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Is life long monogamy anti feminist?

22 replies

DarkShade · 12/08/2022 10:21

I'm not quite sure if monogamy is the problem but lately I'm seeing lots of people both on MN and in real life saying that they don't love their husbands anymore and want to leave but they can't because they have children. Then the discussion splits with half saying it's your life you only get one, the other half saying the children will be traumatised.

And it's got me thinking how weird it is to expect people to choose one other person and structure their entire lives, 20 and 30 years into the future, based on a connection felt in the first few years of a relationship. Then children come along and women (always women) feel that they can't leave on pain of traumatising children.

It seems to me that this expectation and the whole structure prevents women from living the lives they would choose. Perhaps men too, but there seems to be little change in how many men live their lives after children and marriage. Wouldn't it be better to structure things differently so you had the option of having children and better ways of supporting them and being a family without having to be in a romantic relationship ? I don't know what that would look like, though.

OP posts:
MrsTerryPratchett · 12/08/2022 15:50

Marriage is good for men's health and bad for women's. And women don't leave just because of their children but also because of poverty.

Sort out the expectation of women's labour in marriage, and their poverty, and I'd be of the opinion it's not monogamy but the structures around women's servitude that are the issue.

wonderstuff · 13/08/2022 09:55

But is it not motherhood and expectations of woman’s domestic labour after having children rather than marriage that is the issue? My unmarried friends are if anything in a worse situation than married friends after children.

I am happily married with children, my husband doesn’t expect me to do more domestic work than him. I think it’s (some) men’s attitudes rather than marriage that is the issue, and I think given how many women reduce their earnings after children while men generally increase theirs marriage is a good legal framework for raising children.

I think we need to look at romantic ideas of motherhood and marriage and couples need to get better at laying out their expectations.

Discovereads · 13/08/2022 10:03

Marriage is good for men's health and bad for women's.
Depends on whether you have children. It’s good for both men and womens health if they have children, and no difference from any other LTR if they do not have children.

But is it not motherhood and expectations of woman’s domestic labour after having children rather than marriage that is the issue Yep I agree this is the real issue. Monogamy/marriage isn’t the root cause of dissatisfaction in LTRs with children because its no different in married vs. unmarried long term partners. And for every married person who has trouble leaving because divorce is way more work than just walking out on an unmarried partner, there is someone not married who can’t leave their partner because they’d be financially screwed.

Its socialisation of men and women on what fathers and mothers are expected to do that is the issue imho.

ivejustgotthis · 13/08/2022 13:33

I think having children can make it harder to remember to see the good things in a marriage, the teamwork, because it's just so busy, constant, changing problems and needs, so if some are feeling like this while the children are young enough to be at home, that would surely add to them feeling like they've fallen out of love? If they feel like this after the children have left and they have some time again, in a different stage, then maybe it is time to move on. I also think the menopause can make people feel like this and when it passes you're just left with the mess of divorce and a fragmented family, which I personally would find harder than finding the ways we are good together, but obviously other people have genuinely emotionally moved on beyond that point. I do think exhaustion comes into it, being on the parenting roller coaster, but if you can be a strong team, that seems pretty feminist to me.

ivejustgotthis · 13/08/2022 14:58

And obviously no one can predict the future but personally I wouldn't have wanted to embark on having children if at least the PLAN hadn't been to raise them together. And being in a unit has actually made flexible working and juggling other interests easier, but again, teamwork, not old-fashioned dumping of labour. And I think it's more fun being invested in that together, but it helps to remember that parenting is challenging for both and you may not be your best selves for a lot of it! But I wouldn't be if I got divorced so I was free to get with Brad Pitt either.

PrimAndProperViperish · 13/08/2022 21:20

You mean like a Boston marriage type of scenario, OP?

FWIW, I don't think any living situation is in itself 'anti feminist' (other than living with abuse).

The devil is in the detail. Women can live as a SAHM-housewife and be feminist; a single woman; living in a polyamorous relationship; a lesbian relationship; a commune; a working mother - any of those situations can still be nourishing and rewarding for a woman, depending on various factors.

