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June 18, 2009

Thoughts on Love and Marriage

Aspasia reasoned thus with Xenophon's wife and Xenophon himself:

"Please tell me madam, if your neighbor had a better gold ornament
than you have, would you prefer that one or your own?"

"That one"

"Well, now, if she had a better husband than you have, would you
prefer your husband or hers?" At this the woman blushed.

"I wish you would tell me Xenophon, if your neighbor had a better horse than yours, would you prefer your horse or his?"

"His."

"Now, if he had a better wife than you have, would you prefer yours or his?"

And at this Xenophon, too, was himself silent.

"Therefore, unless you can contrive that there be no better man or
finer woman on earth you will certainly always be in dire want of what you consider best, namely, that you be the husband of the very best of wives, and that she be wedded to the very best of men."

- Cicero, De Inventione

I've been thinking a lot about marriage lately for two reasons. One is that I sometimes find myself dismayed by the Internet.

It's a contagious medium. Ideas and emotions flit like kamakaze bottleflies from one site to another. They bounce off the narrow walls of tiny pop up comment boxes, growing increasingly frantic as each new contributor enters the fray. Temporary alliances form and are suddenly shattered. Seemingly innocuous debates suddenly flare into full blown arguments and subside just as quickly as they arose.

I rarely comment on other sites any more. I used to wade into online conversations with lusty abandon but these days I find myself holding back; unwilling to say what I think. The things I read, more often than not, either disturb or fail to interest me. There doesn't seem to be much middle ground any more.

Yesterday I found myself reading a comment thread on a site I usually avoid because it always leaves me with a slightly sick feeling in my stomach. There's not much I can't laugh at, but there is something about this place. Something dark. Some of the commenters seem so bitter:

There is something going on here. I wouldn't suggest it was a "mental illness," not just because I wouldn't want to be insulting, but because I don't believe that it is. The only "mental illness" I believe actually exist are the ones with physical, observable causes, which can be corrected. That's an illness, and part of the proper field of medicine. What we're talking about here is not illness with a medical solution, but something else.

What we're talking about here is not part of the mind, but of the psyche -- which, so many have forgotten, is not the mind but the soul. These are people who have lived lives of remarkable peace and plenty, in a land now ruled by their preferred and chosen officials and policies, and who yet find themselves ruled by fear, by shyness, and by anxiety; and therefore by a kind of seething anger, which is the natural compliment of fear.

What is needed is not a diagnosis, nor a drug. It's a way of learning to live boldly; and a way of embracing joy, even if destruction lays overhead.

Their words are harsh. Unforgiving. But worst of all is the pain. I recoil from it like I'd jump back from a poisonous snake. These are people who have been deeply hurt. But rather than healing over time, growing stronger gradually as the bad memories fade and the pain slowly subsides, they are still nursing ancient grievances - some decades old. In place of a fading scar that only aches when it rains, there's a brittle, hard protective shell covering a festering wound they're fiercely protective of.

And so, because I can't bridge the yawning gap between their anger and my optimism, I remain silent.

I read another article this morning: one that stayed with me as I worked:

I remind myself of the phenomenon of unconscious overclaiming; i.e., we unconsciously overestimate our contributions or skills relative to other people’s. This makes sense, because of course we’re far more aware of what we do than what other people do. According to Jonathan Haidt’s The Happiness Hypothesis, “When husbands and wives estimate the percentage of housework each does, their estimates total more than 120 percent.”

I complain about the time I spend organizing babysitting or paying bills, but I overlook the time my husband spends dealing with our car or grocery shopping. It’s easy to see that overclaiming leads to resentment and an inflated sense of entitlement. So now when I find myself thinking, “I’m the only one around here who bothers to …” or “Why do I always have to be the one who …?” I remind myself of all the tasks I don’t do.

Second, I remind myself of the words of my spiritual master, St. Therese of Lisieux: “When one loves, one does not calculate.” That precept is the basis for my 11th Personal Commandment: No calculation.

This is what I saw in the comments on that site the other day: the keeping of scores that so often results in anger and bitterness. It's so easy to over-calculate our own contributions to a relationship and undervalue what we receive from others. We enter marriage with a lot of fine theories about how love will be, but few survive contact with the humdrum monotony of daily life or the thousand tiny fault lines left by arguments, unstated grievances, a careless word or frown that may have gone unnoticed by the speaker but which rubbed us raw at precisely the wrong moment. We guard the tiny wounds assiduously lest we be hurt again.

