04 February 2007

Sunday Brunch

Longer lives, greater wealth and liberal democracy have killed traditional marriage as the dominant paradigm for organizing our personal lives. What's next?

48 comments:

Duck said...

It may have killed marriage as the ubiquitous mode of organizing our lives, but I'd argue that marriage will still be the dominant model, compared to the alternatives. That is, there is no other model that will replace marriage. Most people will get married at least once. They will wait longer to get married, and bail out quicker. In between people will maintain friendships through loosely coupled networks through work, the internet and family.

It is arguable whether the "traditional" nuclear family arrangement was truly traditional or a relatively recent, by historical standards, development. The romantic love component was surely more recent. I think that was the biggest casualty of feminism. A woman that "wants it all" certainly has no desire to invest all her psychic capital in one Prince Charming. And notions of chivalry may have been the one main reason why men would agree to get married in the first place. If we don't envision ourselves as playing some vital role in a woman's life, as protector, or breadwinner, then what is the point in trying to meet a woman's endless list of demands for correct cohabiting behavior?

David said...

Duck: That's what I'm asking. By "traditional marriage" I mean lifelong monogamy between two persons of different sexes. That will still exist, but it is no longer the dominant paradigm.

What comes next: child-care based marriages that end when the child turns 18; line marriages; group marriages; serial monogamy; something much less formal?

erp said...

Duck, How does Correct Cohabitating Behavior (CCB) differ from (Incorrect Cohabitating Behavior (ICB)?

I'm taking a wild guess here that you are (a.) of the male persuasion and (b.) not in the blissful state of matrimony at this particular time.

Duck said...

erp,

(a)Guilty and (b)guilty. I have been married for 25 years this May, and I have been separated for the last 2 1/2 years.

It is much easier to define ICB than CCB. CCB is highly theoretical but can be described as that set of behaviors that a male of the species must exhibit while in a cohabiting situation with a female of the species so as not to alarm, disgust, distress or enrage said female.

These are examples of ICB behavior:

* Not closing cupboard doors.
* Not putting away or straightening pencils, pens and stationery after use.
* Not putting away or straigntening books or other reading material after use.
* Not putting away or straightening keys, wallets, glasses or other personal accessories after use.
* Not putting away or straightening shirts, shoes, socks, belts, jackets, trousers or other articles of clothing after use.
* Not placing used undergarments in the properly positioned and available receptacle after use.
* Not putting any item of any conceivable purpose into its proper ly designated place and/or alignment with other properly placed and/or positioned items after use.
* Not knowing the proper place or alignment of any and/or all items of domestic technology.
* Putting an item into a place or alignment that may convey some benefit toward proper domestic order in some alternate scheme of household organization but which is in conflict with the ruling organizational ethos of the ruling female of the household. Ie "that's where my mom puts it" is not a valid reason for breaking the local ruling domestic organizational ethos.
* Leaving the scene of a dirt and/or dust causing incident without immediate cleanup of said dirt/dust, or letting 24 hours pass without revisiting said scene with the intent of removing dirt/dust.
* Cleaning visible dirt/dust while leaving invisible dirt/dust untouched.

I can send you a more in-depth list if you wish.

David said...

Not performing a delegated task in exactly the way and at exactly the time the delegator would have done it if she hadn't delegated it.

Mike Beversluis said...

Mil Millington's Exhaustive List.

erp said...

Mike, I'm laughing so hard, I had stop to catch my breath and I only got to the part about the TV remote.

Duck, you have no deepest sympathy. I'll be back after I compose myself.

erp said...

Mike, I'm laughing so hard, I had stop to catch my breath and I only got to the part about the TV remote.

Duck, you have no deepest sympathy. I'll be back after I compose myself.

Peter Burnet said...

David:

Here's a corollary question. If one of your children announces blissfully that he/she and the love of his/her life are going to get married, should you be happy for them?

Duck said...

Mike,
Thanks for the link, now I feel better. This one from his list is a classic, and probably the most universal:

An especially frequent argument argument, however, is the result of Margret NOT STICKING TO THE DAMN ARGUMENT, FOR CHRIST'S SAKE. Margret jack-knifes from argument to argument, jigs direction randomly and erratically like a shoal of Argument Fish being followed by a Truth Shark.

