Women’s expectations in marriage.

I found the following video about men’s and women’s expectations regarding marriage on the blog What Men Are Saying About Women Sex Differences: Why Won’t Men Commit?

Not a bad video, but I think it misses the key point.  I didn’t feel like I was giving up on my dreams when I got married.   Being happily married was one of my dreams.  I think the real disconnect is men dream of marriage and far too many women dream only of the wedding.

In my post Her husband was her best friend the discussion in the comments thread turned to the question of women’s expectations in marriage.  My wife has often commented that based on the Disney version of fairy tales many American women have extremely unrealistic expectations of marriage.  They expect flowers and romance every day, and aren’t prepared for the reality of everyday married life.  She feels that the Brothers Grimm versions prepared her much better.  J made a similar comment:

It’s a real pity that most women go into marriage not understanding what to expect. We think we are going to find Prince Charming and then live a life of unremitting romance. Instead, we end up spending a lot of our time picking up socks off the floor. No one tells you that’s gonna happen–although it’s not a bad life if your expectations are in line. No one tells you that marriage run in cycles. There are bad times, but if you’re patient, the good times come around again.

Until very recently I would agree with the assessment that women’s exaggerated expectations from marriage were due to the messages they receive from Disney movies and other media.  However, I learned in the response section to my post on EPL being tacky that women are in no way influenced by the media in matters regarding marriage. This has me perplexed.

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41 Responses to Women’s expectations in marriage.

  1. JD says:

    Dalrock: Yes, SOME women ARE indeed influenced by a lifetime of Disney princess movies, being pampered by Mommy and Daddy (esp. Daddy in some cases, “Daddy’s little girl!”), romance novels, and our materialistic modern day culture. Are we ALL like this? No.

    Solution: if you have daughters, don’t baby them too much; put strict limits on material things; give them plenty of chores to do and encourage them to take up a sport or two. There’s much more to life than being a pretty little princess; brains, accountability, and self-reliance will serve them better in this life.

  2. dalrock says:

    Good points JD. I think we are on the right track with our daughter. Have you seen this post?

  3. terrybreathinggrace says:

    This is an excellent post, and we are raising our daughters very much the way JD described.

    That, and instilling our religious convictions as well since our culture has greatly diminished the importance men place on having a wife who has not been with every Tom, Dick, and Harry. And people are loathe to practice self-restraint without faith in Someone larger than themselves.

  4. JD says:

    Yes, sounds like you are taking the sensible course with your daughter! If I may be so bold – one more suggestion; discourage the whole overblown $20-30 grand wedding dream in daughter’s head before it has a chance to take root. I swear, some of these chickies really do put more thought into their big princess day rather than the life together afterwards. Or, even the choice of groom.

    My own mother took the opposite track – “we’ll give you fifty dollars and you can go elope!” Okay, maybe that was a bit much on her part but it worked for me! Our courthouse procedure cost a whole twenty bucks – and we’re still together after all these years.

  5. wittywife says:

    You know, I don’t think it’s the Disney fantasy, but instead the fantasy that “the one” is out there. That there’s only one right person.

    There’s no such thing as ‘the one.’ We all know falling in love is easy. I think what a lot of people think (my included during my first marriage) is that you get married because you fall in love. Wrong. You DECIDE to get married because you fell in love. GETTING married, however, is CHOOSING to continue to love a person even when the ‘in love’ part of thing ebbs and flows.

    The grass is always greener, and will it always WILL be if you think there’s “the one.” Again, it’s easy to fall in love, and if you’re having issues with your spouse, you’ll question yourself into thinking that maybe he’s not “the one” or that maybe a new person might REALLY be “the one.”

    If young people can swallow the fact that there might be more than one person that could make them happy, but when they decide to get married, they’re deciding that THIS is the person, and they choose to love that person, then they’ll be in a better place.

    Once people realize that, then they don’t need to question whether or not they’re spouse is the one. You’re married, you’ve made your decision.

