November 29th, 2010

More on marriage and kids

I almost hesitate to write about this topic anymore, it unleashes such a storm of vitriol.

But here are some facts to ponder about marriage and children (from the recent Pew study I previously discussed here):

Only 64 percent [of children today] live with married parents, as compared to 87 percent in 1960.

Some 41 percent of babies are born out of wedlock (an eight-fold increase since 1960).

Today 72 percent of black babies are born out of wedlock.

These statistics chronicle the breakdown of the institution of marriage as a vehicle for child-rearing, especially in the black population but among Americans as a whole. And once broken, can the family—like Humpty Dumpty—ever be put back together again?

In practical terms, many of the motivations that used to foster marriages have almost entirely disappeared, or at least weakened. They were sexual, societal, and economic. When it was far more difficult for a man to have sex with a woman who wasn’t a prostitute, marriage provided sex. When it was far more difficult to be part of polite society when your “wife” was your mistress and your children that quaint old term known as “bastards,” marriage provided respectability and a community of like-minded acquaintances. And when women didn’t have many other economic options because the doors to most professions were closed to them, marriage provided financial support for them and whatever children they bore.

Notice I don’t say “then let’s go back to the good old days.” That’s because (a) in many ways they weren’t so good; and (b) even if we wanted to, it doesn’t work that way. You go through certain doors and they close behind you.

On that recent thread on this topic, a few commenters jumped in to say that divorce should be made more difficult, including the elimination of no-fault divorce and a return to a fault basis (at present, all states—including New York, the last straggler—have no-fault divorce as an option).

I don’t see fault divorce as a solution for a host of reasons, among them the following:

(a) Fault divorce often encouraged perjury, because the majority of divorces even then did not involve marital “offenses” such as an affair, and such events had to be staged and lied about. This will occur if no-fault divorce is eliminated. Most people will get out of marriages if they need to and want to, and fault divorce will not stop them.

(b) Fault divorce did not exist in a vacuum. It occurred in the context of the other incentives for marriage mentioned above. These are now largely gone. Therefore, if divorce becomes slightly more complicated to obtain and fault-based, one of the possible results is that the marriage rate will go down even further. Why marry at all?

Why, indeed? If you watch TLC’s TV show “Say Yes to the Dress” (as I must confess I sometimes do), the answer would appear to be, at least for some women: “so I can wear a sexy wedding gown that costs big bucks.”

That’s the cynical answer. The real answer is because it addresses human needs in one of the deepest ways possible, one that has stood the test of time and is probably the best way to further the stability and happiness of children. And the well-being of children is necessary for the continuation of any productive society.

57 Responses to “More on marriage and kids”

  1. OlderandWheezier Says:

    I wonder what percentage of the children living with married parents are living with both of their biological parents?

  2. suek Says:

    First, you need to differentiate between religious marriage and civil marriage. There is always going to be a moral component, I think, and the state has no business messing with that part. The State, on the other hand, _does_ have a function in supporting legal marriages as they pertain to property and children (not necessarily in that order), and therefore it also has a function in defining the division of property and responsibility for children should a break-up of the marriage occur.

    I think that’s the nub of the issue. Particularly the care and support of the children – they’re the ones who normally suffer. The problem is, of course, that many of the personality problems/defects that cause the break-up of the marriage also result in less than ideal home situations for the children. Plus the fact that foster homes are no great shakes either. We need perfect parents – and there aren’t very many of them around!

  3. F Says:

    Take my wife. Please. That’s a joke that doesn’t make sense any longer, does it?

    Or how about Laurel and Hardy:

    “Did you sleep with my wife?”

    “Not a wink.”

    We’ve come a long way in the past century, and for lots of folks over 60 some of the changes are a mixed blessing. It’s good women can participate in the economy right up front. Oh, I know — there’s a glass ceiling and all, but nothing like there was in the fifties.

    And I think women are more fulfilled in lots of personal ways than my mother’s generation was, judging by things I heard her say in unguarded moments.

    But the increase in single-parent homes is definitely not a good thing for society or for the coming generation. Could we not have had women’s liberation and still maintained the institution of marriage?

    And the real national shame is the rate of single parenthood in minority groups. I attribute this to the liberal penchant for victimhood: “it’s not your fault you don’t have a daddy for your babies, and to prove it, we’ll pay you to stay home and raise them.” Where’s the social benefit in that equation?

    So while I’m happy that women can be more fulfilled than my mother, I hope that everyone (including the liberals who claim to “care” for people) can see that current policies have not improved our lot without cost. Is there a happy medium we can find?

  4. Curtis Says:

    What I appreciate about neo-cons: their love for empirical truth.