Also, have you all noticed what happens when you cursor over Margret's picture?

erp said...

Sorry for the double comments and the typo, but my eyes were blurry from laughing. However, it wasn't that funny when I realized they had two young sons.

Duck, Can your marriage have fallen apart over such inconsequentials? Jeepers, it seems a simple matter to pick up/clean up after yourself and not doing so might be a bit of passive/aggressive behavior.

Being alone is no fun as you've probably already concluded.

David said...

Peter: It depends on how old they are and how well I know the person, though that last could cut both ways. Anyone who gets married before 25 (wait, I need to do some quick math ... 62 to, um, 88 ... whew) is just asking for trouble.

Have I ever mentioned a conversation I had with a bunch of other fathers of daughters and we ended up agreeing that there could be much worse things than having our daughters end up being LUGs?

Duck said...

erp
It's much more complicated than that. There were additional factors, and I won't turn David's blog into my confessional. But your question is telling, coming from the female perspective. You could as easily asked "it seems a simple matter to not be so serious about household organization matters". This is one of those "why can't you be more like me" situations.

David, now you tell me! I was 24 when I tied the knot.

Duck said...

OK David, no code words. What's an LUG?

David said...

Lesbian Until Graduation.

I thought that was general knowledge, but maybe only in Northampton.

Peter Burnet said...

Never mind LUGs. Given the current state of marriage and the family, there are days I can think of worse things than our daughters being LAGs.

erp said...

Duck, it's not a female perspective at all and I don't mean to get personal. Around here, I'm the one more likely to litter and my husband picks up after me with no diminution of his position as master of the house.

Don't discount the personality changes brought on by menopause which can start even in the mid-forties. I know it's a joke among the boys, but it's a very disorienting, frightening and confusing process and women going through it need a lot of TLC.

Oroborous said...

Nothing's "inconsequential" if one partner's willing to go to war over it.

There's a vast difference between not being a slob, and being forced to live with an obsessive/compulsive's nit-pickey organizational rules.

There has to be accommodation between partners, or else what's the point ?

As for the future of marriage, my guess is that it's serial monogamy, which is apparently now the norm in America.

Group marriage may someday become legal in America, but I very much doubt if it'll ever make up more than a fraction of marriages.

I have some experience with triangles and one quadrangle, and they've always collapsed. It's hard enough making a two-person relationship work, adding another one or more people makes it exponentially more difficult.

Even if the people are right - right personality, right time in their lives, etc. - will they all want the same things, at the same time, in the same geographical location ?

It might work long-term if everyone's focussed on some goal outside of the marriage, e.g., religious cults, or if one person is clearly the dominant partner, and everyone else is mostly married to that person, which is how traditional Mormon polygamous marriages work.

Oroborous said...

As for whether or not to be happy for a child announcing an engagement, yes, of course we should be.

Maybe it won't work out, but it's a shot at being happy, and chances are all we get. Nobody's guaranteed to have a happy marriage, even if they do everything "right" - marry peers, wait until they're older, get pre-marital counseling, etc.

Marrying young does cause problems later in the marriage, as the partners mature, but those can be overcome.

By David's standards, both Duck and I married young, but Duck's marriage lasted 23 years, and mine's coming up on 15, so in the context of modern marriage, those are success stories.

Further, it's not like the young folk aren't going to have serious relationships before they're 25; indeed, it's by having those relationships that they gain the experience that gives those over 25 years of age a better chance of making it work.

If they're going to have serious relationships anyhow, then I don't see much difference between a "starter marriage" and having a long-term significant other.

Brit said...

I would think that serial monogamy is the natural state of affairs for human beings, and thus the arrangment that produces the least amount of misery.

Peter Burnet said...

You guys talk about marriage like it's a can of soup past it's sell-by date. No one would ever guess you are talking about two people, one of whom is likely to be emotionally devastated and/or impoverished, or that there are children and family affected. In fact the way you guys speak of "marriage" reminds me of how these guys talk about "house".

Mike Beversluis said...

"By all means marry; if you get a good wife, you'll be happy. If you get a bad one, you'll become a philosopher."

