January 17, 2008

Midlife crisis or narcissistic jerk?

Here's a piece by psychiatry professor Richard A. Friedman that's ranking well on the NYT most-emailed list. There are different reasons why a piece might get emailed, one of which is that it's a surprising or brilliant article, but another is — and I think that's the case here — that the article says exactly what you'd like to say to somebody or — in this case especially — to say to a lot of people about somebody. The theory Friedman is putting his professional stamp on is that the term "midlife crisis" is a lame excuse for selfish, destructive behavior and a fear of getting old.

That made me think of this dialogue in the movie "Moonstruck":
Rose: Why do men chase women?

Johnny: Well, there's a Bible story... God... God took a rib from Adam and made Eve. Now maybe men chase women to get the rib back. When God took the rib, he left a big hole there, where there used to be something. And the women have that. Now maybe, just maybe, a man isn't complete as a man without a woman.

Rose: [frustrated] But why would a man need more than one woman?

Johnny: I don't know. Maybe because he fears death.

[Rose looks up, eyes wide, suspicions confirmed]

Rose: That's it! That's the reason!

Johnny: I don't know...

Rose: No! That's it! Thank you! Thank you for answering my question!

66 comments:

knoxwhirled said...

ah, one of my favorite movies.

George said...

Writing in the American Journal of Psychiatry in 1981, George Vaillant, a Harvard psychiatrist who’s spent the bulk of his career devoted to the study of adult resilience and coping, argued that childhood capacity for work is one of the best predictors of adult mental health and the capacity to love. He based his conclusion on a famous longitudinal study of 456 young men from inner Boston who, starting in the forties, were followed beginning at age 14.

--

One generalization [from a different Vaillant study] -- and perhaps the most important to the average reader -- is that there are six factors at age 50 that have a great deal to do with whether you will get to age 80. The six are having a warm marriage, possessing adaptive or coping strategies, not smoking heavily, not abusing alcohol, getting ample exercise and not being overweight. Those who observe these factors are better at wending through what Vaillant calls "the minefields of aging." For these people, there is a statistically greater chance to achieve emotional and physical health. He calls them "the happy well." The happy well are those, he says, "who subjectively enjoy their lives and are objectively healthy." By contrast, the "sad sick" occupy another category. "The sad sick are people who feel and are sad and they feel and are sick."

Ruth Anne Adams said...

Also from 'Moonstruck': Snap out of it!

Pogo said...

Funny article. Many truths. But he misses something peculiar to this era, and more important, in my view. What he is observing is human conduct as it becomes when the requirement to conform to traditional social restraints no longer exists; it is left instead to individual whim how to behave. (cf: Dalrymple)

Divorce and affairs used to have severe social opprobrium enforcing a compact that benefitted the community at the expense of individual choice. No longer. Now a man can walk away from what is now reduced to a mere legal contract that can be violated without much effort, and certainly without shame or blame.

As a result, jerks can be jerks and get away with it, as they are merely doing their own thing, as it were. And no one can sit in judgement, at least not anymore.

Me? I was born middle aged.

Meade said...

Rose: "Do you love him, Loretta?"
Loretta: "Ma, I love him awful."
Rose: "Oh, God, that's too bad."

Middle Class Guy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Richard Fagin said...

Gee, Pogo, thanks. I can finally refer someone else to an editorial in the Wall St. Journal from 1992 or so entitled, "No Guardrails" and not be called a rectionary prig. The point of that editorial was that what's popularized (mid-life crisis, divorce, drug use, promiscuity, single parenthood, etc.) can be really destructive, and most of us don't have the resources to pick back up after the destruction. The popularizers, on the other hand, mostly being well-off entertainers
(and an occasional President), generally survive self-destructive behavior well enough to try again.

Mid-life crisis as a euphemism for narcissistic jerkyness is just another Hollywood assault on us reactionary prigs.

Middle Class Guy said...

