Polyamory done right

Regular readers will be aware I take a generally dim view of those who promote their polyamorous lifestyles in the media, noting that most who engage in the practice look like the south end of a cow heading north. It appears there are exceptions, however:

Football legend Ronaldinho is to marry TWO women at the same time, according to reports in Brazil.

Oh. So what do they look like?

I’ve got to say, they don’t look like the normal types who show up in these stories. For a start, neither has turquoise hair.

The two women have been living “harmoniously” with the former Barcelona star since December at his £5million Rio de Janeiro mansion, according to reports.

Ronaldinho started dating Beatriz in 2016, but is said to have continued his relationship with Priscilla, which began several years earlier.

But what’s in it for them?

According to reports, both lovers receive an “allowance” of around £1,500 from the footballer to spend as they wish.

Ah.

Both Priscilla and Beatriz are from Belo Horizonte, the city where the footballer played with Atletico Mineiro, leading the club to its first Copa Libertadores title in 2012.

He will marry the two women at a private ceremony inside the Santa Monica condominium, in the upmarket Barra da Tijuca district in Rio, where he has lived since 2015, according to the columnist, from Brazil’s O Dia newspaper.

See, polyamory can work, provided you’re a multi-millionaire celebrity, you select a couple of waifs from the provinces, and you’re the only one shagging around. But it’s not all roses:

During the Rio carnival this year Ronaldinho hired a VIP box in the sambadrome to watch the processions and took both women.

According to reports, everything was fine until ex-girlfriend Juliana Diniz, who the footballer dated in 2011, showed up.

Showbiz insider Leo Dias claimed that the climate became frosty as Priscilla and Beatriz didn’t hide their jealousy of the woman.

At least not for the girls; I imagine it bothered Ronaldinho not one jot.

I wonder if this story will get a puff-piece on female empowerment in the New York Times?

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Template Matched

Via reader Fay, a story of a woman in her late thirties looking for love:

Nearly three decades later—even though my career as a UN aid worker had seen me bounce all around the world and have all sorts of trysts—I was yet to meet this fictional man. And yet, thanks to my over-active imagination, he’d amassed an ever-growing list of wonderful qualities.

Where-oh-where was this romantic man, this tall and intelligent Indiana Jones, who also happened to be funny, clean, gainfully employed, multilingual, emotionally astute and incredibly deep? An old soul who exuded confidence, honesty and patience, and didn’t feel an iota of insecurity around a woman who had likely travelled more than he had?

Him? He got married while you were gallivanting around the world with the UN having “all sorts of trysts”.

I’d looked for him in bars, in airport lounges, at second hand book shops. I went on blind dates, where my anxiety over my apparently dwindling marriageability and fertility led me to trying to talk myself into suitors who I would never have considered a decade earlier.

Well yes, that dating pool does tend to dry up, just as Grandma warned. So she gave up, but what to do instead? Emphasis is mine:

Once I made the decision to end the punitive (not to mention addictive) search for romantic love, once I decided that I was enough on my own, everything shifted.

My soul-searching took me deep into the wilderness, from meditating and studying Ayurveda at an ashram in Kerala, to working on a farm on Mount Etna, to going on a solo-safari in southern Tanzania.

During that time, I focused my time and energy on, well, me, developing a heightened sense of self-awareness. Stepping away from the demands of modern city living and social pressure to couple up induced a total spiritual transformation – a journey on which I decided to give myself permission to pursue happiness and meaning in nontraditional ways.

As I said a few weeks ago:

For most people, “travelling” – as opposed to simply going on holiday – is something you do in your twenties before settling down into a proper job and/or family life. But for single women, it’s something they do well into middle-age and perhaps beyond, usually going to exotic locations where they talk in lofty terms about spirituality. There must be a pretty big market for this: reasonably wealthy women who have nothing else to do during their annual holidays but jet off somewhere exotic for a few weeks or months of “finding themselves”. I don’t think they’re going abroad to get laid, but they do seem a bit lost, as if going to a nice location will help fill the gigantic hole in their lives back home.

I’ve noticed you don’t see many middle-aged men going “travelling”, it’s nearly always women, and always alone.

Heh. On several occasions I’ve had women like this yell “You don’t know me!” when I’ve given them a brief, unsolicited assessment of their life situation. Alas, it seems I do. Fortunately, in this case there’s a happy ending:

We need to be enough on our own, and to realise that in the end, we’re never alone if we are connected to the deepest part of ourselves. That’s why at the end of my journey, I married myself – on a beach in Zanzibar, of course.

