Put on your own oxygen mask first

Divorce Family Marriage Parenting

A while ago, we had a medium-sized crisis involving one of our kids. One of the first thoughts that raced across my mind was “Just when I finally thought I had my act together — now this!!” Then I immediately caught myself. Would I rather it happen while I’m drowning in three other crises? Or when I feel like I’m in a position to let everything else slide for a bit while I focus on my child’s problem?

Meanwhile, my husband jumped up to the plate as well, and we both found solace and emotional replenishment in each other’s arms while dealing with the problem.

This incident came to mind when I read the following comment:

Excuses like the kids would want me to be happy that adults use to justify their divorce (news flash your kids dont give a damn if youre happy. Kind of like how you dont give a damn what they think about the divorce. Funny how that works).

Sure, most kids (being, by definition, immature) don’t consciously care much about other people’s happiness. But having the emotional and physical energy to deal with crises (as well as with day-to-day parenting) is not something you can fake or simply conjure up by force of will. It’s the parents’ responsibility to provide a safe and healthy environment for their kids, and it’s the adults’ responsibility to figure out what they need to do to create that environment. It is the couple that knows whether their marriage is a source of comfort and solace or whether it is a source of additional stress, hindering the parents’ efforts to focus on their kids’ needs.

When people say that no-fault divorce is destroying the family, I take issue with that personally — because if it weren’t for no-fault divorce, I probably wouldn’t have the happy family that I have today. I remember thinking that if the point of restricting divorce is for the sake of the kids, I shouldn’t have even had the six-month waiting period for my no-fault divorce. If a childless couple has already decided to call it quits, the last thing you want to do is insist on giving them another opportunity to bring a child into this picture. Of course, even for couples with kids, if they’ve decided to split amicably, it’s not necessarily in the kids’ interest to insist on turning it into a fight.

Now, I know that the defenders of traditional marriage will say that the point is that if they create more obstacles to divorce, maybe the couple will choose not to divorce. Because that’s what a stress family needs: more obstacles. (Aside: A historian studying Victorian-era illegitimacy told me that there was a high rate of cohabitation and illegitimacy due to one or both partners being unable to obtain a divorce from an earlier union.)

Studies on kids’ “outcomes” have shown that kids whose parents stayed married do better than kids whose parents are divorced. But if these studies are used to tell people that they need to stay together “for the kids” (and they are used for that, consistently), then the fact that some of families in the “married” category actually didn’t even want to split up is a major factor that should not be glossed over. The only relevant studies are the ones that specifically compare outcomes of families where the parents wanted a divorce (but decided to stay together for the kids) to the outcomes of families where the parents divorced and cooperated in child rearing. And, to be credible, such studies should be free of major funding conflicts of interest.

Sometimes I get the impression that people who want to “defend” (heterosexual-only) marriage don’t really think very highly of marriage, even straight marriage (see this recent critique of straight marriages where the spouses are in love with each other). Personally, I think marriage is a commitment rather than a prison, and — even though it represents some amount of work — on balance it is a comfort and joy rather than a punishment.

377 thoughts on “Put on your own oxygen mask first

  1. @299: Yes, Seth, this is pretty much what many of us have been saying, in the face of your insistence that cohabitation is a way of trying to make sure you have an easy exit strategy and is not really much of a commitment. Several people here have worked very hard to make the point that cohabitating is a very real commitment and that anyone who thinks that “it’s without exit costs” is ignoring all sorts of evidence.

    even pull people into the trap of settling into a comfort zone of living together for years with people they otherwise would have broken up with in a few months if they hadnt been living with them.

    Exactly! Whereas jumping into marriage can mean that YOU END UP HAVING CHILDREN AND LIVING FOR DECADES AND DYING WITH SOMEONE YOU WOULD HAVE BROKEN UP WITH IN A FEW MONTHS IF YOU HADN’T MARRIED THEM.

    Which is why so many people here advocate caution toward that sort of thing.

    There are many things in this thread I don’t have time to respond to right now, but I have been collecting links, and I might as well post a few now.

    First, children are simply becoming too expensive for some poorer couples: http://www.alternet.org/story/156260/what_happens_when_you_can%E2%80%99t_afford_your_children?page=entire

    Divorce makes women less like to commit suicide: http://jezebel.com/5920503/divorce-makes-women-want-to-kill-themselves-slightly-less?tag=itheedread

    the role of fathers in ruining families: http://jezebel.com/5926318/why-arent-we-talking-more-about-deadbeat-dads?tag=itheedread

    poor people have high expectations for marriage: http://jezebel.com/5926539/study-finds-that-poor-people-have-really-high-hopes-for-marriage?tag=itheedread

    One reason people have married (or not divorced) is for health insurance, which Obamacare takes care of: http://jezebel.com/5922206/obamacare-one-less-reason-to-get-married?tag=itheedread

    Yes, all of those links are from Jezebel. Their “I Thee Dread” section has all sorts of interesting bits of info about marriage and relationships.

    Speaking of universal healthcare, it’s not really that scary, and it leads to things like fewer abortions: http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/article/2012/07/12/how-i-lost-my-fear-universal-health-care

    That story, and the story of what has happened in Portugal since it decriminalized all drugs a year ago and began donating a lot of funding and research to ending addiction, support something I’ve been thinking for a while:

    If you want people to make superior choices, educate them and then provide them with more options, because educated people with more options tend to choose better ones.

    @300 No kidding.

  2. Alan, I think that article raises just as many concerns about cohabitation as others have raised about Mormon culture of early marriage.

    The author remains neutral on the subject. But I came away with a rather negative view of the arrangement. On balance, cohabitation seems to foster even more negative behavior patterns and holds even more traps for those engaged in it than insisting on marriage does.

