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"The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough":

An interesting essay in The Atlantic on love and marriage from a woman's perspective.

Most of my closest friends have always been women -- when I got married, the attendants on my side were my brother and two groomsmaids. And many of my women friends have been (or are) unmarried considerably longer than they might have liked; this was for all the right reasons, but it still made them somewhat unhappy. So I've thought a lot about such matters, thought obviously without the intensity stemming from direct personal concern (men face a different set of problems related to marriage), and the essay seemed to me to capture a good deal of truth.

In any case, I'm not sure the essay is right, I'm sure that it doesn't tell the whole story, and I am pretty sure that nothing in it is particularly original. But it strikes me as refreshingly candid as to one set of circumstances that are worth a good deal of thinking (even though it necessarily slights other circumstances). And there is one item that I thought was very well put (though I stress again that, like all statements on this subject, it can't describe everyone's experience equally):

Marriage isn't a passion-fest; it's more like a partnership formed to run a very small, mundane, and often boring nonprofit business. And I mean this in a good way.

Glenn W. Bowen (mail):
from the article:


Because if you want to have the infrastructure in place to have a family, settling is the way to go.


I've heard, I probably read it in another article, a great many people establish this infrastructure first, then have children- I suppose a few of them actually labor under the misconception that they didn't "settle" for anything.
2.9.2008 10:57am
Randy R. (mail):
This is news? This is how marriage has been pretty much from the beginning of time -- a union between two people to make their way in the world. Marrying for love is an ideal that began in the late 18th century, but really wasn't put into practice until the 20th century.

People place the blame for high divorce rates on everything except the obvious. When you marry for love, you get divorced when the marriage no longer works. When you marry for economic and social security reasons, then you are more likely to stay in it, because your expectations are lower.

Love? That's what affairs are for!
2.9.2008 11:13am
Prosecutorial Indiscretion:
This woman would have been so much better off if she'd read Denis de Rougemont's "Love in the Western World" twenty or so years ago.
2.9.2008 11:15am
rlb:
I'm not going to read the whole thing, so I'll ask: did she ever get over the BS long enough to show some concern for her bastard child who will grow up without a father?
2.9.2008 11:38am
TerrencePhilip:
“I just want someone who’s willing to be in the trenches with me,” my single friend Jennifer told me, “and I never thought of marriage that way before.” Two of Jennifer’s friends married men who Jennifer believes aren’t even straight, and while Jennifer wouldn’t have made that choice a few years back, she wonders whether she might be capable of it in the future. “Maybe they understood something that I didn’t,” she said.

If "Jennifer" is her friend's real name, I wonder how much Jennifer appreciates this bit of info being shared with the world, because if Jennifer's friends see this essay they are all likely to know immediately whom Jennifer was talking about . . .
2.9.2008 11:42am
Glenn W. Bowen (mail):

This is news? This is how marriage has been pretty much from the beginning of time


jackpot.
2.9.2008 11:53am
pete (mail) (www):

did she ever get over the BS long enough to show some concern for her bastard child who will grow up without a father?


A little bit, but not in so many words. Although she does admit it is more unlikely that a guy will want to date or marry her now that she has a kid. It sounds like her kid spends most of the time in daycare anyways and that would not likely change even if she was married.

My big surprise with these women is that so many of them seem to think that they are that great and deserve a man who meets every one of their dream criteria. The author seems to have realized that is not a realistic expectation.

So glad I am already married and not dating any of these women.
2.9.2008 11:54am
Amber (www):
As a woman dating one of Gottlieb's former boyfriends, I'm glad that she only realized now what she missed out on.
2.9.2008 11:54am
genob:
non profit.....for sure.
2.9.2008 11:57am
Mike Gallo (mail) (www):
Well, considering that the more likely women feel they will rely on a State for help at some point, the more likely they are to vote socialist Democrat, I'd say that women "settling" for economic reasons is a great way to reduce the size of our current federal government.

I always laugh when I read studies about how people with more economic stability or wealth are more likely to stay married. Didn't it ever occur to anyone that people who make good life choices just might A) stay married and B) make good financial decisions? Meh, what would I know, I'm young and naive.
2.9.2008 12:04pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Public service that appeared on TV:

Unlike love, herpes is forever.
2.9.2008 12:06pm
Wugong:
"...to show some concern for her bastard child"

Classy terminology, rlb. At least the child won't have you for a parent.
2.9.2008 12:07pm
Jiminy (mail):
Dane Cook's bit about marriage was great. He sees an old couple together, and he asks the guy what the secret was to being happy for so long. The old guy pulls him aside and says "CHEAT".
2.9.2008 12:12pm
T.S. Jones:
>>Wugong: "...to show some concern for her bastard child"
Classy terminology, rlb. At least the child won't have you for a parent.<<

RLB's point is that child, by definition, is a bastard and because of the woman's selfish, intentional choice will be deprived of having a father. Which point don't you understand?
2.9.2008 12:22pm
patentman (mail):

This is news? This is how marriage has been pretty much from the beginning of time -- a union between two people to make their way in the world. Marrying for love is an ideal that began in the late 18th century, but really wasn't put into practice until the 20th century.



I agree with this fully. Modern culture has veered away dramatically from this ancient conception of marriage. Today the notion exists that a marriage has gone awry simply because the elation and ecstasy of the early years are no longer present. At the very least, people have been conditioned to feel a creeping unease in their marriage if they fail to live up to the alleged "ideal" of marital love as a perpetual immersion in unmitigated bliss. This is pernicious nonsense, and it has contributed significantly to the instability of marriage today.

Love is not an emotion; it is an act of the will. As stated more fully by Aquinas, love is to will the good of the other, for the sake of the other.
2.9.2008 12:32pm
Zombie Richard Feynman (mail) (www):
The issues I have with rlb's post

1. "bastard" may have once been a technical term, but now it is a term of derision. Using it on the child insults the child, and the mother.

2. The implicit assumption that one should aways stay together for the sake of the child. Some relationships are a lor worse together than they are apart.

3. The contempt at the woman, while understandable, seems pretty knee-jerk. He didn't read the article, but he as much as says she's a bad mother. Painting all single mothers as bad is a pretty broad, and, dare I say it, mysogynistic, brush.
2.9.2008 12:40pm
NRWO:
In a marriage, who is settling for whom?

Some sort of prediction market could be used to establish partner valuations before marriage. The partner with the higher valuation is, in some sense, settling for the partner with the lower valuation.

Perhaps divorces could be prevented by giving couples information about their valuations. Couples with widely varying valuations could be discouraged from marrying (if in fact wide variance in such valuations increases divorce risk).
2.9.2008 12:42pm
Zed:
T.S.:

Wugong's point, that you obviously didn't understand, is that not having a father is sometimes (and perhaps even frequently) better than having one, particularly one that is abusive, racist, misogynist, or likely to instill other unpleasant 'values'.

Also, note that although being a single parent is considerably rougher than raising a child as a pair, children of single parents seem to grow up and become productive members of society just fine.
2.9.2008 12:44pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
A lot of women who opt for a sperm donor instead of husband do not realize the extent to which they play “genetic roulette.” There’s a very good reason for courtship. You get to know the person who will contribute half the genes to your children. Genes matter. We are not blank slates, and a great deal of our personality, abilities and health are genetically determined. You should also know your mate’s family (as well as your own) because that’s the gene pool your children are going to get. In the past a person’s family counted for a lot. Prior generations knew that a family riddled by physical and mental problems (like substance abuse) was a poor choice to marry into. How well you relate to your children, especially after they grow up, is also influenced by genes. It’s amazing that these women who won’t “settle” like the author, and who put such are priority on children are all too willing to settle for a spin of the generic roulette wheel.
2.9.2008 12:51pm
Gramarye:
Hah! When I saw this headline on the RSS feed (which is usually where I read VC), I thought this was going to be about McCain.
2.9.2008 12:57pm
Stephen M (Ethesis) (mail) (www):
I was never infatuated with my wife, just deeply in love with her, until about three years ago. After about three years of it, I have to admit that while the giddiness is fun, I'm ready for it to be over.

Love motivates me to put her ahead of myself, to cherish her and look for ways to be kind. The giddiness just makes me goofy.
2.9.2008 1:01pm
colagirl (mail):
Word, Zarkov. A friend of our family decided to have two children on her own, by different fathers. Her first child turned out fairly well, but her second child eventually developed all sorts of emotional difficulties and caused her lots of heartache. She found out eventually that his father had exactly the same sorts of problems, none of which she had known about when she decided to have the child.
2.9.2008 1:07pm
pete (mail) (www):

children of single parents seem to grow up and become productive members of society just fine.


Ever been to the inner city lately? Here is the census report (PDF) on children with single parents. They are more likely to end up poor, will likely have less of an education, more likely to end up in prison, etc. It is also statistically worse off for the children if the parents were never married then if they were divorced. Nearly 60% of children living with single mothers are at or below the poverty line. The author is an abberation in that she is an educated carreer woman in her 30's who went with a sperm donor.

While many children of single parents end up ok, it is putting a child at a distinct disadvantage to grow up without both parents, which most of the time means without a father. In this author's case not only will her child not have a father, it will likely never even know who he was.
2.9.2008 1:10pm
huxley (mail):
It's nice that Lori Gottlieb has lowered her standards to allow a Mr. GoodEnough into her life, as opposed to continuing her quest for Mr. DreamGuy, but she still seems to have no awareness of a man as more than the pesky Ken doll she needs to build her Barbie Dream House now that Barbie wants to be a mama.

At the end of the article she declares that she would in theory settle for a guy except that the dating pool she faces in her forties has dwindled and "due to gender politics [whatever that means], the few available men tend to require far more of a concession than those who were single when we were younger."
2.9.2008 1:19pm
AnneS (www):
I think my father-in-law's advice to his sons sums it up best - "Marry someone you like and like talking to, otherwise you'll end up banging some secretary in ten years." The only thing I'd add is marry someone whose flaws you can tolerate, whose strengths and weaknesses complement your own, and who you find attractive enough to have sex with on a regular basis. It's not about settling - it's about partnering with someone who will most likely continue to meet your needs when you're young and free, middle-aged and frazzled, AND old and tired.
2.9.2008 1:28pm
Steven Horwitz (mail) (www):
Let me just echo the other folks who noted that "marriage as passion-fest" is a comparatively recent phenomenon, and that over the long history of humanity, marriage has indeed been a partnership for household management of one sort or another. Yes, you should love the other person, but mostly that means, as others have said, tolerating their faults and learning to love their weirdness.

As the scholar of the family Stephanie Coontz has said, the problem with marrying for love and passion is that it ups our expectations to the point where they much more frequently cannot be met. As much as our higher divorce rate is about the increased ability of women to leave relationships they are unhappy with, it's also about lowering the threshold of "unhappiness" well below where it was historically. The idealization of marriage as passion fest can explain that.

I heartily recommend Coontz's Marriage, A History.
2.9.2008 1:39pm
Bruce:

(men face a different set of problems related to marriage)


This may be true on average, but not as a *rule*.
2.9.2008 1:44pm
OC Domer (mail) (www):
Wow, there's a lot to say about this article. Although the author's story is a sad one in many ways, I also find that I shake my head at what the baby boomers have wrought. The flower children of the 60's and 70's threw off the mantle of oppression that was the collective wisdom of thousands of years of western civilization to seek their own, Universal truths. Those people (I always think of Bill and Hillary) were always so smugly and confidently sure that they were smarter and knew better than the stodgy, close-minded generations that preceded them. Free love, abortions, divorce, the ERA, sexual discrimination laws, all intended to "free" women from the shackles of traditional marital and family roles.

And then reality set in. It turns out that husbands can be pretty handy. They can provide a stable home environment for raising your children, share the burden (time, effort and money) of raising those kids, be your best friend, protector and staunchest ally. Love you even when you're old and wrinkled. God forbid that he does all these things but isn't Prince Charming.

The author sadly realizes, too late, that marriage is about more than sex, passion and romance. Her grandparents knew that, her mom knew it. Generations of Moms have known this and handed down that collected wisdom. But the baby boomers (and their kids) knew better; or thought they knew better. And their arrogance has led to this - a generation of lonely, unhappy women struggling to raise kids by themselves, and a generation of kids without Dads being raised at the Day Care center and growing up too fast as they try to provide to their Moms the emotional support that they ought to be getting from their husbands.
2.9.2008 1:45pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
The author here is clearly a narcissist. At the end she says, “I know all this now, and yet—here’s the problem—much as I’d like to settle, I can’t seem to do it.” She then proceeds with a new round of plausible excuses as to why settling at her age is a bad idea. It was a good idea before, but not now. In other words, she can always come up with an excuse for not settling.

Mathematics can help us determine how many tries before we “settle.” The solution to the well-studied secretary problem (also called the marriage problem, or fussy suitor problem) provides an optimal stopping rule, to help Lori avoid spinsterhood. Let’s say that Lori wants to find the best guy out of a group of size “n.” The optimal stopping rule says: skip the first n/e (e is approximately 2.71), then settle for the next person who is better than the first n/e guys she dates. This rule will get the best of the lot with a probability of 37%. Now Lori can’t date the whole of Manhattan. Let’s say she wants to find the best guy out of a group of 100. She should then date 37 guys and settle for the next who comes along that's better than any of the 37.
2.9.2008 1:59pm
RL:
There are a few things I disagree with in Gottlieb's article. First, the notion that men settle far less often. I think that when men decide they are ready to marry, they are far more realistic about their mates than most women. They start to look for good mothers as opposed to arm candy sex partners. I know countless men who have left passionate long-term relationships only to marry their blander rebounds. And they are perfectly happy in these marriages.

Second, even marriages that don't start out with the feeling of settling eventually transition to that point. No matter how strong the passion is at first, once the kids start coming, the relationship inevitably shifts to the mundane business of being a family. Those who can't make the transition fuel our country's 38% divorce rate. Those who decided to settle at the outset actually have a leg up.

Gen X women were raised to abhor the values that power the urge to settle, and now they are realizing what a mistake that was.
2.9.2008 2:01pm
Visitor Again:
Most of my closest friends have always been women

What, not a single sex change among them? How pedestrian of you, and you in L.A. as well.
2.9.2008 2:07pm
Gregory Conen (mail):
A friend of mine is now happily married to a woman he never meet face-to-face before their engagement.

According to him, arranged marriages work out better than courtships, as they allow dispassionate but motivated decision-makers (the parents) to actually weigh the pros and cons, rather than have both decision-makers be emotionally involved.
2.9.2008 2:13pm
33yearprof:
The problem is that even Mr. 95%, having learned of the hassles, doesn't want her (on a permanent basis).

Good discussion started yesterday on Instapundit's wife's web site "Ask, Dr. Helen." http://pajamasmedia.com/2008/02/ask_dr_helen_8.php
2.9.2008 2:21pm
kdonovan:
Zarkov - Using the the Secretary Problem's solution is probably not aggressive enough for Lori (as in it delays the selection too long). The problem Lori has with this solution is that the pool she is interviewing is not static. First, as time goes by, her competitors are removing the more desirable bachelors from the pool before she can ever interview them. Second, but related, as she ages and has kids the pool of those desiring her as a mate is changing. Hence she finds herself with a pool of applicants consisting of rude, depressed alcoholics.
2.9.2008 2:30pm
MarkField (mail):

did she ever get over the BS long enough to show some concern for her bastard child who will grow up without a father?


As my grandmother says, there are no illegitimate children, just illegitimate parents.
2.9.2008 2:31pm
no name:
I gagged at the first paragraph of that woman's nonsense. She's a single woman with a child. Traditionally, most men would not want to form a life with her.

I have a 29-year-old son. He has known forever that I would NEVER, ABSOLUTELY NEVER under any circumstances, accept as a "pretend grandchild" the child of some other man.

A couple of years ago, it was clear that he had adopted my standard when he said that he would NEVER marry a woman who had a child by another man. I asked, "How about if she had been widowed?" ... His answer was simple: "I don't care what her story is."

The woman who wrote the Atlantic piece made her own selfish choices; let her deal with them without the pity that she seeks in her article. She created a child who would forever have no access to the financial, familial, or emotional support of a father. If that isn't selfish and intentionally abusive, what is?

Any man who would opt to form a life with that woman would be either (1) resigning himself to never having children, or (2) damning his own future children to reduced paternal support and assistance because he would be taking on the task of "pretend father" to the child whose father is an unknown.

The actions and attitudes of the woman author disgust me.
2.9.2008 2:39pm
ChrisIowa (mail):
Gottlieb's problem comes down to looking for love with a checklist.
2.9.2008 2:39pm
Sean M:
I admire no name's honesty, but find myself equally disgusted by his attitude.

My parents divorced when I was young and my Mother remarried a wonderful fellow who loves me and cares for me as one of his own children. And while I only have one Dad, my step-dad is a wonderful figure in my life, whose family has taken me in as any other grand child or nephew.

While I understand why men find it HARD to marry a woman who has children by another man, to say it should be never done or that such a grandparent is "fake" places biology over emotions. Love is love, no matter what form it comes in or from whom.
2.9.2008 2:46pm
Wugong:
T.S. Jones,

What Zombie Richard Feynman and Zed said should answer your question. Bastard is not a neutral descriptive term.
2.9.2008 2:47pm
JohnMc (mail) (www):
Pete, have to agree with you, especially out of the dating pool. The problem with the article, even with what is called a mind, laid bare, is still pretty shallow. It was about 'me', or well her environment, and why she would 'settle'. But it was still self serving. Not once in the article did she voice any concern of -- "Well maybe is shouldn't. Or at least say, 'I am interested but you but I have to confess...', to the other party." Even the single mother in vitro shtick was an indication of a selfish act.

But what the author has failed to grasp is the the world has passed her by. The legal system in a mighty struggle for 'equality of the sexes' has so damaged the family court systems that the legalities of failure are now part of the equation. Why buy it at a possible high risk of losing half of what you own, when rent or lease is an option? Nor are there any shortage of lessees to go around. The American woman also has to realize that they now complete globally as about 5% of men now are marrying foreign. Foreign women know what a good deal American Men are that American Woman have failed to grasp.

The ironies are that American Women aren't bad though they are painted as such in many corners. It's a fact that only a small segment are. Most of the AW that marry stay so for quite long times. They are out of the pool. So what is left are the whores, the self absorbed, the flakes, the golddiggers and the bitches. Yet Hollywood paints this as 'success' at one level or another. Only these arch-typical women will be the last with gold around their finger.
2.9.2008 2:50pm
josh bornstein (mail) (www):
No Name,
I honestly think that you may be the worst person in the world. I do, however, respect the fact that you are entirely upfront and honest about your attitudes. It is not surprising at all that your son has been infected by your poisonous views. I re-read your post 3 times, hoping to find some evidence of sarcasm, or that you were speaking tongue-in-cheek. Nope . . . that was the real you. Please excuse me; I need to take a shower now.
2.9.2008 2:52pm
Mark in Texas (mail):
Fred Imus put it a whole lot more succinctly than Lori Gotlieb:

Young women have all sorts of requirements that they demand from a man but after 40 all you need is a job and a hard on.
2.9.2008 2:55pm
liberty (mail) (www):
She is a real sicko.

Also, I guess it hinges on (1) her idea of settling having to do too much with really trivial sounding things and then the vague notion of love, rather than a more profound discussion of what a true connection depends on, and (2) her assumption of a desperation to have children.