Which just leaves one question: tabby, Siamese, or tortoiseshell?

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Incentives Matter

This is probably a good thing:

Women are backing out of divorce cases because settlements are becoming less generous, experts have said.

Fewer wives are being awarded income for life and they are increasingly having their divorce settlement limited to a few years.

This is making some of them back off from going through with a split, law firms say.

In a landmark case in 2014, the High Court ruled that judges should prioritise a “transition to independence”, even if this involved “a degree of (not undue) hardship”.

Back around the time of the global financial crisis, I heard somewhere that the divorce rate had dropped in London as women found their husband’s asset pile, and by extension their expected payout, was suddenly worth a lot less. As Tim Worstall is fond of pointing out, incentives matter and it has been obvious for a long time that many women initiate a divorce in the hope of securing a hefty settlement rather than working to save the relationship. The law now recognises this, hence the divorce rate at the margins has fallen.

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Incels: a lot like modern feminists

In the past week or so a new term has entered into the mainstream lexicon: incel, which is an abbreviation of involuntarily celibate. It is the word used to describe angry young men who can’t get laid and then go onto commit acts of violence, often describing their lack of success with women as motivation for their crimes. The term has come to prominence because someone fitting this description drove a van into a bunch of people in Toronto, killing 10.

There is no doubt that the Toronto van driver and others like him display deep-rooted misogyny and hate women, but nevertheless it’s worth trying to understand how and why they became so alienated. However, feminist Twitter is having none of it, believing social ostracism and mental illness is something to be disregarded entirely insofar as men are concerned. As usual, feminist bellwether Natalia Antonova provides a neat example:

Firstly, allow me to mention the irony that a journalist and playwright is seemingly unaware of the term “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned”.

Secondly, what else is the third-wave feminist movement but a planet-sized temper tantrum that the sexual revolution didn’t deliver as promised in terms of power, prestige – and romantic partners? It sure as hell isn’t about rights, given the movement’s roots in American academia and its proponents overwhelmingly coming from coastal, metropolitan liberal arts circles where women enjoy more rights than at any point in human history. Modern, western feminism is largely about self-entitled, privileged, middle-class women demanding nice things in life they are not prepared to earn, preferring to believe it’s the unreasonableness of men that is preventing them attaining what they so richly deserve.

In terms of dealing with rejection – something all of us must face throughout our lives – feminists are no better than incels. True, they don’t go around murdering people with vans but their effect on society has been equally if not more destructive. And say what you like about deranged, homicidal incels but they at least refrain from giving self-righteous lectures about how virtuous they are when the full extent of the carnage is known. The feminist reaction to incels is that of a self-declared victim group protecting its turf and ensuring they have a monopoly on gender-based suffering; any and all sympathy or understanding for those confused, angry, and ostracised by the opposite sex must go to feminists and nobody else. Either that, or they’re simply upset because, amid all the hysterical screeching and yelling, some men are trying to get a word in edgeways.

Whatever the case, there’s not a whole lot of difference that I can see between lunatic incels and deranged, third-wave feminists.

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Just Like Us

So here I am railing against other outfits for not concentrating on their core business while I’m abandoning my very own. It’s time for a post on polyamory:

When people think of polyamorous relationships, they usually jump right to the potential complications: How will you deal with jealousy?

Indeed, how do you deal with…

…oh, never mind.

I once had these worries too, but for nine months I’ve been living with my wife and my wife’s girlfriend (a poly threesome V, rather than a triad, because all three of us are not romantically involved).

So his wife moved her girlfriend in, but he doesn’t get to have threesomes. How disappointing. Can he at least watch?

A typical day at our house begins at 6 a.m., when I grab my laptop from my bedside table and begin my work for Slate without getting dressed, or even out of bed.

A paragraph which adequately explains the quality of Slate’s content.

When it was just the two of us, my wife’s breakfast and morning routine often got in the way of my early-morning productivity. I’d feel obliged to keep her company at breakfast, chat about our plans for the day, and help her find her missing shoe (under the blanket, dear, on the floor by the couch).

Of all the problems associated with marriage and compatibility, the concept of giving the other person “space” in the morning is one I’ve found most couples understand and solve almost immediately.

She and Cassie feed and walk our dogs, plan their days, and commute together to their respective workplaces. I get a plate of bacon and eggs brought into the bedroom as I work.

For the first time in almost two years of writing about polyamory, I’m finally beginning to see an upside.

