The Marriage Conspiracy


Reader Response to “Don’t Marry Career Women” – The Marriage Conspiracy

The Marriage Conspiracy
MartianBachelor
Regular Contributor
MartianBachelor
The Marriage Conspiracy
It’s not what you’re led to believe.

By Suzanne Venker, 09/27

It could have been a chapter right out of the late Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique. Actually, it was an article in Glamour magazine earlier this summer, written by Kristin Armstrong, ex-wife of cyclist Lance Armstrong. In a piece titled “What I wish I had known about marriage,” Armstrong expresses regret over having lost herself in marriage by forgetting about her own needs and trying to be the perfect wife and mother. She cautions other women not to do the same.

Oprah identified so much with Armstrong’s message that she devoted an entire hour to it on her program — with Armstrong at her side. Oprah admits that it’s because of a fear of losing her own identity that she never got married, and she wants to join Armstrong in warning women about “the greatest conspiracy in modern history”: marriage.

Having been through a painful divorce myself, I agree with Armstrong that there’s something terribly wrong with our marriage culture. There is a conspiracy of sorts — but it’s not the one Armstrong suggests. She is certainly right that people don’t know what to expect when they marry. And society does encourage newly engaged women to focus on their wedding day and honeymoon rather than on marriage itself. Where Armstrong’s article falls short, however, is in how she defines the conspiracy.

Armstrong concludes that older women who have “been there, done that” fail to warn younger women that marriage “has the potential to erode the very fiber of your identity.” They don’t tell newly engaged women that “if you aren’t careful, [marriage] can tempt you to become a ‘yes woman’ and lure you into a pattern of pleasing that will turn you into someone you hardly recognize.” No doubt her heart is in the right place, and she has at least recognized that something is amiss in modern marriage. Unfortunately, her revelation isn’t revelatory. Today’s wives are not losing their identities in droves. Friedan hit that nerve some forty years ago, and the drum has been beaten to death; it is a danger that women today are quite alert to.

The real conspiracy — though I don’t believe the neglect is sinister, and thus perhaps “conspiracy” isn’t the word — is the silence about how hard marriage is. Not only does being married involve sacrifice that is sometimes overwhelming; it is also not, as we are taught, about being in love. It’s much more about practicality and usefulness than we wish it were.

Armstrong is wise to point out that women spend far too much time planning elaborate weddings and honeymoons. But rather than offer women concrete advice for what they should really be focusing on, she simply warns them about not giving up too much of themselves. This isn’t enough — for many women, it’s not even relevant, since they may not be pleasers by nature, as Armstrong apparently is, or was. What women should be doing during their engagements, instead of planning big parties, is talking with their fiancés about money, children, religion, sex, work, and the expectations they have of one another with respect to the division of labor in the household. As for the mental preparation, the single most important thing to understand is that love is not enough.

What concerns me the most about Armstrong and Oprah’s message is that their response to the sacrifices of marriage appears to be either divorce or avoiding marriage altogether. Rather than trying to help people deal with the reality of married life, they spent the entire hour of the show focused on how easily women fall prey to an institution that seeks to hold them down. I just can’t see how this would resonate with most women today, since we’re not only encouraged to carve out lives of our own, but are supported in our desire to be self-involved.

Modern women understand that marriage involves making sacrifices; they just don’t want to make them. They have a keen awareness that, as wives, they’re supposed to take care of their own needs throughout the journey. And lest they forget, they have plenty of women’s magazines to remind them. What may indeed be revelatory for today’s women is that they’re not the only individuals who make sacrifices in marriage. Men do as well.

Trying to find the right balance between giving to others and giving to ourselves is a tough thing. Many men have dreams of their own that are either put on the back burner or completely forgotten because of their responsibility to provide for their families. Take my husband, for instance. He is a writer, just as I am. Yet he cannot pursue his passion, because it is not generally the type of work that supports a family. I do not have this same burden. As a wife and full-time mother of two, I am able to pursue a writing career precisely because of my husband’s sacrifices. It is his financial contribution from a job that is not his first choice that allows me to do what I want with my life. Why do sacrifices like his so often go unexamined?

