I suppose the political is personal too


Lisa Kramer

Lisa Kramer is a contributing contributor at The League of Ordinary Gentlemen.

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171 Responses

  1. Avatar dexter says:

    Congrats and hope all goes according to plan.Report

  2. Avatar Trumwill says:

    Outstanding post.

    On the divorce subject, I remember Kerry Howley commenting that we need to not view marriages that end after decades together as non-successful (this was in reference to the Gores, I believe). To me, though, half of the point of marriage is its implied permanence. Maybe I will fall short on this and be a hypocrite myself, though as you say there are worse things than hypocrisy. And really, I think hypocrisy only comes into play if you or I do not acknowledge the divorce as a failure (in terms of either partner-selection or marital conduct).

    It’s become apparent that I am going to be a stay-at-home dad, for as much lack of job opportunities where my wife’s career has taken us as anything. Even without kids, my not working has made my wife’s job (with horrendous hours) easier with laundry done, dishes washed, pantry full, and so on. Another way to look at it is that you will be doing your husband’s career service, including your children.

    My wife and I are going to need to step-to as she is approaching advanced maternal age. Which is yet another agreement I have with you. We’ve done the “responsible” thing with all of the planning and the like. I’m beginning to think that maybe your approach is the better one. With responsible, educated, and thoughtful parents, it’s easier to pick up the pieces as you go along. Those most inclined to plan are probably those most likely to have the resources and werewithal to get by without planning.

    And even on the subject of homeschooling… I’ll just say that I am having similar thoughts. Even if we don’t homeschool, I am thinking that we will supplement formal education with some homeschooling to fill in the (perceived, perhaps) gaps of our public education system.Report

  3. Congrats on your impending nuptials! I don’t think this post is too long or too personal. More after I’ve re-read and digested.Report

  4. Avatar ppnl says:

    Seven kids? Really? That’s most of a decade being pregnant. Good luck with that. Remember Lennon said”

    “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

    But that’s ok, life can be good anyway. The best of luck to you.Report

  5. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    You know, a while ago, Erik wondered aloud in the email list about how we could have more cross-post discussions here and I suggested we occasionally think of a theme for the week, akin to Beer Week. My first suggestion for a theme was ‘Love and Marriage’. Anyway, I sort of forgot all about it, but I think we should maybe go with that. This is a really good post and, instead of writing a long and rambling comment, I’ll try to get a post together and, more importantly, it would be cool to hear thoughts about marriage from, say, Jason, Erik, James, et al. Nudge nudge.Report

    • Avatar Lisa Kramer says:

      I’ll second your nudge and say I’d love to read everyone’s thoughts on the matter. Given all the thoughts I’ve saved up in the last month, I’d guess I’ll have plenty more to add in the coming weeks as well.Report

  6. Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

    Congratulations! I’m so happy for you.

    (I hope to follow up on Rufus’s suggestion as well. Now that’s two posts I owe him.)Report

  7. Avatar greginak says:


  8. Avatar Sam MacDonald says:

    Great post.

    One thing that strikes me as interesting is the fact that prevalent divorce SHOULD make people rather cavalier about marriage, shouldn’t it? But it seems to me that most of the people in my cohort agonized about finding a proper mate, the budgeting, the timing, etc. back when marriage was forever, people used to pick someone reasonably attractive from their high school class and… presto… Ward and June Cleaver. Or something. But now, people like me arse around until our 30s wringing our hands about whether we will be homeschooling 10 years from now and whether we will be able to send junior to Princeton. Shouldn’t the lack of expected permanence make the opposite happen? Shouldn’t we expend LESS energy worrying about getting it right?

    As for whether you have time for seven kids, sure you do. My wife had five in about six years.

    PS: The more kids you have, the easier it is to dispense with a lot of these agonizing questions about home schooling. When you have five in six years, you send them to school and let someone else take care of them for a while. What kids need is a healthy diet, a warm bed and a reasonably well-adjusted home life. They aren’t doomed to failure of they get to Huckleberry Finn a few years later than you hoped.

    In general, I will try to keep my kids in the church and out of jail. If they take up drinking as teenagers, I hope they develop a taste for beer rather than liquor. And if they smoke, I hope they choose something other than clove cigarettes, because they seem to indicate that you are trying to hard.Report

    • Avatar Lisa Kramer says:

      Thanks for the comment and the sentiment. I agree with 90% of your advice, as well as the observation that the less permanent marriage becomes, the more people agonize over meeting their mates. It’s as though people hold their breath for perfection and then expect perfection throughout their lives.

      Just for the record, I’m thinking of homeschooling not because I fear educational failure (it doesn’t bother me if they wait a bit longer for Huck Finn), but actually more for the opposite reason. Schools (in my opinion) over-emphasize the importance of formal education, lead to anxiety about tests and grades and take time away from simple, unstructured play. And now they want to make the school year longer! I want less time devoted to narrowly academic pursuits, not more. My fantasy is that I could give my children a good and well-rounded education in a fraction of the hours the school requires. The extra time could be spent learning to garden, cook, build, play, read for pleasure, hike, use their imaginations, have a childhood, etc…

      Still don’t know if I’m going to do it, but I just wanted to make it clear that I wasn’t talking about running scholastic drills ten hours a day so my kid can get ahead in some grand life competition.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. says:

      Sam, one possibility here, and this is just a suggestion, is that, as divorce becomes more common, there are more children of divorce, and so maybe they’re the ones who agonize about getting it right because their own experience of having their parents get divorced was traumatic. I mean, that was totally the case with me. My parents were much more cavalier about divorce than I could ever be, but they were also much more cavalier about getting married. But, of course, for both of them, their parents stayed together for life.Report

      • Avatar Trumwill says:

        Tangentially… you ever notice how much it turns out to be the case that people from in-tact families marry people from in-tact families and divorced-home kids with others of the same? It’s happened with the people around me with almost alarming precision. And yet I don’t think it’s a decision that was ever really consciously made. But boy, it sure seems to work out that way.Report

    • Avatar James K says:

      One thing that strikes me as interesting is the fact that prevalent divorce SHOULD make people rather cavalier about marriage, shouldn’t it? But it seems to me that most of the people in my cohort agonized about finding a proper mate, the budgeting, the timing, etc. back when marriage was forever, people used to pick someone reasonably attractive from their high school class and… presto… Ward and June Cleaver. Or something.

      I think there’s a confounding factor at work. Back when marriage was for life, it was scandalous for a couple to live together without marrying. It used to be that if you loved someone enough to make a life together you had to marry. Now you only need to marry if you want a deeper level of commitment than that. In fact, the biggest benefits of marriage come if you’re planning to have children.Report

  9. Avatar James Hanley says:

    Nice post, Lisa. My wife and I are very much of your view in regards to marriage, and our background is as two offspring of parents who stayed happily together (my parents had over 40 years in when my dad died, and my wife’s parents are up to 50 years in ’11). Odd that our very different experiences would result in having similar views.

    Please please please don’t home-school, though. Pay close attention to your kids’ education, review their homework, talk to their teachers, and…most of all…read to them nightly when they’re little. But don’t home school. As a college prof, every home-schooled kid I’ve taught has been bright, but too obviously over-indulged in “creativity” and not pressed enough in disciplined thought. I suspect it’s a lot easier to tell your kid, “oh, what a clever thought,” than do do the research about all those different subjects so that you know when they’re actually talking nonsense. OK, that’s my soapbox, and now I’m stepping off it.

    Oh, and take them to the Y for swimming lessons. You’ll never regret it.

    OK, now it’s time for me to think of a post about love and marriage–after 20 years together, you’d think I’d have something to say, but my wife reads the blog, so it’s an intimidating thought.Report

    • Avatar Lisa Kramer says:

      Thanks James. I’ll take your home-school advice into account. I’ve had a rocky personal relationship with formal education (I wrote a bit about dropping out of high school in a post a few months ago), and while I know I shouldn’t put my own discomfort with schools on my future kids, I also can’t help but fear that when you turn your kids over for seven or more hours a day, they’re going to pick up the values they learn in school. I guess it’s the same concern that drives many parents to homeschool their children on religious grounds. For me, the concerns aren’t connected to religion. But, same premise. Anyway, I am listening to arguments for and against, so when I say I’ll take your argument into account, I mean it.

      In any event, I’ll make sure I sign my kids up for those Y swimming lessons and I can’t wait to read your love/marriage post.Report

      • Avatar Trumwill says:

        I had a friend who was homeschooled with his six siblings. When I asked about him, he said that whether it’s a good idea very much depended on the kids. He said that it worked out really well for him and three of his siblings, but for the other three it was pretty disastrous. Reading off the email, he cited as potential problems: (1) one of them needed structure that they never got (owing perhaps to the multitude of siblings), (2) one was introverted and needed more forced interaction with others, (3) one was extroverted and miserable.Report

        • Avatar James Hanley says:

          I’ve always thought that people who homeschool their kids should involve them in Little League, youth soccer, competitive swimming, dance, gymnastics, community theater, or whatever it is that catches the kids’ fancy, so they get that out-of-the-family socialization. I’m sure lots do, although given the demographics of home schoolers, I worry that for many of them the only outside activity is church.Report

      • Avatar Alan Scott says:

        Lisa, you worry that when kids spend their days in school, they’re going to pick up the values they learn in school. It’s hard to argue with that (though it’s worth noting, exactly what those values are is very dependent on the specific school and the specific teachers).

