thing is, though, divorce seems to be one of those phenomenon about which people have become, in my view, too comfortable rationalizing into a question of the happiness - the happiness - of the parents, when in fact the consequences are much more profound for the children involved. I'm not a sociology-monger, but apparently the data irrefutably show children of divorce are much more neurotic, angry, emotionally reluctant. They seem to have difficulty reaching their potential professionally and romantically. They are more likley to engage in violence and substance abuse, and are more likely to be divorced themselves. And of course the wisdom that in a potential marriage prospect one ought to look at the intended's family history seems to me sound, and yet I find that mine is not all that attractive, which is dispiriting.

Since I'm not a sociologist, and have other interests, I can't say whether this data is true, comparatively, or not; perhaps it is some conservative conspiracy. I can only say that in my case, I admit it is quite difficult to (1) live in a society that publicly treats divorce as a routine occurence, and yet (2) actually expressing candid and true emotions about it seems to threaten or disturb or annoy the people you actually know that your own testimony is regarded as warped by anger and resentment. So, even in spite of all the apparently concerned public discussion about it, the consequences of divorce remain private, and are somewhat isolating.

Well, that's not a very happy bargain, I think. But hey, go ahead and get divorced, or counsel divorce. Not much I can do about it.

Posted by: dan at November 2, 2007 5:31 PM

> too comfortable rationalizing
> into a question of the
> happiness - the happiness - of
> the parents, when in fact the
> consequences are much more
> profound for the children

Dude, you're a brother.

Posted by: Crid at November 2, 2007 5:34 PM

I'm not finding a problem with what Dan says, either - if anything it seems to strengthen my point that some people shouldn't have kids.

Posted by: Pirate Jo at November 2, 2007 5:42 PM

Posted by: dan at November 2, 2007 5:58 PM

I don't necessarily disagree with studies based on statistics about the damage to kids caused by divorce, but in the case of my parents' divorce when I was 10, I am positive divorce was better than the alternative. My father was never officialy diagosed as paranoid-schizophrenic, but that seems to have been his problem. He was a religiously fanatical egotist who looked forward to fighting next to Jesus during the battle of Armageddon (he looked forward to seeing blood flowing as deep as horses' bridles). After that, he figured, he would serve as some sort of viceroy or something during the Millenium.

If I had had to live through my teen years in the same house with him, I would have developed a deep and abiding hatred for him. As it was, my mother raised me and my two sisters on her own. She never spoke aginst him; in fact, she stressed his good points--and he did have a few. She kept us in contact by taking us to visit him or asking him to visit us a few times a year. So we came to understand his craziness without the need for her to point it out. The distance made it tolerable enough that I continued to visit him with fair regularity through college and graduate school--until senile dementia did him in. On those visits I enjoyed hunting and fishing with him and managed to grit my teeth so I could nod and smile when he got going on biblical prophesy.

My sisters and I have led reasonably happy and productive lives. We all married and had kids, and we all live in reasonable harmony with our spouses; nobody got a divorce.

So I can't say divorce is always better for the children than a bad marriage, but in our case it was. My mother still feels guilty whenever she reads statistical studies about the ill effects of divorce, and all three of us assure her she should not feel guilty at all, because she absolutely did the right thing.

Posted by: Axman at November 2, 2007 6:08 PM

If you insist of thinking of love as a feeling rather than a moment-to-moment decision to do what's best for one's beloved, then yes, you shouldn't marry for "luv".

Posted by: Mommynator at November 2, 2007 6:22 PM

I don't agree with everything you've said about marriage, but I respect that you have a position based on well thought out logic.

I've always thought it should be much easier to get divorced. None of this waiting a year shit. You should be able to go to the JP and get a divorce. What I think is that they should make it harder to get married. Make couples wait a year before getting married, not getting divorced. If it was harder to get married, the divorce rate would drop through the floor.

Posted by: Michael at November 2, 2007 10:09 PM

If you insist of thinking of love as a feeling rather than a moment-to-moment decision to do what's best for one's beloved, then yes, you shouldn't marry for "lu

I differentiated between love the feeling and acting loving...or didn't you read what I wrote.

