Sunday, December 03, 2017

It Is Important for Husbands to Speak Up Honestly

Married men are happier* than unmarried men.

That's what we hear all of the time.

Now, it may technically be true. If you group ALL married men and ALL unmarried men and compare them, the married men may report being happier than the unmarried men.

This doesn't mean that signing a legal contract with the state is what has made a man happy. There are many other possible explanations.

First, though, notice that when you group ALL unmarried men together, you are grouping in divorced men, widowed men, men who want to get married but haven't been able to find/win over the "right" woman (likely because they are financially struggling or ill or have some other condition that might make them unhappy), and generally unhappy men, who are less likely to attract and keep a wife. We need studies that compare intentionally unmarried men to married men. My guess is that intentionally unmarried men would report being as happy or even happier than married men. Also, notice that these are percentages about a population. You'll find individuals who are unmarried but happier than the average husband, and married  men who are very unhappy in comparison to the average bachelor. Is there any way to guarantee you'll be in the higher levels of happiness? Not that I know of, but when a man is unmarried he has far more control over his own situation.

Ideally, the relationship and the loving support of the woman in his life is contributing to the married man's happiness. This does not require a state-default legal contract. It's not that contract that makes him happy, and it probably isn't having gone through a ceremony, either. It is how she treats him. And if a man is genuinely being treated well, then good for him and good for her. May it last until death. It's not the norm, unfortunately, as we know by the simple fact that MOST marriages either end in divorce or are miserable but don't technically end in divorce, meaning happy, lasting marriages are literally in the minority.

As I've noted before, methodology in collecting and analyzing data has to be considered, and we have no way of comparing people to themselves. We can't compare John Doe, married, to himself at the same age, unmarried. The best we can do is compare identical twins, who were raised together, when one is married and one is not, but even then, twins are distinct, individual people. Are the husbands being thoroughly honest in their reporting about their happiness? Are they experiencing what resembles the Stockholm syndrome, or deluding themselves, or trying to put a positive spin on a situation they can't or won't change, not wanting to admit they made a mistake, or not sound disrespectful or ungrateful? Maybe they haven't known anything different  because they got married young or it has been so long since they've been a bachelor.

Husbands usually can't be completely honest if they think there is any possibility their wife will find out what they said. If you asked my wife, she would probably report that I'm generally happy with my marriage. Why? Because I don't complain to her and I usually don't walk around acting miserable.  If there is anything I think there's a possibility she will change for the better about what she does, how she does it, or what she doesn't do, I will bring it up to her, but if she declines I generally avoid persisting in discussing it. The truth is, I'm not generally happy with my marriage. Some times are better than others, but the "good" times are usually only good in comparison to the worst times. If you could go back to my bachelor days and describe just the "good" times to me and tell me that's what my life will be if I marry, I wouldn't have married. And when you throw in the especially bad times... well, I'd tell myself to run.

That's what I'm doing here - being brutally honest because I feel I'm free to do that here. I try to describe what it is REALLY like being a husband and a father, at least for me. If I could speak to other men in-person, assured that they would not tell my wife or kids or anyone who might eventually get word back to them, I'd warn them about the reality of what is called marriage today, family law, and family courts. More men should, but a lot of men, even if they've had the bad experiences themselves and will never (re)marry, think they're better off if other people get legally married, or they want to go to the party, or they think it will be a better situation for getting grandchildren or nieces and nephews, who can all be a lot of fun to deal with in comparison to actual parenting. Or it's a matter of "misery loves company".

Married men: Imagine for a moment you were completely free to plan your evening, your weekend, or a vacation. Your current calendar doesn't exist. Your obligations to keeping up a family home, to cater to your wife, and to tend to your children... none of that exists. More of your income is at your disposal, rather than paying bills generated by your wife or to cover the costs of parenting (your mortgage or rent payments are less, too, because you don't need as much space).

What is it you'd do? What would you honestly, truly, want to do, and with whom, if anybody?  If your answer honestly involves your current wife and/or your children, then realize that you could've still done those things without a state contract, and also realize how fortunate you are that you currently have the life you'd like. For a lot of guys, though, they'd have plans far different. This exercise could  also apply to your career. Having a wife and/or children often has an impact on your career choices. You might not have been able to make the choices in the way you truly would have preferred, because you had to think about the needs and desires of the other people in your home.

Consider your honest answers here when you report that you're "happy" or "happier" being married. If you're not doing the things you'd most like to do, then are you really happier?

Unmarried  men: If what you really, really want to do would involve a woman and/or children, then stop and consider that you could have that without the state's default legal contract. If what you currently do or would like to do doesn't require a wife or children, then consider that marrying or becoming a father could seriously limit your ability to do those things you like.

As I write this, Father's Day is coming up. I'm expecting pretty much nothing, as in not even getting to do what I want to do even for a few hours; pretty much how my birthday went (even though birthdays have traditionally been a big deal to my wife, per how she was raisded). In theory, I could have a great day with my wife and kids. More likely, though, my kids will bicker constantly and my wife will treat me like I'm her butler. I can think of many things I could do to enjoy myself that don't involve my wife or kids.

I sent my father a gift with a heartfelt note. My wife would probably give me grief if she were to find out. And technically, it is her money, too. Because I signed that state contract.

Hey, it might not be all roses for a wife (or my wife), either, but that just reinforces my point. We should be honest with people who are considering making these life choices. Married or divorced men, if you can, be honest with unmarried men who might be considering marriage. They'll be better off they're fully informed, and if they do opt to marry, their families will be better off if these guys go into the situation with their eyes wide open, instead of having expectations and assumptions that are going to be smashed by reality.

*For the purposes of this commentary, I'm using "happy" as generally used, not Dennis Prager's "be happy anyway" attitude or his "happiness is a moral obligation" approach. I'm using it more along the lines of "Is this how you  want your life to be?" in a reasonable sense. Wanting to have billions of dollars of wealth isn't really part of that equation. But

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