    What I find frustrating about neo-cons: their inability to allow or accommodate the truth of any suprasensorial order. Thus, any revealed truth which is helpful for prevention of societal decay, destruction, and misery is denied because it did not appear on an empirical basis. Consequently (and here is where the irony get very heavy) only after the rot is risible (hence empirical), do the neo-cons step forth with a solution that is the same as the revelations meant for social health, but usually with a lament that all is probably lost!

    Here’s a truth that is both empirical and revelatory (and aren’t all truths that way): Man doesn’t change, ie., THE DOORS DO NOT CLOSE. All America needs for a strong social system is their humble recognition of G-d; gratitude for our chance to live and to act; and to choose according to His laws. And in the doing, the above need not be done in entirety or perfectly–a good attempt brings vast benefits.

    But to say to G-d, thou shalt not intrude upon our affairs, is an invitation to other beings that call themselves gods–namely, us–to rule. And an empirically honest check of that history is agony.

  5. Don Says:


    I don’t think neo is really a stereotypical neocon.

    Further, she’s right, you can’t put it back in the box. You can live your life in a traditional manner with respect to marriage, but you can’t force others to do likewise.


    In the Victorian era, particlularly in the American west, prostitution was common. Not legal, necessarly, but law enforcement selectively enforced what laws restricted it.

    Earlier in American history, “bundling” was practiced, and many girls were with child when they wed in our early republic. The key, of course, was they they did wed.

  6. thomass Says:

    I guess I’m with Curtis. I don’t see the old days as all ‘good’ either… But; none the less, the doors are irrelevant. The alternative is society falling apart. It is one of those TINA situations… unfortunately.

    Step one can also serve as a release valve for people who can not fit into traditional marriage. Bring back the separation of private and public lives… The left can not stand it due to their totalitarian impulses… but it allows society to have ideals. It also allows society’s dissentients to do what they want without being bothered… provided they do it discretely.

  7. neo-neocon Says:

    Don: I have no idea what Curtis is talking about. There are no stereotypical neocons; “neocon” has become a grab-bag word for whatever people want it to mean.

    Yes, I know those facts you mention, including about bundling. The point was not that children were not sometimes conceived out of wedlock, it’s just that it was less common than today, and also the children tended to be legitimized by marriage, because society disapproved otherwise.

  8. Curtis Says:

    I should say that Neo is one of my touchstones, a hopeful safeguard on surety and pride, a valued source of intellect and guidance, and a voice of moderation so that I can remember how much I resent immoderate, unloving, ill tempered authority.

    Neo-cons are rather unique. Converts by reason and not by revelation. Their conversions are due to their having retained what are gifts from G-d: one of which is a freedom of will, a will which they refuse to surrender to polemic or coercion. Kind of like mistreated cats–unlike dogs, they don’t continue to lick the hands of their abusers. They find new owners, but once bitten they are twice shy, and like the abused cat, ever so mistrustful of mercy and providence.

  9. Kate Says:

    As long as men are relegated to the trash heap of society then no, we’re not going to see stable families.

  10. Sergey Says:

    The situation in England in times of Charles Dickens was just as bad, may be, even worse, but after this there was Victorian age. Something alike can happen now, with new Great Awakening knocking the doors.

  11. Richard Aubrey Says:

    There is a presumption that everybody cares for the well being of society.
    In fact, even decades ago, even libprots were gleefully anticipating the disruption of society. Tradtional society was unrelieved evil.
    So to suggest we need to fix the marriage/kid issue to keep society from falling apart is not addressing solely the like-minded.
    I can think of two events as you describe. Before there was Dickens, there was the Restoration. That was followed by “Methody”. When, as one contemporary writer said, “cunt” went quickly to “cant”.
    It can turn around, but it’s never permanent.

  12. Occam's Beard Says:

    You go through certain doors and they close behind you.

    Gotta disagree here, neo. Lots of things come back (please, God, not bellbottoms). Social mores in particular evolve in a circular fashion. Consider that during the late 60s and early 70s nothing could have been more out of fashion than business. Then, in the 80s, as people became weary of the hippie rubbish, making money became tres chic.

    Smoking is another example. It was done and dusted by the 80s, but amazingly is once again chic.

    A more recent example, albeit a prosaic one, is tattooing. In say, 1990, did any practice look more passe than tattooing (not including the traditional military stuff)? Now, the left half of the bell curve aspires to being walking billboards.

    People will eventually tire of the present situation, at which point some marketing savvy agent of the then-hottest Hollywood celebrity will have his client announce that her* commitment to what is essentially a traditional marriage (with some fillip that distinguishes it from its predecessor, so that onlookers will know that the advocate is avant garde, not wildly behind the times; see how this pertains to contemporary tattooing). Then marriage will be back in. Legislation can’t do it; fashion can.

