Tuesday, October 22, 2013

21st Century Marriage

One of the reasons why I think the so-called "singles crisis" is hooey is because marriage, itself, has changed. 

What was marriage once? Well, most women were unable to support themselves, and required a man to establish her own home, have children, and most importantly, eat. A man needed a woman to keep that home upright, bear his children, and most importantly, make dinner.

A typical couple did not have Starbucks dates. They did not spend myriads of hours discussing their hopes and dreams. Moonlit walks on the beach were not likely.
For Yaakov and Rochel: Not exactly a shared Coke.
Men and women had concrete expectations in marriage. Now, a man no longer needs a woman, and a woman no longer needs a man to live non-starving lives. There's restaurants, social connections, and dry cleaners. 

Marriage today is more about spiritual and emotional fulfillment, which, I must say, sounds pretty great. People no longer have to get up before dawn to thresh, milk, or slaughter something, which is kinda awesome. We have quality time available to learn, delve, strive. 

Stephanie Coontz discusses the modern state of marriage in "The Disestablishment of Marriage." While society may opine that the institution of marriage has fallen to the wayside, she brings data showing otherwise. 

The once rigid state of marriage has evolved. 
Until recently, women who married later than average had higher rates of divorce. Today, with every year a woman delays marriage, up to her early 30s, her chance of divorce decreases, and it does not rise again thereafter. If an American woman wanted a lasting marriage in the 1950s, she was well advised to choose a man who believed firmly in traditional values and male breadwinning. Unconventional men — think beatniks — were a bad risk. Today, however, traditionally minded men are actually more likely to divorce — or to be divorced — than their counterparts with more egalitarian ideas about gender roles. 
It's so nice to have research on one's side. While I know that for the frum world, divorce is appearing in every age group and affiliation, but in terms of the "singles crisis," the longer one stays single means her chances of divorce dwindle. 

I thought of this article when I read of Kelly Williams Brown, 28, who wrote a book on how to become an adult. A 28-year-old, one would think, is already an adult, no? But consider: our generation is maturing at a slower rate than previous ones. In Isaac Bashevis Singer stories, a teenager would be an old married lady. As our life spans lengthen, milestones are reached later than before. 
I'm all about individuality, not statistics. But if we opt for that whole bashert thing, we might as well see the pros as well as the cons for the frummies marrying later. 

I thought I was a big girl when I started dating at 19. Then, when I was 23, I was all, "Phew, baruch Hashem I didn't get married then!" When I was 26, I thought I knew all there was to know in order to get married, until one bad date, in hindsight, made me aware of what I am truly looking for. At 28, can I get smug now

I still got some more growing up to do.
All these changes make it an exciting time to research marriage — and a challenging time to enter it. But it’s not that we’re doing a worse job at marriage than our ancestors did. It’s that we demand different things from marriage than in the past. And marriage demands different things from us.    


Mighty Garnel Ironheart said...

>It's so nice to have research on one's side

There are lies, damn lies and then there are statistics - Mark Twain

Ger has a very low divorce rate and their male-female interaction is, outside of mikveh night, pretty much nil.

It's about expectations. Once upon a time marriage was a commitment. Now it's like a car. I liked this model for a few years but now I'm tired of it so I'll trade it in. Bye.

And if you think you can't be smug when you're 28 be careful because the logical conclusion that that you'll be even more wise and experienced when you're 50. Do you still want to be looking at that age?

Some Poems Don't Rhyme said...

MGI, you should be careful with the stereotypical generalizations that you make. Not all Ger are like you say. Perhaps their divorce rate is lower because they understand what marriage is really all about. So yes, it's about expectations, but it's also about work. Nothing comes easy, especially in marriage.

I don't necessarily agree with this, but I've heard people say that if you take two people who are baalei middos and growing people, even if they don't necessarily click 100% at the get-go, if they're willing to work, their marriage can survive.

Princess Lea said...

Gee, thanks MGI, for twisting my attempt to downplay "shidduch crisis" hysteria as a game plan for me to stay forever single.

Back to the concept of bashert: I really don't think I have yet to meet the right one yet. That said, I might as well place a better spin on it, specifically that the Matchmaker in the sky wants me to evolve as much as possible in the interim, making me more relationship ready.

Meaning, one can never afford to be smug. Who knows what the Eibishter plans?

Ger is but one of the many branches of chassidus where male-female interaction is nonexistent. BTW, got any "statistics" for that divorce rate? Because I vaguely heard once that the Ger women tend to marry into other chassidishe sects.

SPDR: I could agree with that. But finding a person who is a baal middos and growing to begin with is kinda a toughie.

Some Poems Don't Rhyme said...

In terms of finding someone who is a baal middos/growing, isn't that what you're kinda saying in terms of evolving into someone who is "relationship ready"? Shouldn't all people who want to get married first begin to deal with their own issues?

Also, I know people like to write off Ger and other sects of chassidus, but I happen to know of a few chassidish couples that have beautiful marriages and their interaction is not nil. Why do we feel the need to make negative generalizations and judgements?

Alan Levin said...

Couldn't agree with you more... on the other hand my unfrum ex-fiance says: "you need to find a woman who will take the plunge and make it work" as opposed to; "I need to know that it's going to work before I take the plunge".

Princess Lea said...

SPDR: Yes, exactly. But those who are self-aware and are trying to work on themselves usually are in the minority.

I have chassidishe cousins, and I concur that they have beautiful marriages. Beautiful marriages have nothing to do with religion or lifestyle. I wasn't writing off, I was being snarky about generalizations.

AL: To quote Robin Williams in "The Crazy Ones," "Leap, and the net shall appear." Or, as Rabbi Y.Y. Rubenstein phrased it, "Did I make the right choice, or did I make the choice right?" It's not enough to choose, one must also stand by the decision.