This is one the best articles I have read in a long time:

http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1908243-1,00.html

The author says what I wish more people had the courage to say; that we need to man and woman up and stop being so selfish when it comes to marriage and infidelity. That strong families are essential to our future. Some excerpts:

"Sanford told reporters the affair had begun "very innocently," which reveals that he still hasn't been honest with himself about the willfulness of his actions. When a married man begins a secret, solicitous correspondence with a beautiful and emotionally needy single woman, he has already begun to cheat on his wife.....

In the e-mails exchanged between the governor and his girlfriend, they trip over themselves to praise the other's virtues. She was "special and unique," "glorious"; he was a man of emotional generosity who "brought happiness and love to my life." These two humanitarians were engaged not only in worshipping each other's high-mindedness but also in destroying another woman's home, hobbling her children emotionally and setting her up for humiliation of a titanic proportion. The squalor and pain that resulted from the Sanford and Ensign midlife crises make manifest a bleak truth that the late writer Leonard Michaels once observed in his journal: "Adultery is not about sex or romance. Ultimately, it is about how little we mean to one another."

And so two more American families discover a truth as old as marriage: a lasting covenant between a man and a woman can be a vehicle for the nurture and protection of each other, the one reliable shelter in an uncaring world — or it can be a matchless tool for the infliction of suffering on the people you supposedly love above all others, most of all on your children.

In the past 40 years, the face of the American family has changed profoundly. As sociologist Andrew J. Cherlin observes in a landmark new book called The Marriage-Go-Round: The State of Marriage and the Family in America Today, what is significant about contemporary American families, compared with those of other nations, is their combination of "frequent marriage, frequent divorce" and the high number of "short-term co-habiting relationships." Taken together, these forces "create a great turbulence in American family life, a family flux, a coming and going of partners on a scale seen nowhere else. There are more partners in the personal lives of Americans than in the lives of people of any other Western country."

An increasingly fragile construct depending less and less on notions of sacrifice and obligation than on the ephemera of romance and happiness as defined by and for its adult principals, the intact, two-parent family remains our cultural ideal, but it exists under constant assault. It is buffeted by affairs and ennui, subject to the eternal American hope for greater happiness, for changing the hand you dealt yourself. Getting married for life, having children and raising them with your partner — this is still the way most Americans are conducting adult life, but the numbers who are moving in a different direction continue to rise. Most notably, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in May that births to unmarried women have reached an astonishing 39.7%. (See pictures of love in the animal kingdom.)

How much does this matter? More than words can say. There is no other single force causing as much measurable hardship and human misery in this country as the collapse of marriage. It hurts children, it reduces mothers' financial security, and it has landed with particular devastation on those who can bear it least: the nation's underclass.

on every single significant outcome related to short-term well-being and long-term success, children from intact, two-parent families outperform those from single-parent households. Longevity, drug abuse, school performance and dropout rates, teen pregnancy, criminal behavior and incarceration — if you can measure it, a sociologist has; and in all cases, the kids living with both parents drastically outperform the others.

Few things hamper a child as much as not having a father at home. "As a feminist, I didn't want to believe it," says Maria Kefalas, a sociologist who studies marriage and family issues and co-authored a seminal book on low-income mothers called Promises I Can Keep: Why Poor Women Put Motherhood Before Marriage. "Women always tell me, 'I can be a mother and a father to a child,' but it's not true." Growing up without a father has a deep psychological effect on a child. "The mom may not need that man," Kefalas says, "but her children still do."

This turns out to be true across the economic spectrum. The groundbreaking research on the effects of divorce on children from middle- and upper-income households comes from a surprising source: a Princeton sociologist and single mother named Sara McLanahan, who decided to study the fates of these children with the tacit assumption that once you control for income, being part of a single-parent household does not adversely affect kids. The results — which she published in the 1994 book Growing Up with a Single Parent: What Hurts, What Helps — were surprising. "Children who grow up in a household with only one biological parent," she found, "are worse off, on average, than children who grow up in a household with both of their biological parents, regardless of the parents' race or educational background."

