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Changes in Attitude in Marriage & Divorce from the Golden Era to Now.

Discussion in 'The Observation Bar' started by just_me, Jan 10, 2009.

  1. The divorce rate in 1945-47 spiked to a peak that it wouldn't hit again until the 1970s. If one lived in a state where proof of adultery was required, it was easy enough for a couple who couldn't wait to get rid of each other to arrange for that proof to be available. "Mental Cruelty" was another very popular ground that covered a lot of territory in states where it was acceptable.

    It's also interesting to note that the divorvce rate remained elevated, compared to prewar levels, all thru the 1950s, never dipping below 20 percent at any time during the "Togetherness" decade. The road to Levittown might have been paved with gold, but still one out of every five marriages was headed for divorce court.
    Edward likes this.
  2. AmateisGal

    AmateisGal I'll Lock Up

    In some ways, I wish my state was not a "no fault divorce" state because I could have slapped my ex with adultery and put it out there for all the world to see. As it stands, I feel like he got away with it scot-free and has gone on to live with and now be engaged to the women he cheated on me with (all within the span of a few months). Where's the justice in that? He blows up my life and our daughter's life while he goes on to live his "happily" ever after. His betrayal was the most horrific thing I've experienced in my life.

    On the other hand, it was not a good marriage. He is a narcissistic sociopath (through therapy, I've been able to connect the dots and realize that this is what I was dealing with) and I'm much better off without him.

    I think it's really interesting to see how, culturally, our society has gone from adultery being a shameful thing back in the era to today's view where it's mostly accepted as no big deal, as somehow the other spouse's "fault" (which is flat out wrong in almost every instance), and is celebrated in TV shows and movies. I guess I'm a firm believer in being an adult about it. If you're not happy with your marriage, either work to fix it or get out without cheating.
  3. I agree with this recognizing that - to every rule - there are exceptions, but the default setting, general expectation and societal standard should be integrity in marriage.

    This also touches on a larger issue I think about a lot both owing to our daily headlines and to the thoughtful commentary on this forum. That is - what is the proper setting for societal standards? If they are set too high, we all become hypocrites living in a world we'll never measure up to. Set to low, and I don't think we demand enough of ourselves and others and end up with a society of careless morality and cultural vulgarity and harshness.

    Hopefully, nobody wants to be a scold, but if there are no standards, no judgement (like your comment on "no-fault divorces") then we, IMHO, encourage and enable the worst in us. Set too high, and those standard lose their value as we all become hypocrites and cynics living "double" lives.

    On this site, I see this play out all the time. Some of us love (take pride in) the higher societal standards of the GE while others happily (sometime, viciously) point out the reality of how often GE lives didn't live up to those standards. It's easy to be a scold or a cynic, but the real question is did those higher standards help, overall, raise society's morality in a good way (even though many / most fell short at least some of the time) or are we better with the much lower standards of today that ask less of us and, thus, produce less hypocrisy, but a more gratuitous culture?
    AmateisGal likes this.
  4. AmateisGal

    AmateisGal I'll Lock Up

    I'm a big believer in balance. You go too far one way, and things get out of whack; you try to correct and go too far the other way, and things still get out of whack.

    For example...While I am glad that sex is no longer a taboo subject, where it's not talked about and thought of as a "woman's duty" to submit to her husband, I also think the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction. We talk about sex TOO much. We have TV shows where we celebrate teenagers getting pregnant. We have movies that are so overtly sexual that it's crass and vulgar (IMO, anyway). I'd like a healthy balance. I was talking to a coworker the other day and when we were teenagers (late 80s and early 90s), we were BOMBARDED with messages of safe sex and how you could literally die from HIV if you had unprotected sex. It was drummed into our heads from all sides. Fast forward to now, and with the drugs we have now to treat STDs and HIV, with proper drug treatment, is no longer a death sentence, this generation of teenagers is having much more unprotected sex. Consequences can be dealt with either by going to the doctor and getting drugs, or by taking the morning after pill. So in the span of a generation, we went from "If you have unprotected sex, you will die!!!" to "You didn't use birth control? Just take the morning after pill."

    What has this new attitude toward sex done to our society? If I have my facts right, there are more teenagers smoking, more teens with STDs, etc. That's one negative aspect. I don't have stats on adultery, but I'd wager with the advent of online dating and Craiglist hookups, it's easier to cheat on your spouse these days, too. I get that prostitution and adultery has already been around, but with our loosened morals, adultery, as I alluded to above, is more accepted. Heck, people who commit adultery sometimes go on to get married and there's a big wedding celebration. Now I obviously have bias against this topic, but there is no shame for what these people have done, IMO, and that is wrong.
  5. Whatever the arrangement, all I ask is that all involved parties know just what the arrangement actually is. In my book, it's "cheating" only if it's not disclosed. Of course, cheaters don't disclose because if they did they'd likely find their "primary" partner saying nope, no can do, don't let the door hit you on the way out, etc.

