Who Benefits from Marriage?

What I find really surprising is that I keep finding really great posts today. Among all the photos of the Twin Towers that inundate my blogroll today, I found the following insightful commentary:

Marriage reduces the stresses and demands of ‘wage slavery’ for women, while frequently increasing it for men. Marriage also generally allows women much more time for interaction with and bonding with the couple’s children. The inability of fathers to enjoy similar amounts of family intimacy as their wives is a complaint that surfaces repeatedly in surveys of working fathers, frequently coupled with the wish that they would gladly trade some income for more time with their families if they could do so without adversely affecting their careers and job security. Some men also believe — rightly or wrongly — that if they earned less money, they would face a greater risk that their wives would leave them.

I think that looking at how the gender binary hurts both men and women is what is sorely lacking from the majority of today’s feminist discourse. This is why I’m glad that there are people who are conducting this sort of analysis.

26 thoughts on “Who Benefits from Marriage?

  1. I don’t know whose talking point this is but it’s undeniably true. The MRAs are known for taking really good, valuable ideas and pushing them to the point where they lose all semblance of even being reasonable.


  2. Talking and bonding with one’s children is important, naturally, but so is talking and bonding with other adults, which is something a lot of married women who become mothers seem to magically no longer desire/have no time to do, which always mystified me.


  3. “Marriage reduces the stresses and demands of ‘wage slavery’ for women, while frequently increasing it for men.”

    But honey, it doesn’t. That, I think, is the primary argument put forth by people who work with the inequitable distribution of domestic and domesticity-related labour in partnered households. And David is right — this does read like a chauvinist defence of traditional gender roles, which simultaneously claims that:
    1. The modern women insist on working even when married to a willing provider, although they would be happier if they focused on their marriage.
    2. And that ‘modern women’ only want the highest earner who will work himself to the bone to keep them in material luxuries, sacrificing bonding time with his own children in the process.

    A third related talking point insists that the modern woman only takes from men — money, gifts, attention et al — without giving anything in sufficient quantities in return: time (which is taken up by their jobs), sex, ‘respect’, or children.


    1. Honestly, I don’t see any of this in the quote I provided. What I do see is that if a woman decides not to work and be maintained by her husband, everybody will celebrate and applaud that. If a man decides to do the same, he will lose his status, his gender identity will be questioned, and everybody will make fun of him.


      1. It is up to each and every one of us to NOT deride an individual for staying home to raise their children. I know several men (not nearly enough) who are stay-at-home dads – and they are wonderful fathers and great people. I would dare someone question their masculinity (to their face – cowards can do anything in secret). That’s a beat down I would love to see! (Physically or intellectually – they are more than capable of administering either.)


        1. It’s not about deriding. It’s about stating the damage they inflict on their families. Those of us who have suffered this damage are especially entitled to venting our grievances, I believe.

          My point here is that, irrespective of gender, people who make this choice commit a huge mistake. And it’s the kind of mistake that their entire family will pay for emotionally, psychologically, and financially.


          1. We will have to agree to disagree. I cannot imagine having my children raised by a stranger who couldn’t care less about my children. So we don’t vacation at Disney every year. I can live with that. I can’t live with our kids not knowing who we are because we’re too busy ‘being a success’ for other adults.


            1. You really think that other adults need one’s success more than one’s own children? And what’s with the offensive suggestion that children of working parents don’t know who they are? Can’t you imagine any careers that don’t require one to be away from home 24/7?

              As for being raised by strangers, in daycare real professionals work who often can give a child a lot more than any parent who has received no professional training and has no life outside of the kid.


              1. They drop the kid off at 7am at daycare – and pick them up from the after school program at 6pm. They woof down take out food (average family eats take-out 4 times/wk), do homework for an hour and send the kid to bed by 8pm. (Children still need about 10 hrs of sleep/night for developmental reasons). Yeah. Lots of time in there to get to know your kid.

                Oh, and the kid is attached to their IPOD whenever they’re traveling in the car – god forbid you actually have to talk to your child.

                This is the story I hear (and see) repeatedly from two income families. Maybe they all lie to me. Maybe I’m incapable of observing the world around me correctly. I’m from the Mid-west after all.


              2. I understand that these ridiculous myths about “them” must be near and dear to your heart.

                But maybe you should dump the mythology for a moment and listen to people who were brought up both by working and non-working parents. I know you don’t want to hear this but you’ll hear things you don’t really want to know about from those people.

                Just yesterday I was imagining how different, how great all of our lives would be if my mother never left her career. This sadness is always with me.

