Why One Middle American Guy is Delaying Marriage

03.26.2013, 9:35 AM

Why are Middle Americans delaying marriage?

I come at this question as a person who, along with my wife, Amber Lapp, has been interviewing high school-educated and college-educated young adults, ages 19-35, about marriage and forming families in one Ohio town, as part of the Love and Marriage in Middle Americaproject at the Institute for American Values. We talked to over 100 young adults, about two-thirds of whom were Middle Americans. We’re now writing our findings in a book, tentatively titled Love Like Crazy: Looking for Marriage in Middle America.

I’d like to reflect on this question, “Why are Middle Americans delaying marriage?” by reflecting on the story of a 27 year-old young man I met, Ricky.

Economic obstacles are one reason frequently discussed for why Middle Americans are delaying marriage. And we certainly see that with Ricky, who was unemployed when I met him. In the past, he was a manager at Domino’s, Pizza Hut, Papa John’s. He was a motorcycle mechanic; a farm equipment mechanic. He worked several jobs in construction. Most of these jobs were low-wage jobs.

But there was a time, about a year before I met him,  in which Ricky had what he described as a job that he “really liked.” He was working as an internet technical support advisor, starting at $12.50/ hour. Unfortunately, however, he lost it because he had a DUI and a hit and run incident, and served a couple months in jail.

So Ricky’s story points to something the Knot Yet report notes: 46 percent of single men and 41 percent of cohabiting men report frequent drunkenness – which can lead to getting fired from your job, and getting into trouble with the law.

In other words, alcohol abuse, as well as drug abuse, is another obstacle to marriage.

Despite these obstacles, when I met Ricky, he was engaged to be married – for the fourth time in his life. But he had never been married.

From his second engagement, he has one son, who he tries to see as often as he can, but who lives with his mother in another state.

His third engagement began in a bathroom stall at Pizza Hut with a woman who was three months pregnant. That encounter turned into something more, and Ricky was in the delivery room during the birth of her daughter. They set up a nursery at Ricky’s house, and he helped raise the child until she was two years old.

That is one thing you should know about Ricky: he loves kids. “I usually think about kids before anything,” he says. As he talks about past relationships, he finds himself talking about his ex-fiancée’s children, and how much he misses them.

However, his child-centeredness does not affect the way he thinks about marriage. In fact, he talks about how “it’s biased” to say that you should be married if you have kids. Futhermore, he considers having a child to be a wrong reason to get married. Talking about the timing of his engagement to the mother of his son, he says that he specifically waited for a while until after the birth of their son. “It wasn’t right when she got pregnant or anything like that, because I didn’t want to feel like I was obligated to marry her just because she was pregnant,” he says.

In other words, what used to be a reason to get married – starting a family — is no longer a reason. This also helps us to understand why Middle Americans are delaying marriage even as they are having kids.

Ricky met Hailey, who would become his fourth fiancée, online. When I met them, they had a date and a venue (the local Moose Lodge) for their wedding.

They were going to get married even though Ricky says that he doesn’t see a point with marriage. He wonders why “you have to put it in paper” if you love someone and if you know you’re going to spend the rest of your life with them. It’s too much like a contract, he says. As he says, “What good ever comes from contracts really? You end up getting screwed in the long run.”

Ricky has good reasons to be skeptical of marriage. As a child, he watched his dad, a factory  surpervisor, in a drunken stupor beat his mom. His parents divorced when he was nine. His mom got remarried then divorced, then remarried.

Furthermore, Ricky doesn’t know anyone within his circle of friends or extended family – except his great-grandparents and grandparents – who have stayed married for a long time.

However, despite his skepticism about the institution of marriage, Ricky was still planning on getting married.  Why?

He admits that it “doesn’t really make sense.” But, he says, he does like the “whole thought about what it’s actually about.”

What is the whole thought of marriage?

“It’s being there for the other person and helping them when they’re down, helping them get through tough times, cheering them up when they’re sad.  Just pretty much improving each other’s lives together.”

He also thinks marriage is different from living together. In living together, he says, “you could pretty much pull out any time, just up and leave.” But marriage – “it’s more of a bond.”

While it is important to recognize that Ricky appreciates the idea of marriage, it is likewise important to recognize that he is disillusioned about at least some aspects of the institution of marriage. In other words, it is not just that Ricky aspires to marriage and there are obstacles standing in the way. He has a conflicted view of marriage: with few positive marriage models, he’s skeptical — but he likes the idea.

So what happened with Ricky and Hailey’s engagement? A year and a half later, I caught up with Ricky. They had not gotten married. They broke up.

Four engagements later, Ricky has completely given up marriage and lifelong love. He describes marriage as a “letdown.” “I’m not lookin’ to fall in love,” he says, “I feel like it’s for suckers.” He says he is not looking for anything more than a companion with whom he can have sex when he wants.

How is this tough, tattooed working class guy dealing with all this? He writes about his pain in poems that he posts on Facebook.

“With those I’ve trusted I’m disgusted/It feels like my heart is broke and rusted/…Why does my heart always have to get broke/Is love some kind of joke.”

Why is Ricky delaying marriage?

In addition to the reasons stated above, there is a hidden part of the story about why Middle Americans are delaying marriage – a side of the story that you see when you read his poems. There, you see an emotional drama that is playing out in a human heart; a crisis of trust. Many of his engagements and break-ups ended because of cheating – in fact, Hailey was cheating on him with her daughter’s father. After the break up of his fourth engagement, he can no longer trust anyone. Marriage is a “letdown.”

Now, Ricky never got married – but he might as well have gone through several divorces. His emotional state is the same, and the children in his life have seen a man they began to think of as “daddy” disappear.

That is one of the dangers of the delayed marriage script in non-college-educated Americaas it is playing out. As the Knot Yet report points out, non-college-educated Americans are postponing marriage – but they are doing everything but getting married. In fact, many of the cohabiting couples whom Amber and I interview often refer to themselves as “basically married.” So while the divorce rate is lower overall, in part because people are not getting married as young, there are many invisible divorces. And it is taking a profound emotional toll on the men, women, and children who experience these invisible divorces.

We owe it to these 20-somethings to listen. And we owe it to the next generation of 20-somethings to empower them to write a better script.

But can we really do anything meaningful to help the next generation of 20-somethings to write a better script?

Let me suggest three principles that should guide a discussion of strengthening marriage in poor and working classAmerica.