I married young. Too young, most people would say, but then I've never had much use for rigid formulas. In the beginning, unsurprisingly, it was mostly I who fed the relationship. I planned surprises, cooked special dinners, picked flowers, remembered every occasion with a card even though I had to walk 3 miles to the store with a 30 pound toddler in tow to do so. It seemed important to put effort in - this, after all, was a relationship I expected to last for a lifetime. And so I tried to keep our lives interesting, both in and out of bed. I tried to be patient and cheerful, no matter how I felt. When you have no money, fun is important. So is a sense of hope.

And the young are not afraid of life yet. Or at least I was not afraid when I was younger: not afraid to make a fool of myself, or screw up, not afraid to be a bit of a clown if that would earn a smile or even a laugh. Not afraid of being wrong or being rejected.

Not afraid of being hurt.

As the years went on, I continued to be the relationship keeper. But somewhere deep inside, small hurts began to accumulate. While my brain chose to ignore them, my heart never entirely forgot all the times I'd gone out of my way to please and ended up feeling slightly taken advantage of.

If someone had asked if I kept a hidden tally I'd have said no, but deep inside of me the counter was ticking away and the debt kept growing. It was a sum far too large to repay in the brief moments we had together, crushed between deployments, soccer games and camp outs for the boys. And so, because I didn't want to become bitter or angry, I put up walls around the hurt places. It was a coping mechanism. I kept trying, but I was more careful.

When our sons left home, something changed.

I went to work, and suddenly it was my husband and not I who aimed to please, who thought to bring me a cup of coffee in my office each morning and flowers at night; who began to woo me again as he had when we were in high school, who wrote love poems and sent pretty baubles when he was thousands of miles away. Suddenly, the man who was constantly at work started coming home early, taking leave frequently to whisk me away to some tropical beach or country inn.

I would like to say that I enthusiastically reciprocated in kind, but that would not be true for suddenly I had new interests and responsibilities. My world expanded and I began to understand what it must have been like to be him, all those years. More detached, but not necessarily less loving. Just... different.

But also, there were those walls in my heart. They had taken a long time to build and I wasn't anxious to tear them down just yet. You always find a use for something right after you throw it away.

Yesterday morning I listened to those bitter people and I heard a long litany of grievances with no recognition that there might have been another side to the story - that perhaps their wives had been hurt too; had been disappointed. That perhaps the hissed "she" had walked away from the relationship with her own grievance list?

What I heard, over and over, was "me, me, me". And this isn't something only men do. You can go over to Pandagon and listen to bitter women complain about how all men are insensitive and inconsiderate brutes who only think of their own selfish wants and needs. That doesn't strike me as a particularly thoughtful position, nor one likely to allow any kind of hurt to heal.

For some reason I found myself thinking this morning of the piano I grew up with as a child. It was not new, and certainly not a Steinway. Not my dream piano. But it was mine.

It took care and skill to coax the sounds I wanted to hear from those yellowed keys - hours of patient effort and loving attention. One or two never would hold their tune and struck unexpectedly sour notes when I hit them, so I learned to adjust. To work around them. I wrote in other keys or slid the song up or down an octave. I practiced over and over again until what I heard pleased me. It wasn't always the music in my mind. But it was music, nonetheless.

With practice I learned to avoid the sour notes and apply just the right touch for each moment; to produce music that was serene and soothing or stormy and passionate, that delighted the ear and lifted the spirit.

The thing is, I don't think any of us acts in isolation. We play, and are played upon by those we love; responding to the ambient temperature and the threat of storms just as my old piano did.

I have an electric piano now. It has none of the faults of my childhood instrument but I don't enjoy playing it as much as I did that old one - the one that, if I wasn't paying attention sometimes rewarded my earnest efforts with a discordant clang or false note. You can't play a piano and hold anything back. If you don't take risks - hit a few false notes, let the passion inside you come out even if it makes you feel slightly foolish, the music becomes stale and flat and you find yourself playing mechanically; just going through the motions.

The older I get, the more I think that the keys to a good marriage are pretty simple. It's harder, playing an old piano. You have to put more effort in than you would if you had a shiny, new perfect instrument. But in life, perfect instruments are a rare thing and as it turns out simply making an effort every single day to step outside yourself and learn everything you can about the person you're with, to learn what makes them happy or what they want instead of assuming they think just like you do, to see things through their eyes, gives you an entirely different perspective on the world; one you'd never obtain on your own.

You'd never have to make that kind of effort if you had a perfect partner. But the challenge is what keeps you interested - and interesting.

Posted by Cassandra at June 18, 2009 08:53 AM

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Comments

"I wish you would tell me Xenophon, if your neighbor had a better horse than yours, would you prefer your horse or his?"

Xenophon was the author of the greatest ancient text on horsemanship. He would have known better than Cicero believes. The horse you ride you trust with your life, and therefore, it had better be one you know. Your horse is better because it's yours. You taught it, and it taught you, and in time you learned to depend on each other.