It’s probably not surprising that it’s great to have the income of an extra working adult as well. A rent we could afford as two becomes easy as pie with three, and there’s something extra relaxing about the nights when Mandy treats both of us out to dinner. It’s really common sense—if pooling resources between two people is good, pooling them with three is great!

This might be true in this case, but most polyamorists I’ve come across have been flat broke; generally they’re fuckups by nature. But what the guy is describing above (and the preceding paragraph about the division of household labour) is as much an argument for having a lodger as being polyamorous.

Before I lived with my wife’s girlfriend, I might have said that having an extra person would only make the conflicts and disagreements of daily life that much harder to work out. Instead, for our family, we’ve found the opposite is true.

I don’t know how long this arrangement has been going on, but I reckon this guy is in serious danger of being turfed out on his ear at any minute. What the article also fails to mention is that he’s transgender. Remember folks, polyamory is a perfectly normal thing which perfectly normal people do.

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Identity

During yesterday’s post on cultural appropriation a thought occurred to me which I decided to turn into a separate post. This is the relevant part:

Like most teenagers or young men, this kid doesn’t know who or what the hell he is, and he’s latched on to his parent’s culture in order to give himself some sort of identity.

It’s important in life to figure out who you are, to carve out an identity for yourself that you’re comfortable with. A large part of teenage awkwardness comes from not being who you want to be and subsequently trying to force the issue instead of waiting to see who you actually become. In my post I gave examples of foreign kids in my school adopting alternative, fantastical identities for themselves, and all teenagers do this to a degree. I have a colleague whose daughter I met when she was 13, only she was convinced she was 21. She attempted to have adult conversations and made a decent fist of it for a few minutes before coming out with something childish and you’d be reminded she was just a kid. It came across as a bit ridiculous, but at that age it didn’t matter. As a teenage boy I remember faking various quirks and character traits in the hope it would make me more interesting (it didn’t). I think everyone goes through this, trying to work out who they are and what identity they’re comfortable with. As I’ve mentioned before, the period between ages 19 and 23 were crucial for my development, having gone into it as a boy and coming out a reasonable approximation of a man (albeit still a work in progress). By the time I was 25 I had a pretty good idea who I was in most respects; I remember somebody at a corporate event telling me I should take part in some activity or other because it was “character building”. I replied that my character was already built, thanks all the same. I might be an obnoxious, opinionated, annoying troublemaker who has deep-rooted issues with authority figures, but nobody has ever said I lack character. By the time I was in my early or mid-thirties, it was locked down and I knew I’d never change. Thankfully, I was happy with who I was and still am.

The same isn’t true for everyone, though. Pretty much all men I know are married with kids and their identities are carved in stone, but I know women who are still uncertain who they are and what they want to be. These aren’t youngsters either, most are in their thirties and sometimes forties. Some have been in a succession of relationships since their early twenties, leaving them with no time to define themselves independently. I spoke to one friend recently like this, and I said she needs a period of being by herself, living independently, so she can figure out who she is and what she wants and only then finding her next boyfriend. Without knowing who you are yourself, how can you expect to find a compatible partner? I’ve noticed a lot of women think their identity will only be complete once they have a partner, happy to leave a whole chunk of themselves blank for the next guy to define. I remain unconvinced this is a route to a happy relationship.

However, one’s identity can change during a relationship, although probably not completely. Over time, a married couple will start to define one another which is very good for the stability of the relationship but can be a problem if it ends. I am good friends with a widow and she’s had to take substantial, deliberate steps to carve herself a new identity having decided, quite understandably, that she didn’t want to be defined for the rest of her life as a heroic, grieving widow. To this end she did some things which were well within her character, but would have been quite out of character were she still married. The more disapproval she got, the more content she was that she was moving on. I am happy for her.

This topic is also relevant to my recent post about single women who “go travelling” alone in middle-age. I’ve noticed this cohort often don’t seem to know who they are, which is not surprising: many have been shoved into the meat-grinder of corporate life and found themselves wondering what the hell they’re doing there. They ask their male colleagues why they’re there, and they reply “for the wife and kids, of course. What about you?” Having spent a decade establishing themselves as a corporate high-flier, it dawns on them they’d rather do something more meaningful, but what? There are no obvious answers, which is why you see them wittering on about spirituality and travelling to exotic locations, where they post pictures of the food on Instagram. It’s a last-gasp effort to build a different identity, and no less forced than a skinny white teenager inserting rap lyrics into his everyday speech.

