Recoiling from Resounding Resentment

Dalrock’s latest post challenged the findings of the authors of this paper, “Divorce Rates Have Halved for New Wives. Why?” and took some umbrage at the suggestion that men doing better is a plausible reason for women to not choose divorce. He quotes the conclusion of The Marriage Foundation paper:

Because it is almost entirely the reduction of wife-granted divorces concentrated into the early years of marriage that accounts for the overall 22% reduction in divorce rates since the 1993 peak, any explanation for this phenomenon has to account for wives being less prone to divorce. By far the most plausible explanation relates to wives perception of husbands.

In other words, husbands are doing better during the early years of marriage.

Which he rejects:

The paper he cites to back up his assertion that men’s commitment matters in marriage and women’s doesn’t is Commitment: Functions, Formation, and the Securing of Romantic Attachment.  Strangely I can’t find such a claim being made in that paper.

In the comments he goes on to say:

The reason which immediately came to my mind is 1) Women are marrying later in the UK (as I referenced here). 2) Older women divorce at much lower rates than younger women. The basic thesis is the same though, that perceived remarriage opportunities are lower. EPL isn’t about a one time family detonation, but about trading up.

and

[W]hat I found so noteworthy about the part I quoted was after he shared some astounding statistics showing that new wives were becoming far better at honoring their commitments in the UK, this was then immediately reprocessed as proof that new husbands must have suddenly had greater commitment to their marriages. This kind of doublethink is truly impressive. There isn’t even a hint of cognitive dissonance.

I think it’s possible that there’s no hint of cognitive dissonance because there’s no doublethink at play. From “Benson 2012 Marriage…”:

This gender-specific finding strongly suggests men are doing better in the early years of marriage.

It seems that what they mean by “doing better” is “getting their way” in the relationship; whether that is a choice to stay or to leave. To wit:

The rate at which wives have been granted divorce has fallen 27% during the first ten years of marriage compared to a rise of 1% for husbands. The most striking reduction is a 51% fall in the rate at which divorces are granted to wives during the first three years.

First off: Basically everyone who wants a divorce gets one. So, presumably, everyone who wants to stay married doesn’t file because they already have what they want, and everyone who does file gets the divorce they want, but the other spouse who did not file does not. Those spouses on the receiving end of divorce are not “doing better”, but “doing badly”, i.e., not “getting their way”.

Second, husbands are choosing to leave their wives in about the same percentages as they have for the last several decades; even going up 1%. (The husbands who file maintain “getting their way”, and the husbands who are not filed upon also “get their way”.) Yet wives are choosing to leave their husbands at slightly less than half the rate they they previously were. This suggests that wives are happy to continue in marriage as their path of “getting their way”; whereas before twice as many wives were filing to “get their way”. Since neither the laws and demographics have not changed, and since everyone who wants a divorce can have one: The authors of Benson 2012 Marriage Foundation have concluded that since women are happier with their husbands, (and not much else has changed) then some husbands have changed how they go about the marriage. Hence: “Doing better”.

In the early years of a relationship, constraints can be added either by deliberate intent – “deciding” – or by happenstance – “sliding”. But whether deliberate or not, every important relationship transition – such as sleeping together, moving in together, having a baby, getting married – adds an extra constraint, crucially making it marginally harder to leave and easier to stay even if things are not going well. This short term pressure to stay in a less than ideal situation is usually called “inertia” (Stanley et al, 2006) but can also be thought of as “premature entanglement” (Glenn, 2002).

[…]

Amongst couples who had been married for five years, men who cohabit before getting engaged (some “sliders”, some “deciders”) tend to have consistently lower levels of dedication compared both to men who get engaged before cohabiting (“deciders” only) and also to women in both categories. The order of events — moving in and getting engaged — thus appears to matter in some way a lot more to men than to women (Rhoades et al, 2009). The researchers concluded that some men were “sliding” into a relationship, getting stuck because of the “inertia” of cohabitation, and thus not fully “deciding” even when they got married. In other words, men’s commitment is specifically dependent on “deciding” whereas women’s commitment is relatively independent of “sliding” or “deciding”.