    Coming to that realization for me was like a ton of bricks hitting me. I got remarried, this time for the right reasons and with the right expectations, and things have been great. There have been ups and downs, but we both understand what marriage means to us.

  6. Aunt Haley says:

    When my brother was younger and dating around, there was a girl who was quite interested in him and was pretty obvious about it. Although she was from a good family, my mom was concerned that my brother would actually get involved with the girl, because the girl’s family was very wealthy, and women have a tendency to expect their husbands to keep them at the same lifestyle to which they are accustomed. I would counsel any man dating a woman whose father showers her with luxury to be careful. She may love you now, but she may not feel the same way in five years when you’re married and pinching pennies.

    I agree that some women have unrealistic expectations for romance in marriage, but at the same time, men should not think that because they’ve sealed the deal, romance is unnecessary. Every wife wants her husband to sweep her off her feet occasionally, and men should not dismiss their wives’ longing for some romance as something trifling. For most women, “But I bought you this nice wheelbarrow, can’t you see that I love you?” isn’t a substitute for straight-up romance.

  7. dalrock says:

    For most women, “But I bought you this nice wheelbarrow, can’t you see that I love you?” isn’t a substitute for straight-up romance.

    How else is she supposed to mix concrete?

  8. JD says:

    Or haul sod?

    Yes, you gotta know your woman (or man). And always, return the favor(s). Tit for tat.

  9. Badger Nation says:

    “I would counsel any man dating a woman whose father showers her with luxury to be careful. She may love you now, but she may not feel the same way in five years when you’re married and pinching pennies.”

    How can I agree more. Daddy’s girls can suffer from any number of maladies – they haven’t had a chance to receive the consequences of their actions, haven’t had to run a budget and choose what to spend it on, have always gotten their way by kicking and screaming, have no realistic impressions of where money comes from, what it gets spent on, or what a real relationship is supposed to look like, and most importantly, see other men as entertainment items instead of real partners since they get all their masculine attention from pops.

    What I don’t understand is the dads of daddy’s girls. I don’t see why they want to keep their daughters so infantilized. Is it like controlling mothers, who want to make their children never leave the nest?

    “men should not think that because they’ve sealed the deal, romance is unnecessary.”

    No serious person would say a husband should ditch the romantic angle entirely, but this can only go so far. A man should not have to pull off an elaborate romantic performance every time he wants to sleep with his wife. As to a man’s base level of romance, I think this can be observed in the dating phase. If being “romantic” is a personality trait, he’ll probably keep it as long as he’s appreciated and loved for who he is. But if romance is something he only does in response to cupcake getting pissed off or because he is bartering for sex (e.g. Valentine’s Day), it will stop completely once he gets tired of her tantrums or lack of bedroom interest.

    Remember also that most men have, in the field, observed romance to be either superfluous or insufficient. Romance will not turn a woman on to a man she’s not attracted to. Meanwhile, if she IS attracted, a guy can be a total jerk and she’ll usually at least think about going all the way. (Google “skittles man.”) No surprise that most men today see “romance” as simply an extortion of behavior and a prisoner’s dilemma.

  10. Badger Nation says:

    Sounds like the hypergamous addiction to choosing. I had never connected the idea of “the one” to that before, thanks for your insight.

  11. Hope says:

    It’s not that simple anymore. Even girls from poorer backgrounds want the mansion, the brand names, the manicure/pedicure, the big screen tv, etc. Even if they never grow up with it, they grow up wanting it because of media and advertising. Women who are truly content with simple things are not too common anymore.

  12. J says:

    However, I learned in the response section to my post on EPL being tacky that women are in no way influenced by the media in matters regarding marriage. This has me perplexed.

    I think for women the social conditioning goes far deeper than than Disney movies, the feminist movement, or the current media climate.

