Marriage: Meant To Be Miserable! [Disc]

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Marriage: Meant To Be Miserable! [Disc]

Post by reboundstudent on Wed Jun 01, 2016 12:48 pm

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/29/opinion/sunday/why-you-will-marry-the-wrong-person.html?action=click&contentCollection=N.Y.+%2F+Region&module=Trending&version=Full&region=Marginalia&pgtype=article&_r=1

I've always thought of myself as a pragmatic, non-romantic person, but I must be far more fairy-tale oriented than I thought, because articles, and particularly paragraphs like this, make me want to run screaming into the night away from the prospect of any romantic relationship:

WE need to swap the Romantic view for a tragic (and at points comedic) awareness that every human will frustrate, anger, annoy, madden and disappoint us — and we will (without any malice) do the same to them. There can be no end to our sense of emptiness and incompleteness. But none of this is unusual or grounds for divorce. Choosing whom to commit ourselves to is merely a case of identifying which particular variety of suffering we would most like to sacrifice ourselves for.

This philosophy of pessimism offers a solution to a lot of distress and agitation around marriage. It might sound odd, but pessimism relieves the excessive imaginative pressure that our romantic culture places upon marriage. The failure of one particular partner to save us from our grief and melancholy is not an argument against that person and no sign that a union deserves to fail or be upgraded.

I mean really, why? WHY would you bother with marriage if this is the reality? If at the end of the day, there's really not much of a difference in how we choose our partners, because all partners will let us down and fail to fill most any kind of emotional need, and the only way to survive through a marriage is to shrug and comically say "All marriages are miserable, no one can truly fulfill me, ta!" then what is the point?

I hear this constantly; that if you're unhappy in a relationship, it's YOUR problem, not your partner's, because you're expecting too much, or not communicating enough, or too co-dependent, or wanting your partner to do too much. Which, fine, maybe that's true, but if the secret to not having a miserable marriage is to just have no expectations, and continue to "find your joy" by having your own completely separate interior life, hobbies, and hardly ask for anything from your partner, why get married in the first place?? Just to have a middle-class house, kids and lifestyle? Because roommates are too unpredictable?

Is it so wrong to hope for a marriage where both partners remain engaged in passion? Where partners DO share hobbies and tastes, and go on adventures together? I mean, yeah, I can go to movies on my own cause my partner hates X genre; and go on vacations alone, because my partner dislikes traveling; and do hobbies and have friends that take care of the majority of my social needs. But in that case, why the hell am I in the relationship?? Just to have a warm body in the same bed? Is this really how it is? How do you people stand it? Is this overwhelming feelings of hopelessness and depression that THIS is just how long-term romantic relationships and marriages are just... the norm??

PS: Also, screw the author's simplistic understanding of historic marriage. Yes, there were marriages that were matters of convenience; those were for the upper class, because they were the only ones with power/property/actual convenience. And hey, we still have plenty of those same kinds of marriages these days! There were plenty of people in historic times that married for the same modern reasons we do (if with a time-contextual understanding of their own motivations) and guess what, divorce was decently prevalent too. This idea that romantic love in marriage didn't exist before we modern folk thought it up drives me up the wall.
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Re: Marriage: Meant To Be Miserable! [Disc]

Post by Enail on Wed Jun 01, 2016 1:26 pm

I found the article a little patronizing, but I also feel like you're reading it as being more extreme than it actually is (though I do think the article itself encouraged a more extreme reading than it actually warrants).

I thought the author was saying something more like 'let's stop expecting that our spouse will be inhumanly perfect and exactly compatible in every respect and instead acknowledge that yes, all people are human and imperfect and will frustrate and disappoint (etc.) you from time to time. So don't base your happiness solely on that one relationship." Which strikes me as so obvious as to be pointless - but then it writes about it as if it's revealing a dramatic tragedy rather than something that any remotely sensible human being already knows and accepts. I felt like the assumed audience was people who watched even the sappiest romantic comedies of the rom-com extinction burst of the 2000s entirely uncritically as a blueprint for relationships.