Some of her points were good, but a lot of it left me in wild disagreement.

But, I may feel differently in 5 years - which is her point. I must admit that the pool is shrinking.
2.9.2008 2:59pm
Crane (mail):
no name - So, there'll be no adoption allowed in your family, either? Better hope your son and his future spouse don't have any fertility problems.
2.9.2008 3:00pm
Disgusted:
If that isn't selfish and intentionally abusive, what is?

How about instilling in your son the warped mindset that a woman who has a child could never be good enough for him because the child would be a "pretend grandchild" to you and your son would be a "pretend father"?

The things parents teach their kids. Ugh.
2.9.2008 3:01pm
MnZ:

In any case, I'm not sure the essay is right, I'm sure that it doesn't tell the whole story, and I am pretty sure that nothing in it is particularly original.


Yes...it doesn't tell the whole story. I met my wife in my mid-20s while I was still a student. My wife (who is the same age as I am) was just beginning her career. She was friends with several single women, and I was friends with several single men. Given that both sets of friends were well-educated, had similar interests, and were at similar stages in life, we thought that perhaps some of them would hit it off. So, we held several parties in which we invited both sets of friends. Some of my male friends were interested in some of her female friends - there was some dating. However, her friends always found a reason why my friends weren't "good enough."

Almost 10 years have passed since my wife and I first met. Most of her friends are still single, and within the past few years, many of them have asked about (or have contacted) my friends. Of course, most of my friends are now committed, engaged, or married while my unmarried friends friends are dating younger women.

A couple of my wife's older friends are in the process of "settling" for men that aren't exactly catches (and that is being charitable). My wife has lamented that her friends didn't show more interest in decent men (such as my friends) in their younger years.
2.9.2008 3:06pm
Randy R. (mail):
OC " The flower children of the 60's and 70's threw off the mantle of oppression that was the collective wisdom of thousands of years of western civilization to seek their own, Universal truths"

It's always the baby boomers with you guys, isn't it? If it weren't for the 60s, we would all be living the perfect glorious life that culminated in the 50s, right?

Sorry to burst your bubble, but the idea of marrying for love, not for economic security didn't begin until somewhere in the 19th century. (Ever read Jane Austen? try a few books, and you'll see that it didn't start with the boomers). But even then, women knew that economic security came before love. It was merely the *ideal* to marry for both reasons.

Divorce hit record highs in the 20s, then fell again during the depression and war. The 50s seemed perfect, only because the far more people were actually getting married than divorced, and you still needed that economic security.

"Free love, abortions, divorce, the ERA, sexual discrimination laws"

Are you seriously suggesting that we repeal our sexual discriminationn laws? The ERA was never enacted nationally, but most states have one. Should that be repeated as well, so that men can fire women for no other reason that being a woman? Abortions have occured since women have been giving birth, so I can't see how that has affected much.

I have yet to see anyone suggest that we tighten up the divorce laws. in fact, whenever it's been up for a popular vote, as in Chile or Ireland, the people voted overwhelmingly to allow for easier divorce.

Free love? When you can explain that one, we'll get a response to you.
2.9.2008 3:13pm
theobromophile (www):
Women initiate between 60 and 80 percent of the divorces. Query whether those are women who settled out of fear of being alone, or those who tried the passion thing and found that it didn't work. It may have something to do with the fact that men gain more psychological benefit more from marriage than do women; generally, the benefits that accrue to women are financial and a reduction in the chance of being abused.

A long-term, stable marriage is one of the best things for the psyche. One of the worst things is to get divorced or to be unhappily married. The single life is in the middle. Marrying the wrong person does come with its own set of problems - those that are significantly more substantial than having a "boring" life or a single life. For many women, the challenge is to find someone who will not make us profoundly and deeply unhappy. Or, heck, even those who don't initiate a gag reflex. One of my best friends threw up after the latest guy kissed her.

As for Ms. Gottlieb, re: her most recent date:
He’d never been married. He was rude to the waiter. But he very much wanted a family, and he was successful, handsome, and smart.

Well, pardon me here, but why not take a non-handsome, non-traditionally successful man who is actually nice to the waiter? I mean, if you're 40 and haven't figured out that the guys who are jerks to the waitstaff aren't marriage material, let alone boyfriend material....

Or maybe I'll feel different once I'm forty. Maybe "full of agape" won't be one of my criteria at that point. ;)
2.9.2008 3:13pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Was I the only person who, after reading just the title of this piece, seriously thought it was going to be about McCain?

And is "no name" really serious that even widowed women with children should forever be scorned by other men? So Jane and Bob have a kid in their early 20s; Bob goes off to fight in Iraq and is killed there; no man should ever marry Jane? Sure glad the vast majority of the country doesn't feel that way.
2.9.2008 3:16pm
liberty (mail) (www):
"he only thing I'd add is marry someone whose flaws you can tolerate, whose strengths and weaknesses complement your own, and who you find attractive enough to have sex with on a regular basis."
- AnneS

This is stated much better than the author stated it. (And that could be love - you can fall in love at that point. Trouble is, for some of us, getting all of that in one person is tough.)

As someone pointed out, the author was "looking for love with a checklist" and was totally selfish and ugly about it.

The person you marry isn't there for you as a prop and a tool. You should selfishly love them, but love, as someone said is about wanting the best for them for their sake -- you selfishly love but love is unselfish.

This author has no idea what love is.
2.9.2008 3:17pm
Randy R. (mail):
Frankly, I don't know what all the hullaballoo is about. Marriage isn't in troublee at all, and families are doing great. What with just about every presidential candidate espousing the virtues of family values, I dont' see any reason for anyone complaining.

President Clinton signed into a law the Defense of Marriage Act, and several states have already enacted their own Marriage Protection Acts. Soon, every state will have one, and then marriage will be perfect for everyone! Spouses won't cheat or abuse each other, all will be best parents to their kids, and there will be no reasons for divorce at all.

It's a very simple solution to a complex problem. Finally!
2.9.2008 3:20pm
theobromophile (www):
I have a 29-year-old son. He has known forever that I would NEVER, ABSOLUTELY NEVER under any circumstances, accept as a "pretend grandchild" the child of some other man.

I am glad, almost every day, that both of my stepfamilies do not feel that way. There are not words to express what both of my "bonus parents and grandparents" have added to my life. I am also eternally grateful for various "family" members with no genetic relation; cousins who are step-second-cousins, technically; and my half-siblings.

It's not like there is a limited amount of affection, caring, and agape to go around. Familial ties are far from a zero-sum game; in fact, it's more of an self-sustaining cycle.

Your loss.
2.9.2008 3:32pm
Stephen M (Ethesis) (mail) (www):

The lists go on, and each time, I say, “OK, if you’re so unhappy, and if I’m so lucky, leave your husband! In fact, send him over here!”


That is a money quote ;)
2.9.2008 3:32pm
lucia (mail) (www):
"due to gender politics [whatever that means], the few available men tend to require far more of a concession than those who were single when we were younger."


Hhhh... Gender politics? That's not it. The pickiness (aka "unwillingness to make concessions" ) of older daters is simple to explain. The less picky people got married, and in quite a few cases, stayed married.

It looks like Lori Gottlieb is still picky. But now the flaw she sees in the dating pool is they are too picky!

The optimal stopping rule says: skip the first n/e (e is approximately 2.71), then settle for the next person who is better than the first n/e guys she dates.

Zarkov, the secretary problem assumes every secretary applying will accept a job if it's offered.

That doesn't happen when dating. It also assumes there is no cost to defer the decision. If someone really sets a goal of marrying and decides to 'interview candidates' by dating in any normal sense, they probably need to go out on at least 6 dates spread over 6 weeks, and be dating more or less exclusively. In your hypothetical with 100 candicates, the woman will spend more than four years just to 'interview' the first 37 that will be rejected in order to apply the rule! After that, she need to date until she finds one whose better than every single one of the first 37. Then, there is at least a 37% chance the best one was in the first batch. To discover that, she needs to spend 8 more years dating the remaining 73. By now, she's spent 12 years!

The wikipedia article about this problem notes that people don't apply this 'optimal' rule even when buying gas. Well.... no wonder! If you were on the highway, driving on a vacation, you'd often might run out of gas before you filled the car. If you're just trying to get groceries bought, you'd spend all Saturday morning shopping for gas. What a drag.
2.9.2008 3:42pm
Barnes:
I'm 26 and already, all the women I know that are even halfway decent are taken. I can't imagine what things will be like when I'm forty.
2.9.2008 3:56pm
Fub:
heobromophile wrote at 2.9.2008 3:32pm:
Your loss.
Game. Set. Match.

Couple of my lifelong friends knew only one biological parent because their fathers didn't come back from WWII. One was reared entirely by his mother. Anybody taunting them with "pretend grandchild" these days would be cruisin' for a serious bruisin'.
2.9.2008 3:59pm
OC Domer (mail) (www):
Randy,

Apparently I hit a nerve, eh? I'm pretty familiar with Jane Austen (my daughter loves it). Jane Austen was romantic fiction. Young people have forever dreamed of finding their Prince or Princess and riding off into the sunset to live happily ever after. It's similar to Snow White and Cinderella in that they are all fairy tales; people used to read those stories and understand that it would be great if dreams came true, but it's immature and irresponsible to plan your life around a fairy tale.

I don't advocate rolling back the progress we have made in equality for women, but I do fault those who pressed those reforms for making false promises to the young women of that generation. The women's liberation movement was anti-man and it tried to de-legitimize traditional notions of marriage and family. Suddenly, it was no longer good enough to want to marry a good man and be a good wife and mother. Instead, the prevailing wisdom was that a modern woman should try to "have it all." Be sexually liberated, delay marriage and children until your career is established, then try to be wife, mom, and career professional all at the same time. Certainly some women pulled that off, but many more became miserable trying to do all of those things well, or were made to feel inferior if they chose one path over the other.

As for free love, the idea that women should feel free to be sexually active has done much more harm than good. It has broken the traditional link between sexual relations and commitment and child bearing. Sex used to mean children, and smart girls didn't have children until they were ready (i.e., married). Once the link was broken between sex and kids (and sex and marriage), women were encouraged to make themselves available to men for sex without strings, and men came to expect women to offer them sex without strings. Once men started getting "the milk for free" as they say, it created a major disincentive to marry. Women who aren't willing to freely offer sex without commitment find themselves at a serious competitive disadvantage in the dating marketplace. When I was young and single this all seemed like a great idea. As a father of a young lady, I know that it is a pernicious development.
2.9.2008 4:12pm
K Parker (mail):
Let me join the pile-on: sorry, no name, but your attitude is just weird.
2.9.2008 4:19pm
no name:
Comments to various posters:

No, there was no sarcasm whatever in my words.

Folks who benefit and have benefited from having step-relatives support them in one way or another will argue that it's "good" for a man to take on some other man's child as his own.

"Good" for whom? Yes, it's to the financial benefit of the child who gains from the step-family. It absolutely is NOT to the financial benefit of the man foolish enough to have taken such a step.

Adoption? To be blunt, if I'm the one left to pass out my largess as I near my demise, if I had a choice between leaving it to a genetic grandchild or to a child that one of my children had adopted, it wouldn't take me a second to tell the lawyer how to write the will. My husband's opinion on the subject is even stronger than mine. In his words, "I want my genes passed on!"

"Fertility problems"? Not every couple is able to have children. So what? AND, back to the article that drew all of these posts, was there some reason that woman did not adopt one of those many parentless children? She did what she did out of the pure and selfish motive of passing on her own genes. If you can accept what she did as "understandable," then surely my choices are no less understandable and no more ugly: The efforts of my life will go to me and mine. If there are no "mine" to give it to, it will go to a charity of my choice. And I would go so far as to write a will to give more to a child who had produced his/her own children, and less to a child who had married someone with children from someone else, because I don't want my money used to help support someone else's child.

I do NOT want the mess of "steppies" in my children and grandchildren! That may sound awful and ugly, but that that's my choice, and I raised all of my children to see such situations as undesirable.

And, no, there is no limited amount of affection. There is, however, a limited amount of financial resources, of time in the day, and of physical strength. What I have will go for me and mine, and not for the likes of the child born to the woman who wrote the article.

I'm outspoken with my opinion. What that woman did was rob her son of a father, a paternal grandmother, a paternal grandfather, and all paternal relatives. And she did it all for the reproduction of her own genes.

She did it to her son; now it's her problem.

More than one major religion would say that what she did was immmoral. If you can't think of any such religions, go ask the Pope what he thinks of such behavior.
2.9.2008 4:22pm
TheWhaler (mail):
Don't settle!!!
2.9.2008 4:30pm
JohnO (mail):

"due to gender politics [whatever that means], the few available men tend to require far more of a concession than those who were single when we were younger."



Huxley,

In context, I think "gender politics" means that decent available guys in their forties are often running around with women in their twenties and early thirties, meaning that there's a lot of competition for the good older guys, and the author thinks being a single mother in her forties gives her a disadvantage in competing for the good ones, leaving onloy the less good ones available.
2.9.2008 4:50pm
Wugong:
No Name,

My father died when I was very young and my mother later married a wonderful man who has always treated me as his son (I usually forget that technically, I am not). Thank God most people do not share your bizarrely idiotic beliefs about "family values." May your son (assuming he continues to share your rancid ideas) die childless and put an end to your pathetic bloodline.
2.9.2008 4:52pm
Tracy W (mail):
A couple of years ago, it was clear that he had adopted my standard when he said that he would NEVER marry a woman who had a child by another man. I asked, "How about if she had been widowed?" ... His answer was simple: "I don't care what her story is."


So, woman marries a firefighter, they have a baby together. One day firefighter gives his life to rescue two small children from a burning house. No matter how wonderful the woman was as a person, your son would never marry her just because she originally had a baby with a person as worthy of the word "man" as any male can be?

Weird view. Good thing there are a lot of men who are wiser than that.
2.9.2008 4:54pm
Randy R. (mail):
OC: " The women's liberation movement was anti-man and it tried to de-legitimize traditional notions of marriage and family. Suddenly, it was no longer good enough to want to marry a good man and be a good wife and mother. Instead, the prevailing wisdom was that a modern woman should try to "have it all."

What a distortion of what really happened! In case you forgot, Bretty Freidan wrote a book, The Feminist Mystique, which became a best seller. Why? Because so many women were actually unhappy living the life that you describe as perfect for them. Just being a happy homemaker, wife and mother may be the gold ring for some women, but it certainly isn't for all. What the 'women's lib' movement did was open the opportunities for women to choose.

Sure, some women can't handle it all -- they can't play all the roles they would like. The point is that they now have a choice, whereas in years past they did not.

No, The women's lib movement didn't 'delegitimize' the role of housewife and mother -- many women had figured it out well on their own.

Now, perhaps there was an assumption that ALL women should have a career, and all women could handle all roles easily. And this was played up by the media in movies and tv. But as you note, that's just fantasy land, right?
2.9.2008 4:57pm
Porkchop:
no name wrote:


I do NOT want the mess of "steppies" in my children and grandchildren! That may sound awful and ugly, but that that's my choice, and I raised all of my children to see such situations as undesirable


Well, it is awful and ugly, but as stated above, your choice is your loss.

I married a woman who already had a child, so I guess I'm pretty well qualified to speak on this subject. I adopted that child shortly after we married. Then we had two more. That was more than 20 years ago, and regardless of the "financial burden," it has been more than worth it. This was the best thing I have ever done. I have gotten far more from my children (and my wife) than I could ever give back to them. My parents love and enjoy the company of all of their grandchildren (two of whom are adopted). They see each of them as bringing more joy to their lives. You just don't know what you are going to be missing.
2.9.2008 4:58pm
michael (mail) (www):
Honest and aggressive one might say of Gottlieb's article. A message from a Guardian angel for women and a reassurance to young men when girls might seem too aggressive.
2.9.2008 5:00pm
AnneS (www):
Noname belongs to that special breed of assholes who believe their small-mindedness and small-heartedness is a virtue. One wonders how her opininon would change if her future daughter-in-law dies while her precious genetic material are still young. By her own standards, no woman in her right mind would marry her son, which would presumably benefit both her son and her grandchildren. One also wonders how she'll react if her son dies and that unfortunate widow has the temerity to remarry and have more children. I mean, those new children will be competing with noname's precious genetic material for resources - will noname swoop in and demand custody? Will she mistreat new husband and children in front of nonamegrandchildren, then throw a temper tantrum when former daughter-in-law cuts off contact to protect her family?

Noname, I venture to guess that your grandchildren will see through you just as my cousins and I see through our similarly selfish and small-minded grandmother. Have fun enjoying their absence from your life in your old age.
2.9.2008 5:02pm
TerrencePhilip:
noname,

when my parents divorced and my father remarried a woman with children, it turns out he did us both a great favor; I love her and every one of my stepsiblings, and there is nothing "pretend" about the bond I feel to them. I have never begrudged them any resources they got from our (nowhere-close-to-wealthy) family, including my dad. Your post seems close to sociopathic; I'm sorry your son seems to share your attitude.

Now Lori can’t date the whole of Manhattan. Let’s say she wants to find the best guy out of a group of 100. She should then date 37 guys and settle for the next who comes along that's better than any of the 37.
-as long as she doesn't tell her mate about the 37. Remember the movie 'Clerks?'
2.9.2008 5:05pm
Randy R. (mail):
OC: "Once men started getting "the milk for free" as they say, it created a major disincentive to marry. Women who aren't willing to freely offer sex without commitment find themselves at a serious competitive disadvantage in the dating marketplace."

Wow. There is so much made up stuff in your post, I really don't know where to begin. If what you say is true, then we would see a decline in marriage rates from the 60s to now. In fact, they have not fallen.

I just make one more comment. According to Dan Savage, the sex advice columnist, the most common reason for divorce in the US is sexual incompatibility. He also has stated that one of the most common requests he gets is from a man or a woman who 'saved' themselves for marriage. After several years of marriage, one of them has grown so bored with the sex life that they ask Dan how can they experience what sex is like with another person, if only to learn more, without having to cheat? In other words, they want to fool around because they didn't have the chance when they were single and still could.

The happiest couples, according to Dan, are the ones who are sexually experienced when they get married. They know what to do, are happy to experiement, and can teach the other partner techniques and practices that they have learned make them happy.

So in other words, sexual liberation, or free love, as you call it, is neither good nor bad, it's whether it's used well.
2.9.2008 5:06pm
hawkins:

"Good" for whom? Yes, it's to the financial benefit of the child who gains from the step-family. It absolutely is NOT to the financial benefit of the man foolish enough to have taken such a step.


So you taught your son not to take any actions that are not for his financial benefit? Not all that surprising. Based on your other comments as well, you do seem quite obsessed with money.
2.9.2008 5:09pm
Randy R. (mail):
Noname's nightmare: Her children turn out gay, they hook up with a partner, and then adopt. We all know what the Pope would say about that!

Raised as a catholic myself, I well recall a song that I used to sing in Sunday school. It was entitled, "They will Know We are Christians by Our Love."