"Except, of course, for the few — mainly men, it seems — who find the midlife crisis a socially acceptable shorthand for what you do when you suddenly wake up and discover that you’re not 20 anymore."

The last paragraph says it all. It is nothing more than some narcissistic excuse to relive a lost youth or worse a youth you never had. And, of course, we must give it a socially acceptable name to make it socially palatable; middle life crisis.

Someone should write a book, similar to the one Alan Dershowitz wrote some years back- The Excuse Abuse- I believe. The book exposed the excuses people tried to get courts and society to accept to excuse their criminal behavior.

We need a book now to expose the pathetic abuse of excuses that are socially acceptable to explain people's misbehavior.

Middle Class Guy said...

Pogo
"Now a man can walk away from what is now reduced to a mere legal contract that can be violated without much effort, and certainly without shame or blame."


I do believe it is a two way street now. Women are doing the same, especially amongst the well heeled.

Zeb Quinn said...

As a corollary to what Pogo said, the first time I ever recall the words being used was in the mid to late 60s when divorce was just becoming common, and newly divorced men let their hair grow, got a new wardrobe, got themselves a hotrod, and became swingers, especially with women much younger than their exwives. That was the birth of the term "midlife crisis." Circa 1966. The quintessential Playboy man.

And, taking it all a step further, I've always intuitively felt that modern feminism was the female flipside to that coin.

Jason said...

I ain't no monument to justice!!!

dix said...

An interesting theory from evolutionary psychology is that a man's midlife crisis is not dependent on his age but on the age of his partner/spouse i.e. when she hits menopause, he has a 'crisis' and searches for a younger, more fertile version. This would put it squarely in the 'narcissistic jerk' category, I believe but I guess he can always blame it on his genes.

joe said...

In defense of middle aged jerks - who wants to go to their grave not having experienced life to the fullest? Thinking about what could have been? Once you pass a certain age you become aware of death and that the road ahead is shorter than that left behind. I can't blame anyone for wanting to find some happiness before taking the big dirt nap. You never know what their lives were like before.

reader_iam said...

the big dirt nap.

Where have I been? Never heard that one before.

Roost on the Moon said...

I agree with much of your comment Pogo, but men being able to leave old wives for younger women without much social stigma is only "peculiar to this era" if your human history starts about 300 years ago.

Zeb Quinn said...

... when she hits menopause, he has a 'crisis' and searches for a younger, more fertile version. This would put it squarely in the 'narcissistic jerk' category, I believe but I guess he can always blame it on his genes.

Maybe not genetics, per se, but maybe just plain old biology. Who's to say that his drives are anything other than that? He has unfulfilled physical drives and he's a "narcissistic jerk" for not just bucking it up and enduring that for years and years for the rest of his life? Is that what we're saying here?

Maybe it's a demonstration of one big reason why it evolved over the millennia that the marrying male ought to be several years older than the woman he was marrying.

Simon said...

Zeb Quinn said...
"Maybe not genetics, per se, but maybe just plain old biology. Who's to say that his drives are anything other than that? He has unfulfilled physical drives and he's a 'narcissistic jerk' for not just bucking it up and enduring that for years and years for the rest of his life?"

But if the issue is "unfulfilled physical drives," doesn't that undercut menopause as the cutoff point? Menopause would make sense as a trigger if the issue is a sort of "spread my wild oats" drive to father children, but if the issue is one of pure sex drive (which I take to be the reference of your "physical drives" note), menopause doesn't make much sense as a trigger unless there is an assumption that post-menopausal women lose their sex drive. But that impression seems to be being repudiated by the baby boomers.


Middle Class Guy said...
"I do believe it is a two way street now. Women are doing the same, especially amongst the well heeled."

Valenti et al would no doubt regard this as a sign of progress - that women are now permitted to behave as badly as men rather than men being expected to behave with the probity once expected of women.

Pogo said...

Women are doing the same, especially amongst the well heeled.

But women who are poorly-heeled bear the brunt, with easy divorce helping create the "feminization of poverty" so often cited.

