Saturday, March 24, 2012

Anti-divorce doesn't equal Pro-marriage

Have you noticed the recent trend in articles about marriage? I would say it has everything to do with the fact that I have recently come across these articles, but I suppose I should admit preparation for my own upcoming marriage probably makes the headlines appear in bold in my mind.

This piece by Eve Tushnet is a fascinating look at how our culture's more recent fear of divorce has not equated into a love of marriage. In fact, she argues, many of the ways in which people exercise their dislike of divorce set them up for a "no" to marriage.

Possibly in response to divorce scripts like “We just fell out of love” or “It just happened,” which emphasize powerlessness, the contemporary delayed-marriage script attempts to crack the code, figure out the formula, and do it right. Anxiety is managed through attempts at control. The fact that marriage, like parenting, is mostly about acceptance, forgiveness, and flexibility in the face of change and trauma gets suppressed.

But that might not matter if the script itself worked most of the time. If premarital sex and cohabitation were really the most practical paths to lasting love, our culture would look very different. Instead, these actions—valorized by young people, and often by their parents because they’re thought to prevent divorce—are divorce risk factors. Cohabitation with one partner is no longer correlated with increased risk of divorce, as it used to be, but serial cohabitation still is. In other words, if the only romantic partner you move in with ends up marrying you, your statistical prognosis is rosy; otherwise, not so much. In other words, “test-driving” the relationship only works—or rather, remains statistically neutral in terms of later divorce risk—if the relationship is already strong enough for marriage.

The whole piece is certainly worth a read.

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