Guess noname skipped class on those days.....
2.9.2008 5:11pm
TruePath (mail) (www):
Despite her claims about the impossibility of finding good guys if you are an older single woman I've seen my mother have little difficulty since her divorce while my dad (though dating frequently) has had more difficulty finding long term serious relationships. No doubt this depends heavily on your profession and social life. Male engineers and computer scientists (me and my friends not my dad) are likely to have an overabundance of eligible men while I suspect that heavily female professions like teaching have the opposite problem. Given how easy it is now for middle aged women to log onto the internet and email intelligent, nice, rich and diligent sexually responsive programmer types whose downsides are primarily superficial shyness and awkwardness I have little sympathy for the women in the article.

I don't know if this is occurring with her friends but one barrier I see in my fiance's friends and other girls is the insistence that men come and find them. Every (involuntarily) single guy I know puts in a sizeable amount of effort looking for dates on websites, going to activities they might meet women at or otherwise stepping out of their comfort zone to find dates. However, many girls seem to sigh about not having a boyfriend and dream that their prince charming will come show up at their door if they never go out. Partially this does have to do with a certain misconception/fairytailization of love where the man comes to sweep the woman off of her feet just like in the movies. This sort of passive role for woman can work in more traditional societies but in a society where we treat women as independent self-reliant creatures it is necessery to act like that to get dates (what might be appropriate male chivalry in an earlier age would be offensive and over the top to many women now).

However, I think the author's real problem is much simpler and deeper than this. Quite frankly the author doesn't want a husband she wants a live in nanny and she has confused the notion of equality with that of expecting guys to be equal partners in the work when the benefits are primarily hers. I mean the whole piece is basically a refrain about her willingness to put childcare help/convience above any romantic goals. Unsurprisingly if you put a low priority on romance in your life you will be less likely to achieve it.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with caring more about raising kids than romantic love but why would you think that the world owes you a man when his interests and concerns are clearly secondary to your reproductive desires? Yes, many married couples have kids but there is every difference in the world between marrying someone and deciding to have kids together and trying to find some sucker who will do some of your work. It's not that complicated if you don't really want to have sex, are more interested in a man as a status symbol than a lover and prioritize help with the kids don't get married find another single mother to live with and share child rearing responsibilities.

The whole situation with nearly all women getting married is actually fairly recent. Back in Victorian times there were plenty of women who lived together as spinsters, likely many who prefered it.

Ohh and I don't doubt that arranged marriages can work well (though often family does have some sense of who to pick) but this is because other people aren't thought of as an option. The problem with the settling business is that your awareness of settling pollutes the whole deal.
2.9.2008 5:13pm
KHui:
"Marriage isn't a passion-fest; it's more like a partnership .. ." This article takes off from that insight: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=929269
2.9.2008 5:16pm
Randy R. (mail):
My friends, I have to make a comment here that's a bit off topic. But after having read some of these posts, especially by the likes of noname, I would like to bring in another subject that has been discussed extensively on VC. Stay with me, and you'll see the relevance to you.

By the end of the 90s, it became clear that gays might actually have the chance to get married. Eventually, we got that only in Mass, and now several other states have allowed civil unions. But other countries, such as Spain, Canada, Belgium and the Netherlands offer full same sex marriage.

In response, conservative had to come up with a theory of family life that would prevent us from getting married. So they came up with this theory that sex is all about procreation, and marriage is all about having kids. Maggie Gallagher has written about this on the VC and other places. She suggests that once you separate marriage from having children *as a result of that marriage*, then the notion of child bearing and child rearing is severed from marriage. Once that is severed, then people will no longer have children, and civilization will end.

I'm serious. That's her position. Now, it's awful silly, but it is used to prevent gays from marrying, because obviously two gay men or two lesbians cannot produce children on their own, but either must adopt, or in the case of the two lesbians, one must get the sperm from someone outside the marriage. In either case, according to Gallagher, the children are 'severed' from the marriage, and therefore, the family that they created isn't a real family.
Once young people see this, they will stop having children.

Now, of course, there is no evidence to support this. But nonetheless, it has gained credence in recent years.

What has that to do with noname and others? Because noname buys into this argument. Adopted children aren't her "real" children, and therefore are less deserving of love and resources. OC laments that sex isn't just for procreation anymore, and that people might actually have sex just for the fun of it.

My point? Gay bashing or tyring to deny gays rights like marriage doesn't just hurt gays. It hurts you as well.
2.9.2008 5:21pm
Waldensian (mail):

I'm 26 and already, all the women I know that are even halfway decent are taken. I can't imagine what things will be like when I'm forty.

Dude, I say verily unto you: don't worry, if you make it to 40 without getting married, you are in for a treat.

At 26 you are still on the receiving end of picky women. Been there, done that, got the T-shirt. But by the time you hit 40, the worm hasn't just turned, he's cut backflips. Imus is almost right. Actually, all you need to do is have a job, not be a violent ex-felon, and live someplace other than with your Mom.

And even if you can manage only two out of those three, you'll still probably do okay.

Seriously, hang in there, you have only 14 years until you reach the promised land.

The geeks shall inherit the earth.
2.9.2008 5:24pm
JohnMc (mail) (www):
"What a distortion of what really happened! In case you forgot, Bretty Freidan wrote a book, The Feminist Mystique, which became a best seller. Why? Because so many women were actually unhappy living the life that you describe as perfect for them. Just being a happy homemaker, wife and mother may be the gold ring for some women, but it certainly isn't for all. What the 'women's lib' movement did was open the opportunities for women to choose.

Sure, some women can't handle it all -- they can't play all the roles they would like. The point is that they now have a choice, whereas in years past they did not."

Just keep in mind Randy, that much of the reason men don't marry now is because of laws that damn near make men criminals in a divorce proceeding. Go do a scan on 'divorce domestic violence' in google to understand that DV is now a legal tactic unreleated to whether you beat your wife or not.

Were I 20 now I would never consider marriage. it is too risky.
2.9.2008 5:44pm
no name today:
Does anyone imagine that the author of the article that began this discussion had a child as she did for any reason other than to carry on her OWN blood line? She could have adopted.

For those living in step-family situations, that's your choice. I've made mine. And I'll go this far: If ever I have any doubts about the paternity of a child supposedly born to one of my sons, I will not hesitate to have DNA testing done. So long as my husband and I are alive, such testing could be done without even informing anyone else, and all that would be needed would be spit from inside the baby's wife.

My blood? Kid gets a nice trust fund. Not my blood, then it's not my son's blood, and I would inform my son immediately.

Go back and read the article that began all of these posts: That woman was so selfish about wanting a perpetuation of her own blood that she went out of her way to have a child out of wedlock and a child who was robbed of every bit of his paternity.

It is a reality of biology to want to look out for your own. And it's a smart man who can and does reach out and claim his own children.

You have your families; I have mine. I will not accept "steppies."
2.9.2008 5:44pm
no name today:
"baby's mouth" not "baby's wife." Typo.
2.9.2008 5:46pm
Houston Lawyer:
Once again I find myself in agreement with TruePath. She doesn't want a husband, she wants a wife or a nanny. Her gender politics don't allow for the presence of a living and breathing man, who actually has a life of his own.

Also men over 40 have a lot of dating options, even if they have children of their own. Divorced men usually don't have custody of their children, which makes a difference. The fact that she had her self inseminated would be a huge red flag to any man. It just shows that it's all about her.
2.9.2008 5:47pm
liberty (mail) (www):
"Once again I find myself in agreement with TruePath. She doesn't want a husband, she wants a wife or a nanny."

Excuse me? Yes, she is selfish, yes she wants a nanny, yes there would be no room for a living breathing man. But what the hell do you mean that she wants a wife? Is that all a wife is to you? A nanny?

There would be no room for a living breathing woman, either.
2.9.2008 5:52pm
Jim Rockford (mail):
What the Gottlieb article says:

In their twenties, women have the power. They have more suitors competing against each other and the pick of the best men. They defer marriage hoping for even better choices.

But they age, get less physically attractive and less able to have kids. Power shifts. And they don't recognize it until too late. This dynamic is behind the dropping birth-rate. She'll have very likely just the one kid.

The solution is simple: a change in the culture making women more aware of the limited time frame to select the best mate (at the peak of their attractiveness) and the recognition that despite their improved economic and social status, selection must include long-term compatibility and commitment rather than just passion and status/power/wealth.

Because single mothers divorced or unmarried have a lot of problems finding an optimal mate. It's a better strategy to compromise on looks/passion for stability/loyalty and remain married than divorced, lonely, and with children missing a father. Children without fathers have lots of problems compared to their peers with the biological father in the home: girls have earlier sexual activity, higher teen pregnancy, and more abusive relationships while boys engage in more criminal activity and drug and alcohol abuse.

That doesn't mean a sacrifice in love and affection, merely a recognition that people are by definition imperfect, and a "dream" man is merely a dream.
2.9.2008 5:55pm
AnneS (www):
Noname is clearly not really serious about adhering to the principles of Catholicism or any other branch of Christianity. Otherwise, she would be more touched by the example of St. Joseph.

Also, talk about your overinvolved and narcissistic in-laws. Poor, poor daughters-in-law. Your sons are going to have a hard time finding a wife whose not eitheer a total doormat or a goldigger (assuming her claims to vast wealth are true), unless he agrees to limit all contact with you and your husband to Christmas and funerals.
2.9.2008 5:58pm
33yearprof:
In context, I think "gender politics" means that decent available guys in their forties are often running around with women in their twenties and early thirties, meaning that there's a lot of competition for the good older guys, and the author thinks being a single mother in her forties gives her a disadvantage in competing for the good ones, leaving only the less good ones available.


And the author is . . . correct.

And any guy in his 40's has watched a raft of his friends get "cleaned out" by the totally biased (IAAL) Woman's Court System. They know that marriage is more hassle than it's likely to be worth. The author proves those smart guys are correct too.

The women are the losers here.
2.9.2008 6:01pm
JohnMc (mail) (www):
"Also men over 40 have a lot of dating options, even if they have children of their own. Divorced men usually don't have custody of their children, which makes a difference. The fact that she had her self inseminated would be a huge red flag to any man. It just shows that it's all about her."

Well maybe, but if he is saddled with alimony and child support. he may have a lot of options but little financial discretion to act on them.
2.9.2008 6:02pm
JohnMc (mail) (www):
"The solution is simple: a change in the culture making women more aware of the limited time frame to select the best mate (at the peak of their attractiveness) and the recognition that despite their improved economic and social status, selection must include long-term compatibility and commitment rather than just passion and status/power/wealth."

In a earlier time that was what a nosy mother was all about! :)
2.9.2008 6:05pm
NRWO:
I really don’t want to defend “no name”, whose crass comments about stepchildren are deplorable.

But it’s worth noting that there is much evidence, mostly from evolutionary psychology, that stepchildren are at risk for a host of unpleasant outcomes (viz., abuse), particularly if they’re female.

More generally, parents who have non-biological (e.g., stepchildren or adopted children) are much more likely to do nasty things to their children than parents who have biological children.

See, e.g., http://psych.mcmaster.ca/dalywilson/ep&mc1996.pdf


Are parents more likely to neglect, assault, exploit, and otherwise mistreat their stepchildren than their genetic children? One might suppose that this rather obvious question would have received considerable attention during the explosion of child abuse research that followed Keinpe, Silverman, Steele, Droegemuller, and Silver's (1962) agenda-setting proclamation of “the battered-
child syndrome.” But it did not. The first published study addressing it was our demonstration (Wilson, Daly, &Weghorst, 1980) that stepchildren constituted an enormously higher proportion of child abuse victims in the United States than their numbers in the population-at-large would warrant. Much subsequent research (e.g., Creighton, 1985; Daly &Wilson, 1985, 1988a, 1988b, 1988c, 1991; Ferri, 1984; Flinn, 1988; Gordon, 1989; Hill &Kaplan, 1988; Russell, 1984; Wilson &Daly, 1987) has confirmed and extended these results, demonstrating that excess risk to stepchildren is crossnationally ubiquitous, is not an artifact of poverty or any other suggested correlate of steprelationship, and extends to a variety of mistreatments but is especially extreme in the most assaultive and dangerous ones.
2.9.2008 6:17pm
Randy R. (mail):
"Just keep in mind Randy, that much of the reason men don't marry now is because of laws that damn near make men criminals in a divorce proceeding."

Well, ya got me there!

Personally, I would make divorce even easier. Go ahead and get married. If you don't have kids, you can get divorced in the first five years no problem. This gives you plenty of time to figure out if you are compatible, and if you get divorced, no one is really hurt -- you can both just move. But if you have kids in those first five years, then I would strip the couple of everything they have and put it in trust for the kids. That should be a good incentive to wait for that period of time before you really screw up the family.

After five years, you can have the regular divorce laws that we have now.

People in bad marriages should have the right to get out cleanly and easily, if there are no kids. If there are kids, then they should be the priority. To me, this is simple -- all religions should encourage delayed childbirth until the couple knows that they can make it.

Of course, I realize this doens't help those who are married a long time, but hey, I can't solve everyone's problems!
2.9.2008 7:27pm
PDXLawyer (mail):
Like EV, I have always had a lot of women as friends (though politeness has prevented me from inquiring too closely as to their history). I'm struck by how demoralizing it must be to have your value on the marriage market fall over time, as it does for women. This sort of thing makes it tough to act rationally when you're selling a house - it has to be even tougher in a context which is so closely tied to one's image of oneself.

I agree that deliberate single motherhood is a foolish response to the problem of singleness. But, its a much more scary negotiation for women than it is for men.

I suspect that something similar may account for the fact that the majority of divorces are initiated by women. During the marriage things change affecting the relative desirableness of the parties happen - he gets fat, bald, has an affair, etc. Some of these things are foreseeable, but many are not foreseen. If a woman would not have married him if she had known then what she knows now, the natural reaction is to feel cheated and want a divorce.

Thoughts anyone?
2.9.2008 7:27pm
Bemused (mail):
Wow. I read this article in bed last night as I lay exhausted after a long day caring for my daughter. I am a single mom raising a daughter I chose to adopt. What are my prospects for marriage? Pretty slim, I suspect. I, too, expected too much from men and potential husbands for too long and decided that I wanted to be a mom. I know sooooo much more know about what is important in a man/husband than I did before I adopted by daughter. However, my prospects are different. Had I known then what I know now . . . I would have been less pickier and more realistic.

By the way, is my daughter a bastard child not eligible for the gifts many volokh readers would bestow? Harsh.
2.9.2008 7:33pm
El Corazon:
Enjoying no name's proffered fantasy of secreting out a sample of the little monster's "spit" and scurrying home with it. Then taking it to the lab the next day, all the while thinking "Oh, that little b**ch!"

I imagine the next steps in the thought process: "And if that doesn't work, I'll get my hands on a dirty diaper! She won't get away with this."

A lot to look forward to in that family.
2.9.2008 7:45pm
Peter Wimsey:
No name is beneath contempt...but I can't help but imagine her reading Hansel and Gretel to her children and explaining how it was right that H and G were sent away because they were "evil steppies."
2.9.2008 7:58pm
Waldensian (mail):
I want to meet No Name's parents.
2.9.2008 8:15pm
katkat (mail) (www):

RLB's point is that child, by definition, is a bastard...

That can't be RLB's point, because Lori Gottlieb's child, by definition, is a child. You are the bastard.
2.9.2008 8:27pm
Truth Seeker:
The problem is that women who are organized and aggressive and determined enough to get a professional degree also are organized enough to have their lives all planned out and they know exactly what kind of man will fit into this plan. I once dated a woman who even knew what clothes I should wear when meeting her friends and family (LaCoste).

Unfortunately for them, men on their level have their own plans and they aren't looking for a woman's plan to fit into, they are looking for a woman for thier plan.

So the men on their level are marrying secretaries and younger women, and their best choice is to find a blue collar guy, or an older professional guy who is semi-retired, or a struggling artist who needs support and will have dinner ready. A woman judge I met at a bar function said that what she really needed was a wife. A guy who would have dinner ready, pick up the kids, etc.
2.9.2008 8:30pm
Dave D. (mail):
...And to think this mischief was initiated by a fish who didn't want a bicycle. Why in the world would bicycle craving fish have given her any credence ? There is a warp and woof to fertility and attractiveness and Lori wasted hers. She's a loser. She listened to women who don't value men. Men weren't, and are not, going to value her any higher than the bar she set....low.
2.9.2008 8:32pm
Alcyoneus (mail):
Wow. It's considered news that women can't find superman? And the dearth e of supermen means women are settling?

Um. Note to women: if you aren't marrying superman, you aren't necessarily settling either.

Women have really accepted the premises of romance novels. That's dumb.
2.9.2008 8:42pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
No name: assuming you're not trolling, which is a big assumption here, try to think of it from the other perspective: your son and his wife have a child. Your son dies. What do you think should happen to the child -- your grandchild -- at that point?
2.9.2008 9:10pm
Stormy Dragon (mail) (www):
I'm a 31 year old single male, who's largely given up on finding a relationship, and this article underlines a lot of the reasons why. The marriage she wants is entirely about her: her kid, her stability, her happiness, etc. She doesn't care at all about her hypothetical husband and what he wants ands needs are. For instance, there is the way she laughs off sexless marriages. What this typically means is that the woman in the marriages has decided SHE'S no longer interested in sex. And since the marriage is all about her, whether her husband still desires intimacy is completely irrelevant.

Even worse is the level of deception she advocates. She suggests women completely misrepresent themselves and do whatever it take to get the marriage sealed, and then deal with the fallout later. After all, if it doesn't workout, she can always get a divorce with generous child support later on.

And then she wonders why men don't seem as interested in settling as she does. It's because we have to deal with the constant insecurity of worrying whether the women we meet are real people or just facades intended to lure us into a divorce trap.
2.9.2008 9:19pm
Hoosier:
>>No Name, I honestly think that you may be the worst person in the world.

No. That's me.

Still, when I read this sort of thing, I just can't fet over how lucky I am that I have my wife. I'd better get off of the computer now and go tell her that.
2.9.2008 9:26pm
rlb:
Classy terminology, rlb. At least the child won't have you for a parent.


Here I thought you were going to chide me for the redundant "bastard child." I'm a bit annoyed that you try to turn my concern for the child around like this, though.
2.9.2008 9:53pm
Al Goreski:
I took a vow of celibacy. I got married. It works best that way. We only have each other to be miserable with instead of procreating and bringing more miseerable wretches into the world. Take my wife please... Some place far away far away me....
Reminds me of an old joke.
Married couples go through three stages of sex. Mad sex. Ritual sex. Hallway sex.
Mad sex is full of passion and happens everywhwere and any place.
Ritual sex is when you do it every Saturday night because your supposed to do it and its the only open time.
Hallway sex is when, after several years of marriage, you both pass in the hallway, look at each other and say EFF U!
2.9.2008 10:27pm
theobromophile (www):
Women who aren't willing to freely offer sex without commitment find themselves at a serious competitive disadvantage in the dating marketplace. When I was young and single this all seemed like a great idea. As a father of a young lady, I know that it is a pernicious development.

Very true.

Now, if anyone is in the Virginia area and up for a margarita, I can regale you with tales of all the interesting ways I've been dumped after turning a guy down for sex. On the way to the train station, with him yelling, "You could have at least given me a blow job!" as I stepped out of the car - totally classy. While lying in his arms, five minutes after he said, "[If you got pregnant,] just have an abortion", because, obviously, I'm going to kill my unborn child because some prat can't be in a relationships without getting laid. After getting a speech about how he's going to regret not taking advantage of his sexual peak, so he really, really needs to have sex in the next like, two weeks. Or screw the relationship part - how 'bout trying to convince a man that he ought to at least know you before trying to get you into bed? Then you're left telling him to please relieve himself with a cow, because, remarkably, you aren't interested.