The other mistake people make is to take shortcuts, and this is far more common than you’d think. Consider how many people on social media leap onto a bandwagon without understanding any of the underlying issues, merely to give themselves some sort of identity and purpose. The narrator in my book expressed skepticism of how deep Katya’s feminist convictions actually ran; she could spout boilerplate feminist soundbites, yet had entered into a disastrous marriage with a polyamorist in order to secure a US residency permit. Hardly the behaviour of a committed feminist, you’d think. When you scratch the surface of modern feminism and movements like MeToo, you see most are using it as a badge of identity in the absence of any other which people might find interesting. This is doubly true for any men involved.

Others take shortcuts of a different kind, which I mentioned in this post:

There is a section of society out there which is not completely stupid (but not particularly bright either) who lack the talent, work ethic, and self-discipline to enter into professional or corporate environments and so attach themselves like parasites to the genuine arts world in order to give themselves some sort of identity.  The problem with the arts world – as opposed to say, law, engineering or music – is there is no quality control: anyone can tag along, dress up in costumes, get drunk, take some photographs, and claim they’re an “artist”.

What else is dying one’s hair a stupid colour, covering oneself in tattoos, or growing a silly beard other than a cheap attempt to convince others you have an interesting personality? Out of all the hipsters you see, how many have actually bought into the lifestyle and will stay that way, and how many have just joined in because working minimum wage in a coffee shop aged 30 is otherwise seriously uncool?

What identity you end up with is important, but not so important as ensuring it is one you arrive at naturally and are comfortable with. I’m surprised how many people are out there who either don’t know who they are, or are pretending they’re someone they’re not. You can spot them a mile off, and they don’t make for a pretty sight.

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Feminism, Relationships, and Sociopathy

Once again Natalia Antonova provides a useful insight into the mindset of modern feminists:

The context is fidelity in marriage:

First let’s just address the point that Antonova’s writings are those of someone stuck in permanent, angry adolescence yet she’s telling others to grow up. And the therapy remark? Well, yeah.

But let’s look at her main point: in a marriage, “nobody owes anyone shit”. So presumably this:

“From this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part, according to God’s holy ordinance; and thereto I pledge myself to you.”

is just a load of guff they say to keep the wedding guests amused. Note that both the bride and groom say these words, not just the bride, but that doesn’t stop feminists deriding marriage as a one-sided affair in which the man takes ownership of the woman.

But this doesn’t necessarily have to be about marriage. Any relationship is based on trust, mutual respect, and compromise and within a short time each party owes the other something. Perhaps not in a court of law, but society is governed by its own set of rules and relationships are by definition a series of mutual obligations. If I get drunk and make a fool of myself at a friend’s party, I owe the affected people an apology the next day. If a friend or partner needs my help with something, I am committed to do so regardless of inconvenience to me (within reason). If it’s someone as close as your wife or husband, you are obliged to make all manner of difficult compromises and put yourself to considerable inconvenience for the sake of the other person. That’s the entire point, is it not?

However, this seems to get missed more and more in the modern age. Last year I said in the context of a couple splitting up:

The modern advice is ignore, ignore, ignore – as if the whole thing happened in isolation. I suppose it depends on who you are, but I’m the sort of guy who thinks a woman who you’ve been in a relationship with deserves a period after the breakup of being pissed off, and she has a right to communicate with you.

Modern men and women want to enter into something as complicated as a relationship but expect to be able to exit at the push of a button as if it never happened. I’ve seen women declaring love and talking earnestly with a man about long-term plans and then a few days later end the relationship by phone and block all communication saying “it’s best we both move on”, like some toad of a politician who’s been caught breaking the law. Men do the same thing, and it puts a serious question mark over anything which happened prior to that: if you’re prepared to pull the plug and run away like that, it was probably never serious in the first place – and he or she is certainly not ready for the give-and-take of a proper relationship.

Recently I read these words on the Facebook page of a New York feminist, again in the context of a couple who had split up and the man wasn’t being sufficiently mute about it:

We owe you nothing. Not our bodies, or our time, or looking a certain way, acting a certain way, or even an explanation or response.

Got that, everyone? When we enter into a relationship with you, we don’t even have to give you our time, and we can walk away whenever we like without even a response or explanation. And we can behave however we please, as well. This is bad enough in itself, but the mindset leads to women initiating divorce for the most petty of reasons, knowing the law will allow them to take the house and the bulk of her husband’s wealth along with their children. If someone were to make a list of the ideologies which are causing the greatest damage to western society, modern feminism would be very near the top. This is why I rail against it so much on this blog.

