Friday, June 14, 2013

Love and Marriage - Serious Feedback Requested

This blog post has been years in the making.  The trigger was a couple of posts on FB a few weeks ago.

I am in incurable romantic.  I love to hear about how people met and fell in love.  News of 60th wedding anniversaries make me happy; 65ths even happier and that chinese couple celebrating 88 years together made my day.  I hate to hear of people splitting up; it makes me sad that everyone cannot live happily ever after.

Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

This may rank in the top five classic openings and has given rise to the Anna Karenina Principle, which according to Wiki, describes an endeavor in which a deficiency in any one of a number of factors dooms it to failure. Consequently, a successful endeavor (subject to this principle) is one where every possible deficiency has been avoided.

Considering that half of all marriages end in divorce (30% of all first marriages), it is certain that avoiding deficiencies is no easy task but I am not convinced of the veracity of the first half of the statement.  I think all happy families are just as different from each other as unhappy families are from each other.  They have simply learned to avoid or overcome to a greater or lesser degree the deficiencies which otherwise would have split them apart.

Can marriages be fitted to a standard distribution curve?  Most measurable traits of living organisms are not simply + or _, 0 or 1, on or off.  They are variable and distribute themselves around a mean, tapering off to extremes on either side. 

Standard distribution around the mean
 So can we take surviving marriages and rank them according to happiness and will they look like this? Keep in mind that NO ONE can judge a marriage from the outside nor can one partner really speak for the other.  We become very good at hiding, at covering up, at making it work.

A bad marriage to me is where one or both partners are unhappy but they are "making it work"; "staying together for the children".  It has been my observation that it is usually the woman who has to make it work, possibly because she sees no other options open to her. I am open to discussion on this.

Which brings me to my questions. What is an average marriage? What is a good marriage?  


  1. "A bad marriage to me is where one or both partners are unhappy but they are "making it work"; "staying together for the children".

    I could see that as honorable. In my case, my mother said (often) that she only stayed with my father for "you children" (my sister and me). However, my mother had no way to support herself financially, and she made the decision before she married him (she didn't say as much, but I concluded it) that her main interest in him was financial security. So, I've never understood how much good my mother did for their children by staying in her marriage, but I wouldn't automatically dismiss such a choice as being a bad choice.

    1. I believe that my feelings about this are straight out of Stoicism.

    2. Snowbrush, it wasn't likely a bad choice for her but it might be described as a bad marriage or at least on the left hand side of average. Whatever average is.

  2. We can't say what composes a bad marriage. Each marriage, like each individual, has it's own personality. The dinamics of each individual are totally indipendent of any norm and the forced interaction of two individuals is also individual. Some people are naturally miserable people and some people are natrurally positive. Add to this anger issues and sex drive and the mix really gets complicateed.

    I think the divorce rate is because people jump into marriage while still immature - sex drive and sexual availability bring them together and later when the sex becomes routine they are trapped by children and responsibilities with people that no longer turn them on.

    I am all for sex before marriage, people living together - childless - and divorce when one or both parties are miserable.

    The biggest detriment of divorce is who gets stuck with the kids. The one that can best afford the support should be forced to raise the children - this would sober a lot of men who are looking for a mid-life change to a younger sexier woman.

    The secret to a good marriage is caring more about the person you are married to than you care about yourself. But, having said that, if your spouse cheats, or makes you absolutely miserable; then buck up little buckaroo and move on. There is no excuse for living a miserable existence because of an initial bad choice.

    By the way, I adore my wife.
    the Ol'Buzzard

    1. "Each marriage, like each individual, has it's own personality." - I like that.

      Totally agree with the immaturity thing, too. In Ukraine, kids get married out of highschool, then divorced by 24, leaving the woman with one or two kids. Second marriages seem to work better here than firsts. Husband is usually 10 years older than wife and finally mature.

      In the "olden days" one was supposed to fall in love then fall into bed; now it seems reversed. I am not so sure it makes for wise choices.

      "The secret to a good marriage is caring more about the person you are married to than you care about yourself". That is a keeper. As is my Tanya.

  3. To me, a "good marriage" is where both people feel free and happy to be themselves. Where both people feel supported emotionally, too. Life is too short to suffer.

    1. Yes, I agree. My husband and I champion each other both in our pursuits and the emotional states of our lives, and it's brilliant to be so mutually supported.

    2. Free and happy to be themselves, mutually supportive emotionally, champion each other's pursuits...these all help make the whole greater than the sum of the parts. All part of a good marriage. Yes, thank you. Agree. A good definition.

  4. You really made me think today! That's a deceptively simple question: "What is a good marriage?" Well, love, trust, respect, tolerance, blah, blah, blah. But as the Ol'Buzzard points out, those qualities may look fundamentally different depending on the individuals involved.

    And just to over-complicate the issue, I think most marriages may be classified as "good", "bad", or "average" throughout their span. No relationship is static - illness, job stresses, issues with kids, financial trouble; any of those things can temporarily or permanently swing a marriage into the "bad" zone where one or both partners are unhappy and/or actively hurting each other.

    The more I tried to answer the question, the more I found myself addressing "What MAKES a good marriage" instead of "What IS a good marriage".

    I've had one "bad" and one "good" marriage. I stayed in the bad one for a lot of complicated reasons, none of which had to do with kids (there weren't any) or finances (I would have been better off on my own). When the reasons finally resolved themselves, I divorced him. The memory of all those years of misery makes my current good marriage doubly precious.

    No marriage can exist without the willingness to put effort into maintaining it. Even bad marriages have that component, though it may be one-sided.

    Make marriage a mutual effort and add basic human decency, and that's an average marriage.

    Perspective, the mutual willingness to put another person's needs ahead of one's own sometimes, and the mindful practice of appreciation turns an average marriage into a good marriage.

    But even in a good marriage, there are days when you wonder why you bother. Accepting occasional irritations as normal and transient is what makes a good marriage last.

    But that's just my opinion...

    1. Diane, thanks for doing so much thinking. Your definitions and conclusion are very helpful to me.
      "No relationship is static". Truth. People change, needs change. A house only really suits our needs for five or 10 years but a marriage is supposed to last a lifetime. If the relationship doesn't change or worse yet changes in a negative way relative to the individuals involved, it can go from good to bad in a hurry. Or if the kids leave home and the finances improve and people mellow with age, it can go from bad to good or at least average.

      Marriages take work and that is something people may not learn until it is too late. They coast on the good feelings of the early romance and suddenly find that those feelings are gone and the comfortable old shoe feelings are not there to take their place. Sometimes each person thinks they are making all the effort and the other person not. That is a communication problem, a lack of understanding of the other person's needs.

  5. Thank you for all the respects! I got my bridal dress at Something New Boutique, which is located in Colorado Springs, Colorado. My gown was by the designer Casablanca, but I really worked with the designer to totally redesign the whole dress to what I wanted, which was lots of lace, with the sweetheart top, and Queen Anne collar. If you want to customize a dress I highly endorse Casablanca because they are wonderful!Russian dream


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