  3. I’d also be interested in some actual data on how many people “jump into marriage” rather than mere assertion and personal anecdotes.

  4. Holly, you didn’t mention that the divorce = less female suicide were only findings in India and China – which raises more questions about the study than it answers. What other social factors unique to those societies were in play in that study?

    The article about kids being expensive was more an indictment of our society that is hostile to child-rearing and families than it was an indictment of having children.

    The deadbeat dad article emphasized the need for more male responsibility and involvement. To which I respond – then stop giving them more ways of copping out of their responsibilities – like cohabitation (no one has really talked about the ways in which cohabitation tends to harm the female more than the male – since she’s the one inevitably stuck with the kids).

    The article about poor attitudes toward marriage was just confusing. I’m still not sure what point it was making – and it internally contradicted itself. And I’m also not sure what point the link to the health insurance article was making. Certainly the health care article wasn’t talking about “giving people more options.”

    On the contrary, the point of the health care article seemed to be that by narrowing people’s options (i.e. by only offering certain health care benefits to the married), you encourage certain behavior. Which seems to contradict your point.

    I saw no connection whatsoever with the Portugal drug situation and what we are discussing here.

  5. Id also be interested in some actual data on how many people jump into marriage rather than mere assertion and personal anecdotes.

    That would indeed be interesting. I look forward to your report on it when you’ve taken the time to google it and do some research and so forth.

    Holly, you didnt mention that the divorce = less female suicide were only findings in India and China

    it’s true, I didn’t mention that. I figured people would notice it for themselves when they read the article.

    which raises more questions about the study than it answers. What other social factors unique to those societies were in play in that study?

    Again, I look forward to your analysis.

    I saw no connection whatsoever with the Portugal drug situation and what we are discussing here.

    the point is, stigmatizing and punishing “bad” behavior is less effective at ending said “bad” behavior than is doing away with sanctions against it and giving people the resources they need to cultivate “good” behavior.

    I think there’s a principle there worth considering and exploring.

  6. I suppose. But we weren’t really talking about stigmatizing here at any point as far as I’m aware.

  7. But we werent really talking about stigmatizing here at any point as far as Im aware.

    OK, replace “stigmatizing” with “opposing” or even “opposing with harsh language.”

  8. I’m sure there are folks in Portugal opposing drug use with harsh language.

    But no one is talking about making cohabitation illegal.

  9. Incidentally, I don’t know why I need to do research on points you were trying to make. It would be a much more effective division of labor if I were to research my own points and you could research yours.

    That way we both could get more done.

  10. Im sure there are folks in Portugal opposing drug use with harsh language.

    There probably are. And the point is: it’s pointless at best and harmful at worst. It just makes people feel bad, both those who want help overcoming their drug use and those who don’t.

    But no one is talking about making cohabitation illegal.

    I LOVE those moments when you can grasp the obvious.

    But it has been illegal in the past, and it’s still considered illicit within certain segments of society. People within those segments sometimes work to make those who cohabitate feel bad about their choices.

    That’s an effective strategy if your goal is to make people feel bad about cohabitating. But there’s no reason to assume that making people feel bad about cohabitating necessarily propels them into strong marriages, any more than making people feel bad about being gay seems to make them straight or making people feel bad about having a propensity for depression seems to make them happy.

    So if your goal is to encourage strong, stable marriages, you need to focus on the strategies that will meet that goal.

    And there’s a good chance that it won’t involve a lot of attention to opposing cohabitation–or divorce, for that matter.

  11. I dont know why I need to do research on points you were trying to make.

    Because I get to follow your lead @237 and ignore as I see fit any statement you make–including requests for information–in favor of other discussion.

    Duh.

  12. Anyway, the data from Portugal does not show that stopping people from speaking negatively about a social ill helps the situation.

    The data from Portugal shows that removing the criminal penalty on illicit drug use brought the practice out in the open where it could be dealt with. No one in Portugal was suggesting coddling drug users and telling them what they were doing wasn’t harmful to their health and socially damaging. So yes, all the mean ole nasty disapproval is still going on uninterrupted in Portugal.

    This was an article about criminalization – no social disapproval. There’s a big difference between the two. And using an article about government oversight – and how it works better in a framework were regulation can be effectively brought to bear – and trying to make it a call for people to “quit judging me” is just a ridiculous reach. The argument is obviously not there.

    News flash – Cocaine still screws up your life, damages your health and ruins just about everything it touches.

    And I’m not going lie to you and pat you on the head and tell you it’s just fine and lovely – like indulging in chocolate every once in a while – just so you can feel better about yourself. There’s nothing self-esteem building about having everyone around you run away from reality.

  13. Also a clarification Holly –

    Is this your way of admitting that cohabitation is – on the balance – a socially damaging practice – like illicit drug use?

  14. and trying to make it a call for people to quit judging me is just a ridiculous reach. The argument is obviously not there.

    My statements were about “making people feel bad” by TELLING THEM YOU DISAPPROVE OF THEM, not about “judging them.” There’s a difference.

    Judge people all you want. You obviously already do, and I don’t figure anything is going to stop that except maybe a personality transplant or your kids really disappointing you.

    Just don’t think that voicing your disapproval of them is going to result in much of anything but their concluding that you’re a jerk they’d just as soon steer clear of. Unless you’re their parent or something, it almost certainly won’t change their behavior. It will just make them avoid and distrust you.

    And Im not going lie to you and pat you on the head and tell you its just fine and lovely like indulging in chocolate every once in a while just so you can feel better about yourself.

    who’s asking you to?