Realism. We cannot afford to be Pollyanish about the crisis of marriage in non-college-educatedAmerica. The problem is deep and complex, with no one single factor or solution. Even those who aspire to marriage may dismiss the importance of marriage.

But we also should not be needlessly pessimistic. Because for all the divorce and bleak economic prospects that confront young non-college-educated adults, most 20-somethings are not as cynical about marriage as Ricky was when I last talked to him: as the Knot Yet report shows, about 80 percent of young adults still want to get married. Indeed, the real surprise is that, for all the emotional turmoil and poor economic prospects, most non-college-educated young adults still express aspirations for marriage.

Being realistic means acknowledging both young adults’ aspirations for and anxiety about marriage.  

Hope. Poverty is a persistent problem inAmerica, despite the billions of dollars that policymakers spend to alleviate it.  Yet no responsible public leader inAmerica will say “The problem is too complex – we just have to live with inequality.” Why not demonstrate the same hope when it comes to helping the next generation of non-college-educated young adults to achieve their aspirations for a stable family and good marriage?

Solidarity. At the end of the day, “poor and working class Americans” are not statistics, nor are they pawns in an ideological debate. They are our family, neighbors, co-workers, friends, and parishioners. Empowering the next generation of 20-somethings to write a better script is not about one class of people exporting their bourgeois aspirations onto another class; it is about supporting young adults in their own very human search for love and family and marriage.

How can we look the other way when so many young adults are themselves striving – struggling yes, but still striving – for the same things that most of us eventually want: a loving, lifelong marriage and a thriving family?

Cross posted at KnotYet.org.

This essay is adapted from David Lapp’s comments at the Brookings Institution on March 20, 2013.

 


50 Responses to “Why One Middle American Guy is Delaying Marriage”

  1. Anna says:

    The dissonance between Ricky’s various views is interesting:

    Ricky says that he doesn’t see a point with marriage. He wonders why “you have to put it in paper” if you love someone and if you know you’re going to spend the rest of your life with them.

    and yet

    He also thinks marriage is different from living together. In living together, he says, “you could pretty much pull out any time, just up and leave.” But marriage – “it’s more of a bond.”

    I don’t really understand how the same person can say those two things without seeing they contradict each other – although I know this particular inconsistency is very common.

    The only way I can make sense of it is that he seems to think of marriage more as a statement of fact (i.e., “I’m so in love I know I’ll feel this way forever”) rather than a vow (i.e., “I promise to stay in this marriage, regardless of how I feel later.”) So either you have that forever feeling or you don’t, and marriage simply expresses the inward feeling out loud and on paper. Is that how you understand what he’s saying, David?

  2. Schroeder says:

    So either you have that forever feeling or you don’t, and marriage simply expresses the inward feeling out loud and on paper.

    It seems like a belief in creative fidelity and hope might be part of the solution. These things are really helpful in marriage, but they aren’t perfect, because people aren’t perfect.

  3. annajcook says:

    Anna writes:

    The only way I can make sense of it is that he seems to think of marriage more as a statement of fact (i.e., “I’m so in love I know I’ll feel this way forever”) rather than a vow (i.e., “I promise to stay in this marriage, regardless of how I feel later.”)

    While I can’t speak for Ricky, I would argue that there is a third option, which is maybe what Schroeder is getting at: caring about the person and believing enough in the quality of a shared future together that you can promise intent. The intent and action of moving forward through life together.

    I don’t think it’s fair or even safe to look at marriage vows as “I promise to stay in this marriage, regardless of how I feel later.” People grow and change, and sometimes marriages become dysfunctional. Sometimes people marry abusers. Sometimes people simply stop feeling good about the relationship they are in.

    While I support encouraging them to access resources for repairing the relationship if that is what both individuals want, I do not support a view of marriage that suggests that fidelity to marriage vows require you to stay in a marriage that is making one or both people unhappy or unsafe.

    So I would argue that it is possible to make vows of intention, and reaffirm those intentions together as you move through life, without imagining that all would be lost or broken if you refused to stay in a relationship that was destroying one or both people within it.

  4. Mont D. Law says:

    Ricky is the reason I object to this whole marriage promotion idea and neatly answers McMegan’s question about promoting education and not marriage for single women, with or without children.

    Whatever his tragedy, however sad his poetry, no woman is going to be better off married to an unemployed alcoholic from an abusive alcoholic family than getting a paralegal degree. In fact marrying Ricky would be short-term, expensive and difficult to get out of. It would scar her and her children and likely prevent her from getting the education she needs support herself and her children.

    It’s not like it was better 50 years ago. Ricky’s mother would have stayed married to his abusive alcoholic father, Ricky would have married his first girlfriend and likely repeated the pattern.

  5. Schroeder says:

    I don’t think it’s fair or even safe to look at marriage vows as “I promise to stay in this marriage, regardless of how I feel later.” People grow and change, and sometimes marriages become dysfunctional. Sometimes people marry abusers. Sometimes people simply stop feeling good about the relationship they are in.

    This is actually not what I meant. I actually do think that you should promise to stay in a marriage regardless of how you feel later. Feelings change all of the time, so they can’t be the basis for a commitment.

    (Before I go too much further, I should clarify that anyone in an abusive relationship should definitely not stay in that situation. So I do agree with half of your comment and would like to declare preemptively that anyone accusing me of saying that people should stay in abusive relationship is misrepresenting my views.)

    What I meant by creative fidelity is that we have to be willing to be commit to an other, not merely to our idea of an other. After all, our idea might be wrong or the person might change. It is not fair to another person to love only our idea of her, which is what we’re doing if we stop loving her when our perception of her changes. It’s literally dehumanizing (i.e. idealizing. Humans are not ideas.)

    So when you say, “people simply stop feeling good about the relationship they are in,” I say, emphatically, that, when this happens, “remaining in an unhappy marriage” and “getting a divorce” are not the only two options. A third option is creative fidelity, which means remaining faithful to another person by re-creating your self as the other person changes. Acting like “unhappiness” in a relationship is something that we can’t do anything about, strikes me as despairing.

    (I’m making a distinction between unhappiness and clinical depression here, by the way. But, as I understand it, true clinical depression has objective not subjective causes, meaning that while you might need therapy or medicine to control it, it is not ultimately caused by circumstances.)

  6. annajcook says:

    A third option is creative fidelity, which means remaining faithful to another person by re-creating your self as the other person changes. Acting like “unhappiness” in a relationship is something that we can’t do anything about, strikes me as despairing.

