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August 09, 2013

One of the best arguments against marriage ever written

(DISCLAIMER: This piece refers to "men" and "women" as a group. The Author understands that this large group of human beings contains many divergent beliefs and points of view. The Author uses the generalities to preserve rhetorical clarity, not to suggest that all males or females are interchangeable. I feel like I shouldn't have to point this out, but given the topic, I'm going to make it explicit anyhow.)

This article makes a dandy primer on why men are increasingly opting out of marriage altogether, especially blue-collar men. That probably wasn't the intent of the article, but it does a splendid job of making the case nonetheless.

The article is a fascinating study of female psychosis. It is a very valuable one for men to read, because it illustrates with crystalline clarity many of the pathologies currently at work in the half of humanity without a Y chromosome.

Several points leap out from the background noise.

1. It's always women who get these sob stories. Nothing about the divorced men who have to live in a hovel while mom and the kids shack up with her new boyfriend in the house he's still paying for.

2. The end of the marriage is assumed to be the man's fault. It's never because the woman is a chronic depressive, or sexually unavailable, or emotionally distant, or a shrew. No, it's always the man trying to hold her down or keep her back.

3. “I started feeling very devalued when I was with him,” O’Donnel said of her husband, “but when I was doing all this nonprofit stuff, I felt great.” Because apparently it's her husband's job to make sure that she feels like a precious snowflake every hour of every day. How much time did she spend trying to make him feel special and appreciated, I wonder? Or does that door swing only one way?

4. Having kids is a horrible burden, ladies, don't do it! You'll ruin your life for those snot-nosed little monsters!

Women want it all. They're finding that they can't have it, any more than men can.

Men have understood for...well, forever...that success in work means making sacrifices at home, and vice versa. It means missing your son's T-ball games and your daughter's piano recitals. It means going on business trips that can take you away from your loved ones for weeks at a time. It means stress, pressure, and disappointment. It means dying a decade sooner than your wife. Home used to be a haven, a place of rest and refuge; now it's a simply another arena for a man to compete in, only this time he's competing against his own wife.

Female hypergamy comes into play as well. When women become more successful in their careers than their husbands, the marriage almost inevitably fails. The woman will rationalize this in any number of ways, but when it comes right down to it women don't like being married to lower-status men. It's true in every age and culture in the world. Successful women often become trapped in this paradox. The more successful they are in the workforce, the more unhappy they are in their marriage. High-earning supermodels and actresses solve the problem by falling in love with billionaires, professional athletes, or captains of industry. A higher-status mate can still be had without sacrificing the career. For everyone else, hard choices must be made.

Sheilah O'Donnel made her choices. If things didn't turn out the way she expected, well, that's life. Welcome to the club. She's joining billions of other people in exactly the same boat. But thinking that divorcing her husband and getting a job is somehow going to magically transform her life -- that's just more of the magical thinking that led her to trouble in the first place. The problem isn't out in the world; it's inside of her own head.

I'm not against women working. What I am against is this idea that it's somehow a woman's right not to be inconvenienced by her job. Men have been dealing with this work-life conundrum for millennia now, and no one weeps for the time they lose with their children or the loneliness they feel while away from their families. Men suck it up because they know there's no real choice. If you want to provide for your family, you do the necessary. No one's going to congratulate you for doing what you ought to be doing anyhow. It doesn't make you a hero, or special. It's what you should be doing. Able-bodied men who don't do it are contemptible.

To the women in the linked story, I'd say this: you know what life is? Choices. Compromise. Decisions. Mistakes. Sacrifice. It's not about you, no matter what Oprah and Dr. Phil and all the supermarket magazines say. It's about your family. It's about raising decent and well-adjusted kids. It's about finding happiness and contentment with the person you're married to, and weathering the storms that come. It's caring about your family more than you do yourself. It's accepting that you aren't the center of the universe. Do you dislike your job or feel unfulfilled? Welcome to the human race. Most people don't like their jobs, and most people feel unfulfilled. It's the human condition.

It's striking the degree to which modern feminism and the "self-esteem movement" has led to a form of sociopathic behavior in many women. Self-actualization has become the end-all and be-all of existence, the magnetic pole around which all of life turns. In men this behavior is recognized as a mental illness, but in women it is more often than not encouraged as a kind of empowerment. And it doesn't even lead to greater happiness on the part of women, based on the evidence, but discontent and bitterness.

Men don't write articles like this because we know better. The work/life balance has always been grossly unequal. That's just the way life is. You can't be in two places at once, and you can only divide your mental energies into so many quanta. There are only so many hours in the day. Marriage and family, to most men, is the reward for work, not a distraction from it. Work makes family life possible; family life makes work bearable. That's the Great Compact, the cosmic deal that has kept civilization on a paying basis for the last several thousand years.

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posted by Monty at 08:08 AM

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