    What about minding your own business?

    If no one asks you for your opinion of their choices, you have no reason to lie OR to tell them the truth, do you?

    Is this your way of admitting that cohabitation is on the balance a socially damaging practice like illicit drug use?

    OOooh! It’s the return of Seth’s mindreading act! I guess I’m pleased that you ASKED if your assumption was right instead of insisting that it was.

    Anyway, nope. It’s an attempt to put cohabitation in a context that might actually speak to you, since I imagined that comparing cohabitation to, say, eating chocolate wouldn’t really do the trick.

    eta: the real point of comparison to the Portugal situation is this:

    are you more interested in condemning something negative, or do you want to promote something positive?

    Condemning cohabitation, however much it does or does not deserve that condemnation, does not do much at all to strengthen marriage.

    So, Seth, I ask: what is your real goal here?

    If it’s to strengthen marriage, many of your comments are misplaced.

    if it’s to trash cohabitation regardless of what that accomplishes, well, I guess we can all look forward to more of the same.

  15. It is absolutely my business.

    My daughters have to grow up in a world where men will demand they sleep with them before commitment thanks to attitudes like yours. A world where they will be expected to pay for affection with sex, only to be cast off when it turns out the guy wasn’t committed to them in the first place.

    It impacts me terribly. It impacts my children terribly.

    We have to live in the crappy world you are advocating for Holly.

  16. And it doesn’t take mind-reading to predict your next response Holly.

    You’re going to lash out angrily about the “crappy world” the LDS Church and “people like me” create for other people with our judgmental attitudes.

    You are, of course, free to argue that.

    But unlike you – I’m not claiming that my publicly stated beliefs are none of your business. I’m not trying to exempt myself from critique the way you are right now.

  17. It is absolutely my business.

    Why?

    I read a comment by you recently about one of your kids inquiring into your sex life. She has to live in the world you create by having sex. So why shouldn’t she know what you are dong? If other people’s choices are your business, are your choices our business? Surely, given that your choices impact everyone else, we have a right to know what you’re doing and what your plans are.

    Are you done having kids? If not, how many more will you have? When will you have them? How will you pay for them all to go to school, if that’s a value for you?

    We have to live in the crappy world you are advocating for Holly.

    I’m advocating a world where people make careful choices about their commitments and honor them as well as they can. However, if it turns out (as it sometimes does) that those commitments can’t be honored, people are allowed to withdraw from them as quickly and gracefully as possible, in ways that minimize the damage they do to others. You really think that would be so bad?

    I refer you to the edit I added above, and ask again: what is your goal with regards to all of this?

  18. And it doesnt take mind-reading to predict your next response Holly.

    Youre going to lash out angrily about the crappy world the LDS Church and people like me create for other people with our judgmental attitudes.

    Oops! i posted my comment before I read this one from you, so I wasn’t able to deliver what you ordered.

    Seriously, Seth: If only you knew how much we just plain LAUGH at you.

    But unlike you Im not claiming that my publicly stated beliefs are none of your business. Im not trying to exempt myself from critique the way you are right now.

    Well, good. Then I look forward to reading the details of your plans for your family, since they demonstrate how you implement your “publicly stated beliefs,” which are very much my business.

  19. since you seem to have missed it, and to make things easier on you, I’ll repost this from 315:

    the real point of comparison to the Portugal situation is this:

    are you more interested in condemning something negative, or do you want to promote something positive?

    Condemning cohabitation, however much it does or does not deserve that condemnation, does not do much at all to strengthen marriage.

    So, Seth, I ask: what is your real goal here?

    If its to strengthen marriage, many of your comments are misplaced.

    if its to trash cohabitation regardless of what that accomplishes, well, I guess we can all look forward to more of the same.

  20. Holly, the notion of graceful withdrawal sounds nice in theory.

    But then again, the idea of early marriage between two outstanding young people who are completely and responsibly committed to each other also sounds nice in theory.

    However, you have said that this notion has unintended side effects of unprepared kids rushing into marriage to have sex and causing pain for themselves and others.

    Well, cohabitation has it’s own entourage of unintended consequences as well – which the article illustrated quite well.

    Namely that the “soft-option” of cohabitation encourages people to not be as careful in selecting who they decide to move in with – and yet allows them to gradually build up just as many ties to each other as married people have – but without the real compatibility that traditional courtship and marriage are supposed to provide. A guy shacks up with a girl because “she seems fun and attractive” and isn’t too concerned about any underlying compatibilities he might have with her – because he can always just “move out” later on down the line – right?

    Then a dog, furniture, 3 years of shared rent, shared utility bills, and shared friends and life later – suddenly that “move out” option doesn’t seem so simple anymore. They find it just as difficult to be rid of each other as it would have been had they been husband and wife.

    That’s because there’s a hard rule about human romance that has been ignored here.

    When it comes to love, sex and romance – there is no such thing as non-commitment. There is no such thing as no-strings-attached. You’re either in, or you’re out.

    And the solution is not to go through endless social contortions to find ways for people to have sex without commitment. It’s not going to work that way – ever.

  21. the idea of early marriage between two outstanding young people who are completely and responsibly committed to each other also sounds nice in theory.

    I think it”s pretty awesome in practice too. I know some middle-aged and elderly people who were once “outstanding young people who are completely and responsibly committed to each other.” They have really sweet marriages that I admire. More power to them. I wish more people were that lucky.

    My concern is not the “outstanding young people who are completely and responsibly committed to each other” but the average young people who mostly just want to have sex and figure they better get married before they try it so they won’t get in trouble with their church; or the average young people who start looking around for ANYONE to marry before they graduate because they always figured they’d be married by then; or for the average young people who don’t really like the guy who proposed to them but marry the guy anyway because they really, really want a baby; or the average young people who figure they might as well get married because all their friends are setting dates and buying rings; etc.