                One quality hour a week with a parent who has a life is a gazillion times better than 24/7 with an infantilized, hysterical, constantly underappreciated person without a life.

                The absolutely best thing a parent can do for a child is have a life of their own.


    2. “And that ‘modern women’ only want the highest earner who will work himself to the bone to keep them in material luxuries, sacrificing bonding time with his own children in the process”

      -I don’t think anybody is saying this. I think the point is that if a woman (not every woman, just a woman) decides to do this, she will face no condemnation from her peers. If a man tries to do the same, however, he will become a laughing stock and a pariah.


  4. This is not in any way a defense of tradidtional gender roles, as far as I can tell, Rimi. It is a common complaint among men’s rights advocates that they have these demands on them which cause a lot of stress and lead to shorter lives, etc.

    (For the record, I think the longer lifespan of women, statistically, is largely because of biological differences.)


    1. You’re quite right, David (and Clarissa) — the article isn’t saying these things. Which is why I don’t say it does 🙂 I say that this is a frequently-heard chauvinist (what one would these days call MRA) point of view.

      What I should’ve made clear is that the ‘male rights’ folks — the keepers of masculinity, apparently — have constructed the modern male either as the poor man suffering the neglect of a working partner, or suffering the expenses and frigidity of a stay-at-home partner. The line I quoted fits in very well with this paradigm. Yet there is no room in that paradigm for the man who stays at home or does most of the traditionally female work, because his masculinity is not acknowledged by this lot.


  5. Oh yes. Gendered inequality is culturally based – until men get the short end of the stick. Then it is biologically derived.


    1. I do not understand this comment at all, Darque. I also believe, for example, that the fact that, statistically speaking again, women has less strength in their biceps is biologically based. So, I don’t think which gender comes out with the “short end of the stick” has anything to do with this.


  6. This is something that I see come up often from father’s advocates and MRAs. I really don’t think this is an attempt at defending traditional marriage but rather looking at it from an angle that is often not acknowledged.

    (For the record, I think the longer lifespan of women, statistically, is largely because of biological differences.)
    Perhaps to an extent but I’d be more willing to believe that when the cultural factors (such as presuming men work outrageous hours to the point of losing significant amounts of time with their family, and macho bravado that men are pressured into that leads to more accidents and suicide, etc…) that lead to men dying younger are resolved.


    1. Also, men are not culturally allowed to express their emotions. They repress disappointment, sadness, worry, anxiety, etc. As you say, this is part of the macho bravado philosophy. This leads to dire health consequences. I’m looking at my father who drove himself to a stroke at a fairly young age with this need to be heroic under any circumstances, be the only provider who can provide any amount of money at any time, who is never sad or scared or depressed, etc. And this is really tragic.

      So I can’t feel indifferent towards the damage these gender expectations do to men around me.


    2. Danny. I agree 100%. While there may be biological factors at play – I think it is woefully inadequate to let that stop our analysis there.


  7. It’s an interesting thought and seems logical, but I am not sure how this theory fits with the studies I’ve read that show men are generally healthier and happier when married, and women are the reverse. (At least in US/UK cultures, which is an important caveat.)


    1. The dating websites are overrun with men looking for marriage and unable to find women who are interested in that, so obviously men are finding something worth it in the state of matrimony. Women have been massively less interested in marriage than men in the US since the eighties.


    2. I would wager that some of the ‘men who get married are healthier and happier’ is actually due to a reversed cause-and-effect. That is, women select healthier and happier men to marry. While some unmarried men will no doubt include sexually successful men who are still playing the field, a large portion will be men who are literally shut out of the dating world and find themselves with little or no emotional intimacy or support … which would make for a very unhappy life, indeed. (This would be in addition to the very real emotional and other benefits men derive from being married.)

      As to why married women are less happy than unmarried ones, I’d be interested to see the studies to know exactly how they broke out their comparisons. If they simply took ‘married women as a group’ and compared them to ‘unmarried women as a group,’ I would have to wonder if one partial factor might be an underlying ‘married women are disproportionately older, and age has a more dramatic impact on women than men’ thing going on.


      1. The section theory is an interesting one, but the study I’m thinking of in particular was a long term one; it showed that the male participant’s health during study, both mental and physical tended to improve if they married and to decline if they divorced, whereas the female participants showed a reverse pattern. It was not a simple one point in time group comparison study.

        As I said before, the theory Clarissa is floating is an interesting one which intuitively feels like it fits, but I still don’t think it’s the whole answer.


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