The consequences for more-affluent kids tend to be far less devastating than for poor ones; they are less likely to become teenage parents and high school dropouts. But children of divorced middle-class parents do less well in school and at college compared with underprivileged kids from two-parent households. "There's a 'sleeper effect' to divorce that we are just beginning to understand," says David Blankenhorn, president of the Institute for American Values. It is an effect that pioneering scholars like McLanahan and Judith Wallerstein have devoted their careers to studying, revealing truths that many of us may find uncomfortable. It's dismissive of the human experience, says Blankenhorn, to suggest that kids don't suffer, extraordinarily, from divorce: "Children have a primal need to know who they are, to love and be loved by the two people whose physical union brought them here. To lose that connection, that sense of identity, is to experience a wound that no child-support check or fancy school can ever heal."

Put a Ring on It
That prompts the question, Does the father have to actually be married to the mother of his children to have a positive effect on them?

"Not if he behaves exactly like a married man," says Robert Rector, a senior research fellow of domestic policy at the Heritage Foundation. If a man is willing to contribute 70% of his income to the child's upbringing, dedicate himself around the clock to the child's well-being and create a stable home life — a home life that includes his actually living there with mother and child — he might be able to give his child the boon of fatherhood without having to tie the knot. But that rarely happens. When children are born into a co-habiting, unmarried relationship, says Rector, "they arrive in a family in which the principals haven't resolved their most basic issues," including those of sexual fidelity and how to share responsibilities. Let a little stress enter the picture — and what is more stressful than a baby? — and things start to fall apart. The new mother starts to make wifelike demands on the man, and without the commitment of marriage, he is soon out the door. (Read an excerpt from Elizabeth Edwards' book on how she survived her husband John's affair.)

Poignantly, the one thing that unites the poor and the middle class in their hopes for family life is the imperishable dream of being married forever, grabbing hold of the golden ring of lasting partnership. The low-income mothers studied by Kefalas and co-author Kathryn Edin spoke repeatedly of their wish to get married; they "cherish marriage and hold it to an impossibly high standard," the authors found, but too often forgo it as a result. Meanwhile, the middle class has spent the past 2½ decades — during which the divorce culture became a fact of life — turning weddings into overwrought exercises in consumer spending, as if by just plunking down enough cash for the flower girls' dresses and tissue-lined envelopes for the RSVP cards, we can somehow improve our chance of going the distance. Think of the touching moments on Inauguration Night, when at ball after ball, crowds of young people swooned at the sight of Barack and Michelle Obama dancing together, artlessly but sincerely and clearly with great affection. They are an immensely appealing couple, and it was a historic night, but what we saw reflected in the faces of those awed young people — and in the country's insatiable appetite for photographs of the First Family's private life — was wonder at the sight of a middle-aged man and woman still together, still in love.

We want something like that for ourselves; we recognize that it is something of great worth, but we are increasingly less willing to put in the hard work and personal sacrifice to get there. The Obamas, for example, are enjoying their time of family closeness after almost two years of enforced separation, an interlude that would have caused many less committed couples to turn in their cards and give up. A lasting marriage is the reward, usually, of hard work and self-sacrifice.

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I think that this post hits the nail right on the head..I was with my wife right from highschool we where together for 10 yrs.Two Kids later she decides to have an affair and eventually leave me (and take my kids) to be with a guy she works with.She then promises to try to work things out if I go stay with family for a bit so her and the kids could stay in the house.Now that she has filed divorce her with her cheating and not allowing me to see my kids all while keeping everyhting I own (with excpetion of 2 garbage bags of clothes) in the garage is a victim in every court date we have had.Im not sure why this is but im sure that these go hand in hand.
Marriage.
In the U.S., we just don't seem to know how to do it --successfully. That so many of us fail at it, should be no surprise, as we have little or no formal training. We are required to become educated, experienced and certified, before we can go scuba diving, but we just jump in, with reckless abandon when it comes to marriage.