    Thats because theres a hard rule about human romance that has been ignored here.

    When it comes to love, sex and romance there is no such thing as non-commitment. There is no such thing as no-strings-attached. Youre either in, or youre out.

    Seth, NO ONE HERE HAS IGNORED THAT BUT YOU. People have tried repeatedly to get you to see that falling in love involves a commitment. Living with someone and having sex with them involves a commitment. People have told you this, repeatedly. And you’ve told us we’re wrong. YOU are the one who has insisted that cohabitation shows a lack of commitment. “Well,” we say, “not necessarily.”

    So what’s it going to be? Do love, sex and romance always necessarily involve a commitment? Or is cohabitation not REALLY a commitment?

    Like Alan said, it really would have been nice if you would have read that article before you started commenting here.

    And the solution is not to go through endless social contortions to find ways for people to have sex without commitment. Its not going to work that way ever.

    Fine by me, since that is not and has never been part of my agenda.

  22. Then why aren’t they getting married Holly?

    Why are they cohabitating instead?

    There is only one apparent reason for the majority of cohabitations out there – and that is an exit strategy.

    Sure there are exceptions, like Chanson’s story. But really – you have to ask what the fundamental reason for cohabitation is.

  23. Seth, I said @ 300 that the article was “good” in the sense that it opened you to the possibility that cohabitation was nothing like what you’ve been saying it is. That shouldn’t be an invitation for you to become reductionist again like @321.

    Read this response to the article, which doubts that the “cohabitation effect” is even sociologically present in the 2010s like it was in the 1980s. The thing is that, at any given time, people form relationships differently due to factors outside just the couple — that is, cohabitating can take on different meanings for people, so that, say, in the year 2025 cohabitation might be basically what your saying marriage is.

    Also, the first article specifically was referring to folks who cohabitate in their 20s. The reason Chanson’s story plays out differently, I imagine, is because she was older after a failed marriage in her 20s. In sum, the different ways cohabitation manifests culturally, through time, and within a particular lifespan cannot be boxed around so easily.

    But really you have to ask what the fundamental reason for cohabitation is.

    No, you don’t. It would be better to resist this impulse.

    I liked the article because it touched on things like how young low-income folks cohabitate, often out of necessity, to share expenses. I see a great humanity in people “shacking up” to make ends meet regardless of how things turn out in the end for the relationship. Is the goal necessarily for everyone to “get married and live happily ever after in the eternities” or might for some of us it be “to make it happily and comfortably to old age”?

  24. Then why arent they getting married Holly?

    Why don’t you ASK THEM, Seth?

    I’ve talked to people about stuff like that, and they’ve given me answers–a range of them–that I’ve tried to think about carefully. I could tell you a pretty interesting story about my friend Jay, who lived with someone, broke her heart; married someone else, divorced her; and has cohabitated with a woman who considers marriage a repressive tool of patriarchy. They’ve been together for almost 15 years, have reproduced, and own a house.

    You could ASK PEOPLE why they cohabitate. You might actually learn something that way, about both people and cohabitation.

    Or you could just continue to assume that you know their motives and can’t possibly be wrong in your assumptions, in which case you won’t learn anything–about cohabitation, other people, or even yourself.

  25. Alan, I found the Slate article vague and frustratingly unhelpful. It gave no rationale for what it was claiming.

    There’s a quote from one researcher that the “cohabitation effect” just can’t be found anymore. And then there is some vague talk about cohabitation becoming the “norm” and then a bare assertion about the divorce rate going down.

    But there is zero explanation beyond that. After making these vague data points, the author then pulls the “what’s the big deal” card and asks why we are even bothering with this.

    It was a very unhelpful article that gave little explanation or rationale for its assertions – there was no advocacy there to weigh or decide on.

  26. But gives a very useful warning against viewing cohabitation as a convenient test run to see if you want to get married. Its not without exit costs, its not easier to get out of than marriage, and it can even pull people into the trap of settling into a comfort zone of living together for years with people they otherwise would have broken up with in a few months if they hadnt been living with them.

    Right, as I said earlier, cohabitation is not the absence of commitment, it is a type of commitment.

    But really you have to ask what the fundamental reason for cohabitation is.

    I agree with Holly and Alan that you don’t really have to — you might consider the MYOB option. However, if you’re genuinely curious, then (as Holly said) you should listen to people who have information on the subject.

    You’re not going to learn anything by simply asking yourself what other people’s motivations might be, and then doggedly insisting:

    There is only one apparent reason for the majority of cohabitations out there and that is an exit strategy.

    even after you’ve already discovered that:

    When it comes to love, sex and romance there is no such thing as non-commitment.

    Holly’s conclusion @301 really nails it:

    If you want people to make superior choices, educate them and then provide them with more options, because educated people with more options tend to choose better ones.

    Also, the article she linked about universal health care demonstrates the point quite well:

    If a woman gets pregnant unexpectedly in America, she has to worry about how she will get her own prenatal care, medical care for her child, whether or not she will be able to keep her job and how she will pay for daycare for her child so she can continue to support her family. In Canada those problems are eliminated or at least reduced. Where do you think a woman is more likely to feel supported in her decision to keep her baby, and therefore reduce abortions?

    If you really want people to make good choices, making sure that they have good options works better than railing against the choices you don’t like.