    Remember, I am in my 50s which means that, as a little girl, I was socialized to the June Cleaver model, not the Gloria Steinem model. We really were lead to believe that the goal was marriage and that the ceremony was the end of the story. After that, you got to be a mommy. No one talked about how hard marriage can be, what the challenges were or how to meet them. When you turned on the TV, you never saw Ward and June have a fight, much less Fred Mac Murray cheating. Little Desi Jr. appeared by magic. Marriage was the mysterious happy ending. You magically fell in love, and marriage just happened. No one ever explained how.

    And as for sex? An older cousin of mine consummated her marriage three months after the fact because she couldn’t believe her ears when her husband described what was expected. My dumb aunt had lied to her about sex because she didn’t want her have any.

    Believe me, our current problems and inaccurate expectations aren’t that new. In fact, I’ll stick my neck out. Our problems started when people abandoned arranged marriages and started marrying for love–without anyone knowing just what love is. Pre-feminist ideas of romantic love were also BS; they derived from medieval and Renaissance ideas about romance between young knights and adulterous wives of older noblemen (like Lancelot and Guinevere), not from married love. The hottest love poem in English that pre-dates that period begins, “Jone can call by name her coos.” It advocates the idea that the perfect girl makes a good farm wife, not a hot supermodel.

  13. J says:

    There’s no such thing as ‘the one.’

    Exactly. There are a lot of “ones” out there. Pick the best one you can, and then figure out how to make it work.

    GETTING married, however, is CHOOSING to continue to love a person even when the ‘in love’ part of thing ebbs and flows.

    Indeed! Love is a daily choice to behave well towards your spouse. It’s an action, not an emotion.

  14. The ever controversial Lori Gottlieb said this:

    “Once you’re married, it’s not about whom you want to go on vacation with; it’s about whom you want to run a household with. Marriage isn’t a passion-fest; it’s more like a partnership formed to run a very small, mundane, and often boring nonprofit business. And I mean this in a good way”.

    That has always struck me as profound and not PC. OR maybe it’s not so much as profound, as we just don’t hear it anymore. I read it a few months before my wedding and it has stuck with me during the more mundane moments that is life. Sure, marriage will be filled with romantic moments, but that is not all it is. We just think it is because we live in an “everything has to be exciting” culture. I think if a woman can read the above statement and at least be able to swallow it or consider the possibility, then she is ready for marriage.

  15. Badger Nation says:

    The sad truth a lot of men need to realize is that for the most part, marriage or serious relationship IS a dream-killer. Whether that’s more attributable to female control instincts or male rollover I don’t know, but the fact is the cultural expectations are that men will “hang it up” and start punching the clock for princess.

    There’s a lot made of the fact that the male standard of living supposedly goes up after divorce (making no mention of the bullsh** that is alimony) while a woman’s goes down. To the degree this is true, it simply mirrors what happens upon marriage – the man’s dreams die and the woman’s dreams come true.

    I see it all the time in my white-collar, M-UC friends – getting serious with a woman or marrying her results in an instant removal of him from availability to hang out or do things, all his activities are subject to veto, what jobs he takes and how much money he makes are subject to shaming by the ma’am.

    No less than Tom Leykis has repeatedly warned his audience not to get married (if at all) until after they’ve achieved their dreams. Then he takes calls from guys who got married and shelved their life plans – modest plans, like running their own business or taking a crack at an art or music career. Most of them are morose, wishing they could get that time back.

    Some fool on Dr Helen a while back was trying to tell us that marriage and fatherhood “broadens time horizons,” vis a vis Peter Pan guys playing vids and watching porn. I argued he was off base, the majority of marriages shorten a man’s time horizons because you can’t plan for the future, you need money NOW. I don’t think he got that for the vast majority of families throughout history, the only time horizon was getting enough food on the table to last the month.

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  17. dalrock says:

    So many great comments here. I think we are flushing out the issues that men and women both need to be aware of when considering marriage. I went back and linked the post on Interviewing a Prospective Wife P2 to this one, and it looks like there is a good amount of overlap. I think I had captured the broad issues discussed here, but there is much more detail on this post, especially in the comments. Thanks everyone for sharing your insight (and keep it coming)!

