Marriage Confidential

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Pamela Haag looks at the state of marriage today and investigates why the generation of people who grew up believing they would "have it all" now have ended up disenchanted. In Marriage Confidential: The Post-Romantic Age of Workhorse Wives, Royal Children, Undersexed Spouses, and Rebel Couples Who Are Rewriting the Rules Haag writes about contemporary marriages where spouses act more like life partners than lovers, children take over the marital relationship, and where sexual fidelity and passion are constantly undermined.  She also looks at marriages that work, and how couples navigate the territories of career, money, social life, child rearing, and sex.


Pamela Haag

Comments [25]

Alex from NYC

PeterRTalbot says more in his comment than Ms. Haag was capable of expressing in Lopate's tiptoe of an interview or the big fat unearned platform of her book. So true: "Ms. Haag wrote contiguous sentences about a subject she is totally incompetent to describe." I have seldom heard a more superficial interview. What are Ms. Haag's qualifications as a researcher or analyst of the institution of marriage? At every moment she seemed to hide behind a wall of superficial affect. This tic seemed to be the one "stance" she could muster. So many worthy writers and thinkers on subjects such as marriage--yet this is what publishers and WNYC would spoon feed us? For shame.

Jun. 15 2011 12:55 PM

Ms. Haag implies the goal of marriage can be monogamous partnership if "endlessly creative" energy is expended by both/all partners so that no partner has to "settle". The content of marriage is therefore self actualization or mutual but individual gratification according to your guest. While admitting that marriage and its causes and forms are not necessarily or even providentially rational, Ms. Haag's approach remains that of an experimenter in life. I found her almost nervous description of cheating on line (with her husband watching) touching, if a bit naive. I loved her unconscious dependence on the word :"efficient" as a way of touting the internet cheating site's attributes.

Then I read the rest of the comments here in your archive full of hypersexuality as a cause, homosexuality as a philosophy and arguments from nature against the male dominant socialized imprisonment of marriage, etc. and realized that the subject was only an ingress to discuss mating opportunities or lack thereof for your listeners. How very sad, and very juvenile all this sounds to me.

I didn't catch you mention or raise the issue of Marriage as sacramental with Ms. Haag, and certainly your listeners were disinterested.

I learned a lot, today Leonard, but mostly about you. Ms. Haag wrote contiguous sentences about a subject she is totally incompetent to describe, and you tread lightly. Bless you for your reticence. Sometimes this is the highest form of charity.

As for marriage: let me posit a completely different idea: first: it can be mono or plural but it has a cash and asset nexus and is not easily broken. Second: it is a blessed focused war with the other that at all times makes acute the pains and joys of life that we take for chronic. Third: it is not about the self at all, apart from providing a framework for reproduction strategy that improves progeny success by extending gestation and maturation periods. But then, sex is not about self either despite the opinions of the deluded listeners. It is about your body controlling and deselecting alternative outcomes in favor of pro-creation however we defeat the result. It is about death. Marriage gives us a companion to fight the automata of death, and it really doesn't matter if that companionship is full of romantic tropes or plots of mutual murder.

Jun. 15 2011 06:17 AM

@ Maude:
Open marriages is an answer for many. As a friend of mine once said of them, " don't try this at home". They are very hard work. The principle of making sure the primary partner is secure and happy whist conducting secondary relationships is very hard, yet essential.

Jun. 14 2011 12:47 PM

Our marriage is one that is envied and commented on by many of our friends, "You two are the perfect couple, you guys are so happy and great together, etc." But in reality, we fight (or really she just yells at me) and we are intimate only about once or twice a year. Not exactly the perfect couple.

Jun. 14 2011 12:47 PM

I married my husband so he could share my insurance benefits. We were both committed to each other but I would not have married if he could have had the benefits without the marriage.
I have a hard time seeing marriage as a good thing for women. In my personal experience; one with raising children and one with the teenage children. In both the men were content; I not so much.

Jun. 14 2011 12:42 PM

Did Pamela Haag look at the different needs men and women have in marriage, and whether or not those needs are or can be met, as contributing factors to unhappy or unsuccessful marriage? My husband showed up and did all the right things, on the surface he looked great, but I was so lonely because he was disconnected emotionally.

Jun. 14 2011 12:39 PM
Erica from New York

@Victor it's true that some only see sex or physical intimacy as cheating but others have a different view that includes emotional intimacy. In the past, when women were seen as property to be controlled, adultery was seen as stealing one man's property.

In today's world perhaps we need a new definition. For those in mutually decided open relationship, physical intimacy with others is not seen as cheating because there is no lying or betrayal.

Some even argue that those that have sex but no emotional intimacy in their relationship but have deep emotional relationships with others might be considered to be cheating or emotionally adulterous.