  27. The problem is the mixture of “inevitable commitment” that goes with sex and romance, and the idea of “exit strategy” or “hedging” that goes along with cohabitation. No one is claiming that people don’t bring their own unique virtues and vices to the relationships they find themselves in. No one is claiming that a person can’t be so otherwise outstanding that they do cohabitation in an admirable way. The argument was never about whether it was possible to have an admirable household with cohabitation in the mix.

    The question was about what cohabitation TRENDS towards for the population as a whole. If you are looking at the big societal picture then yes – absolutely – you need to know what cohabitation is fundamentally about and what its core premise is. Because that will reveal (partially) where the practice is pushing the larger surrounding society.

    Chanson, you have every right to tell me to mind my own business when it comes to judging your household, your past, and your decisions. I don’t know how good or bad you and your partner were, whether you made it work or messed it up. Nor should that matter to the argument I’m making. Nor should Alan’s virtues (or vices) in his own relationship matter to a discussion of where homosexual relationships are taking our society.

    UNLESS…

    Your relationship or his relationship demonstrates fundamental attributes about cohabitation or homosexuality that shed light on how the broader social movement will act, and impact our society.

    The anecdotes are not “my business.” But the broader social trends certainly are. I have to live in the society that these trends are pushing us toward as much as anyone. So does my family.

    There’s also a difference between promoting education, fighting poverty, and providing people with “options” as you put it, and deciding whether cohabitation is something we want to applaud and encourage as a concept in our society.

    I feel like we’ve been talking about two different subjects this entire debate, while thinking we were talking about the same thing.

  28. if you are looking at the big societal picture then yes absolutely you need to know what cohabitation is fundamentally about and what its core premise is.

    if that’s what you want to know, then, as Chanson said

    if youre genuinely curious, then (as Holly said) you should listen to people who have information on the subject.

    Youre not going to learn anything by simply asking yourself what other peoples motivations might be, and then doggedly insisting [that you already know the answers to your purported questions].

    Seth @328 I feel like weve been talking about two different subjects this entire debate, while thinking we were talking about the same thing.

    Well, more than once, YOU have taken multiple positions with regards to the very same issue and then insisted there’s no contradiction between your statements until and sometimes even after this has been brought to your attention. So much of the blame for that problem lies with you.

    Theres also a difference between promoting education, fighting poverty, and providing people with options as you put it, and deciding whether cohabitation is something we want to applaud and encourage as a concept in our society.

    We don’t have to applaud or encourage cohabitation. We also don’t have to shame and condemn it, because that doesn’t lead to better relationships or more stable marriages. Instead, we can invest in things that tend to lead to marriage and to to inhibit divorce.

    Did you not read the stuff, Seth, about how people with more education and better finances tend to marry more and divorce less?

    http://lmgtfy.com/?q=people+with+more+education+and+money+marry+more+and+divorce+less

    The bottom line is this: you aren’t going to be able to make people do what you want. By that I don’t mean that “one is not able to make people do what one wants.” I mean that Seth R is not going to be able to make people take his opinions and beliefs about how they should live their lives into account when making decisions.

    Given that railing against the evils of cohabitation doesn’t get people to make the choices Seth wants, what can he do instead that will help people have more stable, committed relationships that better nurture and protect children?

    He seems unwilling to even think about anything pragmatic and practical, and has difficulty seeing how anything not specifically labeled “cohabitation and marriage” relates to the issue.

    So I don’t see much hope for poor Seth to be anything but disappointed and angry about the awful choices other people are making.

    But then, the mindreader in me thinks that that’s probably what he really wants. He doesn’t want to give people more options; he wants them to work with the options they’ve already got and make the same choices he did. And when they don’t, he wants to condemn them for it.

    To follow the template Seth himself established:

    But really you have to ask what the fundamental reason is for someone to be so opposed to cohabtation and divorce and not want to talk more about what, besides his opprobrium, will discourage both.

    There is only one apparent reason for the majority of Seth’s statements, and that is that he just wants to be spread his disapproval around.

    And thus we get back to Parker’s point @232 that it’s easier to talk about Seth than to talk to him. Let’s see if the statements there about how Seth reacts hold true here as well.

  29. No, I would reject your premise Holly that economics are the only or major factor leading to family breakdown.

    And as both Kullervo and I pointed out – you’re not going to solve the economy any time soon. So saying “let a better economy solve the problem” is really just the same thing as saying – let’s not solve this problem any time in the next century.

  30. “There is only one apparent reason for the majority of Seths statements, and that is that he just wants to be spread his disapproval around.”

    And you cry about me mind-reading Holly?

    Nothing like the smell of unaware hypocrisy in the morning.

  31. I would reject your premise Holly that economics are the only or major factor leading to family breakdown.

    Uh, Seth, precisely where do I say this? Precisely where do I say or even suggest that “economics are the only or major factor leading to family breakdown”?

    I don’t think they are. I am smart enough to realize that “more education and money tend to promote marriage and inhibit divorce” does not mean that “economics are the only or major factor leading to family breakdown.”

    Identifying a partial solution to a problem does not necessarily mean you can therefore clearly identify its root cause, does it?

    youre not going to solve the economy any time soon.

    Oh, so we’re only allowed to discuss solutions that will be effective “any time soon”? We don’t get to take the long view and work for an overall transformation of society? Who said so? Where is that written?

    Well, I’ve got news for you, Mr. Rogers: You’re not going to end cohabitation any time soon. So by your logic own, your incessant complaining about how bad it is “is really just the same thing as saying lets not solve this problem any time in the next century.”

    As you yourself wrote @331, “Nothing like the smell of unaware hypocrisy in the morning.”

    Speaking of @331: Are you too angry to read an entire comment before you pound out your indignant response? Sad when that happens.