The culture of "hooking up", as Tom Wolfe described, has been a benefit for the id of males, at the expense of women, children and civilization at large.

"Stains and stigmas of every kind were disappearing where sex was concerned. Early in the twentieth century the term "cohabitation" had referred to the forbidden practice of a man and woman living together before marriage. In the year 2000, nobody under forty had ever heard of the word, since cohabitation was now the standard form of American courtship.
.............
The continuing vogue of feminism had made sexual life easier, even insouciant, for men. Women had been persuaded that they should be just as active as men when it came to sexual advances. Men were only too happy to accede to the new order, since it absolved them of all sense of responsibility, let alone chivalry. Men began to adopt formerly feminine attitudes when the subject of marriage came up, pleading weakness and indecisiveness, as in: "I don't know; I'm just not ready yet" or "Of course I love you, but like, you know, I start weirding out when I try to focus on it."

Dust Bunny Queen said...

The theory Friedman is putting his professional stamp on is that the term "midlife crisis" is a lame excuse for selfish, destructive behavior and a fear of getting old

Wow! What a newsflash (not). I wonder how much he was paid and how much of it was taxpayer subsidized to come up with this groundshaking theory that any woman has known about for at least 50 thousand years.

It didn't take a study to figure this out. I believe it used to be called "second childhood" as well. The difference is that we, today, extend our first childhood for many well into our 30's.

EnigmatiCore said...

Why do men chase women?

Because women are interesting, sex is fun, every woman is extremely different sexually, and it is validating to be wanted.

There are plenty of reasons not to chase women, but the above are among the reasons why.

A better question might be why do women not chase men (more than they do)? Do they not find those reasons as existing, or do they just find them overwhelmed by the reasons not to more than men do?

Roost on the Moon said...

Menopause would make sense as a trigger if the issue is a sort of "spread my wild oats" drive to father children, but if the issue is one of pure sex drive...

The two can't be so easily extricated. While standards of beauty may shift slightly through history and across cultures, one constant is that youth and health (the surest visual shorthand of fertility) inspire lust.

We all know from the experience of being alive that we don't wander around thinking "must...spread...seed..."

But the juiciest fruit of evolutionary psychology is the insight that the force that forms our emotions, from lust all the way to general desire for social respect seems to owe much to just such a drive.

former law student said...

Before the "midlife crisis", older married men with a little extra money simply had young girlfriends. Wives looked the other way because they still had a pretty good deal on balance. Why? Sex is more exciting when your partner is firm instead of saggy and you don't need Astroglide. Middle aged wives are not exactly racing home to rip off your pants. This may be because they have a lifetime of your faults in their memory. And midlife is the last time you're going to be able to attract a young or at least youthful woman, before being relegated to Dirty Grandpa status.

If you go back far enough, wives died in childbirth; young men in war. Thus an older guy could always get a relatively young woman partner, as long as he didn't die.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Ann, actually the better quote from that movie on mid life crisis was this.

Rose: "Cosmo, I just want you to know that no matter what you do, you're still going to die."

Cosmo: "Thank you Rose."

P. Rich said...

Waded through the piece. Unimpressed. A wandering article was not necessary in order to say that applying a convenient label to behavior does not explain or excuse it. Duh.

A practical consideration, which is relatively modern and only true in more advanced cultures, is longevity. "Til death do you part" has a whole other meaning when death is 50 years in the future rather than 25, monamagous sex quickly loses its intensity (though the sex drive keeps right on functioning indefinitely), and the child-rearing parental-distraction period is only 20 years or so.

To aging women, these factors typically spell "threat"; to men, "restriction". Society has so far neglected to formally update laws pertaining to marriage and the institution itself in order to rationally compensate for the biology.

Tim said...

"As a result, jerks can be jerks and get away with it, as they are merely doing their own thing, as it were. And no one can sit in judgement, at least not anymore."