P.S. Wise words, Dan.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 3, 2007 12:51 AM

My ever-evolving rule about marriage and kids is this: If you are discussing a toxic marriage - a truly toxic marriage, in which the two people involved can't decide on red vs. purple jellybeans without getting into a loud, nasty public argument that drags in their sex life and respective forebears - that cannot be helped in any significant way by a good therapist, then divorce might well be better for your kids. Please note all of the factors that I have mentioned there, AND that I've said divorce MIGHT be better. I think we've all known marriages that would form the exception to the "delivery to dorm room" plan - such as that of Axman's parents (your mom sounds like a singular woman, Axman). It's hard to say exactly what makes up those exceptions - it's more of a "I know it when I see it" thing. Flynne, it sounds as though your marriage was also one of those.

The thing is, though, divorce seems to be one of those phenomenon about which people have become, in my view, too comfortable rationalizing into a question of the happiness - the happiness - of the parents, when in fact the consequences are much more profound for the children involved.

Exactly. And THAT, I think, is the bigger issue here. At some point during the last 50 years or so, we seem to have moved into a mindset in which children should be indulged on the small things but in which their well-being is seen as being less important than adults' on the big, important, difficult matters. It is easy to buy your kid the expensive toy truck for which he's whining, or to ignore the fact that he won't do what you say. It's hard to go to a counselor with your spouse, the co-parent of that child, and try to work out just why certain things he says set you off. Somewhere along the way, people started talking about how "resilient" children are. Know what? Children, on average, aren't all that resilient. Some are incredibly so, some aren't at all, but they don't just shake off the decisions that adults in their lives make for them. It's not that I think parents of minor children should never, ever divorce - it's that I think too few parents, upon having children, really get that the children's well-being always has to come far, far ahead of their own. How this applies to any given marriage may vary.

And of course the wisdom that in a potential marriage prospect one ought to look at the intended's family history seems to me sound, and yet I find that mine is not all that attractive, which is dispiriting.

Dan: Can't speak for all of the women out there, but I can say that I personally would rather have a guy with a terrible family background who is aware that that background is terrible and has taken active steps to make his own life different than one with a less troublesome family background who is living an unexamined life. Does that make sense? Every family is dysfunctional in its own way. Sometimes that is minor, but sometimes it's major - and the difference is not always available on the surface. Unsolicited advice: If you haven't gone in for some head-shrinking, at least be willing to do so at some point. Difficult as it was, your past could actually be a huge boon to you in a marriage, if you're clear-eyed about the lessons from it and are willing to apply those lessons. I'm sure this sounds mildly obnoxious, but I say it based on experience. Some of the happiest marriages I know involve people from screwed-up backgrounds who realized that those backgrounds were screwed up and decided that whatever mistakes they made, they wouldn't be THOSE mistakes. That make any sense? Good luck.

Posted by: marion at November 3, 2007 6:53 AM

I think we've all known marriages that would form the exception to the "delivery to dorm room" plan - such as that of Axman's parents (your mom sounds like a singular woman, Axman). It's hard to say exactly what makes up those exceptions - it's more of a "I know it when I see it" thing

Yes, agree, Marion.

And also that while we have what I call "The Cult of The Child," with parents (mothers especially) having myriad labor saving devices and turning their entire life focus, minute by minute, onto their children...we also are quick to throw over the kids' welfare for mommy or daddy's need for hot sex with the secretary. And sorry, that shouldn't be an option. If you need it to be an option, well, wear a condom.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 3, 2007 7:18 AM

> If you haven't gone in for
> some head-shrinking, at least
> be willing to do so at
> some point.

Of all the pathologies, bad luck and clumsy nurturing that have been confessed in this stack and elsewhere, Dan's the guy who people want to send for shrinkage. Why is that? (I suspect that the truth would not flatter these casual counselors... And I never flatter psychotherapy [there are too many people who do that as thoughtless reflex].)

Posted by: Crid at November 3, 2007 10:39 AM

Unrealistic expectations cause a lot of damage. Many of them have are created/sustained by the media.

Among them:

1)Unrealistic/immature notions that initial romance is the sum total of loving someone, and can/should be sustainable throughout a marriage.

Antidote: a more adult approach to dating based on true appreciation of the other person's qualities, and a clear-eyed willingness to work out a life together.

2) Unrealistic/immature notions about how much of life should/will revolve around one's own pleasure. And about the time frame required for real, fulfilling accomplishment in one's personal life.

Antidote: a pull away from narcissism to a realization that successful partnering involves much compromise, and much parenting is about giving and inconvenience. AND realization that the time frame for fulfilling family life is along the lines of "delivery room to dormitory".

3) The above 2 - but from the kid's perspective. Unrealistic notions about what "everybody else's" family is like, or what normal should be.