    For the record: I was very aware of what I was doing @329, and I make that clear in the comment. I call attention to the fact that I’m mindreading and using a template you establish. How did you miss all that?

  32. I suppose you were too busy being angry and plotting ways to make this thread about me rather than the subject, to really pay attention to the substantive issues we were discussing. But if you had been, you would have noticed that I already discussed economics on several occasions in this thread that had nothing to do with this particular sub-argument. So it clearly was not the case that I didn’t want to talk about economic solutions to the problem.

    The only issue I had was your attempt to suggest that I ought to concede my argument in favor of economic solutions. Basically, you were saying that “economics is the real big problem here – so Seth is just barking up the wrong tree and ought to shut up already.”

    That was a clearly dishonest attempt to shut down the debate by an appeal to eradicating poverty. Neither me, nor Kullervo ever said we didn’t think poverty was important, or worth talking about. It’s just that both of us recognized that you were hand-waving to try and avoid talking about an issue you didn’t want to talk about.

    So bring up poverty Holly. By all means – feel free to discuss it.

    But don’t expect me to accept it as a reason not to talk about why cohabitation is a problematic social construct. This kind of dodge and evade may play well with your own little band of groupies, but it isn’t fooling anyone else.

  33. Now, to address your… can I even call it a point… about “railing.”

    You would like to dismiss what I’m doing here as “railing”, “ranting”, or whatever else (though I think it’s clear to an objective reader which of the two of us has been “the angry one”). But these labels miss the key issue being debated in this thread.

    Is cohabitation, as a social trend, good for society or harmful to it?

    That’s what I’ve been discussing. And the answer to that question is in dispute. I think it’s a, on the balance (at the macro level), harmful trend. Others disagree with me.

    Given that situation – how does it possibly make sense for Holly to complain that my aim here has been to express disapproval for the social trend of cohabitation? Of course that’s what I’m doing. I’m on one side of a debate about whether cohabitation is a good thing or not for society. What else would be expected?

    This is basically a Captain Obvious moment for Holly.

    Oh my gosh – it’s like his whole purpose in this debate is to express disapproval of cohabitation!

    Gee, well-spotted Holly. I hope it didn’t take all these weeks for you to deduce that. But given that whether cohabitation is a good or bad thing has been the subject for 333 comments and running (despite a lot of wasted comments were people tried to make it about how mean I am), I have to say – you’re a little late to the party.

  34. @328

    If you are looking at the big societal picture then yes absolutely you need to know what cohabitation is fundamentally about and what its core premise is. Because that will reveal (partially) where the practice is pushing the larger surrounding society.

    I don’t even know what this means. Can one say the same thing about marriage? That it has one premise, or can’t it also be about a bunch of other things? This whole time I see Seth as comparing something he believes as ideal to something he believes is less than ideal, so that the equation is already sorted out.

    1 > (less than 1).

    Nor should Alans virtues (or vices) in his own relationship matter to a discussion of where homosexual relationships are taking our society.

    I also don’t understand this. Homosexual relationships have always existed in society. They’re just now more public, because it’s not fair for people to have to stay hidden (like they’re quasimodos, or something). So the only place public homosexual relationships are taking society is to a place less homophobic.

    Seth’s framing here (and certainly plenty of his previous comments) demonstrate that he’s already of the opinion that homosexual relationships are lesser than hetero ones — so he’ll do the same thing he does with cohabitation — search for what’s “fundamentally wrong” first and then try to be “open” to the pros to see if they outweigh the cons.

    So, Seth, as much as you’re attempting to play objective observer, you don’t really have my trust that you can sustain it.

  35. The only issue I had was your attempt to suggest that I ought to concede my argument in favor of economic solutions.

    Right. Because my writing

    Judge people all you want. You obviously already do, and I dont figure anything is going to stop that except maybe a personality transplant or your kids really disappointing you.

    and

    So, Seth, I ask: what is your real goal here?

    If its to strengthen marriage, many of your comments are misplaced.

    if its to trash cohabitation regardless of what that accomplishes, well, I guess we can all look forward to more of the same.

    isn’t an acknowledgment that you’re unlikely to give up this bone you’re gnawing.

    But I am at least glad to know what “the only issue you had was.”

    That was a clearly dishonest attempt to shut down the debate by an appeal to eradicating poverty. Neither me, nor Kullervo ever said we didnt think poverty was important, or worth talking about. Its just that both of us recognized that you were hand-waving to try and avoid talking about an issue you didnt want to talk about.

    Oh. OK. Both YOU AND KILLERVO are expert mindreaders. YOU KNOW that he knows what I intended.

    Truly, Seth, your skill grows daily. Very impressive!

    But dont expect me to accept it as a reason not to talk about why cohabitation is a problematic social construct. This kind of dodge and evade may play well with your own little band of groupies, but it isnt fooling anyone else.

    Don’t worry, Seth: I don’t expect you to be swayed from your favorite tirade by much of anything.

    how does it possibly make sense for Holly to complain that my aim here has been to express disapproval for the social trend of cohabitation? Of course thats what Im doing. Im on one side of a debate about whether cohabitation is a good thing or not for society. What else would be expected?

    Um, Chanson, Alan, Parker, Suzanne, Taryn, Chino and anyone else who has been involved: Is this conversation “a debate about whether cohabitation is a good thing or not for society”?

    It’s not what the OP was about, so if you think that’s all the conversation can and should be about now, Seth, who made you threadjacker in chief?

    Anyway, I guess that explains a lot if that’s all you think it is. You think that your angry rantings (yes, your angry rantings) are actually going to prove anything and settle the question. Other people say, “Well, engagement cohabitation seems to be good for marriage. Other kinds of cohabitation, not so much. But regardless of whether it’s good or bad, cohabitation is a reality. So given this reality, what can we do to make things better for people?”