    So I wouldn’t write off marriage just yet.

    * I say “her” because this one would work best when a female celebrity does it, because she will then be a role model for other women, who 1) (unlike men) follow celebrity news, and therefore would receive the message, and 2) largely determine social mores in the marriage/family area. If women insist on something, that’s how it is (aka the Lysistrata effect). Besides, men 1) don’t follow celebrity fashions, and so would not get the message, 2) would laugh at this idea, and 3) are only interested in getting laid, viewing the rest as a detail. /g

  13. Kristina-in-Florida Says:

    I’m thankful that this issue is being so thoughtfully considered here. It is fundamental to the strength and very core of our American society.
    I love Curtis’s quote “All America needs for a strong social system is their humble recognition of G-d; gratitude for our chance to live and to act; and to choose according to His laws. And in the doing, the above need not be done in entirety or perfectly–a good attempt brings vast benefits.”
    I love the idea expressed that attempts at doing G-d’s Will do not have to be “perfect” but just the best one knows how. Somehow it needs to be voiced in many ways to our society that marriage is not a perfect state but one where two people attempt to work through the difficulties and the mundane to achieve a higher goal. We find that support in our religious institutions but in a growing secular society with a barrage of lowest common denominator media assaults – it is a gravely missing message.

  14. Brad Says:

    I’ve merely said that fault should be brought back into the mix when marriages with children are involved. I’ve never made a claim that it much matters what happens otherwise, but kids do best in a two parent household and to use an overused phrase, I don’t see how its in “the best interests of the child” for mommy or daddy to unilaterally end a marriage except for one of a very few good reasons.

  15. Stark Says:

    The decline in organized religion, community mores, and acceptance of relativism are no doubt contributors to the worsening situation, but government support for dependent children is probably the biggest enabler of the breakdown of the traditional family. There appears to be a strong correlation between the rise of the welfare/entitlement programs and the number of lower-income, single parent families. There is no shame, and nobody even has to say thank you to another human being when receiving government support.

  16. Mr. Frank Says:

    The major structural change is that men and women no longer need each other in an economic sense. When food came unprepared in large sacks, a woman who could cook was highly valued. When people had little money, a woman who could mend clothes had much to offer. When women were not permitted to work outside of the home, they needed a man for cash income. Men and women operated in different spheres where they did not compete with each other. A man could win a prize at the county fair for the best bull and a woman could win a prize for the best pie. They were both proud of their spouse’s success.

    All that men and women need from each other now is emotional support. We marry so the other person can meet our emotional needs. When our needs are no longer met, divorce is likely and the kids pay the price.

    In an earlier day, the primary function of marriage was not emotional support. Men had men friends and women had women friends. Men and women had complementary roles of an economic nature.

    I also believe that many young people are not fit for marriage. They come from small families where sharing and cooperation are not necessary. They have their own room, their own TV, their own music system their own phone, their own bathroom, and their own car as teenagers.

    As one of four children I grew up in houses with one bath room, one party line phone, and one family car. Using those things required that you plan ahead and share with others.

  17. Tatyana Says:

    Glad to hear NY finally approved no-fault divorce.

    However, the Wiki article does not make it clear enough.
    They said before Oct’10 a divorcing couple had to provide notarized proof of separation for at least a year before filing for divorce: true, but there was not the only requirement; there were 4 or 5 official reasons for divorce to select from in a no-contest divorce (abandonment, insanity, etc). The article doesn’t say if this demeaning requirement has been canceled or not. If it’s still valid, I don’t think it could be said there is a no-fault divorce in NYS.

  18. I R A Darth Aggie Says:

    Why marry at all?

    As a single man I have analyzed this question from many angles. Simply stated, financially it is a bad choice for men.

    By all means marry; if you get a good wife, you’ll be happy. If you get a bad one, you’ll become a philosopher.

  19. SteveH Says:

    “”There appears to be a strong correlation between the rise of the welfare/entitlement programs and the number of lower-income, single parent families.”"

    Add to that grandparents who eagerly take the son/daughter and any offspring back in. Their precious child (nearly 30 years old) has fallen out of love and is unhappy!
    Ever notice how people nowadays up in their 40′s and 50′s (mostly women, so shoot me) seemingly have zero clue about the cruel trick mother nature plays on us humans called falling in love? They think the white hot euphoric bliss is supposed to last forever or the choice of mates was an obvious mistake.
    Heck, if marriage wasn’t a royal PITA to struggle with at least half the time we’d have to give it another name.

