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"The English Marriage" on Woman's Hour

(23 Posts)
OrmIrian Mon 28-Sep-09 12:48:50

I can't remember the writer's name and didn't hear all of it but one of the things she said was that marriage as the sexual and emotional fulfilment of a lifetime is a modern phenomenon. It was always an economic arrangement with love being secondary. Nothing new in that idea - I don't think it's that surprising to anyone.

If marriage was 'invented' to simply keep money/land safe, produce offspring, maintain status, it could last forever in the same was as any business partnership could, as there were no emotional requirements attached.

We have different expectations today. We want passion and fulfillment and excitment. But if that is the case, is marriage still fit for purpose? Can you really love and desire and find fulfillment from the same human being for ever and ever amen?

MovingOutOfBlighty Mon 28-Sep-09 12:54:05

I sometimes think that life is too complex for marriage to often survive.
Women no longer have the dcs freshly bathed for a pat on the head by dad on arrival home. Most SAHM dont see themselves also as housewives so resent doing mountains of housework.
Children are a luxury item rather than a necessity to help continue the family business, farm etc. Lots of men, and women are continuing to act like people in their early twenties even after kids so resent their families for this. I know two marriages of friends atm which are failing as the DH feels so trapped by it all. The only difference is there used to be obligation and shame holding people together, not any more. Not sure any of this is a good or bad thing, but it makes me wonder how much longer long term marriage will be a viable thing.

Will listen to that radio4 thing as sounds good.

Scorps Mon 28-Sep-09 13:08:43

It suprises me that marriage was/is an economic arrangement rather than a love based one. I married my DH for pure love, nothing else. I would have married him if he was the poorest man alive, or the richest. I adored him. I fear that now, since he cheated when i was pregnant, I am reaching in to economic terrority - financially and emotionally so. We have 3dc and im pregnant. If DH never cheated, i would have been very happy, forever, i dare say. He does/did fulfill my every need, lover, friend, advisor and supporter.

I think many 'modern' women are scared of singledom, i know i am.

My parents have been married for 30 years (I'm 24) and they both say that for it to work, you have to let some things slip, but they both say that marriage is the best option for them. They still kiss and are affectionate now.

I find all talks on marriage very interesting, I am becoming increasingly aware that my views and the level of loyalty i hold towards my vows is some what naive of me.

OrmIrian Mon 28-Sep-09 13:12:25

scorps - I am sure that many people marry for love. But the argument was that it never used to be like that - and that when love fades marriage remains as it wasn't meant to be based on love but on hard-headed economics.

mumblechum Mon 28-Sep-09 13:13:10

I wish I'd heard it, it does sound interesting.

I do feel that much of the reason behind the divorce rate (it's now estimated that 45% of marriages today will end in divorce) is a matter of expectation.

If you think that your marriage is going to be full of passion and romance every day you're clearly deluded (not you, Orm, just generally). But there has to be some of that passion and romance to keep you going through the rough patches imo.

I feel sorrier for the modern man for the reasons set out by Moving Out of Blighty, so many SAHMs posting on MN have, I think, unreasonable expectations that their dh/dp should come home and immediately start cooking, cleaning, ironing etc when the woman's been home all day and part of the deal I would have thought is that all that stuff has been dealt with so that the kids are more or less ready to be put to bed so the parents can have an evening together.

OrmIrian Mon 28-Sep-09 13:13:29

SOrry to hear about that scorps. That must hurt sad

tryingherbest Mon 28-Sep-09 13:26:28

I agree mumblechum - i think it's to do with expectations - woman have a huge presence in the workplace but perhaps expecations have not similarly kept up.

I'm a sahm at the moment and will be for the next 12 mopnths - I do resent that any economic input (and mine was the most significant) is suddenly swept under the carpet and I feel like liek a servant - I also did everything when I worked. I dopn't think it's unreasonable for a woman to expect dh or dp to have a domestic input.

However, now I'm not working I don't expect to have the same level of life as we're in recession and priorities have changed-= however I do wish my dh would kind of understand the economic impact my work had on our life as he seems to think I'm lazy now, I'm actually self supporting over the next year based on my savings.

I'm unsure marriage as an insitition will survive the next few generations.

OrmIrian Mon 28-Sep-09 13:33:12

Yep definitely not me mumblechum grin I am horrible level-headed about my marriage - have been together too long to expect fireworks and roses. In fact have become a bit obsessive at analyising it and working out what, if anything, is left of the romantic relationship, and whether we can sustain the next 30 years or so together.

mumblechum Mon 28-Sep-09 13:50:30

I think most people go through phases of little or zero romance, but we do make a conscious effort, eg when our kids were little we went out for dinner without them every saturday night and didn't talk about them for that time. Now ds is 15 and almost off our hands and we have one day a month when we take the day off work and go for a long walk and a picnic or pub lunch, and just naturally have little snogs as we walk blush. We also make a big deal about our anniversary, usually going away for a long weekend.

Occasionally all this slips away, usually when dh mega busy at work, and we soon realise that we haven't had a proper conversation for 10 days or whatever and are snappy with each other.

So, certainly in our marriage (19 years next week!) we do have to make an effort to keep that connection going, to counteract all the dozens of niggles that we have about each other but generally both bite our lip about.