That said, I think the idea of 'having it all' is deluded; life involves making choices and every choice we make is also a sacrifice, the ship that didn't sail.

Often things aren't completely fair, or equal, or even satisfactory - that's in the nature of life.

PrimAndProperViperish · 13/08/2022 21:22
ivebeencalledworse · 13/08/2022 23:28

So, I once attended an Islamic talk by a married couple. They spoke about how their religion and all its tenets were both of their main passion and what they lived their lives by. They explained how because they share that core belief that informs the way they live their lives it means that they will always have a happy marriage, because they are not motivated by any fleeting attraction or anything vague, but they both live according to the same values.

It stuck with me!

That’s just an analogy, but basically I think when you get with someone and want to build a life with children and routine and sharing finances etc. etc. then it's best to factor in shared goals and values.

I think this is something that we miss as a society oftentimes. You get with Jim because he's gorgeous and he's nice to you, you fall in love, that lasts a few years, you get married, have kids, then you find out Jim thinks it's okay to kick cats but you never knew that before because you never saw him around a cat. – another analogy.
So, I think while love is great and all, and attraction is also necessary, we should be choosing partners based on something a bit more concrete which is shared goals and values.

My husband and I want the same things and we have the same focus; which is our daughter.

We share the same values, the same attitudes towards animals, the same morals, and the same political outlooks. And I think this makes all the difference.

So I genuinely can't imagine anything that would split us up. I don't think monogamy goes without its challenges either, it hasn't for us. We've gone through uncertainty for both of us in that area, talked it through, and decided what's best for us, and we remain monogamous. But I don't think monogamy comes naturally for all people. Here's the thing though, we are monogamous out of respect and because we have established it could damage our relationship if we were not. Aside from anything else it's not practical to be non-monogamous anyway, we both have things to do and we already rarely have proper family time where we are not doing something regarding our work or interests, or our child.

What I'm trying to say is I think mutual respect is what's most important.

Catsstillrock · 27/08/2022 14:33

I agree with @ivebeencalledworse
there’s another thread running on bad MN advice and one of the bad pieces of advice on here is ‘passion has gone = time to leave’.

i just don’t think it’s that simple
in a LTR with children that is otherwise decent.

decent has to mean both parties in the relationship are enraged and willing to work through issues had come up.

and plenty of MNers have partners that seem unwilling to do that. Though I’d give it a good go (eg couple therapy) before I left.

i think a big part of the problem isn’t monogamy but a lack of understanding of what relationships require and self knowledge to do the above. Maybe for both sides but especially for men.

to improve things we could and should do more to teach people to be more self aware, more understanding at the outset of different phases and stages, especially if parenting.

we should teach men and boys to have more critical awareness of their sense of self worth and what counts as a ‘good enough’ contribution.

TokidokiBarbie · 27/08/2022 16:17

I'm not even sure it's really logical to sign your life away to a relationship only a quarter into your existence. Biologically speaking we're only really meant to have kids to further our species. After that our purpose is done.

StillWeRise · 31/08/2022 23:20

'after that' though is quite a long time, isn't it- we need to raise our children to the point where they are economically and emotionally independent and mature enough to breed themselves, which from where I'm standing is about 25 !

Luredbyapomegranate · 31/08/2022 23:34

I think people mostly feel they can’t leave because of £££

I don’t notice many responders saying they think children are traumatised by separation, that would be very dramatic. Most of the conversation is practical. It is just really expensive to run two households.

Thesefeetaremadeforwalking · 01/09/2022 00:03

Your post makes a lot of sense.

People need to be on the same page.

Religion takes a lot of bashing on other threads but this is an example of how it helps society.

In the Catholic Church couples that plan to marry can attend a Pre-Cana - marriage preparation class/course. It has varying forms, talks, discussions, questionnaires, all designed to help the couple think about the serious step they are taking.
It covers subjects such as communication, conflict resolution, family planning and raises subjects like "what would you do if your spouse cheated?"

Some couples decide not to get married after completing the course.

it isn't a guarantee that the marriage won't fail but it does prepare couples to think about issues they may find unpalatable.