    But given that whether cohabitation is a good or bad thing has been the subject for 333 comments and running (despite a lot of wasted comments were people tried to make it about how mean I am), I have to say youre a little late to the party.

    You’re flat-out wrong, Seth. This thread has had a great many twists and turns, and not all of them have had to do with cohabitation.

    But these labels miss the key issue being debated in this thread.

    Is cohabitation, as a social trend, good for society or harmful to it?

    Again I ask: Chanson, Alan, Parker, Suzanne, Taryn, Chino and anyone else who has been involved: is that the key issue being debated here?

    Oh my gosh its like his whole purpose in this debate is to express disapproval of cohabitation!

    Yes, that’s it. That’s all you’ve got to offer. Nothing but disapproval. No solutions, nothing constructive. Just a nasty nay-sayer who rants and rails.

    I’ll just point out something else. I gave you this advice: “You could ASK PEOPLE why they cohabitate. You might actually learn something that way, about both people and cohabitation.”

    You seem unwilling to take it.

    I have recognized all along that you have nothing to offer but ranting and railing. I’ve asked why you don’t offer more. To repeat:

    Holly @311 if your goal is to encourage strong, stable marriages, you need to focus on the strategies that will meet that goal.

    And theres a good chance that it wont involve a lot of attention to opposing cohabitationor divorce, for that matter.

    Holly @315 the real point of comparison to the Portugal situation is this:

    are you more interested in condemning something negative, or do you want to promote something positive?

    Condemning cohabitation, however much it does or does not deserve that condemnation, does not do much at all to strengthen marriage.

    So, Seth, I ask: what is your real goal here?

    If its to strengthen marriage, many of your comments are misplaced.

    if its to trash cohabitation regardless of what that accomplishes, well, I guess we can all look forward to more of the same.

    Holly @318 I refer you to the edit I added above, and ask again: what is your goal with regards to all of this?

    Holly @320 Ill repost this from 315:

    the real point of comparison to the Portugal situation is this:

    are you more interested in condemning something negative, or do you want to promote something positive?

    Condemning cohabitation, however much it does or does not deserve that condemnation, does not do much at all to strengthen marriage.

    So, Seth, I ask: what is your real goal here?

    If its to strengthen marriage, many of your comments are misplaced.

    if its to trash cohabitation regardless of what that accomplishes, well, I guess we can all look forward to more of the same.

    I’ve repeatedly ask you to explain what your goal is in condemning cohabitation (and divorce, but you don’t seem to want to talk about that anymore–you have erased that topic, though it was the focus of the OP).

    You have no answer. None.

    Having asked you repeatedly for an answer, I now feel entitled to speculate as to why you won’t provide one. Most likely answers: A) you don’t actually have an answer. B) the answers are unflattering to you: you just like to complain; you’re too lazy to do anything but point out problems and find it too much bother to solve them.

    So keep foaming at the mouth and the keyboard, Seth. We’ve all figured out that you have nothing to offer but condemnation of a situation you refuse to ask questions about. It would be pointless to continue were it not true, as Chino pointed out, that it’s fun to watch your whole ridiculous routine.

  36. Holly @229 And thus we get back to Parkers point @232 that its easier to talk about Seth than to talk to him. Lets see if the statements there about how Seth reacts hold true here as well.

    So take a look at Seth @333 & @334, and then read this from Parker, @232:

    http://mainstreetplaza.com/2012/06/27/put-on-your-own-oxygen-mask-first/comment-page-5/#comment-104364

    S. N. 213 reflects my thoughts as well. Earlier today as I was checking some sources for something I am writing I came across this statement by the psychologist Leon Festinger. A man with a conviction is a hard man to change. Tell him you disagree and he turns away. Show him facts or figures and he questions your source. Appeal to logic and he fails to see your point. Guess who I thought about when I read that.

    The thing I notice over a number of different threads for the last couple of years is that you really cant have a discussion with Seth. Instead, you end up discussing himjust as I am doing now. And his response is to act absolutely amazed and puzzled that anyone would say such a thing, since he has been on topic all along with convincing compelling arguments supporting his position, and it is you that has been rude, off-topic, and muddled headed.

    so whether we have a truly skilled mindreader here, it seems we have a prophet.

  37. Holly, you are absolutely right on one thing.

    YOU can’t have a discussion with me.

    That is abundantly obvious.

  38. My goal was to discuss cohabitation and debate whether it’s a good thing or not. I think that should have been rather obvious, which is why I haven’t bothered with this frivolous question until now.

    All societal solutions start with recognizing what your values are. Before you can talk about solutions, you have to identify the problems. If we don’t recognize cohabitation as a problem in the first place – then there is no point talking about solutions for it. Since the debate over whether it is a good thing or not continues apace, I don’t see why the fact that I’m still advocating a side is a big news flash for anyone.

    Now, are there any more obvious things you would like pointed out to you Holly?

  39. Well, Seth, if you ever change your mind and decide to be someone with whom people can have a discussion, I would still really like answer to the questions @336 and earlier.

  40. Well, I see that my comment @340 was premature. It’s not abundantly clear after all that I can’t have a discussion with you!

    @339: In other words, I was right in my suspicion that your one and only goal is to trash cohabitation regardless of what that accomplishes, so we can all look forward to more of the same.

    It’s true that this was obvious to me, but I wanted YOU to admit that you are not and have never been interested in talking here about how to strengthen marriage.

    So, thanks.

    Now, are there any more obvious things you would like pointed out to you Holly?

