Thursday Link: Queer Marital Harmony for the Straight Couple

I don’t think the Atlantic means its articles to be taken as factual. They’re more like talking points, something to think about, ideas to toss around.

With that prologue, I’m linking to The Gay Guide to Wedded Bliss,” an article about what homosexual family structures can teach hetero couples about division of labor.

Plus, it offers some tantalizing statistics. Like, did you know that having a woman in a relationship correlates to it breaking up? Turns out more women than men request divorce in hetero unions, and more lesbian than gay couples split up. So if you want your marriage to last, marry a man.

The research cited can also suggest what each gender values. Lesbian couples are called out for creating a perfect equality in their relationship, down to the last penny spent, and who carries the next baby. What this tells me is that women see a power structure in everything, and they strive to mitigate any effect it could have on their relationship.

Gay couples are more chilled. They also split the housework — admitting that they do more now than they did in prior hetero marriages. But there’s also a higher likelihood of one man becoming a house-husband (even though there are apparently more power tensions related to income in gay unions). So, although men hang a lot of self-esteem on their bacon-bringing abilities, they still value house-spousing enough to sacrifice for it.

Ironic, isn’t it?

Anyway, go ahead and take a read, then drop a comment below — in that order, please.

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When Everyone’s an Expert

People who get within sniffing distance of marriage are notable for their sudden transformation into SMEs (subject matter experts).  It is amazing, really, how only a taste of marriage can turn someone into a fount of information on the subject. Here are some of the courses available through the Marriage Department at TMI U.

The Meaning of Commitment 101

Taught by a newly ringed NEF, the meaning of commitment covers what it means to declare yourself dedicated to someone for life, no matter what. Lectures range between 5 and 15 minutes and may include an earnest entreaty not to be afraid to commit yourself; after all, it’s probably going to work out great for this NEF.

How to Just Take a Leap of Faith – Seminar

Taught by an NEF, this quick disposition covers the meaning of faith, as well as the necessary prerequisites for it. There is brief coverage of the technique of leaping, as well as some evidence provided that leaps of faith pay off. Really. Things turn out fine. They do.

These impromptu speeches by NEFs bother me the least of all the near-marriage lectures, because I know they’re mostly talking to themselves. They’re nervous, and they’re trying to assure themselves that they weren’t stupid, accepting a ring from a stranger in return for a promise to remain dedicated to them for life.

Sometimes I bait them, proposing more and more dire marriage situations, just to watch them brace themselves to remain committed, yea, e’en in such dire straits.

What bugs me more is when people who have very little experience will marriage become experts on the subject. For example:

The Simplicity of Shalom Bayis – Lecture

Presented by an NMF of about three months, this lecture covers how simple shalom bayis is to maintain. All you have to do is listen to the other person and be willing to compromise. Honestly, what’s the big deal?

How Bad Decisions Messed up Someone Else’s Marriage, a Case Study

Presented by an MF of one year, this analysis of the rocky marriage of a 3-year-old couple will dissect poor decisions they made that led to their current situation. The lecturer will detail how she and her still-honeymooning husband would never make dumb mistakes like that.

Just from sitting around in my armchair watching, I suspect it takes a year before a couple really feels comfortable enough to start taking advantage of each other. Then you have another year before they start getting fed up with each other. So you won’t be seeing any cracks until year three, unless the situation is really bad. Oddly, that’s around when MFs stop dispensing the free marriage counseling.

Of course, I don’t claim to be an expert. I’m just explaining my own theory (available in lecture series upon request), and why I’d never take serious marriage advice from anyone who hasn’t been doing it for at least five years. Ten preferred.

Otherwise, you might as well purchase my other lecture series:

Why My Kids Are Going to be Fantastic

In this course I will espouse that raising great kids is simple: all you have to do is understand what each child needs and provide it. What’s the big deal? 

Missing Part of the Equation

Three single people in a shared apartment living room. They are discussing how comfortable they are in their current living situation, and how perhaps a Boston marriage is in order, and who needs to get married anyway?

“Everyone I know who is married has issues. Either it’s the spouse or it’s the kids or it’s the trying to have kids. But they’ve nearly all been messy – sometimes permanently – in some way,” says First Single.

Second Single nods in agreement. One of her good friends recently filed for a divorce after five years with a deadbeat.

