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