According to Websters, the first definition of marriage is: "the formal union of a man and a woman, typically recognized by law, by which they become husband and wife." Notice it states such unions are typically recognized by law, regardless of religious doctrine. Our laws, in this country, go to great lengths to insure that we are educated, and that we have indeed been able to pass at least THREE tests, to receive a Drivers' License. But, oddly, couples wishing to be married, aren't required by law to do much of anything (other than registering, and paying a nominal processing fee to the county in which they will be wed.

Shouldn't there be some proof of competency required of people seeking to enter into one of the most important events of their lives?

Am I alone here? Am I missing something? Why do we scratch our heads, in wonderment, and say things like: "What happened? They seemed like the perfect couple with a perfect marriage, and now they are divorcing."

My youngest daughter is engaged to be married in a few months, and I can only hope and pray that they will have a marriage that works and lasts. We've tried to do the best we can to raise our child to be able to handle the challenges she will face as an adult. Did we do everything right? Hopefully, but probably not. Other than being able to reproduce, there are no requirements for bringing children into the world either.
I think there are a lot of avenues that can be used to help a married couple get through the problems, but people just don't use them. Is counseling/therapy that bad?

I think there are SOME classes that can teach us about marriage. My church offers premarital training/counseling. What about a married mentor couple? I think that the counseling and a mentor aren't going to guarantee anything, but I bet it will be more helpful than nothing right?

Do marriages fail because the couple stop (or fail to start) trying?
I feel that the cause for divorce is entirely explained by either one spouse or the other not giving enough effort to the relationship. I have always viewed romantic love as a choice, and a commitment. Once you make the choice and the commitment, you stick with it and put as much effort as you are able to bring to the relationship. The problem lies in our society's love of self and obvious love for the immediate gratitude.

Divorce, to me, has always been a case where one spouse or the other decides the marriage relationship is not worth their effort any longer. It is more beneficial, in their mind, to separate and pursue whatever stupid thing has caught their attention rather than reaping the benefits of a long lasting relationship based on true commitment and love.

I feel that the fact that we (as a society) have such a backwards concept of marriage commitments only speaks of a greater dilemma in the two most recent generations: we do not want to commit to anything. We want to "weigh all the options" first, which is really just an excuse for not making a commitment. We want to see if something better comes along, and not allow ourselves to be tied down by commitments we may have made prior to knowledge of those "better things". This sort of thinking is pervasive in my generation, and it sickens me to no end because it is manifested in all aspects of our lives, from simply putting off spending time together to not committing to one spouse and keeping that commitment for good.
I like the card-playing analogies at the beginning and end of the post. In the words of Lando Calrissian (call me a geek), "You can deal two players the same hand -- one of them will win with it and the other will lose with it." The point is, there seems to be an increasing reluctance to work with the spouses we have, and a growing tendency instead to go for a 're-deal'. As long as I'm being flippant, maybe we could all stop thinking about folding in hope of landing pocket aces in the next hand, and see what can be done with the cards we have? Same thing applies to many things in life.

I do wonder if the 'impossibly high standard' that people hold marriage to contributes to the divorce rate, as the shine of marriage wears off and people get disappointed, then begin eyeing off their solicitor's number on the fridge magnet ... There might be all kinds of reasons given for validation, but underneath them all, 'the shine has worn off'.

Here's another thought: what if we are looking to marriage to fill a place in our lives that it was never designed to, or never able to, fill? I'm thinking mainly about the men: Rather than looking to the women in our lives for approval, validation, respect, adventure, [pick a male need], I tend to hold the view that most (but not all, clearly) of these needs can and should be fulfilled (at least partially) outside of the context of marriage, and in the context of of our own journeys, our journeys with other men and friendships with them. In your journey as a man, women can't tell you who you are, nor lead you where you're going...

Relating it back to marriage, the odds are stacked against any marriage working well, i suppose, when either partner is looking to the other to fulfill needs that they were never able to. The good looking secretary, on the other hand ... ... ... at least for a while ... ... ... there goes another marriage.
To add to what David said in the previous post: "...there seems to be an increasing reluctance to work with the spouses we have, and a growing tendency instead to go for a 're-deal'. "

In today's society, there seems to be a prevailing attitude that rules are made to be broken, and there is always "a way out", or "a way around", any conflict or obstacle. Sadly, we seem to apply this same logic to marriage. "Whatever it takes... to get my way!" is the mantra of the narcissist.

