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The Case Against Marriage

datenightThe week started out so sweet, so nuptially positive, so, so, in looooove.

Sunday’s NY Times Style Section had a little write-up of the First Couple’s “date night,” complete with mini-lecture: if they can, you can. Two young girls, a yappy dog, 16 years of marriage and the free world financially collapsing in his lap, yet this president — this man of married men! — cleaned up and went out of town for a little overdue “Michelle time.”

Women seethed with jealousy (supposedly). Men balked (at least this guy did). Cupping longtime partner’s chin with one hand, dialing the babysitter with the other, we American marrieds agreed to try harder.

Then The Atlantic’s July/August issue showed up at week’s end and dumped a cold, wet bucket of futility all over the smoldering passion of the Obamas.

Happy marriage? No you can’t, says Sandra Tsing Loh. The writer, performer and NPR commentator, is, after 20 years of marriage, divorcing. And someday, she hints, you will too.

In “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off,” Loh takes to the books to figure out modern marriage, why Americans keep doing it and which couples are the odds-on favorites for lasting marriage.

Americans love marriage way more than our European counterparts, she gleans from Andrew J. Cherlin’s The Marriage-Go-Round. And we love divorce even more. But really, you can’t have the latter without the former, right? Still, our committment to committment (and the ending of it) is the push and pull of our belief in marriage and tendency toward individualism. That, and it’s easier own a home (tough to share, however).

So what else, what else? Sex, people … sex is a problem. Married couples aren’t getting it on enough.

Loh illustrates this point with a tour through her own group of friends, whom, after reading about, you’ll also not want to have sex with. One guy won’t touch his wife because she’s too fat, yet he cooks up rich, delicious risottos for her and the girls-night-out members. Hmmm, perhaps Freud would like to weigh in?

No. But Helen Fisher, author of Why Him? Why Her? would. Fisher divides personalities into four types, plays connect the dots with who is attracted to whom, and evaluating combos can possibly last — all of it tempting you to reexamine every relationship you’ve ever been in and every married couple you’ve ever known. Take away: Explorer-Explorer bad; Builder-Builder good (like Golden Anniversary good).

All this to what end, really? A divorce as with Loh? “Michelle time” with your betrothed? Do whatever you feel like, Loh concludes from the books. Have the affair, like she did. Work on the relationship like she didn’t. Stay together. Break up. As for the kids, just keep your new relationships out of their faces and easily bonded hearts and, really, they’ll be juuuuuust fine.

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Photo: NY Times

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