The idea that you owe nobody anything in a relationship goes beyond amoral into outright sociopathy. Thanks to Antonova’s habit of airing her personal laundry all over Twitter, we know she was in an abusive marriage and is now divorced. I do not condone marital abuse of any kind, but I will say that if you enter into a relationship with the attitude that “nobody owes anyone shit” things are unlikely to go very well thereafter. It’s why I said the other day that knowing a person’s past is absolutely essential when beginning a new relationship: you have no idea what you may be getting into. There are some serious sociopaths out there, and while many do, not all of them advertise it.

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Lonely Planet

Over the weekend I was browsing through Instagram and a suggestion popped up, probably based on an email or old phone number I have somewhere on my phone. I still get my maid in Nigeria appearing in my Facebook recommendations, which always raises a smile because she’s sat in my old apartment on my sofa with my guitar as a prop. Somehow old numbers and email addresses stay in your phone like Hepatitis C, infecting every app you’ve got on the thing. Anyway, the Instagram suggestion was an American woman I briefly knew in Paris, who I last heard was working a reasonable job in New York a year or two ago. Back then she was in her early thirties and seemingly incapable of holding down a relationship of any kind; a series of brief flings was about all she could manage before things collapsed around her ears, but I’d had no reason to believe she’d not have found anyone in New York in the meantime.

Out of curiosity I clicked through her photos and saw last January she’d taken a leave of absence from her job, dyed her hair turquoise, and spent the next few months travelling alone in Europe and South America. By now she’d be around 34 or 35, and it occurred to me the only people I know who go “travelling” these days are single, middle-aged women. For most people, “travelling” – as opposed to simply going on holiday – is something you do in your twenties before settling down into a proper job and/or family life. But for single women, it’s something they do well into middle-age and perhaps beyond, usually going to exotic locations where they talk in lofty terms about spirituality (while scoffing at anything which even hints at formal religion). There must be a pretty big market for this: reasonably wealthy women who have nothing else to do during their annual holidays but jet off somewhere exotic for a few weeks or months of “finding themselves”. I don’t think they’re going abroad to get laid, but they do seem a bit lost, as if going to a nice location will help fill the gigantic hole in their lives back home. Naturally, every scenic spot must be photographed and uploaded with hashtags such as #girlswhotravel and #somuchfun and everyone assured she’s having an amazing time.

I used to travel a lot – and I mean a lot – but eventually you get tired of it. You quickly realise a million other people have walked this trail before you and, aside from the visuals, your experience is about as authentic as a trip to Disneyland. Yes, I’ve heard the stories of how you “found a guide who took us to a place none of the tourists go” and I don’t believe them, just as you shouldn’t have believed your guide. A week here or there, and a few long weekends, is enough for me these days and most travelling I’ve done in the past few years has been to see people rather than places. Give me a week kicking around a mate’s house somewhere than a month on the Inca trail any day.

I’ve noticed you don’t see many middle-aged men going “travelling”, it’s nearly always women, and always alone. One possible answer for the latter is all their friends are tied-down with family and can’t take the time away, but most middle-aged single women have a whole rugby team who are in the same situation, so why don’t they go in a group? I suspect the reason they go on holiday alone and the reason they are single are one and the same: they’re either nuts or simply not much fun to be around. I can just imagine the bitching and sniping that would ensue if two or three childless middle-aged women went travelling together, it would make the Battle of Monte Cassino seem like a cordial affair. I also suspect turquoise hair beyond age 25 is an indicator of personal issues which no amount of travelling will fix.

Now I might be being a bit unfair; there’s nothing wrong with going travelling after all, at any age. But looking at this woman’s Instagram account, and recalling others like it…well, they seem a bit forced, as if they’d rather be sharing the experience with someone, or doing something else altogether. A few women I’ve known have gone travelling following a relationship breakup, whereas guys tend to do a week or two blow-out then get on with other aspects of their lives, namely their job. Given how much emphasis is put on modern women to devote their lives to a career, it surprises me how many drop the whole thing to go travelling. Men, unless deep in a mid-life crisis, generally don’t do this, probably because they can’t afford it.

As women entering middle-age without partners becomes more common, I expect we’ll see more of this. I’ll keep an eye-out for articles in the usual places.

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History and Character

A reasonably common reaction to my book which has come mainly from women in their early thirties is:

“None of Katya’s past should matter; it’s in the past!”

