Sunday, August 30, 2009

I know all about your standards*...

Will Wilkinson, arguably one of the ablest minds I read, especially in matters of measuring public happiness and making policies thinks he knows from marriage.
But annoyances and disappointments suffered in the process of realizing fundamental conditions of a decent society don’t call into question the desirability of those conditions. All this vexation is a very, very small price to pay for equality. For men, it is a very, very small price to pay for the opportunity to share a life with a peer, a full partner, rather than with a woman limited by convention and straitened opportunity to a more circumscribed and subordinate role in life. Sexual equality has created the possibility of greater exactness and complementarity in matching women to men. That is, in my book, a huge gain to men. But equality does raise expectations for love and marriage. The prospect of finding a true partner, rather than someone to satisfactorily perform the generic role of husband or wife, leaves many of us single and searching for a good long time. But this isn’t about delaying adulthood, it’s about meeting higher standards for what marriage and family should be. [More]

Of course, Will is tragically young (36) and from the bio I have read and the above words I assume he is not hitched.

Permit me to interject some comments from a marriage veteran of 38 years (143 husband years). 

First, it is likely ineffective to consider mating and dating as essentially an interviewing problem.  While Will is "refining his standards" the number of eligible possible mates declines rapidly. In fact, the longer he goes without developing a sense of compromise or leniency, the less desirable he becomes, I would hazard.

Marriages are made, not discovered. The important thing is to get started, because the great secret our modern humor and competitiveness has almost removed from general knowledge is the power of a long marriage to lift the lives of the participants - even as they build it moment by moment, action by action.  To be sure, not all do, but when you go to enough 50th Anniversaries, you begin to sense why fussy shopping is not the answer.

We are all constantly changing.  Married folks have the chance to have those changes occur in an environment that encourages cooperation and caring, not self-obsession.  To be sure, libertarians are by definition a little self-interested, but that should make them wary of how hard marriage will be  for them, and hence more inclined to get on with the hard work of setting aside self-interest for the sake of another.

So, while I give him credit for a well-crafted and impeccably thought out post on the current mating scene, it's really not hard to laugh in his clueless young face about why this venerable institution has persisted and how he is missing the whole point - as well as the manifold benefits.


camel cowboy said...

you should do a seminar on this topic on college campuses-
marriage is not about perfect!
just ask Phyllis-
we celebrated 32 years last week--

Anonymous said...

The poor boy is clueless. Perhaps a viewing of "Fiddler on the Roof" under the guise of it being a classic would help the lad.