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Why shouldn't women LTB?

(174 Posts)
SunshineSuperNova Mon 23-Sep-13 17:48:24

This thread is prompted by two recent threads about the Relationship section.

It seems to me that 'society' is threatened by the thought that a woman might, of her own volition, up and leave a bad relationship. In my case, it was suggested I LTB because my DH is an alcoholic. Perfectly reasonable: but other commenters suggested I was 'selfish' and 'not taking my vows seriously' and that I should support him because he has a disease.

It seems that the 'grand narrative' is that the woman should stay with her man no matter how shitty the relationship. And this is reinforced by, for example, mainstream films. Second marriages are alway shown as flimsy, throwaway and meaningless, and the ex-wife pines after the husband she cruelly threw away. Two recent-ish offenders are 'Liar, Liar' and 'Die Hard'.

What do you think? Why is the default advice for women to stay and hold everything together, no matter how crap her man is treating her?

BasilBabyEater Thu 26-Sep-13 12:45:34

Yes agree Curlew.

Kickass that sounds great! Really interesting and enjoyable - hope it goes well.

curlew Thu 26-Sep-13 12:24:33

Why shouldn't women LTB?

Because women are the relationship makers and emotion keepers. The smoothers and the appeasers. That's their role in the maintainance of the patriarchy. If they stopped doing that, the centre would not hold.

MaddAddam Thu 26-Sep-13 12:16:42

Generally I do think, as a feminist, that many many women would be better off without the men they are in relationships with. There are studies that suggest that single women are the happiest, then married men, then single men, then married women the least happy. And when you read about how much housework and childcare and emotional work many women are doing, unilaterally, in their relationships, I don't find that very surprising.

But I do avoid posting on Relationships threads, a bracing feminist LTB isn't always what people want to hear. And I'm not blaming individual men who are often victims of the patriarchal system too, I don't think most men are bastards, but societal expectations and habits make it quite easy for them to freeload off women in marriage or marriage-like relationships. If I had a partner willing to do most of the housework, and to sort all the family networking out, and so on, and the whole of society expecting them to be doing it, I'd probably let them do it too.

Darkesteyes Thu 26-Sep-13 01:07:18

YY Basil Society treats people like one big homogenous mass. Like we are all the same and we are not.

kickassangel Wed 25-Sep-13 22:44:45

Well thanks to this thread I have just firmed up my plans for this term's paper for my MA, and the tutor is happy for me to cite social media if I want to.

I shall be theorizing about how the pressure to maintain a relationship affects the power dynamics within a couple.

Don't worry, I won't be quoting individuals, more saying general stuff about how common it is for people to assume that maintaining a relationship is the default setting.

ZutAlorsDidier Wed 25-Sep-13 17:34:58

What a great thread, with so much food for thought. Thank you to everyone who has told such powerful and personal stories.

YoniBotts said:

"and we did the normal things as happen in a relationship, like moving in together, getting engaged, having a child, because that's just what people do."

I was in a relationship with a man who was very very angry with me for not doing all that. He never asked me to move in with him (for instance) - let alone asked me nicely, romantically, flatteringly - but after a certain period of time he started bitterly throwing it into arguments as an accusation, that we didn't live together, as if it was his right that I was denying him. Not only did he think we should be living together "by now", but all the magazines had told him that the woman would make it happen, because women are desperate for that sort of thing to happen. All he had to do was sit back and wait for him to be set up in a clean, tidy home full of food, managed by an organised and financially stable woman - and this wasn't happening - he was still reliant on his own crappy personal resources, eating fried chicken and living with the empty boxes and running out of money the last 10 days of every month. How could I deny him his birthright?

It is interesting to me to see now in retrospect that I was under the protection of powerful cultural forces that were also the whole problem with me that I was with this man in the first place. I mean: I was brought up very strictly RC to the extent that living with a man was unthinkable. In a way I was empowered by this because I thought I could date and no one had the right to expect anything more of me. But: in a way, I was also damaged by this though, had very low self esteem because of the way I was always being told I was bad etc, I was extremely guilty about sleeping with anyone (among other things, I was guilty well before I was sexually active) and had written myself off as a bad lot who didn't deserve a good man or any sort of love.

Thank goodness things change

CailinDana Wed 25-Sep-13 16:51:53

I think it's easier for older generations to hang on to the older ideas about marriage than to admit that they/their siblings/friends stayed in awful relationships and wasted their lives for nothing. Also it's easier to villify single mothers than to admit that millions of women were caused unbelievable heartbreak and anguish by being forced to give up children against their will. To think we live in a society that perpetuated such a cruel practice is hard to accept - easier to spout on about how important marriage is in an attempt to justify what amounted to life-long torture of women for the "crime" of having sex out of marriage. And that's without even vcontemplating the prisons for such women (mainly in Ireland) where women literally served life sentences. When you consider that dark history the fact that now divorce/single parenthood is merely frowned upon actually looks like progress.