But, where did Benson 2012 Marriage Foundations get that it was specifically men’s “deciding” for commitment (as opposed to “sliding” into commitment )that was driving this change; instead of women’s sliding or deciding commitment? From “Commitment: Functions, Formation, and the Securing of Romantic Attachment” (by Rhoades et al):

The tendency of individuals to sacrifice, or forego immediate self-interest for the good of the partner or relationship, is strongly dependent on the presence of commitment. Not only does commitment predict the number of sacrifices performed for partners (Van Lange et al., 1997), it also is associated with both the degree to which individuals feel satisfied with sacrificing for their partner’s benefit (Stanley & Markman, 1992) and their willingness to sacrifice (Van Lange et al., 1997; Wieselquist et al., 1999). Whitton, Stanley, and Markman (2007) showed that commitment to the relationship’s future is strongly related to whether or not day-to-day relationship sacrifices are perceived as harmful to the self—especially for men

.

In other words: Does the man feel he is making sacrifices for a person and relationship he has deliberately chosen and is purposefully building; or is he making sacrifices for a relationship that he has found himself in by external forces; love, pregnancy, fear of being alone, etc.? If it’s the former, then his commitment for the long haul is strengthened. If it is the latter, then that sacrifice is a drain on his commitment; even if if marginally increases short-term inertia to stay in the relationship. Wives who feel this lack of commitment and the resentful sacrifice are more likely to choose divorce as the path to “getting their way”.

This is explained further in this section from “Commitment: Functions, etc.”:

Stanley and colleagues (2004) assessed dedication commitment in a random national (U.S.) sample to compare married respondents who did or did not cohabit premaritally. We found that married men who lived with their wives prior to marriage reported significantly less dedication to their wives than those who did not cohabit before marriage. This finding led to speculation that the well-replicated risks associated with premarital cohabitation may, in part, be due to a subset of couples in which the men were always less committed to their partners but were nevertheless propelled by the greater constraints of cohabitation into marriage. We call this phenomenon inertia, which is the property in physics representing the amount of energy it would take to move an object from its present trajectory or position to another. We suggest that living together, especially when sharing a single address, makes it relatively more difficult than dating without cohabiting for a couple to veer from a path toward a future together, even into marriage (see Stanley, Rhoades et al., 2006).Glenn (2002) referred to a similar risk to mate selection, called premature entanglement, which interferes with the search for a good fit between partners.

Now, we don’t see the number data here because those are tucked away in a boatload of other studies these two papers (“Benson 2012 Marriage etc.” and “Commitment: Functions, etc.”) reference, but if we believe they are reading those tucked-away numbers correctly, then they’ve got a pretty good argument (not definitive, but pretty good) for how male leadership itself at the various phases of relationship transition (engagement, cohabitation, pregnancy, etc.–and all the sacrifices that go with them) is its own incentive for the wife to stay; to choose continuing the marriage as her path to “getting her way”. They’re seeing that this “leadership incentive” the husband provides can outweigh those other incentives that push women to choose “getting their way” via divorce; which persist even now just as forcefully as they have over the last several decades as neither laws nor demographics have changed remarkably enough to account for a 27% drop in wife-granted divorce.

Hence: “Men are doing better”; most specifically at “deciding commitment” leading to continued marriage. I find that extraordinarily encouraging and hopeful because there are ghosts of Christian marriage haunting those studies. Yet…they are scaring the hell out of men who nurse resentment for their sacrifices; who are self-righteous towards their spouses; who did not and do not choose to decide commitment to their wives, but rather slid into it by guilt, lust, happenstance, or whatever.

The thing is: They can change that today.  And while it is no guarantee that wives will follow the freely-given sacrificial commitment into happy marriage, God will still be glorified, and such men will still be doing better.