And selfishness (although in fairness, children are naturally self-centered and the current crop of narcissistic boomer pseudo-adults are largely to blame for their children's self-absorption, and for their need to painfully learn for themselves what real relationships require).

Posted by: Ben-David at November 3, 2007 11:49 AM

I definitely think that people need to think more before they have kids or even get married. But there do exist many marriages that are going to harm the kids more than divorce will (though in those circumstances, divorce isn't going to be easy either). When parents are constantly fighting and belittling one another, it is not good for anyone involved. At least if the parents divorce, the kids get some respite from the warzone.

OTOH, I can happily say that if my partner and I do marry, or far more likely get a civil union, it won't be for our hot, passionate love life. While we do in fact love each other, we are not desperately in love. Nor would we likely be together if we didn't have a child with one on the way. I'm sure we would still be close friends and probably even have the sex on occasion, but both of us prefer to live alone. Since we don't get to live alone anyways, we might as well all live together. We definitely care for each other, but we haven't been in love in a long time.

I can totally see us doing as a friend's parents did. They stayed happily married until the dad died. However, for the last eighteen years of marriage (after the last kid was out) they lived in separate homes. Worked beautifully for them. Dad got to build his airplane in the living room, she got to have a house in town, all decorated up, the way she liked it.

Eventually, I would like to live full time in the mountains. Momma depends on public trans and loves living in the city. After twenty years or so, I doubt either of us will be interested in other partners, probably will stay together quite often. But if finances allow, I will live in the mountains most of the time and she will live in the city most of the time. But that won't happen until the kids are done with high school. Until then, we will enjoy our lives together full time.

Posted by: DuWayne at November 3, 2007 3:14 PM

DuWayne, I'm not an expert on romance, but there's a lot to admire in your comment. There are probably things that people could criticize as well, but you seem to be really clearheaded about the kids.

Anyway, it reminds me of a favorite old joke: During a quiet evening at home, the middle-aged spouse turns to the partner and says: "If one of us dies, I'm moving to Paris."

Posted by: Crid at November 3, 2007 6:15 PM

Of all the pathologies, bad luck and clumsy nurturing that have been confessed in this stack and elsewhere, Dan's the guy who people want to send for shrinkage.

Crid: I tend to think that EVERYONE should be willing to go in for shrinkage at some point if required. When is it required? Well, if your marriage is falling apart, you should be willing to at least try to put it together. If your child dies and the two of you retreat into separate grief and don't seem to come out, you should be willing to do so. If you keep falling for losers and rejecting sane people, you should be willing to do so. Etc.

I essentially equate "willingness to go in for counseling" with "willingness to consider that your subconscious may be causing you to do things that are wrecking your life." The people who respond to the idea of counseling with anger and hostility, claiming that all that stupid psychobabble doesn't apply to THEM, are the ones usually wrecking their own lives most industriously. I am willing to admit that there are people out there not into head-shrinkage who are perfectly willing to examine their own lives and motives - you, for example. A hell of a lot of others either end up writing into Amy, or causing other people to do so.

In the case of Dan, I actually think his family history could end up leading to him being an excellent husband and parent, should he wish to be either/both. However, to accomplish this, I think he'll need to make sure he's not inadvertently repeating the destructive habits he viewed growing up. Because, all other things being equal, many of us do end up repeating those habits, especially after becoming parents. Just ask the mother who finds herself saying, "Because I told you so" after spending her own childhood seething over the phrase. (I actually highly approve of "Because I told you so," but you get my point.) Our parents are the ones who program our buttons. That doesn't mean that we're condemned to repeat their mistakes, but in order to avoid doing so, we need to have awareness of why we do certain things. That awareness can be tough. It's entirely possible that Dan will never need to talk with a third party in order to work out his motives for doing things, but it's also possible that something, one day, will trigger a response that will cause him to fall into all-too-familiar patterns of behavior without realizing it. He's certainly not the only one out there, but he is the only one on this thread that I saw who expressed significant concern that his childhood could interfere with him finding a lasting relationship.

Posted by: marion at November 4, 2007 1:49 PM

> EVERYONE should be willing
> to go in

Dear woman, the short version is that you have much more faith in this stuff than I do. I think it's compulsory Catholicism, a terrible conceit of our age.

(OK, this may not turn out to be the shortest possible version.)

