Minor Thoughts from me to you

Archives for Marriage (page 1 / 1)

Some Precaution on Pence’s Precautionary Principles →

On the subject of Vice-President Pence's unwillingness to be alone with women other than his wife, I think Sarah Skwire makes a very good point.

It’s a cliché, but a true one, to note that the real work of many professions gets done at the bar or on quick lunches or dinner grabbed with a colleague, outside the formal constraints of official meetings. When that cliché is true, and to the extent that it is true, precautions like Pence’s, that cut women out from that kind of social interaction, also cut them off from at least one route to success.

Sauce for the Goose

I wonder, then, whether Pence and others who guard themselves in this way would consider extending their prohibitions on such private meetings with opposite gender colleagues to colleagues of the same gender. In other words, if Mike Pence won’t allow himself to meet with female colleagues for a casual private dinner or drink, then perhaps he should consider disallowing interactions like that with male colleagues as well.

I think, at a minimum, that considering that possibility will tell us a lot. If your immediate reaction to that suggestion is to think that it would be unfairly restrictive to men to tell them not to go golfing alone with the Vice President, or join him for an impromptu cheeseburger, or take advantage of a quick trip on a private jet in order to get to know him better and pitch him a few ideas…then maybe that policy is even more unfair when it is applied only to women.

If it is unreasonable to think that a woman’s career is damaged because the VP won’t meet with her privately, then it is unreasonable to think a man’s career would be damaged for the same reason. If it is not unreasonable to think that such restrictions damage a woman’s career, then Pence owes it to his female colleagues and constituents to ensure that their male counterparts don’t have better access to him than they do.

It is, at least, worth thinking about seriously.

"Sustainer", Not "Help Meet"

I find Robert Alter's Bible translations fascinating because of his footnotes and his uniquely fresh take on translating different passages. I recently bought, and started reading, The Five Books of Moses, his translations of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy. He caught my interest right away.

Long time Bible readers will be familiar with Genesis 2:18 (rendered here, from the KJV).

“And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.”

Because of this verse, there's a nice tradition (at least in traditional Christian circles) of referring to one's husband or wife as "a help meet". I do it myself, on occasion. So I stopped and took notice when Alter footnoted this section.

The Hebrew ‘ezer kenegdo (King James Version “help meet”) is notoriously difficult to translate. The second term means “alongside him,” “opposite him,” “a counterpart to him.” “Help” is too weak because it suggests a merely auxiliary function, whereas ‘ezer elsewhere connotes active intervention on behalf of someone, especially in military contexts, as often in Psalms.

Instead of "help meet", Alter translated the phrase as "sustainer".

“It is not good for the human to be alone, I shall make him a sustainer beside him.”

I really like that. It has a much more active sound and still maintains the same connotation as someone that a person needs to thrive in his or her life.

This entry was tagged. Bible Marriage

Best predictor of divorce? Age when couples cohabit, study says →

For years, social scientists have tried to explain why living together before marriage seemed to increase the likelihood of a couple divorcing. Now, new research released by the nonpartisan Council on Contemporary Families gives an answer:

It doesn't. And it probably never has.

"Up until now, we've had this mysterious finding that co-habitation causes divorce," she says. "Nobody's been able to explain it. And now we have—it was that people were measuring it the wrong way."

Couples who begin living together without being married tend to be younger than those who move in after the wedding ceremony – that's why cohabitation seemed to predict divorce, Professor Kuperburg explains. But once researchers control for that age variable, it turns out that premarital cohabitation by itself has little impact on a relationship's longevity. Those who began living together, unmarried or married, before the age of 23 were the most likely to later split.

Interesting. This should change the way that Christians talk about the importance of chastity before marriage. It probably won't but it should.

Why Women Really Demanded Diamond Rings →

David Friedman shares an interesting tidbit.

…In the early 20th century, a common pattern was for engaged couples to have sex with the understanding that if the woman got pregnant they would get married; evidence from several late 19th century European cities suggests that about a third of brides were pregnant. One problem was the risk of that the man, having gotten the sex, would dump his fiancee instead of marrying her. One solution to that, in U.S. law, was the tort action for breach of promise to marry. In a society where marriage was the main career open to women and the fact that a woman was known not to be a virgin substantially reduced her marriage prospects, seduction could impose substantial costs and result in a substantial damage payment.

