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October 08, 2009

Best Advice Ever

And from a man, no less!

The worst reason to move in with your main squeeze is to test out whether or not they are marriage material. There are no guarantees when it comes to that institution, no beta-test, no half-measures. I’ve actually said, “We’re going to see if we’re compatible!” What a superficial thing to say. If I love a woman and am compelled to give her access to my rotten DNA, compatibility is moot. I love her totally, and flaws are part of that equation.

Marriage is another word for “trust.” Maybe “trust, plus.” It is two people full of doubts, shortcomings, and love holding hands and jumping together. It’s a risk, fraught with the potential to fail, and that makes it beautiful. Three-legged races, where two people hop, stumble, get back up, and maybe hit a stride until they fall again. It’s funny, frustrating, and the wedding ring is a symbol for the rope tying two legs together. I’ve written a lot recently about my folks: They weren’t perfect. They fought, bickered, and had some tough years. But I admire their marriage and don’t really feel the need to top it. I should have known better than to have doomed two relationships to failure by writing a check my emotional maturity couldn’t cash.

Women want weddings too much, men not enough. Women embrace the intimacy; men fear the responsibility. Maybe if we switched those two, women would understand why men sometimes agree to moving in as a way to put off what they think is inevitable, and men would understand why a woman would settle for a major step closer to a cherished event in her life.

Men. When they're right, they're right.

Posted by Cassandra at October 8, 2009 12:59 PM

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I dunno, coming from someone that is missing half a chromosome... We just can't help ourselves.

Posted by: Boquisucio at October 8, 2009 01:53 PM


That's why we love you.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 8, 2009 02:02 PM

Ummmmmm... are you sure that this writer is actually a guy? I don't mean to come offf as Joe the Cave Man, but, hoestly, I can't recall ever worrying whether I'd written a check "that my emotional maturity couldn't cash." Sure, I've worried (once or twice) about whether the promises I made in the soft glow of passion would stand up in the unforgiving light of my bank statement, but that's just part of falling in love. I'd lie to the Pope if it would just get me another date with that girl, and I'd go to confession later - in more ways than one.

My "emotional maturity" will begin writing checks that it can't keep on the same day that Lionel Richie starts sending me checks for causing emotional distress.

Posted by: spd rdr at October 8, 2009 02:20 PM

*deep, cleansing breath*

So what you're telling me is that it's "unmanly" not to make major life promises you don't mean and can't keep?

Color me officially depressed.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 8, 2009 02:52 PM

Sheesh. That's not what I said. I said that only Lionell Richie writes checks that his emotional maturity can't cash.

I'll be in the garage if you need me.

Posted by: spd rdr at October 8, 2009 03:20 PM

I didn't get that from what you wrote. That's why I asked.

I think I'm just going to shut up for the next 6 months or so.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 8, 2009 03:38 PM

No need. It'll take me at least that long to change the oil in my head.

Posted by: spd rdr at October 8, 2009 04:12 PM

Either this shovel is too good or the earth is rising faster than I'd planned.

Posted by: spd rdr at October 8, 2009 04:27 PM

What I think spd is going for is that while it is quite manly to get you some kick-a$$ toys, it's quite unmanly to describe doing so as "indulging your inner child".

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at October 8, 2009 04:35 PM

Thank you for the explanation. I'm serious about that - I'm not cracking wise.

I think it's safe to say that I still don't understand what either of you are talking about.

Sometimes, I am not the brightest light bulb in the old knife drawer.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 8, 2009 04:51 PM

I think it's just a language thing.

Like "Real mean don't eat quiche", but a ham and egg pie is just good eatin'.

Yeah, I know they're the exact same thing, but that doesn't matter: Quiche is one o' dem fru-fru pansy French foods, a ham and egg pie is good ole solid American grub. :-)

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at October 8, 2009 05:11 PM

Ah, Juliet, if the measure of thy joy
Be heap'd like mine and that thy skill be more
To blazon it, then sweeten with thy breath
This neighbour air, and let rich music's tongue
Unfold the imagined happiness that both
Receive in either by this dear encounter.

Conceit, more rich in matter than in words,
Brags of his substance, not of ornament:
They are but beggars that can count their worth;
But my true love is grown to such excess
I cannot sum up sum of half my wealth. So shut up, you fool, before you completely tank the moment.

Posted by: Drive-by Romeo, Jr. at October 8, 2009 05:19 PM

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at October 8, 2009 05:26 PM

Rephrasing what Cass asked:

it's "manly" to make major life promises you don't mean and can't keep?

The question I think Cass is wanting the answer to - and I'm not clear on it, either - is, this:

You said "I've worried (once or twice) about whether the promises I made in the soft glow of passion would stand up in the unforgiving light of my bank statement".

Did you REALLY mean those promises, or did you just say the words in the hope of getting what you wanted? It's not clear by what you wrote as to the answer on that.

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at October 8, 2009 05:31 PM

Miss Ladybug:

I think spd was just being a smarta**. Anyway, no good can come of pursuing this. I'm losing my temper and am not going to react well.

Like I said, I really need to let this drop.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 8, 2009 05:34 PM

Miss Ladybug,

I could be wrong, but I think that was spd's way of saying that he agreed with the sentiment.

We all do stupid stuff when falling in love.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at October 8, 2009 05:52 PM

Too tough a crowd for this wiseguy.
No offense intended. I hope none is taken.

And yes, Bug, I always meant every word - except maybe about being the astronaut who invented the internet. But I always came clean.


Posted by: spd rdr at October 8, 2009 06:01 PM

lol, spd

Sometimes, the humor intended doesn't come across well when all you have to express it is words typed onto the internet...

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at October 8, 2009 06:11 PM

Cass, you may be surprised to know that I agree with the posted sentiment. I always took marriage very seriously, and understood it to be a lifelong commitment.

Sadly, our present legal system does not support the romantic quotations from the Bard.

Therefore, while I support the idea and ideal, I cannot ignore the harsh light of reality -- and any man who fails to take into account the severe legal penalties surrounding marriage in today's world is a fool. Rose-colored romantic glasses may make all the girlies sigh, but they don't do you much good when you are financially ruined and have your kids taken away from you.

Posted by: a former european at October 8, 2009 06:28 PM

No, afe. That doesn't surprise me at all.

Please don't poke me today. Bad timing.

I was wrong, I shouldn't have brought up the subject and I apologize.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 8, 2009 06:38 PM


True, but just because marriage isn't a good situation for some doesn't necessarily mean that cohabitation is a better option. It's probably worse and living apart is the best choice.

Cohabitation does not seem to be "a half-way" (or shall we say "compromise") position between dating and marriage. It's a detour that most get lost on. We can see this in the success rates in cultures that have and still practice arranged marriage.

Both people understand that this isn't about "compatibility" or the emotion of love. If you can generally get along with someone that's about all the compatibility you really need if both people make the decision to commit to each other and act on the verb of love. The problem is when one (or both) are disengenous in that committment.

Like your ex, a friend of mine's ex "changed". I'm convinced though that she didn't. She was always that horrible person, she just intentionally misrepresented herself until they were married.

When one person is lying, cohabitation won't change that.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at October 8, 2009 07:26 PM

Have you seen 27 Dresses? The not-heroine pretends to be what a man wants to get him. I hate women like that. Ruins good men for the rest of us that DON'T act that way. With me, I think what you see is what you get...

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at October 8, 2009 07:37 PM

Or you could just close your eyes and pretend.{:^D

I know a lot of people that lived together before they were married (including yours truly), and that doesn't seem to be a good predictor at all of making a sustainable marriage. It's like sticking your toe in the water at the beach to try and gauge how deep the ocean is.

Getting married is always easy. People say things in haste that they regret in leisure. But staying married is the task. And it is a task, believe me.
But there are some incredible rewards that aren't included with the brochure that you get in the showroom. Now, I have to go help one of my incredible rewards with their homework.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at October 8, 2009 09:22 PM

Don, I'm not sure who you are talking to when you refer to pretending...

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at October 8, 2009 10:25 PM

No one in particular. And everyone in general, including myself.

It's just a joke. Being in love with someone romantically means being a little faulty with your observations and judgements. No one is perfect, but for a while we tend to think our romantic partner is teh most wonderful person evah!

Later, we find that it is not true. And that's why staying married is a task. A labor of love.

Keep up your hopes. There is someone for everyone if you open your heart to the matter.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at October 9, 2009 12:25 AM

That's what everyone keeps saying, but as the years go by, and nothing happens (yes, I'll admit my social life has mostly been lacking since I returned to Texas, but I have found things in the past to do that got me out of the house and meeting people, and all for naught, even before I got so heavy), a girl doubts it will ever happen. I'm open to the matter, believe me, but that's not enough to make it happen.

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at October 9, 2009 12:33 AM

Marriage is a wonderful institution, but who wants to live in an institution?

Seriously though, I don't live with my long time girlfriend (if 3½ years can be considered a long time) although we've discussed it. "La Casa de Camo" (my rambling estate) is larger than "La Casa de Cami" (her given name is Camille) and my place has the boat shed for my sloop, etc., whilst hers has an ungodly 30º driveway. Anyway, her house needs some fixing up to make it into truly "move in condition", so until that happens we'll be maintaining our respective residences. As for moving in together, I did that with my last wife before we got married and it still didn't work out. Nothing in life is really guaranteed...