Yes, this is absolutely true. Erode social norms and cultural authority, define deviancy down, in the never more true words of Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and none shoud be surprised at the decline of cultural indicators. Seal it with socially sanctioned presidential edicts that blowj*bs aren't sex, and we read news reports of eight graders engaged in like behavior in stairwells at schools. Aging adult males, whose sex drives don't diminish as much as I would have thought 30 years ago, read the social clues and get some while they can. No one wants to be the last man with virtue. It doesn't pay.

former law student said...

Pogo, with respect, Tom Wolfe didn't even get the facts about Silicon Valley billionaires right. Why would I trust his septuagenarian's view of what people in their 20s do regarding sex?

And back in Bill C's day, a blow job wasn't sex, but "heavy petting". Only "going all the way" was sex.

Zeb Quinn said...

But if the issue is "unfulfilled physical drives," doesn't that undercut menopause as the cutoff point? Menopause would make sense as a trigger if the issue is a sort of "spread my wild oats" drive to father children, but if the issue is one of pure sex drive (which I take to be the reference of your "physical drives" note)

Two things. First, post-menopausal women are changed in numerous ways in addition to the loss of fertility. Their bodies change in other ways too as a part of that. Not just older different, but different different. The components that previously made them sexually alluring just go away. And they do indeed often lose their own libido and are no longer interested in sex. Maybe not all, but many. In those cases, if the man still has a strong sex drive he's facing doing it with a woman who isn't sexy, doesn't want to be sexy, and doesn't want to do it. Even if she fakes it for his sake, it just isn't the same. Many men will just go find the real thing. Narcissistic jerk? I dunno. Maybe. Maybe not. That's the question.

Second, are you differenting between a man's sex drive and his desire to spread his seed? I don't. I believe them to be the same thing.

save_the_rustbelt said...

When does Rudy go for wife #4?

As my wife says...

"All men are dogs, some are better trained than others."

Woof.

Meade said...

Tim said...
No one wants to be the last man with virtue. It doesn't pay.

Depends on what you mean by "pay."
In general, if one does one's best to live a virtuous live, one is more likely to be trusted. And more likely to trust others who demonstrate similar values. The "payoff" for living that way comes in nonmaterial forms of serenity, peace, and happiness.


former law student said...
... back in Bill C's day, a blow job wasn't sex, but "heavy petting". Only "going all the way" was sex.

Even in Bill C's day, "heavy petting" was part of sex. Bill knew it; his spouse knew it; we all knew it.

Hoosier Daddy said...

I’m 40 so I’m not feeling much in the way of a ‘mid-life’ crisis mainly because I keep very active and really don’t feel much different physically than I was say at 30. Aside from some wrinkles at the corners of the eyes and some gray showing up on the hair, I don’t think much in terms of getting older. To me age is a relative issue as long as I can stay active. I think that is the biggest factor of the mid-life crisis is guys get older but they also feel older. Heck I can still ride faster and harder than guys 10-15 years younger than me so again, it’s a matter of how you feel not so much how you age.

I ain't no monument to justice!!!

"I ain't no freakin monument to justice."

/fixed...sorry pet peeve

Hoosier Daddy said...

A better question might be why do women not chase men (more than they do)? Do they not find those reasons as existing, or do they just find them overwhelmed by the reasons not to more than men do?

I know I'm going to get my ass kicked by the women on here but here's my theory.

Evolution and yes I am a Christian who believes in it. Women chase men to the extent that they find a suitable mate which can provide food, shelter and above all, protection. Once that is found, no need to look further. Men on the other hand can provide that stuff for themselves so that leaves sex. While one can suffice, two's better and three is just damn wonderful.

Now while our society has evolved to the stage where women don't have to rely on males to provide all of life's necessities, I argue that it's rather difficult to undo tens of thousands of years of genetic hardwiring.

Henry said...

And back in Bill C's day, a blow job wasn't sex

What day was that? Tuesday?

Kirk Parker said...