        Here’s the thing: A huge part of growing up is developing your own set of values. A number of my fellow college students were homeschooled, and some of them–well, the best way to put it is that they’re still very much children: some are akin to the undisciplined, overindulged students that Mr. Hanley referred to, and others are simply naive and socially awkward.

        Reading your post, it makes me realize something they have in common: They haven’t developed a set of values distinct from those of their parents. (That’s not to say, of course, that growing up means rejecting the values of one’s parents. My values are very close to those of my parents–but that’s because I recognized that my parent’s values were good ones, and I consciously chose to adopt them as my own.Report

    • Avatar Trumwill says:

      Interestingly, my wife and I came by the same worldview through a third path. We both had parents that stayed in problematic marriages. In both cases, marriages that were for a time unhappy though over time became happier. We both think we really benefited from the fact that our parents stayed together and that our parents benefited from staying together.

      Hers came close to breaking when she was about six, which caused some serious changes that dramatically improved things over time. Mine never got that bad and didn’t improve as much, but the same holds. So they became role models in another way. We seek to avoid their mistakes, but we also strongly believe in sticking it out even when times get tough.Report

    • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

      Homeschooling isn’t the worst thing but at least do it with a collective. I was homeschooled a bit, went to Montessori school, attended public school in Canada and the states, and attended Catholic school, and homeschooling was pretty great – but mostly because we lived in family housing at the time so there was an abundance of playmates and possible social interactions regardless.Report

  10. A beautiful post, Lisa, as is properly warranted by the beautiful decision you and fiance have made, and are making. Congratulations! And as for “authenticity” and fears of a New Left taint, forget that: embrace the Laschian Old Left instead:

    “We wanted our children to grow up in a kind of extended family, or at least with an abundance of ‘significant others.’ A house full of people; a crowded table ranging across the generations; four-hand music at the piano; nonstop conversation and cooking; baseball games and swimming in the afternoon; long walks after dinner; a poker game or Diplomacy or charades in the evening, all these activities mixing adults and children–that was our idea of a well-ordered household and more specifically of a well-ordered education. We had no great confidence in the schools; we knew that if our children were to acquire any of the things we set store by–joy in learning, eagerness for experience, the capacity for love and friendship–they would have to learn the better part of it at home. For that very reason, however, home was not to be thought of simply as the ‘nuclear family.’ Its hospitality would have to extend far and wide, stretching its emotional resources to the limit (p. 32).”

    That’s how Lasch put it in The True and Only Heaven, the book where he spells out, pretty clearly if you read his arguments right, the Left (meaning democratic and egalitarian) case for tending first and foremost to the family, the local, the neighborhood. If the public schools can be a part of that (and my wife and I believe that, for the most part, they can), then make use of them; but if they can’t, find alternatives–and that includes true alternatives, such as being willing to question the presumptions of our meritocratic corporate educational system in the first place. But whatever; this post of yours was a joy to read, because it’s great to see people being willing to put their money where their best principles are. Good luck and happy days to you both!Report

    • Avatar Lisa Kramer says:

      Thanks Russell. I love that Lasch passage, have it highlighted in my copy of the book, and had resisted re-reading it before posting so I wouldn’t accidentally crib any more of it than I’m sure I subconsciously did already.

      By the way, I’ve been a long-time fan of your writing, so your comment means a lot.Report

      • Thanks for the kind words, Lisa. I’ve read your work (and the writings of many here at the League) for a long time as well. I keep thinking about submitting something, but never getting around to it. Maybe this Christmas break…

        By the way, when is the big day?Report

        • Avatar Lisa Kramer says:

          That’d be great. Hope you find the time.

          We’re hoping for October 1, but we haven’t booked the venue, so it isn’t set in stone yet. If anything, we’d move it up to September rather than back.Report

    • Avatar Lisa Kramer says:

      And GREAT post of yours on Lasch there.Report

  11. Avatar Will H. says:

    May the flowers bloom forever in the springtime of the eyes of your beloved.Report

  12. Avatar Will says:

    Congratulations, Lisa. Of course, now you’re obligated to rope your significant other into a guest post or two.Report

  13. Avatar misterxroboto says:

    Firstly, congratulations. I’m glad to see your relative absence was for a good reason!

    I do, however, want to take an unpopular view for marriage. I’ll make a few points: 1) marriage is by its nature a contract. 2) sometimes, contracts result in parties being worse, rather than better off. 3) in those cases, the contract should be broken in favor of a more utilitarian outcome. Therefore, we should be neutral about divorce, rather than discourage it. I’m pretty sure 1&2 will be accepted, 3 is contentious. I’ll defend all 3 just for the sake of clarity.

    1: marriage as contract. Let’s take a look at the components of a contract. You need a) mutual assent and b) consideration. Applying this to marriage, mutual assent is easy. One is not truly married if it’s against your will. Consideration is apparent: you give up your opportunity to live selfishly, in exchange for the other person doing the same. You make vows to each other as a sort of insurance, you won’t have to worry about being alone.

    2: sometimes contracts make things worse. Let’s say I offer to water your garden while you’re at the beach, in exchange for a small fee. Things work beautifully, we agree to a schedule, etc. However, we get a surprisingly large amount of rain–to the point that if I were to water your plants, they would die. Clearly, you wouldn’t water them. Regardless, I am under an obligation from the contract to execute on schedule. Assuming our contract did not have exceptions, only a schedule, then the contract’s execution makes us worse off.

    3: When contracts make us worse off, we should break them. This is mostly a forward looking argument, with many opportunities for a problem–I’ll do my best to flesh them all out now. It should not be for small issues. Things like forgetting a birthday, while harmful, are not grounds for calling off all future utility. Similarly, showing the sheer weight we attach to the decision means that we should be careful about the long-term view it holds. I argue that marriage is an instrumental good, rather than good by itself. We enter into these agreements because they make our lives go better. When we can reasonably see that they will not make our futures better, but worse, it’s time to re-evaluate.

    Some may say that marriage should not be treated like a stock: ruthlessly calculating what the future earnings are likely to be, based on our investment. This view does not denigrate marriage, but raise it to the level of careful consideration. All of our decisions should be treated with how likely they are to make our lives go better and how intensely (probability, duration, and intensity as the main variables).

    I would argue that this is merely a pragmatic view, rather than dismissive of our true selves. If we were more able to reliably predict what would make us happy, we would have more fulfilling relationships–yielding a lower, rather than higher, divorce rate.Report

    • Avatar Alan Scott says:

      But marriage isn’t simply a contract between two people– It’s a contract between two people and society even if a divorce increases the utility of the spouses, it still has a potential to decrease utility for society as a whole. Thus, marriage should be dissolved on utilitarian grounds only when the union is so fractious as to trump society’s interest in the stability of the marriage relationship.Report

      • Avatar Mike Farmer says:

        How is marriage a contract with society?Report

        • Avatar Alan Scott says:

          Consider that most contracts don’t require a clergyman or justice of the peace to stand up and say “Do you, Mike’s Framing Solutions, take Charter Communications as your lawfully contracted telecommunications service provider?” The officiant is just as much a participant in the marriage ceremony as the couple–because the officiant represents society’s part in the contract.

          Applying MisterXRoboto’s standards of assent and consideration, this is easy to see: society has rules about who can an who cannot get married (albeit, not always good rules). Those rules are a framework of assent. As far as consideration goes, society grants married couples all sorts of legal and social privileges, in exchange for the stability that marriage provides to not only the married couple, but to the rest of society.Report

      • Avatar misterxroboto says:

        I’m not convinced that society is a party to the contract in a special way more than other contracts. The Justice of the Peace/clergyman acts effectively as a Notary, rather than party to the contract.

        I will admit that by its nature, a contract is a social function–it’s an agreement the law will enforce. The courts, as an organ of social government, become involved. Even if it’s only for arbitration, they still get involved in the process.Report

        • Avatar Alan Scott says:

          But a notary is a witness to the contract. Contrast that with marriage, which requires witnesses despite the presence of the officiant.

