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Article About Divorce and Marriage

From a friend's locked post, where it seems to be causing significant controversy:

An article from The Atlantic on divorce and the author's suggestions for alternatives to traditional marriage: http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200907/divorce

My friend wrote that everyone on her F-list seems to hate it.

Personally, I liked it. But then, I'm a die-hard romantic who has a very cynical attitude toward traditional marriage.

I recognized more than a few elements of my own former marriage in the article, plus those of a couple of friends.

Marriage is an idealistic institution which I think most people would really like to have unfold as per our cultural dreams. The reality, however, seems to fall short far too often. Promising to stay together "until death do us part" sets us up for failure in a world where we live far longer than our even recent ancestors, with far more complex lives.

Personally, I think that there need to be more socially-acceptable ways for people to pair up -- or triad or group up -- to create domestic/sexual/parenting alliances. It will make life a lot easier for a lot of us, including kids.

My biggest twitch with the article was her dismissal of "open marriage" as a failed idea which most people find "icky." In fact, more and more people are embracing polyamory as a healthy way of acknowledging that long-term monogamy is not always the best relationship model for all people. It's not for everyone, but neither is monogamy.

At it's core, marriage is a very private and personal institution. No one can truly understand the full dynamics of someone else's marriage. I would never try to prescribe what marriage "should" be for everyone. What I advocate for is opening up our cultural sensibilities to allow for more legitimate options in the area of personal unions and family-making.


( 31 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 16th, 2009 05:53 pm (UTC)
I have been married for 12 years and I am in an open marriage. It has worked for us with 0 issues along the way. We sat down before we got married and made the ground rules.
Jul. 16th, 2009 06:23 pm (UTC)
May I ask: how "out" are you about your open marriage?
(no subject) - gothic_coop - Jul. 16th, 2009 06:31 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - qos - Jul. 16th, 2009 08:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - gothic_coop - Jul. 16th, 2009 08:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 16th, 2009 06:18 pm (UTC)
yeah, I expected you or blessed_harlot to take exception to the icky comment. What I didn't expect was, you know, all the other!

I'll be interested to see what kind of response you get.
Jul. 16th, 2009 06:21 pm (UTC)
Just to clarify: I have no problem with any particular individual finding open marriages or polyamory icky. Mileage varies. I just took exception to her writing off the whole idea as something that failed decades ago.

I'll be interested in the reaction here as well.
Jul. 16th, 2009 06:28 pm (UTC)
Interesting article. Overall, I think it was good. I think it's really a positive step in the right direction just to be thinking and talking about these things - to look at alternatives, to consider options. Regardless of what is decided in the end. People too often just go along with the status quo because it's what they are expected to do.

I think everyone should take a hard look at themselves, and their partner(s), and figure out what will really work for them. Open marriage or monogamy, kids or no kids, sexual passion or companionship, whatever. (Or here's an even stranger concept - living together or NOT living together - some married or otherwise deeply committed couples really do live apart and enjoy that, which is quite the anathema to mainstream expectations.) And even, marriage/long-term relationships versus never settling down. Because not everyone wants to do that, nor should they (especially if they don't want kids either).

I think it's really sad, how she talked about so many Americans believing in the old concept of marriage, and yet so many failing at it spectacularly. Wouldn't it be saner for us to update our ideas about what loving another person (or persons) looks like?
Jul. 16th, 2009 08:19 pm (UTC)
Wouldn't it be saner for us to update our ideas about what loving another person (or persons) looks like?

I certainly think so!

And I love the way you and your partner have worked out your own living arrangements.
(no subject) - erl_queen - Jul. 16th, 2009 08:28 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 16th, 2009 06:47 pm (UTC)
What a bafflingly bizarre article. Some or all of my experience may come from being child-free with child-free partners, but I'm baffled that people would stay for a decade or more in relationships as unsatisfactory as the author and her friends describe. It also sounds like the people being described have very little in common with their partners. My ideal is to have partners who I share everything with and who have a great deal in common with me in all areas of our lives. My partners are also my closest friends, and I'm baffled that other people do not arrange their lives like that. Of course, the common idea that "opposites attract" also makes absolutely no sense to me. My general reaction to that article is yet another example of how mainstream people have (from my PoV) very strange and very screwed up romantic lives and gender relations.
Jul. 16th, 2009 08:18 pm (UTC)
I love reading about your relationship with your partners.

My partners are also my closest friends, and I'm baffled that other people do not arrange their lives like that.

I agree.
(no subject) - heron61 - Jul. 20th, 2009 02:44 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - qos - Jul. 20th, 2009 02:52 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - heron61 - Jul. 20th, 2009 02:54 am (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 16th, 2009 07:54 pm (UTC)
At it's core, marriage is a very private and personal institution.