FLS,

"Middle aged wives are not exactly racing home to rip off your pants."

I take it you haven't reached middle age yet?

former law student said...

And not only back in Bill's day, according to google:

George Lundberg, you recall, who had been editor of JAMA
for 17 years, was fired by the American Medical Association
(AMA) in 1999 because he published, during the impeachment
trial of President Clinton, an unsolicited, peer-reviewed
study from the Kinsey Institute in which 59% of an Indiana
college student sample said they did not consider having had
oral sex as having “had sex.” Lundberg comments, a bit
grandly, on the “irony” (p. xii) that “the Monica Lewinsky affair
resulted in the loss of my job, but not Bill Clinton’s” (p. xii).

John Stodder said...

Just thinking of my own life, I have no patience for men with mid-life crisis turning their backs on women who have been loyal and affectionate to them. When my wife married me, I was a widower with a 10 year old son living an impossible life. Then, after about four years, my career was demolished by factors pretty much beyond my control, leaving us in major financial jeopardy. Now, a few more years have gone by and things are coming together, but it wasn't easy and my wife could've been forgiven at any point in our marriage if she'd said, "screw it, this is too hard." But she didn't. So I don't really care all that much whether menopause changes things, or whether some other liaison might tempt me. What kind of weak-ass pussy would I be if I couldn't get through that for the sake of a marriage that has sustained me (and my son) through some hard times, and given me more joy than I had any right to expect?

"Mid-life crisis" is a disease of the extremely lucky and extremely spoiled who never appreciated the bounty they were handed and likely didn't really earn, unless you think relatively ample wealth (compared with most of the world) is your entitlement for getting good grades in college.

I bet they had a lot of mid-life crisis as the Roman Empire was falling.

Pogo said...

John Stodder:
Well said.

Revenant said...

I can't remember where I first read this, but:

Something which is often overlooked about the male "midlife crisis" is that it tends to take place around roughly the same time that their wives are entering menopause, an event which commonly causes the wife to lose interest in sex and, somewhat less frequently, undergo changes in personality. Bluntly put, the guy's wife isn't the woman he married anymore and she's stopped putting out. The example in the article of the husband who cheated on his wife with a woman who was basically a younger version of herself makes a lot of sense. I'm not *excusing* infidelity, mind you; vows are vows. But it is interesting to me that midlife crises tend to occur around the same time as a major change in the *other* party in the marriage, and so few people think to connect the two.

Personally, I look at the boredom and routine of the average married man's life and wonder -- how does anyone put up with it? Especially if they don't have kids, or the kids are out of the house. There's something distinctly off-putting about needing another person's permission for everything you do.

Meade said...

I'll ditto Pogo's comment.

formerlawstudent,
Help me here please... what point are you trying to support with that citation? The way I read it, even as late as 1999, 41% of an Indiana college student sample thought of oral sex as having "had sex." Let me assure you: during the 60's and 70's - the days of "drugs, sex, and rock 'n roll," when Bill Clinton was a college student, oral sex was one of the many ways of having sex and one had to inhale really deeply to believe otherwise.

Hoosier Daddy said...

"Mid-life crisis" is a disease of the extremely lucky and extremely spoiled who never appreciated the bounty they were handed

John, good points all around. Although I think we also need to differentiate between a guy having a mid-life crisis where he goes out and scores with hot nubile young women and versus a guy who sees the need for a hair piece and fast car. I think the latter is about preserving an image of youthfulness versus the former who feels the need to ensure his virility.