A few weeks ago I did some incidental work for a big automaker. The people were sensational, and there happened to be a notable leadership transition underway in the Big Offices. It was the easiest place to make small talk you can imagine. During a morning commute to the HQ one day, while stuck on the 405 freeway's hideous Southbay curve, I was absently tallying the marques of the autos in the adjacent five (frozen) lanes. At that moment an NPR business report came on discussing the leadership change. And I realized that every person in the cars surrounding me had a deeply-felt personal opinion about the auto business... Because they were de facto investors, whether or not they held stock. Even guys who aren't fanatic about cars (c'est moi) can describe some highs and lows of the business over the course of our lifetime. We're all in the faith, even if we don't care enough to wear the robes.

Psychotherapy has that same claim on our popular imagination, without delivering the goods... And it can't even get you to work in the morning, or to anywhere the common mind wants to be taken. But it's got its hooks in us pretty deep, duzzen it? News this morning from Oprah's Africa crisis is that she's doubling down and sending in therapists, as if to compensate for the hurt caused by the evil schoolteacher. (Sorry about the source, I think came thru Reddit:

http://urltea.com/1zpz

And no disrespect to Oprah, she's doing more for Africa than I ever did.)

It's all about feelings. And every person inclined to chat about psychotherapy has feelings, so they believe their opinions are as practically tested as their opinions about their cars.

I doubt it. Life can scar our souls horribly, and all the therapy in the world can't fix the damage, especially when a child has missed formative nurturing experiences. We recommend therapy not because it works, but because there's nothing else to do. "You oughta talk to somebody about that...."

> the only one on this
> thread that I saw who
> expressed significant
> concern

Well, Commenter Amy showed us a lot of leg as well. After her mention of it, I reread most of Wallerstein last night, and the best passage opened chapter three: "One of the many myths of our divorce culture is that divorce automatically rescues children from an unhappy marriage." The rest of the book demonstrates that it's not true, and why Alkon and others here are correct to ask that people not fuck up their kids to begin with. (One narrative echoes Dan's pretty closely, except for a gender-flop.)

> his family history could
> end up leading to him
> being an excellent husband
> and parent

Irony is almost never that tidy and gratifying. I'm content to admire Dan for the clarity and warmth of these comments already. And that's another of the many problems I have with psychotherapy: Its favorite clients are already articulate, communicative, engaged human beings.

Your mileage may vary.

Posted by: Crid at November 4, 2007 6:03 PM

Dear woman, the short version is that you have much more faith in this stuff than I do.

The problem is, there are a hell of a lot of therapists out there who aren't worth a shit -- and then there are those who will actually damage you. Wisdom is not a quantity in great supply -- in any profession, including the profession that professes to have the knowledge to figure you out and straighten you out.

When I was going through a rough patch a couple of years ago -- writing issues -- I flew to New York to see a therapist I'd read about in a friend's book. He was kind of shocked. There are therapists in LA after all. Yes, but I don't know how wise they are, and I'd read about his thinking and work with my friend, and knew he was among the few who actually have something to offer me.

My other experiences with therapy? A guy in New York who, after 40 minutes with me wanted to give me lithium. I was lonely because I couldn't find a boyfriend and I wasn't making enough money...affecting me, yes, but hardly something that calls for heavy chemical modification.

And then, I saw a cognitive behavioral therapist in LA who pronounced me very wise and rational and said she had nothing to tell me, don't come back. And okay, I'm introspective and I try to deassholize myself with regularity, but I'm not Socrates.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 4, 2007 6:17 PM

Dear woman, the short version is that you have much more faith in this stuff than I do.

Well, I have seen it work. I've seen some couples stay married - and stay married happily - who were on the brink of divorce. I've seen others go from the duos that no one wanted to be around - you know, the ones who get into loud public fights at the restaurant about who will sit near the wall - to pairs who could be civil to themselves, and others, in public. More to the point, I've seen a hell of a lot of people wreck their lives in big and little ways because they were unconsciously seeking to replicate very bad situations from their childhood. Generally, whenever I have mentioned therapy to these people - in the context that I've done it and have been thinking of going back to it - I've gotten overwhelming resistance to the idea that psychiatry could provide ANY insight into all of this.

Amy occasionally says that I seem well-balanced. Which I appreciate, but I didn't get here on my own. I'm the end result of some early therapy - not because I was a budding axe murderer, but because I was a weird kid who became a depressed kid. I'm certainly not perfect now, and I certainly make my share of mistakes, but I at least have some awareness of what I'm doing and why. And, oh yes, I'm not what you'd call perky, but my default state is content, not sad. Bonus: I can typically distinguish toxic personalities from garden-variety mixed-up ones, and thus have been able to avoid significant involvement with most of the toxic type.