Women in their 20s have the power? HA! Only if willing to sell their souls....

I'm struck by how demoralizing it must be to have your value on the marriage market fall over time, as it does for women.


Yes. Demeaning, too... I would like to think that I've gotten to be a better, stronger, and kinder person as I've gotten older. Many women, presumably, feel the same way. Odd - and quite sad - to have looks trump that, considering that everyone will get old anyway.

/rant
2.9.2008 11:08pm
Truth Seeker:
Actually it's poetic justice. At eighteen the guy has to grovel and beg for what nature screams to him that he needs. At 40 the woman is in that position.

Women in their 20s have the power? HA! Only if willing to sell their souls....

Um. It's not your souls men want you to sell.
2.9.2008 11:54pm
theobromophile (www):

Actually it's poetic justice. At eighteen the guy has to grovel and beg for what nature screams to him that he needs. At 40 the woman is in that position.

The solution to all of these problems is for 40-year-old women to date 20-year-old men. :)
2.10.2008 12:05am
Jaynie59:
This article really incensed me. First, I have no respect at all for any woman who chooses to be a single mother and plans for that outcome. To go out of your way by using a sperm donor to have a child? That is the height of irresponsibility, and smacks of such self centered selfishness as to be slap worthy.

Second, as other comments have already said, this women doesn't seem to have a realistic view of any part of the real world beyond her own nose, and seems to lack the ability to see the world from anyone else's perspective. Such as her child, or any man unfortunate enough to marry her.

And last, but not least, not only is it painfully obvious that she has never been in love with man, or ever known true sexual passion with a man, I wonder if she's ever had sex. There is nothing worse than bad sex, and once you've had good sex you are never going want to settle for less. And if you've ever been lucky enough to experience great sex? Real passion?

She has no clue what she's talking about.

She's a snob, too. I make $100,000 a year and I wouldn't look down my nose at a mechanic, or a plumber, or a handyman. She's looking to settle? I pity the poor guy she settles for. She'll make him miserable.
2.10.2008 12:18am
tsotha:
Is it just me, or are these kinds of articles getting more and more play as time goes on? Are we witnessing the beginning of some kind of... well, maybe not a "movement", but at least a general shift in attitudes?

As a 41 year old guy looking to have a family, I don't date women older than 33 or so. It's not that women my age can't be attractive or funny. It's just that I would like to have children, and after a woman turns 35 it gets progressively more difficult to impossible.

I'm truly sorry to hear women my age aren't happy with their choices in life, but my sympathy is tempered by the knowledge these same women, like the author, were holding out for a rock star or at the very least tall-dark-handsome-funny-and-rich 15 years ago and wouldn't have given me the time of day.
2.10.2008 1:30am
tsotha:
Oh, and chocolate-lover, there is more than one way to analyze the behavior of those impatient men. If they've been dating for awhile, they've probably run across an attractive woman who's stringing five guys along in various states of sexual frustration while pining for the outlaw biker who left her.

These sorry fellows pay for her dinners, fix her flats, mover her furniture, provide a ready shoulder for her to cry on when she's feeling down, and generally make her life much more pleasant and entertaining.

But she's not interested in any of them romantically. Indeed, she calls them "friends", or simply leaves the status of their association undefined. But she always does and says things they could interpret to mean if they just did that one big romantic thing, were just a bit funnier, or were just a little more willing to cater to her every desire, the story would have a nice fairytale ending. Of course the reality is somewhat humiliating and painful.

What you're experiencing, at least in some cases, is the sure-fire strategy they've hit on for making sure it doesn't happen again.

Isn't dating fun?
2.10.2008 1:30am
Soronel Haetir (mail):
As a single 30 year old male I can fully relate to most of noname's position, though not for the same reasons. I would not touch a woman with a prior divorce regardless of children. To me prior divorce is a strong indicator for future divorce. Never married with child is even worse. I do however have flexibility on the question of widows. It is not a question of genetics for me or religion, but rather one of seeing a person who gave up on the most important commitment they ever entered into.
2.10.2008 2:59am
David Chesler (mail) (www):
At 26 you are still on the receiving end of picky women. Been there, done that, got the T-shirt. But by the time you hit 40, the worm hasn't just turned, he's cut backflips. Imus is almost right. Actually, all you need to do is have a job, not be a violent ex-felon, and live someplace other than with your Mom.

At 44 I found myself suddenly single (widowed) -- they haven't exactly been beating a path to my door. In two weeks it will be a year, and I won't be wearing a wedding ring, I'll see what happens then. (The email link above works.)

I'm in software, so I'm only employed some of the time. My only condition is I can't see marrying someone with children of her own. I've got three kids who if they weren't already messed up from having a sickly mother are now pretty well messed up from having a dead mother. Once they were born they, and not I, became the most important people in my life, and I intend to keep it that way, without spreading myself much thinner. But I figure there are enough women who never got around to having children, maybe who don't like pregnancy and babies and toddlers, who wouldn't mind being part of the lives of three generally decent kids who, if she plays her cards right, will look after her in her old age and carry on if not her genes, her memory. I realize it's not symmetric; I'm not ready for the Brady Bunch thing.

As for Mom, I also lost my father this year, and during the family discussion of where she would live she turned down living with me, saying "Hi, I'm in my 40s, I've got 3 kids, no job, and I live with my mother, would you go out with me?" wasn't a great line. (I pointed out that even leaving off "and I live with my mother" there were other deficiencies.)

I've had a lot of time to reflect on a good marriage. Passion was nice, but we barely missed the sex the last few years. I liked knowing that there was someone out there who had my back, and I had hers. I liked being able to share the joy and sorrow of our children. I liked the simple act of sharing a bed.

While lying in his arms, five minutes after he said, "[If you got pregnant,] just have an abortion", because, obviously, I'm going to kill my unborn child because some prat can't be in a relationships without getting laid.

That reminded me of a fond memory, the time when I was on the verge of the moment of maximum excitation and she looked up at me and said ever-so-sweetly "If I get pregnant, will you marry me?" Her "gotcha!" grin as I did a spit-take while my brain was shifting gears helped me realize that here was someone who could stimulate my mind as well as my body, and as Ron White says, "You can't fix stupid." (I figure I had the last laugh, because I married her and she wasn't even pregnant.) That twisted sense of humor got us through a lot.
2.10.2008 3:32am
Jim Rockford (mail):
Theo --

Yes your "value" as a marriage partner declines as you get older. Women in their Twenties DO have the power because they are at their maximum attractiveness, maximum ability to conceive a child (which rapidly and exponentially declines in their thirties), and have the fewest problems in childbirth, birth defects, etc. Statistically speaking compared to their older peers.

This is simple biology and any complaints are best addressed to God or Evolution, take your pick. A man interested in a family will maximize his opportunity by picking a younger partner. While you might be a "better and stronger person" that won't help you conceive a child, much less take care of several young ones. Gottlieb at 25 would have much more energy to care for her son than Gottlieb at 42. Biology as it always does, trumps fuzzy ideas.

As such your "value on the marriage marketplace" is a "niche" value -- one for men not looking for a family or who already have all the family they need/want (generally older men).

A woman in her twenties will draw attention from not only her peers but men in their thirties with more money, power, social status, etc.

She has the most suitors, and can pick and choose. Delaying merely means she has fewer suitors to choose from, and they display the oafish behavior you describe.

Women need more education to maximize their selection, understanding they can't have it all, and not choosing is just another way of being single.
2.10.2008 3:37am
Jaybee (mail):
I heard one time that boys raised by single mothers made up a large portion of the prison population. I wonder if that is also true of boys raised by single up-scale women as this author must be? Or are they just girls in boys clothing?
2.10.2008 5:26am
Callidus (mail):
RLB used his words correctly. "Bastard." It is blunt speaking, a lost art in a feminized age, but the less high-minded truths about the world require bluntness like that.

Speaking as a dude whose father married a woman with a bastard girl already in tow, I've asked my father several times whether he loves her less than all the other children (four of us). He says no. The history of who got the most financial and emotional help growing up would tell a different tale, though, to the observant--and we're all observant off-spring. Hiding the truth won't undo it, gentlemen.

Love of one's children is an evolutionary device in order to set up our own genetic legacy with a comfortable niche in the future before we ourselves die. Nothing more. Love does not transcend the needs of nature: it is a tool fashioned by nature, a tool that often misfires but generally does its job as well as reason can, its neighbor in the toolkit.

Nature programmed us to love our children, and it programmed us to be wise enough not to love bastard children. Who truly thinks to change this? Mere posturing.

If anyone can love a bastard as much as their own--I mean truly and not for the social standing and accolades as a great-souled person--then they and their code will slowly be deemed unfit by evolution over the many iterations of natural selection. This flaw will eventually be crucial in giving other genetic strains an edge in survival over yours. Instead of raising two children when he has means for two, one of your descendants will raise one and a bastard; another with means to raise three will raise one and two bastards; yet another with means to raise one... will settle down "with a woman he loves!" and raise just the bastard of another man, who's probably happily getting offspring on other women meanwhile. Your genetics will be outbred, because it focused on concepts and emotions rather than realities.

So, the last laugh belongs to No Name and RLB. One day, thousands of years from now, the last descendant of your line will be feeding and caring for a child fathered by one of their (probably many) descendants because "Blood doesn't count, it's all about how I feel!".

Strange... an article about the folly of seeking overly-idealized, transcending love between adult couples has produced defenses of overly-idealized, transcending love of illegitimate children.
2.10.2008 7:00am
Callidus (mail):

Now, if anyone is in the Virginia area and up for a margarita, I can regale you with tales of all the interesting ways I've been dumped after turning a guy down for sex.


Sure thing, Theo, just throw in a quickie at the end, and I've got time for you. ;)
2.10.2008 7:21am
J Smith (mail):
Wait a second, No Name...if the others' assumptions are correct and you do consider yourself Christian, I have a question. Wasn't Joseph basically a step-father to Jesus? Where would Mary have been if Joseph shared your "no steppies" rule?
2.10.2008 8:15am
Wugong:
Soronel Haetir,

Please note that "No Name" made no mention of divorce as a problem. His/her concern was solely with a grandchild that was not of his/her bloodline. And as he/she went out of his his/her way to make clear, widows with children would not be welcome as well. The issues has nothing to do with the morality of the mother, but rather the presence of the child, for whatever reason.

As J Smith points out, No Name would have Joseph reject Mary and her "steppie." Once again, I hope No Name's son is shooting blanks. That would be sweet justice.
2.10.2008 9:27am
Porkchop:
Waldensian wrote:


I want to meet No Name's parents.


More importantly, I do not want no name's son to meet any of my daughters, adopted or otherwise.

David M. Nieporent wrote:


No name: assuming you're not trolling, which is a big assumption here, try to think of it from the other perspective: your son and his wife have a child. Your son dies. What do you think should happen to the child -- your grandchild -- at that point?


What would no name herself have done if widowed? Eked out a living taking in laundry like the widows of yore? I suspect it no name would have done all she could to provide for her progeny.

If no name's hypothetical widowed daughter-in-law were to absorb her mother-in-law's lessons well, she would seek out an accomodating, wealthy, older man to provide for no name's grandchildren. She would act cold and distant to any children the wealthy older man might have and wait for him to die so that she could utilize his wealth for the benefit of no name's grandchildren (to the exclusion of any other children). As I recall that narrative has been around a while -- it was called "Cinderella" when I was a boy. I think that no name's attitude pretty much sums up the wicked stepmother's motivations.

Callidus wrote:


Speaking as a dude whose father married a woman with a bastard girl already in tow, I've asked my father several times whether he loves her less than all the other children (four of us). He says no. The history of who got the most financial and emotional help growing up would tell a different tale, though, to the observant--and we're all observant off-spring. Hiding the truth won't undo it, gentlemen.

Love of one's children is an evolutionary device in order to set up our own genetic legacy with a comfortable niche in the future before we ourselves die. Nothing more. Love does not transcend the needs of nature: it is a tool fashioned by nature, a tool that often misfires but generally does its job as well as reason can, its neighbor in the toolkit.

Nature programmed us to love our children, and it programmed us to be wise enough not to love bastard children. Who truly thinks to change this? Mere posturing.

If anyone can love a bastard as much as their own--I mean truly and not for the social standing and accolades as a great-souled person--then they and their code will slowly be deemed unfit by evolution over the many iterations of natural selection. This flaw will eventually be crucial in giving other genetic strains an edge in survival over yours. Instead of raising two children when he has means for two, one of your descendants will raise one and a bastard; another with means to raise three will raise one and two bastards; yet another with means to raise one... will settle down "with a woman he loves!" and raise just the bastard of another man, who's probably happily getting offspring on other women meanwhile. Your genetics will be outbred, because it focused on concepts and emotions rather than realities.


I think you are projecting the dysfunctionality of your family on the rest of us. Your reference to your stepsister (or adopted sister?) appears to me to indicate bitterness and resentment on your part of her very existence. (If I am wrong, please correct me.) If your father did not treat her as well as the rest of you, then why the resentment on your part? Ot is the resentment against your father for treating her less well than the rest of you? If that is the case, why refer to her by the pejorative (if accurate) "bastard"? There is something I am missing here about the story. Perhaps you could unpack that for us.

There are families, my own (nuclear and extended) for example, where that sort of unequal treatment is not the case. The children of my adopted daughter will be as much my grandchildren as the children of my biological children. And my adopted daughter is as much the grandchild of my parents as any of their biological grandchildren.

Frankly, the genes really don't matter that much to me. If that makes me an evolutionary loser at some distant point in the future, so be it. I will take that risk. You, no name, and others like you appear to me to be losers today, even if you don't know it.

David Chesler:

I wish you well.
2.10.2008 10:19am
David Chesler (mail) (www):
She has the most suitors, and can pick and choose. Delaying merely means she has fewer suitors to choose from, and they display the oafish behavior you describe.



To the Virgins, to make much of Time
Robert Herrick 1648

GATHER ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying:
And this same flower that smiles to-day
To-morrow will be dying.

The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun,
The higher he's a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
And nearer he's to setting.

That age is best which is the first,
When youth and blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse, and worst
Times still succeed the former.

Then be not coy, but use your time,
And while ye may, go marry:
For having lost but once your prime,
You may for ever tarry.


Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.
2.10.2008 10:45am
David Chesler (mail) (www):
So, the last laugh belongs to No Name and RLB. One day, thousands of years from now, the last descendant of your line will be feeding and caring for a child fathered by one of their (probably many) descendants because "Blood doesn't count, it's all about how I feel!".

Don't forget memes propagate analogously to genes. Once all my genes have got together and given me consciousness is there a reason I should let their selfishness override the selfishness of the memes?

(Hey, I used même and meme in successive comments - that's got to be worth something.)
2.10.2008 10:51am
Jaynie59:
Quoting David Chesler:

I've had a lot of time to reflect on a good marriage. Passion was nice, but we barely missed the sex the last few years. I liked knowing that there was someone out there who had my back, and I had hers. I liked being able to share the joy and sorrow of our children. I liked the simple act of sharing a bed.



Some unsolicited advice:

A year is not a lot of time. When daily life overwhelms you, you can rationalize pretty much anything. I can't imagine anything more overwhelming than the illness and death of your wife and the mother of your children. The passion you experienced and remember doesn't seem so important now because of everything else you went through together, and you are now alone to raise your children. But remember something: kids grow up.

I'm the single mother of a girl who is now 15 years old. I didn't plan it, I didn't want it to happen. But it did and I made the decision to have her. After begging me to get an abortion, he walked away and I never saw him again.

I went 13 years without having sex and all that time I hardly ever thought about it. It wasn't important. Then, two years ago I met a man at work. He was divorced with 2 kids. I was lonely. We hit it off pretty well and spent a pretty amazing afternoon together. But he was looking for a wife and that ain't me, so we chalked it up just being a great afternoon. He's since moved on to another job.

Passion is important because it's based on everything else. There is a difference between great sex and true passion. You can be with someone who is great in bed, but that's not passion. That's just knowing anatomy.

Don't give up on passion like I did. You're still young enough where you might be able to find it again. And you can have some pretty good sex while looking for it.

And, by the way, sharing a bed with someone you don't love is not that great.
2.10.2008 10:54am
AnneS (www):
Porkchop - Tbe people who are talking about the evolutionary advantage of not fostering other people's biological issue are largely talking out of their ass. Almost to a certainty, everyone's genetic line has benefitted and will benefit at some point from the species' tendency to encourage fostering. The marginal impact this has on the number of biological children the fosterer has is likely compensated for by thee benefit it confers on the chances that some portion of your line and the species as a whole will thrive.

Anyway, after a few generations, your adopted daughter's descendants will likely have more in common genetically with your biological daughter's descendants than any of them have with your adopted or biological children.
2.10.2008 11:00am
Uthaw:
three generally decent kids who, if she plays her cards right, will look after her in her old age

Good luck with that. They're more likely to park her in the old age home and visit once every couple of months, if she's lucky.

I have no respect at all for any woman who chooses to be a single mother and plans for that outcome.

If she has the financial, mental and emotional resources to go through with it, what's the problem? Certainly the child of this single mother will likely not argue that he or she should never have been born.

Just love the way so many people in this thread shriek that No Name is evil, then promptly wish evil upon No Name's son (may he die childless, may he be sterile, etc.).
2.10.2008 11:19am
theobromophile (www):
Isn't dating fun?

No.

three generally decent kids who, if she plays her cards right, will look after her in her old age

Good luck with that. They're more likely to park her in the old age home and visit once every couple of months, if she's lucky.

I'll register some pretty strong disagreement there. I love my stepmum beyond belief and would NOT just park her in an old age home. I think that has a lot to do with the fact that she's part of my family....? Gee, I dunno. Act like family, love like family, and the kids don't want to ignore you when you get older.

This is simple biology and any complaints are best addressed to God or Evolution, take your pick. A man interested in a family will maximize his opportunity by picking a younger partner. While you might be a "better and stronger person" that won't help you conceive a child, much less take care of several young ones.

That's one way to look at it. The other way to look at it is that you'll just have to make love more often to get the kids you want. "Honey, it's really hard to conceive at my age... I think we'll just have to do it again. Oh, maybe agian after that."

The cumulative conception rate for women aged 35-39 is 60% after one year of trying and 85% at two years (Taylor 2003)

From here. Some of that diminished fertility is attributable to her partner:

To answer this question, Hassan and Killick decided not to measure sperm counts but rather the time to achieve a pregnancy (TTP) once the couple began attempting to conceive. Their data clearly showed that men aged 45 years or more had a 5-fold increased TTP (32 months vs 6 months, on average) when compared with men aged less than 30 years. Although sperm counts were not analyzed in this questionnaire study, and the data were adjusted for age of the female partner, coital frequency, and lifestyle effect, as well as other subfertility risk factors, the data clearly suggested that men, like women, have a greater TTP as they age, and this becomes exacerbated at 45 or more years of age.


From here.

