Is Marriage for Women?

Monday, Jun. 4th 2012 11:45 AM

I have always thought of marriage as a relationship that benefits both individuals involved – a win/win situation. Otherwise, why would anyone do it? But to hear some women talk, you would think this is not the case – that marriage is, instead, an arrangement meant to benefit them, and one for which the man is expected to submit.

 

I recently had fascinating conversations with a few young, never-married women about matrimony, specifically why they wanted it. Pauline said marriage would give her more leverage over her man if he should leave. Otherwise, she would not have any right to go after child support or other financial compensation. Yolanda simply wanted the security of marriage. Diane said she would just be happy that her love interest wanted to marry her.

Then, I talked to Sheila, who shared the story of a married man who began an extramarital relationship. He and his wife divorced, and he married the “other woman,” with whom he was happy. But he perceived that some of his female family members were incensed by his actions and felt that they were hostile towards him, even years after his divorce. Sheila’s take on the matter was that these women were probably hostile, because marriage was such a big part of their own identities. The thought that their husbands might leave, and what that would mean about how they then defined themselves, absolutely terrified them. And they were angry with their male relative for making them consider this possibility.

All of this has led me to really question whether marriage is for women … at least in their eyes. I hear clichés all of the time to this effect – such as “If he loved you he would put a ring on that finger” or “Make an honest woman out of her.” And each of the women with whom I spoke seemed to perceive marriage as a way of helping the woman and not the man.

Growing up, I always wanted to be married. I wanted lots of children and a partner with whom to raise them. But I never considered myself doing a woman a favor by marrying her. While I, like many men, feel the need to protect my family, I also never felt that I would have to give up my “freedom” in order to give a woman “security.” I thought of marriage as something I would do with a woman because we shared life goals and an affection for one another that made the relationship valuable to both of us. So, to hear women describe marriage as a means of providing them with security, self-worth or even an identity surprised me.

Marriage benefits both parties, because we are all selfish. Again, if we didn’t get something out of it, we wouldn’t do it. I certainly benefit from my mine. I have what I always wanted – a wonderful partner with whom to raise my children. And I am happy with our relationship. According to her, she also benefits from our partnership. If she didn’t, she wouldn’t stay.

For anyone, man or woman, to believe that one person brings more value to the relationship, is more invested, or has had to sacrifice something he/she didn’t want to give up sets the foundation for all sorts of relationship troubles – including guilty undertones, finger pointing, feelings of entitlement, unhealthy levels of dependency, manipulation, and, if the relationship ends, the chance for someone to claim “victim” status. I, for one, wouldn’t want to play either role – to feel that I am sacrificing or bringing more value to the relationship than my partner, or to feel as though my spouse did me a favor by marrying me.

We all have the opportunity to recognize and appreciate the value that both we and our partners bring to our relationships. When or if we part, no one loses, and no one wins. The relationship just changes. An understanding of this helps us check ourselves, our motivations, and our intentions. And it goes a long way towards helping each of us become a more Powerful Person in a Partnership.

Keep Rising,

 

Frank Love

www.FrankLove.com

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Leave a Comment: Let Us Know Your Thoughts

How to Gracefully Exit a Relationship
Posted by FrankLove | in Blog, Dating | 17 Comments »

17 Comments on “Is Marriage for Women?”

  1. Dionne Says:

    Good article. I’m agreeing with you. Sounds like those ladies don’t really understand marriage, which is something you can only understand so much until you do it. I think we’re all selfish also and want what we want, and being in that level of relationship requires us to humble ourselves.

  2. Chris B. Says:

    Interesting feedback and perspective. My favorite line “Marriage benefits both parties, because we are all selfish. Again, if we didn’t get something out of it, we wouldn’t do it.”

    A realistic look into a relationship or a marriage we typically find comes too late or when a major conflict arises. Learning how to communicate effectively early on is crucial. What are some of your ideas on communicating effectively with women with a less than equal perspective on marriage?