Wives are like that, too.

Posted by: Grim at June 18, 2009 05:35 PM

You taught it, and it taught you, and in time you learned to depend on each other.

I like that.

I've always puzzled a bit over the last line of that passage:

"Therefore, unless you can contrive that there be no better man or finer woman on earth you will certainly always be in dire want of what you consider best, namely, that you be the husband of the very best of wives, and that she be wedded to the very best of men."

After some deliberation as a young girl, I decided that it made more sense if you replace "contrive" with "believe": thus, when you truly believe you are married to the best of men, you will become the best of wives.

My husband has often said that I give him something to live up to. Doesn't mean I expect him to be perfect, merely that I see is inside of him: the best he can be. And I want to be worthy of that, too.


Posted by: Cassandra at June 18, 2009 05:56 PM

By the way, I'm still thinking about your question regarding chivalry. I just couldn't get there from here, today.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 18, 2009 06:06 PM

The perfect partner is the one who knows what you are capable of and is not afraid to occasionally remind you of your progress, or lack thereof. A tamed ego assists in accepting the wisdom of what is being offered in the spirit it was given.

It is also important not to expect more from your life long partner than you do from yourself. Regarding the inevitable menopause and change-of-life rigors, a sense of humor and realistic expectations go a long way to smooth the rough edges of life.

Having just returned from a PGR ride to a summer camp for military children, the point was driven home. When a military child asks a person he/she has just met about whether or not their absent parent will be okay, it keeps things in focus. Be thankful for what you have, hope for the best and prepare for the worst. Having an understanding and supportive partner is as close to perfection as we are likely to ever be.

Posted by: vet66 at June 18, 2009 06:41 PM

Very fine Vet66. Amen.

Posted by: bt-the resident-curmudgeon_hun at June 18, 2009 06:44 PM

The perfect partner is the one who knows what you are capable of and is not afraid to occasionally remind you of your progress, or lack thereof. A tamed ego assists in accepting the wisdom of what is being offered in the spirit it was given.

Amen :)

I wrote down my own list of things I do wrong this morning when I read the Slate article.

It's funny, how we tend to magnify our own perfections, but our mates' flaws. On those rare occasions where the Unit zaps me where I live with some reminder that I am quite possibly the world's biggest dope, I try to file it away and bring it out later when I'm alone.

It always hurts, but then I stop and remember that he thinks enough of me to expect I'll meet him halfway if there's a problem. And I will.

I'd far rather a few minute course corrections than have him stewing over something I don't even know I've done wrong.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 18, 2009 06:51 PM

Cass, I agree with what you said here, but you are only looking at a piece or two of the mosaic, rather than a comprehensive whole. Therefore, while I agree with your analysis of this small, limited area, I must limit my agreement to the parameters you have placed and won't go beyond.

I cannot speak more forthrightly, because doing so in the past has, in my mind, caused or contributed to deletions of the offending thread or your recusal from blogging for a time. Because I enjoy your opinions and viewpoints on most matters, whether I agree or disagree with you, I will leave this hot potato alone.

Posted by: a former european at June 18, 2009 10:05 PM

Cass,

I never cease to be impressed with both you and the family of commenters.

Bravo, and thanks.

KP

Posted by: Kbob in Katy at June 18, 2009 10:37 PM

I'll second Kbob.

A very well written essay Cass, and as usual the peanut gallery is eloquent and thoughtful.

I often find commenting here to be way above my pay grade.

Posted by: unkawill at June 18, 2009 11:36 PM

Your husband is a lucky man; perhaps that's reciprocal.

Speaking as someone who is thrice divorced (but does not live in a van by the river) I must say that I still believe that a marriage should be reciprocal to be successful. The gal I've been with for a few years now (who you met) is a genuine sweetheart, but my fear is that if I was to marry her, things would change, as they have always done in the past. I realize, of course, that I am not perfect...but I always tried to make it work, my personal flaws notwithstanding. I could not make it work by myself, however, and ultimately (for whatever reason) each of my ex-wives stopped trying to make it work. I suspect that eventually I'll "take the plunge" again. Wish me luck...

Posted by: camojack at June 19, 2009 01:28 AM

Very thoughtful and well considered. Bless you for that :-)

Posted by: Scott in OC at June 19, 2009 03:19 AM

By the way, I'm still thinking about your question regarding chivalry. I just couldn't get there from here, today.

There is no rush. Even so, I challenge your geography. Look again at where you are:

[T]hus, when you truly believe you are married to the best of men, you will become the best of wives.

My husband has often said that I give him something to live up to.

