Tuesday, February 1, 2011

OK, so, initiating divorce more frequently is a good thing?

I'm going to try not to be too sarcastic here. This is not a snark blog. I'm kind of hoping the people who read me as Mousie never find out how sarcastic I can be.

Hugo Schwyzer, in a column at "The Good Men Project", notes that women initiate divorce more often than men (about 2/3 of the time) and looks for what's wrong with men. He concludes that
Too many of us think that a “real man” keeps his promises—even when those promises are making him miserable.
OK, um, that's kind of what differentiates a promise from a tentative statement. Or, say, a lie, a fraud, false pretenses. I don't think it's exactly a "real man" thing in the sense that a "real woman" doesn't likewise keep her promises. Or a real small furry creature from Alpha Centauri, for that matter. It's a promise, like a person might make, not a MAN-promise.

Schwyzer identifies himself as feminist, but I can't see that it's really in women's best interests that more men initiate divorces. The first one to initiate takes the choice away. I can't see why one would look at "Group A keeps promises longer than Group B" and say "Therefore Group A should be more like Group B", except if one says, "Group A and B are different and where they are, Group B are inevitably better."

He goes on in the concluding paragraph,
Good marriages need more than a grim resolve not to leave no matter how bad things get. Men are more likely to forget that than women.
Based on what? The rest of the article gives no reason to suspect men don't try as hard or harder than women to make the marriage work. Still he comes up with this implication that men are doing nothing but sitting there not initiating divorces. The promises in most wedding vows include language about trying to make the marriage work, and in my experience there's no reason to suspect that the same people who stick with the marriage for a long time because of the promise don't try harder to make it work because of the promise.

I don't want to imply that initiating a divorce is always bad; some people were actually married to someone who really was just sitting there not initiating, or in one case I know the guy who didn't initiate had actually moved in with another woman. Sometimes initiating is definitely the right thing to do.

In general though, maybe if men initiate fewer divorces because they want to keep their promises, that's actually a good thing. We can't always be the villains. I'm really not inclined to advice from "The Good Men Project" after this; it's rather a condescending name to begin with. I think I'll stick with my Bible.


  1. Seems encouraging women to initiate fewer would be more appropriate. Sure, there are cases where it is the only option. But I am of the belief that many marriages could be saved if both parties but in the effort.

  2. I am weirdly conservative and weirdly liberal about marriage. On one hand, marriage proper is a commitment for life. Sometimes it doesn't work out (my mom, whose parents divorced, was much happier in childhood than my father, whose parents didn't), but sometimes you need to put in the work.

    OTOH, I have no problems with people having relationships-- even ones where they get a little piece of paper from the state-- where they plan to be together not for life but until they get bored/grow apart/whatever, as long as this is established upfront and no children are involved.

  3. It really depends for the reasons for not initiating/staying in the promise.

    My father divorced my mother because he was miserable and she was oblivious as long as she could see reality mostly as she preferred; with adult perspective, she wasn't entirely unaware of problems, but she was driven to gloss them over. (And he was more than slightly guilty of just silencing through them until they became unbearable, rather than attempting to work through them.) It was a failed marriage, but it was better for him and ultimately for me that it ended.

    It was pretty clear with his second marriage, to my stepmother, that he was determined not to screw it up twice and to stick through no matter what. Again, with adult perspective, she was abusive and controlling, and no matter what he imagined the consequences of divorce to be, the consequences of staying were worse. It ended in death rather than divorce, but not in a way that made anyone any happier than it would have otherwise.

    As I see it, for every keeper of a promise working on the relationship, there's two or three people just numbing it out, or sticking in the bloody battle to the bitter end.

    But then, this is why I view statistics about any kind of intimate, highly variable relationship- marriage, parenthood- as suspect because of the aggregation.

  4. I read via Ozymandias that a Wiccan handfasting contains the words, "as long as you both shall love." Possibly a lot more people should use those in their vows, or something similar. I just think they should keep whatever vows they make.

    I'd like something a little stronger than the Wiccan statement because everybody falls out of love, especially around the 2 and 5 year marks. Some people, however, climb back into it and keep climbing, and I'd like to see more of that.