    Perhaps you would disagree, but I think we are closer in our understanding than you are picturing we are. I am not suggesting that unhappiness is intractable and that people are incapable of change — obviously they are!

    What I am saying is, is that only the people within the relationship are capable of discerning (through individual reflection and joint negotiation) whether or not the relationship is capable of being healed and/or growing with the people involved within it. Sometimes (I’d venture most of the time?!) it is! But both people must feel hopeful and invested in growing the relationship to reflect new realities, and to heal whatever damage has happened (if the relationship has been compromised in some way).

    If one or both people either cannot see their way to needful change, or if the change one partner needs would be untenable for the other partner to undertake, it is THEIR CALL to make. I don’t think it is okay for the community to pressure them into remaining together when the marriage is no longer functional for their collective well-being AND one or both partners is unwilling or unable to see a pathway forward within the relationship.

    That is a world of difference away from saying that the minute feelings change, whoops! I’m out.

  7. terbreugghen says:

    Does the existence of dysfunctional adults indict our culture? Where is individual choice and just consequence in this? What about the innocent children who are pushed along by their parent’s bad choices? Does culture have an obligation to serve their interest?

  8. Anna says:

    Anna J. Cooke – I absolutely agree there are circumstances that justify ending a marriage, but in my opinion the change or loss of romantic feelings is not one of them. But more generally my question is whether people who hold the two (to me contradictory) views of marriage that Ricky expresses see getting married as a mere description or proclamation of already existing facts or as a formal statement of intent – to use your word – that actually creates the state of commitment (i.e., the marriage). To me it seems that the former view is becoming more and more prevalent – marriage as something that happens to you rather than something that you do.

  9. La Lubu says:

    Feelings or intentions are not the same thing as actions, nor do they necessarily lead to actions. From the description here, Ricky has not yet grown enough as a person to be able to translate his feelings, intentions, or hopes….into actions.

    I’m struck by Ricky’s description of his idea of marriage; of marriage being nurturing. Because that description, contrasted with his actions, makes me think he’s ready to have someone nurture him, but that he isn’t ready yet to return the favor. I know there are people out in the world who think that marriage is a formative institution, and that young men like Ricky could learn to grow into adulthood via marriage, but that is not the vision of marriage that the young women of similar backgrounds to Ricky are looking for. They see marriage to men like Ricky as bringing more struggle, not less. And they’re not wrong about that.

    What does Ricky want to do with his life? Has he made any concrete steps forward to those thoughts? Any exploratory motion even? Has he been attending AA meetings to deal with his alcohol problem?

    Women from backgrounds like Ricky don’t have it any easier materially. They’re still faced with the same lack of jobs, the same rent vs. income problem, the same bleak communities…but they typically handle it differently. They’re more motivated to leave home. They’re more motivated to get an education. They’re more motivated to seek out resources for dealing with past trauma (counseling, group meetings, self-help books/programs, discussions with friends or relatives who’ve “been down that road”, etc.). It’s not because they’re necessarily any more mature or forward-thinking; it’s because of social constructs about men and women. Alcohol abuse is culturally approved for men in a way that it isn’t for women. Education and counseling are culturally approved for women in a way they aren’t for men. Leaving home gives young women a chance for getting opportunities they wouldn’t get if they stayed; it’s the opposite for young men (exception: if they join the military).

    So—same scenarios, more escape hatches for young women. If young men use those escape hatches, they have to go against the cultural grain and need to steel themselves against challenges to their masculine identity, mostly from other men (younger and older) who aren’t all that well-grounded in their own. Crabs in a bucket.

  10. Schroeder says:

    Hi Annajcook,

    Thank you for your thoughtful response. I always appreciate your way of engaging with people. You may be right that we agree more than I initially thought that we did. But I still want to push back a little bit, because I think it’s important that society thinks of marriage as a commitment, which means not contingent on emotions.

    (A few more caveats before I go on: I’m talking about individuals here, not about government remedies. I’m not sure what I think about no-fault divorce, because, while I hate divorce, I realize that abuse is not always visible and that adultery and addiction are not always provable. I recognize that this is a real problem. Also, I am not thinking about “marriages” where one person was tricked, forced, blackmailed, or coerced into the marriage. I think – along with US Law, I believe – that these unions are invalid and not really marriages.)

    When you say,

    only the people within the relationship are capable of discerning (through individual reflection and joint negotiation) whether or not the relationship is capable of being healed and/or growing with the people involved within it. Sometimes (I’d venture most of the time?!) it is!

    My response is that I think that, except in the circumstances I listed above, a marriage is always or almost always capable of being healed. And even if it isn’t, there’s no way to know that it isn’t. I don’t think that we should make light of how difficult this can be sometimes, but I think that society should encourage people to see their marriage as an objective commitment. If both parties see the marriage this way, the marriage is a lot stronger, I imagine, even if there are serious personality differences.

  11. annajcook says:

    I think that society should encourage people to see their marriage as an objective commitment.

    As someone who views the commitment I made to my wife as an objective, practical, and — basically barring the caveats you list above — irrevocable, on the one hand I’m comfortable with your framing of the issue, Schroeder.

    But I guess I’d offer this: What you (and many others on this blog seem to) want is for more people to see getting married as a positive, attractive thing to embark upon. Those of us who have already made a commitment to our partners … we’re sort of like the converted.

    I think for a certain group of folks, the idea that even if they experience the marriage as dysfunctional they would be pressured by society to stay is one the key factors keeping them from getting married. They’ve seen parents remain in unhappy partnerships for years, decades, and they cannot see marriage as a positive experience enhancing their own well-being because of that. They’re marriage-shy, if you will, and arguing for marriage to be more difficult to leave is not going to encourage them to think of it as something tenable.

    Which, you know, I’m comfortable with because I honestly don’t care about increasing the marriage rate. I’m happy to have made the decisions and commitments that I have made, and I’m comfortable with other people making the decisions and commitments that work for them.

    But many of the folks who write and comment at FSB seem to view encouraging higher rates of marriage as an objective good for society … and I don’t see this line of argument doing much for that end goal.

  12. Hector_St_Clare says:

    Re: What I am saying is, is that only the people within the relationship are capable of discerning (through individual reflection and joint negotiation) whether or not the relationship is capable of being healed and/or growing with the people involved within it.

    I’ve noticed from some of your past comments that you seem to have a high opinion of individual people and their capacities to know what’s best for them, and to make good decisions regarding their own lives. Perhaps that’s why this kind of approach towards marriage and divorce makes sense to you.

