Marriage Culture

3. The Economics of Marriage

Too similar an age for marriage has resulted in the tales of domestic trouble of recent generations. The woman was frustrated. She had married too old, going to college first and then marrying. She stimulated and then frustrated her intellectual curiousity and career interest by setting up a conflict with child rearing interests at the first decade of her marriage. Had she married young, before college, to an older and more established man, she would have had some economic resources in place after her children were older to pursue further work or education toward a career. Her husband's support for her education could have been saved up by then, saved even from way back before he had married her. She could have gone to college while still in her twenties, at the point where she needed social and intellectual relief from the housebound feeling, and then gone to work while her husband relaxed his work schedule and spent more time with the children, who would then be in their early teens and needing his council especially. She would still have been young enough to have the energy and ambition to develop a career that would help with her family's later needs. She could have had it all- honor as a mother and then honor as a breadwinner and/or artist/intellectual.

Of course the similar age that had developed from years of coeducation was not the only factor in cultural and economic decline. It may be that the growth spurt after World War II was too burdensome to be sustained over the next generation, resulting in further postponment of marriage commitment. The baby boomer's "living together" occured partly out of economic fears. When men cannot supply the money, they think to themselves that at least they can give good sex. "She'll eventually leave me because I don't make enough money," men say to themselves. Of course, a similarity of age compounded these money problems. Women sometimes left "deadbeat" husbands for wealthier men who were older and were seeking a second wife who was younger. By the time men had finally achieved something in their careers they were finding younger women accessible. They had a more money and prestige for wooing and impressing a younger woman. Many involved in the arts were meeting younger women they were teaching and meeting at their showings, readings, concerts, lectures and so on. Businessmen were finding that younger unmarried career women looked up to them with admiration and respect, and they often responded to this. Relationships developed naturally through frequent contact at the office.

Older married women, on the other hand, were failing to be impressed with their mate's progress in his field, which from the perspective of similar age could not seem as awe inspiring as it would have been to a younger woman. Men who were craving respect could not help but find younger women attractive. Even when there was no giving in to the temptation to have extra-marital affairs, there were economic and psycological strains on the similar age marriages, and many couples grew apart emotionally. Children suffered from this, not understanding until they were much older and possibly married themselves to a similar aged partner. The similarity of age continually narrowed for young people but widened for older divorcees.

The matriarchal influence on baby boomer children had been too strong at the point of the children's adolesence, and this caused a lingering "father hunger" in many- a hunger for the quiet, retreating father. Fathers felt awkward about guiding their children in adolesence. Daughters were not advised about suitors very much or very well; certainly the father no longer took the traditional role of involvement. Fathers neither provided nor screened their daughter's suitors. Nor did they guide their sons; they just let them go with their mother's blessing. Off they went, the dreamy idealistic baby boomers, often into foolish and impractical careers that put a strain on their future courtship opportunities and marriages.

Same or similar age marriages seemed to work out okay for many, but the culture had too strictly mandated them, creating economic problems. The ideal of similar-aged couples who pursued careers together at the same pace was flawed. It provided no "back-up" rhythm for child rearing and later intellectual pursuits. Certainly women found men that they met in college interesting and attractive. The culture as a whole however, could not support marriage economically in a situation where too many men and women at once were seeking higher positions and were unwilling to go to less populated areas where the culture was more humble and less intellectually engaging. Birth control seemed necessary in these situations where economic expectations were high and "high culture" was sought by many, male and female, in areas where growth was constrained by urban congestion and the high cost of living in the "prime" locations. Married people became wealthy monks (remember, monks were the intellectuals- "high" culture was poor when it started out), and these married monks were postponing having children by means of birth control or abortion, or if they could afford children, they had to give them away to nannies, because they found themselves in congested high-ambition communities that could not practically support child rearing, the greatest privelege. It seems ironic to call this sort of empoverishment "wealth!"

We would not need to have so much birth control if parents would empower marriages economically rather than empower youthful folly. We would not need so much birth control if parents would encourage serious older suitors for their teenage daughters rather than leave them to teenage party boys they meet at school. We would not need so much birth control if women and men were competing less and cooperating more. We would not need so much birth control if we planned for the mutual economic good of our families and communities rather than for the good of our corporations, stock portfolios, and our high-culture pyramid schemes. We would not need so much birth control if young women could get deprogramed and culturally acclamated to the idea of having children young and having a career afterward. We would not need so much birth control if we were humbler and quieter in our spirits, and understood what is important in this life. We would not need so much birth control if more young men were taken seriously and guided firmly, if they were trained in businesses and work skills that would help them to move into less populated areas such as in the Midwest.

Currently our agribusinesses in the Midwest cannot keep their small towns and schools from dying. They are stuck in their bigness of their commerce to the congested northeast. It is a codependent situation- the northeast is congested; the Midwestern small towns are dying. Let's bring an influx of families into these towns, with lots of mutual trade between small businesses and perhaps a few small farms as well. I read of a town in Iowa that was offering to pay people with children to come, so that they could keep their schools open. If enough people moved to small rural towns together, organized with diverse skills and businesses as the goal, there would be a lively interaction of commerce set up.


4. Age Difference
5. Outline