  20. jeff Says:

    One of the greatest factors to wanting to marry and having a successful marriage is by example: happily married parents. Many people today don’t have that example and fear the entire concept of marriage (their parents’ divorce permanently traumatized them). While many children of divorced parents do marry, I fear they have serious hesitations and don’t fully appreciate the work that needs to go into a successful marriage. The other factor is selfishness – we are a very selfish society, with the Boomers writing the book on “me first” and my children and everyone else second. I’m optimistic though. I think the pendulum will swing back.

  21. Tom Says:

    Stop looking at the trees, Tatyana, and see the forest.

  22. Tatyana Says:

    Tom, I have observed the forest for many years.

    It’s time to get down to practical details.

  23. neo-neocon Says:

    Brad: you are correct—you only advocated fault divorce for marriages involving children.

    However, grounds for divorce have never differed depending on whether children are involved or not. Obviously, child custody and child support are involved only in marriages that have dependent children, but those issues don’t involve the basic grounds for divorce itself. I do not think there’s any precedent in the law for making the grounds for divorce different for couples with children than for couples without children.

    What’s more, if your suggestion were to be followed for couples with minor children, here are just a few of the negative consequences I believe would be likely to follow:

    (1) Instead of dealing with parents who are getting divorced because of irreconcilable differences, children would have to deal with parents who have publicly accused each other, in court, of offenses against each other such as infidelity (often trumped up rather than true). Often, there would be accusations of competing offenses, where each parent accuses the other of something, and hopes to be the innocent party and the other the guilty one. This is not a good thing for children to undergo.

    (2) Or, alternatively, parents who hate each others’ guts would be forced to stay together as husband and wife because neither is guilty of a marital offense (or is not able to conjure one up effective enough for the courts to credit—or the doctrine of “recrimination” is invoked, which means that the offense of one spouse cancels out the offense of the other, and no divorce is granted). This is not a good thing for children to undergo.

  24. Brad Says:


    I was holding out my trump card.

    Georgia has had fault divorce when children are involved for many years. Far as I’m aware it’s the only state that does so.

    As for your points:

    1: Children have to deal with that now. Unless you are claiming that “fault” divorce would be removed from the anonymous family court system? Point is, today when mommy alleges abuse, heck when CPS alleges abuse many people outside the immediate family often know of it, including relatives, neighbors, schoolmates and friends.

    2. If neither is able to be abusive or cheat when their marriage is so bad, that indicates that what we have here are two honorable adults. It’s very easy for a spouse that is unhappy to do something to cause a “fault” divorce. If they are both honorable despite the temptation they probably ain’t taking it out on the kids, either.

    I mean the current system often has parents either totally pushed out of their childrens lives or the children bounced back and forth in a nasty tug of war for custody, which often includes lies. I don’t see how you think that fault would necessarily be worse for the kids. Certainly no study I’ve ever seen has indicated you are correct.

    As it is I tihnk the current system does two things:

    A. Discourages marriage and family formation
    B. Encourages divorce and all the crap that goes with it.

    The older system, while not necessarily as good as it could have been was almost certainly better than this.

  25. Metamorf Says:

    Marriage and divorce statistics are depressing enough, but they’re just one aspect of a deeper and potentially terminal demographic problem — birth rates throughout the developed world have fallen below replacement levels, and usually far below. That trend is deep, well-established, and rooted in some of the most distinctive and vital features of Western culture as a whole — but it’s one that could lead to the extinction of that culture as such. Fuller discussion here: “Is modern society viable?

  26. Barb the Evil Genius Says:

    As a parent of a teenager, I worry about what my daughter’s friends are dealing with. I see the results of their parents mistakes in the actions of the offspring. They have a more difficult time dealing with the opposite sex, and often have emotional issues. My husband and I are not perfect, but my daughters know that Mom and Dad love each other, and that we are staying together. We also talk issues over as a family.

  27. LAG Says:

    My oldest son recently went in for a physical. At the end, his doctor proscribed fast food and prescribed marriage. I concur. Married men live longer (though some cynics suggest it only seems longer).

    On the other hand, while divorce can be warranted by circumstance, I firmly believe that on many occasions it is agreed because of a desire to avoid compromise and hard work. After all, we have a Constitutional right to have our own way and to easy solutions.

  28. Occam's Beard Says:

    Married men live longer

    Beware logical fallacies, of which this is probably one.

    Married men have in effect already passed muster in an interview – with their prospective wives – that tends to weed out some proportion (but not all, of course) of the truly psychotic, the self-destructive and other seriously maladjusted types.

    Extreme examples include Jeffrey Dahmer, John Wayne Gacy, Ted Kaczynski, and David Berkowitz, to name a few. But more mundanely, prison inmates, gang members, and IV drug users are probably less likely to get married, too, as are homosexuals, and all these groups tend to die young.

    This selection process entailed in courtship will almost inevitably skew longevity statistics upward for married men (but not women; the situation is asymmetric). By the same token, men with a stable employment history probably live longer too.