I have every confidence that Dalrock is not one of those resentful men. My suspicion is that he (like all of us about many different topics) has over-estimated human preferences for material incentives; specifically of women, and even including “trading up husbands” among those materialist incentives. It’s a classic error of the free-market economist. Good company; all things considered.

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26 thoughts on “Recoiling from Resounding Resentment

  1. This goes sideways for me where you say that “doing better” means “getting their way” and offer a quote as proof text which states some statistical changes. I cannot get that doing better means getting their way. I struggle to grasp “getting their way” as describing the outcome for the person who stays married or wants to stay married. Maybe it’s just me but that whole derivation leaves me confused, so much so that I can’t tell if Id agree or disagree with the argument more even if I understood it.

    I take “doing better” as I am convinced it is meant. It seems Occamish, wives are not divorcing men because men are “doing better” to keep wives happy. I can buy that. Dalrocks objection and his mention of cognitive dissonance was accurate, assuming my interpretation of “doing better” is right, in that the writer goes on to say that the whole thing comes down to….well, MEN. It’s as if women are set at a capacity for commitment and a threshold of discomfort, discontentment, something, above which supersedes her FIXED capacity for commitment. This means that the man ramps up his efforts to keep her discontentment below the threshold which commitment only will keep her from divorcing, hence men clearly are increasing their commitment lest women, with FIXED levels of commitment, would continue to divorce them.
    An easy conclusion would be that women have increased their level of commitment. That would be a good thing to say about women and its puzzling why the author insists on making the man’s commitment the one that is dynamic. I don’t see blame shifting or other insidiousness in the claim Dalrock (and I agree with him) objected to as doublethink. I just think its an extremely odd and awkward way to frame his conclusions.

    Cane writes:

    Since neither the laws and demographics have not changed, and since everyone who wants a divorce can have one: The authors of Benson 2012 Marriage Foundation have concluded that since women are happier with their husbands, (and not much else has changed) then some husbands have changed how they go about the marriage. Hence: “Doing better”.

    I am still confused about the conflation (my choice of word) of “doing better” and “getting their way” but I have other questions here. If Dalrock is correct, he says that in fact the demographics HAVE changed, that being the age women marry headed up up up. That’s not to be ignored along with the conclusion Dalrock draws from it.

    The elephant in the room is, assuming we can agree that “doing better” somehow means he is more pleasing to the wife, she is more content with him, that sort of thing, what is it that the men are doing that is better? There is zero suggestion of an answer to that question. Is he learning game? Is he suddenly a “Christian or spiritual leader “ of the home? Has he gotten better at leading? Or….is he more supplicating, more pandering, more a Lift chaser in the marriage? We’ve no idea. The context leads me to suppose the later and not the former. The entirety of social statistics reporting and the zeitgeist from which it draws data is all about the ever more egalitarian cum woman-headed-household therefore I cannot imagine a study such as this suddenly heralding traditional marital models. If they had empirically found evidence of such they would have had to do some serious Pretzelian Dialect to sell it and not have feminists mobilizing. No, I am fairly sure they just know that the reader knows that the conclusions are pleasing to women.

    I hope Ive asked for clarity and not just seemed to nit pick, it was not my intention to do that.

  2. @Empath

    No, it doesn’t seem like nit-picking. I had to think a bit before I chose “getting their way”.

    Look at that zeitgeist you referred to: How would such people measure “happiness” or “bitterness”? They measure freedom and pleasure. They measure “actualized choice”, i.e., “getting their way”.

    I have to go to a party, but I’ll respond more fully later.

  3. Hmmmm…

    I understand and think I agree with your premise and conclusion. However, I do wonder how much of that is due to the rising age of marriage giving less incentives to women to divorce, more time for men emasculated in childhood to find their masculinity, and how much is simply less people getting married leading to those that still do being those particularly well suited to marriage (and thus able to endure the incentives to destroy a marriage).