We would do better as a society to discuss the sacrifices involved in marriage on the part of both men and women. I agree that women are more susceptible to losing themselves in marriage due to their inherently giving nature. To warn against this is fine. But to belabor this point does a disservice to young women. Men could complain if they wanted to, but they don’t. Perhaps there’s something we can learn from their silence.

Women like Armstrong — who have suffered a great deal because of their poor choices — tend to displace their resentment onto society. Armstrong chose to marry a world-class cyclist; she was destined for a life of sacrifice that the average woman doesn’t experience. She may also have been doomed to fail at marriage, since she never wanted the life she got in the first place. As she writes about her single days, “I treasured my self-sufficiency so much that I scoffed at women who gave up their jobs, stayed home to take care of children or relied on men for anything.” Perhaps this attitude toward marriage and motherhood created a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you have no respect for such a life, and then find yourself becoming the very person you never wished to be, it’s unlikely you’ll find happiness.

This doesn’t mean that marriage is the enemy; it means there’s something wrong with our view of it. The real answer for Armstrong and Oprah will not be found in exposing a bogus conspiracy; it will be found only in their own ideas and expectations.

— Suzanne Venker is author of the book 7 Myths of Working Mothers: Why Children and (Most) Careers Just Don’t Mix.

______________________________________________
“The loudest, most strident voices calling women weak, stupid, and incapable of competing in the world at large are the feminists.” – zed the zen priest

10-10-2006 05:09 PM

Re: The Marriage Conspiracy
Halladay
Regular Contributor
Halladay

“Oprah admits that it’s because of a fear of losing her own identity that she never got married, and she wants to join Armstrong in warning women about “the greatest conspiracy in modern history”: marriage.”

It’s interesting that Oprah recently found it necessary to announce to the world that she isn’t gay.  The appropriate warning that Oprah and others like her to issue is for men not to marry childless careerists such as herself.  Having not been married or having kids, it is too late now for Oprah.  Her genes are now at a DEAD END.  That’s right Oprah.. no daughters to pass on careerist feminism for you.

Instead, child bearing and rearing is the task for real women not brainwashed in decades old feminism.

“Oprah identified so much with Armstrong’s message that she devoted an entire hour to it on her program — with Armstrong at her side”

This isn’t new for Oprah to have women by her side and bash men for everything under the sun.  Maybe one reason she felt compelled to deny to the world she was gay.
“Armstrong concludes that older women who have “been there, done that” fail to warn younger women that marriage “has the potential to erode the very fiber of your identity.”

Maybe younger women are turning into real women and want families and what is natural.  Many of them don’t  think that they are just going to fall apart and lose themselves if they marry.  Instead, they may think of their futures of having absolutely no one there for them when they are older.

“Armstrong is wise to point out that women spend far too much time planning elaborate weddings and honeymoons”

… as well as halloween and christmas decorations.  Just a natural habit of women.  Nothing wrong with that.

10-10-2006 08:19 PM

Re: The Marriage Conspiracy
Diogetrix
Regular Contributor
Diogetrix

Man, you gotta watch these writers every **bleep** second. That whole piece gave the impression that women make more sacrifices in marriage than men. It’s so obvously the other way around. Women get married so they will have a man under their control to mess with him, to have babies and support for them built in – and support for herself is part of the package, otherwise known as a meal ticket, to have an excuse and cover for not being ‘available’ if that’s what she wants, or to have a cover and method to engage in affairs with a built in escape and drama satisfaction, to shut up their mothers, to fool their fathers, to get a house without saving and working for decades, and so on. Men get married for love, sex, children, family. And, stability. Suckers.

It’s all a clever bunch of writing to continue the charade of cover stories for the eternal female double bind. Traditional marriage is a trap for men under the best of conditions. Neo-marriage is a trap for men at all times.