Whereas it sounds like you're reading it more as 'don't expect your marriage to provide any of your life's joy, as long as there's a warm body in your bed and your incomes are pooled (for better or worse), stick with it because that's all marriage is." Which I would profoundly disagree with! A marriage is not going to cure existing or externally-based "overwhelming feelings of hopelessness and depression" or prevent such feelings from ever happening again, but a marriage also absolutely, 100% shouldn't feel like a cause of those feelings! A marriage won't fulfill all one's emotional needs, but it sure as hell should fufill some of them! A partner shouldn't be your only source of social needs or happiness, but I definitely think they should be a pretty important source of some of it!
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Re: Marriage: Meant To Be Miserable! [Disc]

Post by Werel on Wed Jun 01, 2016 3:56 pm

Additional innocent bit to pick on:

The problem is that before marriage, we rarely delve into our complexities. Whenever casual relationships threaten to reveal our flaws, we blame our partners and call it a day. As for our friends, they don’t care enough to do the hard work of enlightening us. One of the privileges of being on our own is therefore the sincere impression that we are really quite easy to live with.
This feels very much like an autobiographical statement dressed up as a universal human truth, sort of like the entire piece (never use an "I" when a "we" will make your message sound grander!). I don't know who this person's friends are, or their relationship partners, but mine have always called me on my shit, and I have grown (and seen friends grow) as a result of having my flaws revealed by people I wasn't married to. This whole article felt like the author trying to excuse himself for strenuously avoiding introspection.

But in general, I agree with Enail's take-- this is a pre-101 message being sold as if it's a 700-level seminar in Expert Marrying. Duh, some people get married for the wrong reasons. Duh, no partner can recreate in perpetuity the feeling of being a child or being on vacation. Duh, you will sometimes experience disagreement and contention in a marriage. None of that is news, nor is it a reason why marriage can't be good. I view it not as a Manifesto on Why All Marriages Blow so much as a treatise on why marrying this smug, pedantic author would suck. Razz

And here's another vote of optimism: I also believe marriages exist where joy is not the bottled remnants of some Venetian moment, as in his telling metaphor, but is instead on tap. Sure, you're never going to get 100% of your joy/fulfillment/intimacy from one person or relationship, but like Enail said, it should and can be a big source.
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Re: Marriage: Meant To Be Miserable! [Disc]

Post by Wondering on Wed Jun 01, 2016 5:15 pm

Enail wrote:but I also feel like you're reading it as being more extreme than it actually is
Agreed. I think you're taking this way too far to the extreme, Marty.

that every human will frustrate, anger, annoy, madden and disappoint us — and we will (without any malice) do the same to them.
This statement is true. No one is perfect and infallible. My husband at times frustrates, angers, annoys, maddens, and disappoints me. And I do the same for him. Because we're human. I don't want to have to be perfect to be with him, and he shouldn't have to be perfect to be with me. But this is not the grounding principle or backbone of our relationship. It doesn't even rate when I think about our relationship.

There can be no end to our sense of emptiness and incompleteness. But none of this is unusual or grounds for divorce. Choosing whom to commit ourselves to is merely a case of identifying which particular variety of suffering we would most like to sacrifice ourselves for.
This is not true. And, like Werel, I think the author is doing a lot of projecting in this article.

As I read the article, I thought, as I usually do when I read such articles, "Oh, another article about human behavior that doesn't describe me and is therefore not applicable."

reboundstudent wrote:But in that case, why the hell am I in the relationship?? Just to have a warm body in the same bed? Is this really how it is? How do you people stand it? Is this overwhelming feelings of hopelessness and depression that THIS is just how long-term romantic relationships and marriages are just... the norm??

I "stand" it because that's not what my marriage is like? But, then, I was also this person:
We have to be wholly at peace with the prospect of many years of solitude in order to be appropriately picky

I was picky. I own it. So I do think people are setting themselves up for less pleasant marriages if they rush into them for reasons other than "I want to spend the rest of my life with my partner." If your reason for marrying is not the person you're with but is instead kids, house, pooled income, etc., then you do run a greater risk of an unhappy marriage. My husband is my best friend. He's not my only friend. But he is my best friend. I married him because I wanted to be with him.

reboundstudent wrote:PS: Also, screw the author's simplistic understanding of historic marriage.
So...if you reject his understanding of historic marriage, why do you trust his view on contemporary marriage? Wink

I do find the article patronizing, like Enail, and also classist. And he doesn't seem to like kids because his only descriptors for them are negative: "maddening" and "kill the passion." So, shrug. Not someone I agree with or really give much credence to.