Starting in 1935 in Indiana, U.S. states started altering their laws to abolish the action for breach of promise. Women responded, by Brinig's account, by requiring a down payment from their fiancees in the form of an expensive ring—which forfeited if the fiancee terminated the engagement. Think of it as a performance bond.

Marriage: Starting a new business or going IPO? →

Arnold Kling, at his askblog.

What these young people say is top-of-mind is that they really, really, don’t want to go through divorce. Compared to my generation, they seem to regard marriage as belonging to a later stage in life. My line is that for our generation, getting married was like starting a new business–a moment of promise and hope. Today, it’s like going IPO–a moment of affirmation and triumph.

I love this line. I'd classify myself and my wife as belonging to Kling's generation. But I've known friends that I'd classify as belonging to the current generation. This line nails the differences in attitudes that I've seen.

You Should Get Married As Early as Possible, But No Earlier →

Megan McArdle, at The Daily Beast:

But as a general rule, you should err on the side of marrying early. By which I mean not that you should marry whoever happens to be around when you turn 22, but that you should be willing to recognize, at the age of 22, that you've found someone you want to marry. Right now, most Princeton students don't think that way. They think there's something weird about committing at 22. And if they try to commit, their friends and parents will warn them off.

I got married at age 22 and it changed my life forever, for the better. As a bonus, we'll have all four of our kids by the time I'm 30 and I'll be able to raise them while I'm still young and relatively energetic. I think getting married at a young age is a wonderful idea.

Too Poor to Marry? →

Heather Mac Donald takes on the ridiculous idea that you can be "too poor to marry". I'm pretty sure that this take also works for the equally ridiculous idea that "we can't get married until older and more established".

The most idiotic reason that single mothers give for not marrying is: “I’m too poor to get married!” Evidently these women believe they’re not too poor to educate, house, feed, clothe, and provide a stable home and an enriching moral and cultural environment for a child on their own. The “I’m too poor” defense, documented by researchers such as Kathryn Edin, refers not simply to the cost of a wedding (which of course is avoidable through a City Hall ceremony), but to the day-to-day institution of marriage itself.

...Well, yes, “well-educated Americans” can offer “more” financial support to their spouses than less affluent Americans. But a married spouse at whatever income level is almost always going to improve the economy of a household over a lifetime, whether that spouse is adding the proceeds of a minimum-wage job or the inestimable value of being a stay-at-home parent while the other one works. But the notion that being a married parent requires more financial resources than being a single one is wrong not just as a matter of economic arithmetic but, more importantly, in terms of what married biological parents bring to their child — not money, but a 24/7 partnership in the extraordinarily difficult task of child-rearing. Household wealth is the least important reason to form a two-parent family; the idea that raising children as a single mother is on average in any sense easier than doing so as a couple, even in the stormiest of marital relationships, is absurd, and ignores the enormous strains of being both the sole bread-winner (or even welfare-collector) and the sole source of authority for your child. A second parent in the home provides back-up support in discipline when the other is at the breaking point, and a doubling of the emotional, intellectual, and moral resources that a child can draw on. You don’t need to be wealthy to offer that complementarity; poor married parents have raised stable, successful children for millennia.

Christ, the Church, and Pat Robertson →

It is past time for Christians around the U.S. to make it abundantly clear that Pat Robertson is not one of us and does not speak for us.

When my wife and I married, we were very consciously thinking of these types of scenarios when we promised fidelity "in sickness and in health".

This week on his television show Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson said a man would be morally justified to divorce his wife with Alzheimer’s disease in order to marry another woman. The dementia-riddled wife is, Robertson said, “not there” anymore. This is more than an embarrassment. This is more than cruelty. This is a repudiation of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

...

Sadly, many of our neighbors assume that when they hear the parade of cartoon characters we allow to speak for us, that they are hearing the gospel. They assume that when they see the giggling evangelist on the television screen, that they see Jesus. They assume that when they see the stadium political rallies to “take back America for Christ,” that they see Jesus. But Jesus isn’t there.