  29. Bob From Virginia Says:

    I wonder if these trying economic times will increase the popularity of marriage and reduce the divorce rate?

    Occam I gotta break with you on this one, what you say is true, however who can argue that loneliness can kill (so do spouses but not that often).

    BTW the quote written above “By all means marry; if you get a good wife, you’ll be happy. If you get a bad one, you’ll become a philosopher.” I believe comes from Socrates, which means the next sentence is “Socrates is a philosopher.”

  30. Occam's Beard Says:

    Ah, Bob, that’s the romantic answer.

    I was speaking solely from a hyper-rational statistical one. /g Weed out a lot of those who are living fast and destined to die young, and those who are left…live longer.

  31. Mrs Whatsit Says:

    Tatyana, I agree that the Wiki article is confusing. I’m a New York lawyer and will see if I can explain. Under the old law in NY, there were several fault-based grounds for divorce such as adultery, cruel and inhuman treatment, and abandonment, plus a single “no-fault” basis available only when BOTH spouses wanted a divorce. Such a divorce could be granted with no showing of fault if the spouses entered into a written separation agreement and lived separately according to the agreement’s terms for at least one year.

    Under the new law, all of the old grounds are still available, plus a new one that allows a divorce with no showing of fault even when both spouses do not agree. Either spouse can obtain a divorce simply by showing that the relationship has broken down irretrievably for at least six months.

    My understanding is that during the many years when NY was the only state that didn’t allow no-fault divorce, we still had just as many divorces as the other states. That is, the fault requirement did not cause unhappy spouses to stay together. It just made divorce more complicated, antagonistic and expensive — nice for divorce lawyers, but if anything, worse for children.

  32. Mr. Frank Says:

    Society wide hard times tend to reduce divorce rates. Individual economic difficulties tend to increase marital conflict and, subsequently, they increase the probability of divorce for that couple.

  33. Tatyana Says:

    Thank you, Mrs. Whatsit.

    I’m glad the law finally changed.

  34. Artfldgr Says:

    I don’t see fault divorce as a solution for a host of reasons

    So if a wife who is cheating decides its a better thing to no longer be married and have a lifetime of support (i already showed that several states have this), and half of all assets (even if she has only been married a year), so she can live in the family house with her new paramour (while he has to move out). if they have one kid, she has a 95% chance of having custody, and if they are in ny 17% of his salary on top of the alimony (dont know what mass. is). also if the man remarries, the judge can take into account the new wife’s salary ‘freeing up’ more from his salary and increase what the previous wife gets in support.

    without fault, you have no way of preventing the above other than not get married. any remedy you come up with will have to require some fault assessed so as to penalize the above.

    one ex, petitioned the court 24 years later out of the blue as she had no pension…

    FAULT was what kept sociopaths, deviants, con artists and other social predators and parasites numbers down, and prevented our associating their behavior with marriage itself, and normalizing such behavior to seem typical.

    Without fault, or some way to hold the behavior of one in judgment, its open season on good people (men or women)…

    NY preservation of the fault versions allows redress and alternative pursuits over a no fault which isnt really ‘no fault’. often enough with no fault the spouse who would have to pay support stays in the union as the alternative is worse than ignoring things. in such both spouses eventually are ‘cheating’ to avoid the lesser of two evils (to them). I have known several such couples in my lifetime, and there were probably more who never let on to others.

  35. neo-neocon Says:

    Brad: Georgia, like many other states, allows the parties to choose either fault or no-fault grounds for divorce. No-fault divorce is available in Georgia to divorcing parents of minor children, just as it is available to divorcing couples without children. This is the case in many states, and most people choose the no-fault route.

    There is no state that requires that parents of children have different grounds for divorce than non-parents. So your suggestion that divorcing parents of dependent children be required to go the fault route (and be barred from the no-fault route) would run counter to divorce laws in every state in the US. Grounds for divorce are the same whether children are involved or not.

    Note also that Mrs Whatsit, who states that she is a lawyer in New York, writes:

    My understanding is that during the many years when NY was the only state that didn’t allow no-fault divorce, we still had just as many divorces as the other states. That is, the fault requirement did not cause unhappy spouses to stay together. It just made divorce more complicated, antagonistic and expensive — nice for divorce lawyers, but if anything, worse for children.

    In addition: of course those allegations of fault (for example, infidelity) are sometimes ones that children have to deal with already. My point is that such allegations would be much more common under a system in which fault divorce was required for divorcing parents and no-fault divorce banned for them. That would not be a good thing for children.