    Sure, Seth: is someone who spends a huge portion of his time arguing a position he is never going to persuade his interlocutors to accept suffering from some sort of pathology?

  41. Oh, “people” can and do have conversations with me all the time Holly.

    It’s just that YOU can’t.

    But that’s more your own personal hangup than mine.

  42. OK, apparently you do need more of the obvious pointed out to you. I feel like I’m running a thought-charity here.

    Obviously the reason that cohabitation would be bad (or good) would be intimately tied up in the question of whether marriages are strengthened or weakened. Cohabitation is seen as an alternative to marriage in the first place. So of course increased cohabitation is going to impact marriage.

    Furthermore, the question of “is marriage good” is implicitly tied up in the question of whether it’s OK to forgo it in favor of cohabitation.

    So, by discussing whether cohabitation is good or bad, we are already automatically discussing the health of marriage. I would have thought it was obvious the two subjects were interconnected and implicit in the discussion, but always happy to point out the obvious for you Holly.

  43. Its just that YOU cant.

    and Parker, and Taryn…. It seems difficult for most people here.

    But thats more your own personal hangup than mine.

    A “personal hangup” is the last thing I or anyone whose opinion I care about would call my refusal to play your little games on your terms.

    But it sure is fun to get you to play it on mine.

  44. @343: Poor Seth. Can’t quite seem to understand that “is marriage unhealthy?” a question with a yes/no answer, is not the same question as “how do we strengthen marriage, regardless of its health?” a question that requires actual thought and some suggestions on how to solve a problem.

    but hey, Seth, if you want to continue to give away your utterly worthless thoughts and call it charity, well, I suppose you might as well.

  45. similarly, the question of “does cohabitation suck?” is not the same question as “how do we discourage cohabitation and encourage marriage?”

    As I pointed out, clear up there at the top of this portion of the thread, saying “Cohabitation is bad” doesn’t reduce it.

    So what will?

    I’m actually interested in that, and have pointed out things to think about in answering that question. You don’t see the connection to the debate you think, all alone in your head, you’re having here with others.

    But you have no answer for that question, Seth, and you don’t want to come up with one. You think that you’re doing a service by repeating yourself, and I guess you are: it’s one more episode of Seth’s Schtick at MSP, and you already know how that entertains us.

    So yeah, if providing a spectacle that amuses others is the best use of your time, by all means, continue.

    Do you want to post your address, so people know where to send the tips?

  46. Is this thread still going? Count me as one who finds it difficult to have a conversation with Seth.
    I think marriage can be strengthened by people freely choosing to commit to one another. People should be empowered with the tools and information to make choices that are most beneficial.
    Sometimes there aren’t any oxygen masks.
    But who am I to talk, I only got married to piss Seth off. And I’ve never even met him.

  47. For the sake on my cranky brain, my spinal surgery recuperation, my hips well at me when i use them, and the reduced brain power that spasms is a syncopated rhythm combinations every time a new comment that says the same thing as at least 20+ posts that said the same thing, albeit with more or less words in different posts.

    Please everyone who still cares passionately about this thread, if I send you a ream of paper, envelopes and stamps, could you use them and talk about it that way?

    Trust me, any thing that hasn’t been said by the 200th, isn’t going to change anyone’s mind. Besides, think how many trees you could kill to underscore have passionate. You are about disliking the debate, disliking how the debate was framed, personally disliking the personality and persons of those who don’t agree with you. Besides, then you use the mail service to send messages you can contribute having your argument be completely irrelevant to answering the last comment, you blame it on the “damn postman.”

    So, go to my blog, laugh at the juvenile people actually poetry about shopping list must be insane. Leave a comment with your email and a will send you a letter writing kit.
    Poetrysansonions.blogspot.com

    This has been a public service announcement brought to you by the forest products industry.

  48. Thanks for the engaging mega-thread everyone. It’s been fun to come back and back and back over the past few weeks.

    Seth R., (in my unbiased opinion) I am an objective reader of this blog. While I am convinced of the sincerity of your arguments and perspective, I am not convinced that what you keep claiming to be obvious is obvious. In reading your posts, and reading what other people say about your posts, I’m frankly just perplexed. I see people sincerely looking to engage with you and your ideas, but it’s like you don’t understand what they are trying to say. And they repeat what they are trying to say in a different way, and you still don’t understand, so they start getting frustrated. I don’t see that frustration aimed at you as a person, but aimed at the barrier to communication that seems to exist between you and other posters.

    I find this quote so thought provoking. A man with a conviction is a hard man to change. Tell him you disagree and he turns away. Show him facts or figures and he questions your source. Appeal to logic and he fails to see your point. My first question when reading that is: am I that man with conviction? I’ve read all the posts in this thread, and I don’t see you engage in any sort of self-reflection Seth R.. Even if it’s objectively true that you don’t rail or rant, or that you are a fair and level-headed debater, or that you harbor no anger, or whatever else, if someone criticizes you, do you ever just step back and think, “Is there some possible kernal of truth in that criticism? For what reasons would a reasonable person say such things?”

    Because I don’t see any self-reflection in your comments, nor I see any of your comments that might be informed by self-reflection. You made a jab at the “Christian war on science” in another thread. Do you think there is any sort of discussion, facts, or logic that is going to change those people’s minds? Without self-reflection, there is no way a person to find their way out of a false conviction.

    I guess my point is that I think demonstrating a little bit of self-relfection would gain you a lot of mileage with your discussant partners and with observers. Up to this point, everytime you have invoked the view-of-the-unbiased-observer I have disagreed with that view, and I think a lot of that disagreement comes from me not seeing self-reflection in your comments.

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