Online Book Club Chapter Seven: Marriage: Happier Ever After

November 5, 2009 | Annemarie

In chapter seven, Carrie Lukas writes about marriage — a blessing or a curse? Radical feminists of the 1960s believed that marriage should be boycotted: 

“(a) Because THE FEMINISTS consider the institution of marriage inherently inequitable, both in its formal (legal) and informal (social) aspects, and (b) Because we consider the institution a primary formalization of the persecution of women, and (c) Because we consider the rejection of this institution both in theory and in practice a primary mark of the radical feminist, WE HAVE A MEMBERSHIP QUOTA: THAT NO MORE THAN ONE-THIRD OF OUR MEMBERSHIP CAN BE PARTICIPANTS IN EITHER A FORMAL (WITH LEGAL CONTRACT) OR INFORMAL (E.G., LIVING WITH A MAN) INSTANCE OF INSTITUTION OF MARRIAGE.”

Later on, Betty Friedan, a leader in the feminist movement argued that marriage was perhaps not all bad and could be looked at from a positive light:

“I think we must at least admit and begin openly to discuss feminist denial of the importance of family, of women’s own needs to give and get love and nurture, tender loving care.”

Friedan’s opinions on marriage and family, however influential, didn’t make it into the women’s studies textbook:

“The fantasy — the marriage myth, a mystical tale of love, romance, and marriage . . . and even though the smallest minority of couples live the happily-ever-after-forever romance, the myth functions. It undergirds our expectations and colors our relationships. The marriage myth operates on our consciousness even when it is completely absent from reality, even though the story is utterly false.”

What’s wrong with dreaming? Of course, fairy tales are fairy tales, in reality life is hard and relationships aren’t always easy. Carrie Lukas comments,

“If there are really young women under the delusion that marriage guarantees life-long bliss, then certainly they should be advised that all relationships, including marriage, will include compromises and some difficult times. However, to call the image of a happy marriage ‘utterly false’ reveals hostility to the institution that’s out of step with the average married woman.”

Throughout the chapter, Carrie Lukas includes quotes from several studies having to do with marriage and it’s direct affect on happiness and health:
“They found the act of getting married actually makes people happier and healthier; conversely, getting a divorce reverses these gains –even when we take into account prior measures of mental and emotional health.”

Cohabitation is also discussed in Lukas’ chapter on marriage. In todays culture living together before marriage is viewed as a responsible way to find out if two people are suitable for marriage. But, according to Nancy Wartik, cohabitation is anything but responsible:

“Why would something that seems so sensible potentially be so damaging? Probably the reigning explanation is the inertia hypothesis, the idea that many of us slide into marriage without ever making an explicit decision to commit. We move in together, we get comfortable, and pretty soon marriage starts to seem like the path of least resistance Even if the relationship is only tolerable . . . Because we have different standards for living partners than for life partners, we may end up married to someone we never would have originally considered for the long haul.”

Lukas concludes her chapter with the following advice:

“Marriage isn’t for everyone. Single women can and do lead fulfilling lives. But young women who seek a stable marriage should know that their impulse is not simply a result of an oppressive society–it’s a natural goal consistent with long-term happiness, financial security, and good health.”
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