Posted by: camojack at October 9, 2009 12:38 AM

How beautiful.

Posted by: FbL at October 9, 2009 01:37 AM

Marriage is the ultimate test of character

Posted by: Stevo at October 9, 2009 06:55 AM

The final one, eh?

Posted by: Grim at October 9, 2009 07:35 AM

Amateurs! During a private, quiet moment, whisper, "I promise." If you can't say that, or if she immediately asks, "What do you promise?" then you must find an honorable way to exit the relationship.

Posted by: Mike Bailor at October 9, 2009 07:37 AM

A female coworker of mine was shocked when I told her that my wife of 24 years had not lived with me before we married. She was very shocked to learn that we did not have sex until our wedding night.

Her retort was “Are you going to buy a pair of shoes without trying them on?”
I replied that maybe the reason she has been so unsuccessful in her relationships is because her men don’t think of her as anything better than a pair of shoes.
And she allows herself to be treated like a pair of shoes.

I can’t help but believe that if more people placed the ones they claim to love on a level higher than shoes, then we would have more successful marriages.

Posted by: smg45acp at October 9, 2009 12:03 PM

SMG: Our story is much like yours, and I think we made a great decision (we've only been married for 13 years). When people say they're living together to find out if they're compatible, in essence they're saying they are ready to take off if things get tough. I think it's sad that so many people would be willing to settle for this. If you want a life with someone else, it's hard work. Yes, the rewards are fantastic and the dangers are also fantastic. Suck it up and decide.

Posted by: Carolynp at October 9, 2009 01:17 PM

My sweetie was as pure as the driven snow and then she drifted.

Posted by: snowman at October 11, 2009 08:52 AM

How beautiful.
Posted by: FbL at October 9, 2009 01:37 AM

Thanks. ;-)

Posted by: camojack at October 12, 2009 12:44 AM

I think this falls into the trap of looking at marriage as having anything to do with love and romance...as if those things didn't exist before the institution of organized religion and the marriage ceremony. Intimacy doesn't stand or fall on the existance of a Justice of the Peace.

Look at the actual end result of marriage...an enforcible contract to share property regardless of who earned it or brought it, an economic commitment to contribute to the raising of children if parentage isn't challenged, regardless of who the biological parents actually are, and in some cases, a lifelong duty to provide financial support for the spouse.

Marriage is all about economic commitment, and very little to do with love and intimacy. Though arguably one wouldn't make those economic commitments unless there was a lot of love. Historically and statistically, marriage economically benefits the female more than the male. The male benefits only in so far as they obtain someone to raise their offspring, presuming they want offspring. This is how society has chosen to deal with the biological inequality between the sexes...that women have fewer opportunities to successfully reproduce and are in an inferior bargaining position, particularly as they hit their thirties and beyond. Legal institutions jump in to creater economic commitment, since without it, the economic hardships imposed upon women are too great, especially if they have children to care for.

No wonder women cloak the concept of marriage in terms of "love" and "intimacy"...and men are dense enough, or hormonally overdosed enough to fall for it. But marriage is really a socially accepted scam, a fairy tale of grand proportion, if looked at through the lens of love and intimacy. It's all about the terms of the contract, not the emotions. Which is why so many women find prenuptial agreements "unromantic".

Posted by: ruralcounsel at October 12, 2009 09:33 AM

Who screwed you over?

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at October 12, 2009 09:42 AM

Miss L, you have a definite talent for cutting to the chase...

Posted by: BillT at October 12, 2009 11:52 AM

I guess. I'm just not in the mood for that bullshit today - or most days, for that matter...

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at October 12, 2009 11:57 AM

The truth hurts, doesn't it?

But Miss L, being in denial doesn't really count as a "mood".

Posted by: ruralcounsel at October 12, 2009 12:26 PM

You didn't answer my question.

And I'm not looking for a man to mooch off. I pay my own bills, thank you very much.

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at October 12, 2009 12:41 PM

I think this falls into the trap of looking at marriage as having anything to do with love and romance...

I think you fell into the trap of *disregarding* their influence...

Posted by: BillT at October 12, 2009 12:47 PM

Ruralcounsel, that was so beautiful, moving, and well-said, it brought a single, manly tear to my eye. I have been saying this for a long time, and been denounced, for the most part, by the ladies on this website. More and more men, however, are waking up to the economic realities of marriage and the severe, one-sided financial burdens imposed upon them.

As is typical, many women want to have it both ways. Just like women want to be both the liberated, sophisticated, I can do anything just like a man if not better feminists, as well as the helpless, naive waifs who need to be protected by society and given special preferences, this hypocrasy carries over into marriage.

Marriage is supposed to be this romantic dream filled with knights in shining armor, unicorns, gumdrop trees and rainbow fountains. That is, until the woman decides that she no longer wants it to be such, and needs to "find herself" or no longer feels in love. To a woman, there is apparently no discrepancy in saying marriage should be a permanent union of two "soul mates", but that it can then be casually discarded based upon something as ephemeral as her "feelings". Well, which is it?

A woman can end the marriage, AND all her marital duties owed to her husband, at the snap of her fingers. Not so for the man. He is still required to provide his marital role as provider indefinitely, even though the wife chooses to sunder the marital vows. Women don't mind this at all, of course, because they have the advantage. Challenging the equity of this arrangement tends to infuriate them, however.

Because of the serious legal and economic consequences which surround the modern institution of marriage, a man is rightly hesitant to put his neck on the chopping block.

Addressing the other point of this thread, I am not a fan of cohabitation. I do believe, though, much of the criticism of same vis-a-vis marriage is logically unsound. Their is a basic premise of much of the criticism that marriage is a permanent commitment whereas cohabitation is transitory. Given the current divorce rates in the US, I don't believe that the underlying supposition of marital permanence holds water. At least for women, ending a marriage is almost as easy as ending cohabitation. Indeed, a divorced woman can lead a better life and at a higher standard of living than an unmarried woman, because she has all the advantages of being single, with all the advantages of being married (continued economic support from her ex-husband). Heck, the govt will even throw him into jail if she doesn't get paid. It sounds like a pretty sweet racket to me, but maybe that's because I'm not "romantic" enough.

Posted by: a former european at October 12, 2009 08:03 PM


Disagreeing with you is not the same as "denouncing" you. That is entirely unfair and you know it.

Other people get to have opinions - yes, even ones that differ from yours. I've pointed out many times that you live in a community property state - which plays a HUGE part in the way your assets were divided. Also, you are paying child support, not alimony.

If you didn't have a kid, you almost certainly wouldn't be paying your ex-wife a dime.

Finally, even if you'd been ordered to pay alimony temporarily, alimony and joint ownership of marital assets are NOT the same and no amount of arguing otherwise will change that fact. Alimony, in most cases, is of limited scope and duration and is intended ONLY to get the woman back on her feet if she didn't work during the marriage.

Also, the sad fact is that if you live with a woman for any real length of time in most community property states, on dissolution of your relationship the same legal principles apply because community property states make it notoriously easy for any domestic partner to claim you were married in common law.

Facts are stubborn things. They don't change just because we're unhappy with them.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 12, 2009 08:29 PM


Yes, you got screwed, and I very much wish you hadn't. However, you generalize about women WAY too much. Yes, there are conniving b*tches out there, but there are good women, too. Just as there are men that are complete and total a$$holes and those who are true gentleman in every sense of the word. Don't put all women in that gold-digger category. It's dishonest of you and those others that do it. Just as it would be dishonest for a woman to say all men. I know why you think the way you do - your personal experience that didn't hold up her end of the marital commitment. It would be nice if Ruralcounsel would admit to why he's saying the things he's saying. Although I don't have any personal experience to draw on, I know of women who were the ones to get the short end of the stick because of a man that didn't fulfill his obligation, too.

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at October 12, 2009 08:34 PM

I do, too. Many, many women who had children.

The law cannot compel moral behavior and one size fits all rules often chafe in certain circumstances.

I've said many times that I'm sorry for what afe has had to endure but blaming marriage when in fact the exact same rules would apply if the woman had more money is a bit much.

Granted it's often the man who has the bulk of the assets but marriage is supposed to be a merger of sorts. I've seen business partners get just as screwed when one partner was largely responsible for the success of the business but had to split the assets down the middle.

Two *male* business partners.

No one's arguing that the law does a poor job of splitting jointly owned assets (and they WERE jointly owned under AZ law). No, it's not fair. But it's the law and if two men entered into a legal partnership with the purpose of starting a business it's not likely the outcome would have been any different. I don't like community property laws for that reason but blaming marriage or women's lib elides right past the real issue (state property laws and untrustworthy partners).

Posted by: Cassandra at October 12, 2009 08:50 PM

Let me amend that, since I'm wrong as pertains to AZ.