    Those seem like significant variables to me.

  4. @Cane Caldo

    It seems that what they mean by “doing better” is “getting their way” in the relationship;

    Not at all. What they mean by “doing better” is exactly the opposite. As you quoted:

    The tendency of individuals to sacrifice, or forego immediate self-interest for the good of the partner or relationship, is strongly dependent on the presence of commitment. Not only does commitment predict the number of sacrifices performed for partners (Van Lange et al., 1997), it also is associated with both the degree to which individuals feel satisfied with sacrificing for their partner’s benefit (Stanley & Markman, 1992) and their willingness to sacrifice (Van Lange et al., 1997; Wieselquist et al., 1999). Whitton, Stanley, and Markman (2007) showed that commitment to the relationship’s future is strongly related to whether or not day-to-day relationship sacrifices are perceived as harmful to the self—especially for men

    You are trying awfuly hard to make sense out of a nonsense set of papers. Why? Why also do you insist on ignoring the demographic changes, as Empath mentioned above? Women are marrying later when their options are more limited and when we know women are less likely to divorce. Remarriage rates are also falling, with remarrige prospects being especially low for women past their twenties. Add to this the reduction in the pool of marriageable men (douchebag explosion/fewer men are preparing to be providers due to the missing signal) and the reduced perception of ability to divorce and trade up is quite evident. There is no need to try to pretzel these two papers into making sense. It won’t work, because they are profoundly muddle headed.

  5. @Dalrock

    Not at all. What they mean by “doing better” is exactly the opposite.

    I disagree. I read “doing better” to be a combination of (first and foremost) “their spouses don’t divorce them”, and “they’re happy with their sacrifices, and what they perceived they gained with their sacrifices”.

    Let me try again to describe what I meant by “getting their way”, because it just occurred to me that it could be being read VERY differently than I meant. I don’t mean the man gets what he wants in general. It was meant very narrowly in the sense that if he wants to stay married, he stays married because he doesn’t file for divorce and his wife doesn’t file. If he wants a divorce, he gets a divorce.

    Did that come through differently the first time?

    You are trying awfuly hard to make sense out of a nonsense set of papers. Why?

    From a materialist’s sociological perspective their statement makes sense to me. I think they entirely ignore the spiritual workings, but what they say they are seeing makes sense to me.

    Why also do you insist on ignoring the demographic changes, as Empath mentioned above?

    I’m not ignoring them. It’s of a piece with the rest. Older women are marrying older men. Older men are less likely to marry without considering it more carefully. I get that older women are less likely to divorce. But why? I don’t believe it’s just because of more limited options. Fat ugly older women with very few options choose divorce all the time.

    The douchebag explosion definitely shrinks the pool, but because they’re not married, they are not who is being discussed in the papers. It is only of men who are at possible risk of divorce (currently married men) of whom it is said they are “doing better”, i.e., “their spouses don’t divorce them”.

    @Chad

    However, I do wonder how much of that is due to the rising age of marriage giving less incentives to women to divorce, more time for men emasculated in childhood to find their masculinity, and how much is simply less people getting married leading to those that still do being those particularly well suited to marriage (and thus able to endure the incentives to destroy a marriage).

    All those things would fall under the heading of “doing better”, according the the sociologists.

  6. Did that come through differently the first time?

    It came through for me as exactly what you are explaining it to have meant. I got that meaning straight away. I still cannot meld “doing better” with it.

    [CC: At least we’ll always have this moment!]

  7. @ Cane
    “All those things would fall under the heading of “doing better”, according the the sociologists.”

    I guess my dispute is less that the men are ‘doing better’ so much as they are ‘doing the same.’ The changes simply have informed those whom are not fitting into the narrower group of men whom are self selecting to pursue marriage. Same type of men doing the same type of things, simply without the numbers of failures to burden the statisticians with.

    It seems to me more like…. a stabilizing of the current Western social experiment involving the family.

    I’m unsure if I think this is a good or a bad thing for Western Civilization.

