One-Way-Marriage & Wifely Control

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  1. One-Way-Marriage & Wifely Control
  2. Conditional Surrender | The New Yorker
  3. 6 Comments
  4. Strengthening A One-Sided Marriage

Each of their stories sounds like the premise for a movie: "Shirley Valentine" without the sex. There's Shelly, who left her husband, her son, and three jobs in order to study yoga in India for six weeks; Chris, who, having shelved her post-collegiate plans to join the Peace Corps when she married, revived them thirty years later and did a two-year tour of duty in Namibia; Susan, who took herself to the South of France for six months with a trunkload of books from the Western canon.

For her own sabbatical, Jarvis took off on a three-month tour of writers' colonies. Landing at the first, on an island off the coast of Washington State, she discovered the bliss of having a room of her own, a Victorian claw-footed bathtub, and someone else to do the cooking. One doesn't need to be a married woman to find this kind of escape fantasy alluring; and the desire that Jarvis felt to do something out of her ordinary routine may be mostly a matter of being middle-aged.

Still, according to Jarvis's diagnosis, marriage—even the strongest of marriages—is predicated upon wifely confinement. Marriage means living in a place you don't like because it suits your husband: her book is populated with women in the Ozarks, Alaska, and the rural East Coast, all itching to be elsewhere. Marriage means cooking and cleaning and answering children's phone calls when you'd rather be working.

One-Way-Marriage & Wifely Control

Well, no; owning a dog is just a way to buffer ourselves against the reality that we are essentially alone in the world. Marriage, among other things, is a structure within which children can be efficiently raised; it's a means of gain- ing cultural approbation, not to mention plates that match your teacups; and—crucially—it's an economic arrangement. Her focus is on mothers rather than on wives, but the degree of overlap is considerable. Crittenden, a former Times reporter, says that in contemporary American society becoming a mother provides a woman with her best shot at diminishing her earning power, compromising her future financial security, and undermining her social status.

Having become a mother herself eighteen years ago, when she was in her early forties—she left her job at the Times to raise her son—she makes a case for motherhood not as biological destiny or as a necessarily self-sacrificing vocation but as a vastly important and wildly underappreciated contribution to the wealth of nations. Crittenden compares the work that mothers do to the national service performed by soldiers, which is amply rewarded with grants for education and with health care and pensions, as well as with respect.

By contrast, mothers are stiffed left and right—by the structure of Social Security, by inflexible work schedules, by inadequate child-care provisions, and by unfair divorce laws. Crittenden provides a raft of proposals of ways in which these inequities might be corrected: a "child allowance" would replace the current system of child tax credits; mothers would earn Social Security credits for the labor of raising children; employers would provide a year's salaried parental leave.

All this would be paid for, Crittenden says, by an unspecified combination of taxes and reallocation of federal resources, and she points to the examples of countries such as Sweden to suggest how it might be done. Crittenden proposes that, once a married couple have children, their individual incomes should legally merge into a "family wage," which neither partner can claim sole ownership of, and which would remain in effect for as long as there are dependent children around, divorce or no. For the divorce court, in her view, is where cultural assumptions about the place of wives are laid bare.

Matrimonial law generally assumes that women provide wifely services—rais- ing children, supporting their husbands' careers—out of love, and so are due no financial recompense for their efforts should the marriage go bad. Instead, she suggests, stay-at-home wives might be considered equal investors in a partnership. This is a perspective that has yet to make much impact in practice. As Gary Wendt, the multimillionaire former C.

Capital, remarked a few years ago during his celebrated divorce from his wife, Lorna, "My rewards were financial, and I think her rewards were perhaps emotional. Divorce was common in ancient Rome; wealthy girls in the early Middle Ages rebelled against the husbands chosen for them by their families. In Colonial New England, divorce was more often instituted by wives than by husbands; Yalom cites the suit of one woman whose husband admitted "that he had Rogered other women and meant to Roger Every Likely Woman He Could and as many as would Let Him.

Conditional Surrender | The New Yorker

Fortunately, it is enlivened by delight- ful nuggets of primary-source material, including the Arkansas bride-wanted advertisement. Yalom makes a point of showing that unsurrendered brides have been arguing with the wedding-service injunction to obey their husbands since the Book of Common Prayer was written; these refuseniks include Elizabeth Cady Stanton and, almost two hundred years earlier, a Virginia woman named Sarah Harrison Blair, who, during the marriage ceremony, repeatedly insisted, "No obey," eventually obliging the minister to cave. A chorus of wifely dissatisfaction may echo throughout history, yet the reasons for the dissatisfaction have changed critically.

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Yalom's historical wives were protesting marriage laws that rendered them their husbands' chattel; that delivered their property to the men they married; that denied them a vote, because they were, supposedly, covered by their husbands' political views; that decreed their bodies perpetually available to their husbands, the dangers of childbearing or the whims of inclination aside.

And today? The new batch of marriage books suggest that today's women are betrayed by great expectations—they expect matrimony to provide them with happiness, something that may be much harder to achieve than extending the franchise to women or outlawing marital rape.


Krasnow's gloss on surrender differs from Doyle's: what she has in mind is mutual submission to the institution, as "a commitment we made, a spiritual promise larger than our own selfish desires. Unlike Doyle, who assumes that sex is a service women provide to men, Krasnow cites several instances of husbands who are derelict in their conjugal duties, including one who has never wanted to have sex with his wife more than once a year but has nonetheless managed to become a father of three, a triumph of chance over probability.

Krasnow is a regular contributor to the Washington Post , and her book reads like an oversized piece for the Style section. She admits that the "best stuff" in her book comes from her "extended circle of friends around Washington, D. And her conclusions are delivered with a kind of hands-on-hips swagger. Marriage can be hell; B. The grass is not greener on the other side; C.

Savor the highs, because one thing you can count on—the dips are just around the corner; and D. Nobody is perfect, so you may as well love the one you're with. Still, Krasnow does get at something that the other discontented-wives books don't: that marriage does not provide happiness though it can often provide an environment in which to experience happiness , and that it is not an exhilarating private journey of self-discovery but a mode of living in the social world.

That's a long way from Laura Doyle's Stations of the Cross model of wifely self-sacrifice. One way to reimagine marriage might be to substitute an alternative religious metaphor, that of churchgoing—which has, at its center, something sublime, but which consists mostly of entering a community and participating routinely in a set of social practices that can be observed without too much thought about their higher significance. Marriage, too, is an expression of a desire to wed the rational to the irrational: it is the most sensible, practical way of living in the world that has thus far been devised and, at the same time, life's most improbable undertaking.

Recommended Stories. He was possessive, jealous, volatile. She was Marilyn. Their legacy was unintentional, but the multi-media circus that followed them was unprecedented, just warming the world up for the likes of Liz and Dick, Grace and Rainier, even Diana and Charles. They were the first celebrity couple of the modern age. He fell in love first with her drawings, then with her. They became photographer and subject, then lovers, then spouses. They married in passionate defiance of their feuding families.

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    Strengthening A One-Sided Marriage

    Were they innocent victims of the Red Scare, misguided progressives or traitorous spies who passed atomic secrets to the Russians? The epic debate over these questions encapsulated an era in which the enemy was particularly fearsome because it was so insidious. The married parents of two young sons were electrocuted within hours of each other, adding an extra chill to the Cold War. Their co-dependency—he adores her, she adores being adored—mirrors millions of modern marriages, and their longevity has somehow made even our own dysfunctions enviable.

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