    And just because there was no infidelity or desertion or physical abuse in a marriage, this does not mean that the people involved are “honorable adults” either. I have known many many extremely bitter, hostile divorces that do not involve infidelity or any other marital “fault,” divorces in which the children suffer greatly. There are many many ways to be selfish, or to be a bad parent, that don’t have to involve any of those things known as fault grounds for divorce.

    In closing, I repeat something I wrote in our last back-and-forth in the previous thread on related issues: I am very familiar with fault divorce and how it used to work when it was the only game in town. Back then, custody was almost always with the mother, and it was sole custody. Joint custody was almost unheard of. Men considered themselves fortunate to get a visit with their children one Saturday every other week. Joint custody, father’s rights to custody, and longer visitation didn’t really come into vogue until no-fault divorce became available. The idea that children are better off with a lot of contact with both parents is a fairly recent one, and it came around the same time as no-fault divorce.

    You write:

    I mean the current system often has parents either totally pushed out of their childrens lives or the children bounced back and forth in a nasty tug of war for custody, which often includes lies. I don’t see how you think that fault would necessarily be worse for the kids. Certainly no study I’ve ever seen has indicated you are correct.

    What you are describing here is the FAULT system of divorce. I am old enough to remember it well, and I even did research on the subject back then. Having the additional option of no-fault represents an improvement, flawed though it is.

  36. neo-neocon Says:

    Artfldgr: many states allow fault grounds for divorce, and I have never advocated eliminating those grounds. My argument, in this thread and the previous one on the subject, is that each system (fault, no-fault), has a great deal of injustice, and each is very difficult for children. One is not superior to the other. Divorce is difficult for children.

    As I said, I have never advocated for the elimination of fault grounds. I am merely arguing against the elimination of no-fault grounds. I believe there’s a place for both, and I would prefer that most states have both.

    For every tale you can tell of a problem with no-fault divorce, or an injustice, or a problem for children, I could match it with a tale of injustice under fault divorce. Sometimes the victim is a man and sometimes a woman. And that’s the way it is.

  37. expat Says:

    I think Mr Frank and jeff are probably right about smaller familes and lack of parental role models not providing kids with a realistic picture of long-term relationships. I also think the popular culture plays a big role. I obviously haven’t been able to follow US TV series closely, but those that make it across the big pond seem to focus on young unnmarrieds or on comedy shows where dad is an idiot. I don’t see the older themes where one parent was explaining to a kid that the other parent was having a hard time and that the family had to pitch together to help. Do we offer kids today any options for solving problems and maintaining a relationship other than what they experience at home?
    I also wonder about the books kids read in school. Do they get the ideas about choosing a mate that we got from Little Women or Pride and Prejudice? Or are they all interpretted in terms of women’s power, diversity and all the other hot PC themes? Kids today are taught to raise hell about gay rights, the environment, and social justice, while personal growth seems to take a back seat. Next thing you know they will be campaigning for a “positive” constitutional right to a perfect partner.

  38. br549 Says:

    I ended up with my children, as other men have been able to do. It left me broke, but it left my children in a better environment, devoting myself to them, and they have turned out rather well. None have a desire to marry, however.

    I can’t say I am overly religious, but perhaps those considering marriage should spend a lot of time with a Priest, and allow him to present scenarios in life otherwise not considered beforehand. Might open some eyes and prevent some bad ideas becoming marriages.

    Ummm…….do all women change?

  39. Mrs Whatsit Says:

    For years, my primary legal practice was representing children in New York’s Family Court. (I don’t do it any more.) Many of my clients were the children of divorced parents fighting over their custody or visitation schedules. Over the years, I got to know a lot of kids this way, and it seems to me that the ones who got through the process best were those whose parents tried to minimize the bloodshed. These kids could still grow up in something that felt like a family — even if two houses and new stepparents were now involved. They had a chance to go on loving both of their parents without fearing that doing so would disappoint the other one, and to emerge with their hearts more or less intact.

    Unfortunately, I didn’t see very many of such kids, because their parents generally didn’t need the court’s help to work out their conflicts. Most of my clients had parents who could not — or would not — stop fighting. These were the parents who, years after all the papers were signed, were still fighting over every penny and every free second of their children’s lives, still so embittered by the unfairness of having to pay child support or not getting enough child support or not getting custody or having to pay spousal support or whatever injustice they cherished that they could not grow themselves up into parents who thought first of the children trapped between them rather than the old, old, infinitely circular script of man-hating-woman-hating-man-hating-woman. (Can you tell I feel strongly about this?) These were the kids who messed up in school, became inflexibly angry at one parent or the other, got into relationship or legal trouble themselves in early adolescence and eventually started showing up on my juvenile delinquency caseload rather than the custody/visitation list. If you grow up in the context of unending vitriol, sooner or later your heart shuts down against the bitterness. Kids who grow up with unending fury as their only model of adult intimacy are not exactly going to line up at the church door to choose it for themselves, and there are more and more of them in each generation.

