The circumstances of marriage


The following essay was produced as part of my 2013 effort for the November National Novel Writing Month effort. As such, please understand that while I did give it a quick review, it has not gone through the same proofreading and editing I normally try to give all of the material posted on this site.

I always make some mistakes. There are errors to be found throughout this web site, and many exist despite dozens of attempts to correct problems. That said, ask that you approach this material in the spirit intended – a basic thought, slightly worked out and very informally researched, delivered in the hopes of writing more than 50,000 words by the end of November.

Thank you.

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When it comes to the subject of marriage and all of the elements involved… divorce, children, and so on… it seems like most everyone has some kind of opinion.

(Especially those that have never been married. But let’s not digress. Well, ok… let’s… but only to make a point to build upon…)

Personally, I love the Everybody Loves Raymond episode (“Misery Loves Company”), when Robert and Amy… married all of three months… decide that they have found the secret to wedded bliss. And, they have also decided that they need to share it with Ray and Debra… and… with Frank and Marie.

Robert: Trouble in paradise?
Raymond: No, just Wednesday in paradise.
Robert: Care for some advice?
Raymond: No.
Robert: I’ll tell you what I’ve found to be the key to a happy marriage.
Raymond: Says the man who married a stripper, then divorced a stripper, then married a regular person and… and hung in there a whole three months.

And later from the same episode…

Marie: You want some real marriage advice? I’m gonna give you the secret now. There’s gonna be yelling. There’s gonna be anger. Don’t fight it. Accept it. You love him. You hate him. He disgusts you… look how he eats. You keep your head down, and you plow through.
Frank: Amen.
Amy: But Marie… you said “hate”… how can hate have any place in a marriage?
Marie: You make room.

I bring these exchanges into this because, let’s face it -- EVERY marriage is different. And yet Marie has a fairly nice summary to offer. There is humor to be found in all marriages. There are ups and downs. It is an emotional roller coaster. And yet the key for happiness and success in one marriage could very well be the key to the car that will drive over the edge of a cliff and figure heavily in the murder trial for another.

And yet… there they are… magazines after magazines with polls and columns and advice and tips for the happy marriage.

And yet… there they are… articles and charts and support groups for why the marriage failed.

Then I was catching up on some news from Australia and I saw a column. And honestly, I really wasn’t certain what to say.

Here’s the article. I found it in a daily life area while looking at The Sydney Morning Herald last August. You go ahead and check it out… I’ll wait.

So… I ask you…

You’ve heard about finances being a major topic in marital happiness and discontent.

You’ve heard about staying together for the children… for example, to get them through school.

Have you ever seen material presented that said when the first child is a boy, there is a reduced chance of divorce?

Because I hadn’t before seeing that column.

Have a girl first… increase in divorce rates. Have a boy first… decrease in divorce rates.

Heck… the study brought in additional statistics. Get this one… I’ll quote the article…

“If the new parents aren’t married, they are less likely to marry if they have a daughter rather than a son.”

And it goes on.

-- Unmarried are more likely to marry before the baby is born when they learn it is going to be a boy.

-- Firstborn child is a girl, the parents are more likely to try for a second child.

This is right on the edge of some crazy, big areas.

Now… in some instances, perhaps some of this seems obvious as you think about it. As one example, the tradition holds that the family name is passed along by the male line of a family. Apply that idea as you wish to a few of the concepts here and while it may not offer a great deal of support, it does blend in nicely as a starting point for additional consideration.

The thing is… I wonder if we’re not beyond that thinking lately.

It sure seems like more and more people are having children without being married… sure seems like more people are hyphenating or taking on new ideas for what should or should not be done with family surnames.

And the article mentions that census data was even used in compiling results for the study.

Ah… surnames and the second child and census data sources… we’re a bit all over the place now.

Let’s circle around to what got me started. Professor Enrico Moretti from the article:

“‘Parents who have firstborn girls are significantly more likely to be divorced and parents who have firstborn boys are significantly more likely to stay together,’ he said.”

Without branching off into a million directions, just think about that quote.

Personally -- I don’t think there is a key to a happy marriage… a secret… that works as a universal truth.

It comes from appreciating that “just Wednesday in paradise”… sarcastically as well as truthfully… and every Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday… to the best of your ability.

Yelling and anger… love and hate… and, maybe even boys and girls… it’s all a part of the whole. And that union is the same, and so very different, for everyone.

If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at