In the early versions of the Quest for the Holy Grail, Sir Perceval is the one who achieves the quest. It is only after a very long and tragic quest, though, because he fails an early test. He comes to the castle where the Grail is kept, and is hosted by its keeper; but he fails to find it because he doesn't recognize where he is, and therefore does not ask the right question ere he rides on.

So too, with you. You are where you need to be. You only need now to ask the right question.

Posted by: Grim at June 19, 2009 05:41 AM

A few observations (this is for both Camo and afe).

I didn't intend for this essay to be read as "anyone who gets divorced didn't try hard enough", because I don't actually believe that's true.

It takes two people to make a marriage work - that's what makes it a partnership. I don't think that's the kind of thing you can do all by yourself. Certainly you can refuse to give up, but in the end if you are doing everything you can and the other person gives up, it's not as though you have the power to make them stay.

What bothered me about the conversation I read the other day - and occasionally I do hear close to the same thing here - was the absolute refusal to admit there was any other side but their own. But afe, for instance, has said on occasion that he can think of things he did that weren't helpful. Frankly, I'd be shocked to find anyone who ended up divorced who never did anything they regretted b/c when things go south, there are usually arguments and both partners get angry.

I know from my own marriage that there have been times when I thought my husband wasn't being reasonable. Usually this happened b/c I didn't understand what was going on in his mind and consequently - seen from my point of view only - he *was* being unreasonable. The only problem with that is that he wasn't seeing things from my point of view, but his own.

Duh :)

Once I understood his point of view, I might still dislike what he was doing or disagree with it (that's life) but it no longer seemed unreasonable. There's a HUGE difference between those two positions.

We all have to learn to live with other people doing things we don't like, but if (on top of everything else) it seems to you that the other person has *no good reason* for acting that way, it's far more likely you'll see their behavior as an intentional provocation or evidence that they don't care about you, and you'll resent it. But if you understand that they have a valid reason for the behavior you don't care for, you may still dislike it but you don't take it personally.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 19, 2009 06:33 AM

Case in point.

I have an old friend who has been divorced twice.

If you were to ask her, she'd readily admit that she was pretty much the cause of the second divorce. She didn't do anything bad, like cheating. But she didn't do everything she could to make it work and she married him for the wrong reason (and no, it wasn't money).

But her first marriage ended b/c of behavior I would not tolerate from anyone. She bent over backwards to make that one work but her husband was immature and wasn't treating her right. I would not have stayed, either. She took that one very, very hard. Even though it was not her fault, she blamed herself. But even though she was the first friend I'd had whose marriage didn't make it (I was in the wedding party) I absolutely saw why she had to leave and furthermore approved of her decision. She did the right thing for herself and her son.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 19, 2009 06:40 AM

my fear is that if I was to marry her, things would change, as they have always done in the past.

That's quite possible. Reams and reams of studies have shown that people absolutely DO act differently when they get married. Sometimes that's a positive thing and sometimes not.

On the positive side, if both parties see the marriage as a lifelong commitment, they're more likely to pitch in and do what it takes to make it work.

If one or both see it as a trap though, or if one of them says, "Well, I don't have to try anymore - after all, we're married now" then things aren't going to go so well.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 19, 2009 06:52 AM

It wasn't a trap?

*ducks as remote goes flying by my head*

If it was a trap, it has been a pretty good place to be....trapped with someone I care about immensely and intensely, who graced me with the most spectacular daughter a Dad could ever wish for.....I am good with that.

Has it been work? Yes. Has it been easy? Not often. Has it been worth it and would I do it again? Yes absolutely and In a Heartbeat.

C/C (Change Course):

Daughter called earlier to tell me she has a job offer in NYC as Marketing Director for a good sized company with good $$$ and package. They called her out of the blue. To me, no question - GO! But her BF/SO has never lived anywhere but Chicago and does not think he can.

I told her this is one of those crossroads in life. Make your choice and live with it; someone will have to give in. She is a milbrat, No problem to move. So the next few days will be pivotal. What is more important? A fearful, non-committal BF who won't move or her career? At least he's a nice guy.

"Its the chance of a lifetime." You don't want to go thru life wondering what if when you pass one of those up....

Posted by: Kbob in Katy at June 19, 2009 07:18 AM

One of my daughters in law did the same thing - she chose a school in another state even though that meant she and my son would have to fly to see each other.

They lived that way for a long time, but eventually my son decided he wanted more time with her so he gave up a really great job and moved to the city where she lives now. He did this in conjunction with a proposal of marriage - after all, there's no sense in uprooting yourself for a mere dating relationship.

