TMLutas' blog posts can now be found at Flit(tm)

November 21, 2003

Barren Marriage

Posted by TMLutas

Jacob Levy addresses the issue of why should childless heterosexual couples retain marriage privileges as a right and not just a policy preference (among other wrinkles in the marriage debate). In his post he states

Grandparents provide role models for parents. And so on. But young childless heterosexual marriages (like my own) don't really add anything measurable to the available stock of human knowledge about how men and women should relate in parental marriages.

Well, it's a truism that there is nothing new under the sun but I would reply that from personal experience he's just wrong. As someone who married just before I hit 30, I can say that the experience of all your friends getting married around you is a powerful signal to stop just fooling around and start seriously looking for a wife. Matrimony in one's social set encourages further matrimony. Some of these marriages will be barren, others will be fertile, but if only those with a prior positive fertility test were trying, the alternative model of 'confirmed bachelor' would be strengthened. That might just be dismissed as a policy preference but it's more like an ancient heuristic that long predated the US Constitution. Back in the old country boys marry by x age, girls marry by y age and if you started hitting an age where everybody was married but you, powerful social pressures were brought to bear to help and encourage you.

Furthermore, I've actually had someone tell me that they used me as a marital model about two years into my own marriage. Don't kid yourself that because your marriage isn't extensive you aren't being observed and imitated. I've been on both sides of this particular transaction. In fact, I find myself looking for advice from some of my peers more often than people in older generation marriages.

An interesting survey might consist of actually asking people who do they imitate for their marital models. Certainly there might be a lot of talk about looking to prior generations but that isn't going to help out in crises that are particular to the current generation. The bottom line is that admirable people get imitated, no matter what their age, race, nationality, or class. We are all role models and, deep down, everybody's always known that.

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