          Married couples are recipients of a host of legal privileges and responsibilities, many of which can be obtained no other way. When married couples receive tax breaks, that’s obviously not the government merely enforcing a contract. You and I might enter into a contract such that when I commit a crime, you refuse to testify against me–but the existence of such a contract won’t stop the court from compelling you to testify. When a court extends that privilege to married couples, they’re doing more than arbitrating an agreement.Report

    • Avatar Trumwill says:

      What Alan said. Additionally, I would add that also that there is a utilitarian value to the implied permanence of the “contract.” It encourages sacrifice for the long-term sake of the couple. If a man views marriage as something to be gotten out of when it can no longer be justified on a utilitarian level, then the man is perfectly justified to allow the woman to work to pay for his college and then dump her as soon as he has his degree and increased vocational marketability. Therefore, the woman wouldn’t do that. Nor would she take extended maternity leave to take care of their children. There would be no reason to make the career sacrifices because it only increases the leverage of the other party. The utilitarian score is constantly changing. Part of the point of marriage is the assurance that the other person is going to stick around even if the scorekeeping suggests at any given moment that perhaps he might be happier with a woman twenty years younger or she with a man ten million dollars richer. Or whatever criteria.Report

      • Avatar Rufus F. says:

        My therapist wife often mentions a school of social work that sees the average marital relationship as being akin to a parent/child relationship in its level of emotional involvement/dependency. This is why, they reckon, spouses can cause each other such distress by failing to meet their partner’s emotional needs. I think this is why it’s as hard for me to imagine marriage in strictly contractual terms as it would be to imagine a parent and child breaking their contract due to lack of happiness although of course that happens too.Report

        • Avatar mark boggs says:

          Although I am still married, we have been separated on two occasions. During the first of those occasions, when I thought it was indeed over, I was out testing the waters and had an exceptional and brilliant woman put it to me this way in regards to the problem with many relationships: She put her beer bottle down in front of me and said, “Here. This is my happiness. Don’t fuck it up.” I’m sure I will never forget this explanation of some relationships and why they are so often contentious and difficult.

          I always thought my marriage was forever; it was just a given. After the last two years, I obviously have a different view of it and would caution that, no matter how you feel about the permanence of marriage, it only takes one of you to break the contract, and with it the nice little picture of permanence. As long as you’re both on the same page, everything should work. Knowing that one of you is no longer on the same page is a bit harder to divine simply because, with the idea of permanence, no one expects the other person to just walk into the room one day and say, “I want a divorce.”

          Not to be the canary in the coalmine or anything…Report

          • Avatar Rufus F. says:

            Mark, I think my post will probably go in this direction, so I’m not disagreeing. But, for us, it wasn’t exactly that we were shocked to find marriage is not always permanent. I think we were more shocked to find out how bad it can get and how there are times in which you really do have to choose to either stay married or split up and wonder if you made the right choice.

            We never separated, but there was a time when maybe we would have if we were both citizens of the country and/or I had somewhere to go. It was pretty rough, and what was crazy for me was that older relatives, when I told them what was going on, all of them said something like “Oh, yeah, we went through something like that too. I pretty much wanted to leave him I was so miserable”. I mean, people will tell you when you’re engaged that “marriage is a lot of work”, but that doesn’t really cover the half of it. Sometimes it really sucks. The only thing I can say for us is that I’m not even 100% sure why we stayed together, but I’m really glad we did.

            So, it’s not exactly the impermance that I wish people knew about when they were engaged, but just how painful marriage can be, for every couple, and that going through those periods in your marriage doesn’t make you an outlier or ‘unsuccessful’.Report

          • Avatar Trumwill says:

            I don’t disagree. It’s worth noting that this is something you should keep in mind when you marry someone.

            A personal anecdote, in the weeks leading up to my marriage, the ex-girlfriend (E) who crushed my heart a year before came out of the wordwork and tried to get me to abort my pending nuptials (with C) so that I could reconcile with her. There was, needless to say, a lot going through my mind. One of the deciding factors is that E’s views of marriage were slightly more transient. On the other hand, I knew that C would absolutely fight to save her marriage. So, even though I dated E off-and-on for two years and I’d known C less than six months (whirlwind romance does not begin to describe it), I chose the latter*.

            And it was that faith, confirmed over a rocky first couple of years, that had me making sacrifices and compromises I am not sure I would have made for all that many other people for fear of where it would have left me in the event of a divorce. I don’t *think* that E would have just walked in and said “I want a divorce,” but I knew it wasn’t nearly as much outside the realm of possibility as with C.

            Seven years later, and after a pretty rocky start, my intuition was right. If one of us were to end it, it wouldn’t be her. In some ways, it’s a burden to be worthy of that.

            * – Obviously, there were a number of factors to consider. But the two were different in so many ways it was really, really difficult to compare them. In many ways I was more likeminded with E, but I was more compatible with C is a few, fundamental ways and this was one of them.Report

            • Avatar mark boggs says:

              I guess the big thing almost getting divorced taught me was that, if you aren’t alright by yourself, you’re probably not going to be alright with somebody else. In other words, so much of who we are in a marriage starts to be defined by that thing that we almost fail to exist when looked at from any other perpective.

              Having two kids, I was a father and a husband. I had a family. When the split happened, I had no idea who I was then or who I was supposed to be simply because so much of who I saw myself as was defined inside the confines of my marriage. I think that can be extremely dangerous.

              Ironically, the counselor I went to for some serious help was a big believer that two people need to be so emotionally bonded that they are always running to each other for support and affirmation rather than ever working outside that bond. He put it in the same category as a parent-child relationship. I disagreed with him on that simply because the risk in that type of relationship is huge.

              My outlook now is quite strange and one I could hardly define with any kind of specificity regarding marriage. It’s sort of a day to day thing. Now that the idea of some idealistic perpituity has been shattered and I’ve realized that one person can break a marriage, I’ve done my best to commit to this contract every single day with no more hope for a tomorrow than is warranted. I suppose that sounds depressing, but it’s what works right now.Report

        • Avatar Will H. says:

          Family supercedes contracts.
          Anyway, contracts require mutual consideration, and you don’t always get that from family.
          My mom still thinks I’m 8 years old. (I’m not)Report

    • Avatar Sam MacDonald says:

      The examples offered here are interesting but don’t cover, I think, the majority of divorce cases. For instance, with regard to the case of watering, the extra rain was not the fault of either party. Also, I can envision a court dictating that I continue paying the monthly fee, even if I tell the company not to do the watering. This is how insurance works, right? I contract with a company to pay my medical bills for a year. At the end of the year, I don’t have any bills. But i still pay.

      Let’s build a more likely case: Two people get married and make a contract with regard to fidelity. At the two year mark, a tart at the office of the husband makes a different sort of offer.

      Suddenly, the contract he made with his wife has made him worse off in a significant way; it prevents him from having sex with the tart. Should he be permitted to dissolve his contract because of that fact? Well, no. That’s what a contract is FOR.

      If my company signs a contract with a landscaping firm to mow the grass for $1,000 a month, thats what I want them to do. Even if, two months into the contract, another company offers them $1,200 a month to mow THEIR grass. The contract with me is costing them $200 a month. They are clearly worse off. But jurisprudence dictates that they keep mowing my grass for the agreed fee for the course of the contract.

      On occasion, a court might view the actions of one party in a marriage as a breach of the contract and make it void. (Punches to the face, infidelity, etc.) But courts generally make it clear that there has been a breach and dictate terms of separation accordingly. But “I got a better offer” is generally not a good enough reason to let somebody off the hook.Report

      • Avatar misterxroboto says:

        I admit to neglecting the forms of repayment, only addressing reasons for breach. Allow me to do my best to bring this full circle.

        One of the troubling things about working in retirement plans is divorce proceedings can be especially ugly. As always, when there’s an offending party for contracts, the one breaching must make the other party whole: indifferent between the contract being breached but receiving compensation vs. having the contract fully executed.

        The way it works in retirement plans is through a court order, a participant must pay a lump sum to his former spouse. The courts figure out what a fair dollar amount would be, the former couple are deemed to be equal.

        In general, courts try to avoid forcing people into actions, preferring damages to be paid. I argue that marriage should be afforded the same treatment. Again, this doesn’t remove the moral responsibility of whether you’re a good or bad person for going after the office hottie. It’s what the other person deserves for your wretchedness (or in some cases, mere incompatibility).Report

    • Avatar ThatPirateGuy says:

      I have to come out in favor of divorce for a few reasons.

      1) As a product of my dads 2nd marriage I theoretically wouldn’t exist without it.
      2) I still have my mom, I have lost two step-mothers to illness. It was better when my parents got divorced than when those two “successful” marriages reached their conclusion.
      3) I’ll never be able to marry my girlfriend if she can’t get divorced. Currently she and here ex are only together in the legal since and they were that way for almost a year before we met. We will have been together for three years this February. He has moved on too but health-insurance and other concerns have kept the knot loosely tied.

      I have seen divorce shatter my mother but it is better than the fights they would have(verbal only). She has always been rather delicate.Report

    • Avatar Simon K says:

      I can imagine a world where this was true, and where marriage really did work like a contract, but I don’t believe we live in that world, and that world would be notably poorer.

      The basic problem we face with this an many things is that we’re not very good at discounting the future. Our brains are wired for an extremely uncertain world where the future is almost completely unpredictable, so given a choice between present and future satisfactions we almost always choose the present. Future events have to loom very large to impact out present decision making. In business and financial transactions we have a device to control this tendency – its called accounting. We can apply a fixed discount rate to likely future income, and compare that against alternatives, and make decisions, thus controlling for our inbuilt tendency towards incorrect decision making. We can rationally decide to break a business contract because the discounted cost of doing so is less than the discounted benefit under what we consider the most likely scenarios.

      You cannot apply this kind of reasoning to your marriage, because its too tied up with your own evolution as a person. What you will want in a year’s time or 20 year’s time will be different in a world where you get married or stay married to a particular person, versus one where you stay single, or get divorced, or marry someone else. You’re making a decision as to which person to be, and therefore what things you will value at in the future, rather than merely a decision as to which things you value to pursue. We just don’t have any calculus for making those sorts of decisions – all we can do is look to stories and to examples to emulate to see what sort of person it is likely to be better to choose to be. But even then our will-power can fail us – we may not want to be the kind of person with three divorces under their belts, but in the instant, preferring the present over the unknowable future, we may not see an alternative.