  18. J says:

    Women who are truly content with simple things are not too common anymore.

    I think that’s equally true of men.

    Interestingly enough, there’s been all sorts of research that compares the relative happiness of the rich and the poor and shows that, once peoples basic needs are met, money and happiness don’t correlate. Twenty years ago, the point where happiness equalized was about 20K/year of annual income. Now it’s about 40K. After that point, relationships, not money make people happy.

  19. J says:

    Lori’s description is very accurate. Marriage is two, equally matched oxen pulling the same load. If you know how to find joy in that, you’ve got it made. If you have good results you can take pride in–a stable marriage, healthy and happy kids, some family fun along the way, humor, sex–that’s the icing on the cake.

  20. JD says:

    Marriage/relationships can be a dream-killer for both men and women – very true. That’s the nature of joining up for life with another person; you WILL be making sacrifices even if you’re wise enough to avoid the Princesses. Some of my dreams got derailed as well, although overall, my life has turned out happily. I’d like to be optimistic and say the right woman can help you in your dream(s) but these kinds of people (men as well) are rare.

    You seem to know your own mind and apparently have some dreams and goals of your own; just put those first. Don’t listen to the marriage pushers; marriage is only another option in life.

  21. J says:

    The sad truth a lot of men need to realize is that for the most part, marriage or serious relationship IS a dream-killer.

    Depends on your dreams. Compare Dalrock’s comment that a happy marriage was a part of his dreams vs. Roosh’s fantasy of sailing the high seas in search of exotic sex in every port. Talk about Pan Peter! Half of the male commenters on that post told Roosh to grow up!

    There’s a lot made of the fact that the male standard of living supposedly goes up after divorce (making no mention of the bullsh** that is alimony) while a woman’s goes down.

    That’s because in truth few women actually collect alimony–either because few courts still award it or because men don’t pay it. I know of no divorced women sho get alimony and was truly surprised to see what a great concern alimony is in the man-o-sphere.

    I don’t think he got that for the vast majority of families throughout history, the only time horizon was getting enough food on the table to last the month.

    Depends on how you manage your money. Both my husband and I come from working class backgrounds. With hardwork, smart planning and some sacrifice, we’ve reached a point of not living like that. Living within your means, which admittedly is something that consumer debt-ridden Americans have trouble doing, is key.

  22. Badger Nation says:

    I agree that LG is on to something. The key as I see it is that some people feel fulfilled in the task of building and maintaining something, while others only enjoy the fruits and want no part of the grunt work (or the accountability). The latter are, in a word, unsuitable for marriage.

    A marriage is an abstract process as much as it is a concrete noun.

    “formed to run a very small, mundane, and often boring nonprofit business.”

    Most of the stuff I read about declining marriages has something to do with boredom, or running out of passion or whatnot. As I’ve written before, these people miss the point that much of life is boring and repetitive. Absent major interpersonal issues like nagging or adultery, getting married (or divorced) is not going to change your base level of happiness, because the capability for happiness is intrinsic.

    This is where Dalrock’s famous “choice addiction” comes in – people start daydreaming that they’d be better off if only they had a different partner, and go back in their minds to replay their choice, without heeding the wise words of Pooh: “wherever you go, there you are.”

    People should enjoy life, but those addicted to the emotional rush of fun are poor candidates for marriage.

  23. Badger Nation says:

    JD,

    “Marriage/relationships can be a dream-killer for both men and women – very true. That’s the nature of joining up for life with another person; you WILL be making sacrifices even if you’re wise enough to avoid the Princesses. Some of my dreams got derailed as well, although overall, my life has turned out happily.”