Oh wait, here's more!
The number of sperm cells that are produced in aging males continues to be the main focus of studies. "In aging men, the reduction in average daily sperm production is thought to be a main cause of infertility," says Dr. Silber. "It has been proven that the beginning of the reduction of sperm cell production can begin as early as age 25 and continues to decrease.


From here.

Guess what else? Men tend to die before women. While the maturity works out if a woman marries an older man, she's also looking at spending her golden years alone. Again, the proper solution is for 20-year-old men to date women in their late 30s. Everyone is at their sexual peak together; she's still fertile; he still has enough energy to run around with the kids; his fertility is at its peak.

As for the "oafish behaviour" you attribute to men who have more power on the age market - you really mean to say that, by my early 20s, I was past my dating peak? Maybe that's the problem! I wasn't younger than the age of consent anymore! :p
2.10.2008 11:51am
Randy R. (mail):
"It is not a question of genetics for me or religion, but rather one of seeing a person who gave up on the most important commitment they ever entered into."

Geez, did it ever occur to you that perhaps the woman wanted to stay in the marriage, but the husband wanted the divorce? Or that maybe the husband abandoned her? Or beat her? There are myriad reasons to get divorced, and to assume that someone just couldn't live up to their vows is pretty narrow minded.

You comment, however, is very similar to those who explain that sex should be this wonderful transformative act between two people in love expressing their commitment and desire for one another.

Only virgins talk like that.
2.10.2008 12:10pm
Randy R. (mail):
All this business about the need to pass along genes is total baloney. It's one of those made up rules that people construct for themselves to justify bad behavior.

Oh, sure, I understand that the Queen of England needs to make sure that she has heirs of the blood.
Maybe you are so stunningly beautiful that the world just needs your genes. Or maybe you have won several Nobel prizes in chemistry and biology. Or perhaps you have a unique set of genes that hold the key to the cure of AIDS. I'm sure you believe that you have contributed so much to the future of humanity, and that these qualities can only be passed on through genetic material. But seriously, I see absolutely no reason why an adopted child, or even a 'bastard' child can't carry on your precious family legacy.

It's the values you pass on that count, not the genetic material.
2.10.2008 12:15pm
Randy R. (mail):
Funny, but true story. My cousin is married and his wife has a condition where she can't have bear children. We are all Polish by heritage, and quite proud of it, eating pierogies and stuffed cabbage, and all that.

So they adopted two girls from China. Yes, they look very chinese. Now that the eldest is around 12, she said that she wants to learn more about her Polish heritage!

Give kids some love, and they will give it back to you many times over. It's surprising some people just can't bring themselves to love their own kids, whether 'genetic' or not. And very sad.
2.10.2008 12:20pm
theobromophile (www):
I'm in software, so I'm only employed some of the time. My only condition is I can't see marrying someone with children of her own. I've got three kids who if they weren't already messed up from having a sickly mother are now pretty well messed up from having a dead mother. Once they were born they, and not I, became the most important people in my life, and I intend to keep it that way, without spreading myself much thinner. But I figure there are enough women who never got around to having children, maybe who don't like pregnancy and babies and toddlers, who wouldn't mind being part of the lives of three generally decent kids who, if she plays her cards right, will look after her in her old age and carry on if not her genes, her memory.


First of all, my sympathy.

See, the problem here is that you look like great dad material (loves his kids, puts them first, puts family - i.e. mum - first), but you don't want more kids. ;) Talk about wasting your best asset! :p

Some random, totally unsolicited advice: a lot of women are worried about marrying a widow, because they don't want 1) a man who is looking for a mom for his kids, not a wife and partner; nor 2) a man who is still in love with his wife. They don't want to step into a situation in which they would be seen by the kids as the intruder, the other woman, and never ever ever gonna replace Mom. Perverse as it is, men whose wives ran off with a personal trainer look like better marriage material, even though they obviously picked badly the first time.

Barring an extraordinary stroke of luck, you're going to have to work through your friends. Let them talk you up, tell women about what a great catch you are, how devoted you were to your first wife and how much you want to share something that beautiful with another woman. Unless your Facebook photo is ten years out of date, you're still in good shape. (Okay, I'm a total stalker.)

You have a college reunion this year. Isn't your alma mater filled with women who are intimidatingly smart, very successful, and, as a result, may have trouble finding a husband? Sheesh!

Finally - you're not "employed part of the time." You're putting the kids before your career. Sell yourself a bit. :p
2.10.2008 12:20pm
rlb:
Zombie Richard Feynman:

The issues I have with rlb's post

1. "bastard" may have once been a technical term, but now it is a term of derision. Using it on the child insults the child, and the mother.

It's always been a term of derision as well as a technical term. But when you use it in the context "her bastard," well, you're darn right it's insulting to the mother. That was the point.

2. The implicit assumption that one should aways stay together for the sake of the child. Some relationships are a lor worse together than they are apart.

Did you miss the part about the sperm donor?

3. The contempt at the woman, while understandable, seems pretty knee-jerk. He didn't read the article, but he as much as says she's a bad mother. Painting all single mothers as bad is a pretty broad, and, dare I say it, mysogynistic, brush.

Now I'm misogynistic, huh? Newsflash, buddy: she is a bad mother. Are "all" single mothers bad mothers? I don't think so-- but all the ones who deliberately and consciously chose to be single mothers are.

Is genuine concern for the bastards of "liberated" single women who choose to be mothers to fatherless children misogynistic?
2.10.2008 12:25pm
theobromophile (www):

his wife has a condition where she can't have bear children

Grizzlies or polar? What about tiger? :)
2.10.2008 12:25pm
Peter Wimsey:
Callidus writes:
RLB used his words correctly. "Bastard." It is blunt speaking, a lost art in a feminized age, but the less high-minded truths about the world require bluntness like that.

Callidus, fuckers like you and rlb (sorry, but assuming you're sexually active, this is accurate if blunt terminology, a lost art in an apparently feminized age) should try and get over your own issues and not go around proving your "manliness" by insulting innocent children and then claiming it's "high-minded" of you to do so. Insulting children doesn't show you are manly, or perceptive, or plain-spoken...or anything good, really. Although I suppose you get some sort of thrill by saying the word, so there is that.



Nature programmed us to love our children, and it programmed us to be wise enough not to love bastard children. Who truly thinks to change this? Mere posturing.

Evolutionary biologists who have studied this issued disagree. Your own fucked-up family isn't scientific evidence.


[snip more complete nonsense]

So, the last laugh belongs to No Name and RLB. One day, thousands of years from now, the last descendant of your line will be feeding and caring for a child fathered by one of their (probably many) descendants because "Blood doesn't count, it's all about how I feel!".

I hate to interrupt your fantasy again, but you are ignoring the elementary point that those children not brought into rlb's and no name's family are not going to die out and stop reproducing.

And, evolutionarily, the future probably won't belong to anyone on this board, but to someone whose great grandfather produced 10 different kids by 8 different mothers, all of whom went on to produce 10 kids of their own by different mothers, and so on through the generations.
2.10.2008 12:31pm
another perspective (mail):
A good friend of mine from India once said something to me, when I (an American) told him that I had difficulty with the idea of arranged marriages:

"In your country, you marry the woman you love. In my country, you love the woman you marry. Our way is better."

Simplistic, but there's truth to it. The Western concept of love is far too romantic and emotional to survive real-world experience. But loving a person actively is something you can always do (and that our culture does a poor job of teaching).

I love my wife, and she loves me. But the emotional sparks are long gone. Instead, we enjoy spending time together, we respect each other, we put up with each other, and we try to do our best to raise our family. It's boring and mundane a lot of the time, but I wouldn't rather spend my life with any other person.
2.10.2008 12:58pm
Callidus (mail):

I think you are projecting the dysfunctionality of your family on the rest of us. Your reference to your [half-]sister appears to me to indicate bitterness and resentment on your part of her very existence. (If I am wrong, please correct me.)



Obviously, I don't have much cause for sibling rivalry with her. No reason to hate a sister that's well outside the competition, eh? The word "bastard" just needed to be said, because the reality had to be driven home: great family, ostentatiously upright parents, and yet the undefinable missing element that each sibling realizes existed for the bastard.

Ah, I'll drop the intellectual façade. The real reason I used "bastard" is that--like so many good sturdy words replaced by tedious euphemisms--it's just so much shorter in characters and syllables than "illegitimate children". I hate typing. ;)

Dysfunctionality? It doesn't go that deep. No abuse, nothing dramatic, no Bastard Out of Carolina material here... except she didn't recieve the care and mentoring that she might have--I had a bookshelf of science books by age seven--or gone as far as she might.

You'd probably meet my father and hit it off smashingly with him. He doesn't exactly project "I beat my wife" vibes, and he's unobjectionable to the individual of high moral standards. He'd return Bill Gates' lost wallet. But nature is nature, and it has ways of reasserting itself quietly even while people are stroking themselves for their piety and integrity. Stepchildren are less loved. All my siblings do feel that the eldest was the most hands-off and least coached, least supported in college, and basically prepped for an estrangement.


Frankly, the genes really don't matter that much to me. If that makes me an evolutionary loser at some distant point in the future, so be it. I will take that risk. You, no name, and others like you appear to me to be losers today, even if you don't know it.


Glad I could make you feel warm inside, Bud. Your rush to seize an opportunity for that warmth (He Bad man! I Good! I feel Warmth!) without waiting for an explanation shows that you were really a sanctimony-junkie hunting after his endorphin fix all along. Well, okay, now I'm the bad man for you. Enjoy it. It's my treat.

Life's going okay. I'm smart and well-employed, and have a girlfriend who'd probably "settle" for me if I asked. If you're defining success based on whether or not I dare to think dangerous thoughts like, "What's really behind the mealy-mouthed pieties we say?", then I guess I do lose. I guess I should have mumbled something about God commanding us to love each other. That's auto-win, huh?
2.10.2008 1:06pm
another perspective (mail):
PDX Lawyer actually wrote this:

During the marriage things change affecting the relative desirableness of the parties happen - he gets fat, bald, has an affair, etc. Some of these things are foreseeable, but many are not foreseen. If a woman would not have married him if she had known then what she knows now, the natural reaction is to feel cheated and want a divorce.


At the end of his comments he asks for "thoughts."

Well, I'm in my late 30's, and am already going bald. I suppose my wife's "natural reaction is to feel cheated and want a divorce." Fortunately she's not so superficial. She might feel differently if I had an affair, though, which in PDX's view is only just as bad.
2.10.2008 1:17pm
NRWO:
It's the values you pass on that count, not the genetic material.

Well … It’s pretty clear from behavioral genetics that some preferences, often labeled values, are genetically influenced. Such preferences include religiosity, conservatism, traditionalism, and vocational preferences. See, e.g., Bouchard et al., 1990, Science, Vol. 250 (see Google Scholar).

It’s also clear from behavioral genetics that, with exception of a few characteristics (IQ and ADHD), genetic influences usually account for less than 50% of the individual differences in traits, indicating non-genetic factors account for most of the remaining variance.

The problem is that behavioral geneticists have not been able to identify the systematic and controllable sources of non-genetic variance, which in theory could be used to modify a trait through interventions.

An additional point: It could be predicted that adopted children’s values would, paradoxically, be closer to their to biological parents (who gave them up for adoption) than to their adoptive parents (who raised them). Adopted children generally become less like their adoptive parents and more like their biological parents, over the course of childhood (6- to 20-years). At least that’s what’s been found for IQ, which has a high h^2 coefficient.
2.10.2008 1:26pm
Callidus (mail):

Almost to a certainty, everyone's genetic line has benefitted and will benefit at some point from the species' tendency to encourage fostering. The marginal impact this has on the number of biological children the fosterer has is likely compensated for by thee benefit it confers on the chances that some portion of your line and the species as a whole will thrive.


I'd be powerfully inclined to believe that smug tripe, if not for the evidence from Grimm's Fairy Tales upto the statistics on child abuse from the modern age. The overwhelming evidence is that before we were so subject to the immediate threat of being arrested for our impulses, nature imbued us with instincts to purge the household of the offspring of previous males.

Among bears, lions, and many other mammals, the male has a marked tendency to kill the offspring of other previous males when he takes over the reproductive rights on a female. When a male lion takes over a pride, woe betide the young of the former pride leader. We see the memory of the same instinct in our own cultural artifacts such as medieval tales, phrases like "red-headed stepchild," and in present-day crime statistics.

In previous ages, people would--on account of pure naked necessity--set their own children out to die of exposure on a hillside. Think Romulus and Remus without the deus ex machina of a caring she-wolf. Do you suppose when parents are faced with that hard choice, so little understood these days by self-satisfied moralists, whose present-day uppermost limit for children raised is bounded by more patience for frustration than by crop yields and famine, that they'd be more or less kind to the young of other males?

Yes, get over it. Nature has programmed males to remove the off-spring of other males, and not always have we lived in placid smug times when every single child can be cared for, with a little perseverance, and the great moral dilemma of which child to favor is limited to who gets the brand new car on his 16th birthday, not who gets the single bowl of weevily meal.

The tendencies for abuse from step-parents are the very same natural mechanism by which nature has rid males (and females, too) of the very thing you say has always been perfectly welcome and normal: step-children.
2.10.2008 1:40pm
Waldo (mail):
The bitterness and contempt in many of these comments is truly disappointing. The author has, after personal experience, come to the conclusion that marriage is indeed about more than just romance. As someone who has always believed that, I accept her change of heart. If her article changes the mind of one younger woman considering marriage, or a woman considering divorce, it will have served a good purpose. As for condemning her prior actions, I'm more inclined to forgive someone who has admitted making a mistake.

It's also far from clear that a man shouldn't marry her. If someone wants children of his own, that's understandable, and we have an entire fertility industry to prove that having biological children does matter. However, for someone who doesn't, and is looking for a commitment, she's eminently marriageable. Remember the adage: The most loyal conservative is a liberal who's been mugged by reality.

Randy R: Your earlier post was actually quite on-topic. The debate is over the purpose and meaning of marriage. As I said before, marriage is about more than a relationship between two people, marriage also links fathers to their children. Same-sex marriage is incompatible with the latter purpose. It's not about the genes, it's about whether women see men as equal parents. Or whether they will divorce us and take our children when the romance inevitably fades.

If marriage is to be the "partnership formed to run a very small, mundane, and often boring nonprofit business," it requires both to make a commitment to stay together for their children. If not, men will begin to abandon marriage, as was discussed yesterday on the Instapundit's wife's web site "Ask, Dr. Helen." http://pajamasmedia.com/2008/02/ask_dr_helen_8.php
2.10.2008 1:42pm
David Chesler (mail) (www):
I love my wife, and she loves me. But the emotional sparks are long gone. Instead, we enjoy spending time together, we respect each other, we put up with each other, and we try to do our best to raise our family. It's boring and mundane a lot of the time, but I wouldn't rather spend my life with any other person.

In some thread here someone quoted Kipling that "the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack." It can go that way for marriage too. "We are in this together for the long run" can work better than "At the moment I find you attractive and/or a good provider." Obviously you don't want to spend every waking moment thinking "What am I doing? How did I ever get myself into this?" but two people who want to make it work can often make it work. (Randy R. - I don't think that's naive virginity speaking.)
2.10.2008 1:52pm
AnneS (www):
Wow, Callidus. Feeling a little defensive, aren't we? In fact, fostering behaviors of non-biological issue in the human and animal populations are a well-studied phenomenon in evolutionary biology. Like other forms of cooperative or apparently altruistic behavior, they maximize the ability of the SPECIES and any randomly selected genetic line within the species to survive. That's why Grimm's evil stepmothers were considered evil - mistreatment of stepchildren is common, of course, but society has frowned upon it for centuries precisely because people instinctively recognize that sanctioning such behavior will harm the society as a whole and will certainly (not probably, certainly) eventually harm their own genetic offspring.

Moreover, there are all sorts of behaviors and other features that were selected for because they originally conferred an evolutionary advantage on the individual and the species. That doesn't mean they still do, or that they are any more natural than other behaviors and features (like a willingness to nurture other men's children) that also arose through the exact same process.

Oh, right, only mean and nasty things are "natural" and "normal". Everything else is the product of smug, self-satisfied moralists.
2.10.2008 1:54pm
theobromophile (www):
I'd be powerfully inclined to believe that smug tripe, if not for the evidence from Grimm's Fairy Tales upto the statistics on child abuse from the modern age. The overwhelming evidence is that before we were so subject to the immediate threat of being arrested for our impulses, nature imbued us with instincts to purge the household of the offspring of previous males.


1. Maybe this is my bias, as I am a red-headed step-child.
2. Ever occur to you that abusive men might seek out single mothers because they are vulnerable? Also, ever consider that peadophiles may seek out women with children to get access to the kids? Heck, read Lolita?
3. We aren't animals. We do live beyond our capacity to provide for ourselves, meaning that we either have to save enough of our resources to get us through retirement, or we have to get the next generation to provide for us. This, by the way, has been going on for thousands of years, so I think we can posit that evolution might have, at some point, had a role to play in all this. Step-children are equally as capable of providing for their parents and stepparents as are biological children. Considering that many of the resources that have gone into raising kids come early on (time and money of raising an infant), biologically (i.e. college being a recent development that probably has not influenced evolution), there is little reason for humans to reject the almost-mature offspring of other men.

If the "rid the family of the non-genetic offspring" were there, why wouldn't women do it, too? After all, wouldn't they get all upset over a man spreading his limited resources over kids not her own? In fact, wouldn't this effect be MORE pronounced with women, who have a more limited reproductive capability (generally) than do men? Those preexisting children (or future children) take a lot out of her and are of limited number. So any competition for resources is going to hurt her more than similar competition would hurt a man.

Fact is, you can argue evoluntionary psychology any way you want to. For some reason, though, it is only argued to excuse chauvanistic, cruel behaviour. Go figure.
2.10.2008 1:59pm
theobromophile (www):

Oh, right, only mean and nasty things are "natural" and "normal". Everything else is the product of smug, self-satisfied moralists.

AnneS,

I've been reading your comments with a great deal of enjoyment. That one, though, is awesome. :) Way to nail it.
2.10.2008 2:00pm
David Chesler (mail) (www):
Step-children may be more or less genetically similar to oneself. Some say that's why we're attracted to people who like ourselves. That's particularly true, of course, if the adopted children are actually close relatives (your nephew, or your grandchild, have 1/4 of your genes, compared to 1/2 for your biologic child, not counting how much of the remainder happens to be common with your own.) It's not all binary.

As for the lions and bears, humans put a lot more resources into their offspring, so the economies don't work out exactly the same. (Of course single parents do recognize that their existing children are an impediment to further mating. That's not binary either.)
2.10.2008 2:26pm
Callidus (mail):

Callidus, fuckers like you and rlb (sorry, but assuming you're sexually active, this is accurate if blunt terminology, a lost art in an apparently feminized age) should try and get over your own issues and not go around proving your "manliness" by insulting innocent children and then claiming it's "high-minded" of you to do so.


Such a want of imagination! You might have correctly supposed that I've slept with a few single moms out there and upgraded me to a "motherfucker" at the very least. ;)

I never said it was high-minded to think of the gritty realities that cause people to reject step-children in the face of limited resources. Quite the opposite. The high-mindedness, radiating warmth and nobility, lies entirely on the other side, which by the way is appalled (appalled!) at the prospective that some people might look with a more jaundiced eye at the situation.