  3. Jeffrey S. Says:

    Another way of looking at this question is to compare the responses of women to marital termination. As I talk mostly to people my age (50s and 60s) their responses may not be similar to younger people whose marriages have ended. Widows usually report having had a high degree of satisfaction with their marriages. Their husbands provided both financial security and emotional connection and support. Divorcees on the other hand express bitterness toward their former spouses. They often cite infidelity on the man’s part, which they generally view as a breach of the marriage contact but more deeply a betrayal of their love. The reaction is similar when there has been abuse. Women emphasize that the emotional aspect of their marriages has been compromised or destroyed. From my reading, men value marriage more for the structure and sense of place it provides. Women appear to have more supports from family or friends after divorce, which helps them to maintain emotional connection in the absence of their spouse. Men are more likely to feel “cut adrift”. Thus, the impact of divorce appears to be somewhat different for women and men, based on their differing views of marriage.

  4. Christie E. W. Says:

    Marriage helps mitigate men and women’s mental health including depression. It also decreases risk of suicide in men. Married individuals are healthier and live longer. Children who live with parents who have a relatively low conflict relationship are better adjusted. Marriage can be a very positive thing.

    http://www.camarriage.com/content/resources/c18f014d-51a5-43e4-ba68-e032fbcc22ee.pdf

    The key to a healthy marriage is working together, communicating, and having the same perceptions about their roles in that relationship. If those pieces are not in place, women will start to disrespect and have contempt for their spouse. Disrespect and contempt leads to a destruction in the relationship.

    I have been divorced. I have a significant other in which our relationship may never lead to marriage this is partially due to circumstances but also due to me being gun shy about marriage. My current relationship is a true partnership in my mind. We communicate all the time-multiple times in a given day. We are comfortable in our roles and we work hard to please each other in whatever ways we can. Any conflicts are addressed quickly and respectfully. Contempt cannot grow. I feel lucky and don’t think I could have this type of relationship with anyone else. As long as these aspects continue to be fostered, we will be able to with stand time and stresses.
    Posted by

  5. Martin H. Says:

    I believe marriage should be a win-win relationship, if it’s win-lose or lose-win it’s not sustainable in the long run at least not at great cost to one party the loser. The combined wisdom and mutual support of both parties should be worth more together than separately. I speak as someone who has been the sole family carer for my stroke survivor wife with physical and cognitive disabilities.

  6. Maisha Hyman Sumbry Says:

    Very interesting perspective – with equally intriguing comments from the readers. I am curious to hear the views of never-been-married young men to this question around their motiviations for marriage and what value/advantage such a relationship would present to them.

  7. Eric De La P. Says:

    The 2011 National Prevention Strategy included mental and emotional well-being, with recommendations including better parenting and early intervention programmes, which increases the likelihood of prevention programmes being included in future US mental health policies.[45] [46] The NIMH is currently only researching suicide and HIV/AIDS prevention, but the National Prevention Strategy could lead to it focusing more broadly on longitudinal prevention studies.

  8. Helen S. K. Says:

    What an interesting question! I believe marriage is as much for women as it is for men….I read once that marriage is your only chance in life for growing up. In a way it contrasts the idea of being selfish, because by being married you agree to a partnership, and partnership does not work when you continue to be self- centered and selfish. You lose something to gain something, you negotiate, you agree, you disagree and you learn to agree to disagree. Marriage is an art, a dance, a play, …..it can be smooth and beautiful, or rough and tough and dysfunctional. All is in your own hand, and depends on how much work you put into it, before and after getting married.
    When you balance between personal and professional life, despite being a man or a woman, you will see that marriage can be a wonderful unity of love, partnership and respect between you and your spouse.
    Posted by What an interesting question! I believe marriage is as much for women as it is for men….I read once that marriage is your only chance in life for growing up. In a way it contrasts the idea of being selfish, because by being married you agree to a partnership, and partnership does not work when you continue to be self- centered and selfish. You lose something to gain something, you negotiate, you agree, you disagree and you learn to agree to disagree. Marriage is an art, a dance, a play, …..it can be smooth and beautiful, or rough and tough and dysfunctional. All is in your own hand, and depends on how much work you put into it, before and after getting married.
    When you balance between personal and professional life, despite being a man or a woman, you will see that marriage can be a wonderful unity of love, partnership and respect between you and your spouse.

  9. Debbie O. Says:

    I’m not married and I’ve no problem with that. I’ve nothing against the institution of marriage itself, but I’m very picky about the other person. I’ve certain standards that have to be met. Does this make me selfish? Perhaps, but I saw the messy marriages of my parents, my sisters, and several friends. Now, I’m very cautious when I get in a relationship. I take my time to get to know my boyfriend and I expect him to do the same with me, also. Besides, I’m waiting for my soulmate to make an appearance. I feel this is more important. But that’s just me.