Another point you bring up is the wealth factor and that despite what many think, most rich folks worked their ass off pretty much all their lives to accumulate said bounty (contrary to the liberal view that it was handed to them). After all that wealth is made, I think many look back and see a lot of things they missed out on doing cause they were in the office/store/warehouse whatever for 80-100 hours per week making all that moolah and now want to live it up. Example, I have an old high school buddy who is an attorney in Chicago. He works constantly, 12-14 hour days, Saturdays, takes work on vacation when he takes on. Makes boo-koo money, is a partner yet he’s my age and looks like he’s 50 (not that its old but when you’re 40…well). I would tell him about some of my cycling tours and he’ll comment, must be nice to have that kind of time to ride. Well yeah, kinda like it must be nice to make $300K a year plus bonus. Then again, I’m betting I won’t be trying to re-live my lost youth in ten years either. I’m not faulting him because it’s a tradeoff. I’d rather make a lot less money and have time to enjoy my hobbies and interest whereas he’s making his own sacrifices to ensure a financial security I’ll never have.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Personally, I look at the boredom and routine of the average married man's life and wonder -- how does anyone put up with it? Especially if they don't have kids, or the kids are out of the house. There's something distinctly off-putting about needing another person's permission for everything you do.

Actually, for myself and my husband (second marriage for both of us.. 15 years now) who are past the midlife crisis range, and 'my' child is long gone from the home and grown up, the routine is a pleasant comfort and there is nothing boring about it. The idea that you can look forward to beginning and ending your day with the same person who is not only your spouse/lover/partner but is also your best friend is infinitly appealing.

I agree with John Stoddard again. /applause. In a good marriage it is two people who are both working together for the same goals and who back to back defend each other against the world. At least, that's how I think it is. What kind of self indulgent jerk abandons this relationship because they want a hot piece of young ass on the side or need to relive their youth?

If you think marriage is all about having to ask permission of each other to do things, I feel that you must not have been in a very good or trustworthy relationship. I'm sorry. Sure, we wouldn't go out and buy a new car or other major purchase or make a life altering decision without mutual consent, but each person should be free to live their lives in the relationship with loving consideration of the other.

joe said...

"Although I think we also need to differentiate between a guy having a mid-life crisis where he goes out and scores with hot nubile young women and versus a guy who sees the need for a hair piece and fast car."
I would add another category - the man (or woman) of a passionate nature who misses that in the marriage and has a deep love affair with someone who brings that passion back into their life. It is wrong and yet it is also a gift from God.

knoxwhirled said...

John Stodder,

You ought to show what you just wrote to your wife. Just about any woman would love to read that.

reader_iam said...

There's something distinctly off-putting about needing another person's permission for everything you do.

Permission? My husband is supposed to be asking me permission for everything? Rats.

reader_iam said...

Hell, even my 7-year-old doesn't do that (sigh).

Then again, nor do I.

Joan said...

There's something distinctly off-putting about needing another person's permission for everyone you do.

Corrected.

Isn't that what you meant, Rev?

Dust Bunny Queen said...

It is wrong and yet it is also a gift from God

Same can be said for veneral disease :-)

Bruce Hayden said...

One thing about mid life crisises is that it isn't all about a guy getting a new wife. For one brother and me, it was a new career. I also became a father for the first time. Another brother bought a really fast car. There seems to be a lot of restlessness and reevaluation of life for a lot of us in our early to mid forties. And, maybe again, as we near 60 and/or retirement.

For women, it seems to come maybe a bit earlier, but remember, a significant majority of divorces are initiated by the women.

My experience with women going through menopause, etc., it that in many cases, sex becomes much harder for them, for physiological reasons. It isn't just a loss of libido, but also sometimes real pain. And, yes, for the guy, sex is more fun with pre-menopausal women.

So, it shouldn't come as a surprise that men prefer pre-menopausal women as sexual partners (on average). After all, they are also more likely to be fertile, and that is the ultimate purpose of sex.

Another note - there has always been a lot of hidden sex between married women and men, whether married or not. It wasn't too noticeable as long as there weren't significant genetic differences between the woman's husband and the sperm donor. The woman manages to have her cake and eat it too, with the superior genetics of the sperm donor, but the steady provider of her husband.

Women have always run after men, indeed, probably more than the opposite. The problem is that they do it in a passive way, that is not nearly as visibly noticeable. You see it in high schoolers, and you see the same thing in singles bars with the 40 and 50 somethings.