Bad therapists suck. But good therapists provide a neutral party who can, at the very least, help people figure out WHY they're doing things. You seem to be very good at figuring out why you do things. Not everyone is. Being honest with yourself is very, very tough, or Amy and all of the other syndicated advice columnists out there wouldn't all be able to co-exist. Good therapists can help with that. I mean, Amy's great, but she has to have breaks to go to Paris and hear Gregg recount his strip club research visits SOMETIMES.

Posted by: marion at November 4, 2007 8:17 PM

"actually expressing candid and true emotions about it seems to threaten or disturb or annoy the people you actually know that your own testimony is regarded as warped by anger and resentment."

Dan, I hear ya. You were accused as being warped. Well, when I suggested earlier that my parents getting a divorce would be a good thing, I got a sarcastic remark... something to the effect of "keep telling yourself that and it might come true." Wow, Crid, you saw *right* through me, didn't ya? Glad you drew attention to me incorrect feelings.

I find it funny, don't you Dan, that someone might know us better than we know ourselves?

Crid - when you watch your parents royally fuck up your 14 year old brother, then you can talk to me about divorce. You can accuse me of being angry and that's fine, b/c this situation is happening right now, not in the past, and therefore I am dealing w/ my emotions as they surface.

But when I say my father is an irrational, combative, explosive, cruel and emotionally abusive person who scares the living shit out of you (all prompted by not folding the laundry) you need to take that at face value b/c you have no reason to believe I'm lying. Pepper his personality with racism and unhealthy preoccupation with the past and a huge chip on his shoulder and you have someone that isn't fun to be around. And when I say he's an unbearable person to spend time with, I mean it. Even when he's in "nice mode" it's tough to stomach b/c you're waiting for the next outburst (we refer to him as the ticking time bomb).

A divorce, in the case of my family, wouldn't be so much about THEIR marriage, as it would be providing a healthier place for my brother and sister to grow up. So - keep in assuming you know what's best for me and I'll ignore it b/c you don't live with a bi polar ragaholic. I have enough to worry about but just wanted to let you know you're dead-wrong.

Posted by: Gretchen at November 5, 2007 9:29 AM

Just to clarify:
"who scares the living shit out of you" - obviously a general "you"...as in my, mom, sister, brother and anyone else in his warpath.

"watch your parents royally fuck up your 14 year old brother" - I blame my mother for not putting her foot down and teaching us how to stand up for ourselves. Her passivity (and passive-aggresiveness)hasn't taught us how to argue in a healthy way. Although, there isn't a healthy way to argue w/ someone who is off his rocker, as he has no valid points to counter; it's just pure insanity.

Posted by: Gretchen at November 5, 2007 9:33 AM

Amy wants to stop bad marriages before they get that far. Wouldn't that be grand?

Posted by: Crid at November 5, 2007 1:02 PM

Wouldn't that be grand?

That'd be great Crid, except for the fact that, as humans, our 20/20 hindsight might be too finely honed for preventative maintenance as far as bad marriages are concerned. "Marry in haste, repent at leisure" and all that. Most of us want what we want when we want it, and we're not prone to thinking about potential consequences until they smack us in the face. o_O

Posted by: Flynne at November 5, 2007 4:54 PM

Fuckit then, you're on your own. No tears, OK? And And no support (via taxes or other things) for intervention. If marriage is just an impulse and we can't ask people to do it well, then maybe Amy was right in earlier years when she said society should have zero involvement in a private matter. Society is not a party to the contract. Specifically: Don't come cryin' to me.


Or am I missing something?

Posted by: Crid at November 5, 2007 5:25 PM

WAH! o_O

Posted by: Flynne at November 5, 2007 5:53 PM

How dare you... How Dare you!

Posted by: Crid at November 5, 2007 7:19 PM

Cause it works? >_O

Posted by: Flynne at November 6, 2007 6:56 AM

Crid you're arguing two different things. 1) you're arguing that people should stay together for the kids, no matter what, and that a two parent household is always ideal 2) then you go off on a mini tangent about how marriage shouldn't be a legally defined "thing" b/c people are too annoying about the whole it.

I was arguing against point 1. While I believe two parents *usually* do make for healthier (mentally/emotionally/physically/socially) children, it is not always the case. Some parents are better parents when they're not married. Some people should never be parents in the first place (we agree on this, yes?). But, alas, I am alive and so are the younger sibs, so now what? We must deal with the situation before us as best as we can.