    I take a much lower view of the average person’s ability to make good decisions regarding their lives, so your point of views seems pretty wrongheaded to me. For me, relying on our own judgment is often a terrible idea, and we need institutions like the church and the state to encourage us to do the right thing when we would rather do something else. Maybe those in authority sometimes know more about what we really need and want, than we do ourselves.

  13. Schroeder says:

    As someone who views the commitment I made to my wife as an objective, practical, and — basically barring the caveats you list above — irrevocable

    That’s great, Anna. I think that more people should have your view. With a 50 percent divorce rate, though, I don’t think it’s true to say that “those of us who have already made a commitment to our partners” are “sort of like the converted,” unless you mean something more than “got married” by “have already made a commitment.” (I think if you are married, you should have already made a commitment.)

    They’re marriage-shy, if you will, and arguing for marriage to be more difficult to leave is not going to encourage them to think of it as something tenable.

    Which, you know, I’m comfortable with because I honestly don’t care about increasing the marriage rate.

    Well, as I said, I’m not sure whether I want to “make it more difficult to leave” legally. I think that we married folk, though, ought to talk about our relationships as commitments (“irrevocable,” as you put it), though, rather than something that we can and will leave if we decide we’re not happy. Maybe that will come across as “social pressure,” but to me it sounds more like encouragement: “You can and should make your marriage work!”

    To me it seems obvious that if both parties are committed to the relationship, they will both work hard to make it work and not give up on this endeavor.

    Also, I don’t particularly care about increasing the marriage rate either, especially if the people in question think of marriage as an emotionally-contingent, it-will-make-me-happier, piece of paper.

    The problem, though, is that, if people want to have kids (which most people do), I do think it’s important that they are in a committed, institutional marriage (or at least engaged to be).

    But many of the folks who write and comment at FSB seem to view encouraging higher rates of marriage as an objective good for society … and I don’t see this line of argument doing much for that end goal.

    I agree with both of the things you say here. But here is why I still believe this is the way it has to be: since only higher rate of marriage-as-an-institution will be an objective good for society, we have no choice but to take the more difficult line of argumentation. In other words, while I do want more people to get married, I don’t want more people to get married unless they see marriage as an objective commitment.

  14. YYZ says:

    “I think that society should encourage people to see their marriage as an objective commitment.”

    But you don’t need the government for that. One can achieve that through a private contract.

    Next, the state is under no obligation to recognize ANY relationship. It chooses heterosexual unions because of the procreative potential.

  15. annajcook says:

    Hector writes:

    I’ve noticed from some of your past comments that you seem to have a high opinion of individual people and their capacities to know what’s best for them, and to make good decisions regarding their own lives. Perhaps that’s why this kind of approach towards marriage and divorce makes sense to you.

    Well, possibly. But I also think my opinion of other peoples’ capacities “to know what’s best for them” is irrelevant because a democracy and egalitarian society allows people the freedom to make crappy decisions.

    It’s not that I have a particularly good opinion of everyone’s ability to make the best possible choices. It’s that I don’t believe there is any other moral path forward. I believe that in order to respect the full humanity of other human beings, I must believe them when it comes to decisions shaping their own lives.

    Obviously, if their decisions have a specific effect on my own life (i.e. my wife decided to take a job in another country) then I could offer my opinion and push back if I felt she was making a decision that adversely affected our life together. But the average citizen with whom I have no formal and/or ongoing relationship? It’s simply not my business to police their personal life decision-making. I might know what is best for someone, but I cannot know that. They are the only ones with the moral authority to decide how to live their own lives.

  16. Schroeder says:

    They are the only ones with the moral authority to decide how to live their own lives.

    Doesn’t the state only necessarily accept this contention when one’s actions don’t harm anyone else?

  17. Diane M says:

    @Anna J Cook – Ricky has not seen anyone remain in an unhappy marriage. He has seen marriages and relationship end over and over again. I do not think that fear of being stuck in an unhappy relationship is the issue here.

    “I think for a certain group of folks, the idea that even if they experience the marriage as dysfunctional they would be pressured by society to stay is one the key factors keeping them from getting married. They’ve seen parents remain in unhappy partnerships for years, decades, and they cannot see marriage as a positive experience enhancing their own well-being because of that.”

    What many people who are avoiding marriage are saying is that they don’t want to get divorced. They see divorce happening over and over again. They think it’s bad to get divorced.

    The missing issue is that breaking up is also painful. If you have kids, it is just as bad if not worse for them.

    I am not sure why Ricky thinks in such a contradictory way. We may be trying to make too much sense of someone just being human. The possibilities that make sense to me are:

    1. He does not want to make a commitment to this woman or any of his children or maybe to anyone and what he is saying is mostly an excuse.

    2. He agrees with the theory that love should be easy and if it’s hard, you should break up. If you stay together, it was true love and you married the right person. So he doesn’t want to make any commitments.

    3. He sees that if he gets divorced, he will have to do more for his ex-wife than he would have to do for an ex-girlfriend. He believes (apparently correctly) that relationships don’t last, and he doesn’t want to have to share his wealth with his children’s mothers later on.

    Overall, I favor #3 because it is an argument you can find men making in online comments around the Web. But it could easily be some combination of the above.

    @anna – “I’m happy to have made the decisions and commitments that I have made, and I’m comfortable with other people making the decisions and commitments that work for them.”

    But are you comfortable with people making decisions that don’t work for their children?

    Should people have a choice about making a commitment to the children they create?

  18. Diane M says:

    To look at this from Ricky’s point of view.

    His last engagement ended because his girlfriend cheated on him with her ex-boyfriend (the father of one of her children).

    If he had been married to her, this would have made no difference in what he owed or didn’t owe to her financially.

  19. La Lubu says:

    “Commitment” is an abstract noun, but it isn’t experienced that way in daily life. We experience “commitment” as a set of consistent actions. It isn’t an existential state of being. If one partner regards commitment as the act of marriage itself, plus sexual fidelity within that marriage, while the other partner regards commitment as being a set of concrete, proactive actions (not feelings, not the one-time act of a wedding, not the absence of dealbreaking actions like cheatings), there isn’t just going to be inevitable conflict, but probable unresolvable conflict—they have different core definitions of what marriage is.

    We need less talk of “commitment” and more examples of what commitment entails.

  20. Schroeder says:

    We need less talk of “commitment” and more examples of what commitment entails.