Socrates

joe shropshire said...

Less-splenetic Peter: serial monogamy is the natural state of affairs for human beings, and thus the arrangment that produces the least amount of misery depends a lot on whether you are the serializer or the serializee.

Peter Burnet said...

Joe:

It's also a sentence that calls the whole notion of civilization into account as succintly as I've ever seen.

I wonder if Miss Manners will need to work out an etiquette about this. What's the interval well-bred people should allow between steps in the series? Is the responsible fellow expected to tough out his unsatisfying marriage until the gun ending the first quarter sounds? Is the series finite or one of those never-ending ones that gave me so much trouble in math class?

Brit said...

Ideally there is only one episode in the series, which lasts happily until death do us part. Ideally.

Peter Burnet said...

Ideally? But Brit, that's not n-a-t-u-r-a-l. Surely you don't expect anyone to try and sublimate those healthy longings for adventure in favour of some wispy ideal that increases the overall level of misery.

Bloody Platonist!

Brit said...

But marriage is no longer any kind of barrier to people changing partners. A slight legal hassle maybe, but far less than a joint mortgage.

joe shropshire said...

Peter, I never said the serializer was necessarily the guy; in fact it sounds like poor Duck may have been a serializee. Here's a typical life cycle of an enlisted guy (not me, thankfully):

-- Guy meets girl, discovers he can get laid without having to scrounge.
-- Guy gets married, falls ass-backwards into a couple of kids.
-- Guy falls in love with kids.
-- Marriage falls apart, guy discovers he does not actually have kids, his ex does. He's just been making the payments on the kids. That is what family court is for, to explain this fact to the guy.

This leaves out a villain, since there usually is not one. Marriage falls apart doesn't normally mean somebody threw somebody over to go find a new adventure (yes, there is sometimes infidelity, but less than you might think. And not always the guy.) Often it just means two tired people, ground down by deployments and fighting over not enough money. There is plenty of misery to go around.

erp said...

Mother Nature had arranged for serial marriages . . . for men.

Women routinely died in childbirth giving men the opportunity to bury the old and marry anew. Then Pasteur and other spoil sports messed with Mother Nature and things changed. The poor lambs were stuck with the same old wife who just lived on and on.

Not to worry. The story has a happy ending* . . . for men.

*See Women's Rights Movement, no fault divorce, abortion, etc.

Brit said...

Or maybe Mother Nature arranged the serial bit for men, and the marriage bit for women.

Peter Burnet said...

Joe:

I agree completely. In fact, something like 70% of separations and divorces are initiated by women. The payback is that a much higher percentage of women tend to regret their divorces after a couple of years.

There is no way of knowing, but I also think an affair or hope of a (specific) romance play a more common role than most people think in non-abusive or non-addiction situations. You can argue that the marriage was already sour, but without that as a catylyst many people soldier on quite nicely and come out the other end surprisingly well.

But whatever the cause and whoever the initiator, it's a gross distortion to analyse this issue as if both parties were on the same wavelength and that the decision to divorce is a joint one in the true sense of the word. That does happen, but not often compared to the other.

David said...

I'm always amazed at these "what nature intended" arguments. Granted, I'm an old school nature-is-an-foe-to-be-defeated kind of guy, but still why should we defer to what nature intended?

What nature intended was for us to be a particularly clever sort of monkey that died at 30 if it was lucky. I doubt that it thought very much about boomers in their 50s looking across the breakfast table and thinking, "Is this all there is?"

erp said...

In case it wasn't obvious, my previous comment was sarcasm. I also think we have a brain and using it to better our short span on the earth is the only "natural" thing there is. To live like beasts at the mercy of the elements is IMHO unnatural.

BTW - Marriage wasn't invented for women. When humans finally figured out how babies got born and men realized they played a large part in the process, they invented marriage and tried to restrict their women's movements so they could make sure her kids were really theirs. What did women have to gain by marriage?

Zilcherino.

M Ali said...

Security, money, babies and someone to take care of small rodents.

Peter Burnet said...

Especially someone to take care of small rodents. Greer and de Beauvoir et.al. may have made us dispensible for babies, money and security, but you know you still need us for the rodents, erp, and we're not giving that one up without a fight.