Has society become a world of narcissists?

.
Sadly yes. Not just in marriage, but in ever day life.

Just a quick example, my wife was driving my son (4 months) and I to grab some food at panera bread. A driver not only cuts us off once (which is forgivable, since everyone has done it), but twice, in a span of 30 seconds. The guy and his family pull into Panera bread right in front of us.

Against my wife's will, I go let him know in truly polite terms, that he might want to be more careful considering his cargo and mine. I want to make it clear, I wasn't being a prick, saying it with any venom, just more of a friendly reminder. He has the nerve to start talking about what an asshole I am for pointing that out yelling in front of his family. I made sure to say things quietly to him so that he wouldn't feel disrespected in front of his family.

I'm a big guy (6'10", 270), so I'm used to the "push the big guy" mentality. I just shook my head and walked away. Instead of taking a little criticism, he freaks out. I'm right, I'm right.

Oh well, sorry for the long reply, just dying to tell that story to someone.

P.S. not trying to hijack, just relate that it isn't only marriage in trouble in our country.
Unfortunately, Road Rage is indeed a sign of the times. And you are right. It is sad. First there was the "me" generation, then "generation X", and now it's just "F#@k YOU" to anybody who gets in the way.
Marriage requires hard work. It, like most things requiring hard work, has impressive rewards. I have never understood the desire for married people to have affairs. In 16 years of marriage, the thought has never entered my mind. Perhaps it comes from some prudish nature, but once you have made the commitment, you need to stick with it. When kids enter the equation, your personal misery is probably better in the long run for the kids than divorce. From what I've seen from friends, you are never really rid of the ex-spouse if there are kids.
Hells yes there is hope, we all just have to learn to work towards it.

I think one problem is that there is too much pressure, too big of a push to get married. I know too many friends that simply married straight out of college more do to what society said they should be doing, rather then what they needed to be doing. Almost all of them, on a second marriage has come back with a huge smile saying that they now understand what marriage really is like with someone willing to work with them and they want to work with. Of course, I have one or two that I believe will never learn this. They will be the types that are a sign of what thehuhman was talking about with others on the increasing narcissism.

As for me, just under 10 months away. Sure we fight, we throw down, but we also talk more then I have ever talked with anyone. We are constantly learning to communicate and to grow into each other. I just can't wait to see what the next 5, 10, 45 years bring
Lee, big congrats to you, man -- and keep talking to your future wife!

Do all the fighting that you need to with your spouse-to-be in order to get things right! Visit all the hard topics that you don't see eye-to-eye on -- just "go there!" She might not like it, and at the time, she might not like YOU for it, but she will respect you for it later...

... Now take the previous paragraph and temper it with the desire to see the relationship for what it is, don't push it to breaking point too quickly in a frenzy to get everything sorted and turn the two of you into clones of each other. Think about how many times you'd be willing to lose (an argument, a discussion, etc) in order for the relationship to win ...
As a child of divorce (my parents split when I was ten) and a husband going on ten years this October, I will say "yes, there is hope". Society has made divorce easy (next time you are at Staples, look for the software package "Divorce made easy") but the victims (the children) are refusing to follow in that trend. The huhman is right in saying we have become a society of narcissists. What can I get out of this marriage? What about my feelings? Marriage is about friendship, serving, and work. Ask someone who is not married this question, "What is the opposite of love?" The immediate answer you get is "Hate." Ask the same question to the married and you get a variety of answers (none of which is "hate"). My past and my faith make divorce not an option ("Death first!" to quote Wesley from The Princess Bride). My goal in life is to be one of those little old couples you see in the park, walking hand in hand in silence and serenity. Yes, it will be work. Yes, it will not be easy but who said being a man was suppose to be easy?

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