      This is why, although I don’t favour making divorce difficult exactly, I also don’t think it should be a neutral option, like deciding to buy a different brand of cookies. It should be seen as a failure. While its absolutely okay to fail at things – businesses, scrap-booking, marriages, Parchese, its always better to try and fail than never to try – it is nonetheless not neutral.Report

  14. Avatar bearing says:

    Congratulations! I am usually a lurker, but I had to post on this one.

    To put it bluntly, you sound a lot like me thirteen years ago (I’ve been married twelve years this month) — only more confident. Thirteen years ago I was in graduate school and not at all sure what was going to happen to me if I went ahead and Walked the Walk I’d been talking for some time when it comes to marriage.

    Short answer: got married, had two babies while in grad school, husband and I both went part time to care for them; finished PhD and the day after that became a SAHM. Now I have four children ages 10, 7, 4, and 11-months. I homeschool, which has turned out to be a vastly interesting “job.” I have a life that is packed full of rich relationships, which is nothing at all like the life I imagined I’d have. I’m grateful every day.

    If I could give one piece of advice to a bright young bride contemplating her future life as a wife and mother, especially an at-home mother (and it appears I can): Make some good friends, one or two or three, from among your peers who are also diving wholeheartedly into life lived fully with their own children. Spend a lot of time with these friends — not just grabbing coffee dates and girls’ nights out, but bringing your families together (a lot) and helping each other out with the day-to-day, getting to know each others’ kids and routines, and really stepping in for each other when you need an emergency babysitter, or someone to teach your kid Spanish, or whatever. Full-time mothering can be a great life and an exceedingly rewarding one, but I hear a lot of loneliness coming from women who haven’t made the kind of connections that I have been blessed with.

    If you already view your life as a mother of children as a serious, life-changing commitment rather than a temporary aberration to end when they start kindergarten, you’re well on your way to putting together the kind of support you will need to thrive in that new life when it comes.Report

  15. Congrats Lisa!

    I’m going to join others in offering my two cents on a successful mariage. If my wife and I had one message we could give to all other married (or about to be married) couples it is to have a life outside of your marriage. Have lots of hobbies, interests, etc that have nothing to do with your spouse. Have friends that you can spend time with without spouses around.

    I hunt – a LOT. I’m probably gone 5-6 hours every weekend (some weekends more). Rather than hating that I go my wife loves that she can barricade herself in our room and read a book in quiet for a few hours (our kids are older so they don’t bother her). We also see movies by ourselves occassionally, give each other time alone in the home office, run errands, whatever.

    My wife and I are also blessed with a large group of couple friends. About 4 years ago we all organized once-a-month guys’ nights and girls’ nights. You would not believe how good they are for everyone and they often make for hilarious stories when all the couples are together.

    The point of all this ‘alone’ time is that when we are together we really, really appreciate each other’s company. I hunted all day this past Saturday and barely saw my wife. Yesterday I stayed home and we spent the day doing some projects together, finishing up christmas shopping and having a relaxing Sunday. We went to bed last night not weary of each other’s company but satisfied with a happy marriage.

    My only note on kids for this comment is to make sure they are independent. We have one independent kid and one clingy one. Clingy is never, never, never good and unfortunately i see far too many mothers (and fathers) who are raising kids that can’t wipe their nose without asking for assistance.Report

    • Avatar Trumwill says:

      I think this is something that varies form couple to couple. My wife and I are both people that need alone time. I know others that start getting neurotic and insecure if left alone too long. This is one of those things where you definitely want to make sure that you’re on the same wavelength before you get married.

      I wish I hunted. I live in a part of the country where people travel from all over to kill animals in (and out of) the snow. Some people move here specifically for the hunting and fishing. We don’t have a Walmart in town, but we have two gunshops. The local animal shelter actually divides pets into companion vs herding vs hunting.Report

    • Avatar Lisa Kramer says:

      Thanks Mike. I like alone time a lot too. Works out well because I’m something of a natural homebody while my fiance loves to go out. Gives us each our space.Report

  16. I don’t have time to comment more, but many congratulations to you, and thank you for this particularly lovely post!Report

  17. Avatar t1 says:

    “Should a married person who comes to acknowledge they’re homosexual be forced to stay with their spouse (of the opposite sex in this scenario)? Honestly, I do think it’s the honorable thing to do…”


    • Avatar ThatPirateGuy says:

      Charitabely I assumed it was a typo or something. If Lisa has the time I would like to hear her clarify this part.Report

    • I think it’s a logical statement (although maybe not often practical). We’ve already removed the potential for procreation as a factor for marriage. Does sex even remain a critical element? For many married couples it’s a seldom occurence anyway. Beyond that, couldn’t a gay man and a straight woman love each other just as strongly as many hetero couples? I think that friendshipand loyalty are much more endearing qualities of a successful marriage than lust.Report

      • Avatar mark boggs says:

        Would the couple maintain the ruse for the benefit of the children while satifying more base desires on their own time and in private? It seems rather penal to tell two people that, even though they have no physical attraction to each other and hence, the emotional component may not be particularly solid (especially once one of the two comes out and the other may feel somewhat betrayed), that they should not seek out a satisfying emotional and physical relationship, simply because a bunch of people or society thinks it is dishonorable. I’d say if the two parties are OK with it, how could it be dishonorable?Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          You sound like a libertarian.

          You have to understand that we, as a society, have to make sacrifices that sometimes infringe on our so-called “liberties” for the sake of everybody.

          Sure, you could act like a petulant child and scream “I, me, mine” when it comes to something that arguably belongs to all of us (after all, we created the medium for you to express yourself in the first place) but if you really wanted to do whatever you wanted without thoughts of what you owe society, may I suggest Somalia?Report

          • Avatar mark boggs says:


            You’ll have to pardon me for not knowing just how much sarcasm you’re prone to and how much is being emitted here.

            I get the Somalia reference in terms of governmental non-interference, but I’m not sure how you mean your remark.

            You show me your clarification and I’ll show you mine?Report

            • Avatar Mike Farmer says:

              It’s the standard argument against libertarian positions — we must sacrifice for the common good and go to Somalia if we don’t like it.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              Sorry. I suppose I take some getting used to.

              I was more going for a meta-point regarding the individual and his or her responsibilities to society as a whole.

              Folks who argue for such things as more social safety nets and more public services for the sake of, among others, “the children” tend to be surprisingly hesitant to discuss the responsibilities of the individual when it comes to life-partner relationships.

              Of course, those who argue against such things as social safety nets (welfare queens!) and mock the constant, interminable, appeals to, among others, “the children” suddenly discover the importance of government regulation when it comes to life-partner relationships.

              And I, personally, get a kick out of using “we, as a society” in any given argument where I see a very strong case for a Right to Privacy (which is damn near everywhere). You gave me an opportunity to do just that.

              (I would be interested in reading from progressives why the argument over divorce, say, is *NOT* one that legitimately has “we, as a society” responsibilities thrust upon us, as a society though.)Report

              • Avatar mark boggs says:

                Obviously, there should be some concern about the welfare of children who, through no fault of their own, end up at the whims of what happens when two people decide to split. But any farther than that, e.g. if two people with no kids get divorced, I’m not sure why that becomes any business of society or government (other than the dissolution thereof) at all.

                In my own limited experience (that is, of a guy who was well on his way to being divorced and having to sort out the problems of mortgages and two children) it really struck me that, no matter how bad the parents hate each other, it is in their best interest as well as the children’s best interest not to act like dicks and to operate in good faith with the other as well as maybe even sacrifice something in the quest to make this peace more easily attained. Fortunately, my wife felt the same way, despite our differences. And we’re still married as it is, pretty happily, I guess, but it made for a good test run and helped all involved understand how best it would work if it should get there in the future.

                Or maybe I’ll just move to Somalia and be done with my responsibilities to you and Mr. Farmer. : )Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                Why not just send the kids to an orphanage and let liberals take care of them?
                After all, it’s just a contract, right? Same as an option to purchase.
                Default, and send everyone packing.Report

              • Avatar mark boggs says:

                Quit being a dick, Will H.Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                I am what I am.Report

        • I should clarify that when I advanced the hypothetical that a heterosexual couple could stay married even if one of the parties came out of the closet – I didn’t mean to imply that divorce shouldn’t be allowed and they should just deal with this situation. I’m just asking why they couldn’t make it work now that we as a society have mostly accepted the premise that marriages are based on love, not sex.Report

          • Avatar Will H. says:

            In a lot of places, that’s the way it’s done.
            If you substitute impotence/frigidity, then the emphasis on sexuality within the marriage seems a bit petty, doesn’t it?Report

            • I agree – I have more than one friend who sadly, loves his wife madly but their sex life is on life support. It doesn’t seem to be a high priority with Generation X if my circle of friends is a good sample population. In the long run I believe it’s important but certainly not a vital part of all marriages. If there is one thing the SSM movement should be teaching us it’s that we should be re-evaluating ALL of our assumptions about modern marriages.Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                If there is one thing the SSM movement should be teaching us it’s that we should be re-evaluating ALL of our assumptions about modern marriages.