    Let me play both sides…some dreams are just that – never going to come true. It’s unfair to blame one’s spouse for that. However, I’ve seen an awful lot of people with dreams watch their life descend into demands, nagging and shaming. LTR game is important here, because as Dave from Hawai’i showed us, you can’t abandon the person your spouse fell in love with even if they seem to be begging you to flop over and go beta.

    I’m very upfront about my dreams, which tends to filter out suitresses who don’t want to be a part of it. I also try to get people to tell me theirs so I can figure out if and how I want to help.

    J,

    “I was truly surprised to see what a great concern alimony is in the man-o-sphere.”

    Believe it, my friend. It’s not just the odds (~30% chance of divorce times 25% of divorces granting alimony = 10% chance a man getting married will be paying an ex a salary to not be married, that’s hardly “few”). I think you can understand it’s the principle of the thing and what it says about men in family court. It’s that it’s just not right to be sucking off someone else. This idea of “the accustomed lifestyle” is totally one-sided. It says that if you tried to give your spouse the world and the marriage fails, well you have to KEEP giving her the world. The sense that a man must be at fault in a “no-fault” divorce. That a judge can order a man to be a wage slave for someone he’s no longer involved with. That the court views a lower-earning spouse as somehow “disabled” by marriage. That some women will petition the court for a payout in the event their marriage goes bad, that no matter the facts they are entitled to money from men.

    As a hard-working, self-sufficient law-abiding member of society, it disgusts me to no end.

  24. Badger Nation says:

    OK, I just watched the video. I’m as big a critic of modern marriage as anybody, but I think the video is way off base for the first three minutes (the ending part about divorce is spot on).

    The narrator talks about men “giving up their dreams” but phrases them as flying a fighter jet and driving a racecar. For the vast majority of men, these pie-in-the-sky “dreams” are just as silly and unrealistic as hers that Prince Charming will make all of her money and boredom issues vanish for life.

    I think he’s done a disservice to the real issues. When I think of dreams deferred, I’m thinking getting season tickets to their college football team, starting a business, taking a lower-paying but high-happiness job, hanging with the bros, riding a motorcycle, playing video games in your spare time (this last one just came up on Aunt Haley’s blog). Little pleasures that tend to get betatized and washed out in the name of adult “responsibility.”

    He’s pumping the symbology of “settling down” as accepting your won’t get to do those male fantasies, and he’s missing the ways marriage actually does kill dreams for a lot of men. Maybe he’s making the point that a typical man’s dreams to be king or MVP aren’t fulfilled and a typical woman’s dreams to have a home and family are, and that it’s unfair, but he’s tilting at windmills. Being MVP or president IS an unrealistic expectation for most guys and it’s not fair to blame the institution of marriage for what is really caused by the accident of birth and coming to terms with your own limitations. The expectations he notes for women in marriage – home, children – are NOT unrealistic. He hasn’t discussed truly unrealistic expectations of many wives.

  25. JD says:

    Sounds like you should make a video on this topic!

  26. dalrock says:

    Well put Badger Nation.

  27. JD says:

    “Prince Charming will make all of her money and boredom issues vanish for life”

    I think this really says it all…you want to avoid women who have no life of their own; who need constant male validation of their attractiveness or need to snag a man for his money rather than make their own money. I’m sure this will irritate a few of the posters here, but if a woman’s sole interest in life seems to be “getting married and having kids” then that’s probably the type, you, in particular, don’t want.

    There are women out there who are very independent, have their own friends, many interests and goals, and have no wish to deprive you of yours; look for those kinds. A good relationship does not require being joined at the hip.

  28. Badger Nation says:

    “I’m sure this will irritate a few of the posters here, but if a woman’s sole interest in life seems to be “getting married and having kids” then that’s probably the type, you, in particular, don’t want.”

    It’s a question of balance. If someone is all career, they don’t have room in their mind to share with another person. If they’re all about marriage and kids, they have no self-built structure to their life, and they will suck your energy away because they have none of their own.