I hate to interrupt your fantasy again, but you are ignoring the elementary point that those children not brought into rlb's and no name's family are not going to die out and stop reproducing.


I didn't say they would. Reading comprehension much? Those children are fathered by a different beast altogether, a male neither like you nor like the No-Names out there. Those are the offspring of males who are programmed genetically for r-selection reproduction, rather than K-selection. Quantity over quality. Love 'em and leave 'em.

I'm saying that both you and No Name agree on taking care of children, just not whose children. You're of similiar values, actually, though you no doubt call her a monster because she doesn't take it too far into feel-good altruism. But you'll end up supporting the children of other men, who are neither of yours nor of No Name's type. No Name is safe from that. Her kind will raise more of their own children, and in times of famine, have to kill or abandon fewer. You'll be raising the children of a man who partied and left; and when civilization breaks down, as it occasionally must, you'll probably flip a coin to decide who gets that bowl of weevilly mush. Heaven forbid that you should admit to your inner self that your own children come first!



And, evolutionarily, the future probably won't belong to anyone on this board, but to someone whose great grandfather produced 10 different kids by 8 different mothers, all of whom went on to produce 10 kids of their own by different mothers, and so on through the generations.


Who's footing the bill for that? You know as well as I do that that behaviour is a recipe for unmitigated disaster for the off-spring in anywhere but the advanced western states. Even in 19th century England those kids would be exploited and used up before age 18, Oliver Twist style.

I'll tell you whose footing the bill: meet the welfare state. I guess you think the welfare state is also a beneficial system. Do you think that safety net will always be there, just because its been there now for less than a century in the whole span of human history?
2.10.2008 2:31pm
Brian K (mail):
The debate is over the purpose and meaning of marriage. As I said before, marriage is about more than a relationship between two people, marriage also links fathers to their children. Same-sex marriage is incompatible with the latter purpose. It's not about the genes, it's about whether women see men as equal parents. Or whether they will divorce us and take our children when the romance inevitably fades.

talk about a string non-sequitors. how does same sex marriage make women not see men as equals? how does same sex marriage not link the partners to their adopted offspring?

--------------

Callidus,

except she didn't recieve the care and mentoring that she might have--I had a bookshelf of science books by age seven

i take it your father never taught you about sharing? or that one should look out for his/her siblings? your family was indeed dysfunctional. as many adopted and siblings of adopted have attested to above, what happened to your sister resulted from flaws in your family and not from how she came to be.
2.10.2008 2:35pm
Soronel Haetir (mail):

Geez, did it ever occur to you that perhaps the woman wanted to stay in the marriage, but the husband wanted the divorce? Or that maybe the husband abandoned
her? Or beat her? There are myriad reasons to get divorced, and to assume that someone just couldn't live up to their vows is pretty narrow minded.


Those things do occur to me and they aren't all that mitagating, as they mostly demonstrate poor judgement.


Only virgins talk like that.


Guilty, though mostly for health reasons, I have no problem with sex outside of commitment per se, as long as proper precautions are taken.


As for the rest of what you said, my personal feeling is that love is nearly irrelevant to a successful marriage, before my health problems the quality I was looking for was trustworthiness.
2.10.2008 3:32pm
Randy R. (mail):
" As I said before, marriage is about more than a relationship between two people, marriage also links fathers to their children. Same-sex marriage is incompatible with the latter purpose."

Sorry, but you completed twisted my point. My point was that people are now trying to say that if there is no genetic link between parents and children, then people will stop marrying. That's ridiculous. Marriage MAY be about children, but it also MAY NOT be about children. If a married couple, whether gay or hetero, remains childless, then the marriage is no less valid than one with ten children. If a married couple, whether gay or hetero, have no natural child, but choose to adopt, their marriage -- and their family -- is no less valid than the couple that has natural children. And regardless of which of those scenarios befits you, I have never seen anyone refuse to get married because of someone else's situation.

This is the current law and the current custom, and I hardly think anyone can disagree with it. But I'm sure some idiot will.
2.10.2008 3:36pm
A. Person (mail):

" As I said before, marriage is about more than a relationship between two people, marriage also links fathers to their children. Same-sex marriage is incompatible with the latter purpose."



Under this logic, we can ban marriage between a man and a woman if one of them is infertile. Women who have reached menopause could be forbidden to marry.
2.10.2008 4:49pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
For the people who feel that genes are irrelevant (such as Randy R's "It's the values you pass on that count, not the genetic material."), how do you explain the many adopted children who want to go find their birth parents? Or those adopted children from another race or country than their adoptive parents, who later decide they want to go learn about "their" heritage, where it's "their" heritage solely by genetics?

As much as you'd like it to be the case, it seems pretty clear that genes do matter to people.
2.10.2008 5:17pm
Callidus (mail):
Under your logic, A. Person, we can mandate the removal of the appendix in every person in the USA, because it is no longer of any identifiable use. And also we can capture all pythons in the world and remove surgically their vestigial limbs.

(If something is useless, removing it is not always better than ignoring its presence. Love and desire for marriage in an infertile person is a vestigial limb. The legislated alternative is messier than letting it remain.)

And by the logic of those who endorse gay marriage, we must perform surgery on every person in the united states and add a new useless appendix dangling unnaturally from our foreheads. Meanwhile, we capture every snake and attach flightless wings to the vestigial hips.

(It is not imperative to make a thing less functional just because it already has aspects that do not facilitate its obvious functionality.)
2.10.2008 5:19pm
Randy R. (mail):
Thanks for taking the bait, Callidus! You proved my point. It's when you have to resort to such ridiculous arguments that proves the weaknesses of it.

David, many, if not most, adoptees don't go searching for their birth parents. So I guess that proves that genes don't matter?

My point is that people who are concerned about passing on theire genes. Why? No one has explained that one to me. Is there a need for each and every family to pass on their genes? Is the human race going to suffer even a tiny bit if I don't produce children?
2.10.2008 5:57pm
Randy R. (mail):
This whole debate reminds me of the culture of the Native Americans. Before the white man arrived, many tribes raised their children collectively. No one knew exactly who was the offspring of whom. They didn't care. They raised entire tribe took the responsibility of raising all children.

When the white man saw this, he said that's horrible. How do you know who your parents are? But the NA responded that white men's attitudes were the wrong ones, because they saw that white men only took care of their own children, and cared far less about the others. This, to the NA, seemed unconcionable.

Seems like nothing has changed in the last 500 hundred years.
2.10.2008 6:13pm
Happylee:
Wonderful blog post and comment thread. An hour well spent.

At the risk of hijacking the thread, does anyone think this woman is exactly the kind of gal that many men fear their lady will turn in to when they finally settle on Ms. GoodEnough?
2.10.2008 6:20pm
TruePath (mail) (www):
Callidus, (and the rest of the evopsych discussion)

One has to be very careful when dealing with these sorts of evolutionary arguments. Not only is there a strong temptation to fall into the fallacy of identifying the desires, interests and aims of the individual with those of their genes but it's also very easy to overlook other possible advantages of particular behaviors or inclinations.

A good example is being gay (which clearly has some inherent component whether it has to do with conditions during pregnancy or genes). On a trivial analysis one might conclude that this should have been selected out of the population but on a more detailed reflection one can come up with several theories about beneficial effects. For instance the fact that latter male offspring of a woman are more likely to be gay suggests that it might work as a form of kin altruism, i.e., when there are too many guys around you do more for your genes by giving your brothers a helping hand than by competing with them (competition costs resources). Another example would be the various forms of non-kin altruism and charity.

Back to the topic of caring for adopted/step children there are certainly arguments that suggest it might be genetically beneficial. Given that women who have children already may be fertile and good mothers demonstrating a willingness to care for their offspring can increase your chances of fathering a (or another) child with her. Also if she dies or you break up your effort caring for her children serves as an advertisement of your quality as a father to other women. Also there are more remote benefits. For instance by being a good dad to her children you may be creating worthwhile allies for your children and nephews. If you are living in a small tribe you may have a sizeable interest in ensuring that the next generation is capable and healthy so the next generation of your family (say nieces and nephews if you don't reproduce) is less likely to starve or be wiped out with the rest of the tribe.

Also evolution is messy and haphazard. It's genetically advantageous for men to form pair bonds with women to father and care for their offspring but we experience love not the desire to bond with a fertile mother to raise kids. We can fall in love with people even knowing they are infertile despite the factors encouraging it's evolution. Heck, we end up with a notion of sexual desire that lets us want to get head even though that can't make babies. It's entirely possible that the same feelings that let us raise our relatives children should they die are triggered by step children not to mention that people might be more willing to be your ally if they see that you will care for their kids if they die.

Thus there is no compelling evolutionary argument that people shouldn't want to be good foster parents or to adopt. Likely these situations largely trigger general mechanisms (love, desire to protect our children) that are statistically useful in promoting our genes or may even be specifically evolved to serve some advertisement/kin-altruism purpose. However, these considerations do moderately raise the probability that parents would favor their genetic offspring over fosters, at least in ways that wouldn't be detected and they are probably not aware of themselves. Of course this provides no explanation or excuse for selfish views that repudiate caring for non-related offspring.

However, ultimately I think Callidus does have a point since there is a fair bit of evidence that adopted/step children are not treated quite as well as your own children. Given that a small unconscious and hard to notice bias towards your own children is what we might expect AND that we then see this when we do studies this seems like the most plausible (though not certain) explanation. Also I believe the studies compare genetic children and adopted/step children in the same familes so it wouldn't be just a socio-economic effect or other correlation (as many of the links between single parents and criminal offspring turn out to be).

But this isn't really significant or very relevant to the argument. You can't conclude from this that guys are genetically programmed to be unwilling to marry women with children or don't want to care for children who aren't theirs. Heck, I bet Callidus's dad wasn't even aware that he treated his stop child worse.
2.10.2008 6:36pm
Truth Seeker:
Speaking of selfishly wanting to perpetuate your own genes did you hear about the doctor running a fertility clinic who used his own sperm instead of sperm donors that the patients requested so he ended up the father of about 60 children?
2.10.2008 6:50pm
David Chesler (mail) (www):
Genes matter. Received culture also matters. Lots of things matter; any individual who is missing one of those loses out on that particular enrichment, but life goes on.

What a horrid woman from Happylee's link - as one of the commenters on the Daily Mail site said, not for having a sexless marriage, nor for being a closetted slut, but for failing to work with her husband(and either get his buy in, or a workaround) but continuing to play him for a fool. Two good friends of mine, both nice guys, good providers, good husbands, and one still serious beefcake, had their marriages break up when their wives got bored and wanted to change the channel.
2.10.2008 6:56pm
TruePath (mail) (www):
David Chesler:

I'm sorry but I think you have exactly the same dating barrier that the woman that wrote this article has. Quite simply you don't put a very high priority on the romance relative to the other concerns in your life. I mean it's perfectly reasonable and acceptable to say that you don't want to date a woman who has children because you want to focus on your own but you also have to realize that it's perfectly reasonable for women to say they don't want to put your kids above their life.

I mean you are saying more than that your kid's welfare is important to you. After all if you married a woman with her own kids you might spend effor looking after her kids but she too would spend effort looking after yours. (and there would be efficiency gains). What you are saying by out of hand rejecting the idea of a woman with children is that you are too stressed/grieving to comingle your priorities with hers and share those as an equal burden as many people desire in a marriage. The women who didn't/cant have kids you are looking for (few women without kids want to be mothers but not give birth) could also marry a man who wanted to start a family with them and adopt or marry a divorced/widowed man who had children but placed a high enough priority on romance to be willing to marry someone else with kids. So while I wish you luck finding such a woman your priorities do significantly reduce your chances.

Unlike the author of the article you don't seem to think the world 'owes' you a woman who will come and put your life ahead of hers and seem content with your decision to put your kids first (which itself is more attractive). We each have our priorities and that's fine but if you deprioritize relationships then surprise they will be harder to find.
2.10.2008 7:01pm
lucia (mail) (www):
No Name--
So, does your son have any kids yet? If no, has any woman consented to bear his kids?

For some reason, there is frequently and obvious genetic advantage to raising someone else's genetic kids. You might get help with your own genetic kids, thus improving your chances of propagating genes.

Historically, sometimes individual men don't have a realistic opportunity to marry a fertile childless woman still of reproductive age or vice/versa. And the behavior of kitten-killing tom-cats aside, men who kill a woman's child rarely endear themselves to the woman (or her family).

So, killing your mate's off-spring reduces chance of mating with her and having their own genetic kid. Refusing to consider people with children as mates can also reduce your chance of having your own genetic kid.

Needless to say, women who kill their mate's children have similar difficulties.

Sometimes, the optimuum chance for passing your own genes happens when you help a mate raise their children by someone else.

I doubt those who do act as step parents think of it this, way, but genetically, it is so.
2.10.2008 7:20pm
theobromophile (www):
"Of course, they never did. It was always: 'Go and work at your marriage.' But I didn't want to work on mine. I wanted someone to say: 'Actually, perhaps nothing will make you want to sleep with your husband again,' which is how I feel.

(That is from HappyLee's article.)

There is some benefit to having women like this in the world. After they divorce their husbands, the husbands will figure out what they really want in a wife... and life will be good for women like me. :) (Married men think I'm a great catch. Never-married men don't see the appeal. Most likely, I'll find someone who is on the second time around.)

All joking aside, WTF??? I can't believe that woman. So she would rather cheat on her husband than discuss this with him. Heck, she could even email Dr. Ruth before relegating him to involuntary celibacy. What is wrong with people?
2.10.2008 7:36pm
rlb:
This whole debate reminds me of the culture of the Native Americans. Before the white man arrived, many tribes raised their children collectively. No one knew exactly who was the offspring of whom. They didn't care. They raised entire tribe took the responsibility of raising all children.

When the white man saw this, he said that's horrible. How do you know who your parents are? But the NA responded that white men's attitudes were the wrong ones, because they saw that white men only took care of their own children, and cared far less about the others. This, to the NA, seemed unconcionable.

Seems like nothing has changed in the last 500 hundred years.


The white man sure has become full of shit these days. I suppose you think they used every part of the buffalo, too, right?

Anyway, I'm really annoyed that people are grouping me with this "No Name" person. I've said nothing at all about mistreating adopted children. Where are you people getting this from?
2.10.2008 8:48pm
David Chesler (mail) (www):
TruePath - it could happen. I had trouble imagining myself having any kids until my wife and I had established a family and household, and then it felt natural. But if the pool were that large (and as I've been dipping my toe in the water I've seen that I'm looking at a much wider age range) winnowing this way should still leave a lot. We had kids somewhat late; women my age aren't going to be having any more kids. Worst case, ten lonely years of single fatherhood until the youngest is at college, and then that need changes. Meanwhile I'm trying to see what sorts of housekeeping can be outsourced.
2.10.2008 9:45pm
Uthaw:
If the "rid the family of the non-genetic offspring" were there, why wouldn't women do it, too? After all, wouldn't they get all upset over a man spreading his limited resources over kids not her own? In fact, wouldn't this effect be MORE pronounced with women, who have a more limited reproductive capability (generally) than do men? Those preexisting children (or future children) take a lot out of her and are of limited number. So any competition for resources is going to hurt her more than similar competition would hurt a man.

This phenomenon exists - the "wicked stepmother" is not an archetype that dates back to ancient times, and there are not hundreds of stories about them, for no reason.

sometimes individual men don't have a realistic opportunity to marry a fertile childless woman still of reproductive age or vice/versa.

It is much more realistic to think you will marry and have children with a fertile childless woman in America today than with one that already has kids. Most likely if they have two already, they think they're done, they don't want to have two more. And even if they do, the number of men who can support four kids - since she will have custody of her previous kids and you will wind up paying for them as well as yours - is not large.
2.10.2008 10:50pm
theobromophile (www):
It is much more realistic to think you will marry and have children with a fertile childless woman in America today than with one that already has kids. Most likely if they have two already, they think they're done, they don't want to have two more. And even if they do, the number of men who can support four kids - since she will have custody of her previous kids and you will wind up paying for them as well as yours - is not large.


Previous generations thought differently; that is why they suggested that a woman be with child before marriage. First of all, if she's already had kids, she probably isn't sterile. Second, ever heard of child support? Depending on how much her ex-husband makes, the 25% cut of his paycheck she gets would be pretty sweet.

Everything else is a matter of individual choice. Some women would be happy with more kids. If you've found a woman that is happy with more kids, and the ex-husband provides good child support (not necessarily a given, but it often happens), then were is the problem?

Since when is supporting four kids substantially more expensive than supporting two, especially when the non-genetic two are of the age to stay home by themselves? Food and clothes. You'll get some free babysitting, household care, and lawn care out of the deal - if the kids are being raised right.

Apropos of that, in the college financial aid process, students generally benefit by having an older sibling who is in college or out of college, but not younger siblings. So the biological kids of the second parent benefit in the financial aid process from the existence of the older ones. (The rationale, as I understand it, is that you can't know whether or not the younger ones are total delinquints who will never set foot inside a university, or overachievers who will get full scholarships; you do know, however, how much has already been paid out for the ones that have already gone. You're expected to drain your resources for the first ones and then get aid for the later ones.)

So do you figure out the marginal cost of additional food and clothing, subtract off any savings in babysitting, household services, and financial aid for the younger ones before determining whether or not marrying a woman with kids is a good investment? do you add on any potential benefit in your golden years? or do you just figure that you love her, she's a good mom (hey, there's something to be said for knowing for sure what her parenting is like!), and you'll be happy with her and her family?

Newsflash, people: you marry the entire family anyway. Yes, you marry into her family, with her loony mother, mohawked brother, and semi-deranged uncle, whether or not she has kids.

/rant
2.10.2008 11:35pm
theobromophile (www):
I should add... some colleges do not count step-parent income into figuring the financial aid award. Some do not count non-custodial parents who have refused to pay court-ordered child support.
2.10.2008 11:38pm
SenatorX (mail):
" how do you explain the many adopted children who want to go find their birth parents?"

For the record I was adopted as a baby and I have never really felt the desire to hunt down my biological parents and ancestry. I do think genes matter as well as the values you are raised by, just that neither of them is more important than self determination. It takes a lot of effort to throw off the yokes of cultural and parental values and determine your own value hierarchy, why seek out more baggage?
2.11.2008 12:54am
Mark in Texas (mail):
Happy Lee: At the risk of hijacking the thread, does anyone think this woman is exactly the kind of gal that many men fear their lady will turn in to when they finally settle on Ms. GoodEnough?

Since both that horrible woman and Lori Gotlieb are in the publishing industry it seems like that ought to be a a strong indicator, like tear drop tattoos on the face, of women to avoid.
2.11.2008 8:14am
Pol Mordreth (mail):
theobromophile:

I should add... some colleges do not count step-parent income into figuring the financial aid award. Some do not count non-custodial parents who have refused to pay court-ordered child support.


That may be true, but the Federal Student Aid calculator DOES take into account income from child support when it calculates your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) for grants and Stafford Loans. (It also takes into account how much you spend in child support as well). It seems to be the only place that actually does take CS into account for anything.

R/
Pol
2.11.2008 9:38am
Uthaw:
if she's already had kids, she probably isn't sterile.