There is no common law marriage in AZ. Texas and Idaho have common law marriage. This is a fairly succint explanation of the differences between community property and common law:

In America, there are two systems that govern marital property: community property and common law (also called marital property). The community property system, which is derived from Spanish law, is found predominantly in western states: Arizona, California, New Mexico, Nevada, Idaho and Washington, as well as Texas, Wisconsin and Louisiana. In Alaska, couples can opt in for community property. Common law, which is derived from English law, governs the rest of the states and the District of Columbia.
In a community property state, whatever you bring into the marriage or receive individually through gifts or inheritances remains yours, but whatever you earn or acquire during the marriage is co-owned by both parties, regardless of who earned it or whose name is on the title. Of course, if you commingle gift or inheritance cash with a joint account, it very likely will be considered community property by a court.
In a common law state, if your name appears on the ownership document, registration or title, you own it. However, common law holds that your spouse has legal right to claim a fair and equitable portion of your property in divorce; in most cases, two-thirds go to the higher wage earner, one-third to the other spouse.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 12, 2009 09:12 PM

"Intimacy doesn't stand or fall on the existance of a Justice of the Peace."

No, intimacy does not. Of course, a mere boy can obtain intimacy, but it won't make a man of him one bit. Standing before God and everyone and making a lifelong commitment to someone other than yourself, and then living that commitment will make of man of you, if you believe in it and work hard. Really hard, but with a gleeful heart. If you do it right, the burden is heavy but the yoke is sweet, and the fruits of the labor are great.

Posted by: douglas at October 13, 2009 01:57 AM

Cass: I will accept your criticism as to the use of "denounce". I am not, however, generalizing as to ALL women as being all negative, just as I would never claim that all men are wonderful. There are good and bad people, whether male or female.

I am also not attacking wives, or husbands for that matter, in general. I think it is wonderful when marriage is successful between a happy and fulfilled husband and wife. My point is, first, an examination of what occurs when a marriage fails, and second, the economic and legal implications for such failure. Just because one examines the possibilities of failure in a joint venture doesn't automatically mean a desire or encouragement for such a failure to occur.

My view on marriage is closer to the centuries-old historic approach, rather than the more modern "flight of romance" viewpoint. Its amazing to me how level-headed people were, generally, back when life was hard and lacked the modern conveniences and luxuries which spoil us today. People then took marriage far more seriously. The whole family would get involved to make sure a potential match was "suitable". A young man would have to meet the intended's family, particularly the father, and establish his credentials as a marriageble prospect. Things like being stable, moral, and level-headed were important, because this potential son-in-law would become a member of the family. Every member of the family needed to help out and not be a burden on the others, whether this was on the family farms, flocks, smithy, or crafts.

The obligation to contribute to the well-being of the family also meant that the young man should establish certain skills or employment prospects. He naturally had an obligation to not only support his immediate family, but also the extended family (which also, more often than not, lived together). If the young man seemed suitable, he could then court the young woman. She could always reject the suitor if she did not approve, of course, but this courtship gave the families each time to get to know the potential addition to the family. It cut both ways, in that the young woman would also be looked at re her suitability as wife and mother, moral character, disposition, and whether she would bring any skills which could supplement the family income (weaving, sewing, embroidery, or other such crafts).

Thus, for numerous centuries, people took marriage seriously as a lifelong commitment. They went into such a permanent commitment carefully, because it could make a huge difference in whether you prospered or died in an era when simply providing food and shelter was often a hardship.

Nowadays, everything is free and easy. This breezy attitude has been applied to marriage as well. People are more careful involving themselves in a business merger, than realistically examining a potential marriage partner. With a divorce rate around 50%, the idea of a permanent or lifelong commitment has essentially disappeared. If your marriage doesn't work out, throw it away and try again with someone new. This is the new, stylish credo, except as far as men are concerned. For men, their financial responsibilities are still set as they were in the 16th century or earlier.

I am merely calling attention to these facts. I know a cold splash of reality is very unpleasant to those who would prefer to view marriage and the world through rose-colored glasses, but that is not my problem.

Posted by: a former european at October 13, 2009 05:03 AM

Ppppphhhhhtttth :)

For what it's worth, I agree with much of what you have to say afe. I just don't agree that the main reason women give up on marriages is the financial incentive. I think marriages fail more today for several reasons:

1. Neither men nor women take commitment as seriously as they used to.

2. Lack of thought up front (though personally I don't think this is what tanks the majority of marriages that fail because you don't really know what you're getting into until you're in it and that hasn't changed all that much over time).

3. Marriage is easier to get out of now. People leave b/c they can (both in legal terms and in terms of leaving and not starving). Plenty of childless marriages fail and not just in community property states. The correlation between no fault divorce and divorce rates is high.

Another strong correlation is a woman's earning power. Interestingly, a rather large study conducted on divorce data over a 40 year period seems to contradict your theory that women divorce so they can take their husbands to the cleaner:

Our 2004 study was based on annual, U.S. macro data between 1960 and 2001. This year we finished another study about the relationship between divorce and female income using micro data. This study used census data between 1990 and 2000 and tracked 112,740 women, 16,760 of them were divorced while 95,980 of them were married. We controlled for 64 other socioeconomic variables such as race, education, profession, and number of children. We found that as females experience greater levels of success in the labor market, they also experience higher divorce rates. As the wife’s earnings become a larger portion of family income, we also found that the probability of divorce increased.

IOW, the harder a woman works and the more she earns, the more likely she is to divorce.

This would seem to contradict the notion that women divorce primarily for financial gain. Also, women work more hours after divorce than they do before so it's certainly not easier for most women to be single. However, if they're terribly unhappy in a relationship the extra effort may be offset by not walking around with their stomach tied up in knots all the time. Discord bothers women more than it seems to bother men. We can't compartmentalize the way you guys do.

Frankly, this makes a lot of sense to me. Working places a lot of stresses on a marriage - more so, IMO, than children do. Children are a shared endeavor that, all other things being equal, has as much chance of binding a couple together as not.

Working, on the otter heiny, gives a wife the same opportunity of cheating that a man has and also presents her with constant temptation and a reminder that life could be better than what she has at home. Working exerts a "pull" away from focusing on the marriage, and the sad truth is that too many guys take their relationships for granted. They tend to view paying attention to the marriage as "women's work"; somehow beneath them - and then they're surprised when the wife stops wanting to have sex or is unhappy. I've seen this even with very good husbands.

As we've discussed in the past, I don't think a lot of guys understand that emotional closeness is just as necessary for a woman as sex is for a man.

I've also never seen a single job (including making a marriage work) that gets done better when both parties only devote 1/2 their attention to it and no one is "in charge" of it.

Many people blame feminism for this. As far as cause and effect, that may not be totally inaccurate but this assumes that only the woman has any responsibility to put effort into the relationship. The thing is, it takes two to make a marriage work and I've known many men who just withdraw or disappear when things go wrong instead of trying to work things out.

Eventually, their wives stop trying. You can't force someone to participate in a relationship against their will. You have said that you tried to make your marriage work and I believe you.

But again, you aren't everyone. I've known a lot of women whose husbands let themselves go, stopped talking to them, and tuned them out. Sometimes the wife has contributed to the problem, but since they're not talking she has no idea what she's doing wrong. Women are perceptive but we're not mind readers. I've always believed that if someone is doing something that bugs you a lot, you need to talk to them instead of letting resentment snowball out of control.

I think the main problem with most marriages is a culture that doesn't value commitment.

Making any relationship work: friendship, partnership, marriage, you name it - requires hard work at times. If you care about the other person, you pitch in when things aren't going well. And I think your idea about looking at the family is huge too - a lot of marriages fail b/c either the husband or wife has no idea how to act. Their parents had a bad marriage and they repeat the behaviors they learned during childhood - sometimes without even realizing what they're doing.

That is sad.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 13, 2009 06:13 AM

For the record, I also never said that women primarily leave marriages because of economics/finances. There are many reasons, both good and bad, for marriages to fall apart. I don't think I was picking sides in that debate.

My point, which perhaps I didn't make very well, was that for whatever reason a marriage ends, the person that entered the marriage with significantly less economic wealth is likely to leave being put at least on equal footing, and often with much improved financials. If everyone is poor, that doesn't leave much of a pie to split up, of course.

Which gets back to what I thought my point was: statistically, men (typically it's men, but not always) are making a huge contractual economic gamble when they get married, which is not generally mirrored by women. I don't know of many women these days who "gives up her career" for marriage, especially if it was at all fulfilling and profitable. (Both parties are making a huge emotional gamble!)

All the talk of love and romance and intimacy seems deliberately designed to camoflage this fact. I don't think most men, or even most women, quite comprehend this unless they've got first hand experience. It's a bit counter-intuitive to a lot of people. So basically, I think most men ought to be a little gunshy about marriage.

Let's just say that I'm for truth in advertising.

I think the true function of family/divorce law is not to protect either spouse (at least in non-abusive situations), but to protect the interest of any children. And I have no disagreement with that. Personally, I don't see any practical utility in getting married unless one is planning on having children.

As for reasons for not staying married, well I can't disagree that it has a lot to do with current culture and a lot of the things Cassandra just mentioned. But then, recollect that "for a lifetime" was often no more than 20 or 25 years, and the state of the art of medicine generally didn't provide for long exits.

(Full disclosure: I live in a state that does NOT recognize common-law marriage, and is not a community property state. I would recommend that anyone thinking of moving/retiring to a community property state, like Florida, and whose marriage is a little shaky or is in a second marriage with children from a first marriage, consult an attorney before the moving trucks pull up to the house.)

