More women are asking: Why should I suffer?

October 31, 2017

Marriage is an institution that forms the foundation of society. Marriage provides order, security, and protection through stable relationships and deep ties to other human beings. Ideally, it also provides love and companionship. But I would never suggest —along with the author of the Unexpected Legacy of Divorce (who painted a grim picture of life after divorce for the products of those broken unions), that anyone should sacrifice their personal happiness in marriage for the greater good of upholding the institution. No one wants to go back in time to a place where women stayed in bad marriages primarily because of the social stigma attached to divorce, this is part of the reason the divorce epidemic becomes a difficult problem to address. On a societal level, divorce is bad (One reason among many, it increases the number of children living in poverty who will then need to rely on government assistance —our tax dollars, see how personal decisions affect the whole?), and we need to address how we can decrease its occurrence, but on an individual level, no one can tell a woman or man who wants to divorce that they shouldn’t. No one knows the individual pain that both parties have suffered and so the decision is theirs alone.

It’s ironic that many magazines, publications, and speakers focus on how a woman can “keep a man,” in reality, there should be more of a focus on men “keeping their women,” since 70% of divorces are initiated by women. Women are often the ones to identify issues in the marriage, initiate resolution and initiate divorce when they feel the time is right. In reflecting on why this might be the case I came to the conclusion that many women may come to a point where they simply ask, Why should I suffer?

Despite the popular depiction of men having to be dragged to the altar, it’s actually men and not women who benefit most from marriage. Married men make more money than their unmarried peers (An average of $16,000 more), “In general, marriage seems to increase the earning power of men on the order of 10 to 24 percent,” as cited in the National Review (1). They also have more and better quality sex than their unmarried peers (51>39). Lastly, they’re healthier than their single male counterparts. Strange enough, the comment section of this National Review article is filled with men regurgitating negative stereotypes about marriage despite having just been given evidence that marriage benefits men… I guess ignorance really is bliss?

But what about women? Well, their health doesn’t seem to benefit, they make less, not more money —not due to a “pay gap” but to the fact that, “women, more so than men, subordinate themselves and their careers to their relationship, their children, and the careers of their husbands.” Along with this, “Women on average do more of the unpaid and undervalued work of households, they work more each day, and they are more aware of this inequality than their husbands. They are more likely to sacrifice their individual leisure and career goals for marriage.” (2)

This is part of the reason why I focus so much on the value of housewifery if you’re a woman who’s not only working but also contributing far more to housework and childcare (while also stalling your own career success to do so), eventually, you may not see much value in marriage. And statistics reaffirm my gut feeling, “Compared to non-working women, those with a full-time job have a 29 percent higher odds of divorce. Women who work more hours are found to have a higher divorce risk.” (3)

Marriage no longer has a unique benefit to women —most men are no longer primary breadwinners while simultaneously not doing an even share of housework and childcare, is it any wonder that once the love is gone, women ask themselves why they should suffer, and find no reason why they ought to? And while children are still a good reason to suffer through a less than satisfying marriage, the social stigma of divorce —even when children are involved, has largely been removed, as Eleanor Holmes Norton puts it quite plainly, “With children no longer the universally accepted reason for marriage, marriages are going to have to exist on their own merits.” If we want to keep this institution alive, maybe there need to be more national conversations on how men can “keep your women,” otherwise women who don’t seem to reap many benefits from marriage will continue to walk away, and that’s bad news for all of us.

Sources:

1— Hey Guys, Put a Ring on It, bit.ly/2lupgha

2— Women are less happy than men in marriage, but society pretends it isn’t true, read.bi/2gVQWyC

3— Working women more likely to seek divorce, ind.pn/2zkoEFD

4— 1 in 5 Women Experience Post-Divorce Poverty, bit.ly/2z1sVuU

1 Comment

  • Hussayn

    Salam Alaykum,

    At far as we Muslims are concerned, is it not accurate to say that Marriage must remain as an institution; at the very least it is the only proper vehicle for bringing children into the world and also for the ‘projection’ of our natural lusts.

    Perhaps one reason for the lack of benefits to marriage in modernity is because these two factors are not taken into account and are even vigorously opposed by many Freedom-seekers and economic practicalists, but I am sure an Islamic-based ethos would need to consider these matters seriously, since they seem to be red lines. Wa Allahu A’lam.

    Wa Salam

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