Watching people's reactions was funny. Initially when he asked me what I thought, I was skeptical but told him that in the end, if he wanted a relationship with this girl then he needed to take a long look at his feelings for her and accept where that led him. I also said that he needed to be sure she was as serious as he was. So he asked her to marry him and she said, 'yes'.

Most people in our family had a big problem at first with his decision. In our society, we're not used to it being the man who gives up his job to accommodate a woman's career. I had mixed feelings myself.

But on the other hand I have moved my entire life in support of my husband's career. I've ruled out several careers I would have really enjoyed b/c moving every 2-3 years was out of the question. So in a way, I liked it that he was willing to do this to preserve the relationship.

The upside to all this is that he ended up with a better paying job and has been promoted twice in the space of just a few years. And they are happily married, so he made the right decision.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 19, 2009 07:50 AM

Beautiful article Cass. A number of things in it (and in comments) resonated strongly with me.

Divorce. I've never been divorced (thirteen years and still going strong), but my wife has. Her ex basically shut down after leaving the Corps. He wouldn't hold a job for more than a week, and quit trying. She took the debt, gave him the savings and sent him out the door. As you said, both partners need to try to make it work. One riding on the other doesn't work.

"S/he's being unreasonable." Lord how true this is. I daresay most of the arguments (I don't like saying "fights" because that implies punches to me somehow) the bride and I get into are misunderstandings about where the other is coming from.

Case in point... she needs to see a specialist, and went to one of the offices covered by our insurance. They told her they won't take our insurance because we live across the state line in SC, and they have an associate branch in SC she should be going to. She was very upset. I suggested calling the insurance company and getting them to straighten this out for her. She said she didn't want to, and they couldn't help anyway and... so of course, I believe she's being unreasonable. On her side of the coin, because I wouldn't give up "badgering" her about it, I was being unreasonable. She left the room because she didn't want to argue about it and she was already having a bad day.

It took me going to her and explaining that I wasn't trying to pick a fight, I was trying to give her alternative solutions to improve the situation. And suddenly, she realized what she knew all along, that I wasn't an ogre trying to ruin her already bad day, but that I was just trying to help.

Leaving for the other's career. I left the Army in 97. My CO asked me why he couldn't get me to re-enlist. First off, because of the "peace dividend" my re-enlistment bonus had become literally non-existent. Also, at the time, my wife made twice what I did as a Sergeant with five years in service, and it really made no sense for her to follow my career rather than the other way around. I didn't even hesitate or worry about the fact that my wife made more money than I did, it never even fazed me.

Fate has ways of making fools of all of us. Due to health reasons, she no longer works and I am the sole earner, but again... that doesn't faze me. It's just the way things are.

Posted by: MikeD at June 19, 2009 11:55 AM

I liked what Bird Dog said on Maggie's Farm the other day. He was trying to imagine what he could offer the woman he intended to marry, and he finally decided to "offer her everything, forever."

Posted by: Texan99 at June 19, 2009 12:06 PM

Reams and reams of studies have shown that people absolutely DO act differently when they get married. Sometimes that's a positive thing and sometimes not.
On the positive side, if both parties see the marriage as a lifelong commitment, they're more likely to pitch in and do what it takes to make it work.
If one or both see it as a trap though, or if one of them says, "Well, I don't have to try anymore - after all, we're married now" then things aren't going to go so well.
Posted by: Cassandra at June 19, 2009 06:52 AM

Yes, it takes two to make it work, only one to make it fail. My third wife told me "it's nobody's fault, no-one's to blame, we just want different things in life". Perhaps. In any case, that was basically her declaration that she was no longer willing to try; once that happened, it was essentially over. She wasn't interested in counseling or such either, because I asked. Only time will tell if my current relationship will progress into marriage and if that will last. I am hopeful however, that we have both learned enough from our past experiences with matrimony to make a real go of it...

Posted by: camojack at June 19, 2009 07:16 PM

we just want different things in life

Jeez, Camo. My life has turned out nothing like I wanted it to. And yet I'm not sure what I'd change.

People do need to think before they marry about where it is they want to go together, but also a big part of it is that you go, wherever you do go, together.

I hope things do work out for you and your lovely lady. I liked her a lot.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 19, 2009 07:21 PM

"St. Therese of Lisieux: “When one loves, one does not calculate.”

Funny how some of those old saints really had a handle on things.

"Doesn't mean I expect him to be perfect, merely that I see is inside of him: the best he can be. And I want to be worthy of that, too."

You, too, have a handle on things. One of the best definitions of love I've come across so far is: love is wanting the best for the other person, for his sake.

(I think that comes from Plato, but I'm not sure.)