Jesus tells us he is present in the weak, the vulnerable, the useless. He is there in the least of these (Matt. 25:31-46). Somewhere out there right now, a man is wiping the drool from an 85 year-old woman who flinches because she think he’s a stranger. No television cameras are around. No politicians are seeking a meeting with them.

A Good Husband's Guide

Men and women are always arguing over who has the tougher role to play. Obviously, it's the other gender.

Leanne Bell offers an interesting take, called the Good Husband's Guide. Refreshingly, she takes the men's side of the argument.

In May of 1955, a magazine called Housekeeping Monthly ran a short point-form article called "The Good Wife's Guide." The article is unaccredited, but I am sure that like many other articles written in 1950's women's magazine, it was probably written by a woman. This article was sent around by email to all the workstations in my office, and probably visited many other inboxes around the world as well.

  • Have dinner ready. Plan ahead, even the night before, to have a delicious meal ready, on time for his return. This is a way of letting him know that you have been thinking about him and are concerned about his needs. Most men are hungry when they come home and the prospect of a good meal (especially his favourite dish) is part of the warm welcome needed.

  • Prepare yourself. Take fifteen minutes to rest so you'll be refreshed when he arrives. Touch up your make up, put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh-looking. He has just been with a lot of work-weary people.

  • Be a little gay and a little more interesting for him. His boring day may need a lift and one of your duties is to provide it.

  • Clear away the clutter. Make one last trip through the main part of the house just before your husband arrives.

  • Over the cooler months of the year you should prepare and light a fire for him to unwind by. Your husband will feel he has reached a haven of rest and order, and it will give you a lift too. After all, catering to his personal comfort will provide you with immense personal satisfaction.

There's more.

Now, most modern men would say that such a guide is sexist and demeaning to women. Asked privately, perhaps after a few beers and promises of confidentiality, most men would also say that such a home sounds darn appealing. And, it is. Mostly because we're not the ones working to make it.

But men aren't the only ones guilty of looking to enjoy the good life. Ms. Bell happily recognizes that and presents the opposite guide. The Good Husband's Guide.

  • Always make getting and keeping a full-time job with regular raises, benefits, bonuses and the potential for prestigious advancement your number one priority in life. Remember always that you have a wife and children who need your financial support, and that it is your responsibility to provide for them to the best of your ability.

  • Always arrive home refreshed and happy - put your bad day or your confrontation with your boss, the traffic, the crowds or the physical exhaustion you might feel aside and try to arrive home as cheery and lighthearted as you possibly can. Your wife has been struggling with the children and the housework all day, she does not need to hear about how bad your day was.

  • Be prepared to help with household chores when you get home - let your wife relax or talk on the phone since she has been dealing with these problems all day. Make supper for her often, and offer to clean up afterwards so that she may rest and feel appreciated.

  • Do not bore your wife with stories of the troubles you faced at work today. Remember that you are lucky to have a job and that many other men would be happy to trade places with you. Remember that it is not masculine to complain or let worries trouble you. Your job is to provide, and whatever you must go through to achieve this is part of your lot in life. A good husband knows that he is lucky to have a wife at all, and that a woman wants a strong, silent man she can depend on.

There's more of that too. Note how normal it all sounds? What husband hasn't heard his wife, or his wife's friends, express similar sentiments?

Let's leave that thought there and turn to Matt Patterson for a moment: Men, the Gender Wars Are Over -- We Won.

Men, our long twilight struggle with the opposite sex is over. Our victory is total.

Can you believe the way things used to be? Remember when our fathers and grandfathers would drag themselves to mind-numbing jobs every day, having the sole responsibility for the feeding, clothing, and housing of their entire family?

And things were no easier before marriage, when men's quest for sexual satisfaction was all too often hampered by the widespread moral code which taught women not to give out the "milk" for "free."

Well, that state of affairs just wouldn't do. So we men came together and did what we do best -- formulate and implement a plan. First step, design the perfect world, the perfect male world. We decided such a world would consist of two things: less responsibility and more -- and no-strings -- sex.