  8. @Chad

    It seems to me more like…. a stabilizing of the current Western social experiment involving the family.

    I had that thought, too.

    Trying to understand these papers really has been more of an intellectual exercise. I’m not invested in their conclusions. I don’t read a lot of papers because they bore me, and I get tired of ignoring (Schmidt & Schtick, 1989) every five words.

    And I’ll also admit that the some of the reason I was piqued to take up this particular intellectual exercise is the visceral anti- response some of the men have to anything that opines that marriage can’t get better without an apocalypse; that a man can’t have an effect on his wife; that God does not honor the prayers of husbands who are being usurped yet who rely on Him. I hate nihilism.

    When I said “ghosts of Christian marriage”, I really meant flickering and insubstantial things. I did not mean a coming resurrection of Christian marriage. The tone of this paper was different than one that put forward that when men give more wives are happier. The next step in their parade, logically is appreciation for husband’s sacrifices…not that they will.

  9. Ok. Cool. I just wanted to be clear. I wasn’t able to follow a great deal of the papers, but was able to follow your thoughts enough for these questions.

    Thanks for your time and response, both in the post and the comments.

  10. @ All

    This is easily explainable, in my opinion, if you take into account the ages at which women are being married and divorced.

    When you take into account that women were previously married in the 22-26 range they “feel” like they can divorce earlier and trade up. They feel like they have missed out on something.

    However, when you take into context women getting married closer to the wall — 26-27+ range on average — you get the women over the average of 29s and 30s where they’re not blowing up their marriages because they want children. It’s after they get their children that they start to blow up their marriages.

    Divorce over the long term hasn’t gone down, and thus we need something to explain why women aren’t blowing up their marriages in the first few years of marriage. The change from “trading up” versus “need/want kids now” is that tipping point that saves marriages for a bit longer before blowing them up.

    Men have not gotten any more masculine over the past 20 years, and I would hesitate to say that capitulating to women even in the new stereotypical “women are the men” and “men are the women” roles is going to make the women more commitment minded or willing to suck it up. We all know that women literally despise men who are doormats, and they don’t even like being touched or around them at all.

  11. @Cane Caldo

    Let me try again to describe what I meant by “getting their way”, because it just occurred to me that it could be being read VERY differently than I meant. I don’t mean the man gets what he wants in general. It was meant very narrowly in the sense that if he wants to stay married, he stays married because he doesn’t file for divorce and his wife doesn’t file. If he wants a divorce, he gets a divorce.

    Which takes us back full circle. The original paper presented data that younger marriages were staying together more (avoiding divorce), which indicated to him that younger men were “doing better”. You then explain that by men “doing better”, you mean they are “getting their way”. By “getting their way”, you mean not getting divorced/staying together.

    This is gibberish, and an absurdly long and complex way to state that not getting divorced means not getting divorced.

  12. CC: At least we’ll always have this moment!]

    I went almost the entire holiday without savoring the moment. Its evening now, Ive still got time. Shoulda scrolled up sooner.

    Actually, you had me at “getting their way”

  13. I’m officially staying out of this one. I admit to not following real well the essays on either side. Most likely do to intense lack of sleep caused by three day weekend.

  14. I’ve been following both blog posts and I don’t see them as mutually exclusive. It seems like the truth could include a portion of both, and that we can’t really know how much of either.

  15. Pingback: Double thunk | Reflections on Christianity and the manosphere

  16. they are scaring the hell out of men who nurse resentment for their sacrifices; who are self-righteous towards their spouses; who did not and do not choose to decide commitment to their wives, but rather slid into it by guilt, lust, happenstance, or whatever.