At least two women have said they believe the past has no bearing on the present, and a line should be drawn whereby a person’s entire history is consigned to a vault and not considered in the relationship going forward. In this post I’m going to unpack that idea.

Let’s start with the premise that somebody’s character – an aggregate of a person’s behaviours, values, opinions, and attitudes – is important to a functional relationship (of any kind). I’m not at this stage going to comment on whether someone’s character is good or bad, but let’s assume that character is important in determining whether two people are compatible. If you happen to believe character and compatibility have no role to play in a relationship, then you’re probably going to disagree with the rest of this post.

So having established that character is important, how do we go about determining a person’s character having just met them? The best way is to look at their history, specifically how they have behaved, what decisions they’ve made, and – crucially – what they think of those decisions now. A review of someone’s history will carry far more weight than someone telling you who they are. This is why, at the start of any relationship, each party is expected to give a summary of their life to date (the term curriculum vitae loosely translates to “the course of my life”). Now it is up to the individual to decide which parts of his or her life are necessary to include, but there are some things which are not optional. A common follow-up to the remark to the one at the top of the post is:

“But it’s none of his business, it’s the woman’s private life; she’s not obliged to tell him anything.”

So let’s suppose a man beats the shit out of his ex-wife so badly she’s left in a coma. Is this private too? What about jail sentences, or other criminal convictions? Does a man have the right to withhold such information from any future partner on the grounds that it’s in the past and his private business? Okay, that’s a bit extreme, so let’s suppose a man has been married before, or fathered illegitimate children with whom he has no relationship. Is this private information he’s not obliged to disclose to a new partner? No, and the reason is because history is a reliable guide to character, and character is important.

When you’re young, your history doesn’t matter much because you don’t have one. Nobody will judge a 20-year old on their past decisions because they usually amount to dumb teenage stuff which everyone does. But when you pass 30 you have a decade of adult life behind you, and the decisions you made in that period are what define you as a person. I once met a guy who, at age 27, had been married for 6 months and it looked as though he was heading for divorce. He was working like hell to keep it together (he succeeded) and he confessed his biggest fear was having to explain why his first marriage failed for the rest of his life. This is not something you can just brush off; people will ask questions and – in many cases – you’ll be obliged to answer them. Now being over forty and divorced isn’t such a big deal, because any new partner will likely be quite understanding. But divorced at 27? You’re going to be carrying that history around solo for several years at least.

Marriage and divorce are not things you can leave out of your life history, nor are kids and jail sentences. Part of being a mature, functioning adult is knowing what to include and what to leave out. Only a fool would blurt out everything because, as my lady friends said, some things are private and nobody else’s business. The example I like to use is that if a woman goes on holiday to Mexico and fucks a waiter, she’s best off not blurting that out to any future partner. It might reveal something about her character and it might not, but it’s unlikely to be defining if it was a one-off. It’s up to the individual to decide, but some things you are obliged to disclose in a relationship, earlier rather than later. Anyone who waits until a relationship is firmly established before revealing they have children from a former marriage can be reasonably accused of lying by omission.

The other remark people then make is:

“Okay, so they did some stuff, but they don’t have to justify it to anyone!”

Which is true, they don’t. But if they want to portray their character in the best possible light, they’ve got some explaining to do. Anyone who has been married and divorced is obliged to explain to any future partner what went wrong. They don’t have a right to an explanation per se, but if they are weighing you up as a future partner they do. One of the biggest challenges fathers of young men have is to get them to think long-term at an age when they have poor impulse control. If you get a criminal record aged 18 you will have to explain and justify that for your entire life. The same applies if your 16 year old son gets a classmate pregnant and she keeps the baby. If a woman who at age 21 marries a foreign guy twice her age and divorces him the minute her new passport comes through, she’s obliged to explain her decisions to any potential partner if she wants a future relationship.

Now I made an important comment earlier in this post:

The best way is to look at their history, specifically how they have behaved, what decisions they’ve made, and – crucially – what they think of those decisions now.

A person’s past decisions and behaviours are not the only indicators of their character; equally important is how they reflect on their past. Someone released from a 2-year prison sentence for burglary aged 20 who never got arrested again, settled down, raised a family, and is deeply repentant and ashamed of his criminal conviction is of a very different character from someone who spent the next decade in and out of jail for similar crimes. Someone who got divorced, admits they made mistakes, maintained polite relations throughout the process and bears no ill-will to their former spouse is of a different character from someone who flies into an apoplectic rage at the mere mention of their name ten years later. Someone who brags about whoring in Thailand or slutting it up in New York is revealing something about their character; another who looks back on the same episode with deep embarrassment is revealing something else.

