How Facebook perpetuates a gendered view of marriage

It’s your anniversary (Aw.) You buy your spouse a card, a gift, make plans for a special getaway (and if you have kids, you arrange for someone to care for them for the dinner/weekend away) and that should be it — right? Well, it used to be all that was needed. but nowadays you have to take it one step further; you have to profess your love for your spouse on Facebook, and you have to provide photos of your special day and love online because …

Because, well, why? I don’t know.  

At the risk of sounding like a social media curmudgeon, I have a love-hate thing with social media and there are some things I just don’t understand about it. Mostly the way married people feel compelled to present an idealized version of their lives online. Not to say that they aren’t blissfully happy — I sure hope they are. But I think it’s more about the pressure couples feel to present themselves that way.

Our spouses are a reflection of us, and to present ourselves as other than happy isn’t good for our personal “brand.” Facebook is “a place for good news, not the place where you talk about your most vulnerable self,” says psychologist and author Sherry Turkle. “Marriage lies so close to the raw bone of who you are, so I think people need boundaries and privacy to feel a certain integrity to maintain the relationship.”

Still, we are sending out messages about marriage we may not be aware of. Which is why I was intrigued by the findings of researchers who looked into what they consider the “performance of unattainable marital ideals on Facebook.” In examining postings with hastags of #sadwife, #happywife, #sadhusband and #happyhusband, they discovered that — happy or sad — they represent the same thing: the “performance of an ideal spouse where the inconvenience of everyday chores (laundry, dishes, childcare) and stresses (fiances, marital disputes, familial relationships, resentments) are absent from the rose-tinted world of marital performance on Facebook.”

It’s disturbing to think of marriage — or any relationship — in terms of being a “performance,” although it’s true that, married or not, we often put on our “best” selves to influence how others view us. Social media just amps it up, encouraging and rewarding us for it. Still, the way we talk about our romantic relationships is a form of storytelling and that’s powerful, as Mandy Len Catron details beautifully in her book How to Fall In Love With Anyone.

Facebook just takes it to a weird level of storytelling.

To read more, click here.

Men are not avoiding marriage because of casual sex

It’s an old saying but most of us have heard it — “Why buy the cow when you can have the milk for free?” That’s a phrase that’s both dated and sexist, so to hear it re-branded as “cheap sex” — aka casual sex — and purported to be the reason why men aren’t committing and marrying is something I would have thought we wouldn’t be discussing in 2017. And yet, here we are, thanks to sociologist Mark Regnerus and his new book, Cheap Sex: The Transformation of Men, Marriage, and Monogamy.

Regnerus (the same sociologist behind a controversial study of how children of same-sex couples fare) says cheap sex — sex with little cost as far as time or emotional investment — is behind a host of societal ills, from fewer people marrying to the rise of unmarriageable men to more people living together to more children being born outside of marriage — well, you get the idea. And it’s all because women are giving men sex too easily and quickly, thanks in part to the Pill, and without demanding anything in return. Like putting a ring on it, or least some sort of promise that they’ll stick around.

It’s true that fewer young people are marrying nowadays. It’s true that more young people are cohabiting nowadays than ever before, which sometimes leads to marriage and sometimes doesn’t. It’s true that the pervasiveness of porn has changed the way men and women think about and engage in sex. And it’s true that there’s a lot more sex outside of marriage. But to say that the only reason men are avoiding committed relationships and marriage is because women are spreading their legs and giving it up too soon (bad, women, bad!) is shaming, blaming, judgmental and — as it happens — not even accurate.

In a 2011 article in Salon, no doubt the beginnings of his book, Regenerus writes:

(W)hat many young men wish for — access to sex without too many complications or commitments — carries the day. If women were more fully in charge of how their relationships transpired, we’d be seeing, on average, more impressive wooing efforts, longer relationships, fewer premarital sexual partners, shorter cohabitations, and more marrying going on.  … while young men’s failures in life are not penalizing them in the bedroom, their sexual success may, ironically, be hindering their drive to achieve in life. Don’t forget your Freud: Civilization is built on blocked, redirected, and channeled sexual impulse, because men will work for sex. Today’s young men, however, seldom have to. As the authors of last year’s book Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality put it, “Societies in which women have lots of autonomy and authority tend to be decidedly male-friendly, relaxed, tolerant, and plenty sexy.” They’re right. But then try getting men to do anything.

What Regnerus seems to forget or ignores is that some women — not all, but some — would actually like to have casual sex so they can focus on other things besides a romantic relationship, which takes time and energy away from other interests. He also seems to be saying that if men don’t have to work hard for sex, they’re not going to work at anything. Really? I know lots of men who are doing lots of things — working to make the world safer from nuclear weapons, helping poor farmers in developing countries increase their crops so they can feed their families, investigating fraud, fighting for justice  …

Oh, wait, that’s not what he means; he means getting them to woo a woman properly — to commit and marry. Because that’s the only thing that matters — committed romantic relationships and marriage. For men like Regnerus, it’s true: they see marriage as a way to make men become respectable members of society, a way to “tame” them. But do today’s men really need to be tamed? And, if so, is it a wife’s responsibility to do that? Don’t women have enough on their plate?

To read more, click here

Why do some men cheat on their pregnant wife?

There you are, finally pregnant, getting the nursery ready and looking forward to your new role as Mom and — bam, your husband cheats on you.

Wonderful.

At least that’s what happened to Katie Price, one of the stars of the British daytime TV show Loose Women. pregnant_cheating

Not only did hubby Kieran Hayler cheat on her, but he cheated on her with her best friend.