Posted by: ZZMike at June 19, 2009 08:41 PM

Yes, Cass, I do have numerous faults. The older I get, the more aware I become of my errors and shortcomings. Because of my own failures to live up to my own standards of behavior, I try to cut others lots of slack. Live and let live. I will forgive you today, and hopefully you will forgive me if I screw up tomorrow. My ex-wife believed in living by the feud, where every slight or misstep was ammunition to fire away at your spouse.
Even so, my problem is not with failed relationships. Sometimes you win at love, sometimes you lose. If that's all there was to it, then I would say keep trying in hopes of finding your true love. No, my problem is with the AFTERMATH of a failed relationship and the legal penalties and ramifications of divorce. For a succesful man, the current legal climate is so overwhelmingly punitive, tht omly a fool would fail to take these facts into consideration.

Using an admittedly extreme example, let's say failed relationships were subject to the Sharia laws governing thievery. Each time a man failed in a love relationship, one limb was severed from his body (i.e. an arm, a leg, etc.). In such a scenario, women could talk all they want about the transcendence of love and the joy of finding a soul mate, but any non-idiot male is going to be extremely cautious about entering into any relationship because of the extreme price of failure. You can pretend the penalties away all you want, but they still exist, and still form the basis of my refusal to ever marry again.

Posted by: a former european at June 20, 2009 04:39 AM

afe:

I don't know what to say.

All I can write about is my own thoughts. In this case, I was writing about how things I read made me realize that I have been at fault more times than I would like to admit over the years. It wasn't an easy post for me to write.

I don't know how that gets translated into my commenting on what anyone else should do with their lives, but somehow it always does no matter how hard I may try to make it otherwise.

I can't write about politics all the time, and it would seem that this subject is off limits because I seem to give offense every time I express an opinion. All I can say is that I didn't mean to say what you seem to think I said.

If I offended you, i'm sorry.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 20, 2009 08:39 AM

Some people live to take offense. Check out the "Liz" and "Boxer" files as examples of those who take themselves way to seriously as a denial of their own failings and shortcomings.

Freud would have a ball with these folks as they flail blindly in the face of their own denial. They feel entitled to a respect they know they do not deserve and deny others who refuse to acknowledge their entitlement.

Cigar anyone?

Posted by: vet66 at June 20, 2009 11:28 AM

When I lived in Arkansas, I hired a guy who was a transplant from NJ. Mike moved for a girl that he'd meet when they were both in some other city for conferences (they meet in the elevator). But, we would joke that he was on the witness protection program from the mob ;-) Nancy had previously been married and had two girls, so moving wasn't really an option for her. He had never been married and had no children, so it was he who relocated. Mike and Nancy are now married, and he is the proud father of a 1 year old son.

Thursday night, working the ballgame, I started chatting with one of the fans. Turns out he views Austin as the big city (I just have a hard time seeing it that way, having been to LA and the Bay Area...). But, he moved here for a girl. I'd say this guy is at least my age, if not a little older.

So, the guy being the one to make the "sacrifice" of following the girl isn't unheard of...

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at June 20, 2009 12:31 PM

Marriage is a covenant. You make a contract to love, honor, obey, cherish, in all things.

A long time ago, I found my dad's chaplain's notebook. Nothing horrific, but since he was licensed to perform marriages, he had the wedding ceremony written down. I read the words and found them beautiful and simple. Where it gets complicated is after the ceremony when you discuss real life situations and you still have to recall your vows of 'love, honor, cherish' when it is hardest to do so.

That is when you are blessed.

To witness love in action when the going is tough is to witness the pure love of Christ.

Again, oversimplification, but either you both work it out, or separate.

Posted by: Cricket at June 20, 2009 01:30 PM

Cass, no offense was taken, nor did I mean to offend you in turn. I think its great that your life and marriage are wonderful. I hope that others can come to know your joy and happiness. I also agree with your point about being cognizant of our own faults and weaknesses. My take on marriage only differs from yours with respect to the divorce/unwinding part. This, however, is a significant part. I was trying to point out that my position is based on logic and reason, rather than some knee-jerk angry or bitter hatred of the institution itself.

Posted by: a former european at June 20, 2009 10:06 PM

AFE -- It must be odd, and a great challenge to trust, to marry someone when you're already wealthy. My only experience is starting with two people who are poor as churchmice and then going on to work for a number of years to build up savings together.

When I was marrying, rather young, it was terrifically important to me to eliminate a lot of "obsolete" trappings from the ceremony. These days, if I were planning the ceremony again, I'd use the old form of "With my body I thee worship; with all my worldly goods I thee endow." Once given, can one ever take them back?

Posted by: Texan99 at June 21, 2009 09:30 AM

I hope things do work out for you and your lovely lady. I liked her a lot.
Posted by: Cassandra at June 19, 2009 07:21 PM

Yeah, I do too...she's a class act. So are you...