    Why not both? I think if we have more of the former, we’ll have more of the latter.

  21. Schroeder says:

    By the way, I definitely think that commitment involves hard work, La Lubu. Hence, “creative fidelity.” I’m not sure who your comment is responding to. (Maybe not me… but I was the main person talking about commitment.)

  22. Diane M says:

    @LaLubu –

    “If one partner regards commitment as the act of marriage itself, plus sexual fidelity within that marriage, while the other partner regards commitment as being a set of concrete, proactive actions (not feelings, not the one-time act of a wedding, not the absence of dealbreaking actions like cheatings)”

    What are the positive acts you are thinking of?

    My gut reaction to this is that partners will have different ideas about what people need to do beyond fidelity in order to show their commitment.

    There is often a large gender divide over what you are supposed to do to show that you care in a relationship.

    For me, I would define commitment as :

    a commitment to work out problems that come up together; and

    a commitment to stay together even when times are hard or your partner has problems or is older, etc.; (so long as they aren’t endangering you or your children).

  23. La Lubu says:

    Schroeder, forgive me, but I followed the link to “creative fidelity” and found it to be completely meaningless. That’s my fault of course; I don’t relate to abstractions. Let me give an example of what I can relate to.

    Sunday, over a foot and a half of snow was dumped on central Illinois. My daughter and I hunkered down after dinner and watched movies. She already knew school was cancelled, and I made the command decision of not shovelling until morning. And then I hear what sounds like someone trying to break into my side door. Adrenaline-charged, I raced over to the door. It was my father. My father who was a few states away earlier that morning. Welp, wasn’t expecting that. (He’s got a key, my doorknob just needs replacing—it’s beyond fixing. I bought a new doorset and was just waiting for a warm, non-busy Saturday to replace it.) After yelling at him (“Are you out of your MIND?!”), I did the only thing that was really left to do…

    …I put on my Carharrts and spent the next hour and a half shoveling so he could get his car in the driveway. Because that’s what you do when you love someone. He’d ended up having a lousy weekend, and so he came over instead of going home.

    Commitment divorced from action isn’t commitment. Commitment that has any meaning at all takes place in the material world. Commitment on Sunday night was me out in the snow in my driveway shoveling like a demon at the time when I’d rather go to bed, so my dad could pull his car in and not have the back end buried by the snowplows or his car broken into (in my neighborhood…it could happen). All the lofty language in the world wasn’t going to get that car up the driveway. That’s what a relationship is, though this particular example was filial and not romantic. It’d'a been the same thing if a friend of mine had shown up….relationship is about being there for another person, in the way that they need you to be, and sometimes at a cost to yourself. (meaning: I barely survived work yesterday, and crashed hard).

    Commitment is primarily physical work—yet talk about commitment primarily references feelings and/or the abstract. Whaddya wanna bet that most of the arguments between Ricky and his various fiancees revolved around actions that weren’t taking place?

  24. La Lubu says:

    Diane M, when I think of commitment, I immediately flash on things like doing the daily household work that needs to be done. Going to work. Paying the bills. Taking care of children. Keeping the conditions that make a life functional. It isn’t enough to say (for example) that a couple will “support one another’s goals”. What does that mean in the trenches? To me, it meant that I expected my husband to support my studies by keeping the volume down on the television set and not interrupting me while I prepared for tests. Well….it didn’t work out that way. *smile* But ultimately, that’s what it comes down to—-if you support your partner, it involves some daily labor, and occasional inconvenience. “Relationship” implies mutuality and reciprocity. Otherwise….it’s not really a relationship.

  25. La Lubu says:

    And what’s with this lowest-common-denominator of abuse being the bottom line? As long as you aren’t being abused or in danger? Nonsense! For one thing, it encourages people to ignore the early warning signs of future abuse.

  26. annajcook says:

    Diane writes:

    What many people who are avoiding marriage are saying is that they don’t want to get divorced. They see divorce happening over and over again. They think it’s bad to get divorced. …The missing issue is that breaking up is also painful. If you have kids, it is just as bad if not worse for them.

    I agree that breaking up is often unspeakably painful, even if necessary.

    I did not intend my earlier comment about people who resist marriage for fear of ending up in unhappy marriages to apply to all couples and all people who avoid marriage. Clearly there are other groups of people who avoid marriage for other reasons (e.g. fear that it will end in failure and/or divorce). For those people, it seems that we need to offer models for relationship success and well-being. Concrete tools for getting through difficult times, and pathways of discernment for trying to decide whether the relationship is able to be turned around.

    I have a person near and dear to me who is going through this discernment process right now, and it is incredibly painful — yet I would argue necessary. She isn’t sure the relationship she has is healthy (for her or her partner), and is increasingly certain that her partner is unable to see what is wrong (or, if he does, would be made unhappy in turn by altering his actions and framework to match hers). This is not for lack of support for, or resources for re-building their relationship. They have put incredible effort for the past two years in healing and considering where they are able to (and want to) go from here. In the end, it may not be a path they forge together.

    I don’t see this as a failure, if it is what is going to help them live the healthiest lives.

  27. Rhonda says:

    I think it is important for both people to have an understanding of what marriage means to each person.
    I never expected/wanted to marry because my idea of marriage was a forever and ever, good times and bad deal, and I couldn’t see myself putting up with a person for that long, and my partners/girlfriends had different meanings of marriage. Until I met the woman who would be my wife. We talked about what marriage meant to each of us. I come from a divorced home, her parents were married for over 60 yrs and died within days of each other. Our ideas, and plans for commitment were similar, we talk out differences. We have been married for 3yrs come April.
    I couldn’t be happier with my change of heart regarding marriage, but it was only because we had similar ideas and concepts of what marriage and commitment means.

  28. Diane M says:

    @Mont D Law “Whatever his tragedy, however sad his poetry, no woman is going to be better off married to an unemployed alcoholic from an abusive alcoholic family than getting a paralegal degree.”

    Yes. But are there any conservatives out there suggesting that women should skip education? Has anyone on this site suggested that it would be a good policy to tell women to just marry the first guy they meet and skip community college?

    Are Ricky’s girlfriends going to community college?

    The problem is that Ricky’s girlfriends are already living with an unemployed alcoholic from an abusive family (and they may have similar problems themselves). And they are having children with him.

  29. Mont D. Law says:

    (But are there any conservatives out there suggesting that women should skip education? Has anyone on this site suggested that it would be a good policy to tell women to just marry the first guy they meet and skip community college?)