    Now, immature, selfish parents are probably going to fight forever whether or not they get divorced. I don’t think any particular set of divorce laws can force anybody to grow up — but anything that gives warring spouses a weapon will be used to draw blood, and a solely fault-based divorce system is basically an ammunition depot. I could not disagree more with Art’s theory that a solely fault-based divorce system keeps erring spouses together. In my experience, all it does is give them more ways to hurt each other, and fewer options for the kind of relatively civilized resolution that helps their kids survive the battlefield.

  40. Tatyana Says:

    Mrs.Whatsit: you said it best.

  41. Doom Says:

    I think you have made a dreadful mistake concerning “going back” and that certain doors close when you go through them.

    The reality is, we have gone through doors, then nailed planks over them, welded the fittings, and tried to erase the memory of the other side. We WILL go back, either by having too few children to resist a more resilient culture, one based on what we have rejected, or we will simply cease to exist. Perhaps we as a culture cannot go back. If not, we are doomed. That is the only solution, a self imposed final solution? I hope not but suspect so.

    They say we can choose our fate. And, to some degree, I believe that is so… to a degree and within certain contexts. It seems many have chosen, and many others do believe, that we need to not be. Since the nation has tried to forget God, and His wisdom, of which the first commandment was to go forth and multiply, we are indeed doomed. If that is true it could not have happened to a better people.

  42. suek Says:

    >>The point was not that children were not sometimes conceived out of wedlock>>

    My mother used to say “The first one comes anytime – after that, they take nine months”…

    There were definitely some very large healthy premature births prior to the general acceptance of illegitimate babies…

  43. Sarah Says:

    Hi – I lurk, but have never posted before.

    I’m almost 40 and have never married. A lot of that has to do with never having met the right person. But I think the most comprehensive, succint explanation is that I never made marriage a priority. Marriage is like any other goal: you have to work to obtain it. And I never did.

    For a long time, I didn’t mind being single. But two years ago, I had a daughter. She was planned. I am a professional and financially secure. I was so sure that with me as her mom, being the child of a single parent would be no handicap.

    Even if I could, I wouldn’t go back and un-have her, obviously. And I can’t think of any person I wish I could go back in time and marry.

    But before she was even two, she showed signs of pining for a house that holds a family – not just the two of us. And I realize now that one of the major benefits of marriage is being able to divide all of the work of life between two adults.

    But this being said, I think one of the problems in our culture is that marriage is oversold. Like houses between 2000 and 2008. ;-) We, and in particular girls, pick up on a vibe that marriage and kids are kind of the goal and point of life. There’s a certain time-line to it, and once you get to that time on the line, you get married. That’s what you do.

    Because there are no longer other reasons (i.e., cultural pressures or legal reasons) for keeping the marriage intact, they fall apart once the couple realizes that they got married in large part because, well, that’s just what people do. And they don’t really understand any incentive to work to save the marriage. They can just go on to another one.

    I think the best way to save marriage is to have more realistic cultural attitudes toward it. It’s not a fairy tale with doves and a white horse and a ride into the sunset. And it won’t survive if that’s what people expect. It can survive as something that people are willing to work at for its realistic benefits. But that entails recognizing that it isn’t for all people or all couples.

    My parents did a great job of deconstructing any fairy tale ideas I had about marriage. But they did a terrible job of conveying all of its other benefits.

    When we start being realistic about marriage, I predict it will become a less-volatile and better respected institution.

  44. Bilwick Says:

    Thanks for that big heapin’ bowl o’ superstition, Curtis! Now can you give us some ideas that aren’t based on what some ‘sky-pilots” or some book (that you know if infallible because the sky-pilots told you it was infallible) told you to believe?

  45. holmes Says:

    Conservatives are supposedly against the “social engineering” the Left engages in, but laws to encourage marriage are what, exactly?

  46. Oblio Says:

    How can you have a good comedy if it doesn’t end with a marriage, or at least a marriage of true minds? Comedies, like marriages, are about families and communities. Romance is about finding personal meaning and validation, which is sometimes a lonely and depressing undertaking.

    But I am a lucky man. I married a Jane Austen heroine who combines the sweetness, patience and practicality of an Anne Elliot with the wit, intelligence, courage, and fine eyes of an Elizabeth Bennett.

    Down with romantic fantasies, up with marriage, I say. Let’s hear it for Sense over Sensibility.

  47. Tatyana Says:

    I guess Mrs.Oblio reads this site.

  48. E Says:

    Oblio is merely following Austen’s pattern, as outlined in Northanger Abbey:

    “Wherever you are you should always be contented, but especially at home, because there you must spend the most of your time.”

