"I think there are some people for whom long-term marriages really work; it's a wonderful thing to see. But biologically speaking, probably one in every four couples can do that with some level of comfort.Basically the article is a book review interview for Sandra Tsing Loh's The Madwoman in the Volvo: My Year of Raging Hormones.
There are other cases where a long-term marriage may not be the best choice for two people. . .
I feel like I married the right person. I made the right choice then, had a 20-year relationship, and I'm so grateful for the time that we had together, the children that we made and how we continue to take care of those children."
She also mentions in the interview that therapists sort of do and don't work.
". . . some midlife advice you need to hear is: I guess you need to divorce your husband, or have an affair, or date a younger man, or go on a cruise, or move to Africa. You might actually need to do something extreme to change your life and a therapist really can't give you advice that's not healthy or sensible."First she says this is what one needs to be told, but then, that it's not healthy or sensible. Is she saying you only need to be told, but not act on it? I think not. She seems to be saying you should do 'something extreme to change your life.' But is it just that her well conditioned societal norms take over to suggest this isn't healthy or reasonable? If it's what you need, why isn't it healthy or reasonable? Maybe she's implying different short term and long term consequences.
That got me thinking. What if marriage was more like a job? It could be for a lifetime or at least for one's working career. Or it might not last and you get another one. What if marriage was for ten years, or, if there are kids, until the last kid turns 18?
What we actually have now is much worse than that. We have divorce and lots of folks take advantage of that while their kids are still young. And I don't disagree with those who think the best child-rearing setting is with the natural parents, but with the caveat that they are reasonably happy together and know how to solve problems without violence (verbal or physical). Having grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins nearby can certainly help. But there are lots of different alternatives to this ideal that also work reasonably well if the people taking care of the kids are 'good parents' [maybe defining that's for another dozen posts] no matter who they are.
BUT, divorce is, seen as a failure. A broken marriage. What if it were seen as normal? What if marriages that were renewed past the due date were also seen as normal? Kids would know that their parents had a good chance of splitting up eventually, so that when it did happen, it wouldn't been seen as a terrible thing. And maybe more importantly, the marriage partners would know that things would end and they would have new choices and opportunities. They would do better financial planning for that day. Both partners would have a stake at both parenting and having a career - or would work out an agreement so that the working partner's income would be seen as something that would be potentially split. Pre-nuptial agreements would probably become a lot more common. Affairs, especially as the marriage came closer to its due date, would become more acceptable, and possibly even feel normal and not a threat.
When asked what marriage advice she gives her daughters, Tsing Low says she hasn't thought about it, but goes on:
In the end, for a family core to rely on the notion of a man and a woman feeling romantically in love with each other for 10, 20 or 30 years - it's the most unstable thing to rely on. Biologically, romantic feelings wane after four years, then you have to work on it.Without a doubt, the excitement of a new relationship doesn't last unless you work on it. But a different kind of relationship also grows, one that can be stronger. But as someone who's been married over 40 years, I can attest that you need to work at it. Be imaginative, be honest, talk. More than talk. Communicate.
Would such an environment be perfect? Perfection may be achievable in endeavors such as moon landings, but it's an impossible standard for social projects. The real standard for change is whether the proposed program is likely to work better than the existing one and any other options proposed. The poster below from Daily Infographic offers some standards for the status quo. But like all internet info, take it with a grain of salt until you double check all their stats. And remember that divorces (and when there are kids involved, how the parents handle their parental responsibilities post divorce) come in many different shapes and forms and if they identified five main types of divorce, I suspect the worst impacts on kids would be mostly found in the worst two or three types of divorce.
|From Daily Infographic|
Note: It says that 41% of first marriages end in divorce. That means, of course, that 59% do NOT end in divorce. A few may end in murder of one spouse by the other, but it's still the vast majority last.
[UPDATE 4:36pm ADT: Here are two This American Life shows that give long and thoughtful attention to this topic:
Monogamy and look at Act 1: Best Laid Plans in the Valentine show.]