    There was a whole post critisising liberals for not promoting marriage and instead focusing on education as a solution to poverty. I was clear in referencing that post in my response.

  30. Diane M says:

    @Mont D Law – I don’t remember it. Do you have a link?

  31. Mont D. Law says:

    ‘Why Do Economists Urge College, But Not Marriage?’

    It’s still on the front page.

  32. maggie gallagher says:

    It is also not clear–because we don’t have their stories–whether any of these mothers are better off because they did not marry Ricky.

    Among other things, we do not know how they or Ricky would have changed if they had been able to really commit to a marriage, including fidelity.

    He might have ended up an unemployed disillusioned man looking for sex with a jail record.

    But also he might have tried to live up to being what a husband ought to be, if he had found a woman he was willing to marry, and who would marry him.

    We can’t know. He can’t know. She can’t know.

    We see the risks in one direction. But the other direction also carries risks, being experienced as a lot of suffering.

    Why are we so chary of the risks in only one direction? I think there’s an answer but I’m not sure what it is.

    (Mont, nobody is saying marriage instead of college!)

  33. Hector says:

    Anna J Cook,

    Well, it’s clear we don’t agree, as I think a big part of why the state exists is precisely to keep people from making ‘crappy decisions.’

  34. mythago says:

    Maggie, I truly don’t understand your argument. Smart people base risks on probabilities, not on “well it’s POSSIBLE”. At heart, you’re arguing that a woman would be wise to roll the dice on a man who can’t be a decent human being on his own steam.

  35. Anna says:

    I’m not Maggie, but I’ll try to answer Mythago anyway: by “on his own steam” you seem to mean without an institution like marriage that involves him making a promise and then being held to it by some legal consequences.

    To me, a lot of what’s been said on this thread seems to boil down to saying that vows and promises are not real or valuable parts of human existence.

    But it seems to me that human beings have always considered that there is such a thing as a promise and that it has real effects on the shaping of human character. And we have always used promises and vows to help hold ourselves to things we believe we will be the better for.

    Yes, it carries risks, but as Maggie points out, so does not making promises.

  36. La Lubu says:

    But also he might have tried to live up to being what a husband ought to be, if he had found a woman he was willing to marry, and who would marry him.

    We can’t know. He can’t know. She can’t know.

    Are you kidding me?! Seriously?! This is the absolute worst piece of advice that conservatives bring forth about marriage, and it would be laughable if the results weren’t so unfunny.

    You know what’s missing in the comments section? Any testimony from pro-marriage conservatives, the folks who want pregnant women hustling to the altar before delivery, that they themselves would advise their own daughters to marry a guy just like Ricky. Go on, do it! Show all us riffraff over on the wrong side of the tracks what we’re doing wrong by advising our own daughters to strike“dump the bum” run far, far away from guys like Ricky, because anyone can make a mistake but there’s no sense in compounding it.

    Marriage is not reform school. It isn’t the Marines. It isn’t AA. And expecting it to be is ridiculous.

  37. Diane M says:

    @Mont D Law – I think you are unfairly representing the argument of the article:

    ‘Why Do Economists Urge College, But Not Marriage?’

    It’s still on the front page.”

    “There was a whole post critisising liberals for not promoting marriage and instead focusing on education as a solution to poverty. I was clear in referencing that post in my response.”

    The article is asking why do we promote college as a good economic choice but not promote marriage?

    That is not the same things as suggesting that people should get married instead of going to college or that marriage should be the public policy we promote instead of college. It’s a question about people’s seeming inconsistency and the implication is you could promote both.

  38. La Lubu says:

    by “on his own steam” you seem to mean without an institution like marriage that involves him making a promise and then being held to it by some legal consequences.

    Headdesk, headdesk, headdesk! Here, let me break it down to you how this scenario works out in my community—more urban and less northern-European-descent than the community the Lapps are doing their interviews in (thus, not necessarily culturally comparable), but economically and educationally comparable:

    Ricky has a wife now. That means he doesn’t have to change. The wife is there to clean up all his messes, keep the home fires burning, and bring bail money when necessary. In other words, she is expected to be the enabler. She receives no thank-yous from anyone else for doing this (including her version of “Ricky”), in fact people speak quite disparagingly about her, as the “dumb (insert unkind slur specific to women here) who married him, so it’s her own (expletive deleted) fault.”

    There is no community. There is no “promise”. Marriage is not a promise to stop drinking, go to school, get a decent job, and start acting like a responsible grown-up. Everyone in my community understands that marriage is what you do after those conditions have been met and not before. It is well understood that if you make the foolish decision to marry someone who has not done those things, that’s your stupid mistake, and that’s on you to find your own way out of it. There is no backup. There is no cavalry call. No one comes to the rescue of people who make poor marital decisions. Their only form of “rescue” is either not making the poor decision in the first place, or getting a divorce.

    If a person is incapable of being a responsible adult for him or herself, that person is incapable of being a responsible marriage partner.

  39. Rhonda says:

    It is also not clear–because we don’t have their stories–whether any of these mothers are better off because they did not marry Ricky.

    Among other things, we do not know how they or Ricky would have changed if they had been able to really commit to a marriage, including fidelity.

    He might have ended up an unemployed disillusioned man looking for sex with a jail record.

    But also he might have tried to live up to being what a husband ought to be, if he had found a woman he was willing to marry, and who would marry him.

    There is a good reason not to take this risk. It’s called “TRUST” and if you have no reason to trust that he will change, there is no reason to take that chance. You don’t get married hoping someone will change, you marry who they are, not who you want them to be.

  40. Diane M says:

    One thing I think has to be said, the women Ricky is dating have some flaws, too. I would advise any young man that a woman who is pregnant by some other guy when she has sex with you in a bathroom is not ready for a relationship.

    To get back to Maggie Gallagher’s argument, I can’t see advising anyone to marry Ricky until he’s grown up a little. Even before he did jail time, he seems to have been drinking and deeply conflicted about making a commitment.

    I think it is entirely possible that marriage could have helped him. We know that it generally helps young men to settle down. However, I think nobody would seriously advise a young woman dating a troubled man to go forward and marry him.

    Rather, like most parents, I would advise a young woman dating a man who drank too much to break up with him sooner rather than later.

    But I also see Maggie Gallagher’s point in another way – these young women are living with Ricky and having children with him. So they are taking a risk already. It may be rational to not marry in case things go bad, but it would be a lot wiser to not be involved in the first place – or to be involved more slowly and without any risk of having a baby.