Feh, most likely she's fertile if she doesn't have a kid, and if she's not, it's probably treatable anyway. Better to take your chances on a "new" wife than be certain about a "used" wife who has all that extra baggage. And what if it's you (the man) who's sterile? You'd feel pretty stupid raising someone else's kids then.

Second, ever heard of child support? Depending on how much her ex-husband makes, the 25% cut of his paycheck she gets would be pretty sweet.

I'd have to be pretty hard up before that would be a good deal, assuming he even pays it. I would be incurring significant extra expenses, but more importantly, a good deal of extra stress and aggravation, due to her previous kids. I can deal with that stress and aggravation when it's my own kids, because they're my own kids, but no amount of money would make it worth dealing with that stress and aggravation for somebody else's kids.

Since when is supporting four kids substantially more expensive than supporting two, especially when the non-genetic two are of the age to stay home by themselves? Food and clothes.

You will need a bigger house! And what if you have to cough up for day care and private school? (Is the wife gonna be OK with you sending your kids to private schools but not her kids from the previous marriage?)

Apropos of that, in the college financial aid process, students generally benefit by having an older sibling who is in college or out of college, but not younger siblings. So the biological kids of the second parent benefit in the financial aid process from the existence of the older ones.

I have never heard of this, and it strikes me as unlikely.

Basically, you're reaching. The purported benefits of a "used" wife hardly outweigh the costs, and the man would clearly be far better off fishing for a young "new" wife without any kids.

Newsflash, people: you marry the entire family anyway. Yes, you marry into her family, with her loony mother, mohawked brother, and semi-deranged uncle, whether or not she has kids.

I can easily control them! They don't live in my house! Her kids have to live in my house, unless she's OK with sending them to military boarding school.
2.11.2008 10:04am
Mark P. (mail):
Am I the only one shocked by the tone of this thread? I read the article and thought, "Wow, how sad, but at least she was honest and tried to warn others about her mistake. I'm curious what the regular Volokh contributors think of this." Then I read the comments. Social Darwinism (and bad evolutionary biology) run amok. Useless name-calling (I particularly cherish the bastard-fucker-motherfucker escalation.) Anger bordering on hatred about: step-children, adoption, out-of-wedlock births, dating, sex (including, amazingly, dislike of sex within marriage and dislike of sex outside of marriage), fidelity to one's spouse (cheat and be happy!), infidelity (cheat and be sad!), men (you are a mysogynist!), women (you aren't looking for a spouse, you're just setting a divorce trap!), baldness, fat, youth, aging. Surprisingly (and thankfully), homosexuals didn't take it on the chin on this one.

I'm a happily married father of three girls. By all measures, I am an incredibly fortunate human being. And I have nothing but compassion for the majority of posters of this site. Life is hard: Dating is hard. Marriage is hard. Celibacy is hard. Sexual relations are hard. Child-rearing is hard. Work is hard. Unemployment is hard. Being young is hard. Getting old is hard. Loneliness is hard. Fatherlessness is hard. Miserliness is hard. Being a man is hard. Being a woman is hard. Fear is hard. Even dying is hard.

Denigrating and abusing other people, whoever they may be, does not make life any easier. It certainly doesn't make one superior. It makes us inferior to the person that we otherwise could be. Basic civility and reasoned discourse improve the world by requiring that we discuss the action or the idea without attacking the person. I wish that the commenters here could have been much more civil, although the frankness here certainly exposed some deep fault lines.

In a thread a couple of weeks ago, I commented on what I consider to be the a-historical nature of libertarian thinking. I am curious: does libertarianism include a strain of Social Darwinism when it comes to family relationships similar to the Social Darwinsim that accompanied late nineteenth century and early twentieth century laissez-faire capitalism and Lochner? More importantly, what is the cure for the attitudes of so many expressed in this thread? I am religious, and I believe that a heavy dose of love, charity, repentance, and grace is in order here. I am also confident, though, that the purely secular among us similarly see the need for a simple touch of humanity and compassion on this thread. Am I alone?
2.11.2008 11:01am
Randy R. (mail):
Thanks for the reality check, Mark. I guess people (like me) get really passionate because we think we know something.
2.11.2008 12:24pm
Brian Mac:
This thread cheered me up no end. I mean, seriously, I thought I had issues...
2.11.2008 12:25pm
theobromophile (www):

because they're my own kids, but no amount of money would make it worth dealing with that stress and aggravation for somebody else's kids.

That "someday else" is YOUR WIFE. You know, the one you promised to love, honour, and cherish for the rest of your life? "Those kids" are incredibly important to the person who is, presumably, incredibly important to you.

Maybe I live in some fantasy land, but I could not imagine wanting to ever be in a relationship if I could not find space in my life for the things fundamental to my significant other.

A "used" wife? I've never been close to married and that terminology makes me want to take a shower. Please. Human beings are not cars.
2.11.2008 12:57pm
hattio1:
So,
For those talking about how male bears (bruins) will eat the young of other bears. This isn't exactly correct. They kill and eat young bears. Period. Unfortunately, they have no way of knowing whether the young they are killing are their own offspring or not. Not exactly a reproductive strategy I would hope for humans to take up.

And, I'll add to the chorus of people saying that their own experience does not jive with the mean step-parent myth. Step-parents who abuse their step-children exist. So do step-parents who love their step-children. You can see both as existing because they are both genetically successful strategies in different circumstances. Or, you can see both as existing depending on the values and morals of the step-parent. But to pretend one doesn't exist (or hasn't for those fond of history and mythology), is just foolish.
2.11.2008 2:08pm
David Chesler (mail) (www):
Uthaw didn't say he wouldn't do it for love, he just said he wouldn't do it for money. And I agree, it may not be linear, but more kids means more expenses, even if those kids come with child support. He addressed that when he notes that he wouldn't treat his step-children worse than his biological children. (I know there are people who make money by warehousing foster kids, but most of us aren't looking to raise children that way.)

I also agree about the fertility - given the level of fertility in the general population at various ages, is someone who has had a child significantly more likely to be fertile now than someone else a little younger? (Of course some of us don't want [more] children, step- or yet-to-be-born.)

The value of a relationship with a particular person for a particular person vary greatly depending on the individuals, as Theobromophile ranted, but Uthaw's rebuttal of the statistical argument works for me.

Put it differently, I recognize that my existing commitments (time, space, money, thoughts) to my wonderful children are generally a negative to potential suitees, even with the upsides. I think Gottlieb sees this, one of her C-list settle-for men is "a widower who has three nightmarish kids and who’s still actively grieving for his dead wife; and a socially awkward engineer". (Maybe those are two separate men, but one cn be both.)

Reading Mark P.'s comments, and the essay, I do see the interpretation "Life is hard. Life is not perfect. Don't waste your life looking for perfection because it's not likely." (Is it "the mediocre is the enemy of the good" or "the perfect is the enemy of the good"? And is it "Look before you leap" or "he who hesitates is lost"?)

Going back to the n/e "stopping rule" that Zarkov mentioned in #28, that's assuming you know nothing about the population, and you are only interested in maximizing your odds of finding the best. Once you've tuned up your own ability to judge, you don't have to date 37% of all of the men to know when someone is three sigma better than average a mate for you. If that was Gottlieb's message ("Time is wasting, you'rer using up your limited suppy of attractive years, and your (and his) only slightly less limited supply of years on earth, to reap the reward, for the low odds of doing better than you can do right now") and not "I am a bitter and selfish woman but I deserve Mr. Right", then I agree with her.
2.11.2008 2:17pm
theobromophile (www):
That may be true, but the Federal Student Aid calculator DOES take into account income from child support when it calculates your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) for grants and Stafford Loans. (It also takes into account how much you spend in child support as well). It seems to be the only place that actually does take CS into account for anything.


Good point, Pol.

Colleges can use those figures any way they please. As I recall, the FAFSA does not take certain types of equity into consideration, although schools do?

I am pretty sure* that my alma mater has students fill out a separate form, or refigures their aid allocation based on FAFSA's own numbers.

Child support is a zero-sum game*; that paid by one parent is money received by another parent, so it's really just an accounting issue in terms of financial aid.

*although for tax purposes, it may not be; it is taxable to the (usually higher-income) earner, while alimony is taxed to the recepient.
2.11.2008 3:09pm
Lugo:
Maybe I live in some fantasy land, but I could not imagine wanting to ever be in a relationship if I could not find space in my life for the things fundamental to my significant other.

Yes, and that's exactly why a lot of men do not want, even to the point of refusing to contemplate, marriage to a woman who already has kids. This preference should not have any moral odium attached to it - a man who would marry a woman who already has kids is not in any way a better person than a person who would never do so.

A "used" wife? I've never been close to married and that terminology makes me want to take a shower. Please. Human beings are not cars.

"Used" is exactly the right word for a woman's body after she's had kids. Used, and with a lot of mileage on rough roads...
2.11.2008 4:07pm
Sua Tremendita:
Reading this thread has given me a finer appreciation for how lucky my wife is to have me. She certainly traded up in life, and I feel good knowing that.

It is sad that there is not more of me to go around. Of course, my wife is one of the lucky few, and if my daughter came to me to ask whether she should hold out for someone as exceptional as me or simply settle for something less, I would not hesitate to say "settle!" A single woman or man over the age of 20 is a menace to society. (But keep in mind that as a good father, I will have introduced my beloved daugther to a suitable crop of young men by the time she is 18, and will help her winnow the list by the time she is 20. So I will hopefully not have to confront this issue.)
-tremendo
2.11.2008 4:18pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
a man who would marry a woman who already has kids is not in any way a better person than a person who would never do so.


Yes, he is. It's entirely sane and rational not to throw yourself on a hand grenade to safe your fellow soldiers. But we consider that the selfless men who are willing to do so, who do so without second thought, to be so great that we call them heroes and give them medals. They are better than the Average Joe, because they have a greater capacity for selfless love. That doesn't make the Average Joe evil, just not sufficiently good enough to overcome his selfish nature.

And I have to ask, Lugo, after your poetic ode to motherhood, whether you intend to constantly trade in your "used" wives for newer models, with lesser "mileage" on their bodies?
2.11.2008 4:36pm
hear hear (mail):
Mark P., no, you are not alone. Thank you for your comment. I agree whole-heartedly.

The original article made me sad, but this thread of comments (with some exceptions) made me depressed.

I will say one thing on a personal level. My mother was an alcoholic (and bipolar to boot). Eventually she was institutionalized. My father was himself the child of an alcoholic, and incredibly negligent in his raising me and my siblings. But he made one good decision in his life - he married my step-mother. And somehow this wonderful woman was willing to take on several children not her own, because she loved him.

My step-mother was a blessing to me and my family. Anyone who thinks that someone like her made a mistake (to marry a man with children from a previous marriage) just doesn't understand love, or the complexity of human life.
2.11.2008 4:45pm
Lugo:
They are better than the Average Joe, because they have a greater capacity for selfless love. That doesn't make the Average Joe evil, just not sufficiently good enough to overcome his selfish nature.

Well gee, if we believe theobromophile and lucia, among others, it is the guy who marries a used wife who is selfish, because he gets numerous benefits (guaranteed fertility, child support from some other guy, extra bonus college financial aid, etc.) that the guy who marries a new wife doesn't get.

It is preposterous to argue that guys who marry women who already have kids are inherently "less selfish" than guys who marry women without kids. In fact, the very high rate of abuse of stepchildren by stepfathers indicates that quite a lot of them are the very farthest thing from the large-hearted, selfless altruists you seem to imagine they are.

I have to ask, Lugo, after your poetic ode to motherhood, whether you intend to constantly trade in your "used" wives for newer models, with lesser "mileage" on their bodies?

Nope. Sorry you don't find reality sufficiently "poetic" though.
2.11.2008 5:20pm
Waldo (mail):
theobromophile:

Second, ever heard of child support? Depending on how much her ex-husband makes, the 25% cut of his paycheck she gets would be pretty sweet.

Since I haven't followed the thread closely, please tell me this is snark. What, precisely, is attractive about this? First, child support should be for the child, not the parent or suitor. Do you realize this a reason why men are abandoning marriage? Second, why would a man commit to a woman who advertises the financial assets of her last husband? Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.
2.11.2008 8:16pm
lucia (mail) (www):
Lugo-
I'm not saying the guy who marries a woman with children is more selfish that one who marries a woman without children. I'm just saying the argument that genetic imperatives suggest guys would fastidiously avoid supporting the children of other men is somewhat flawed.

Sometimes being generous helps someone propagate genes. Acting like NoName could backfire on her if her kids end up not finding mates because of these rules she taught them. It's possible this will happen to her.

In anycase, how do NoNames rules prevent her or her son from being duped by a cheatin' spouse? Are they going to insist on DNA tests for every kid? (Good luck having a happy marriage with THAT rule!)
2.11.2008 9:49pm
theobromophile (www):
Since I haven't followed the thread closely, please tell me this is snark. What, precisely, is attractive about this? First, child support should be for the child, not the parent or suitor. Do you realize this a reason why men are abandoning marriage? Second, why would a man commit to a woman who advertises the financial assets of her last husband? Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.


Waldo,

No, I'm serious, but you haven't followed the thread so it probably makes little sense.

The question was about the financial hit a man would take by raising someone else's kids. I simply pointed out that the loss would be mitigated by this thing we call "child support," which is for the support of the child.

I fail to understand where you get any of your vitriol against me. My point was that child support offsets the expenses of raising a child. I'm freaking sorry for repeating a bloody definition - and even more sorry that repeating said definition somehow shows why men don't want to get married.
2.11.2008 11:01pm
theobromophile (www):
Well gee, if we believe theobromophile and lucia, among others, it is the guy who marries a used wife who is selfish, because he gets numerous benefits (guaranteed fertility, child support from some other guy, extra bonus college financial aid, etc.) that the guy who marries a new wife doesn't get.


The benefits from a large, loving family are not the rewards of selfishness (material gain), but are the rewards of compassion and agape - a happy, full life.

The fact that the downsides to a stepfamily (entirely financial, from what others are saying) are not as drastic as proclaimed hardly means that there is an automatic financial incentive to having stepchildren. My point, missed among the screaming about "used" wives with "rough miles" on their bodies, is that the money will work itself out.

"Used" is exactly the right word for a woman's body after she's had kids. Used, and with a lot of mileage on rough roads...


I would make a joke about "certified pre-owned," but I'm pretty sure that people like you wouldn't see the sarcasm in the idea of "owning" a woman.

I can't help but wonder who your mother is. Is her body "[u]sed, with a lot of mileage on rough roads"? Did your father find the mother of his children less sexually appealing? What kind of dementia existed in your childhood to ever give you the idea that a woman's body, by virtue of childbirth, is anything less than it had been before?
2.11.2008 11:12pm
David Chesler (mail) (www):
What kind of dementia existed in your childhood to ever give you the idea that a woman's body, by virtue of childbirth, is anything less than it had been before?

My Mom's varicose veins? (That's why I've got only one sibling, even though they would have liked to have gone forth and multiplied.)

Some women find pregnancy easy, and recover from childbirth well. Some don't. (For some people it's all the stresses of childcare that are worse than the physical stress of pregnancy and childbirth, and there's the simple matter of time - you can't always say "I would still be as energetic and fit as I was 10 years ago but for having kids.")
2.12.2008 12:09am
Joe Bingham (mail):
Apparently I hit a nerve, eh? I'm pretty familiar with Jane Austen (my daughter loves it). Jane Austen was romantic fiction. Young people have forever dreamed of finding their Prince or Princess and riding off into the sunset to live happily ever after. It's similar to Snow White and Cinderella in that they are all fairy tales; people used to read those stories and understand that it would be great if dreams came true, but it's immature and irresponsible to plan your life around a fairy tale.

I was trying to stay out of this, but I can't have people misrepresenting my favorite author. This is precisely the opposite of the truth; Jane Austen was an anti-romantic. The clearest example of a romantic person in her stories is Marianne Dashwood; an important part of the novel is her learning to "settle." Her most romantic novel, Persuasion, is about someone who regrets declining a marriage for practical reasons, but the ultimate conclusion is that given what she knew at the time, it was the wise decision.

I appreciate what you're trying to say, but you should recognize that JA is making the same argument in her works that you're making in your last clause. She's just not the artist you should cite as an example of a Romantic or a romantic. She was contemporary with a lot of Romantics and romantics; she mocked them. :)
2.12.2008 9:33am
A.C.:
To me, the fundamental question is whether people are capable of an adult concept of love. The author of the article seemed to be groping towards that concept, but not to be there yet. Some of the less reprehensible posters here are doing the same.

"Settling" in the grown-up sense does mean giving up on certain fantasies, but it's not all negative. There are serious questions about whether we can love someone who has aged, or who doesn't turn out to be as successful as everyone imagined when he or she was younger. Over time this sort of question gets extended to children from prior relationships, widowhood, infertility, and other baggage that people pick up.

Can adults love each other despite all this stuff, or does everyone go rushing off after some shiny new model whose baggage accumulation process is all in the future? Because everyone goes through this -- it's the human condition. The only question is whether it has happened yet.

This isn't an argument for settling for assholes and shrews. Nobody needs that. It's more about seeing other people in their entirety, and looking as much at how they have handled difficulty in the past as at their potential for great things in the future. There's a reason people form deep bonds in times of adversity, after all.
2.12.2008 9:42am
Randy R. (mail):
Thanks Joe!

I cited to Jane originally for the proposition that back then, it was understood, certainly by Jane, that most women were at the mercy of their marriage prospects. And most women, though they might prefer to marry for love, understand that often times and depending upon their circumstances, they must marry for practical reasons instead. (Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong. I read her a long time ago, and it may be distorted by all those movie adaptations in recent years).

My point was that no one seriously thought that marriage was about love until the 19th century, and it really didn't take root until the 20th. By the 20th, men and women lived in cities where there was a greater chance you might find someone who you could love, and women were far more independent. With the rise of this notion of marrying for love, you have a corresponding rise in divorce.

So this notion that marriage is in trouble because of the high divorce rate sidesteps the real issue entirely.
2.12.2008 11:26am
rayrai (mail):
I want to list my credentials, but I won't, other than to say that I'm 28, female, unmarried, and I LOVE my life. I must admit, this article set me off. Ok, ok, so I spend a lot of time thinking about the perfect guy, and whether or not I will ever find him, or if maybe he's the one I'm dating right now - but isn't that part of learning who you are? If love is a gift, then why not allow ourselves a few moments of anticipation, to shake it to hear what it sounds like, to visualize our hopes before we tear the paper off? And yes, it might lead to some disappointment (and the ever awkward attempt to trade it in for what we really wanted), but if we have made the effort to know the person we accept it from, perhaps that scratchy new sweater will end up wearing into the one that you will patch a hundred times and love more with every new hole.

But why deny women the chance to discover what they want - because it isn't just a husband they are choosing, it is a life. And where does the motivation to be a better person come from, if not from learning what you want in a perfect mate, and doing your best to become their perfect partner - and that stands for males as well as females. Don't get me wrong, I think the woman who wrote this article was looking for the superficial at best, but if she had had the self-confidence to know that "it's ok" to marry someone that would be willing to pursue a life with her without worrying about whether or not ALL her friends would be jealous, she might have been able to re-evaluate earlier. To be honest, I don't think age is her problem. I think that she is really, really tired and until she is excited about her life again she's not going to find anyone else excited by the idea of becoming part of it. By exhorting younger women to give up "while they still can" she accomplishes nothing but the destruction of the self-confidence required for a woman to work to achieve great things for herself and the world around her.