BasilBabyEater Wed 25-Sep-13 16:07:09

I think that's part of the problem isn't it; the extremely harsh and unempathetic and self-righteous assumption, that people who split up haven't got a "good reason" for doing so.

I don't presume to know why some couples split up. Unless I'm told different, I give my fellow human beings the benefit of the doubt and assume they're sensible enough not to cause disruption in their relationships, friendships, living arrangements, jobs sometimes, their children's lives etc., unless it was for reasons which they deemed good. I accept that they may not choose to tell me what those reasons are. I also accept that those reasons might not be reasons I might choose for leaving - but in most other areas of life, people seem to be able to accept that everyone's different and what works for one person doesn't work for another - they're happy to accept that some people can be Muslim while others can be atheists for example - it's just when it comes to relationship breakdown, that people start demanding people feel things the same as they would in that situation and set the same boundaries and the same bar for leaving.

Which makes me wonder why people have so much investment in other people's relationships, that they can make hard and fast rules where they wouldn't in most other situations. It shows how threatening to the social order, relationship breakdown is. Good, because the social order is shit.

SDhopeful Wed 25-Sep-13 15:56:03

SONTN Thank you for posting. I am so sorry for your pain, you have so clearly demonstrated that it is not a simple x=y - far more complicated, and people outside are in no position to commentate.

kickassangel Wed 25-Sep-13 15:48:02

Secret - that is very sad for you, and partly why (i think) the OP was asked.

The idea that there has to be a 'good reason' rather people being willing to accept that the relationship isn't working. IF it could just be accepted that people reach the end of the road, without having to go over it all and work out why. It seems to be seen as 'good' to be a relationship and 'bad' to end it, yet we know that that isn't always the case.

TheSecretOfTheNile Wed 25-Sep-13 13:02:42

My long term marriage ended this year, and it's been one of the most painful things ever to happen to me. It was last winter that he left, but even last night I was awake half the night replaying in my mind moments that I now realise were crucial, and, without wishing to be too OTT, mourning.

The thing is, hardly anyone knows the 'good reason' for the breakup. I've been in counselling since January and haven't even told my counsellor the half of it. I can't read those lists of what counts as abuse still, as it's too traumatic. I deliberately haven't told my parents much, as it'd just cause them huge pain. In all of thus my priority has been to love and nurture the dc, and look after myself and keep our lives (mine and the dcs') on an even keel. Thedc are doing great. I am incredibly proud of them.

So I can't see how anyone could judge whether the reason for my marriage breakup was 'good' or not, because they just don't know it. I have had people try to 'diagnose' what's gone wrong, but they've all been way off beam.

Please don't judge from the outside - no-one can know what has led to a relationship breakdown sometimes. Sometimes it is obvious, yes, if someone comes into wirk with black eyes all the time. But often it's not; that doesn't mean it's less real or less traumatic.

YoniBottsBumgina Wed 25-Sep-13 12:32:51

YY, and children accept what happens to them as normal and love their parents even throughout horrible treatment. sad

I forgot a category in my "vulnerable" part too, a very common one - older teenage girls (15-19) in relationships with men in their twenties or thirties. Not always an abusive situation, of course, but huge, huge potential for abuse because it's almost always her first or one of her first relationships with an older man who she trusts to take care of her, and it almost becomes a very fatherly role even if she does not see it that way. She doesn't always realise if he does treat her badly, because she assumes that must just be what relationships, sex, men are like, or it looks protective rather than controlling, or she assumes it is his different perspective as he is older, or she is still forming her own sense of self and hence is happy to mould to what he says as she doesn't have a strong sense of who she is yet.

It is not appropriate to tell someone "Well you shouldn't let him treat you that way." She's not letting him. He just is.

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

scallopsrgreat Wed 25-Sep-13 12:00:05

"I do think that women should also be taught the signs of a wanker though and not to put up with this from an early age, but not because this will magically change men into princes, but for her own sake, because it's better for her to have fulfilling relationships." Absolutely agree.

Women should not be the gatekeepers or responsible for men's behaviour, ultimately.

LRDMaguliYaPomochTebeSRaboti Wed 25-Sep-13 11:52:07

I agree, yoni.

I think both boys and girls should be taught more about the law and finance before they get into situations where they're not protected/financially abused. Not to suggest it's their fault but because it's better to know by being taught than to learn by a bad experience.

YoniBottsBumgina Wed 25-Sep-13 11:49:22

I do think that women should also be taught the signs of a wanker though and not to put up with this from an early age, but not because this will magically change men into princes, but for her own sake, because it's better for her to have fulfilling relationships.