The problem with marriage, I think, is that, at its core, it's exactly the *opposite* of what you describe: A very public, social institution for the orderly rearing of children and the transfer of property through a family line from one generation to the next, with the side benefit of satisfying sexual and emotional needs in a likewise orderly fashion. Our culture has been trying to change that for a couple of centuries, but it's going to take a lot longer than that to change an institution that seems to have been in place at least since Egypt and Sumer.

That said, I have never seen so many poisonous unquestioned assumptions about marriage in one place as in that article. Not only are there other ways for people to bond that in heterosexual monogamy, there are other, happier ways to do heterosexual monogamy than what that writer describes.
Jul. 16th, 2009 07:58 pm (UTC)
(no subject) - qos - Jul. 16th, 2009 08:14 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - mamadar - Jul. 16th, 2009 08:23 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 16th, 2009 07:58 pm (UTC)
I'm all in favor of opening up the forms and possibilities of marriage/LTRs-with-legal-rights-attached to include polyamory, gay relationships, marriages that last for a fixed period of time and may be walked away from no-harm-no-foul at the end of that time, and all sorts of other options. Traditional lifelong one man, one woman monogamous marriage should not be the only option available. But it should remain an option for those who want it.

Those of us who are in traditional, intended-to-be-lifelong, monogamous marriages get immense amounts of shit thrown our way these days for what should be our free choice. Your open-mindedness is rare; it's much more common for people to tell me that I'm a pervert for being monogamous, or that my marriage just hasn't broken up yet but it will, or that obviously my marriage is a sham because nobody could actually stay happily married to one person for so many years, or that the kind of marriage I have should not be legal and is inherently abusive to me as a woman.

Yah. Fuck them and the horses they rode in on. It's not appropriate to treat divorce as a stigma or failure, but neither is it appropriate to treat traditional marriage as a stigma or failure.

Heron61 also has some very cogent criticisms about the piece.
Jul. 16th, 2009 08:11 pm (UTC)
it's much more common for people to tell me that I'm a pervert for being monogamous. . .

Ack! I know! That kind of attitude infuriates me too.

A particular friend of mine here on LJ has given me a lot of insights into the disrespectful way all too much of polyamorous culture treats monogamous people and relationships. That's one reason I go out of my way these days to affirm monogamy as The Best Choice for many people when I strongly advocate having other options open to people.

Why do human beings get so upset when other people want to do things differently than they do?

(no subject) - oakmouse - Jul. 16th, 2009 08:53 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - unicorndelamer - Jul. 17th, 2009 04:26 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - qos - Jul. 17th, 2009 03:20 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 16th, 2009 08:50 pm (UTC)
For whatever reason, I resonated much more with her exasperation, her failed attempts and her observations more than taking offense at her conclusions. She often speaks from bitterness, but for me she spoke truthfully. And she asked some questions I want to hear asked more and more often.
Jul. 17th, 2009 03:21 am (UTC)
I read the article a couple of weeks ago and thought she made some good points. I agree an opening-up of our cultural sensibilities is in order. One size does NOT fit all, and that is OK.
Jul. 17th, 2009 03:46 am (UTC)
Interestingly enough, the author wrote essentially the opposite of this article two years ago (link). Reading both articles side-by-side might be useful antidote to the temptation to take either one very seriously.

I did enjoy reading the "divorce" article -- it's an entertaining little vignette about upper-middle-class middle-aged "will we ever have hot sex again?" angst, not unlike an episode of Sex and the City. Come to think of it, not at all unlike an episode of Sex and the City. And worth about as much time and attention.
Jul. 17th, 2009 03:35 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the link.

After reading both articles, my primary impression of the author is that she doesn't seem to be very good at intimacy and relationships in general, and has a very narrow sense of the possibilities outside her own somewhat rareified social circle.
Jul. 19th, 2009 02:30 am (UTC)
Mostly, she's just insufferable. I have read her columns from time to time and, frankly, her husband is well rid of her. I hope she finds happiness somehow, but I doubt it. Her problem is not traditional marriage or alternative lifestyles. She's just chronically unhappy.
Jul. 19th, 2009 02:45 am (UTC)
I decided I should modify my above comment as it might be seen as uncharitable. I don't know how much of my impression of her is attributable to the fact she no doubt feels an immense pressure to come up with witty, pseudo-deep insights into the lives of coastal elites. Having a column with Atlantic.com is probably a nerve-wracking gig.

I have not read all of her columns, but the ones I have read reeked of a woman living in a privileged, insular world who is frustrated with her inability to find meaning in her own life and not understanding why she is so unhappy.
Jul. 20th, 2009 02:50 am (UTC)
I've only read one other of her columns, the one which athenian_abroad referenced above in which she takes the complete opposite position regarding sex and marriage.

I suspect that you're right about the combined pressure of being a columnist and living in a rather insular world.
( 31 comments — Leave a comment )


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