Galvanized said...

Great dialogue! I think that the midlife crisis is normal. For men, it seems to be in the 40s, while, for women, it seems to happen when the kids start hitting adulthood and leaving home, so I guess a few years later. For men, it seems to be the fear that they have lost the testosterone rush with the sense of adventure and the ability to just get up and go without answering to anyone, often a fear of being needed, even if they're otherwise content. For women, it seems to be rooted in the fears of possibly having settled,and more of being no longer so much needed and realizing her identity was too tied up in others around her and not knowing who she is anymore. To me, it seems like a converse. Weird, huh?

That said, the midlife crisis -- for both males AND females -- isn't selfish. It's the realization hitting that we each go around only once, and not wanting to miss out on anything. It's the reaction to that inner struggle that can be selfish. But just as often, the reaction can be positive -- new sense of freedom to experiment with things, midlife babies to postpone aging, job changes, etc. I prefer to think of a midlife crisis as a second wind. It's all in how one copes with it. :)

Meade said...

So then it's just mid life, right? Not necessarily a "crisis." It's only a crisis for those who don't cope well with changes occurring during their middle decades. But crisis can happen at any stage in life and is never an adequate excuse for being a jerk of any sort.

former law student said...

Let me assure you: during the 60's and 70's - the days of "drugs, sex, and rock 'n roll," when Bill Clinton was a college student, oral sex was one of the many ways of having sex
I don't feel assured. Perhaps someone besides me could find a factual basis for their assertions regarding what people consider to be sex.

Meade said...

The was a very popular book, formerlawstudent, that came out in early 70's. Bill Clinton would have been in his mid 20's. It was called "The Joy of Sex." Have you heard of it? It would take a pretty strong willingness to suspend disbelief to think Bill Clinton had not.

paul a'barge said...

Are we talking about midlife crises or why men want more than one woman? Because certainly men in all phases of their lives would like to have more than one woman.

Of course, these men may successfully resist this urge, but we all carry this urge from puberty on.

It has to do with being a male living organism. It's our biological imperative to nail as many hot babes as we can get away with, in order to perpetuate the genes of each of us.

This fact has nothing to do with a midlife crisis.

Pogo said...

Genetic imperative/biologic drive or not, it is dishonorable for a married man to make a promise and, absent violence or betrayal, end that union by cheating.

But Dalrymple and Wolfe point out that although this social compact has proven valuable, it has been rendered impotent, and men can now do whatever the hell they want.

To women it sends a clear message: why marry? And especially, why marry and care for kids? Why have kids at all?

And now you can understand the demographic decline in Europe.

David said...

Death comes when it will.

Don't overcomplicate.

David said...

Pogo:

"And now you can understand the demographic decline in Europe."

Huh? American men act pretty much the same as European, with the usual mix of good guys and cads. Why didn't our birth rate decline in the same way?

The European demographic decline has a lot more to do with the cost of having children, the desire to use money for "the good life," expensive housing and (yes) female economic independence.

Maxine Weiss said...

"If you think marriage is all about having to ask permission of each other to do things, I feel that you must not have been in a very good or trustworthy relationship. "

________________

It has nothing to do with trust.

Legally, one spouse can't sign a contract without the permission of the other spouse.

Purchase agreements, real estate deals, disbursements, co-signers, money transfers.....those all require permission by the spouse.

If a spouse takes a vacation and the other spouse disagrees.....it's called abandonment, legally.

Anybody you do business with, and transactions.....you are basically doing business with his/her spouse also.

According to family law (a very juicy field) the spousal rights regarding contracts, property, and miscellaneous transactions....cannot be waived.

---Even separate property isn't really separate, whether acquired before or after the marriage......

Family courts have repeatedly ruled that all that stuff is completely flexible.

Don't get married unless you are planning to share anything and everything with spouse, and not planning on making a move without permission granted!

Love,
Maxine

Simon said...