Posted by: ruralcounsel at October 13, 2009 08:23 AM

Miss L, I never said you were looking "for a man to mooch off." It never crossed my mind. I believe, perhaps too charitably, that neither half of a couple enters a marriage looking to "mooch" off of eachother.

But I've seen plenty of divorcing couples, and at that stage of the game, everyone feels entitled to leave with something valuable, no matter what they brought to the party. Add that to the mix of anger, resentment, blame, hurt feelings, betrayal...I think you get my point.

Posted by: ruralcounsel at October 13, 2009 08:32 AM

I have never liked alimony but I do think that women who stay home and make homemaking their full time (or even part time) occupation are sacrificing economically.

I trusted my husband 100% but I still felt vulnerable when my children were little. I could not have supported them at anywhere near the level my husband could if we'd had to depend on my income because I gave up not only college but 18 years of time that could have been spent on my career. So if he'd decided to leave me, I would have been vastly poorer even with child support because I would have had to pay for child care in order to go to work and make ends meet.

Rehabilitative alimony, when a woman has stayed home, makes some sense to me though I don't think I would have taken it. If our marriage had broken up I would have preferred to take on debt rather than be dependent on a man who'd already proved untrustworthy.

I think anger has a lot to do with issues around the distribution of marital assets. There is no doubt that having me stay at home freed up my husband to work harder at his career. So I understand the legal reasoning that seeks to compensate women in a divorce settlement for unpaid service (and no! I'm not talking about sex - more like cooking, cleaning, handling all bills and household chores, etc. for him - not to mention 24/7 child care).

I don't think it would be "fair" for me not to be compensated for my contribution but I also doubt that my pride would have allowed me to accept such compensation.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 13, 2009 08:42 AM

Cassanda, I agree with you that in many ways, a married couple is a team, and that the stay-at-home parent is often at great economic vulnerability.

The biggest problem with alimony is that it fails to take in to account the sacrifices of the employed spouse (both are "working"), who might often be able to have progressed further and faster without worrying about how the family will deal with that promotion and move, or those late evenings at work and how angry the partner will be for coming home late, or being tied to a geography with good schools or nearby relatives,... In other words, I've never seen a married man be able to have a more successful career because of being married. I know that is hard for many stay-at-home spouses to hear. What marriage does is permit a man who has children to devote more time to the job, beause they are relieved of many of the family-related duties. But that usually doesn't compensate for the added burdens and responsibilities of having the family. So it isn't just being married that helps the working spouse, it's being married with lots of other concommittant responsibilities. I have no idea how single parents manage, but they have my utmost respect.

And having children is a mutual decision, and should weigh just as heavily on the stay-at-home spouse as the employed spouse, come time to decide alimony. Otherwise, the stay-at-home spouse was nothing more than a surrogate parent and nanny. I would personally never want to be paid for looking after my own children.

Very few people enter marriage thinking about what fair alimony should be, and how to temper their family plans accordingly. It's an impact that hits long after the comittment has been made, and can seem very disproportionate. In other words, it a trap for the unwary.

A foregone career may have been successful, or it may not have. Who is to really say? Would that psychology major have panned out, or would they have dropped out to be a waitress, or sales clerk? I don't know very many people who's career plans were a straight line from A to B, without any hiccups.

The other problem is the "grass is always greener" variety. The stay-at-home spouse thinks being out in the working world, getting paid, interacting with other adults, is just so, so enticing. They don't have to deal with the criticism, the constant oversight, the infantilizing attitudes of bad management, the grinding fear of layoffs (except second-hand), the lack of control over one's time. The fellow employee who doesn't pull their weight, or sabotages your work. The daily commute, over and over again. It isn't called "work" for nothing! And it is rarely glamourous or fun. It's a lot more fun when you have a spouse pulling in a paycheck that takes the load of being the sole provider off of your shoulders.

A third problem is exacerbated, if not caused, by all these idiotic magazine articles that try to put a price on the services provided by a spouse by looking at what various professionals get paid for similar skills. These things come out with no acknowledgment of levels of skills or profesionalism, supply and demand, or fraction of time actually spent on that service. The flaws are virtually endless, but the message caters to the vanity and self-esteem of the stay home spouse, so they sell. Suffice to say, if one had to pay someone to take care of your home and family while you were away at work, and it cost you $200K a year, no one would subscribe to that service. Heck, if people could really make that much, most couples would do best starting their own business and both working for that money. Economic reality says it isn't true.

Alimony, in this day and age, is a largely outmoded relic of a different era. Just as fathers should understand that child support is part of the cost of having children when a marriage goes bad, wives should understand that spending their marriage at home instead of the workplace without maintaining an employable skill set may end up having a price. No adult should ever presume they won't have to go into the workforce.

Marriage can be a wonderful thing, but people are imperfect and circumstances can make all the difference. It's easy to be happy when there is lots of money coming in. It's pollyannish to talk about committment as a cure-all. People can withstand a lot of adversity and miserableness. We're amazingly stubborn animals, particularly if sticking it out is part of a religious belief system. But life is finite, and no one should suffer in a bad situation that holds no hope for improvement, indefinitely. There is a difference between working at a relationship and sacrificing yourself to a hopeless cause. And I think that teaching your children that you have no alternative but to stick it out and be miserable is a pretty poor lesson to teach them. They deserve to grow up splitting time between two happy homes rather than stuck in one that is filled with anger, argument, and resentment.

No discussion about marriage and committment is complete without a discussion of the risks and end-game if it goes wrong. There is no label about "possible side effects", but there ought to be. And if both parties don't enter the deal with eyes wide open, fully informed, then no one can claim what results was a fair deal. Pretending otherwise may conform to your visions of romance, but that makes it more like fraud or delusion than love.

Posted by: ruralcounsel at October 13, 2009 11:37 AM

I agree with most of what you said. But I always think of a study I read. Longitudinal one - done well.

They asked couples to rate how happy they were and then went back 5, 10, 15 years later to remeasure. Of couples who reported being "extremely unhappy" during stressful periods and who stayed married, something like 80% self reported being "very happy" at the 5 or 10 year mark. I wrote about it a while ago.

Having been married 30 years myself, and having lived well below the poverty level for the first few years, I can attest that those were some of the hardest but happiest years of my life.

The biggest problem with alimony is that it fails to take in to account the sacrifices of the employed spouse (both are "working"), who might often be able to have progressed further and faster without worrying about how the family will deal with that promotion and move, or those late evenings at work and how angry the partner will be for coming home late, or being tied to a geography with good schools or nearby relatives...

I guess I think this is kind of funny.

My husband didn't have to deal with ANY of that. He has been gone for a year at a time, has always worked 12-15 hour days without complaints from me. And I'm not a doormat - if he doesn't treat me well, we get into it. Fortunately, he has nearly always done so.

During the years I stayed home I not only provided all the child care but all the housework, yard work, I sewed and upholstered and refinished all our furniture. We could not have lived as well without the contributions I made and the way I managed his money.

It was my *job*, and it was a lot more than simply running the vacuum or doing laundry. I managed the household and he didn't have to do a thing including getting cars fixed, ironing and starching his uniforms and even shining shoes or cleaning an M-16 once or twice when he didn't have time.

My Dad was gone all the time so that didn't seem weird to me.

I treated being a housewife like a full time job and I worked as many if not more hours than he did b/c I worked all weekend every single week. I didn't get Saturday and Sunday off.

I know many military wives who work that hard. One home schools 7 children plus she's a full time wife/mother. Can you imagine how much it would cost for private school tuition?

So although I will readily admit not all women do work that hard, I think divorce settlements may tend to undervalue a stay at home spouse's contribution as often as they overvalue it.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 13, 2009 01:18 PM

And that's not even adding in all the entertaining I did for his job. This is something military wives do all the time and if you had the event catered it would have cost literally thousands of dollars. I was usually able to do it for a quarter of that cost no matter how large the crowd.

So I think it depends. I'm not comfortable with as blanket a statement as "no married man has a better career b/c of being married". I think it's very hard to be a successful military officer without a supportive and involved spouse. Certainly it's difficult to be a commander without one.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 13, 2009 01:21 PM

Fair enough. Blanket statements are pretty much guaranteed to be wrong some of the time. We all use the lens of our own experiences to interpret what we see.

My only addition is that in the military context, the equation can clearly be very different. Probably a few other contexts as well. The idea of the supportive spouse being integral to giving someone a position is pretty antiquated in the civilian world, except for politicians and CEO's.

Single workers often resent married workers, because of the ready excuse of "family commitments" to duck out of overtime or undesireable travel. Again, civilian world, not military. To many employers, single employees are much more flexible and much more available than married ones.

I never had a job where my wife's ability to entertain was a factor, or where she ever stayed home to be with the kids except when it was her choice.

I recollect the time we moved back east to be closer to her mom, who wasn't handling living alone very well, and I had to take a 30% pay cut for the new job. Not a real career booster.

Or the earful I'd get from the other side of the bed when the plant would call in the middle of the night because there was a problem, and I was the on-call engineer.

