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Wednesday, 07 August 2013

The State of Relationships

By Mickey Rogers of This, That and the Other

A few evenings ago I watched a black-and-white TV show from the 1960s. Interestingly, the wife in the program was a junior partner in the union; whenever wanting to buy something she had to beg for the husband’s permission.

Were most wives of that era really so submissive? My mother was completely dominated by Dad. She was not allowed to buy anything or to make any kind of decisions without his approval. However, even as a little kid I didn’t feel that this was the normal marriage arrangement.

There is no way that my wife Bev would put up with such nonsense. If I ever tried to dominate her I’d probably get a skillet over my head!

Neither of us will make a large purchase without consulting with the other but neither Bev nor I am the boss of this family. Perhaps a better way of saying it is that we are the co-bosses in our marriage. We talk things over and reach a compromise before we do what she wants (just a joke).

Today’s equality among the sexes is a good thing. The lady in the above-mentioned TV show was treated as if she were a child, incapable of making mature decisions. That’s ridiculous and unfair.

On the other hand marriages, for whatever reasons, are on shaky ground these days. About half of all marriages in the United States end in divorce. Does this mean that back in the 1930s and 1940s, when most people stayed married, we had a bunch of miserable people living together?

When I was a child, it was still a good bet that if little Bobby’s last name was Smith then both his parents were also named Smith. Just about every kid I knew had his/her Dad and Mom living together.

Were those parents secretly miserable? Did they grow to hate each other’s guts? Did people stay together only because of societal pressures and expectations? I wonder.

Of course, there is an alternate explanation. Perhaps today we are too spoiled. Perhaps we expect more from a marriage than is realistic. Are so many marriages in this country really broken beyond any chance of being repaired? Do we put much effort into saving them?

Maybe, in the final analysis, it is not that big a deal when parentless couples decide to go their own way but how about when children are involved? Whether you think marriage is a divine creation or if you believe that it is merely a societal invention, the fact of the matter is that all things being equal, it is the best way to rear children.

Studies show that children from one parent homes are much more at risk of low self-esteem, suicide, juvenile delinquency, poor school performance and about every other negative factor of which you might conceive.

In most divorce cases, our courts don’t do our children any favors. Usually, “in the best interests of the child,“ one parent is given full custody while the other one is more or less pushed out of the child’s life.

If both Mom and Dad are decent, loving folks, then the child benefits most from having both parents actively involved. However, the courts usually look for the easiest ways to settle such cases, not the best ways.

Often the custodial parent is given all the decision-making powers which is like giving one parent an atomic missile and the other one a peashooter. The parent with the power often uses it like a sledgehammer to get back at the former spouse.

If the court did what was actually in the child’s best interest, it would give some decision-making power to the non-custodial parent.

Let’s say, for example, that Sue and Bill are divorced. Sue has custody over their five-year old son, Sam. As in many cases, Sue wants Bill completely out of the picture. His total responsibility, from her point of view, is to provide the money needed to raise the child.

Of course, the court should not be concerned about what the parents want; it should focus upon what is truly best for the child.

The court should be encouraging Bill to retain an active role in his child’s life. To do so he should have some decision-making powers. For example, he could be in charge of taking his son to the dentist and buying school clothing. In most cases this kind of parenting would be in the child’s best interest.

Is marriage headed for extinction? Perhaps. More and more folks from every adult age group are deciding to live together without having a marriage certificate. I imagine that many of these people simply see marriage as too big of a gamble to take. Let’s face it; unless you’re a major league hitter, a fifty per cent chance of success is not that great.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Mickey, you raise some excellent thought-provoking questions. One partial answer is that divorce settlements have leaned so far away from the images in those old TV shows that the settlements create a new and much worse inequality--bad for the child and bad for the non-custodial parent.

In terms of children from one-parent homes--based on what I've read--in many cases the parents never were married. A young woman (often a teenager) gets pregnant, has a child, and tries to raise him alone without any money, job skills, or help. Clearly, that's bad for the child, the mother, and society at large.

Last year, a woman that was a friend of my parents passed on. I followed her life through my parents. My mother was appalled by the way her husband treated her, and my father once said that he never knew a man could be so cruel. She wasn't beaten, to my knowledge, but instead her husband never let her have any money. Whenever it was chore time, he conveniently had to run to town. She did them all alone. Back in those days, there was no leaving the marriage. When he had a stroke years later, the woman began to blossom, to go bowling with friends, etc. Still, the final blow is that the man made sure their son controlled the bulk of the money, thereby implying how incapable his wife was. Times have changed so much, but there are men like that out there today. I don't understand where they come from: the moon, perhaps! But your comments really got me thinking. Thank you for sharing.

I think maybe because things today are happening much faster, people are often impatient to move on. We divorced after 7 years.

She and I agreed on joint custody, and that was the ONLY stipulation in our divorce action, no child support, no alimony.

We each maintained households. Sometimes we would have one kid each, and other times only one of us had them both.

I think it worked out okay, even if it wasn't much fun. But both of the boys kids waited until their late 30s to get married after making their way through college.

--For what it's worth.

I loved the decision of a judge I know who gave a couple joint custody but they had to keep the kids in their family home and the parents had to alternate every other week living in the home with the kids!

I could write a book on your topic. Growing up I never experienced the subjugation of women. My dad always said, "Whatever your mother says".

Divorce is so sad. I started, with the help of local judges, a program called Children First, required for divorcing parents with minor children.

Women's lib has changed everything- some for the good and some for the bad. I hope it does not lead to emasculated men.

I don't think this nation will ever return to the days when most people married and stayed that way. And living together without marriage will continue to be a viable option. I don't know if these changes are good, bad, or indifferent, but that's the way it is.

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