Third Single looked at the first two incredulously. “Are you saying you think being married is worse than being single?”

First and Second Single look at each other. “Well, it does look that way, from the outside.”

“Look,” Third Single began. “Granted, all the married people I know have Married-People Issues of some type. But don’t we all have Single-People Issues?” Her voice trailed off as she realized the inevitable response.

“Um, aside from the fact that we’re not married?” First Single said. “Not really.”

“We’re missing something, I think…” Second Single said, perturbed.

What Am I Describing?

“When I saw the coffin I was like, ‘Really? They fit him into that? They didn’t even need to widen it around the middle?’ I mean, this is a guy who never went anywhere without his iPod, iPad, cell phone, pager, Hatzolah walkie-talkie, and Chaverim toolkit, just in case he needs to break into a car in a hurry. He jangled so much when he walked, you thought a robot was coming down the block. His belt added about a foot to his waistline. He never went anywhere without all that stuff, there’s no way he’s going to heaven without them either.”

Pause

“Or wherever he’s going.”

Pause

“I mean, you never know. God’s car might break down, and we know there aren’t too many mechanics in heaven.”

Pause

“So, here we are folks, mourning the passing of our esteemed friend, relative, and colleague, Yosef Schwartz. I’d like to invite his rabbi and mentor to give the next eulogy. Rabbi Cohen was in charge of Yossi’s spirituality. The guy who was supposed to make sure our friend here went to the good place. I don’t see any smoke coming from the coffin yet, so that’s a good sign. Ladies and gentlemen: Rabbi Dovid Cohen.”

“Thank you, thank you. You know, I really don’t think we have to worry about Yossi. I knew he was a good boy from the very start. We first met about a year after he joined our yeshiva. He had taken a hot slice of pizza—with the cheese just browning and bubbling—out of the toaster, and dropped it, right on the floor in front of the stove. Cheese side down, of course. Yossi was always meticulous about following rules, and Murphy’s law was no exception.

“Anyway, Yossi knew that many bits and scraps of food—both milchigs and fleishigs—had fallen in front of the stove over time, and in fact, most of them were still there. He really wanted to brush off and eat his perfectly baked pizza, but wasn’t sure if it was kosher.

“R’ Katz, who he usually went to for sheilos, was in LA at the time and Shabbos hadn’t ended yet. In desperation he called me. I immediately took a liking to the sincere, sweet boy, and we’ve been in touch ever since. He never hesitated to ask me even his most sensitive questions. I’ll miss him, but I know he’s happier now. He has access to much greater rabbanim than me now, and for his really tough questions, he can even go to the Ultimate Rebbe himself. In fact, right now the Ultimate Rebbe is probably pinning a medal on him for throwing out that pizza, and having blueberry pie for melaveh malka instead.”

“Thank you R’ Cohen for your kind words. You know, I bet they’re making up for that pizza right now with an entire pie that tastes… just… heavenly. Although I think they have to order in, since I hear most of the ovens are kept elsewhere.

“Our next speaker is someone who may have a different perspective on where Yosef wound up. We’re talking about someone who still remembers the time he colored on the walls and wouldn’t let him forget why they had to paint the living room mauve. She used to be upset because he didn’t call often enough. Well, he definitely won’t be calling now, Mrs. Schwartz. But you can send him a message anyway, while his neshama is still lingering. Everyone: Yossi’s mother, Mrs. Eve Schwartz.”

*     *     *

Okay. Now imagine the subject of these speeches is still alive and sitting there, listening.

Now swap out the jokes about God, heaven, and hell for jokes about mother-in-laws, wives, and jewelry shopping.

What do we have? Yep: sheva brochos.

Above Love

What intrigued me most about this conversation was my coworker’s perspective on the question: does marriage need love?

When I was in the bais yaakov system, they repeatedly informed us that love comes after marriage. You pick out someone you’ll be compatible with in terms of personality and hashkafa, and then you fall in love with them afterwards.

I took this on faith, the same way I took most everything on which I had no other perspective, and sallied forth to look for someone compatible to marry.

We all know that yeshiva educations are lacking in many ways. Science, math, history, and basically any secular study. Well, I have found another gaping hole in the education of our young men. It dawned on me slowly, but about a year or so into my dating career it crystallized: nobody had told any of my gentleman callers that love came after marriage. My dates wanted to fall giddily in love before they proposed, and when they didn’t, they told the shadchan “no.”