Or when a problem required staying until it was fixed, the annoyance because I wouldn't be able to pick up the kids from daycare, or wouldn't be home to give her a break from being home all day with the kids (when I would have loved to have had a day off to spend with my kids!)

Don't get me wrong, she loves 'em just as much as I do. There just always seemed to be this attitude that I was getting the good end of the deal because I got to go "interact" with other adults and she didn't, and that it was my job to try and compensate for that. And that I somehow had the "option" of turning down assignments or projects that interfered with her plans. I guess if you're female and always wield the threat of a sexual discrimination suit against your employer, you think you have more control. We "angry white males" just get fired.

Posted by: ruralcounsel at October 13, 2009 02:46 PM

What is the value of a good wife? It depends on whom you consult. If you consult the Bible, her value is "above rubies." If you consult some divorced men, she doesn't deserve anything above what she brought in as money: not for her work in supporting the household, or caring for children or subordinating her career to the needs of the family.

I just love the way some men suddenly decide to discount every contribution that a woman brings to a marriage, with the exclusion of the paycheck. Why would that be? Could it be that he decided to seek his companionship, comfort, support, affection and sex elsewhere, and decided then that since he no longer needed them from his wife, the only thing she had to offer him (that he values now) is money?

Oh, and if she can't offer that much cash because she has all these other obligations to handle, all involving the children and the household, it's her own fault for failing to work both inside and outside the home. If he decides the house and the children are nothing but burdens, he can just "give" them to her, and say she wants them and she can pay for them out of half the amount that used to support the whole. After all, he was the one that earned the money, and it would be an insult to pay her to take care of her own children...

This is the reasoning of the faithless, and it is not the law of our country, which is governed by the best interests of the child, where children are involved in a divorce. Further, the economic contribution of an at-home spouse, as well as the very real, long-term impact of subordinating one's career to the interests of the family, is also recognized by everyone except the faithless and their subsequent spouses.

The simple fact is that the typical divorce scenario involves dividing the wealth that used to support a single household, because it must now be used to support two households. This rarely works well, because the costs of suddenly paying for an additional dwelling will swamp the normal household budget.

Often one spouse (not always the mother) gets all the burdens of both running the household and working, and starts neglecting the kids after a prolonged period of neglect by what used to be the other parent. What used to be the other parent does not notice, because he or she is too busy chasing romance to notice the suffering they cause.

People who study infidelity and its impact have found that the vast majority of divorce filings, and the majority of actual divorces, involved people who had decided to devote their time and money to a stranger at the expense of their family, and that time and money was taken directly from the children. Faithless people like to argue that the money that used to support their family is an undeserved windfall to the discarded spouse, when in fact both the spouse and children suffer a sharp decline in both resources and quality of life.

Faithless people love to blame their angry spouses for being angry. Of course, they do tend to leave out the little detail that the spouse was devastated and hurt by betrayal and an astounding lack of empathy from someone they had trusted. They also like to leave out the detail that their financial priorities have changed. Faithless people become angry when somebody tries to make them live up to their ordinary responsibilities.

Finally, faithless people like to pretend that there's something difficult about getting a divorce. Actually, the difficulty is getting a divorce on the terms they desire.

There is no difficulty in getting a divorce, provided both people want it, a clear split of the property is made and adequate provision is made for the children. When that is done, there is no basis for a court to deny the divorce. You go in for a single hearing, which doesn't take 15 minutes. And honestly, when two people believe they should no longer be married, all the issues can be resolved calmly, amicably, and swiftly. Fiery, bitter divorce battles are not a sign of incompatibility: they are the mark of infidelity.

The faithless partner who thinks that 30% or 50% of the marital property, with no provision for further income for the spouse, is "adequate" for the former family that used to rely upon 100% of the property will be in for a rude awakening, possibly at great expense, most especially if they have made no effort to heal the wounded spouse. Pragmatic counsel know better, but they'll make any argument that is paid in advance by the client.

Posted by: Valerie at October 13, 2009 03:09 PM

Cass: I was not saying that divorce is caused or created by financial considerations. There are many reasons for divorce, and I think you touched on most of them. I was saying that once a divorce occurs, here are the financial problems for men. Ruralcounsel was able to articulate those thoughts better than I did, so I won't restate them here.

I also agree with Senor Rural that the "price" or "cost" of domestic duties is wildly inflated. Since these estimates are generated by womens magazines or pro-feminist groups, they say what women want to here, i.e. that her domestic duties are the equivalent of the Chairman of General Motors.

Now that I have achieved a measure of financial and professional success in life, I employ persons to handle domestic duties for me. I have a cleaning crew of 4 gals that do a thorough weekly cleaning of my place. I have a pool guy, and a guy that does my yard once a month (although with desert landscaping in Arizona, maintenance is pretty minimal compared to back east). My secretary can run errands if need be (although I rarely ask her to). I could hire a cook or personal assistant, but I am an excellent cook and enjoy making meals.

When I add up my monthly costs for all these domestic services, it is a mere fraction of what I had to pay in alimony (and this does not include child support at three times the level of expenditure per child that we both had been appropriate pre-divorce). Thus, the argument that the huge gobs of money I had to give my ex-wife were merely compensatory in nature is a phony argument. If a woman marries a wealthy fellow, she makes out like a bandit in the divorce, especially if kids are involved. After all, there is no law which requires mommy to actually spend child support on the kids. Maybe she needs a new party dress?

I do agree that things can get very unfortunate if a woman marries a criminal, lazy or shiftless fellow who won't work to support the family. Under those circumstances, the woman will probably get a raw deal. After all, you can't get much child support from Snake, the sexy, bad-boy, outlaw biker doing 20 to life in Folsom Prison.

Lastly, I have heard Valerie's position before. If a "good wife" is priceless, does it follow then that a "bad wife" is worthless? I refuse to accept the notion that being a good Christian means being a dumbass. The "if you only had Faith" argument is simplistic and illogical. It is true that faith can accomplish wonderful things, but one should not jump off a cliff with the idea that sufficient faith will cause God to stretch forth His Mighty Hand to save you from a grisly death on the rocks below. I have faith in God, but I also do not jump out of airplanes without a parachute, step in front of speeding busses, or grasp hold of high voltage lines in the belief that my faith has made me invincible.

Sorry to burst your bubble, but divorce rates among believers are not appreciably different from the poulation at large.

Posted by: a former european at October 13, 2009 04:20 PM

I also agree with Senor Rural that the "price" or "cost" of domestic duties is wildly inflated.

Oh, I agree with that. Even pricing a live in housekeeper (which is the real comparison IMNSHO) would be far, far less than some of the dumb estimates I've seen :p

Posted by: Cassandra at October 13, 2009 05:39 PM

Cass writes: "Sometimes the wife has contributed to the problem, but since they're not talking she has no idea what she's doing wrong. "

I'm going to say something that is going to be controversial and will get me in trouble, but it needs to be said: One reason that husbands stop talking is that, other than apology after apology, there is little he can say that won't get him in trouble. In my experience, there are very few women who are willing to accept feedback on their role in the relationship from their spouses. They'll accept it from absolutely anywhere else -- girlfriends, family, co-workers, random strangers in the street -- but they won't take it from their spouses. I do not know why this is, but I have experienced it, multiple times, and nearly every man I know who has ever been in a long-term marriage or relationship has said the same.

I'll relate an example,which I happen to know of only because the start of it happened in front of me. When I was a young adult, fresh out of college, I was friends with a couple in their 30s. They were somewhat better off than me; they had a condo with a rather tight two-car garage and the living areas upstairs. They seemed like an ideal couple; they were always polite to each other when I was around them, and he had told me several times how lucky he considered himself that she had agreed to marry him. He told me about their courtship of several years, and some of the great times they had had together. He adored her, and I never saw any reason to question it.

One evening I was at their place and we were talking about things you do in a relationship. In the middle of it, they started discussing their own relationship. She brought up several things that she had asked him to stop doing, and he said that he had agreed to stop doing those things. Then she asked him if there was anything she did that annoyed him. He mentioned that he wished that when she parked the car in the garage, she'd park over a bit further to the left, so that he would have more than a few inches to open his car door.

Well, you'd have thought that he had just asked her to give him a rimjob in church. She hit the ceiling! She said that she barely had room as it was, and she needed more room to get her own door open, and that she wished he'd make more money so they could have a place with a proper garage. Then she called him a sexist pig for making demands on her, said "You can't control me; I'm an independent woman, I don't have to do anything just because you say so", etc. He was completely stumped at first, but as she kept at him, he got his dander up. The resulting fight was epic, or so they told me later; I let myself out the door after about ten minutes. They didn't even know I'd left.

Two months later, they were divorced. He was disconsolate for months, and shortly after, he left the area. I saw her in a supermarket two years later, and we got to talking for a few minutes. She was still carrying a grudge about her parking being criticized! Up to that point, her general demeanor had been good, but as she talked about it, her voice raised and she got red in the face, and then she got to going on about how much men suck. I quickly said "good day" and went on my way, thinking, "Man, I feel sorry for whoever she gets involved with next."

Even with my current wonderful spouse of 16 years, I've learned to be extreeeeeeeemly careful with questioning anything that she does. Meanwhile, she feels free to question things that I do without retribution; I may or may not agree, but I won't give her the three-day silent treatment if she asks me to quit leaving old receipts on top of the dresser.

