Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Unrealistic Expectations

In a recent column Suzanne Venker, an author and cultural critic who writes about relationships, marriage and work-family issues, discusses the top three unrealistic expectations women have about marriage.

Here's her lede:
Albert Einstein once said, “Men marry women with the hope they will never change. Women marry men with the hope they will change. Invariably, they’re both disappointed.”

Men and women have completely different expectations of marriage. Men may be slower to arrive at the altar, but once there, they’re typically good to go. They don’t spend the subsequent years trying to change the woman they married, nor do they fantasize about what life with another woman might be like. They just exist.

Women, on the other hand, want to change a man once they’ve married him! Really, when you think about it, this makes no sense. But that’s what they do anyway. When they’re unsuccessful, they begin to imagine what life would be like with another husband. They don’t accept that life is a series of trade-offs and that they can’t get everything they want all wrapped up in one man.

Our culture also doesn’t encourage women to accept trade-offs. They’re taught they’re entitled to it “all” and as a result expect too much. They focus on the “what-ifs” rather than on the what is.
As a result, she avers, women have unrealistic expectations about marriage. Here are Venker's top three:
  1. That a woman's husband should be her soulmate
  2. That her marriage will be based on equal sharing of tasks and responsibilities
  3. That her marriage will make her happy
That Venker thinks these are unrealistic may provoke some modern readers with feminist inclinations to reject her column out of hand, but she has good things to say about each of these. Here's just a bit of what she writes about the first:
Here’s what love is not: being swept away on a white horse by a gorgeous, svelte guy who makes gobs of money and who, miraculously, doesn’t drink or gamble or stay out late but who’s a fully engaged husband and father who cooks, cleans, and plays with his kids for hours.

This man Does. Not. Exist. (Or if he does, he’s taken.) Many women say they know this is unrealistic, but they don’t actually accept it. If they did, they wouldn’t be chronically dissatisfied.

Once again, it’s the culture that did it to them. By the time the average woman gets married, she’s been drowning in “rom-coms,” or romantic comedies. These films are meant to be an escape from real life, but rarely are women impervious to such stories. Women feed off romance—we love that stuff! But the message coming out of Hollywood is totally unrealistic.

Love wasn’t even the original purpose of marriage. It was initially about children and property. Even once love did become a focus, women had reasonable expectations for what marriage could deliver. It wasn’t until marriage became entirely optional, as a result of the Pill and women’s growing economic independence, that marriage began to shift from being about duty and obligation (combined with love) to being about finding a soul mate.
Check out the rest of her essay and see what you think about what she has to say.