Posted by: camojack at June 22, 2009 04:08 AM

Texan99: I feel like a veteran trying to describe war to a bunch of Quakers.

Me: War is terrible, the constant shelling, attacks by the enemy...

Quaker: Well, I would hug my enemy so there would be peace.

Me: No, you see, if you tried to hug the enemy, they would stab you with their bayonet.

Quaker: Then I would walk toward the enemy with my arms open, showing no weapons, and singing hymns to bring the light of Jesus to their hearts.

Me: You would get cut down by automatic machine-gun fire once you took two steps out of the trench. Then, assuming you survived the intermittent artillery, you would indeed most likely "bring the light" to the enemy. They have had flamethrower teams active in this area, and you would probably combust nicely.

Repeat, until somebody gets tired of arguing.

Posted by: a former european at June 22, 2009 03:40 PM

Except, afe, that I am not arguing with you.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 22, 2009 03:47 PM

Both of my older brothers went through divorce along with looping through the emotional and fiscal cleaners... I think I can lay claim to having an understanding of AFE's perspective.

I also recognize that after over three decades of connubial bliss with my dearest Walkin' Boss, many was the time when I thought, there but for the fates and the grace of G-d go I. *Wonders, if Walkin' Boss could have ever thought the same? nah... of course not. =;^} *

Yup, lucky guy am I, but one that has been there and done that, by proxy, and it ain't pretty nor cheap nor fair. And I'll swear that in spite of the pain and damage visited upon the former partners, the children suffer the most.

All of which could lead the unwary off on to a vector discussing the attributes of the legal system versus the justice system. That is, if folks were not careful...

Posted by: bt-the resident-curmudgeon_hun at June 22, 2009 04:35 PM

I chose not to write about this at the time. However, it may be illuminating/amusing:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/31377503/ns/today_weddings/

Posted by: Cassandra at June 22, 2009 04:41 PM

Good point bt, the equity (or lack thereof) of the legal system with regard to Mariage isn't really the issue.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at June 22, 2009 05:29 PM

I thought that "study" was actually kind of depressing...

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at June 23, 2009 01:16 AM

Cass: I know. I was specifically responding to the post by Texan99. I do like the notion that I am "wealthy", though. Never been that my whole life, but I guess it depends on your perspective.

Posted by: a former european at June 23, 2009 01:19 AM

I was specifically responding to the post by Texan99. I do like the notion that I am "wealthy", though. Never been that my whole life, but I guess it depends on your perspective.

Oops! I misunderstood, mostly b/c it seemed to me that she was agreeing with you.

re: wealth, I think that's a valid point, actually. We are not "wealthy", but compared to 1979 when we married, we have lots of assets to which we both contributed. In terms of strict fairness if my husband and I divorced tomorrow, nearly everything we own was accumulated as a result of our joint efforts.

Not only have I worked for much of our marriage, but I worked very hard on the home front to decorate our home and fill it with furniture that I selected, refinished, and reupholstered myself. Nearly all of the curtains in our home, I sewed. Ditto with many of the pillows and other items. For years if something needed fixing, I nearly always did it because he wasn't around or was working 6 days a week.

So if a judge were merely to examine his income and mine during the time we were married and apply a rigid formula based on relative income to the division of our assets, would that in any sense be "fair" to me?

No. For several reasons:

1. The value of years of hard work on my part managing what my husband brought home, finding used, antique, and even free cast off furnishings and working my ass off to fix them up to the point where people come into our house and say, "Wow! Love all the antiques!" is uncountable.

2. How do you measure how much of my earned income and how much of his went towards our household effects and our home? Impossible. Money is fungible, especially when deposited in a joint bank account.

3. There is the opportunity cost of my volunteering to stay home all the years when I did that; of my raising our two children, providing literally all the child care (I never got away from my kids when they were little), of my directing all my time and attention to assisting him with his official duties, supporting other Marine wives and Marine organizations, of entertaining on a large scale and doing every last bit of work myself. I never used a caterer - I cooked everything from scratch. That was the only way we could afford to feed up to a hundred people at a time on his salary.

I make far less today than I would if I'd stayed in the work force instead of moving all over the United States in support of my husband's career. When I went back to college in my thirties, I even earned scholarships to pay for that and worked the whole time on top of a full and often times overloaded course load.

How do you come up with an equitable formula to account for my contributions? I can tell you right now that it wouldn't happen and I wouldn't be inclined to press for "my half", though in a strictly equitable sense I don't for one moment think 1/2 of what we have at this moment is any more his than mine. We did it together.