    But I've been one among more than one "partner" of a woman or several, and vice-versa. I'm well acquainted with people in "trouples," a two of one gender and one of the other "marriage" of sorts.

    I got nothing against polygamy per se, although in practice it is often abusive. (But it certainly isn't that monogamy is free of that.) As a matter of fairness, legalized same-sex marriage was too long in coming.

    I'm receptive to the argument that the state really ought get out of the marriage business altogether.
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2017
  6. I think there's a place for the state in enforcing civil marriage as a contract -- if you go into it, and receive benefits in the form of tax breaks for it, then you should be obligated to carry out the requirements of the contract, or you lose the benefits of it. But I don't really have a strong feeling on the issue one way or another -- I've seen too many "happy marriages" that were empty shells for the sake of public consumption to be particularly idealistic about the institution.

    The kids I know these days look at marriage as the last step you take in a long-term relationship, not the first, and this seems to be a pretty consistent generational thing. Move in together, have kids if you want them, buy a house together, and then, if everything seems to be working out, get married. They don't seem to be any happier or more miserable than my generation was, so basically, "whatever." It's interesting that the divorce rate today is about half of what it was in 1990, so maybe the millennials are looking at how their parents dealt with marriage and figure "why bother?"

    As far as sex talk goes, well, The Boys know what sells, so there it is. I don't get offended by it at all, but I do find the whole subject unspeakably boring, like a little kid running around yelling "f*ck!" because he thinks it'll get a rise out of people and that's why he does it. Go be transgressive somewhere else. I'd rather eat a good pastrami sandwich any day of the week.
    Edward and 3fingers like this.

  7. If the definition of a contract remains as, ".. an agreement the performance of which the law recognizes as an obligation and the breach for which the law provides remedies," then marriage is, by definition, a contract. If everyone entered into marriage with the same premeditated, deliberative arms- length mentality with which they enter into, say, a contract for the sale of a house or the contract for sale of a new car, we would have all entered into pre- nups before waltzing up to that altar. Alas, even the most cold blooded and pragmatic among us (and I admit that I approached marriage with a good deal of that inclination) tend to get starry eyed and romantic when it comes to the man/ woman of our dreams. "For us, it's different," we all proclaim. And for roughly half of us, according to the stats, we find out that it's not really different at all.

    And therein lies the problem of "getting the state out of the marriage business altogether." There are legitimate societal interests at stake in protecting family members upon the occasion of the dissolution of a marriage. Most of it rests with protecting the best interests of kids, but a lot of it deals with protecting adults as well. Deem it protecting people from their own stupidity, if you like, but even if you take an attitude that the stupid deserve what they get, there are always unforeseeable circumstances that need to be addressed. And thus it's doubtful that that the policing power of the state will ever cease to include marriage.

    Now into a slightly different area and one colored by personal anecdote: there is a certain delicious and almost sanctified schadenfreude that takes place when the gals or guys who were "too cool" to date you back in high school show up when you're in your thirties or forties and suddenly want to be your best friend. Usually after finding out that the Mr. (Ms.?) Right that they married with such happily- ever- after dreams turned out to be abusive, alcoholic, unfaithful, or outright psychotic. And, it isn't so much that you're gleeful over their tragedies (so maybe schadenfreude isn't really the right word here) as much as it brings forth a sense of vindication: someone who you felt was one of your harshest and unfair critics is now in the position of admitting that you are really not that rotten of an excuse for a human being after all. Best thing to do, I think, is to be magnanimous to such people and take the high road. Not so much out of a sense of lofty altruism... but realizing that there were times in your own life that you were not exactly a cross between Francis of Assisi, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, and Albert Schweitzer (incorporating the most admirable characteristics of said same, of course) in dealing with other people yourself. It's one of those occasions when, contemplating how funny life can turn out, a good laugh might be therapeutic.
  8. To what degree does the law define family structure? I'd argue that it certainly influences it to a large degree, hence the controversy over same-sex marriage and the continuing legal prohibition of plural marriage.

    Marriage as a legal construct legitimizes certain personal relationships and delegitimizes others. That's for better or for worse, depending on where one stands, but there really is little denying it.

