Pamela Haag, in her new book Marriage Confidential, outlines five “new” types of marriages that she argues define many married couples today. She says the age of the romantic marriage has come and gone and most unions today are unions of convenience, obligation, and partnership.
Most books on marriage out there are composed of research on one end of the spectrum, or the other; marriages budding with happiness and love, or marriages which are headed toward their termination in a reckless and downward spiral. Marriage Confidential tells a new story to modern marriages, one of ambivalence, about marriages that seem more like business partnerships than a romantic bond till the end of time. To gather her research Haag used a number of methods including cultural history research, surveys, and “covert-ops” (such as joining an online affair-finding site and posting a personal ad in the New York Review of Books). From her work Haag identifies five “types” that are pitfalls the modern marriage can fall into:
The Semihappy Marriage
All marriages have their ups and downs, but the semihappy marriage is chronically ambivalent. It’s a marriage that’s neither miserable nor all that successful. Semihappy spouses genuinely can’t decide if they should stick it out and live with the faults in the marriage, or if those faults are too much to handle. Many semihappy marriages are high-functioning — almost like business partnerships or friendships — but they lack important elements. In other cases, spouses wonder if their expectations are too high and worry that they’re being selfish, but they also can’t shake the feeling that they might be in the wrong marriage. Researchers estimate that anywhere from 55% to 65% of divorces hail from this group of low-conflict yet listless marriages.
The Parenting Marriage
On the one hand, children are less central to marriage than they were before. Single parenthood by choice is on the rise, as are deliberately child-free marriages. On the other hand, for many people, children are perhaps the one remaining imperative to get, and stay, married: parenting is one thing they don’t think they can do just as easily on their own. So, when couples do opt to have children, they can become almost entirely defined and consumed by the tasks of parenthood. This is something new for marriage because in the past the roles of husband and wife involved more than just child rearing.
The workhorse wife is the exhausted breadwinner to her dream-chasing husband. It’s one version of a semihappy marriage, in the modern style. It goes like this: husband Joe wants to become a poet, sculptor, pro golfer or other financially stressed professional, while wife Jane is the frazzled, high-achieving breadwinner for both in a career that she doesn’t find especially fulfilling. Jane’s similar to a 1950s husband — except she often does the chores as well. This kind of marriage does not refer to stay-at-home dads, who pull their load by raising the kids. In the workhorse-wife marriage, the “dreariness equation” is way off, and the wife ends up shouldering much more than her share.
Ed McMahon Syndrome
This often describes someone in a semihappy marriage who follows the “You are correct, sir!” strategy for getting through disagreements. A person with Ed McMahon syndrome is so eager to maintain the stability, calm and semihappy predictability of the marriage that he or she will agree with just about anything his or her spouse says, so as not to rock the boat or cause a disturbance.
Some married — and divorced — couples, have carved out a middle zone between marriage and divorce. Divorced cohabitants, for example, still maintain a household together for their children, but enjoy the (discreet) privileges of being unmarried. Other spouses are still married, but may function more like they’re separated and don’t seem to be entirely together. This makeshift middle ground has only grown since the recession of 2008 because, quite simply, many couples can’t afford to get divorced. They can’t sell their home (or they’d have to sell it at a loss) or they can’t afford to establish two households, to say nothing of paying for the divorce lawyers.
While Haag does not attempt to claim that these five types define all modern marriages her work does illuminate a growing, and equally unhealthy, side to marriage today.
If you are in an unhappy or unstable marriage and feel divorce may be your only option contact Attorney Jeffrey Feulner and the Men’s Divorce Law Firm today. We are here to support your marital decisions and explain your options.