Jun. 14 2011 12:37 PM

I observe several families in my neighborhood where the mother works a professional job and the dad stays home. Despite this, the dads don't seem to do much parenting. They are hands off as if, "it's not my job, I don't care". In a couple cases, there is a nanny. If a mom stayed home there would be SO many more expectations of her to work hard and parent.

Jun. 14 2011 12:35 PM
M. L. from Westchester Co., NY

I know some people don't think an online relationship is cheating, but I have a hard time believing they wouldn't be horrified if they found out the person they were communicating with weren't who they made themselves out to be. That is, if an adult male thought he was communicating with a young female ... what if he found out the person were another adult male? (Or a dog?) Might he not feel "cheated"?

Jun. 14 2011 12:31 PM
Erica from New York

The late mother of Ira Glass, Shirley Glass was a ground-breaking researcher in the field of emotional cheating.

Jun. 14 2011 12:30 PM

I'm wondering what the author's "take" on all her findings is. Does she think marriage should be more "wed" to the idea of romantic intensity, and thereby more decisive about divorce, when the alternative is mediocrity? Raised in a nontraditional household, I've always found the idea of marriage puzzling. Without children and/or other pragmatic benefits/obligations, why should one marry?

Jun. 14 2011 12:30 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Are people who get married for pragmatic reasons more likely to have open marriages?

Jun. 14 2011 12:29 PM

Did you find affairs happened later in the marriage more fequently once kids go to college? My parents are still happily 26 years married and overcame the pain of my fathers affair.

Jun. 14 2011 12:28 PM
Ron Palais from NYC

Any thoughts on the biology of cheating? That it's inherited as noted in this article/study below:

Jun. 14 2011 12:25 PM
Ron from NYC

Any thoughts on the biology of cheating? That it's inherited as noted in this article/study below:

Jun. 14 2011 12:25 PM
Maude from Park SLope

I believe open marriage is probably the only marriage that actually works (for most people). It takes A LOT of work, a LOT. to make sure all parties are ok, emotionally. a monogamous relationship (married or unmarried) seems like a time-bomb to me. and it is NOT just guys,
I am in a committed lesbian relationship, and I can see the end to us in sight, mostly because my partner doesn't believe in multiple sexual partners. This book sounds great.
and I would also recommend "The Elthical Slut" a book for women interested in how to have multiple partners without hurting anybody.

Jun. 14 2011 12:24 PM
Ron from NYC

Any thoughts on the biology of cheating? That it's inherited as noted in this article/study below:

Jun. 14 2011 12:24 PM
Chris from Brooklyn

I'm born and raised in the US, 25 years old, and I've come to view marriage almost exclusively as an economic/legal decision. It has no impact on who I love or how my friends or family view my relationship. I really only think about marriage in the context of medical insurance (if I ever get it), hospital visits, power of attorney, or as a legal bond if we go traveling.

Jun. 14 2011 12:23 PM
Elizabeth from NYC

I am surprised that this analysis leaves out the role of changing labor markets, gender relations, and gender roles, all of which affect marriages.

Jun. 14 2011 12:23 PM
Fuva from Harlemworld

If a wife knows and doesn't care, then how could online sex be cheating? And how can it not be, if she doesn't know and does care? It's not complicated.

Jun. 14 2011 12:19 PM

Is having a relationship in a virtual world cheating? We are talking about avatars here!

Jun. 14 2011 12:19 PM
Fiona from Park Slope

I am in a long term (14-year) committed heterosexual relationship that, by all accounts, is happy. Did you investigate similar relationships, and was there a difference between "committed" and married couples?

Jun. 14 2011 12:16 PM
Amy from Manhattan

The very fact that Ms. Haag acknowledges there *is* anything between marital bliss & plate-throwing rage means that she's not overgeneralizing!

Jun. 14 2011 12:16 PM
Heidi Yanulis from Forest Hills

My husband and I have two children ages 6 and 10. My sister-in-law, whose two sons are now in their 20s and out of the house, has described to me a kind of renaissance that has occurred in her marriage now that her sons are on their own. She's provided evidence that there is a light at the end of the tunnel that I always suspected was there.

Jun. 14 2011 12:14 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

Marriage was a MAN-made institution that is in its death-throes because it has outlived its social usefulness. No other primate gets "married." Chimps don't get married. Bonobos don't get married. Marriage was invented by men in order to know their own progeny, potential heirs to property. It was to create "family," the clan, a socioeconomic institution to preserve wealth from being taken by usurpers and cuckolders. It's definitely going to die out, to be replaced by some other modern method of producing and raising the next generation of soldiers, workers and taxpayers. I see "Brave New World" as the future model society.

Jun. 14 2011 12:13 PM

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