Brothers, have we succeeded.

The amazing thing, really, is how easy it was, how fast the old world of obligation and responsibility dissolved. The first, crucial step, of course, was convincing women that they had it bad, that our jobs were "intellectually stimulating" and not the soul-crushing monotony that they in fact were.

There's more of that too.

What's my point? Well, I was entertained by both Leanne and Matt. And both reinforced my personal opinion: "life is pain" and the grass is the same shade of green on both sides of the fence. We're just capable of deluding ourselves into believing that it's less rote, less monotonous, and more stimulating on the other side.

That's it, really. I'm not sure I have a broader point to make here. Except, you know, thank your spouse for handling whatever crap that they go through each day.

Alienation of Affections: Using Tort Law to Protect Marriage

I take the institution of marriage very seriously. It pains me to see people treat marriage casually, as something to be jumped in and out of. It pains me even more to see marriages where one partner takes the marriage seriously and the other treats it as a disposable commodity. It hurts me even more to see someone deliberately trying to interfere with a marriage. So wouldn't it be a good thing to make it illegal to interfere with marriage? How about letting a jilted spouse sue whomever interfered with the marriage? What's wrong with that?

Well, Eugene Volokh discussed that very topic over at The Volokh Conspiracy earlier this week.

  1. The statute would literally apply to someone who urges a friend to leave an abusive -- or unfaithful or just unsuitable -- spouse, or (say) a mother who effectively badmouths her son-in-law to her daughter.

  2. And of course let's not forget the obvious problems of proof and risk of perjury. Was there an act of adultery? Should the defendant have known the other person was married? Much of the time this will depend on what was said and done behind closed doors, and who seems more trustworthy and appealing to the jury. And this is even more so today than in the past, given that men and women have innocent friendships more often than decades ago; evidence of dinners together will no longer be particularly probative, and it will be all a swearing match among three people who may have all sorts of financial and emotional motives to lie. That's in fact one reason the alienation of affections tort has mostly been abolished.

As I said, you can love marriage and hate adultery without thinking that more tort liability will make things better.

In between those two examples is a host of other problems. As somewhat of a social conservative, I'm interested in using the law to protect what people hold dear. On the other hand, the law needs to be used wisely. This is a tricky area that requires very well thought out legislation.

This entry was tagged. Marriage

Poverty in America

What causes poverty in America? Greedy capitalistic businessmen? Unethical financiers? How about marriage?:

For the most part, long-term poverty today is self-inflicted. To see this, let's examine some numbers from the Census Bureau's 2004 Current Population Survey. There's one segment of the black population that suffers only a 9.9 percent poverty rate, and only 13.7 percent of their under-5-year-olds are poor. There's another segment of the black population that suffers a 39.5 percent poverty rate, and 58.1 percent of its under-5-year-olds are poor.

Among whites, one population segment suffers a 6 percent poverty rate, and only 9.9 percent of its under-5-year-olds are poor. Another segment of the white population suffers a 26.4 percent poverty rate, and 52 percent of its under-5-year-olds are poor.

What do you think distinguishes the high and low poverty populations? The only statistical distinction between both the black and white populations is marriage. There is far less poverty in married-couple families, where presumably at least one of the spouses is employed. Fully 85 percent of black children living in poverty reside in a female-headed household.

It turns out that the poor in America are actually doing pretty well, by absolute standards.

In 1971, only about 32 percent of all Americans enjoyed air conditioning in their homes. By 2001, 76 percent of poor people had air conditioning. In 1971, only 43 percent of Americans owned a color television; in 2001, 97 percent of poor people owned at least one. In 1971, 1 percent of American homes had a microwave oven; in 2001, 73 percent of poor people had one. Forty-six percent of poor households own their homes. Only about 6 percent of poor households are overcrowded. The average poor American has more living space than the average non-poor individual living in Paris, London, Vienna, Athens and other European cities.

Nearly three-quarters of poor households own a car; 30 percent own two or more cars. Seventy-eight percent of the poor have a VCR or DVD player; 62 percent have cable or satellite TV reception; and one-third have an automatic dishwasher.