OrmIrian Mon 28-Sep-09 13:54:53

17yrs married here, and 6yr before that living together. I can hardly remember how I felt about DH in those days sad Too much water under the bridge - and much of it choppy.

MovingOutOfBlighty Mon 28-Sep-09 13:55:35

Sorry about all that has happened to you Scorps.

I do think that marriage works best when there is a level of hard headedness about it all.
I work part time despite wishing I could be a SAHM all the time for my dcs. I feel it is the way I have been brought up as a career woman. I don't think my DH and I are able to cope with the shift in power of me being a SAHM and not bringing money in. I felt a bit wierd being a full time SAHM for 5 months as I earn more than him even part time. My Dh loved it as he was definitely more pampered.
It made me realise how well his parents worked when the dad made nothing more than a cup of tea ever and the mum was a housewife and mother and loved it. She happily threw in her career as a nurse. My mum kept her career as a nurse and sometimes I think she was stretched so thin with 4 kids that my dad was a bit neglected and their marriage failed.
Its all a bit of a jumble isn't it!

mumblechum Mon 28-Sep-09 13:57:27

tbh the first 5 years after ds1 was born (severe brain damage), we were teetering on the brink for much of the time. I'm glad we stuck it out now. smile

Kally Mon 28-Sep-09 14:11:22

I am 52, was married up until 2005 for 26 of those, as were most of my friends, we got married younger, career not being first and foremost.
ALL of my friends from different walks of life, but same age group, were married and divorced (I held out the longest) but we all got degrees of some sort after wards, partly due to 'having to' after ex's left, and some during the marriage.
Today people have babies THEN get married, which 'not so long ago' wasn't the done thing. You married, then started a family. That was the norm. It was harder to be a single parent, there weren't all the safety structures to allow you to 'be single' and people were more afraid of how things appeared. Not today, that has all gone out the window and there is little stigma attached.
Today for economical reasons, people have babies, they collaborate (perhaps the wrong word) with other fragmented families and benefit financially from it. In a way, this is good. But how common is it to find that many young people have babies from different fathers and have a completely unrelated man looking after the family as well. It's all gone haywire with the only common denominator being that the social services recognise this and support the woman/children. Which is good. But a huge change in the structure of the 'normal' family has taken over. It's a whole new ball game and people can still survive, especially women with children, thanks to the social services and it's support system. The 'dependency' had gone and women can make it on their own.
I was talking about this this morning to an aged friend. I remember how my Dad used to keep his money and give my Mum a certain amount for housekeeping. She had no idea how much he earned or where the rest went... He 'kept' her and us, no more and no less. This was the norm then. Today! That would be aggro fodder and noone would accept that. If there is spare, then it should get shared out, not looked at as 'I go out to work, so it's mine'...
But in all honesty, I don't know where the happy medium is. Personally, I love being a single Mum but then I was married a long time to a total %$&*... and if I didn't have the support I get from social services I don't know how I would manage financially. I would be caught by the short and curlies...

OrmIrian Mon 28-Sep-09 14:36:03

There are so many different kinds of families now. SOme of the happiest seem to be the more unorthodox - one of those IME being one based on 3rd marriage on each side with several sets of steps kids all living together at various times. Lovely home to spend time in.

Tortington Mon 28-Sep-09 14:43:52

i think if i had it to do over, i would certaily be looking for a more economic partnership.

expectations - i agree. love is a very small part of a relationship. trust, reliability, support financial and emotional, sexual - all play a part.

and whilst first the flourish of love is exciting and thrilling. it is not the reality of a lifetime marriage with children.

OrmIrian Mon 28-Sep-09 15:37:55

But why do we keep up this belief that marriage is the romantic white-wedding extravaganza that lasts that way for ever. What do we all get out of it I wonder. When so many people's experiences are so very different.

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

CNyle Mon 28-Sep-09 15:52:17

god yes Custy there is a lot to be said for marrying money i would think

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

CutTheCrap Tue 29-Sep-09 10:38:41

In the late 1600s there was a large tranche of society (the poor basically) living together as married but without the formality of marriage. Tose unions were less stable apparently. I believe that's the same today. And we think we are so 20th/21st Century living in sin. grin

I think you need to have respect for the other person. The absence of almost anything else (money, humour, fame, an erect penis) can be endured, so long as you feel respect for your spouse.

OrmIrian Tue 29-Sep-09 11:35:43

But janitor - that 'spark' can develop. Even if it only develops into affection and respect. Assuming that the partner in question isn't a violent, selfish shit. And it's the respect and affection that will survive long after the 'spark' has faded to a soft glow. And having been through various problems in our married life I know that being skint is one of the things that puts the most pressure on.

GrapefruitMoon Tue 29-Sep-09 15:16:27

Don't know if it was the same person but I saw this artile in The Observer at the weekend


Loved the bit about setting the bedroom aglow by the mute opening of separate laptops!

mathanxiety Tue 29-Sep-09 18:53:37

I think marriage as the concept developed in the Victorian age was meant to have some sort of civilising effect on men. They were harnessed by their vows into some sort of 'noble purpose', which eventually devolved of course, into financial-based power-wielding (he who pays the piper calls the tune) that resulted in the kind of unhappiness and physical misery that the welfare state sought to redress, and which ultimately gave 'traditional marriage' a bad name.

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