    I was thinking about this comment when I read an article on Yahoo Shine today. Here’s part of the story:

    My friend Cathy had been dating Jim for two years when Jim suggested they move in together. Cathy thought living together would be a perfect way for her to show him how wonderful his life would be if the two of them got married. As soon as she moved in, Cathy went into “wife mode,” cooking and cleaning and doing Jim’s laundry. She spent all her social time with Jim’s friends and family. She opened a joint bank account and tried sexual positions she had promised herself she would only do when she was married. After two years, it occurred to Cathy that maybe Jim hadn’t proposed because he was getting the milk for free. So Cathy went on strike and started acting like a roommate instead of a spouse.

    Cathy would make herself lavish dinners for one and hand Jim the stack of takeout menus. When Jim had a hard day at work, she would pretend to listen to him complain while texting her friends about what to wear to the club. When Jim’s mom came over for a visit, Cathy would leave. After three months of Cathy’s friend-with-no-benefits behavior, Jim had had enough. He wanted his wifey back, but this time he knew he had to do it her way. He proposed, and now the two of them have been happily married for five years. The moral of the story is, if you want to be married, don’t act like a wife until you’ve got that ring on your finger.

    (source: https://shine.yahoo.com/love-sex/why-shouldnt-live-him-marriage-204400477.html)

    The moral of the story is fine but doesn’t really relate to the example given, in which the woman does a bait-and-switch on the guy, who ends up following her lead into marriage and is apparently oh-so-happy now. I’m not a man, but if I were and my live-in slut turned into a friend-with-no-benefits, I’m not sure I’d reward her by making her my wife. One wonders about his alleged “happily married for five years” state.

  17. So Cathy went on strike and started acting like a roommate instead of a spouse.

    I wouldn’t want just a spouse anyhow, and “wife mode” wouldn’t cut it either. There would have to be an understanding that our marriage would be based on the biblical patriarchal model or no deal. Then again I wouldn’t be living/sleeping with her before marriage* either.

    *Marriage as before God and witnesses. Not necessarily involving the government.

  18. This is complete crap.
    I live in Metropolitan America.
    Whether its on Dating sites, the Gym or the mean streets women are quite aware how poorly women fair after divorce, especially if they cannot re marry.
    Some do remarry, but very few.

    In a bigger since even hot 20 year olds sense how difficult it is to maintain any type of LTR with an attractive man even with their high SMV.
    The older extremely friendly lady in the super market.
    The house wife rushing to get home and avoiding eye contact with everyone except women.
    The 30 something not so hot lady at the Gym (Many) or on the streets.
    All these women get it:
    “Please let me just get someone or I better be happy with what I have.”

    Not to mention an increasing trend of articles like this being written by younger women:
    http://elitedaily.com/entertainment/carrie-bradshaw-is-a-shrew/

    5 years ago no women in her right mind (well relatively) would have written such an article.
    And this is generation y putting out this stuff.
    Because they are the generation that sees men their age blowing them of in the masses in regards to LTR (s) as well as their miserable Aunts and Mothers etc.

  19. @Cane Caldo
    Thanks!
    Off the subject change of direction.

    It appears the movement is now mainstream:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/2014/05/27/inside-the-manosphere-that-inspired-santa-barbara-shooter-elliot-rodger/

    It is a tragedy that this had to be the reason why we are mainstream.
    Like I keep telling people:
    “Men aren’t stupid. (Mostly Men)
    Men are great at accomplishing goals, if you don’t give them goals they will make up their own goals and execute them. Keep in mind, men are violent by nature.”

    This has been predicted like out of some Star Wars, George Lucas inspired, “Bring Balance to The Force” type Lore.

  20. Pingback: Getting to the church on time (a second time). | Dalrock

  21. Cane, I’ve recently discovered your blog and have found it just what I was looking for. Your critique of game/pua blogs, your analysis of the current situation between men and women in North America, and your advice to men seeking out marriageable women in a string of posts a few pages back sounded to me like a strong, Christian voice in the desert. I’m soon to be engaged to a delightful young woman, but I can’t help wishing I hadn’t found out about your blog as a younger man. I don’t always agree with your posts, but more often than not you’re spot on. Keep up the good work!

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