    I would still not advise a young woman to go ahead and marry and hope that works out better than living together. I think sometimes you need society to change, you can’t expect one person to do it on her own.

    Young women who are living with men like Ricky need some kind of support from outside to change him (and probably them as well). Marriage can’t come first all on its own.

  41. Diane M says:

    @LaLubu – “Marriage is not a promise to stop drinking, go to school, get a decent job, and start acting like a responsible grown-up. Everyone in my community understands that marriage is what you do after those conditions have been met and not before.”

    This is interesting to me. People (well social scientist people anyhow) talk a lot about marriage as a “capstone” versus “cornerstone” to life – in other words something you do after you have achieved something versus as you start out.

    But maybe the issue isn’t has this person already succeeded, but is the person ready to act like a responsible grown-up?

  42. Schroeder says:

    You know what’s missing in the comments section? Any testimony from pro-marriage conservatives… that they themselves would advise their own daughters to marry a guy just like Ricky.

    Maggie can correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think she would advise her own daughters to marry a guy like Ricky. I think she meant that if Ricky were the kind of guy to really commit to someone (i.e. to take co-ownership of his relationships), maybe he would also be willing to make changes for his beloved. As it is now, the prevailing definition of marriage as “just a piece of paper” doesn’t expect much of anyone… If you feel like someone will throw you to the curb the moment you make a mistake, why even try?

    Ricky has a wife now. That means he doesn’t have to change.

    There is no community. There is no “promise”. Marriage is not a promise to stop drinking, go to school, get a decent job, and start acting like a responsible grown-up.

    La Lubu,

    What I (we?) mean by a “strong marriage culture” does mean that marriage is implicitly a “promise to stop drinking, go to school, get a decent job, and start acting like a responsible grown-up.”

    In a strong marriage culture, marriage is thought of as a life-long commitment, so there is every incentive work at it, which means getting up at four with the baby and taking her into the living room so your wife can get some sleep. It means trying to get a job to provide for your family or so your spouse can go to school or so you have two incomes. It means making unpleasant phone calls so your spouse doesn’t have to. It means buying chocolate and making a book about your love story for Valentine’s Day.

    When someone says “marriage is just a piece of paper” and then goes on to treat it like it’s “just a piece of paper,” I can’t help but see the connection. To use an analogy, if you have a car that you’re expecting to take down to the dump any day now, you are much less likely to take good care of it.

  43. Anna says:

    La Lubu, I disagree. I certainly consider my marriage vows to include (or at least imply) a promise to make future life-changing decisions not as an independent individual but as part of a family. Of course that has implications for jobs, etc. An unemployed alcoholic husband is not just a bad person – he’s also being a bad husband. At least, that’s what marriage means in my community.

    You say people should act like “responsible grown-ups” before marriage, and surely you’re right that people need to show some capacity for responsibility to be good marriage prospects. But can they truly be “responsible”? Doesn’t “responsible” literally mean to be answerable for and to someone else? Without responsibilities, how can we be responsible? A single childless twenty-year-old has some responsibilities – to parents and the law for instance – but they’re pretty minimal. How does that person become “responsible” without taking on some responsibilities?

  44. La Lubu says:

    Diane M, one of the things that Stephanie Coontz’ work really drives home is exactly how much of an aberration the fifties and early sixties were in terms of marriage. Marriage has always been a “capstone” before then. Granted, not in terms of having children first, but definitely in terms of earning a living and having a household first. It isn’t necessarily true that there is a lengthier timeframe for marriage preparedness now (college, etc.); apprenticeships were rather lengthy in previous eras, and people (including young women!) started them in late childhood/early teens.

    The impact of treating the rust belt as a big open collection of throw-away people cannot be underestimated. The bedrock of rebuilding communities has to start with rebuilding the economy…otherwise it’s just a bunch of talk.

  45. La Lubu says:

    Anna, a person can be responsible while still being alone. He or she can still hold down a job and meet all the responsibilities of that job. Go to school and do the work necessary to graduate. Take care of his or her living quarters and self. Pay his or her own bills. Not engage in self-destructive behavior. Plan and put forth action towards the future one desires. None of that requires a spouse or a child, and having a strong track record of self-sufficiency and self-responsibility makes it much more likely that such a person will continue that set of behaviors into any adult relationships. These are the kinds of things people are supposed to be learning while transitioning into adulthood, and are much harder to learn if one loads up one’s life with more (and conflicting) responsibilities.

    I’m going to keep saying it until I am blue in the face: marriage is not a formative institution. The role a person has as a spouse is in direct conflict with the role one must take as a “drill sargeant” tasked with shaping up someone else from being irresponsible into being responsible. This is exacerbated when one’s community recognizes that the decision to either play the enabler or the drill sargeant is seen as a stupid decision on par with driving drunk.

    People who have not yet learned self-responsibility will not learn it when married. They will look to their spouses to take on their responsibilities for them. “Promises” are 100% empty unless backed up by concrete action. Look to what people do, not what they say. Talk is cheap and requires no effort.

  46. Diane M says:

    Switching gears slightly. LaLubu -”Marriage has always been a “capstone” before then (the fifties and sixties).”

    One of the good things about the fifties is that society made it possible for young couples to marry and get real practical support from the rest of us. The GI Bill meant you could afford to go to college and be married and have children and a parent caring for them. It also helped people buy homes. So it was much easier for a young couple to get married and then build a solid foundation and stay together. (The growing economy also helped!)

    I’m not sure I agree that marriage was never a cornerstone. It was certainly true that a young man was expected to be able to support a family before he got married, but marriage was still relatively young. You didn’t expect to have as much in terms of financial success and weddings were the beginning of the relationship. Ceremonies were much, much smaller.

    In any case, something has certainly changed, even if there is more consistency than we think.

    LaLubu, I half agree, half disagree with you here: “marriage is not a formative institution.”

    Marriage is a formative institution. It changes you. If more people were getting married, it would make a difference to society.

    However, in terms of what you’re getting at, I would agree (and I think most people would, too) that marrying someone who is very irresponsible is not a good idea. There is just too much chance that they won’t decide to grow up – that is not something you or any wife or husband can control.

    So we’re left with the question – how do you change things so that it makes sense to marry? so that there are enough young men and women who are responsible enough that marriage is not just a crazy idea?

    And I think at some point we also have to address the question – what about the fact that the same people who are not responsible enough/grown-up enough yet to marry are still getting engaged, living together, and having children together?