                That was my thinking too, Mike.
                The fact that we don’t seem to be valuing marriage among us as a society kind of clues me in that we might be going about things in the wrong way.
                Our society should be elevated by such a dialogue, but what I see is some of the worst elements coming out.Report

              • Avatar Johanna Hanley says:

                Congrats Lisa from another newbie. If anything, the SSM movement emphasizes and elevates the value of marriage in society. They wouldn’t be fighting for it if it wasn’t. When I see my SS friends desire in partaking in all of the benefits of what a successful marriage offers, I can only support them. They should be held as the example of what many heterosexuals have been taking for granted in society. If only marriage in general was seen as valuable to us who have always been able to partake, maybe there would be more folks willing to put in the effort it takes for a successful marriage and understand why SS couples desire to have what we have. Maybe it is those of us with positive marital experiences that really get why SS couples should be allowed and supported to make a similar life choice.Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                Maybe if you take a shiny happy people view to the most general of terms it does, but what I really see is everything but a validation of marriage in our society.
                Even here in a thread dealing specifically with marriage still marriage is being discussed in terms of being a contract without any other significance than any other contract.
                So the gay rights movement loves them some litigation so-o-o-o-o-o much that now they can only see marriage in terms of a contract.
                I still don’t see any positive overall effect.Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. says:

                When we were engaged to be married, I’ve got to say that the cynical things we heard about marriage (“Ah, if doesn’t work out, you can just get divorced”, etc) came from the straights we knew and the idealistic, romantic stuff (we wanted to hear) came from the gay couples we knew who were just then on the cusp of same sex marriage in Canada. It was probably the novelty of it all, but having that optimism about love and marriage was a shot in the arm for us.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

                Marriage is many things. For the state, it is a lot like contract (though not entirely so, as many aspects of marriage aren’t obtainable by any form of contract).

                For your church, your family, and your community, it is everything else that you want it to be. I don’t imagine you want the state dictating these things to you. Or do you?

                Also, you’d have to have a heart of stone to read Lisa’s post and think, “Oh, she’s weighing some questions in contract law.”Report

              • Avatar Johanna Hanley says:

                No I take the view as someone who has actually been married for almost 20 years and not some pollyannish ideal of marriage. SS partners are not promoting the “contract” idea. The post above is by someone who admittedly has a different approach to marriage and is throwing ideas out for consideration. How does that equate to the SS idea of marriage? Simply put, they want equal access to what we have and if that requires litigation, all the power to them! Whether they want a “contract” style marriage or a “traditional” marriage (as seems to be the case with most SS couple I know) doesn’t make a lick of difference (no pun intended). The fact is they highly value marriage and are willing to fight for it, and that seems to be something worthy of praise from someone who is actually married and values marriage.Report

              • Avatar Johanna Hanley says:

                The post above was not in reference to Jason’s comments. I think he and I look very similarly on marriage. He just beat me in response to you. It was misterxroboto’s comment. I will also add that all of the SS couples I have known personally that were lucky enough to adopt or have children via non-traditional methods are great example of devotion and dedication to the notion of family.Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                I wasn’t referring to the post, but to the thread.
                More than anything else, marriage is a framework that is fairly flexible, and that’s why it has withstood the strains of time.
                I see commitment as an indispensable element.

                Now, I’ve been wiping my ass for many, many years, and I’m still not a proctologist.
                Your arguments stand by their own merit, and not by the merit of your credentials.
                We’ve already seen how that works out when the assertion of credentials outweighs consideration of the argument.
                Although I understand completely, it was sort of embarrassing to watch.Report

              • Avatar Johanna Hanley says:

                Really Will? Now you are just being a jerk. The thread said nothing about SS partners considering marriage as a contract alone. I also saw on this thread how the idea of marriage as merely a contract was quickly disputed. I merely used my personal experience as an illustration to refute your assertion that I was only promoting the “shiny happy view” of marriage . Yes, it is that experience which helps me see why someone might desire marriage. How that equates to your ass wiping analogy is what is truly embarrassing – for you. You simply can’t convince me how the idea of marriage is damaged by people who truly desire it enough to fight for it – which leads me to a suggestion to Lisa. If you get the opportunity, look at other successful marriages and families (particularly SSM) since against societal pressure, ignorance, and support couples who have success in their marriages and in raising children are definitely likely to have words of wisdom you could use.Report

              • Avatar Lisa Kramer says:

                Agreed. I’m always cautious about the kind of pro-SSM argument that says that the institution of marriage is always changing anyway, so this is just the natural evolution. Marriage as an institution has, even with some changes, been remarkably stable. When it’s framed as an ever-changing institution, it’s no wonder people start making silly comparisons (Santorum).

                But most same-sex couples who want to marry don’t want to change the institution; they just want a chance to be a part of the same thing that their heterosexual friends – as you point out – take for granted. To the extent that traditional marriage is in trouble today, it’s because of people who don’t take fidelity and commitment seriously, who only see in marriage what they can get out of it; not those who are ready to honor a marriage but have been excluded based on sexuality.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Lisa, I couldn’t agree more with your last paragraph there. Those who ask “why do gay people want marriage,” should ask themselves, “why do straight people want marriage?” The answers are identical. By the same coin, those who try to minimize the importance of marriage to gay people are minimizing the importance of marriage to straight people, too.Report

              • Avatar mark boggs says:

                I’d be tremendously interested in seeing the results of some kind of study about views on marriage where the views of those in your shoes (first time marriage) are compared with those who have been married for a long period and also compared to those who have been divorced, remarried, etc.

                I can’t help but think that getting a divorce doesn’t somehow change a person’s view of marriage in that idyllic “forever” sense. Or do you suppose they go into the next one thinking, this is the one that lasts forever?Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                That would be true if we arrived in this point in time without having gone through the rest of history.
                And I think of this with claims of, “What of me & my same-sex partner of 30+ years?”
                Well, 30+ years ago, there was no reasonable expectation of marriage among same-sex couples.
                So it’s not the same.
                We are arriving at a point of equilibrium, but we did not begin there.
                The movement toward equilibrium and the movement that maintains equilibrium are not the same.
                They will, at some time, arrive at the same point, but they did not begin at the same point.
                When plotting out a course of progression, this is an important consideration.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Will H..

                I’m sorry, but that comment is completely devoid of logic. Just because there was no expectation of same-sex marriage 30 years ago doesn’t mean gay people don’t have the same goals, hopes, and dreams as the rest of us.

                I’ll stop there, as your increasingly nonsensical arguments about SSM are difficult to respond to politely.Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                I’m not trying to shape a perfect world out of nothing.
                This is where we’re at, and these are the tools we have to use.

                It’s no surprise that world-creators are at odds with those with a sense of history.

                If you feel your point might be better made through impoliteness, feel free.
                I’m not inclined to view the loss of dignity in others as a fault within myself.Report

      • Avatar ThatPirateGuy says:

        Given that marriage norms frown on adultery it seems as though one partner has just unilaterally ended the other persons sex life. That is usually and in my opinion should be grounds for divorce.Report

        • Pirateguy, You’re assuming that sex (or a lack thereof) is a deal breaker for every couple.Report

          • Avatar ThatPirateGuy says:

            No I made a different yet wrong assumption, which was that the sentence we were discussing was indicating that the couple should be pressured or forced to stay together.

            Still wrong, but in a different way.Report

            • Avatar Rufus F. says:

              I wouldn’t feel bad- that sentence could go either way. My first thought was, “Is Lisa saying it’s honorable to stay married or to force people to stay married?” But I’m really certain she means the first one.Report

              • Avatar Lisa Kramer says:

                Bingo. I think it’s honorable for the unfulfilled partner to think first about the person they took vows with before thinking about themselves. I’m not talking about anybody being forced to stay together, although I suppose you could say in terms of pressure, that I’m not opposed to going back to a time when there was at least moderate social pressure to make a marriage last. In other words, I’m not a big fan of divorce parties.Report

    • Avatar Lisa Kramer says:

      If a married woman loses her attraction to her husband and falls in love with another man she is still (in my opinion) bound to her husband and unable to act on her love for the other man. Same type of thing if one spouse becomes paralyzed or something. There are all kinds of situations that can happen in a marriage that might leave one spouse unfulfilled. But the duty to spouse supersedes individual happiness.

      Incidentally, I believe the same thing in the reverse scenario: if one partner in a same-sex marriage comes to acknowledge that they’re heterosexual, their duty to the person they took vows with is more important than their personal happiness. This is especially true in either scenario if children are involved.Report

      • This is a brilliant reply Lisa.Report

      • Avatar ThatPirateGuy says:

        Especially for the situation with no children why is she so bound? Whose life does it improve that she stay with the man that she no longer loves?

        Beth and I both agree that should we become paralyzed or something that the other should be able to find someone else on the side. We both want to be taken care of but we don’t see a reason for both of us to lose that part of our lives if it isn’t necessary.Report

        • If you’re completely miserable and the marriage has died, then fine, move on. If you’ve fallen for someone else, is it permanent? It’s quite possible to fall in love with someone and not have to act on it. Also, couldn’t you fall out of love with that person at some point in the future in the same way you (apparently) fell out of love with your spouse? I’ve fallen in and out of love with my wife dozens of times but I never stopped loving her. The second form of love is what lasts.