These days, if I were planning the ceremony again, I'd use the old form of "With my body I thee worship; with all my worldly goods I thee endow." Once given, can one ever take them back?

That is the theory behind the division of marital resources. In addition, if you choose to live in a community property state (and you don't have to do that) you are subject to the laws of that state.

Personally I don't care for community property any more than I care for no fault divorce. I think it ducks the issues that caused the marriage to fall apart in the first place - it's the lazy man or woman's way out of slogging through the difficult division of jointly owned assets. And as with most shortcuts, it may be quicker but it ain't necessarily fairer.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 23, 2009 07:14 AM

IMNSHO, there is very little (if anything) about a divorce that can be considered "fair". That's what makes it so tragic.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at June 23, 2009 10:01 AM

Oh, I completely agree.

And my preceding comment was not meant as some sort of rebuttal to the situation afe encountered so much as it was an explanation of Texan's comment regarding his "wealth". As I said, I would not consider us wealthy by any means, but if a judge were ever to try and tease out who got what, I don't think it would be an easy or straightforward process.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 23, 2009 10:08 AM

AFE, I'm sorry if I was being a snot. What caught my eye was your phrase about how for "a succesful man, the current legal climate is so overwhelmingly punitive, that only a fool would fail to take these facts into consideration." I picked up on what seemed to be a concern for a lot of guys who marry in their 30's or 40's or later, after they've independently accumulated some savings or earning power, only to experience a divorce in which the ex exhibits a lot of financial graspiness. I meant "wealthy" in the sense that you used "successful."

I do think it would be an unsettling experience to have some wealth and then marry someone penniless. It sort of brings up images from Victorian novels. I'd like to think that the romantic view of "with all my worldly goods I thee endow" should prevail, but it's not like it's something I've ever tried or am likely ever to be in a position to try. I've worked with quite a few guys who've tried it, more than once, and they weren't happy about it at all. And I don't at all underestimate just how much I'd hate it if my husband, not content with abandoning me, also impoverished me. I dare say I'd be tempted to forget something of the spirit in which I meant my wedding vows.

So don't ever let me pontificate about taking risky all-or-nothing plunges into human commitments. I'm convinced it's a good idea, but it's never been my forte, even if I have been lucky in my husband. I'm not even a mother, so what do I know?

Posted by: Texan99 at June 24, 2009 01:30 PM

AFE, I'm sorry if I was being a snot. What caught my eye was your phrase about how for "a succesful man, the current legal climate is so overwhelmingly punitive, that only a fool would fail to take these facts into consideration." I picked up on what seemed to be a concern for a lot of guys who marry in their 30's or 40's or later, after they've independently accumulated some savings or earning power, only to experience a divorce in which the ex exhibits a lot of financial graspiness. I meant "wealthy" in the sense that you used "successful."

I do think it would be an unsettling experience to have some wealth and then marry someone penniless. It sort of brings up images from Victorian novels. I'd like to think that the romantic view of "with all my worldly goods I thee endow" should prevail, but it's not like it's something I've ever tried or am likely ever to be in a position to try. I've worked with quite a few guys who've tried it, more than once, and they weren't happy about it at all. And I don't at all underestimate just how much I'd hate it if my husband, not content with abandoning me, also impoverished me. I dare say I'd be tempted to forget something of the spirit in which I meant my wedding vows.

So don't ever let me pontificate about taking risky all-or-nothing plunges into human commitments. I'm convinced it's a good idea, but it's never been my forte, even if I have been lucky in my husband. I'm not even a mother, so what do I know?

Posted by: Texan99 at June 24, 2009 02:16 PM

Texan99: I feel like a veteran trying to describe war to a bunch of Quakers.

If you bump into a member of the American Friends' Service Committee, tell him you know a guy who shot up one of the Ford tractors they sent to the peace-loving North Vietnamese farmers in the '60s.

The VC were using it to tow a 106mm recoilless rifle into *South* Vietnam.

Okay, so that wasn't about Sex, but it was an interesting insight into Relationships, right?

Posted by: BillT at June 24, 2009 03:33 PM

Not about Sex? Whatever can you mean? Your Quaker/war story had it all: trust, violence, betrayal, the clash of romantic ideals with ruthlessness.

Posted by: Texan99 at June 24, 2009 04:11 PM

Not to mention one party (fifty of 'em, actually) getting hosed by the other.

With a pair of miniguns...

Posted by: BillT at June 24, 2009 05:03 PM

There you go! (Give me a moment to fan myself.) And you affect not to like the sex/relationship threads!

Posted by: Texan99 at June 24, 2009 06:00 PM

Whoops -- another one! Cricket! Where'd you put the fainting couch?

Posted by: BillT at June 24, 2009 06:07 PM

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