Posted by: Cousin Dave at October 13, 2009 06:50 PM

Heh :)

I have thought about this very problem for years, Dave. You have a point.

I think there are two things going on:

1. Sometimes we women are too quick to let our emotions get the better of us. I have written a few times that I think women in general need to work on controlling their emotions and being more objective.

I think men (in general, mind you) really need to work on being more sensitive.

I'm married to a big gruff Marine. When we dated he invariably was so terse on the phone (these were long distance phone calls) that I went away either bemused or mildly hurt even though I was very confident of his affection for me. But he really IS terse on the phone and he has no idea (or HAD no idea) how he came off.

One day I got really angry with him, which was rare back then, for being such an emotional brick wall. He told me something that I have never forgotten:

"Men can't just cry and show their emotions b/c if we do it at home it makes it that much harder to act the way men are expected to act at work. We are expected to be tough and stolid and other men will eat us alive if we show weakness."

I can't begin to tell you what that meant to me - his sharing that. It made me see him in a totally different light. I had thought he was stoic b/c he didn't care and his reticence was poisoning our relationship.

After that I tried really, really hard to give him the benefit of the doubt. I won't say I was 100% successful. Sometimes when we fight I still get hurt or upset. But I am better now because he took the time to explain.

2. I have noticed that men, despite their outward aspect, are usually FAR more upset by discord or the perception of being criticized than women.

They don't show it. We object and fuss and carry on and it LOOKS like we're more upset than we are. Men don't show it but inside they are quite easily hurt. Not fragile, b/c they deal with their emotions. But still they can be deeply hurt by a careless word. Women should be way more careful during arguments.

My guess is that there was something going on under the sheets in that relationship. The reason I say that is that I have been known to put aside my own anger repeatedly when someone is doing something that bugs me. Finally, one day, they will do something relatively insignificant and it bothers me more than it should b/c it isn't just that one thing: it ends up being symbolic in my eyes of some larger issue that I didn't feel I could bring up.

Not saying your friend did anything wrong at all. Just that she may have blown her stack because she read far more into that minor criticism than was intended. She blew up, and he probably took her anger more seriously than he should have too.

I think men and women misunderstand each other a lot b/c we have only our own experience and emotions to go on. We don't "get" what it's like to be the other person and so often we misconscrew things they say and do into what they would have meant if *we* had done or said such a thing.

Anyway, good comment. Women absolutely DO criticize and argue more. But often we do that b/c men appear not to be listening and we think, "Dammitall, he's ignoring me again. I'll just talk louder and more emphatically until he hears me."

And that doesn't work because even if he is taking it on board, we can't tell by his outward appearance. Trust me - it took years of watching my husband and oldest son to figure out that they generally heard me even if they didn't respond the way I wished. Harshness wasn't the answer.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 13, 2009 07:15 PM

Or as all the old married men know, it's not what you say, it's how sincere you look when you say it.
Now, with a loving expression on the mug and in the key of C, repeat after me;
Yes dear.

*slowly backs out of comment box holding 10' pole in both hands while suppressing additional comments until safely sequestered in the sound-proofed garage*

Posted by: bthun at October 13, 2009 07:22 PM

"Dammitall, he's ignoring me again. I'll just talk louder and more emphatically until he hears me."

I've likened this to the way you handle a snarling dog. If you run away (i.e., act like prey) they will chase you and may well bite. If you stand their calmly with your arms at your side and speak in a soothing voice, they are more likely to calm down.

Another great thing my husband did recently was to tell me (after I asked repeatedly) that I talk too much :p

Now that sounds awful, but that's not how he meant it. What he meant was that I'm far more verbal and the sheer volume can be overwhelming to someone who's tired at the end of the day, especially if you're in an argument.

I guess I kind of took that on board - not exactly the way he meant it, but I combined it with things I've observed over the years. He is happier when I stop talking after a few sentences and let him interject. I usually have to wait far longer than I'm comfortable doing, but it is worth it b/c if I wait, eventually he tells me what he thinks.

It just takes him longer. We have a different conversational pace and I needed to slow down and offer chances for him to respond instead of hitting him over the head with the whole enchilada at once.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 13, 2009 07:24 PM

Valerie, you're mixing the arguments about alimony with the arguments about property settlement and the arguments about child support. They are not all one big malleable access chute to the other spouse's bank accounts when someone feels aggrieved. The purpose of divorce is not to give one spouse a forum to air all their grievances and announce their disappointments. It's a business deal to allocate property; a family liquidation.

It sounds like you want to go back to the days of fault-only divorces, where the parties get to either fabricate something for the court, or really hurt their kids by dragging every sordid detail into public. No thanks. I submit that that is definitely not in the best interests of the child.

Besides, your position only applies when the unfaithful spouse loses custody, which is not always the case. In fact, let me wager that where there is infidelity, it happens pretty equally between the sexes, but custody (still) almost always goes to the mother.

I'm all for a roughly equitable split of marital property, at least when the marriage was/is of reasonable duration.

I think any parent should do all they can to support their children to the best of their ability. Period.

Our main issue is alimony, and thankfully in many jurisdictions it is being severely limited. Getting someone to say "I do" is not a guaranteed income stream for life, nor should it be. But too many unhappily married women want it to be so. Though they had the shared benefit of the income and property prior to the divorce, they think they ought to get something out in to the future, not yet earned by anyone. Why is that? Were they somehow short-changed during the marriage, and this is to compensate? Were their marital sacrifices somehow better or more noble? I just think it is really hard to justify alimony.

Which brings us back to the origin of this thread...people need to be very cautious about jumping in to binding long-term agreements, and they should be careful about going ahead with someone who is queasy about a prenup. That should set off a lot of flags and alarms, if you think it's all about the love.

"I just love the way some men suddenly decide to discount every contribution that a woman brings to a marriage, with the exclusion of the paycheck." You could switch the genders, and have just as accurate a statement. If it's gotten to the point of divorce, it's safe to say that neither spouse is properly valuing the contributions of the other...which is why a divorce is often the best solution. Heck, I've seen plenty of women who only look at what kind of paycheck can the man contribute when their evaluating marriage material. And, admittedly, a few guys who do the same.

And finally, since Valerie was so focused on infidelity, any good divorce attorney will tell you that infidelity is almost always a symptom, not a cause. "Of course, they do tend to leave out the little detail that the spouse was devastated and hurt by betrayal and an astounding lack of empathy from someone they had trusted." Not to defend infidelity, but that same sentiment holds true in both directions. Think how much someone has to be hurt and rejected to be unfaithful. I've seen it both ways.

Posted by: ruralcounsel at October 13, 2009 07:50 PM

It sounds like you want to go back to the days of fault-only divorces, where the parties get to either fabricate something for the court, or really hurt their kids by dragging every sordid detail into public. No thanks. I submit that that is definitely not in the best interests of the child.

Interestingly enough, I was trained in a state that had fault grounds for divorce. Yes, it was harder to get a divorce but at LEAST when there was fault, it was a matter of record.

In California the guy could be cheating and molesting the daughters too. No fault offered a quick way out of a bad situation but the fault grounds never got adjudicated.

Guess what? After the lovely no fault divorce, how do you fight unsupervised visitation when the molestation never was put before the court? You can't.

I saw this happen and it was ugly and awful. I saw guys have their girlfriend pick the kids up and the father never once bothered to see the kids. The girlfriend didn't take care of them either. Seems to me that if Girlfriend caused the divorce, that needs to be in the record.

I am not a fan of no fault. You can always leave. But getting a divorce ought to be hard. You should have a reason for opting out of a lifetime commitment. It shouldn't be so simple.

As I commented earlier, there's a strong correlation between the ease of no fault divorce and the divorce rate. No incentive to stay and work it out.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 13, 2009 08:05 PM

Don't want to sound wishy washy but you've all raised good points.

If people were good at working these things out on their own though, we wouldn't need divorce law. Law only steps in when people refuse to negotiate their own settlements.

It's not surprising, then, that it so often yields results that please no one.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 13, 2009 08:29 PM

To hear the divorced men and subsequent spouses tell it, ex-wives with children are always rolling in unearned dough, a perception that is not shared by more objective observers.

It's not Christianity at issue, here, although a quick look at the biblical passage I cited might be informative. Prov. 31:10

10 A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. 11 Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. 12 She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. 13 She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands. 14 She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar. 15 She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls. 16 She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. 17 She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks. 18 She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night. 19 In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers. 20 She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy. 21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet. 22 She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple. 23 Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land. 24 She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes. 25 She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. 26 She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. 27 She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. 28 Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: 29 "Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all."

The wife described in that particular set of verses is not far from a normal person's conception of a wife, stay-at-home or not. She's active, and hardworking, taking care of her household and selling the extra goods she makes in the marketplace to make a profit. She may buy and sell land. She does, in the terms of that time, work both in and outside the house. A functional marriage is a resilient, viable economic unit, and the contribution of a stay-at-home wife, like that of one who works outside the home, is economically significant.