          As for your potential paralization arangement. I can only assume that you and Beth must really like to get down.Report

          • Avatar ThatPirateGuy says:

            I’ll just ask you to consider a 30 year old spending the next 30 years with no sex and imagine how happy they would be especially if it wasn’t something they chose.Report

            • Plenty of married couples are close to that arrangement now. And my understanding is that paralyzed people can still have sex.Report

              • Avatar ThatPirateGuy says:

                Your first sentence is something that should horrify you. At the very least there should be a very good explanation for why that state of affairs isn’t changing

                As to the second one I believe that you are correct, I was taking the term as shorthand for unable to have sex. Thanks for the civility in the face of someone who was quiet clearly very upset. Bucky’s comment was way out of line.Report

              • It does horrify me – I think it’s a weird generational thing. I know a LOT of guys in their mid-thirties who are unhappy in that area…but, they also aren’t cheating on their wives so maybe sex isn’t a deal-breaker?

                Even if unable to have sex though, is it worth the potential psychological harm done to the injured spouse? You’ve got to be a special kind of person to allow that with no jealousy. Also, what if this ‘arrangement’ results in you falling for your surrogate? Does that justify a divorce?Report

              • Avatar ThatPirateGuy says:

                These are all great questions for the couple involved(although in the second question we may be dealing with a triad at some point.)

                I’m of the opinion that I personally would rather Beth be able to get that sort of satisfaction and if I can’t provide it then I would hope she could find someone who does because in my opinion loving someone isn’t about ownership it is about wanting the best for them, wanting them to be happy as a first concern.

                “Also, what if this ‘arrangement’ results in you falling for your surrogate? Does that justify a divorce?”

                All I can say is that the other so called correct scenario of “not cheating” by getting the divorce first is much worse. The not cheating by never again having sex seems like a recipe for resentment and misery.Report

              • I think ultimately it’s a private question. I can’t imagine too many couples going the route you described. I had a friend whose wife had cancer. I know they weren’t sleeping together for at least he last year of her life. To be honest he was far too exhausted with her care to even think of cheating (were she to condone it or not). To not completely minimize the sexual needs of adults – about a year after his wife died he started dating again and went a bit crazy chasing tail.Report

              • Avatar ThatPirateGuy says:

                That is very similar to my position Mike.

                And I want to be clear that I am not talking about dry spells due to illness of a year. I suspect more couples go the route than we know because they know the reaction that would occur if it became known.

                For example imagine that Elizabeth Edwards knew about what John was doing and had given her blessing prior too the events. most would still condemn him. As it is I suspect that she did not but I have no knowledge. People think that non-monogamy always leads to horrible break-ups because they only hear about the couples where it blew up. The successful couples tend to keep it a secret.Report

      • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

        Hi bucky. We have a commenting policy. Please abide by it. Thanks.Report

      • Avatar Trumwill says:

        So… it’s only possible to be confused about one’s sexual orientation in a single direction? It’s not possible that someone that is gay or bisexual decides that they want to give heterosexuality a chance?

        Better to keep the world simple and just mock people.

        In any event, I am quite glad that these sorts of comments are not common on TLOOG. One of the reasons I come here with regularity.Report

        • The fact that I laughed when I read that instead of going into Incredible Hulk mode must mean I am officially a grownup. Since this is one of the only blogs I comment at I sort of forgot people behave like that out on the internet. It almost seems kind of retro – soooo 2005.Report

          • Avatar Rufus F. says:

            Okay, I’ve had a question about the commenting policy as of late and I was planning to email Erik about this; but, hey, let’s be transparent here. I’m personally not fond of banning people and we almost never do it. [And, really, I’m getting sick of reading elsewhere and having to correct the claim that we “banned” Barrett because, no, I don’t think we did.]

            But what about removing comments? I’ve removed some of mine in the past that people emailed us about and it’s pretty easy and painless. Would it be terribly censorious if, on occasion, we removed a comment and left a note like, “Hey, you can state that same idea without violating our comment policy, right?” It’s a bit tougher than simply reminding them in the comments, but it’s also nicer than banning them, and 9 times out of 10 they appologize a few comments later anyway for having gotten carried away.

            So what do people think? (League Board of Censors, Commandante Rufus)Report

            • Rufus – my policy at my blog is to remove the offensive remark and put a note that says:

              [edited by blog owner for language]

              I try to leave up the comment and just delete out the bad parts. I’ve only had to kill a whole comment once because it was completely over-the-top (sort of like Bucky’s flame bait above).Report

            • Avatar Simon K says:

              Removing comments is fine, as long as you leave a note saying the comment was removed. I think its better to just remove the offensive parts, but some comments are irredeemable. I quite liked the Obsidian Wings policy where they used to remove the vowels from offensive comments (disemvoweling) – its makes the commenter look silly, thus removing most of the potential for offense, but leaves any ongoing thread intact. They may still do this, but I haven’t seen many disagreements over there of late, partly because I don’t visit as often as I did.Report

              • Avatar Trumwill says:

                If you disemvowel, I think you have to leave a note saying that you did so. You should never change anyone’s words (particularly making them look silly/stupid) without acknowledging such.

                Deleting is fine as long as there aren’t responses to the deleted comment. If there are, you should simply replace the body of the comment (or the offensive portion) with a “Here lies a comment that ran afoul of our commenting policy” note attached. then people will know why there are these responses to someone that never commented.Report

      • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

        If a married woman loses her attraction to her husband and falls in love with another man she is still (in my opinion) bound to her husband and unable to act on her love for the other man. Same type of thing if one spouse becomes paralyzed or something. There are all kinds of situations that can happen in a marriage that might leave one spouse unfulfilled. But the duty to spouse supersedes individual happiness.

        Okay, here’s a question for you all. If I were paralyzed and unable to have sex, why shouldn’t I allow my spouse perhaps to have another sex partner? Have you heard of sexual surrogates? Why not have one, and allow the marriage to continue? If lack of sexual fulfillment were the only thing driving him away, why not give him what he wants — and then we can stay together?

        (N.b., I am well aware that this is contrary to all received tradition, and that arguments from tradition reject it out of hand. I’m looking for arguments that might supplement or justify tradition here. Are there any?)Report

        • Avatar Kyle Cupp says:

          Vows to remain faithful in sickness and in health?Report

          • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

            Define faithful. Our definitions might not coincide.

            Also, for couples who took non-traditional vows, this might not even be a question.Report

            • Avatar Kyle Cupp says:

              True, much would depend on the meaning of the vows taken, but vows that include the promise to remain sexually faithful (i.e., no other partners) would serve as a reason not to go the route of sexual surrogates.Report

        • My wife and I discussed this last night and we both agreed we could never agree to that. The jealousy would be unbearable, the feelings of being inadequate, etc. My feelings is that I would rather be celibate than be with another woman, no matter what the condition of my wife is. My feeling is that if you need some kind of release that badly, go jerk off.

          My wife also asked the following questions:

          – What if you fall in love with the surrogate?
          – What if the surrogate gets pregnant (in heterosexual situations)?
          – What if the arrangement is temporary and you contract an incurable STD?

          I’m sure there are plenty of people who could do this with no guilt but my guess is that the vast majority of adults could not.Report

          • Avatar Johanna says:

            Mike, I think the real point is that you and your wife share the same values when it comes to this issue. I believe it is more a mutual understanding of self and your expectations in your own marriage. I would agree that in my own relationship, the introduction of a surrogate is not acceptable for similar reasons, however I can’t say that in other cases it wouldn’t as long as both parties in the marriage agree. What one expects in their own marriage will really only work if his/her partner is on board. Marriage is a constant negotiation of all sorts of things and sex is really just one of many. I think Jason hits a good point. Is having a mutually agreed upon sexual surrogate or any agreed upon outside sexual encounters considered being unfaithful? I think that it isn’t necessarily so although I know I admittedly couldn’t agree to that sort of situation myself.Report

            • I wonder how many couples have split up because they thought they could handle an ‘open marriage’ and later found out they couldn’t? The biggest problem I see is that you can’t un-ring that bell.Report

              • Avatar ThatPirateGuy says:

                Probably somewhere in the same ball park as couples that didn’t try it, percentage wise.

                Monogamy isn’t something that comes natural to us. If it were then why do so many people who claim to value it keep screwing it up? Note that I am in fact monogamous and a lot of that has to do with the fact that I know how jealous my Beth would get.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                The problem with the “open marriage” model is that everybody knows that they, themselves, could have a fling, or a second relationship, or a mistress, or a mistertress, and still love the original partner just as much as the day before.

                The problem comes because nobody (proverbially nobody, I know that *YOU* can) believes that their significant other can do so. They always worry that the other will run off with the secondary… or, in the case of flings, will catch a virus or something.

                It’s easy to understand why oneself could do something harmless.
                It’s much harder to understand how someone who claimed to love you would betray you so casually.