YoniBottsBumgina Wed 25-Sep-13 11:46:53

It is not women's responsibility to "not put up with" bad behaviour from men. Bullies don't stop bullying because people don't put up with it - they just move onto the next weakest candidate. Some women don't have the ability or agency to "police bad behaviour" - they may be physically or mentally disabled or impaired, they may have been abused in childhood, they may be elderly, they may be in a vulnerable position (e.g. having small children).

I totally agree that men should be taught not to behave in abusive ways, and I think this starts far, far before they start dating. This is a good article (although it's a little "sex positive/yay look how kinky I am" for my taste, nevertheless, the message is spot on)

The values that apply in relationships apply all through life, it's important to be sure that everyone is happy when (for example) playing a game, to talk about your intentions, to be honest, to be able to discuss things rationally, to not be afraid of your own or someone else's emotions (or consider them shameful), to accept when something is over, and, yes, not to give up at the first hurdle (although I think perseverance FOR EVER is counterproductive).

These are things we can teach our sons and our daughters from a very early age, but in fact a lot of parenting wisdom or traditional approaches discourage a lot of this - punishing bad behaviour (rather than problem solving) can encourage lying to avoid being caught/found out, even if you adopt the rule of punishing less if they are honest, they still stand to "win" if they are not found out at all. Children aren't always taught how to be aware of another's feelings, only that stop/no means stop, which is too late (and not even always that - a lot of adults will tickle a child until they are out of breath and unable to say stop whereas really we should encourage them to engage in activities which the other person can easily express their like/dislike of), lots of being afraid of children's emotions, e.g. time out/naughty step/ignoring tantrums to address anger rather than encouraging them to express it in an acceptable way, telling children to stop crying (I've seen children threatened with punishment if they did not stop crying) and the other extreme, being afraid to ever tell a child anything which might upset them (including telling them off), encouragement of perseverance above acceptance that something is over/not happening, or over-eagerness of parents to solve and fix everything for their children, again, because they are afraid of their emotions of sadness/anger/fear etc.

scallopsrgreat Wed 25-Sep-13 11:37:38

Yes you do mean abused women arsenal. If a man is treating their partner like shit then they are abusing them. There is no reason not to teach boys and men not to abuse women. None at all. You teach them not to steal, murder etc so teach them not to treat women like shit. They are the ones doing wrong, they are the ones that need to be taught. This doesn't (and shouldn't) have to come from the women they are treating like shit. It should come from all around that it is unacceptable. Just like it is unacceptable to steal. You don't ask victims of theft to teach their thieves.

And another one to say 'that's not true'. 70% of the world's farming is done by women.

LRDMaguliYaPomochTebeSRaboti Wed 25-Sep-13 11:36:47

Oh, yes, I agree that's why it's useful for us to point out the inaccuracies.

I just don't follow how it makes a sensible argument to say 'hmm, I'm sure what I see as traditional gender roles must have a long history, I shall therefore state that this is so, and this will prove they are Right and Proper in the modern day'.

I mean, people also used to use ground-up toad as medicine, and I think we're all glad they don't any more.

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

LRDMaguliYaPomochTebeSRaboti Wed 25-Sep-13 11:24:29

Just popping in to add my 'that's not true' to the chorus.

Pre-industrial revolution women didn't necessarily work 'inside' more than men. FWIW, for long periods of history, it hasn't been unusual for single mothers to raise children (and administrate large farms or estates, if they were wealthy women), either in the absence of their husbands or as widows. There were social structures in support of this, but people also just got on with it.

I'm not sure why the fictionalised version of history that you're pushing here would matter, but there we are.

SinisterSal Wed 25-Sep-13 10:16:11

no that is not true aresenal. Though if you have evidence to the contrary I will revise my opinions. otherwise you are just saying pointless words

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

arsenaltilidie Wed 25-Sep-13 09:05:07

SGB Pre industrial revolution men worked outside and women worked inside.
However way you look it at, its better to raise children supported by a partner than to raise them on your own.
Hence marriage was for the benefit of women, to stop men from simply walking away from their responsibilities.

Scallops: I do not mean abused women at all, I mean young girls who tolerate shit behaviour (not abuse) from other young boys.
Feminism didnt rise from 'teaching men to respect women' but rose from women demanding respect.
Its all nice to say "teach young boys to treat women with respect and you will get women respect back" but its actually not true.
Young men can get away with treating women like shit, hence young women should be taught not to tolerate it all.

CailinDana Wed 25-Sep-13 07:47:19

True kim, except from my friends' experiences it seems plenty of men have no trouble walking away both from the relationship and the children.

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