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Re: Marriage: Meant To Be Miserable! [Disc]

Post by reboundstudent on Wed Jun 01, 2016 5:25 pm

It's true, I may be taking it to an extreme. The past few months, I've been feeling more and more ambivalent growing into outright hostility over the idea of long-term romantic relationships/marriage. It simultaneously seems like so many people have marriage figured out, and everything is perfect and wonderful and awesome (seriously, I am now one of only a handful of people I know that isn't engaged/married), and like marriage is a black hole of misery sucking women into take-care-of-everything-and-everyone-else drudgery.

I dunno, maybe I'm just broken.
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Re: Marriage: Meant To Be Miserable! [Disc]

Post by Wondering on Wed Jun 01, 2016 5:56 pm

You're not broken. You live in a part of the country where people seem to get married a lot younger than some other parts, so that's going to put pressure on you culturally. And you're not the only one worried about all the emotional labor and household chores issue. Fakely was talking about that recently, too.

That's something you have to work actively against. My husband and I work actively on it because we're both socialized for me to do the lion's share of household and emotional labor, especially now that there's a baby, and while household chores are easier to quantify, emotional labor isn't. But you have to have a partner who a) recognizes this is an issue, and b) agrees to work with you to combat it. I held out for such a man. But for me, kids weren't part of the life-path math, so I didn't have worries that you've expressed about your age and kids. (And your location and cultural expectations may have a lot to do with that, too, because while I was the last of my friends to get married, all but one of us had our kids in our mid-to-late 30s. Two of my friends had not-first kids at 41.)

So, to repeat. You're not broken. You just have a lot of cultural and social messages working against you.


Last edited by Wondering on Wed Jun 01, 2016 6:16 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Marriage: Meant To Be Miserable! [Disc]

Post by Enail on Wed Jun 01, 2016 6:03 pm

reboundstudent wrote:[snip]and like marriage is a black hole of misery sucking women into take-care-of-everything-and-everyone-else drudgery.

I dunno, maybe I'm just broken.  

It's not you that's broken. The black hole of misery sucking women into take-care-of-everything-and-everyone-else drudgery is a well-documented thing that is based on deeply ingrained and culturally supported gender roles and norms.  And you are in no way broken for struggling to reconcile the idea that marriage is awesome and perfect with the idea that women must continually do more and expect less; the belief that your partner's supposed to be the person who helps carry your burdens and have your back with the reality that an awful lot of relationships involve women contributing a much greater amount of labour than their male partners. Because that is fucked up, and you are right to have trouble reconciling it.

Most of the women you're hearing from about their relationships are either struggling with it themselves - finding a framing that lets them accept both those things as true without intolerable levels of cognitive dissonance, seeking rewards or outlets that let them feel okay with that, accepting that women's work is worth less or that men need more time/fun/recognition - or they have worked hard (or been really lucky) to find a partner who will struggle with it together with them - learning to recognize work that is often invisible or undervalued, fighting against the default expectations that would cause that work to fall on the woman otherwise, dealing with the internal and external repercussions of going against gender roles.

I don't think I've ever talked about chores, childcare or division of labour within a relationship with a woman with a male partner - even one where both would consider themselves feminists - and not had them express that they envied me being gay for not having to deal with that (in person - online I've heard from some women who don't have that problem, but most of those say they've made equality a priority in seeking a partner). How fucked up is that?

If there's something deeply wrong in the world or in your life, it's right to have a problem with it! It sucks that you're in that situation and that it's such a hard thing to deal with or even to have acknowledged, but at least you don't have to believe that it's you that's broken for being bothered by it.

ETA: or what Wondering said much more clearly.
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Re: Marriage: Meant To Be Miserable! [Disc]

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