Except to an adulterous husband. Then, suddenly, she's worthless, except for the value of her paycheck, and any provision for the children is excessive. Adulterers are particularly keen to strip a former marriage of as much money as possible, so that they can spend it on themselves and their new romance. They say things that make normal peoples' heads spin, devaluing the very things that once gave them comfort and satisfaction. To them, the logical result of their proposals -- impoverishment of their children -- is unimportant.

Normal people have no concept of the difference between their own moral reasoning, and that of adulterers. Basic concepts of fairness, responsibility and simple kindness are no longer part of an adulterer's values.

That is why we have laws granting easy divorces, with rules about how the household resources are to be apportioned: because adulterers are people who are functioning at the moral level of criminals, who must be compelled to live up to their responsibilities.

Posted by: Valerie at October 13, 2009 08:32 PM

Oookaay, then. Good thing you took on that widespread pro-adultery group of posters on this thread. Why not quote some scripture against idolatry while you're at it? Even though no one has been arguing in favor of violating that particular Commandment here, let's make sure anyway.

I have always had my suspicions about that Spd Rdr fellow, anyway. A known wiseacre, he may very well have an idol or two of Baal hidden away.

Then there is Grim. I have a full dossier on his suspected sins that I will present to the Elders in due course. I am sure I heard him mumbling something about a "golden calf" the other day. He bears watching.

Don't even get me started on Bthun! Such cleverness can only be the result of diabolical activity. I suspect he has been praying to an Asherah pole for guidance, and even may be in league with the Edamites or plotting with Goab to take our flocks!

Posted by: a former european at October 14, 2009 04:06 AM

afe, I think Valerie is doing a little "projecting" in order to vent about something bothering her. I can't think of any other reason her theme keeps drifting back to infidelity and adultery. It's probably good for her mental health, even if it does seem tangential to the thread.

When a shareholder, who provided capital to a corporation, sells their shares, they are not entitled to future dividends. When a partnership dissolves, or a partner withdraws, they are provided their ownership interest, but are not entitled to distributions from future earnings. In both cases, the contributions the shareholder and the partner made were valuable. But once the dissolution or divestment occured, that was that. Why should it be any different in a marriage/divorce scenario? The spouses got to cash out through a property settlement, so they recognized a gain if the marriage had prospered financially. But why should one spouse have a right to any future earnings? It makes no sense.

The classic argument is that the stay-at-home spouse was partially responsible for the working spouse's success in the workplace. But what if the working spouse wasn't a success? Or how do we know the working spouse would not have been more of a success had they chosen a different life a a single person? After all, isn't that the argument the stay-at-home spouse makes for themselves? "Oh, if I'd only stayed single, finished college/grad school and gone in to the workplace, I'd have been so much better off. But I sacrificed my career to take care of the home/family."

If courts are going to accept this kind of hypocrisy and make alimony awards, then young folks who are contemplating marriage, and who see themselves likely to be in the position of working outside the home while the partner stays home need to be alerted to the risks.

As to Cassandra's point about fault grounds and getting information before the court: I've never seen a court unwilling to look into changed circumstances with respect to child custody/visitation issues. That is one part of a divorce that the court considers an ongoing process, unlike alimony and property settlements, which are cast in stone once the divorce is final. IF someone is abusing the children, courts are not hesitant to alter visitation or custody, and it doesn't have to be litigated during the divorce. A simple evidentiary hearing, a little testimony from a state DFC case-worker is probably sufficient. If the evidence is real and substantial.

What is far more common than the scenario of abusive child-molesting fathers is the angry ex-spouse mother making unsubstantiated charges of child molestation or abuse in order to gain leverage either in or out of court. Judges come with the presumption that both parents should be in their children's lives, and there needs to be more than he-said, she-said from clearly antagonistic ex-spouses. Tossing around child abuse accusations used to be an easy way to put pressure on fathers to pay more, or just as a way to be vindictive. Courts are losing their patience with this all too common post-divorce tactic, and actually allowing criminal charges (perjury, false report of a crime) to be filed against the accuser.

When someone is accused of horrible criminal behavior, we should expect at least some kind of due process before we allow the state to take away their children. Don't you think? Surely we shouldn't just take the accuser at their word?

Posted by: ruralcounsel at October 14, 2009 08:18 AM

A response to Cassandra's reply to me (thanks, Cass!) and some miscellaneous thoughts:

Cass, I've noticed over time that women and men in general have some different conversational styles. Now, that's not news to anyone here, as far as what topics are brought up and how words are used. But I'm talking about the actual pacing and mechanics of the conversation itself. I've noticed that when two women talk, it often consists of fairly long stretches where one party relates a narrative while the other one listens. Then the baton passes, and the second party talks for a while, while the first one listens. I remember first noticing this with my mother's phone conversations when I was young: hearing only one end of the conversation, I noticed that she would talk for a while, and then there would be a long stretch of "yes... yes... uh huh... yes..." I remember asking her why she did this, and she told me she wanted to reassure the person on the other end that she was still there. (This was back when telephone connections weren't so reliable.)

When two men talk, the declarations tend to be shorter, and the baton passes back and forth more often. The first party will say a few sentences, and then the second party will add to that, and the first party adds to it some more, and so on. Also, there may be stretches where neither party is speaking because they are both gathering their thoughts for what to say next.

I think each gender tends to find the other's speech patterns somewhat annoying. Men find it difficult to absorb a long narrative all at once, while women find male conversations to be choppy and hard to follow.

Now the random thoughts:

Today's divorce laws and courts tend to reward the irresponsible party, whichever one it is. This is why you hear of women who get stuck with kids and no help from their freeloading, scofflaw exes, while at the same time you hear of good fathers who aren't allowed visitation and are almost destitute from crushing CS obligations.

I'm OK with no-fault divorce in principle, but... it has to be something that both parties actually agree to. In most states, no-fault divorce has devolved into unilateral divorce, where a marriage can be broken by one spouse on a whim. If one spouse wants to be divorced but the other does not, then it should be up to the spouse who wants the divorce to demonstrate fault. Otherwise, the divorce should not be granted. And the abuse of restraining orders in divorce proceedings is beyond ridiculous; it's downright unconstitutional.

Do I think feminism is responsible for the current sad state of marriage? Yeah, I do. More specifically, I think gender feminism is responsible for it. It's been my observation that most civil rights movements, once they have achieved their major goals, devolve into special pleading for their interest group. That's gender feminism in a nutshell. I don't think it is an accident that about three-quarters of all divorces are initiated by the wife. And it's no wonder, when you have the gender feminism establishment whispering in women's ears that they can have all of the benefits of marriage without any of the obligations; that the state will be their surrogate husband, providing support and asking nothing in return (except votes). Remember, today's young women have grown up going all through school with "grrl power", being told that they can do absolutely anything in life that they want, that they are special just because of who they are. And all through their schooling, the girls have bested the boys in nearly every endeavor. Is it any wonder that some of them think that marriage should be 24x7 bliss, that the husband's role is to guarantee their own happiness? And add to that the mechanisms of VAWA and the DV industry, who will seduce them with promises of free divorce lawyers and sole custody and life-long support (well, at least until the children are grown), plus the benefits of being a cougar and having boy-toys to play with.

Which brings me to my last topic: the view of sex as being transactional. I reject that out of hand. Yes, I know it exists, but it's a game I simply refuse to play. Unfortunately, our popular culture promotes that view a lot.

Posted by: Cousin Dave at October 14, 2009 02:14 PM

A correction to my last post: I think that gender feminism is *partially* responsible for the current state of marriage. Not all of it. But at least half.

Posted by: Cousin Dave at October 14, 2009 02:24 PM

I've had my share of issues with gender feminism not the least of which is the frankly idiotic argument that women are simultaneously:

1. Perfectly capable of competing on a level playing field with men because we're equal in every way.

2. More fragile and weaker than men and thus requiring special protection from those big bullies.

To the extent that gender feminists were *part* of the coalition that urged no fault divorce upon us, yes they share the blame. I just think it's revisionism to claim - as so many conservatives do - that they were the entire coalition :)

When two men talk, the declarations tend to be shorter, and the baton passes back and forth more often. The first party will say a few sentences, and then the second party will add to that, and the first party adds to it some more, and so on. Also, there may be stretches where neither party is speaking because they are both gathering their thoughts for what to say next....I think each gender tends to find the other's speech patterns somewhat annoying. Men find it difficult to absorb a long narrative all at once, while women find male conversations to be choppy and hard to follow.

EXACTLY! You said what I was trying to, but far better.

I think that's what my husband meant. Not that he wanted me to shut up, or that he isn't interested in what I have to say (although that may also be true :p) but that talking to him as I talk to my female friends wasn't effective and made him want to chew his own leg off.

He would reach a point where he wanted to hop in and say something but if he did that I got annoyed b/c I felt like he wasn't letting me finish or was trying to shut me up.

All he had to do was EXPLAIN how he felt and I went, "Wow. Not sure why he feels that way but that's certainly not the way I *want* him to feel so I'd better change how I communicate."

And since I did that, he has opened up so much more. I can't get over it, and I love the change even when I occasionally don't like what he has to say.

Bthun was joking about saying, "Yes dear" the other day. I wanted to respond that nothing - nothing - makes me unhappier than feeling like I'm being tolerated or 'yes, dear'd".