The one who left me most confused was the guy who was clearly smitten on date one, but failed to ever be smitten again, and after four dates gave the shadchan a garbled excuse for why he didn’t want to go out again, but which even the shadchan admitted boiled down to “Not sure what happened but let’s not keep trying.” I was puzzled. Didn’t he realize that his crush was a shallow, ephemeral rush of hormones created by a combination of lighting and angles and gazing into eyes and as easily gained or lost as the conditions permitted?

But eventually I came around. I realized that love was clearly an important thing, and by not insisting on it, I was short-selling myself. I decided that I too would require my dates to be conceivably loveable in order for us to go out again.

I wish I could say that this changed my dating life. That I started a career as a dating diva, turning down guys because they were too hairy, or skinny, or big-footed. That wasn’t what happened. What happened was that, instead of the guy saying “no” after date two while I dithered “Well, if he’s interested”—instead, we both said “no” after date two, and my ego came out much the less bruised for it.

I’m not going to lie. I enjoyed that phase of my dating career. There was such certainty in it. I never felt guilty about turning down a guy whose company I didn’t mind but who didn’t have a bat’s chance at the optometrist of interesting me romantically. Nor did I feel very bad when one of those guys turned me down. “I wasn’t so into him anyway,” I’d shrug.

There was some cognitive dissonance. I mean, who is into anyone after spending 4-8 hours with them in a formal setting? Do I have a single friend in my life that I fell in love with at first sight? Or even second sight? (Actually, some of my oldest friends are people that I hated at first sight.) Dating like this was some kind of absurd parody, and it was never going to land me a mate. Why was I even trying?

Worst of all was the fear lurking just below the surface: was I in the right, or was this the highway to picky older singlehood? If Mr. Perfect showed up, would I turn him down for failing to make my heart flutter?  Absurd from one perspective, reasonable from another, and completely theoretical from every which way. Mr. Perfect never showed, or else he never agreed to a third date, so I didn’t need to face down my theories with my beliefs.

I coasted along until a late-night conversation with a friend.

“You’re not a guy,” she informed me. “You can think with your head. You pick someone reasonable and you try to make him fall in love with you.”

“You make it sound so easy,” I groused.

“I know, I shouldn’t talk. I don’t have guys falling at my feet either. And I haven’t met any that I’d want to. But if I found a half-normal Sephardi guy to marry, I would do it in a second, love optional.”

With that, I was back in mega-uncertainty mode. Not that it mattered, since I didn’t date anyone half-normal for quite a while, but lacking a principle to live by was troublesome.

And now, here was the lab tech, telling me the same thing as my bais yaakov teachers: pick someone likable for whatever accessories they have, and let love follow after marriage.

Wrong? Right? Indifferent? Say it below.

Quote of the Week: Marry for…

“…you know, this job is only to keep me busy during the day,” the lab tech said, rummaging around for pipette.

“Really?” I said.

“Yep. My wife is a professional. She earns the bucks.”

“Good for her.”

“That’s why I married her.”

“For her job?”

“Yep. Listen to me, Bad4. You want to be happy, marry for money.”

“Marry for money,” I echoed in disbelief.

“Marry for money. Because even if the person drives you crazy—well, at least you can enjoy yourself, you know?”

“So your wife drives you crazy?”

“Oh, no. I love her, Bad4. Love her to pieces. But I didn’t when we got married. It grew, afterwards. Love can come later. It did, Bad4. We’ve been married fifteen years. Take my advice: marry for money.”

I’ll follow up on this one tomorrow.

Link: Don’t Rush Into It

A good friend of mine got engaged after six dates. They went on six to keep their parents from freaking out. She actually knew she was getting engaged after three.

“What’s the rush?” I asked.

“When you know you know,” she said.

I suppose. Except there’s so much you don’t know.

Not that I’m a big fan of dating someone until you get cold feet either. Too much dating can do more harm then good. (Just get married already!)

And then there’s a third option: dating forever. Thank you Stupid Inventor for sending me this link to a story about a couple of newlyweds who are too arthritic to even hug properly. They dated for 30 years. Her advice? Get to know a person, be forgiving… and, apparently, keep him chasing you.