People are getting married later, people are having kids later, some people aren’t marrying at all, lots of people (especially women) who want kids aren’t having them… why? Smart guys know that marriage is a bad deal but many have to learn this the hard way… I’m interested in the deeper reasons, like that we expect too much from our romantic partners.
Old days: the woman’s job was to be faithful, take care of the kids, and put food on the table.
Man’s job: keep a roof over the head. Come home at night.
Today: the job is to be a soulmate, a best friend, a mysterious lover, a catalyst for fulfillment, a spiritual advisor… probably other things… how can this be done? By one person?
As Finkel explains, it’s no longer enough for a modern marriage to simply provide a second pair of strong hands to help tend the homestead, or even just a nice-enough person who happens to be from the same neighborhood. Instead, people are increasingly seeking self-actualization within their marriages, expecting their partner to be all things to them
It’s hard to be things that are opposite… a woman might want a guy who seems a little dangerous for casual sex and a guy who seems pretty safe for a marriage… but those two don’t usually exist in the same guy. A bit like There is no easy way: there is only the hard way. It is hard to be at the top of every heap… you have to choose one and pick up the chicks into your archetype.
The main change has been that we’ve added, on top of the expectation that we’re going to love and cherish our spouse, the expectation that our spouse will help us grow, help us become a better version of ourselves, a more authentic version of ourselves.
“Keeping a roof over the head” or “taking care of the kids” are pretty easy to measure… “help me grow” and “help me be authentic…” how the f**k do you measure that…? I don’t know. You don’t measure it. Lots of divorces are caused by “feelings.”
Up and down the socioeconomic hierarchy, it isn’t totally crazy these days to hear somebody say something like, “He’s a wonderful man and a loving father and I like and respect him, but I feel really stagnant in the relationship. I feel like I’m not growing and I’m not willing to stay in a marriage where I feel stagnant for the next 30 years.”
The basics aren’t enough anymore… a man shouldn’t marry because he’s at the whims of a random woman. The higher expectations that women bring to marriage, the more likely the marriage is to fail. Men are guilty of this too… a decent number of successful guys will chuck the old wife for a younger model (I’ve seen this happen).
I don’t know that there’s a solution to these problems. “Have more reasonable expectations” only works if everyone does it… I don’t see most women reducing expectations, especially. Women want to marry up, if they can. A lot of men have given up. A lot of men and women desperately consume vast amounts of sugar, making them less appealing as partners (lots of the lefty media talks about men’s low earnings as hurting marriage, but they never emphasize women’s high weight… weird… why could that be…?).
Sadly I think the takeaway from this piece and from divorce laws, which made sense in the world of 1955 and don’t today, is don’t get married. Today, marriage is set up to fail. It is unwise to do things that are set up to fail and that don’t have huge upside. Working for a startup that is likely to fail but could change the world can make sense in expected-value terms. Working for a marriage that is likely to fail but that has no benefits that can’t be gained from childbearing outside of marriage doesn’t make sense in expected-value terms.
Another piece, Rock Stars Don’t Marry, like another take on “What to learn from famous guys, acting over the long term.” It’s very interesting but I’m not sure it’s really true… for one thing, the writer uses Mick Jagger as an example, and even among successful musicians it’s rare to spend more than a few years at the top. Almost no one is as famous, rich, and successful as he is. Is Noel Gallagher still surrounded by hotties now? Maybe he is… could be… most guys, even ones who have a few hit songs, don’t/can’t sustain it, I think. I think they mostly settle down.
I think most guys, even super successful guys, end up with a wife/primary partner of some kind, and then have a little “don’t ask, don’t tell” on the side.
Another piece, loneliness is other people. This one hurts to read, because it’s about a woman who has made bad life choices, without realizing that she’s making them. I don’t know this woman, but I bet she’s part of the “you go girl” cohort of university feminists… she does pretty well, at least okay, in school… gets patted on the head by professors… gets “prestigious” internships, or whatever, in media companies that don’t pay their interns… has the “fun” experiences with guys in her 20s… but if she’s always been overweight, it doesn’t really work for her… she develops a strong feminist ideology that repels guys… I looked up her pics, and she could be pretty, but she’s heavy.
Her grades in her writing classes are high and she likes the praise… but her writing doesn’t mean much without other skills. Millions of people around the world are good writers. She has all “A” grades and yet makes less money than the nurse who does “good enough” in school and spends the rest of her time watching TV and hanging out with her friends, instead of complaining about capitalism (the same capitalism that freed women like this one from the drudgery of laundry, cleaning dishes, etc.). Instead of money, she gets “prestige” from academics and other unmarried feminists. A little too much drinking, a diet that’s always being cheated on (good essay topic, right), just a little bit, except not quite… the years pass, the men come and go, and she finds it easy to get men a few points higher than her for sex.
She’s hitting her late 30s and finding that her feminism doesn’t keep her warm at night. Social media, always idiotic, feels increasingly idiotic. Her life feels sad and pointless, “I have been alone for over a month as I write this. One by one, all my future plans have been canceled, and it has come to seem of little consequence whether I will be quarantined through May or November or the following May.” She’s been married and divorced once. She lives in Brooklyn but she has never read Date-onomics, a book that would show her why living in Brooklyn is not smart for her if she is serious about a relationship.
Meanwhile she gets older… her feminism gets more strident… her normal friends from high school and college get married, have jobs, and have families, so she’s got less and less in common with them. The basic girls she knew who became nurses now make $70K/year or more… she wants to have a family but also dislikes most men, and the men she likes most won’t take her…And she can’t see this dynamic… not entirely. She feels this dynamic without seeing it. I have met girls like her. Her expectations are high, and year by year her dating market gets a little bit worse.