  29. J says:

    There are women out there who are very independent, have their own friends, many interests and goals, and have no wish to deprive you of yours; look for those kinds. A good relationship does not require being joined at the hip.

    Interesting comment, women like that sound suspiciously like …feminists. 😉

    More serioulsy, I perused an article in the June 10(?) issue of Newsweek today about the impending death of the institutuon of marriage. It noted that financially independent, college educated, older brides had a greater chance of staying married than more traditional women.

  30. J says:

    season tickets to their college football team, starting a business, taking a lower-paying but high-happiness job, hanging with the bros, riding a motorcycle, playing video games in your spare time

    Of all of those, only my husband’s taking a lower paying job would bother me. And that’s only because I’ve suffered a drastic hours cut, and we have kids to support.

  31. Badger Nation says:

    “Interesting comment, women like that sound suspiciously like …feminists. 😉 ”

    The louder a self-identified feminist speaks of her independence, the faster I count my spoons. Cf Jessica Wakeman’s recent Frisky post where she shouted her feminist credentials as she admitted she needs an established man to take care of her material “needs” because in her “independence” she chose a career in a dying field (journalism) that pays next to nothing. Many of the feminists I meet are subconsciously putting on a shit-test to find the biggest, baddest alpha out there, one who won’t be cowed by the repeated male denigration that is feminist philosophy.

    “It noted that financially independent, college educated, older brides had a greater chance of staying married than more traditional women.”

    This has been known for a while, better-educated and higher-earning people have higher-quality marriages. Recently I read a marital researcher who noted that middle-upper class childless marriages (what he derisively called “consumption marriages”) are really skewing the statistics. When you toss out that part of the curve, the failing marital tendencies of the middle and lower classes are even more stark.

  32. J says:

    she admitted she needs an established man to take care of her material “needs” because in her “independence” she chose a career in a dying field (journalism) that pays next to nothing.

    That seems unfair, even to me. A woman shouldn’t ask a man to finance her hobby career until after she has a few kids with him. 😉

    On a more serious note, when my DH and I first married, we made about the same amount of money. At that point, I wouldn’t have dreamed of asking him to support me; we has a very egalitarian marriage. After the kids came along, I became a SATH mom and he became our sole support. The division of labor in our home became nmore traditional at that point. Now I work part-time and he supports my “hobby career.” As long as he gets sex and dinner, he’s cool with that.

    Many of the feminists I meet are subconsciously putting on a shit-test to find the biggest, baddest alpha out there, one who won’t be cowed by the repeated male denigration that is feminist philosophy.

    There is a little something to that. I don’t swallow all the Roissy rhetoric, but I can attest that strong women usually like strong men. I haven’t seen the Frisky article, but I’ve seen enough like it, to say that most of those women need a strong man to be happy, not a mean man or a man who will dominate them, but one strong enough to stand up to them. And, in my personal experience, two strong people working together are unstoppable.

  33. J says:

    That’s true.

  34. Clarence says:

    J:

    Alimony depends on where you live. There’s de-facto lifetime alimony in Massachusetts which they are trying to get repealed, but the effort is being made on both sides by some pretty powerful people and interests.

    http://www.massalimonyreform.org/
    http://massachusetts-election-2010.com/1506/sen-cindy-creem-considering-compromise-on-alimony-reform/

    Someone who couldn’t retire due to this crap is going to be pretty pissed at your dismissal of his or her experiences.

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  40. laura says:

    I must say i am a woman married at 23 for 8 years now and 5 babies to a immigrant man with little money. I did not imagine princess sterotype men mention ever caput to me. But really married on leap year no anniversary present no birthday celebration or holidays. All he does is work 12 hour days and. So do i with the kids. So just some consideration for my types of women who need nothing in return but mild manners and a little consideration. Always guys saying princess. Nope but kindness and appreciat ion noted hallmark cards some inexpensive jewelry no wild accusations when all of MY time is accounted for. I dont use social media. Sometimes i think u accuse us to hide your selves.

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