                If you know what I mean.Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. says:

                Jay, it’s interesting because nearly everyone I meet seems to think that open marriages are formed because Partner A says to Partner B: “I don’t think I can do this not-sleeping-with-other-people thing. Would you be okay with me doing that?” and then Partner B says: “I… uh, guess so.” Which is maybe why it seems so selfish to them.

                With us, it was pretty much the reverse. Partner A came to Partner B and said, “Hey, look, now that we’re dating, I have to be honest- I feel weird asking you to be monogamous because, to be honest, the idea of you having sex with other people doesn’t bother me at all. Actually, much the opposite. I hope that doesn’t sound like I don’t care about you or I’m submissive or something.” Then Partner B said, “No, I get that. I feel the same way about you having sex with other people. We’ve been friends for a while and known about each other’s sex lives. Let’s just stick with that.”

                And, to be honest, I think it is easier for me because I’m really pretty arrogant about myself as a partner. The idea of someone else giving my wife an orgasm that makes her stop loving me (ME!) is just sci-fi Playboy advisor crap. Not going to happen. I’m a friggin catch. Seriously. 🙂Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I’m someone fairly monogamous (how’s *THAT* for a qualifier?) because, as someone pretty autistic, I can’t imagine having a second person in my life that I’m obliged to talk to pretty much no matter what. A second person that I’m obliged to ask about their day? A second person that I’m obliged to cook for? A second person that I’m obliged to think about in my free moments?

                Seriously, who in their right mind would sign up for that?

                I mean, Jesus, Maribou is my whole friggin’ life. I don’t have any more life for someone else to be.

                On top of that, in my youth, the periphery of my circle held a number of poly folks and, lemme tell ya, for all of the speeches about “the human heart is big enough to care for more than one person” and “it’s not about me, it’s about them”, there was so much back-stabbing, drama, jockeying for primary, secondary, tertiary, and downright unhappiness that made the unhappiness of my serially monogamous friends look like a commercial for Foundation for a Better Life that my attitude towards polyamory is that it’s similar to Objectivism. Everybody thinks they’re John Galt when, really, they’re James Taggart.

                If you know what I mean. (I’m not a fan of Rand, in any case.)

                If it works for you, it works for you, of course. More power to you.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                And, for Maribou’s sake, I’ll explain the qualifier:

                It’s not that I’m tomcatting around, but it’s more of a Jimmy Carter occasional experience of lust in my heart for another.Report

              • Avatar ThatPirateGuy says:

                The Jimmy carter definition of adultery is so lame.

                Everyone experiences that the idea that monogamy means that you will never be attracted to someone else unless you don’t really love your partner is a lie and poison. The key part of monogamy is that though you are attracted you refrain from following that up.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                It’s not Jimmy Carter’s, it’s Jesus’s.Report

              • Avatar Fish says:

                It’s still lame. As my wife said to me: “You’re married, not dead!”Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I still have vestigial guilt.Report

              • Avatar Fish says:

                That’s what the wine is for.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I can’t imagine being forced to only drink one kind of wine for the rest of my life!Report

              • ThatPirateGuy, I guess the way I would make the choice of a sex surrogate or open mariage is this: Which emotion is easier for me to control, the desire to have sex OR jealousy? In 35 years I’ve discovered the first one is much easier than the second one. Maybe some people are wired the opposite way – and more power to them.Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. says:

                Would it be less or more than split up because they thought they could handle lifelong monogamy and found out they couldn’t?Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. says:

                Okay, maybe my last comment sounds glib. Look, my belief is that the vast majority of people could not handle open marriage. They’re just not wired that way. I don’t begrude them that- I don’t think it makes them wrong or unnatural or possessive or any of the other things that ‘free love’ advocates accuse them of- I just think that’s how most people are. And, definitely, if you suspect you’re not wired that way, I’d recommend against pushing yourself into an open marriage. (I’d also recommend that, if you think you might not be straight, don’t rush into a heterosexual marriage.)

                But, in return, I’d rather not hear from them that my wife and I don’t really love each other, are not really married, have divorced in all but the paperwork, cannot go back to monogamy, are in denial of our jealousy, are selfish, need to grow up, etc. etc. etc. Because I think they know themselves on the issue and I think we know ourselves on the issue.

                My wife and I are faithful to each other- we’re madly in love and have great sex together. And that’s what I care about. If, when she’s not home, she’s also having great sex with her lover, I’m actually pretty indifferent about it, aside from thinking “good for her”. And she’s the same way with me. And, you know, we’ve been that way for seven years. Not to mention that all of our prior relationships sort of built up to the type of relationship we have now. For us, it was more about finding someone else who we could be ourselves with, rather than trying to fit ourselves into an “open marriage”. I don’t even know if we’ve ever called it that. But we’ve been at it for a while and people keep telling me that, any day now, the jealousy will kick in and drive us mad.

                Finally, I have to point out that, if you’re in an open marriage and get divorced, it really doesn’t matter why you divorced- people will say it was the open marriage. Nobody ever says a monogamous couple divorced because monogamy was wrong for them, although that’s certainly often the case.

                So, Mike, I actually totally agree with you that “the vast majority of adults could not” handle open marriage. I just think that you overestimate how many people in open marriages rushed into them.Report

              • Avatar Johanna says:

                I agree with both Mike and Rufus. On Jason’s original question regarding faithfulness, I think Rufus makes a case as to how I would define faithfulness in a marriage. It isn’t just about sex, it is much more and if a couple can handle sex outside of their marriage and are successful in keeping one another happy and fulfilled in other areas – that marriage is working. Rufus and his wife are a better example of marriage than people who don’t sleep with others but treat each another like garbage in other ways. Besides Rufus (who I have no reason to trust or distrust), I don’t know anyone who this works for, but I’m all for people making their marital relationships work to find happiness, regardless of what I find ideal in my marriage.Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. says:

                Yeah, I pretty much look at it like an orthodox Jewish marriage- that’s a marriage I could never do, it wouldn’t work for me, and I’m not going to try it. BUT… I really can’t argue with people who say it makes them happy because how the hell would I know? With a marriage like ours, LOTS of people feel compelled to clairify our personal feelings to us because we’re confused about them.

                To give an example, in response to my post up there suggesting that liberals overemphasize the “happiness” in marriages as if that was all they were about, some total stranger tweets: “I imagine that happiness is even less when you’re non-monogamous”. Now the imagination really is an amazing thing, but the idea of a complete stranger, in another country, who’s never met me or my wife, creating a narrative in their mind about our level of personal happiness in comparison to monogamous couples is just completely bizarre.

                The irony, of course, is that most of our friends don’t know that about our marriage, because we have had one too many conversations like that with people about the imaginary couples they’ve dreamed up, so we keep our mouths shut with most people. Which means that we hear all the time from those same unknowing friends that we’re the healthiest and happiest couple they know and what’s our secret? I tell them it’s all about eating well.Report

  18. Avatar Mike Farmer says:

    For some reason many liberals and conservatives think Somalia represents the actual hell of the proposed libertarian ValhallaReport

  19. Avatar E.D. Kain says:


    First of all this is a tremendously lovely post. I share quite a few of your views on taking root. My wife and I married young, started a family young, and nothing has so formed me as having children. My wife stays at home, we purposefully stay close to family. Both our sets of parents live here. Incredibly, both are still married (I say incredibly in statistical terms – though, of my mothers’ seven siblings and my father’s three siblings only one of either brood was ever divorced…). I also share your near-absolutist view of divorce, though perhaps it stems from a rather different background. Then again, I think creating a society which values commitment more is far more sustainable and meaningful than any outright ban on divorce. Perhaps the high rates we see these days are merely growing pains as society realigns.

    I’m not at all stressed about giving up a career. It’s been a long time since I viewed work (in the formalized, non-household, taxable sense) as anything other than pragmatic. Don’t get me wrong: I believe in hard work and I believe in doing good work. But work is transactional; I do my best to achieve the goals of my organization because they are paying me to do so. My identity is not in the least tied up in what I do, and I don’t take the same kind of personal pride from a job well done as I would from raising a good and close-knit family. Many, if not most, families require at least two incomes to make ends meet. We’re fortunate enough that, if we don’t expect luxuries and limit our travel to a few days at the beach each year, we will likely be able to get by with one. That’s an easy trade-off when it allows a child to have a full-time parent.

    I think this is a good ambition. I grew up around lots of ambitious people. I just don’t see the point of placing one’s hopes in one’s work. Beyond working hard and putting bread on the table, work to me is a means to an end rather than an end in and of itself.

    Have you heard of the unlearning movement by the way?Report

    • Avatar Lisa Kramer says:

      Thank you Erik.

      I’m in agreement that legally banning divorce is not the way to address the problem (although ending no-fault divorces might not be a bad step). It really requires a change in societal values and a return to community expectations about marriage and family. Easier said than done, and other than the steps I can – and will – take in my own marriage, I’m at a bit of a loss when it comes to what it would take to really tackle this problem.