  47. David Lapp says:

    Diane said,

    What many people who are avoiding marriage are saying is that they don’t want to get divorced. They see divorce happening over and over again. They think it’s bad to get divorced.

    The missing issue is that breaking up is also painful. If you have kids, it is just as bad if not worse for them.

    Exactly. In their understandable aversion of divorce, they are putting themselves and their children through invisible divorces.

    So does that mean we should try to get as many people as possible to get married, so they will avoid the heartbreak of invisible divorces?

    Well, of course, that carries the risk that they will just get divorced!

    This conversation cannot just be about participation in the thing our society now describes as marriage. Because there is so much cultural confusion about what we mean by “marriage.” To one person it effectively means “as long as the other person doesn’t change and we are happy together.” To another it means a constant renewal of love as life changes. Perhaps in the past participation in the institution of marriage was formative. I fear that is no longer the case.

    The “marriage idea” has to be nurtured and strengthened. What is the marriage idea? I think it has a lot to do with what Schroeder calls creative fidelity. Just look at the traditional wedding vows that Thomas Cranmer wrote. They are a promise to love –and not simply to be with another person — in sickness and in health, etc. etc.

    The conversation about strengthening marriage must not only be about “getting people married.” It also has to be about embracing the marriage idea — about creating a norm of love, of creative fidelity.

    In other words, a strong marriage culture would mean that a man who is abusing his wife would feel stigmatized for his actions. He should feel a strong sense of shame, not machismo, for his actions.

    Anna, regarding your very good question about how to make sense of Ricky’s contradiction — I have been thinking a lot about this lately. One possibility is that Ricky’s difficulty trusting people makes him wary of making a public commitment — hence his downplaying about the importance of the institution of marriage. But he still recognizes the superiority of the public commitment. He’s just not prepared to make that public commitment because of his trust deficit.

    Whatever the case, I strongly suspect the contradiction is more than a meaningless accident. I think we could learn a lot by delving deeper into the contradiction. There is something very profound here, I think.

  48. La Lubu says:

    David, let me remind you that our “strong marriage culture” of the past was completely copasetic with domestic violence. What has and continues to change that outlook is grassroots activism that promotes a culture of egalitarianism that challenges and rejects the previous culture of women’s indentured servitude. “Strong marriage culture” has never been anti-domestic violence nor anti-marital rape. It was the women’s liberation movement you can thank for that.

    Marriage is not a set of “I promise to do better” goals that may (or may not) come to pass in some nebulous future. That’s exactly the “marriage idea” that is extant now and the site of so much failure. Marriage is a set of actions in the here-and-now, just like any other human endeavor, and one can measure his or her own and his or her partner’s investment in/participation in the marriage by how much he or she is actually doing. A job is a set of actions one has to get accomplished by the end of the day or week. A degree is a set of credit hours one must successfully pass. Even the military will boot a person out if he or she fails to meet the standards.

    So why is it unreasonable to think of marriage as a set of actual standards? That’s how it is experienced in the day-to-day. “Creative fidelity” says nothing about the duties that one must do in order for anything approaching a marriage effectively exists. I was “married” in the legal sense, but in the actual sense? None of the conditions that I thought of as “marriage” in any substantive sense were being met. So, in reality my divorce was just the legal acknowledgement of the pre-existing lack of any meaningful marriage.

  49. Schroeder says:

    David, let me remind you that our “strong marriage culture” of the past was completely copasetic with domestic violence.

    La Lubu,

    That was hypocrisy, not a failure of ideals. Strong marriage culture says “love your spouse” and, I’m sorry, but that is just not copasetic with domestic violence.

    I know that you think that “love” is just an abstract word and that you don’t like abstractions, but let me just say that for me, personally, anecdotally, love has been anything but abstract (read my response to you above). And look at what Anna said above:

    “I certainly consider my marriage vows to include (or at least imply) a promise to make future life-changing decisions not as an independent individual but as part of a family. Of course that has implications for jobs, etc. An unemployed alcoholic husband is not just a bad person – he’s also being a bad husband. At least, that’s what marriage means in my community.”

    Or what David Lapp said,

    “In other words, a strong marriage culture would mean that a man who is abusing his wife would feel stigmatized for his actions. He should feel a strong sense of shame, not machismo, for his actions.”

    I feel like you’re not engaging with our comments fairly, even though we are using our personal experiences in our conversations with you, which I understand is your preferred way of communication. I can assure you that my love for my wife manifests itself in our day-to-day life and so does her love for me. You’re not the only one who has waking-up-in-the-middle-of-night-to-shovel-the-driveway type stories.

    I wonder how you would respond to my comment above, where I say how I think a weak marriage culture harms people: If people think that marriage is “just a piece of paper,” why should we be surprised when they treat it like it’s just a piece of paper?

    Also, I don’t think that your representation of the 50′s marriage culture is at all representative. Sure, there was a lot of hypocrisy (which, as I noted, is different from a failure of ideals), but, to answer your anecdote with an anecdote, my grandparents (on both sides) are still happily married and still do sweet things for each other and act out their love. Also, while I think the women’s rights movement was generally a good thing, I also think it was perfectly compatible with and complementary to a strong marriage culture.

  50. La Lubu says:

    Schroeder, with all due respect, ever abuser says that he or she “loves” the person he or she is abusing. What’s more, they believe it. They believe that their abuse is a demonstration of love.

    Ideals are totally meaningless without action. It wasn’t hypocrisy that led institutions to ignore domestic violence as a problem–it was embedded within their ideals, specifically the ideal that a man is the head of the household, and that in order to maintain his position as the head of the household, he needed to be able to institute the discipline of his choosing. But I digress….

    Point blank: we need to disabuse ourselves of the notion that love is or should be unconditional. That is toxic. Instead, we should openly talk more about the “doings” of love—the concrete actions that comprise the translationof the personal, individual feeling into visible reality. And we don’t—that isn’t a part of USian conversation about love. We don’t talk about love in practical terms, only abstract ones. That leaves people who grew up without examples of love-in-action or with toxic examples of “love” on the losing end.

    You and everyone else who hasn’t had toxic (or absent) demonstrations of love as your experiential model do not realize the degree to which those of us who have labor to (re)define “love” in a way that makes sense….in a way that uplifts us instead of knocking us down. You take functional love for granted, while the rest of us struggle to work out how Toxic Event A, B, C,….X, Y, Z fits under the rubric of “love”.