  10. Max R. Says:

    I agree Martin. That’s why I became a Marriage Mediator. I teach something I call Teamwork Marriage Mediation to couples. It’s the skill set we mediators learn so we can turn conflict into win-win solutions. It should be mandatory for anyone who marries (or has kids, for that matter). You can learn more about it at my web site: TheMarriageMediator.net.

  11. sydney c. Says:

    Marraige is for those who want children. If you don’t want children why get married.

  12. Max R. Says:

    Martin, Although your situation is kind of extreme, having a partner with physical and mental disabilities, it’s not different from what all couples experience. No one person can meet all of our needs. In fact, what causes stress in relationship is the misunderstanding that other people can or must meet our needs. I believe, we are all self-satisfying-needs-machines.

    When a need goes unsatisfied, it generates sensations in our body which we often name as frustration or anger. That is an important fork in the road. If instead of turning outward and trying to change the outside world, you turn inward and identify the life-affirming, positive intention of the need, that simple act of self-realization puts us in a resourced state that can create incredible creativity in how to generate satisfaction for ourselves.

    I feel sadness when I think of your situation, and the intense challenges it sets up for you. My wish is that you find a path towards the pleasure and satisfaction with is available to everyone. Marshall Rosenthal (founder of NVC) says that stress is the result of describing our always choiceful moments in choiceless ways. May you find the choices that add to your life.

  13. Catherine G. Says:

    I am happily married but my husband and I both agreed we should wait for a couple of years after we got engaged, to see if our relationship survived as we went our separate ways to university. It did, albeit with some drama, and now that we are married and have started a family we are agreeable in what we expect from each other. Yes, there are arguments, mainly about finances, but we get through it. Ultimately we married for love and friendship, and based on our parents’ experiences, we have both agreed we will try our hardest never to get divorced no matter how strained things might become in the future. We both believe in fighting for our relationship, because it is emotionally important to us.

  14. Hillel M. Says:

    It all depends on which women you talk to. Is marriage for women between male and female or is it female and female? That’s the $60,000 ??
    http://gianinc.com/
    @gianinc
    http://www.facebook.com/guidedimagery

  15. Patricia M. Says:

    I think this goes a little deeper. Before the feminist movement marriage was a woman’s livelihood, if she were to remain single she would be doomed to a life of poverty. Today women don’t have to marry in order provide for themselves but some of the cliche’s are left over and gender roles take a long time to change. Make and Honest Woman out of her, at one time if a woman were to be seen as sleeping with a man outside of marriage she would have been marked forever and not seen as marriage material anymore this would be very detrimental. We still have laws in place to protect women through marriage this comes much more from our societal history then from women’s selfishness.

  16. Kevin R. Says:

    A very interesting and thought provoking article. It validates some of my opinions and confirms many of my concerns.

  17. Mary M, L.C.S.W;C.A.P. Says:

    Hi all:)
    Frank, nice blog!
    Helen, your words are just lovely!
    I tell my clients all the time :marriage is one big fat negotiation! If the partners are not selfish, they will learn to communicate, and want to please their partner.
    I often see couples who have gone a bit too far in attempting to please their partners, and have given up their OWN voice.
    So, of course, the key is communicate, compromise, apologize immediately is wrong, don’t hold any resentments, work them out!
    Frank, we are blessed, as many others are as well.
    I too, am happily married. I will let you in on a tip..I asked my husband to go to counseling with me PRIOR to getting married. He said “Why. we aren’t having any problems?” I said precisely! We are going in an obviously serious direction, and I want us to learn how to work on any baggage ( we all have our stuff). He aggeed, and it was helpful! Sadly, “pre-marital counseling” from what I have seen, at least, is typically 2-3 meetings with a clergy member, and it just “lists” potential issues.
    Being direct…not passive aggressive or mind reading si crucial. Forgiveness is absolutel. We have made a pact never to go to bed mad….we may have some unresolved issues, which we will continue to dialog about, but we always emphasize, it isn’t about our LOVE, we are simply needing to clear the air, or work through something.
    I really do hope…that everyone could have this. It saddens me when I see name calling..disrespect,…acting out..etc. I am sure we all do our best to help people develope healthier coping skills….Lastly, I tell my couples, if the way of acting/reacting hasn’t worked…why not “re-create” a new one?

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