Zeb Quinn said...
"[P]ost-menopausal women are changed in numerous ways in addition to the loss of fertility. ... The components that previously made them sexually alluring just go away. And they do indeed often lose their own libido and are no longer interested in sex. Maybe not all, but many. In those cases, if the man still has a strong sex drive he's facing doing it with a woman who isn't sexy, doesn't want to be sexy, and doesn't want to do it."

I don't know to what extent the loss of libido in post-menopausal women is biological rather than culturally-inculcated, and it's not necessarily true that sexual allure dies with menopause either - depends on the man's sense of aesthetics and depends on how the woman ages. I do agree, though, that mismatched drives would pose a problem, no doubt for both partners.

Pogo said...

"American men act pretty much the same as European."

I disagree. It's not an issue of good guys vs. cads, but the decline of marriage and, related to that, fertility. The Europeans have thus answered the question "Why have children at all?" by ceasing reproduction. The same has not in fact happened in the US.

Revenant said...

Pogo,

Why do you assume that is a difference in the *men*, rather than the women? Women are, after all, almost always the more-enthusiastic party when the subject of having and raising kids is brought up. If European women are less-fertile than American ones I tend to doubt it is because of reluctance on the part of European men (or enthusiasm on the part of American ones).

Pogo said...

"Why do you assume that is a difference in the *men*, rather than the women?"
I do not mean to do so. The difference is bilateral. Women bear the majority of risk and duty in having and raising kids.

They are increasingly choosing not to have kids precisely because there is no longer a compelling reason, socially speaking. The compact is dead, so why participate? Why marry? Why have kids?

Jason said...

Mrs. Robinson! You're trying to seduce me!

Trooper York said...

I have always enjoyed John Stodder's reasoned contributions
to this blog, but his latest comment is pure gold. A real man would never abandon his wife, his partner, his other half. A real man dosen't cheat on his wife with another woman, no matter how young and nubile. Anyone who does is a weakling and a fool, not worth the notice of an honest man. A marriage is a sacred bond forged in love, maintained with kindness, nutured by consideration, ever fresh to be renewed each and every day.

Trooper York said...

Of course that doesn't mean you can't check out the new hot chicks with big tits on American Idol.
Just sayn'.

Revenant said...

I do not mean to do so.

Well you disagreed with the claim that American and European men are pretty much the same; it follows that you think there are significant differences. But none of the reasons you cite particularly have anything to do with differences in the men; they reflect differences in female attitudes.

Pogo said...

they reflect differences in female attitudes

Somewhat. Liberals in the US are similar to Europeans, men and women both, in their rejection of marriage and family. Hence, their fertility rates are similar: low and far below replacement.

But that isn't true in the rest of the US.

John Stodder said...

Trooper,

Thanks for 7:20.

Hear, hear for 7:24.

I'm not looking for sainthood. I just think loyalty and love should be appreciated, valued and reciprocated.

Or, like Max Schumacher's wife said in Network:

"Get out, go anywhere you want, go to a hotel, go live with her, and don't come back. Because, after 25 years of building a home and raising a family and all the senseless pain that we have inflicted on each other, I'm damned if I'm going to stand here and have you tell me you're in love with somebody else. Because this isn't a convention weekend with your secretary, is it? Or - or some broad that you picked up after three belts of booze. This is your great winter romance, isn't it? Your last roar of passion before you settle into your emeritus years. Is that what's left for me? Is that my share? She gets the winter passion, and I get the dotage? What am I supposed to do? Am I supposed to sit at home knitting and purling while you slink back like some penitent drunk? I'm your wife, damn it. And, if you can't work up a winter passion for me, the least I require is respect and allegiance. I hurt. Don't you understand that? I hurt."

Ah, maybe Max and Mrs. Max should have divorced years ago. I'm not in favor of "senseless pain." But my wife has risen to every occasion and shows me nothing but love and trust. I've senselessly annoyed her many times, but we try to stay away from senseless pain.