    Marriage as we used to know it was "a contract between a man, a woman, and the state." Only those incapable of putting the shoe on the other foot could fail to see how people in relationships that didn't meet that definition would be relegated to a lesser status.
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2017
  9. Paisley

    Paisley I'll Lock Up

    Among the men who've hit on me from age 30, the vast majority were looking to cheat on a wife, a girlfriend, or both. That doesn't inspire me to run out and find someone.
  10. Charming, ain't they?
  11. Paisley

    Paisley I'll Lock Up

    Without a contract, a woman would be taking a major risk by leaving the job market to raise children and keep a home. The man would be free to walk out on her in middle age with no penalty, leaving her with a diminished ability to support herself. I wonder how many men and women like this who don't want the government in their relationship end up in...government courts.

    The trouble with marriage coming last is switching costs. Having pets, a house, kids together, having moved across the country for someone, makes it very hard to back out of a relationship if you realize you don't want to marry the person.
  12. This is what women's studies majors of my acquaintance (gotta major in something) would call a "gendered analysis." Which it is, I suppose, although just saying as much hardly means it is to be dismissed.

    The scenario you draw is a true enough reflection of a hard reality for some. It remains true, albeit to a lesser degree, as gender roles are not what they were.

    Consider, though, how marriage laws and the customs on which they are modeled have themselves contributed to women's dependence and subservience.
  13. The strongest piece of advice I have ever seen is "never be a stay-at-home mom (or dad) if you're not married." It leaves the partner who stays at home at significant risk should the working partner leave.

    I do think marriage should come before children for those intending on partnering with someone for life (and having a child or several). If you divorce someone without children, you are free from them, likely forever. You never have to speak to them again once things are finalized. Once you have kids with someone, you're chained to them for the next 18 to 21 years. Likely more. And it doesn't matter if you hate the other person, you have 2 decades of interaction ahead of you. If being married for a time before having kids helps someone to determine if this person is good parenting or partner material, then I'd recommend marriage first.

    There's exceptions to this, of course, but my advice to young people is to think really carefully about who they chose to parent their kids, because they are going to be stuck with them a long time. Parenting is a much more major decision than marriage with far longer permeance.
    belfastboy likes this.
  14. ^^^^^
    Among most (all, maybe) divorced parents of my acquaintance, relationships with the ex continue in one form or another decades after the split. And they'll likely remain in each other's lives for the duration, like it or not. To their credit, I see little evidence of these folks using their kids, and now their grandkids, as pawns. (Although I do recall one notable exception.)
  15. PrettySquareGal

    PrettySquareGal My Mail is Forwarded Here

    And where in Maine does one find such a thing? This former NYer needs to know!
  16. AmateisGal

    AmateisGal I'll Lock Up

    That honestly doesn't surprise me. I'm very hesitant to get back into the dating game. I'm pretty happy being single!
  17. Written marriage contracts date back to the Sumerians. Their style survived in the ketubah, the Jewish wedding document every couple signs before the ceremony. The signing is really the wedding. Everything else is to celebrate that. My husband and I have ours displayed in our living room.
  18. They do a nice one at a place in town here called "Clan McLaren." Ask for the "Double Eagle." It's not the tall NYC kind you have to eat with a stepladder, but it's still very tasty.
    PrettySquareGal likes this.
  19. Re a bunch of the above posts: We have several single women friends in their 40s / 50s and I'm just going to say it - dating is very hard for them as most of the men available in their age group are less than desirable.

    Having tried to help - locate dates for them through my girlfriend's and my friends and acquaintances - and having read a bit on this, I've come to the conclusion that the problem is (1) let's not forget that ~50% of men and women stay married, so many (not all) "good ones" are locked up, (2) our casual sex culture has left many middle aged (and divorced) men happy to not remarry (been told that many times) and (3) women are willing to date men 10 and even 20 years older than they are (but this only happens occasionally with men dating much older women) so the population of men of similar age to our 40 / 50 year old friends is being aggressively diluted by women in their 30s and even 20s dating / marrying them.

    IMHO, those are not some stupid guy reasons I came up with, but is an honest analysis both my girlfriend and I have come to after years of trying to help some very smart, attractive, nice and kind single women friends of ours find decent men of a similar age to them to date. That said, it only takes one - so of course, it can always happen, but the odds are, IMHO, harder for the above reasons.
  20. Thank you, LizzieMaine! How on earth did a discussion of divorce in the Golden Era go six pages without someone mentioning desertion and the epidemic of family abandonment during the Great Depression?

    Hypothesizing about the relative (dis)functionality of marriages, and associated Golden Era attitudes about divorce, by just looking at divorce rates proceeds from a fundamentally flawed assumption: that comparatively lower divorce rates reflect positive marriage outcomes.

    In a time when divorce was very burdensome from a legal perspective and took much longer to finalize, common solutions were to say married, but live separate lives; outright abandonment; and good old fashioned mutually assured misery.
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2017
    Edward, tonyb and LizzieMaine like this.

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