That's certainly doing better than me. I don't have cable TV or a dish washer (not until my daughter gets a bit older, at any rate).

Lookin' for Love in All the Wrong Places

A woman feels trapped in a loveless marriage. She goes online and starts chatting with "Prince of Joy". His compassion, tenderness shine through even as he describes his own loveless marriage. After several months of talking, they decide to meet in her person. Each will carry one rose. Imagine her surprise when she shows up at the cafe and sees her husband carrying a rose!

Apparently, that actually happened. (I say "apparently" because the whole story reads like something out of the Onion.)

This line tells you everything you need to know about human behavior.

"When I saw my husband there with the rose and it dawned on me what had happened I was shattered. I felt so betrayed. I was so angry."

So, they're both filing for divorce as a result of the other person's adultery.

This entry was tagged. Marriage Sin

What is Marriage?

An Iowa judge recently ruled that Iowa's ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional. That makes an older article by Francis Beckwith relevant once again.

I believe, however, that given present circumstances that the best strategy is to take the mayor at his word and employ "street theatre" in a provocative way in order to force the other side to defend their marital nihilism in all its glory. Here's the plan: Have about 50 folks go to San Francisco city hall and request marriage licenses, but not for gay marriages, rather, for other sorts of "unions" that are also forbidden by the state: three bisexuals from two genders, one person who wants to marry himself (and have him accuse the mayor of "numberism," the prejudice that marriage must include more than one person), two married couples who want a temporary "wife-swap lease," a couple consisting of two brothers, two sisters, or a brother and a sister, an adult mother and son, and a man who wants to add a second wife and a first husband in order to have a "marital ensemble," etc., etc. Let's see if the mayor will give these people "marriage" licenses. If not, why not? If not, then the jig is up and the mayor actually has to explain the grounds on which he will not give licenses to these folks. But what could those grounds be? That it would break the law? That marriage has a nature, a purpose, that is not the result of social construction or state fiat? If so, then what is it and why?

This is the sort of public philosophical interrogation that has to occur if the social conservatives really want to win. All their legal and social-science posturing -- i. e., their appeal to what the majority of citizens want, etc. -- will be for naught unless they can press the other side to account for their point of view. For this is not a dispute about "policy." It is a battle over the nature of who and what we are and whether we can know it. It is philosophical combat over metaphysical turf with no Switzerland to which one can flee for asylum.

Marrying in College

Getting married in college is something that most people are advised against. It's an advisement that comes with good reason: school work is uniquely stressful, the first year of marriage is uniquely stressful, and finances (one of the biggest drivers of divorce) are stretched doubly tight. Still, some people do decide to get married while in college.

The Wisconsin State Journal ran a nice article about this, yesterday.

After about one and a half years of marriage, UW-Madison student Claire Hanschke and her husband, Tim, a recent graduate, finish each other's sentences like a seasoned married couple.

Both are comfortable in their new roles and say they have benefited from marriage. But being a student and a spouse can be difficult, others say.

"I've learned a lot about myself after getting married. I've really started to think about why I do the things I do," said Tim Hanschke, who says he doesn't feel as though he missed out on single life in the dorms.

Alexandra Hambright Solomon, a couples therapist at The Family Institute at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., said maturity is key in determining whether a couple is ready to marry.

Students such as Janisch, who marry at a much younger age than the national average, may be ready for it if they're psychologically prepared for the challenge.

For the past six years, Northwestern has offered a "Marriage 101" course, which Solomon teaches with other couples therapists. Their goal is to teach students how to create healthy, long-lasting relationships.

Similar classes, including one at Edgewood, called "The Psychology of Intimate Relationships," are popping up across the country, many aimed at reducing the divorce rate.

I'm glad to see that some people are choosing to get married at a younger age. Frankly, waiting for "the right time" can often be an exercise in futility. There is always a pressing reason why marriage should be put off. But if it's put off too long and too often, it may never come to pass. I'm even happier to see that colleges are starting to offer marriage preparation courses. While I still recommend pre-marital counseling through a local church, it is good to see colleges truly preparing students for the real world.