If feminism places an equal sign between men and women, then the true power of feminism is in the ability to demand that those things by which a woman measures and values herself be those things by which her partner will measure and value him(her)self - if those be looks and money, well, it takes all kinds, but hopefully there are more women out there who are willing to look deeper into themselves to define who they are and what they want to contribute to their community and look for and inspire the same commitment in those that they choose to love.

ps - having read through the earlier posts, I would like to say that those of you that would use "science" to rationalize utterly abhorrent behaviour are no different than those that would use religion to the same purpose. Shame on you for taking incomplete understanding (and if you think any study results in complete understanding you obviously have NEVER done research) and using it to excuse your faults rather than recognize them and work to rise above them.
2.12.2008 12:06pm
Lugo:
The benefits from a large, loving family are not the rewards of selfishness (material gain), but are the rewards of compassion and agape - a happy, full life.

One can easily get that without stepchildren, and fathers without stepchildren are not any less selfless and compassionate than those who do have stepchildren.

The fact that the downsides to a stepfamily (entirely financial, from what others are saying)

No, you haven't been listening. The downsides are not merely financial, but physical and emotional. It is physically and emotionally exhausting raising children, and nobody can be blamed for not wanting to take that on those burdens for stepchildren.

My point, missed among the screaming about "used" wives with "rough miles" on their bodies,

The only one screaming is you.

is that the money will work itself out.

No it won't. This is a childish statement. Money is a leading cause of arguments and divorce, so very often it manifestly doesn't work itself out.

I can't help but wonder who your mother is. Is her body "[u]sed, with a lot of mileage on rough roads"? Did your father find the mother of his children less sexually appealing?

In point of fact, yes. After she had me and my sister, he started cheating on her with a fresh young thing, and he and my mom got divorced. She more than once told me, in fairly graphic detail, that her body was very different before she had kids than afterwards.

What kind of dementia existed in your childhood to ever give you the idea that a woman's body, by virtue of childbirth, is anything less than it had been before?

If you think childbirth has no effect on a woman's body, you are the one who is demented as well as deluded. Childbirth has a totally punishing effect on the female body, and it is never the same afterwards. You obviously don't know any new moms if you think otherwise.
2.12.2008 12:31pm
theobromophile (www):
"Different" and "less" are not the same concept.

I would think that the fact that those stretch marks, sagging abdominal muscles, and other issues would diminish in comparison to the fact that it was THAT body that brought THOSE kids into the world. Any husband who does not look at the changes in his wife's body with respect (for the ordeal that she went through) and love (those changes being caused, in part, by him, and the result being their children) is not worth having as a husband.

Really - grow up. People get old, wrinkled, and do not stay trim, fit, and 25 all their lives. That's a good thing, if you are able to understand it as the outward manifestation of a life well lived.
2.12.2008 1:35pm
theobromophile (www):
P.S. Perhaps I acquired my screwy ideas when my stepmum was pregnant with my little siblings. My dad kept saying things like, "Now there is more of you to love," and "I'm going to gain some sympathy weight." (He would usually say the latter right before heading for some ice cream, which, in my family, is par for the course, but the sentiment was still there.)

Nevertheless, they are screwy ideas that make life more pleasant and show respect for the human body and soul.
2.12.2008 1:42pm
c.gray (mail):
No Name wrote:

If ever I have any doubts about the paternity of a child supposedly born to one of my sons, I will not hesitate to have DNA testing done. So long as my husband and I are alive, such testing could be done without even informing anyone else, and all that would be needed would be spit from inside the baby's [mouth].


It is my sincere hope you someday have a daughter-in-law that has your values and attitudes, and shares your fierce dedication to the happiness of your son and the protection of his well-being.
2.12.2008 2:09pm
Lugo:
"Different" and "less" are not the same concept.

You don't need to tell me about it, since I never claimed the body was somehow worth "less".

I would think that the fact that those stretch marks, sagging abdominal muscles, and other issues would diminish in comparison to the fact that it was THAT body that brought THOSE kids into the world. Any husband who does not look at the changes in his wife's body with respect (for the ordeal that she went through) and love (those changes being caused, in part, by him, and the result being their children) is not worth having as a husband.

Really - grow up. People get old, wrinkled, and do not stay trim, fit, and 25 all their lives. That's a good thing, if you are able to understand it as the outward manifestation of a life well lived.


Um, yeah, congratulations on your banal statement of the profoundly obvious. Too bad you were too busy working yourself into a state of shrill, self-righteous dudgeon to notice that I never said the post-pregnancy female body was unworthy of love and respect. I simply said that it was very different from the pre-pregnancy body, for the obvious reason that pregnancy is a very stressful process physically. Your denial of this simple fact indicates that YOU are the one who has some growing up to do.
2.12.2008 2:20pm
theobromophile (www):

I can't help but wonder who your mother is. Is her body "[u]sed, with a lot of mileage on rough roads"? Did your father find the mother of his children less sexually appealing?

In point of fact, yes. After she had me and my sister, he started cheating on her with a fresh young thing, and he and my mom got divorced. She more than once told me, in fairly graphic detail, that her body was very different before she had kids than afterwards.

What kind of dementia existed in your childhood to ever give you the idea that a woman's body, by virtue of childbirth, is anything less than it had been before?

If you think childbirth has no effect on a woman's body, you are the one who is demented as well as deluded. Childbirth has a totally punishing effect on the female body, and it is never the same afterwards. You obviously don't know any new moms if you think otherwise.


Sadly for you, Lugo, I could scroll up a few inches.

If you do not believe that a woman's body is somehow diminished, then your second response to me is meaningless. In fact, it wouldn't even be worth typing, because you would have agreed with me.
2.12.2008 5:14pm
Sua Tremendita:
I vote for Lugo.

Honorable mention to AnneS and No Name.

As I tell clients all the time, a bad settlement is better than taking a good case to trial.

-tremendo
2.12.2008 5:42pm
Porkchop:
Upon reflection, I am very glad that others who dated my wife before me didn't want "stepchildren." I got the prize; it was a twofer -- a wonderful wife and a wonderful daughter. :-)


The purported benefits of a "used" wife hardly outweigh the costs, and the man would clearly be far better off fishing for a young "new" wife without any kids.



"Used" is exactly the right word for a woman's body after she's had kids. Used, and with a lot of mileage on rough roads...


That kind of depends on the make, model, and year of the woman in question, I would think. My wife points out that some men consider Pamela Anderson quite attractive, despite her being "used" with "high mileage." Likewise, Demi Moore has had a few kids, too. Jessica Alba has the potential to fall into that group if her boyfriend up and leaves.

Used cars have their own attraction, you know. I've always wanted to get my hands on a '64 Impala like the one I owned in college. There are a lot of good memories associated with that. Come to think of it there are a lot of good memories associated with my "used" wife, too.
2.12.2008 5:53pm
David Chesler (mail) (www):
"Less" and "Still loved equally, if not more" are not mutually exclusive.

In the last years of her life my wife was losing body parts all over -- a lot more than stretch marks and sag, everything from her diaphragm to her palate was damaged by radiation, though I was surprised that it was finally her chemo-damaged heart that gave out. I loved her and respected her more than ever, but we both knew her physical limitations were a drag.

We also knew my choice was not "Her with the impairments" or "Her without the impairments", it was "Her, as she is" or "Not her and possibly someone else" and she knew I chose "Her". (One has to be careful not to give the impression that this was out of pity, or out of a sense of honor to one's vows, but as that wasn't the case it wasn't a big deal.)

But I don't love, nor feel particularly strong respect, for other mothers who bear other people's babies.

As for settling, the friends who a few years later introduced me to the woman who would become my wife told me that I read too much Playboy. Not the pictures, but the fast life. They advised me to get realistic. About a year and a half ago the Sunday Song Lyric here was Bowling for Soup's "1985". At the time (still married, FWIW) I commented that it was the same story as Glenn Campbell's "Dreams of the Everyday Housewife". In both cases, and in my putting down the pictures of the fast cars, it's not so much settling for the mate as settling for the lifestyle. (Chances are both members of the marriage settled for the same lifestyle together, but one might have had bigger dreams or a better chance of living them.)
2.12.2008 6:55pm
Waldo (mail):
theobromophile:

I did not intend for my comment to be vitriolic and apologize if it was interpreted as such. Instead, I was surprised, and rather incredulous, that someone would argue that child support would be a positive consideration in deciding whether to marry. The reason is that while love is necessary, it's not enough. When children are involved, you also need a reasonable expectation that the relationship will last the 20 or so years necessary to raise a family. That's why this statement stood out:

Second, ever heard of child support? Depending on how much her ex-husband makes, the 25% cut of his paycheck she gets would be pretty sweet.

If I were looking for someone to marry, I would interpret that message as: "Well, if it doesn't work out, you can always pay me child support." If someone I was dating gave me that impression, any thought of marriage would pretty well end.

I remember this comment from another thread about marriage: When deciding whether to marry someone, look at how they treat people in an inferior position to themselves, such as waitresses or doormen. Are they polite and respectful, or are they impatient and condescending? Because that is likely to be the way they will treat you. And ex-husbands certainly meet the definition of inferior.
2.12.2008 8:12pm
Waldo (mail):
theobromophile:


I would think that the fact that those stretch marks, sagging abdominal muscles, and other issues would diminish in comparison to the fact that it was THAT body that brought THOSE kids into the world. Any husband who does not look at the changes in his wife's body with respect (for the ordeal that she went through) and love (those changes being caused, in part, by him, and the result being their children) is not worth having as a husband.


Here I agree with you entirely.
2.12.2008 8:14pm
Uthaw:
That kind of depends on the make, model, and year of the woman in question, I would think. My wife points out that some men consider Pamela Anderson quite attractive, despite her being "used" with "high mileage." Likewise, Demi Moore has had a few kids, too. Jessica Alba has the potential to fall into that group if her boyfriend up and leaves.

Too bad the vast majority of men aren't going to marry someone who has the time and money to hire personal trainers to get back in "like new" condition, and who also gets paid to look good like these women do. In short, these examples are irrelevant. Most men will have to settle for Ms. Good Enough not Ms. Superbody!

Since the "new vs. used" comparison arose in the context of a discussion of the relative advantages of marrying a woman who has never had a kid (new) versus marrying a woman who has kids already (used), all this ranting about "how dare you not love and respect the body that brought your children into the world, you worthless, evil man" is beside the point. We're not talking about the body that bore my children, we're talking about bodies that have not yet borne my children! Is there any reason to prefer a woman's body that bore someone else's kids over a woman's body that has never had any kids? Depends on how much you value the "proof that she isn't sterile", but personally I'd rather take my chances on someone who hasn't had a kid yet. It is one thing to buy a new car and love it because you put the miles on it yourself, and another thing entirely to buy a used car that someone else put the miles on.
2.12.2008 9:04pm
Waldo (mail):
rayrai:

If feminism places an equal sign between men and women, then the true power of feminism is in the ability to demand that those things by which a woman measures and values herself be those things by which her partner will measure and value him(her)self

Just curious, does that imply the ability to demand that those things by which a man measures and values himself be those things by which his partner will measure and value herself?
2.12.2008 9:20pm
Fred (mail):
Dennis Prager had a show talking about the lie of the importance of blood. It is societies that focus on bloodlines and kinship ties that fall behind Western societies that instead rely on merit.
2.12.2008 9:50pm
theobromophile (www):
Waldo,

I still have no idea where you are getting that from.

First of all, child support is MANDATORY and STATUTORY. It's not alimony. It's not the woman taking her ex-husband to the cleaners. Don't like it? Take it up with your elected representatives.

Second, the relevant question was whether a man would want to support someone else's kids. The relevant complaint was that he did not want to expend his own funds to raise another man's offspring. My relevant point was that he shouldn't have do because of this thing called child support. It has NOTHING to do with living the high life; nothing to do with cleaning out the ex; nothing to do with mooching off him; it has everything to do with pointing out that the financial loss from marrying a woman with kids is not ruinous.

Limited point. Context.

You can warp anything when you take it out of context. I will be responsible for one thing, and one thing only: the reasonable meaning of my words in proper context.

Have I made myself clear, or am I still among the man-hating, greedy, gold-digging whores?

FYI: I watched my father's second wife clean him (and, by implication, the entire family) out. It sucked and is not anything I would wish on anyone, much less recommend as a course of action.
2.12.2008 11:48pm
rayrai (mail):
Waldo:


Just curious, does that imply the ability to demand that those things by which a man measures and values himself be those things by which his partner will measure and value herself?


Sure, why not? And the more people you meet, male or female, the more you can fine tune what you think those should be - and a cheer for reading fiction could go in here as well: let's hear it for living at least a coupla vicarious lives to work to define what is important to us :). We should expect more of ourselves, not less. But don't misread me here, I think there is NO bigger turn off than a person with a sense of entitlement, the point is to want to work towards something better.

What worries me when I make these forays into the world of "chick lit" and "dating self-help" is this image of the "powerful woman" as one who can buy her own shoes, be unaffected by sex with lots of powerful men (or thinks she should be), and reconstruct the fashion world - she has become her own Barbie doll. Finding the right man has become a quest for the perfect accessory (I know there is a Ken out there somewhere for me, and we would look perfect together) rather than a means by which to come of age.

Women, it seems, are supposed to grow up when they get married, or, barring that, when they have children, and until then they need to listen to mothers and older spinsters to remind them not to be too childish in their choices. Why not advocate women grow up BEFORE they get married, as men have been expected to do for ever so long now? We no longer have to get married for financial stability, we can offer more in a marriage than our ability to bear and rear children, we can ask more (or less) of our partner... Or maybe that's the problem - it used to be simple for men didn't it? A singular focus on earning as much money as possible, high salary will always win. But now, as women try to decide what they want, men are left in the lurch trying to predict what will attract someone "good"... men have to start thinking outside the normal standards of value and measure as well, both in terms of who they are looking for and who they want to be.

And then, in the meantime, conversations degenerate into body issues and whether or not women are worth less if they've been "used". Really? How in the world did a woman's value become linked to whether or not she has physically born a child? Why not how she raises that child? Why not her reasons for NOT having had a child? I personally would have a whole lot more respect for a woman who had chosen not to have a child because she feels herself unable to give the necessary time to a child (or gee, she thinks the world is overpopulated) rather than a woman who wants to "save" her body so that she isn't "used" and more men will find her attractive. And on the flip side, I would have a whole lot more respect for a woman who chose to have a child because she WANTS a child, rather than one who has one because society thinks she should want one, or she thinks it will keep her husband interested. And just to go really all out crazy here, I'd havta say I usually find it a whole lot easier to love someone that I respect.
2.12.2008 11:56pm
kdonovan:
theobromophile wrote:

First of all, child support is MANDATORY and STATUTORY. It's not alimony. It's not the woman taking her ex-husband to the cleaners. Don't like it? Take it up with your elected representatives.

Second, the relevant question was whether a man would want to support someone else's kids. The relevant complaint was that he did not want to expend his own funds to raise another man's offspring. My relevant point was that he shouldn't have do because of this thing called child support. It has NOTHING to do with living the high life; nothing to do with cleaning out the ex; nothing to do with mooching off him; it has everything to do with pointing out that the financial loss from marrying a woman with kids is not ruinous.



I don't think this is the way it often works in the real world.

First a significant portion of men don't or won't continue to pay child support (either because they evade it or can't pay) - thus causing the new husband support the child.

Second, if the father earns considerably less than mother's new husband then the new husband will almost certainly end up paying for a large part of the child's support too (and sometimes this new obligation may be legally enforceable after his divorce).

A further related consideration is that a single or divorced woman with a child will usually have considerably less in the way of financial assets than a childless women of similar age and socio-economic status. (This may be less of an issue for widows who often get some form of life insurance.)

Furthermore, since the divorce rate for 2nd and subsequent marriages is much higher than 1st marriages, marrying a divorced mother (as compared to a single non-parent) probably increases one's odds of himself going through divorce and having some portion of his property and future income seized in any subsequent divorce settlement.

BTW, whether one approves of the child support and alimony laws or not has little bearing on their financial impact.
2.13.2008 12:53am
theobromophile (www):
kdonovan,

Among adults 25 and older who had been divorced, 52 percent of men and 44 percent of women were currently married.

On average, people who marry again typically do so in about three-and-a-half years. Second marriages that end in divorce last about 8.6 years for men and 7.2 years for women.


From here. Here is all of the data.

Yes, second marriages are slightly less likely to work out.

IMHO, the big question is why the first marriage failed - and, of course, why it happened in the first place. A woman who marries her high school sweetheart after getting pregnant at age 19 on break from college, then divorces him eight years later when they fail to grow together as a couple, seems like a pretty good prospect for remarriage. (60% of couples who wed while between the ages of 20 and 25 end up divorced. I tell myself that I'm not merely single - I'm avoiding a first marriage and subsequent divorce.)

If I'm reading the data correctly, women who divorce tend to get married a bit more quickly than their divorced male counterparts. This may account for the slightly higher later divorce rate, and the slightly lower length of the second marriage for women.

While the plural of anecdote is not statistics, and the singular of statistics is not your particular situation, it is informative to look at why people get divorced. Yes, sex and money are the big issues, but there are warning signs, such as jumping into a marriage immediately after a divorce. (In my old-fashioned opinion, dating during divorce is somewhat tacky. You should at least be in separate households, in court, working out the legal logistics, before even accepting or extending a dinner invitation.)
2.13.2008 2:43am
KellyS (mail):
RayRai,

I liked your post a lot, especially this:

"But why deny women the chance to discover what they want - because it isn't just a husband they are choosing, it is a life. And where does the motivation to be a better person come from, if not from learning what you want in a perfect mate, and doing your best to become their perfect partner - and that stands for males as well as females."

I am 42, content, never married, never "settled" (that word needs some fine-tuning.)

When I was about 28, I made a list of what I wanted in a mate. There were about 5-10 items listed.

Then it kind of hit me. Did I measure up to that list? Was I active in community service? Did I take good care of my body? Etc.

If I wanted to attract that type of mate, I needed to BE that kind of mate.

It was a very useful lightbulb moment, and 14 years later, I have a wonderful, rich life* as a result of some changes I started to make back then.

*and single! not even actively dating! yet I'm not inspired to write depressing articles about how just go ahead and move into a house with no indoor plumbing because you don't want to spend your life as a {{{shudder}}} apartment renter, do you?

You are right, the author sounds very, very tired. I get tired too and think how much easier life MIGHT be if I had a partner to share the bills and the car maintenance and sometimes, just some of the decision-making.

I would never choose to be a single mother. Where was her head?
2.13.2008 12:12pm
Waldo (mail):
theobromophile:

I agree, we're talking past each other.

rayrai:

Good post
Thank you
2.13.2008 8:41pm
rayrai (mail):
KellyS:

Thanks for showing that you can be happy as a single 42yr old with your 28yr old decision to be picky - it's hard as the 28yr old to convince even yourself of your credibility as to how you will feel 14yrs in the future about your decisions now. It's good to know that living your life on your own terms is worth it, at least for one person out there :).
2.14.2008 5:05am