Tier 3

music / / poetry / / philosophy / / -ology by Nick Courtright

Family Dynamics: Marriage — Economics and Control

Note: This is part two of a many-parted series discussing practical issues revolving around the family, such as the effects of suburbanization and corporatization on family happiness, divorce as a social phenomenon, the frailties of inner-city households, and the role of the father. No sources will be cited, but they do exist, somewhere. The ideas and thoughts proposed in this series are rhetorical and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs of Tier 3.

fam-dyn-ring.jpgEconomically, the married benefit because they don’t have to have two of everything—the cost of living can be split and two people in a partnership can live off of the rough equivalent of a person and a half’s spending. Also, children greatly benefit for a number of obvious reasons, most notable being that they have two consistent and emotionally invested people to look up to rather than one. Representing the one primary economic drawback to marriage is the depression of married women’s wages—is this because the males who usually hold leadership roles in the workforce frown upon women who are no longer “on the market?” This is quite possibly a factor, though that rationale would seem to posit too simple an answer. A more likely explanation is that married women, especially after having children, devote such a considerable portion of their time to family that investing in their money-making ability drops on the priority list.

Beyond the practical and community benefits, marriage does result in lessened autonomy for both individuals in the relationship. The success of the marriage unit takes precedence over the selfish desires of either party involved, and although this sacrifice of control is a sacrifice willingly accepted, it is a sacrifice nonetheless. Social theorists have argued that marriage is an institute of social control, and there is little room to argue, especially in cases where the marriage fosters an unequal partnership in which the man has final say on major decisions. Although this most likely is considerably less of an issue than it used to be, it had been thought (but was then disproved) that children can limit the sense of control women have because of the time they require; also, the act of shaping a young mind can be classified as less a position of power and more a position of survival. But while marriage on an interpersonal level may result in a sacrifice of control, marriage’s benefits can lead to a sense of greater control in the broad scheme; largely, this is a result of increased financial stability and the fact that two people with similar goals have more clout than one person. The issue of control becomes even more clouded when the following is considered: according to studies, a nonmarried woman, if her household income were equivalent to a married couple or a nonmarried man, would have the greatest sense of control of any of those groups. Unfortunately, due to deep-seated social prejudices and other roadblocks, nonmarried women usually do not attain that income. Also strikingly unfortunate is that married women rate lower on tests gauging control than any of the aforementioned groups, in spite of their increased financial wherewithal.

Ultimately, the studies regarding marriage, cohabitation, and raising children—as well as all the other angles from which you can direct attention to the modern family construct—are frustratingly inconclusive. For every result that is found, a new question must be asked. For now, this one: can humankind, with all of its inherent imperfections, ever make the union between two people a purely positive experience?


1 Comment»

  drb4 wrote @

Hi Nick-

First, I think your blog is great. I didn’t know you had it in you (I guess I should have known). : )

This is an interesting and infinitely complex subject. First, I am unmarried, so I don’t speak from experience (life has taught me to be wary of those who do not speak from experience). Take this for what it is worth.

I feel it is important to note that nothing (that immediately comes to mind) in life is a purely positive experience. I would expect marriage to be no different. I think part of the cause for today’s excessively high divorce rate is the expectation that marriage will be a purely positive experience – when many people find that this is not the case, they take the high road.

I think that most people who are fortunate enough to live into their old age and stick with their marriage throughout their life would attest that for all of it’s shortcomings (loss of control, increased dependence, less autonomy, etc), marriage is one of the few ventures in life that is MOSTLY positive.

Too many people take on this commitment without being really, truly prepared for what lies in store…

Again, great blog.

Dave B.

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