I must say I's love to see a debate between erp and the Duckians on sexual selection, starting with the question of who exactly was selecting whom.

erp said...

I hate to break it to you guys, but we can take care of rodents and even eek spiders, we can also use brains over brawn and figure out how to open cans, move heavy equipment, take the car for service before we blow a piston (whatever that means) and remember to change the clocks in the spring and fall -- like the song says, we can do it all if we have to.

However, most everyone I've ever met, knows the very best way to live your life is to meet someone when you're both young, promise to love, honor and obey (it goes both ways) and then deal with everything life has to throw at you hand in hand. As you grow old, you know that you can trust your life to your other half and more importantly, you can trust the lives of the most important creatures in the universe, your mutual grandchildren. An added plus: If you're lucky your roomie will frequently tell you that you look just like you did when he first met you at the age of 19 -- 52 years ago. I can forgive a lot for that kind of myopia.

Peter Burnet said...

That's beautiful, erp. Bless you, even if you are lying through your teeth about the rodents.

Hey Skipper said...

And especially spiders.

What will keep traditional marriage the organizing paradigm -- that is, as an ideal to be aimed for -- is this:

... most everyone I've ever met, knows the very best way to live your life is to meet someone when you're both young, promise to love, honor and obey (it goes both ways) and then deal with everything life has to throw at you hand in hand.

That certainly is what women have in mind.

I married at 37, which isn't young, after 15 years of serial monogamy. At some point, roughly 26 for women, somewhat older for me, that just doesn't work anymore.

We are approaching our 14th anniversary, and I have known her for 17 years.

All without even one argument.

I'm afraid our kids will go into the world without a clue how most real world relationships work.

erp said...

The young part is relative. As the decades go on, childhood seems to be lasting longer than it did when we got married.

erp said...

I swear on the head of Sir Charles, that I have disposed of a spider the size of saucer and scooped a rodent out of the pool.

Skip, nice to hear about you and the first mate. Your kids will grow up expecting to find a solid partner just like mom and dad did.

Oroborous said...

As the decades go on, childhood seems to be lasting longer than it did when we got married.

It probably does, a consequence of the "longer lives, greater wealth" that David originally referenced.

Why grow up until you have to, with "grown up" defined as "doing stuff that needs doin', but which you don't want to do, or even hate doing".

Like holdin' down a 9-to-5.

Peter Burnet commented on that phenomenon here.

Peter Burnet said...

OK erp, you win. You can handle the rodents too while we sit around with a cold one telling you every seven minutes how you still look 19. It'll be tough, but love makes a man climb mountains for his woman.

Memo to File: Gotta take a second look at this feminism thing.

erp said...

Win? Sitting around having a cold one while . . . Why so snarky?

In reply to a comment that marriage is what women want and need, I replied, not so. We can do it all if necessary, but most, me included, would much prefer to be part of loving couple.

If nobody else is around, I will take dispose of vermin. We've always had cats, so that's been very rare. Eeek spiders are ubiquitous, so again if I'm the only here, I can take of them too. Would I prefer not to? Yes.

I draw a line in the case of snakes, of which there plenty around here, no way will I deal with them. They totally creep me out. We haven't had one in the house when I've been alone, but I guess I'd call 911.

My husband does give me compliments mostly when I complain about some new indignity inflicted by deteriorating joints, absconding brain cells, etc. It's a lot of malarkey, but still very nice indeed.

Rethinking feminism is a good thing.

David said...

Good thing we're not Freudians around here.

Brit said...

This is worrying - I can no longer tell who is being serious in this thread. Being able to tell these things is one of my superpowers.

Peter Burnet said...

Sorry erp, it was meant as an affectionate tease. I've learned that what works in person doesn't always work in virtual land, but there are still bugs in the system.

erp said...

Brit's right. This format doesn't allow one to know for certain what's kidding around and what's serious. However, what is certain, this has been a fun string.

Peter Burnet said...

Actually, I should have said an affectionate and respectful tease, because I think you've done a great job at keeping them good 'ole boys on their toes.

Brit:

This is worrying - I can no longer tell who is being serious in this thread.

Happens in the best of families.