    Wise and happy man!

  49. Ben David Says:

    Now I believe that Mrs. Whatsit is an attorney – only a lawyer could produce this circular, self-contradictory paragraph:

    Immature, selfish parents are probably going to fight forever whether or not they get divorced. I don’t think any particular set of divorce laws can force anybody to grow up — but anything that gives warring spouses a weapon will be used to draw blood, and a solely fault-based divorce system is basically an ammunition depot. I could not disagree more with Art’s theory that a solely fault-based divorce system keeps erring spouses together. In my experience, all it does is give them more ways to hurt each other, and fewer options for the kind of relatively civilized resolution that helps their kids survive the battlefield.

    …but by your own admission, the courts will NEVER see the reasonable divorcees, under any system. Because they are “grown ups” who don’t misuse the courts like the immature, vindictive ones do.

    Let’s consider, instead, the larger impact of divorce law on social norms and the decision to wed.

    No-fault spawned -and bolsters – the culture of entitlement that has led men to shun marriage – and led women to accept childbearing out of wedlock. It has helped reduce the seriousness of the marriage bond.

    The social dynamics behind the statistics go like this:

    Lower class – government handouts enable and encourage out-of-wedlock births.

    Middle/Upper class – no-fault divorce removes the risks of divorce for women, even women with children. Men wise up – and a cohort of women accommodate that by having children in “stable” relationships not legitimized by marriage.

    No-fault didn’t solve the problem of immature divorcees, it just made it worse.

    A return to fault-only divorce sends a much needed message that marriage is a serious commitment.

  50. Oblio Says:

    I’m on record here as saying the law is an ass, and I agree that on balance liberalization of the divorce laws since the Sexual Revolution hasn’t been helpful.

    Nevertheless, given the power of the social dynamics we are talking about here, the idea that a return to fault-based divorce would do anything to restore the attractiveness of marriage strikes me as far-fetched. At the margin, it might help a little, at the cost of consequences that I can’t completely foresee. I’m with Mrs Whatsit. I don’t know why we are barking up this tree.

    To gain adoption and influence, the institution of marriage will need to outcompete the alternatives. In the parts of society to which I am exposed, people who get married and stay married clearly outperform all the alternative arrangements, financially and with respect to child-rearing. Maybe we have self-selected for discipline and self-control, as Occam’s Beard suggested. Still, the example of people who don’t stay married is before our eyes, and they don’t seem to be happy.

  51. Happy now? « Скрипучая беседка Says:

    [...] Oblio : the example of people who don’t stay married is before our eyes, and they don’t seem to be happy. [...]

  52. Oblio Says:

    Tatyana, your site is beautiful. You have a wonderful talent.

  53. Tatyana Says:

    Oblio: thanks.
    If you have something to say on topic, I’ll be glad to see your comment under my post.

  54. Oblio Says:

    The thread has played out. The only thing I would add is that I did not mean to say anything that would censure or blame people who have been through divorce. I am surrounded by them in my family, including both my siblings, my parents, and Mrs. Oblio’s parents and one of her siblings.

  55. Oblio Says:

    Tatyana, your treatment of E doesn’t encourage me to comment at your site. Who is this Indian person of whom you speak? I’m sure that E is as mystified as I am. In any event, banning E makes you look as tiresome as the comment says you are.

  56. Tatyana Says:


    I think the same of E- and now of you.

  57. Tatyana Says:

    To clarify, Oblio:

    On my own blog I am free to set up policy. Which is described in “About” section.
    But even if you (or anybody else) did not read it, I think general principle of polite conversation would be obvious to anybody: do NOT come to someone’s blog for the first time and start by throwing rude remarks of the host. Especially if they are unfounded.

    I don’t think this is too much to ask.
    But if you find it unbearable – then no, you probably will not be welcome @my place.

    The only reason I asked you to move our conversation from Neo’s thread is because this is Neo’s thread, and I think it is impolite to use her hospitality for tangential conversation that veered off-topic. Your leaving comments addressed to me here, instead of coming to my place, I also consider rude. As if this blog is some sort of online depository.

    In case of E, I know what I am talking about, he(or she?) does too, as does the Indian phony who uses proxy for her warring. It concerns nobody else. And it is not your place to lecture me on something you know nothing about.

    Besides, E’s comment betrayed complete misunderstanding of my post -which you, actually, understood better in your previous comments here – and was just a pretext for calling me names. I was , in fact, very tolerant with him/her: otherwise I would simply marked the comment as spam when it first appeared in my inbox.

    But, by all means – if you think I have no right, at my own place, to blacklist trolls who come to insult me – we have too different ideas of acceptable behavior; so I withhold my invitation to you.

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About Me

Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.


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