Former Congress-
man Anthony Weiner was sexting (the first time) while wife Huma Abedin was secretly pregnant, back in 2011. Whether you consider that cheating or not, Abedin finally did — filing for divorce after the third sexting scandal.

They weren’t the first poorly behaved dads-to-be.

The concept of a husband who cheats while his wife is pregnant is “probably more common than people suspect,” says Scott Haltzman, a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry and author of The Secrets of Happily Married Women.

In fact, a 2012 study indicted that men are at a slightly higher risk of cheating when their wife is pregnant.

Why?

Find out more here.

‘Please have sex with someone else’

Let’s say you’re in a long-term marriage, one that’s pretty satisfying. You love your spouse, your spouse loves you, but you have a lot of things on your plate — work and kids and other things — and you’ve lost your sexual mojo. Would you tell your spouse, “Please have sex with someone else?” non-monogamy

That’s exactly what Saira Khan, a panelist on the popular British show “Loose Women,” told her husband earlier this year.

“I’m 46, I have a busy life and have two kids. I am so lucky. … We used to have a fantastic sex life. I still love my husband, we cuddle up and it’s lovely. We’ve been together for 11 years, but I’m not interested [in sex]. I don’t want to. … I’ve lost the desire and I find myself making excuses from around 6 p.m. … As soon as he comes home, I panic and start saying, ‘I’m so tired!’ I’m embarrassed to say this but I said to him you can go with someone else if you want. I want to make him happy. He’ll kill me for saying this … Am I the only one?”

That’s a rather brave thing to do, although perhaps some might say ill-advised or worse. (For the record, hubby Steven Hyde would have nothing to do with it.)

But it does offer a rather interesting — if not generally socially acceptable — solution to an age-old problem: sexless marriages.

To read more, click here.

George Clooney and the pressure to be married

If you follow celebrity news, you know the biggest thing to happen this week was the announcement that People magazine’s two-time Sexiest Man Alive George Clooney is engaged. It shouldn’t be such a big deal — just another celeb tying the knot, right? Except that Clooney has resisted the societal pressure to get hitched — again — after two decades of bachelorhood.   george-clooney-engagement-ring-photo-amal-alamuddin-engaged__oPt

Not to say that he hasn’t suffered for it; Clooney has had to keep defending his unmarried  state (as if it were a crime) and battling the anti-marriage bachelor image that has been thrust upon him. All of which makes us wonder what is it with this incredible societal pressure that makes an unmarried person have to defend his or her decision to be unmarried?

Do we have an unhealthy obsession with marriage?

Perhaps. Bella DePaulo, author of numerous books on the single life, calls it matrimania.

Clooney keeps reminding people that he isn’t a commitaphobe — he was married for to actress Talia Balsam from 1989 to 1993 after all  (not really long, but still) — and although he has had numerous girlfriends since then, he has been committed to each and every one of them (as are most of us serial monogamists):

People forget that I was married. I love that, ‘Will he get married?’ I don’t talk about it because I don’t think about it. I don’t ever question other peoples’ versions of how they live their lives or what they do.

Nevertheless, that will not stop the media from putting his photo on the cover with the headline, “At last!” — just like poor Jennifer Aniston has had to endure ever since she and former hubby Brad Pitt split.

It’s the “At last!” that’s problematic:

At last! s/he’s found love!

At last! s/he’s engaged!

At last! s/he’s married!

At last! she’s pregnant!

At last? Isn’t it funny — or perhaps odd or sad — that in 2014, when people can live together, have children without being married (or even without having a partner), or be part of any romantic arrangement they want, many still feel uneasy with those who remain unmarried for any length of time? It’s as if we are all blindly following some sort of script for romantic love and any deviation from it causes angst.

It also perpetuates gendered stereotypes. Just look at how the media is portraying Clooney and his fiancee, Amal Alamuddin — she “tamed,” “hooked” and “tied Clooney down,” because she had a secret — she “played hard to get.”

Excuse me, what year are we in?

OK, we get that the spotlight is on celebrities — we are a celeb-driven culture, for better or worse. But there’s a trickle-down effect, and the pressure to marry hits us whether we’re prepared for it or not. So, it’s a good idea to be thinking about it … and hopefully challenge it.

  • What kind of pressures have you felt to couple up or tie the knot?
  • Have you been as successful as Clooney has been in ignoring it until the right person came along and made you feel differently about marrying?
  • What gendered stereotypes have you internalized?
  • Do you have “At last!” moments?

 

Three reasons why you shouldn’t marry for love

Susan published this article in her Contemplating Divorce column for Psychology Today. It created quite the stir. Not marry for love? That’s unheard of! And yet, as she explains, love made a mess of marriage. Read on: Marry_for_love

Those who don’t marry for love in our culture are considered unlucky, suspect, manipulative, exploitative, and bad. We feel they are either doing something wrong or there is something wrong with them. It makes us feel everything from sympathy to contempt for these folks because most of us were taught that love is the only “right” reason to tie the knot.

But if you really think about it, love is a luxury. When you marry for love, it generally means you have all — or at least most — of your other needs met (like food, shelter, warmth, etc). That may explain why those with fewer financial resources also have lower marriage rates: If you’re worried about your survival or safety, you’re not going to be focusing on finding the man or woman of your dreams — unless of course this dream person is your ticket out of your terrible home life, dreary financial picture or scary “singledom.”

Procreation has always been a factor in why people married, but up until about two hundred years ago or so, people in the West married more for political or financial gain than for love.

The Victorian Era and the Industrial Revolution (1800s) created two important changes in how people lived: Romance became all the rage and technological advances made life much easier. Prior to these developments, divorce was incredibly rare but when love entered the picture as the reason to marry, dissolutions became more commonplace.

Read the rest of the article here.