      I really don’t know anything about the unlearning movement. If you have a chance, I’d love to hear about it.Report

      • I always wondered why covenant marriages got such a bad wrap as a way of addressing the number of divorces in this country. Throwing up some speed bumps on the way to a divorce doesn’t seem like a bad idea to me.Report

        • Avatar North says:

          I don’t think it has a bad rap… it’s just noone seems to actually want to do them when it’s -their- marriage in question.Report

          • Avatar Trumwill says:

            I’m still partial to having it as an option on the table. If nothing else, it can spur discussions on what marriage means to each of the participants (if you don’t want to do it, why not? Does your partner? Is there a disconnect here?). My wife and I likely would have taken that option, but in addition to the barriers towards divorce there are requirements about pre-marriage counselling and the like. The time wasn’t there and the paperwork (due in part to living 2,000 miles away from where we were married), it simply wasn’t practical. But I don’t see any problem with having the option there. Like Mike, I’m surprised that some people do. People I know mock the idea.Report

        • Avatar ThatPirateGuy says:

          I don’t understand why making it harder for people to get out of a marriage they don’t want to be in is so considered a bad idea. Divorce is painful but then so are most break-ups of serious relationships.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            I think it has something to do with the responsibility of the married folks toward society.Report

            • Avatar Mike Farmer says:

              Assuming, of course, that “society” is an actual entity with a set of values and a specific end in mind.Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                The end in mind, of course, is to force people to drink domestic beer and watch NASCAR races.
                That’s why people are so opposed to it.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Just wait, Will H.

                In a few short years, marriage will be back as the progressive cause du jour and it will be important for us, as a society, to enter into marriage with like-minded peers and create lasting bonds that can exist as examples for, among others, The Children.

                And the question to ask the unmarried will be “what kind of person are you that you haven’t been able to find someone yet?”

                Give it time.Report

        • Avatar Simon K says:

          Because it instantly acquired the patina of right-wing posturing that’s why. Rightly so.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          As I’ve said before:

          It’s easy to engage in a covenant marriage with your spouse. You just have to establish a covenant with them.Report

  20. Avatar AMW says:

    Congrats, Lisa.

    This is the first post of yours I’ve read (I’m a refugee from The One Best Way, so I guess I got here around the time you got engaged). I was struck by how closely it fits the last 9 years of my life.

    My wife and I are apparently living your dream: one income, four kids (only one of which was planned), homeschooling. It’s a life filled with growth, adventure and reward. It’s also one filled with struggle, drudgery and stress. That is, I think, one of the big reasons (lifelong) fidelity is such a valuable, if rare, commodity in marriage. Romance is a sprint, but life is a marathon.

    Hold onto your convictions.Report

  21. Avatar Kyle Cupp says:


    Excellent post and congratulations! I want to say more, but I need first to gather my thoughts about what you’ve written here.Report

  22. Avatar Matthew Schmitz says:

    A great post, Lisa. Once again, best wishes!

    Russell, thanks for citing that wonderful passage.

    Lisa, you might be interested in a distinction sometimes made in the sociological literature between marriage planners and marriage naturalists (or, more evocatively, “marriage drifters”).
    As someone who grew up in rural Nebraska but whose current community, such as it is, consists of rootless and desperately ambitious recent Ivy-League grads, I definitely think there’s something to the distinction.

    From one relevant study (http://www.transad.pop.upenn.edu/downloads/kefalasmarriagenorms.pdf):

    Regional Differences: Marriage Drifters versus Marriage Planners

    The strongest differences in young people’s expectations for marriage were by region. (See McLaughlin, Lichter, and Johnston 1993) Among the overwhelmingly urban and suburban marriage planners, marriage must compete for a young person’s time and interest. To marriage planners, marriage remains a life goal, but it is just one of many options that can command young people’s immediate attention. The portion of the sample who grew up in rural Iowa were marriage drifters who continue to view marriage as a natural outcome of relationship that has endured over a period of time, marriage planners, in contrast, were far more circumspect and deliberate about their marital plans. Strong social pressures supporting young people’s desire to wed during their early twenties still exist for the marriage drifters in rural Iowa.

    Such regional differences originate in the way metropolitan young people’s lives are filled with a complex array of activities that makes marriage just one of many things that competes for a young person’s time and interest. (Grazian 2005) There are also greater numbers of potential partners and less social pressure to view marriage as a necessary part of adulthood in diverse urban settings. While marriage remains a strong life objective, it is just one of many options that can command young people’s immediate attention in urban, suburban settings. It is possible that marriage trends among rural youth could be attributed to their lower levels of educational attainment. However, urban and suburban working- and lower-class young people were far more likely to express views consistent with marriage planners, not marriage drifters, irregardless of their educational level.

    Our framework for understanding these differences is consistent with survey data showing deep social class and regional differences in the timing of marriage. It is also bolstered by results of public opinion data showing that many adults no longer regard marriage as an event that needs to occur during the transition to adulthood. Instead, a growing number of young people and even adults in their parents and grandparents generation think of marriage as something that takes place after other transitions have occurred. This is markedly different from the way that adulthood was constructed at the middle of the last century when marriage was the mainspring of adult transitions and occurred, at least for most women and many men, at the time that they left the natal household (Furstenberg et. al. 2004, Fussell and Furstenberg 2004). The careful and meticulous testing and planning young people endure on their way to today’s marriages
    could be seen as evidence of this generation’s reverence for, not rejection of, marriage’s significance. (Edin and Kefalas 2005) In the words of a 29-year-old Minnesota woman with a bachelor’s degree and four children “The moment we got married it changed. It changed because now it was like we knew it was a serious thing, a serious commitment and to just walk away was something you should not do quickly…I pretty much believe in sticking something out.”Report

    • Avatar Lisa Kramer says:

      Hi Matthew – good to hear from you!

      Interesting stuff on the planners vs. drifters. I suppose I’m living in a part of the country where – not only are the people in my immediate area more of the “planner” outlook, but there really aren’t a lot of “drifter” communities in the vicinity.

      I had an interesting conversation a few days ago with my high-school senior niece. She and her boyfriend have been together for about a year and have what appears to be a stable and healthy relationship. A few months ago they were in the process of applying for colleges and have been trying to sort through how important it is for them to be near each other next year. So far, the advice she’s been getting from everyone (literally, everyone) has been to choose a college without regard to her relationship. Teachers share anecdotes about having followed their boyfriend/girlfriend to college, the relationship ends, and they always regret their school choice. The hierarchy of values is made clear: let nothing stand in the way of the best possible education, there is plenty of time for relationships later, etc… In other words, marriage planners.Report

      • Avatar Matthew Schmitz says:

        The advice your niece is receiving may well be the right advice, but there is a real choice to be made here. People were certainly capable of forming lasting commitments at that age in previous generations. Now days, who knows…

        And to once again make this personal: I nearly faced that same dilemma my senior year, but the girl dumped me.Report

      • Avatar Trumwill says:

        I was in a serious relationship when I graduated high school. I didn’t go to the same college as her solely because she went there, but I would be lying if I didn’t say that it was a factor. But I don’t regret it at all. I do regret spending three of my four years in college in a relationship that didn’t work out, though.

        That being said, I think choosing a college without any regard is taking it a step(or six) too far. If you’re serious, there are compromises that can be made most of the time. Colleges (or towns with more than one college) that suit both of your needs. Outside of a few career paths, there are options. If you’re in one of those career paths, or there is a particular college that you’ve wanted to go to since you were six, then maybe no compromise (or request that the other party compromise, unless they are similarly restricted).

        As with a lot of things, I think the question to ask yourself is “If I don’t go to College X (which I would if it weren’t for the partner), and things don’t work out, would I feel like a total idiot for doing so?”Report

  23. Avatar SoundsLikeVla says:

    Fantastic! Congratulations on your engagement and upcoming marriage! I can tell you, as a highly-educated woman who is now staying home with my kids and homeschooling (without the days at the beach though), that it is more wonderful, difficult, fulfilling, and outstanding than anything I’ve ever experienced, including all those adventures and goals I thought I wanted to become a person. 😉
    I wish you the same chaotic joy that I have, “stuck” in my marriage with my “unbudgeted” children.Report

  24. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    Okay, as much as it breaks my authoritarian heart, I’ll lean more towards editing than outright removal in the future and aim at hardly ever doing either.Report

  25. Avatar Uncle Ross says:

    What a wonderful post! I am proud to call you my Niece-to-be! and will be more proud to call you my Niece! Given my professional experience I can attest to your comments about families, love, marriage and divorce! That is why I am so committed to Collaborative Practice. We are changing the way the world resolves disputes!!

    Can’t wait to celebrate the big day! and many more simchas afterwards. (Although keeping track of birthdays for 7 great nephews and/or nieces may be tough!)Report

  26. Avatar ohmy says:

    Lisa: Congratulations! I hope you and your fiance have a wonderful life together.

    Today is my 15th anniversary, and I couldn’t be more thrilled, but my life doesn’t much resemble the life I thought I would have. It’s good to plan, but leave room for the fact that you may wake up one morning with, say, two children at two different ages when five months prior you had none (adoption is a wonderful thing). You may find yourself single-parenting in the Middle East while your spouse is off serving in Iraq for a year. It’s amazing what happens to you, even when you “plan for the future.” I’m not denigrating the work that goes into the organizing and planning, but just leave the door open. Actually, I think that the prioritizing and other work that goes into planning helps immensely when you look around and find yourself in the crazy life situations that will pop up.

    All the best to you…Report