Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Atlantic on marriage

Sandra Tsing Loh is getting divorced. She uses this as an excuse to argue against marriage in general.
I can work at a career and child care and joint homeownership and even platonic male-female friendship. However, in this cluttered forest of my 40s, what I cannot authentically reconjure is the ancient dream of brides, even with the Oprah fluffery of weekly “date nights,” when gauzy candlelight obscures the messy house, child talk is nixed and silky lingerie donned, so the two of you can look into each other’s eyes and feel that “spark” again. Do you see? Given my staggering working mother’s to-do list, I cannot take on yet another arduous home- and self-improvement project, that of rekindling our romance.
Apparently she had an affair and then realized she wanted to give up on the marriage. Her decision spurred a few of her friends to confess their own fantasies of divorcing their staid husbands. The DoubleX bloggers are dissecting the piece---and Tsing Loh.

Check out this previous STL article on women preferring food to sex with their husbands (foreshadowing her overweight friend who sneaks Dove bars at night and then grouses that her husband no longer finds her attractive?).

Quiz referenced by STL on personality types in romance. (I am a Director/Builder.)

Caitlin Flanagan's prescient rebuttal of STL on sex in marriage?
What they don't understand, and what women of an earlier era might have been able to tell them, is that when the little faucet turns off, it is time not to rat out your husband (is there anything more wounding to a man, and therefore more cruel and vicious, than a wife's public admission that he is not satisfying her in bed?) but rather to turn it back on. It is not complicated; it requires putting the children to bed at a decent hour and adopting a good attitude. The rare and enviable woman is not the one liberated enough to tell hurtful secrets about her marriage to her girlfriends or the reading public. Nor is she the one capable of attracting the sexual attentions of a variety of worthy suitors. The rare woman—the good wife, and the happy one—is the woman who maintains her husband's sexual interest and who returns it in full measure.
Another Atlantic piece on sex and marriage:
Sexuality is all about bridging distances—but to bridge distances, you must have distances. And for all our sentimental talk of seeking an “other half” (perhaps the only expression to loom as large in Plato’s Symposium as it does in the cursives of Hallmark), most of us do not, in fact, seek “a part of ourselves.” We do not long for our left leg. We do not desire our brother, nor usually even our best friend. Erotic love—for all of its attraction to what it recognizes and identifies with—is drawn at least as strongly to what it does not recognize. In truth, it is drawn toward the distant and dangerous more than it is to the sweet, the solicitous, the familiar.
An oldie from the Atlantic archives:
To be happily married requires a maturity that most of us do not have; marriage proves difficult, sooner or later, and particularly when entered upon immaturely. To be happily married two people must like each other, which means accepting each other as they are and knowing in what ways to leave each other alone. Most of the unhappy marriages which hang on and on, undermining the potential of two human beings, are based on weakness and fear, pity, obligation, sadism, guilt, all of which are things that beset both people in one way or another and make for distrust and dislike.
One happily married woman described love as "a sense of the other." It is this fascination with another person and an almost uncanny awareness that are the real material of love. The feeling that no matter what he does, I know why he does it, and I am interested. I may thoroughly disapprove, I may be exasperated with him for it, but I know why without even thinking about it or possibly being able to explain it. I am absorbed in all his reactions. All of his complexity, all of his contradictions simply fall into place for me, even if everyone else thinks he is mad. As Cathy said in Wuthering Heights, "Nelly, I am Heathcliff! Not always as a pleasure, any more than I am always a pleasure to myself; but he is always, always in my mind." This is love in the grand manner. It is beyond advice columns, beyond the dogged search for happiness. This is what it is all about.

But to have it, we have to know ourselves to begin with, and believe in it when we get it.

I don't find STL's anti-marriage proposals realistic or appealing. Thoughts?
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