The controlling factor is that ‘women’s choices’ in our modern age are wholly dependent on government support of their ‘options.’ Without that, they would be begging on the street if they insisted in asserting themselves in this feminist game. HIstorically, there have always been options for females who refused or distressed at marrying: There was the church, spinsterhood with family support, career in competition with men, and so on. Societies have usually found ways to accommodate the abnormal individuals in some reasonably fair way. Reasonably, not totally. Injustices are unavoidable in any system of government (probably because justice is an individual matter, and the laws can’t cover all the possibilities even if they are carefully administered.)

Incidentally, it comes to mind that this problem of society’s accommodating our various individual desires is well addressed in the ‘pursuit of happiness,’ and the Bill of Rights’ enumeration of rights like privacy. Which is why liberals are Americans and neo-cons are not.

10-10-2006 08:38 PM

Re: The Marriage Conspiracy
porkchops38
Regular Contributor
porkchops38
Well, from what I understand, Lance allegedly cheated on Kristin. Now Kristin is painting a picture like she was the perfect wife. Kristin gives the impression that she bent over backwards to please Lance, and that impression is at odds with her husband’s alleged affair. If a woman is bending over backwards to please her husband, a man would be a fool and jackazz to cheat on her. So, someone is lying here about their marriage, either Kristin or Lance.

Also, allegedly Kristin is a devout Catholic whereas Lance is ambiguous about religion, but if Lance did have an affair, then I guess a devout Catholic wife can’t do the Christian forgiveness thing.

10-10-2006 09:56 PM

Re: The Marriage Conspiracy
Cassius
Regular Contributor
Cassius
WHy should a woman forgive in an time and age she does not even wait for hubby to do an error, because she does not need to to cash out.

10-11-2006 11:38 AM

Re: The Marriage Conspiracy
MartianBachelor
Regular Contributor
MartianBachelor
Well, from what I understand, Lance allegedly cheated on Kristin…

Even if true, this wasn’t the thrust of the show at all, but rather that she “lost herself” by getting married, and wished now that she had been properly “mentored” (warned) by some older/wiser woman beforehand. A former groupie who had married a rock star or other high profile success-object type guy might have been a good choice for her particular case (though probably not for the typical woman in the audience). The thing is, there are plenty of “tell all” books out there by such women. In short, she should have done her research first. It would hardly be a surprise, much less front-page news, for such a guy to not give up his former swinging and/or driven lifestyle just because he seemed to have found “the one” and gotten married — especially if the wife turns into a sulk on account of having lost herself somewhere along the way. I think part of her resentment was that he didn’t similarly lose himself, either in her or their marriage. In any event, she certainly wasn’t arguing that actual grounds for divorce should be re-instituted. I didn’t watch more than the first few minutes of the show, so maybe I’m all wrong, but I didn’t hear religion come up either.

What they didn’t seem to get at at all was the question of how marriage can be such a huge deal with typically modern gals such as Kristin (as in “the biggest day of my life” and “something I’d dreamed about ever since I was a widdle girl” and yet not be about a big change in their lives.

______________________________________________
“The loudest, most strident voices calling women weak, stupid, and incapable of competing in the world at large are the feminists.” – zed the zen priest

10-12-2006 12:13 PM

Re: The Marriage Conspiracy
HappyMom
Regular Contributor
HappyMom
What they didn’t seem to get at at all was the question of how marriage can be such a huge deal with typically modern gals such as Kristin (as in “the biggest day of my life” and “something I’d dreamed about ever since I was a widdle girl” and yet not be about a big change in their lives.

Young girls are given no expectations as to what married life involves or expects from them. They aren’t taught what to look for in a husband. Rather they are taught(by and large) to be narcissistic and look for some one who makes them feel special all the time, helps her purasue ‘personal fulfillment’ and will give them a big showy wedding.

She chose him probably based on his career and status. Historically women who married men of status gained their own status in the supporting role as his wife rather than through their own accomplishments. This shouldn’t have surprised her.

She had to have known what she was getting into. If she’d gone out to look for someone who the characteristics of a good father/family man to begin with and accepted her role as part of that family she wouldn’t be in this mess.

I also blame Oprah for perpetuated the myth that marriage is all about how women feel. It is about what you do, not your emotions.
But now she is going on TV to send the exact wrong message about marriage for women.

10-12-2006 01:05 PM

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