I think you poked at my sentiment unfairly and too quickly - you're supporting the idea that married parents are ideal, but you dismiss the fact that one of my parents is mentally and emotionally unstable. It's not just about my parents' marriage anymore, it's about the mental health of the children and the mental health would improve if we weren't subjected to him on a daily basis.

So you can push the idea that kids are always scarred beyond repair by divorce, but I find that to be a viewpoint which disregards the complexity of chaotic and emotionally abusive family dynamics - of which divorce would be the cure. And, believe it or not, there are some emotionally sound people who can deal with such an event and view it as a healthy thing.

Now, argument 2: marriage shouldn't concern the government...people don't take it too seriously...people are too quick to divorce...etc., different argument for a different day.

Posted by: Gretchen at November 6, 2007 8:40 AM

No time like the present!

> Crid you're arguing two
> different things.

When one can't be any clearer, one can only say it again: 1) Bad marriage should be discouraged, and 2) people shouldn't pretend that divorce typically delivers kids to a better, or even admirable, condition of nurturing. By the way, have you read that book that commenter Amy recommended earlier?

> 1) you're arguing that people
> should stay together for the
> kids, no matter what, and
> that a two parent household
> is always ideal

Could you do me a favor a cite the exact quote for that?

> 2) then you go off on a mini
> tangent about how marriage
> shouldn't be a legally
> defined "thing" b/c people
> are too annoying about the
> whole it.

It wasn't a mini tangent, it was defeatist surrender to popular insanity. I believe marriage is a great thing and want people to do it better by pulling their shit together before they sign up. Their are a couple ways we can help with this. One is by watching out for friends as they pair off, and really putting a social squeeze on them (with an intense, emotionally manipulative Purple Nurple) if they select, for example, a "bi polar ragaholic."

The second way is by getting the state involved. Nobody wants to do that, though.

And I don't even want government involved after marriages go south. Family law courts are a shitbath. As a taxpayer who pays for them, I hate having their dastardly work on my conscience. I'd happily fire them except I don't think I could do their work any better. Government isn't the solution.

Listen, if all you wanna do is shout about your personal pain and scream that a member of your family is a psychopath, who's going to argue with you? Sure, absolutely: We the People are happy to see children removed from that kind of household. I deliberately haven't read your story that closely, because I don't want to have to care. Maybe both your parents were sensationally well-adjusted and attentive people who carefully selected each other as partners after a long period of tender observation, counsel from loved ones, and thoughtful reflection. And then things went randomly bad, and it couldn't have been predicted, and the kids lives were improved by divorce. That happens.

But the vast majority of divorces with children aren't like that. There's something terribly wrong with how this is being done, and I think it's fucking up generations of kids whose lives, by every other measure, should be among the most fulfilling ever lived.

I'll say all that again if you want. Someday I'll say it all again whether you want or not.

Posted by: Crid at November 6, 2007 10:44 AM

"I believe marriage is a great thing and want people to do it better by pulling their shit together before they sign up."

Couldn't. Agree. More.

"And then things went randomly bad, and it couldn't have been predicted, and the kids lives were improved by divorce. That happens."

And that's where things are at. And I'm glad you agree that certain situations warrant the evil "d word." And...shockingly, us kids welcome it w/ surprisingly little fear and are ok w/ it. Could it have been prevented? Maybe.

"and I think it's fucking up generations of kids whose lives" Yes...

Marriage is seen as an obligatory "next step" in life and I've seen few people approach it with the necessary thought and dedication which is (or should be) required. Then, when things get a little boring or a little tough they do the di-di-di-divorce dance. It shouldn't be an easy way out nor should the entrance into marriage be taken as lightly as so many do (I *hate* the women who wait their whole lives to be brides without thinking about how they want the actually marriage to play out. But hey, who cares about the marriage when you have CAKE!).

Good times, Crid. I always have the urge to add an "o" at the end: Crid-o, like kiddo. Dunno why.

Posted by: Gretchen at November 6, 2007 10:57 AM

> Could it have been
> prevented? Maybe.

Oh, let's not sagely cluck at life's eternal mysteries just yet. There are far too many kids having this happen to them for us to pretend that it can't be predicted, or to be accounted for by sudden onset psychosis.

> Marriage is seen as an
> obligatory "next step"

Let's change that. Now. Ever'buddy ready?... Annnnd... Go!

> Dunno why.

In the schoolyard, it was 'Crid'l-bop.' When consulted, linguistics theorists could not explain.

Posted by: Crid at November 6, 2007 12:31 PM

Leave a comment