How people have changed is crucial to understanding somebody’s character, which is why alcoholics stress the number of days they’ve been dry. It’s a demonstration of their reformed character, usually for the benefit of those who learned the words from the person’s mouth were nothing but lies. If an alcoholic has been dry for 10 years, it’s a fair assumption that he’s a changed man; if he was on the piss last night, he probably isn’t. Words are important, but sometimes they’re not enough.

The idea that life is a slate which you can keep wiping clean is nonsense, as is the idea that one’s character is separate from the life you’ve led to date. Now it is understandable that some people want to leave everything in the past, but what they’re really trying to do is present themselves as a different character than the one they are. Now why would they want to do that? If they don’t like who they are, then they should change, not try to hide who they are. Similarly, while they are under no obligation to justify themselves to anybody, nobody with whom they want a relationship is obliged to judge their character favourably either. When people wail Don’t judge me!” what they mean is “Don’t base my character on what you see!” Again, a judgement need not be good or bad, simply that it is incompatible with what the other person believes is necessary for a lasting, functional relationship. Perhaps some women don’t mind if their new boyfriend is a career criminal who spends half his time in jail. Perhaps some men don’t mind their latest love stars in porn films.

Everyone is different, and each must make their own character assessment of any potential partner. But to do that, they must be provided a history in one form or another, along with an accompanying narrative. Like it or not, our past is who we are; you can no more pretend it doesn’t matter than what you say and do in the present.

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Modern American Marriages

There are suckers, and then there’s this guy:

Before I married my wife two years ago, she had huge amounts of debt to her name, including large amounts of student loans. After we married, we diligently almost paid everything off, helped by my salary being three times that of my wife.

That was nice of him.

She recently asked for a divorce, saying she was taking the house and my retirement.

We’ve only been married a few years, and frankly I can’t help feeling taken advantage of. The only advice I can find discusses whose responsibility the student loans would be, but now it just seems that she got me to pay all of her debts, and got some new stuff, while I threw away years of my life.

There’s nothing wrong with splitting household bills and other ongoing expenses in a ratio commensurate with each person’s respective income, but paying off some woman’s historical student loans is just stupid. I assume she couldn’t pay her own debts because the degree she obtained was worthless. That should have served as a warning sign all by itself. I’m sure there were red flags flapping noisily in the breeze from the moment he met this woman, but he ignored them all. Hopefully he’s young enough to bounce back having learned some very valuable lessons.

Another article gives us an insight into how these sort of marriages come about. Let’s start with this line:

We had a baby before we even got married…

Anyone want to guess how this story ends?

…and from that point on, we were mostly trying hard not to drown in debt, which left no time and no money for swimming with the dolphins somewhere in the Caribbean. We did manage to take exactly one weeklong vacation a year—the time off my husband’s sales job allotted. And because we only got one, we took it as a family.

Each cherished family trip got put on a credit card that won’t be paid off anytime soon.

Starting a family when young is expensive and requires work, eh? Who knew?

Annoying as it may be, there is truth to the implication that my husband and I didn’t cater to our marriage enough. The fact is, we couldn’t afford to. We live paycheck to paycheck. My husband also works long hours, including many nights. Often, he wasn’t home until I was in bed.

The author, one Sarah Bregel, is a freelance writer. Put another way, the reason why the family is skint is because one party would rather indulge in a hobby rather than demean herself by getting a job that pays a regular income. I notice they live in Baltimore. Is this cheap? I doubt it. The husband works in sales, and she’s a hobby-writer. Couldn’t they have lived somewhere cheaper? Something I’ve noticed about “artists” and freelance writers in the US sharing sob stories about poverty is that most live in New York or around San Francisco. You never hear any of them moving out to Wyoming or Mississippi to save on living costs.

For eight years, I’ve worked from home while taking care of kids to avoid the massive and crushing costs of child care, which typically meant pulling double duty. I spent all day with kids, then worked after they went to bed, or on weekends, or with a kid on my lap to meet deadlines. I’ve swapped kids with neighbors, worked in cafes with play areas. My mother and stepfather, who both still work full time, watched my daughter one day a week from the time she could walk until she was in school full time. Now they do the same with my son, for which I am eternally grateful. Still, time away from my kids has seldom been free time or time spent on my marriage. It’s spent working, typing away so I can make ends meet.

