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Day 271 - Marriage Revisited

Hefty topic but I think that maybe I am onto something here...if I may be so bold and arrogant.

So the kinds of marriages...

The 1950s marriage: Man works, Woman stays home. Man in charge of outside the home stuff to include the lawn care. Woman in charge of everything and everyone inside the home. Man makes the money and stays in control of the money. Woman raises the children with little input from the man. The man and woman are the vehicles to raise the children and family is prized above all else. The family unit is the goal and both man and woman sacrifice a lot of personal freedom and autonomy for that common goal.

The 1960s marriage: Man works sometimes. Woman works sometimes. Great value is placed on the personal freedom of each person. Man and woman are both more dedicated to causes and ideals than the marriage. Child rearing is really still the woman’s job but she founders because she is busy trying to find herself and that doesn’t leave a lot of time left over for the marriage or kids. Sexual satisfaction is usually found outside the marriage. The prior relationship before marriage might have been built on sexual freedom so perhaps that continues in a more liberal sexual relationship throughout. The individual is prized more than the family unit or common goal.

The 1970s marriage: Man works. Woman has a career also but is constantly and forever trying to juggle all of her “female” responsibilities: children, homemaking, social events. Woman is increasingly dissatisfied with her role as wife and mother. She wants autonomy over stability, freedom over commitment. Men are not really able to see this “new” woman and become resentful over her stand for independence. Woman fails at pretty much everything because she has no foundation for any of it. Society is not a lot of help: the woman’s movement discounts being a stay-at-home mother, being a stay-at home mother becomes harder because it is defined as beneath women and in the process becomes devalued. All the while women still have the primary responsibility of child rearing and creating a loving home. They fail more and more. The divorce rate surges and new single parent households burgeon. Children are lost in the shuffle of their mother’s bid for equality. The family unit as it has always been identified begins to crumble. The divide between men and women widens.

The 1980s marriage: Man works. Woman works. A lot. They both work a lot. They are focused on their careers. Neither of them has a great deal of time to raise kids. Kids happen later in life or not at all. There is a desperate and pervasive hunger for more creature comforts. Homes, cars and designer labels are the focus and success supplants the family. If there is a family unit formed, the children are left alone a great deal as both parents are usually off earning money rather than dedicating time to family life. The focus is on wealth and power and success, not the family.

The 1990s marriage: Man works. Woman works. But they begin to work less. They marry later but have kids. Kids make a come back. Neither man nor woman knows their role anymore. But they try to find a way back to a family system. But a lot has happened in the intervening years. Damage done to gender roles and the devaluing of child rearing. Women are not so willing to take it all on. Women see that the cost to do it and have it all, often means at their own personal expense. Women demand that men step up. Much to everyone’s surprise and the historical facts, men do. They really start taking paternity leave. They stay home with sick kids. They cancel business trips due to child issues. They put their careers on hold while women go to work. There is a great reshuffling of gender roles. However, the divide is not addressed because no one is taking about how they arrived at where they are. Women fail to appreciate men’s change of heart and men fail to see that their stepping up without equality leaves them in the place where women have been historically, doing half or more than half the work and getting little to no credit. The irony is lost and everyone is frustrated. Men’s relationships with their children change and deepen. Women’s relationship with men becomes even harder as women begin to lose their favored parent status. Divorce rates continue to rise.

The 2000s marriage: Man works. Woman works if she feels like it. Women begin to see that their dedication to their careers interferes with the custodial rights when their union ends in divorce. They realize that doing it all: career, children, self development and care is totally and completely exhausting and they return to the home to make homemaking cool again. They work if they feel like it but take time off to raise their kids and work becomes something that is noble but worked around the kids. Women begin to feel like there might be some way to balance work/home life with men’s help. Men see that their lives are better and their marriages happier when women are supported in their desire to do it all. There is more equality between the sexes in women’s choice to return to a more 1950s like marriage unlike before where women were relegated there without input, choice or alternative. The divorce rate stabilizes a bit and even begins to decline. The subject and cause for divorce is still the divide that neither men nor women can seem to bridge...

So the above categories are a gross generalization and are more representative of the middle and upper class. They do not represent the Gay. Lesbian or Transgendered community at all though there may be some similarities. Maybe that will be a topic for another day...research would need to be done. I am using each of the above categories as an archetype rather than saying that all marriages during that time were this type of marriage. They are meant to be categorical rather than definitive. Also, I believe that all marriages exist on some sort of continuum rather than fit neatly into one category. But I think that looking at what has happened in general to marriage over the last fifty years helps to figure out what is wrong with love today. Where are we failing and why?

More on that tomorrow...

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