I honestly would rather hear what someone has to say even if it's momentarily unpleasant or hurtful. If I get the feeling I'm being humored, I feel anxious and don't trust the other person.

I totally understand why guys do this but it's the worst possible thing to do with me. Maybe I am just weird.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 14, 2009 03:01 PM

Except to an adulterous husband.

And what of the husband's value to the adulterous wife? Non-existant? Especially since in the majority of cases she get's to take the kids with her.

I'm sorry a man cheated on someone obviously very close to you (Yourself? Your Mom, perhaps?). But there are a lot more reasons for divorce than a cheating husband.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at October 14, 2009 03:06 PM

Another conversational difference:

Men (in general) want the conclusion or "action item" up front. First tell them what you want them to do or what the point is.

THEN tell them why or make your case.

Women (in general) are the opposite. FIRST we present our case and the surrounding context as an aid to understanding.

THEN, after we've laid the conceptual groundwork, we sum up with the takeaway point or action item.

The spouse has been known to literally say, "Get to the point" when I'm in the middle of the 'groundwork' part. This is always going to annoy me, and it will always seem rude and abrupt to me.

However, I am far more tolerant of it now that I understand WHY he's doing it and as long as he hasn't caught me in a particularly pissy mood, will happily cut short the narrative and jump to the point :p

It's never easy for me to do, though. Which just underscores my point - women will work with you, but if we don't understand you then it's hard for us to know HOW to work with men because we're not like you guys.

Effective communication - however you do it - is the best way I know to get laid frequently :p

Posted by: Cassandra at October 14, 2009 03:07 PM

"Bthun was joking about saying, "Yes dear" the other day. I wanted to respond that nothing - nothing - makes me unhappier than feeling like I'm being tolerated or 'yes, dear'd"."
Indeed. After many years of sorting though the comm link sync process, Walkin' Boss and I are both able to recognize certain signals... Like when I'm overwhelmed by the urge to chew off my leg with a terse Yes dear, and dive for the garage. Or when she gives me that, you're thinking it to death stare accompanied by the foot or finger tapping. Not all conversations are productive.

I do think that you, Cousin Dave, and a few others have boiled down the essence of male/female communications.

Small talk, chit chat is good, it shows interest. But guys often prefer the condensed version. Important issues demand attention, patience, listening and, shhhaaaarrrrriiinnnnggggg. That's definitely a learned behavior for guys. BTW, I learned that from Walkin' Boss, not from dad or any of my bro's.

The real shame is that little boys and little girls will have to learn this through the same trial and you're not listening to me errors that we all went through. Unless effective communications courses catch on in the primary schools.

*backs towards the door to the garage*

Posted by: bt_do_those_paragraphs_make_my_mouth_look_big?_hun at October 14, 2009 03:43 PM

KtLW tells her friends the main reason she married me was because I was the only man who ever said "No" to her and stuck by my decision.

If I tried that *these* days, I'd be soooooooo dead...

Posted by: BillT at October 14, 2009 03:50 PM

Walkin' Boss and I are both able to recognize certain signals... Like when I'm overwhelmed by the urge to chew off my leg with a terse Yes dear, and dive for the garage. Or when she gives me that, you're thinking it to death stare accompanied by the foot or finger tapping. Not all conversations are productive.

Couldn't agree more. It took me a looooong time to understand that sometimes the best answer is just to shrug your shoulders and move on.

I do have to say, however, that I think men often think that's the answer to every conflict and it's not.

Because we're not like you guys, if you do that *too* often, it poisons the well. I can let some things go. But if it's a serious issue (to me) then it will eat at me if it's not addressed. The original problem gets worse, not better.

Anyway, I always appreciate those occasions when one of you manly men will share what you think because it forces me to stop and think myself.

So mentioning this wasn't meant at all as a slam, but as a 'thank you'.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 14, 2009 03:51 PM

M'lady, I perceived no slam.

I just tread lightly on the shore of male/female issues. It's always so embarrassing when one steps on ones' own knuckles and augers, face first, into the muck.

Posted by: bthun at October 14, 2009 04:07 PM

Did I perceive a slam?



Posted by: BillT at October 14, 2009 04:35 PM

Cass, addressing your excellent communication points, let me add that guys do not "ignore the problem and walk away" as women might think. There are actually two reasons why a guy may walk away from a conversation.

The first is the least frequent of the two but the most unpleasant. this is the "trap" question or its corollary, the unwinnable argument. For some reason, women love to set verbal traps for men. The classic example is the "does this dress make my butt look fat" question, but there are many others. The unwary or inexperienced male will think that he is being asked an honest question, and might be foolish enough to give an honest answer, and all hell breaks loose. Thus, with this first type of situation, guys have to feel like Marines in Fallujah, with women emplacing IEDs in verbal form all over the terrain to blow them to pieces. Shutting up and walking away is often the lesser of the two evils in such a situation.

The second reason is a fundamental difference in male/female worldview. Between guys, a positive, or at least neutral default position is presumed. In other words, if nobody brings up a problem, then we are fine. If my buddy Dave is pissed or has a problem with something I did or am doing, then it is understood that Dave will bring his objection to my attention in a clear and direct manner. I will then fix the problem by seeking a solution amenable to both parties. If nothing is said by Dave, then it is presumed that there are no problems that need addresssing at this time. Two guys can hang out together for hours without saying a word, because the understood default position is "I am having a good time, no problems here".

You can see how this conflicts with female communications in which a constant verbal "ping" must be sent and responded to by the recipient in order top avoid alarm bells going off. She sends a verbal "ping" to check on his status. He does not respond. Her alarm bells are going off because he is being "uncommunicative", while he truly doesn't understand what all the fuss is about. In his mind, if there were a problem, he would have brought it up for fixing. Since there was no problem, he reverted to the default "everything is OK"-presumed silence. She still thinks he's ignoring her, though.

This type of miscommunication leads to lots of unnecessary fights and hurt feelings.

Posted by: a former european at October 14, 2009 05:07 PM


I think you're very perceptive on the 'ping' thing, but I also think that men do not respond the same way to women when there's a problem as they do to other men. I have had many discussions over the years with male friends, boyfriends, my sons, and my husband and they have all admitted that even the best men tend to purposely avoid dealing with relationship issues.

They think things will just "go away", but in reality if this is your default method of resolving problems when they arise, the only thing that "goes away" is your wife.

Guys are not exactly terribly good at dealing with feelings. They are trained to repress them and be stoic. So there's a very good reason for not believing that a guy will always come to you if there's a problem. Male/female relationships are much more fraught and make both parties much more vulnerable than same sex friendships. Especially if an issue is difficult or upsetting, a man may prefer to avoid the subject entirely and just 'endure' to revealing that he is upset or angry. Because there's far less emotion between two male friends than between a man and a woman, how a man reacts to problems with a male friend isn't always the best guide of how he'll react to a problem with a woman.

That said, a woman should not constantly "ping" a man because that's clingy and annoying. If she's doing it all the time there are two possibilities:

1. She's just insecure.

2. She's insecure because he's being evasive and less than forthright.

'Pinging' occasionally is not bad b/c you're ignoring one of the reasons women do that - i.e., there really is something going on (whether or not the man wants to talk about it).

Not sure if this would work for everyone, but the way I've dealt with this in my marriage is to ask my husband just to say, "Hey, I really don't want to talk about that right now" and I will respect that. It's like a code phrase - like bthun's shorthand. So long as he doesn't do it all the time, I'm perfectly happy to respect it b/c frankly there are times when I don't feel like talking either... believe it or not! :)

Posted by: Cassandra at October 14, 2009 05:35 PM

Another thought on the 'pinging' (I love that metaphor!)

Two authors - Deborah Tannen and Richard Driscoll - have written something interesting on that score.

Tannen says that men interpret many conversational gambits as either aggression or an attempt to dominate them. This is because, generally speaking, women are more oriented to cooperation and men to competition.

I think this is very true. There are things women say, thinking to themselves, "We've got a problem. How can *we* resolve this?"

But the man hears, "She isn't happy with me. I've done something wrong." Or even, "There she goes again - trying to tell me what to do." Which is not at all what she meant. She really means, "We have a problem - can you help me figure out a solution?"

Women expect misunderstandings even if both parties are doing nothing wrong. So there is no blame attached to identifying and resolving them.

Driscoll tries to point out that both men and women are influenced by what helps them succeed in an evolutionary sense.

There is no particular evolutionary advantage for men in emotional entanglements. A man will tend to spread his genes more widely by sleeping with a lot of women but not letting them slow him down.

Women, on the otter heiny, need a committed relationship with a responsible guy who will protect her and her children when they're vulnerable. From an evolutionary sense, she is 'programmed' to monitor relationships constantly to ensure the man she chooses is satisfied and thus encourage him to stick around and club the odd saber toothed tiger or mastodon when they do something that requires male intervention :p

A man whose woman doesn't care about his happiness is a man who will stray. Of course, everything (silence or talking) can be taken to excess.

Still, I find the theories interesting.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 14, 2009 05:48 PM

If I may, I think Allison Armstrong gets it, and explains it very well, and you can get the podcasts of her interviews on the Dennis Prager show here for free.

Posted by: douglas at October 15, 2009 01:54 AM