SleepingStandingUp · 01/09/2022 00:10

Wouldn't it be better to structure things differently so you had the option of having children and better ways of supporting them and being a family without having to be in a romantic relationship ? I don't know what that would look like, though. but you do have that option. No one is policing you you copulate to populate with. You could arrange a sperm donation from your mate Barry and Co parent them without ever dating so you'll never split, and then choose to only ever casually date until the kids move out. The issue is lots of people want loving relationships and don't want to wait until their 60 to get one. Or you can duck a random and hope you'll get pregnant or buy a sperm donation

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MangyInseam · 10/10/2022 00:30

Marriage isn't about a connection for the first few years, or romantic feelings. If that is the expectation it's bound to cause dissatisfaction.

It is in a significant way about the financial and daily commitment of raising kids, which takes many years in humans, and supporting each other economically.

So it really shouldn't be a surprise when people feel those elements are sometimes what are holding them together.

It might be nice for any of us to escape financial considerations and duty, but that's just not reality.

EBearhug · 10/10/2022 01:00

I have a vague recollection from a long ago essay that thr average Victorian marriage lasted 12 years. They were not usually ended by divorce (which was available to very few, ) but because of death - death in childbirth, industrial accidents, TB and other diseases. But I suppose people still assumed they might end up at their Ruby wedding anniversary or something.

Not sure what my point was there, other than long marriages weren't so common in reality.

A friend has a theory that in a marriage/LTR, you have three things to look out for - yourself, your partner, and the relationship (you may well end up with children and other things as well.) You have to treat the relationship as a thing in itself, and it takes work. I think a lot of people just expect it to happen without much effort, and it does take effort, especially once there are children in thr mix.

AntimemeticsDivision · 10/10/2022 01:46

It's absolutely possible to be a feminist and a SAHM.

I am and have been. I had a very professional career before having children. I decided to take a year off.

DD turned out to have ASD.

I never went back to work.

DH earns about 600k.

All our assets are shared and controlled by me.

Our relationship is completely equal. We see each other as equals.

It wouldn't work as well if we both worked full-time.

We work as a family. A woman, a man, two children.

DH sees me as a complete equal. I have more control than him really.

username345 · 10/10/2022 02:08

Some feminists would agree that marriage under a patriarchy is anti feminist. I can't remember her name but one feminist (Dworkin?) argued that sex under the patriarchy is rape.

Marriage is a legal contract that protects a woman financially but the ceremony is steeped in misogyny. A man walking his procession down an aisle and handing her to her new owner, taking the man's surname etc

AntimemeticsDivision · 10/10/2022 02:43

Oh no @username345

I wasn't walked down by a man and handed to another man.

I don't wear rings.

I didn't change my name.

I retained my identity.

Marriage to me is an agreement between two people who love each other and wish to make a life together. And a legal commitment that will make the participants and their children solid.

AntimemeticsDivision · 10/10/2022 02:46

It's Andrea Dworkin you're thinking of btw.

I like Andrea, and she speaks much sense, BUT she is a very staunch lesbian. And that's great.

But I'm hetero.

And that's fine too.

username345 · 10/10/2022 03:37

AntimemeticsDivision · 10/10/2022 02:46

It's Andrea Dworkin you're thinking of btw.

I like Andrea, and she speaks much sense, BUT she is a very staunch lesbian. And that's great.

But I'm hetero.

And that's fine too.

She wasn't that staunch a lesbian, since she married a couple of men.

Are you saying that since you weren't handed from one owner to another, marriage rituals aren't steeped in misogyny?

Rape within marriage was only made illegal in the 90s because marriage meant ownership and sex was a man's right.

AntimemeticsDivision · 10/10/2022 04:02

You think I don't know that @username345 ?

In a relationship with issue, marriage is good for women. I married my husband without any of the patriarchal rituals. It's possible you know.

Andrea Dworkin's sexuality is her own. I'm not going to argue it with you.

What's your point?

Fact is women give birth. A GOOD marriage hetero or lesbian is a strong foundation for bringing up children.

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