Yes, this is what’s known as “parenting”. Only nowadays you’re not required to work ten hours per day in the fields or in a factory, and you have such things as washing machines and vacuum cleaners at your disposal. Honestly, I think the world would be a far better place if lefty writers were compelled to have their grandmothers review their work before publication.

Date nights were rare. We were lucky to have one quiet dinner together every several months, if that. And during the last year of our marriage, I can only think of two occasions where we went on actual dates.

What is she, a teenager? They’re trying to raise two kids on a tight budget and she’s bleating about not going on “dates”.

The reality was, if my husband wasn’t working late, then I was. Or we were child rearing. Or making dinner. Or doing massive piles of laundry and dishes before collapsing. Because when you’re a paycheck-to-paycheck family, staying ahead of the bills never ends. And neither do household chores (especially if there are children lighting fires in your home throughout the day).

What did she think getting married and having children entailed? Lolling about the house watching TV and going on dates?

While it seems like the stuff of fantasy to me, the ability to outsource chores such as these can have massively positive impacts on relationship satisfaction, says new research out of Harvard Business School and the University of British Columbia. Well, go figure. I never really thought cleaning up potty accidents and pet stains and folding clothes on such a constant basis were necessarily good for my marriage, really.

Ah yes. Never mind raising children to be functional adults and providing a safe, stable home, what’s important is your happiness.

It’s been fairly well-documented that lower-income couples split up more frequently than couples who earn more.

It does? Here’s what the linked article actually says (emphasis mine):

[By] estimating the relationships among marriage, divorce, work effort, and wage rates, researchers found that being married and having high earnings reinforce each other over time. Others looked at the how income affects the marriage and divorce decisions of young Americans; they found that high earnings capacity increases the probability of marriage and decreases the probability of divorce for young men, but decreases the probability of marriage for young women and has no effect on the likelihood of divorce. A different study used the NLSY79 to identify causal effects of marriage and cohabitation on total family income. This study found that women who enter a cohabiting relationship gain roughly 55 percent in needs-adjusted family income, defined as income per adult equivalent, regardless of whether or not they marry; for men, the level of needs-adjusted family income does not change when they make the same transitions. In addition, a 2009 study found that marriage lowers female wages by 2 to 4 percent in the year of marriage and lowers the wage growth of men by 2 percentage points and of women by about 4 percentage points.

In other words, when a freelance writer shacks up with a hardworking salesman, she gains approximately 55%. Kerr-ching!

Plain and simple, fewer bucks in the bank means more financial stress. It also means fewer dollars to put into keeping your marriage afloat. If you aren’t making deposits, literally and figuratively, pretty soon you’ll be coming up empty. Sure, there are at-home dates to be had. A few precious moments of chatter once the kids are in bed before you drift off to sleep yourself. Yes, there are ways of maintaining a marriage that cost nothing. But even those require time to connect, and for working parents, time is money.

It doesn’t seem to have occurred to this woman that for centuries pretty much all men and women lived in absolute, utter, grinding poverty yet still managed to keep their marriages together and raise children. Here she is, living in the richest country on the planet in an era of unprecedented wealth, claiming her marriage can’t work because they’re too poor.

Still, I know there are things my partner and I could’ve done better or differently.

He could have married someone less selfish, perhaps?

The truth is, our financial difficulties were only one issue among many. It just made all the rest harder to navigate. Having financial struggle doesn’t mean your marriage is automatically doomed, of course. It just means you need to work harder to stay connected and maybe get content with a little less marital bliss than you envisioned.

Which explains why divorces are so rare among billionaires like Donald Trump and Hollywood celebrities.

What’s not said enough is that becoming passing ships doesn’t just happen out of sheer negligence, though. Romantic dinners and getaways might be one helpful component to a lasting marriage. But imagining everyone has that kind of freedom is a certain kind of privilege. No, money might not buy happiness, but it does buy more date nights, therapy, and those ever-loving adults-only vacations I keep hearing about.

She’s complaining her husband didn’t earn enough to pay for her therapy; I fear even Roman Abramovich would struggle to fund the amount this woman needs.

I missed the boat on that one, but you go ahead and sip that piña colada at your all-inclusive resort. I’ll be over here babysitting all the neighborhood kids and writing about fitness gear at 4 a.m. so I can finance my divorce.

Meaning, she needs to hire a lawyer who will clean her husband out leaving him homeless and with limited access to the kids. Welcome to modern marriage in America, folks.

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