Friday, March 20, 2009

It's a pretty widely-known trend that divorce rates are higher than one would probably like to see. I've heard a variety of explanations for this. Some suggest we're not being good Christians, others suggest we're just lazy and not trying hard enough, and others use the data to claim that marriage is simply a dying institution, outdated and archaic.

I can come up with some observational explanations myself, but overall I think it mostly has much to do with an overall lack of respect towards the entire process. Oh and I'm not going to go around pointing fingers, claiming Hollywood is a bad role model or some shit. I just think many don't see marriage as a life-long engagement anymore; for sure marriage's direct knot to religion has been loosened. I imagine most people have learned most of what they know about marriage from their parents - and with a 40% success rate, their generation is probably not the best role model.

I've definitely heard the opinion that marriage is a dying system. Now I know the stats about how married couples make more money, and married couples tend to live longer and be happier, but I don't see a reason to force the issue. Marriage, to me, is neither good or bad. If two people want to be married, great. If someone never gets married, or decides to get a divorce, that doesn't bother me either. I really don't care. I guess to me though, if you're going to get married, at least have the decency to respect the other person. Even if the process of marriage is meaningless to you, self-respect and integrity shouldn't be. Maybe some people get married on a whim, or for financial reasons, a pregnancy, because it was the 'right time' for them, or because they thought marrying their high school sweetheart was a good idea, or for honest love etc... Marriage doesn't have to be about a contract you're supposed to regret, but even if it is, at least have some decency towards the other person.

My reason for bringing this all up is a recent little news story I wrote:

"If you're thinking about cheating on your wife or husband, there's a new website that could help you with that.
There's an adultery website that's helping unhappily married people from separate relationships get together.
That site is AshleyMadison-dot-com, and their slogan is "life is short. have an affair."
Not surprisingly, the service is creating a bit of controversy.

The site has become especially popular is Austin, Texas, where there are 6,000 active users."
I'm not the right person to give generalized relationship advice (raise your hand if you just said the phrase "you're tellin' me") and I definitely don't know the first thing about marriage. But really? Really now? 6,000 users in Austin alone? This service is available in 50 major cities across the country.

This brings up another question I suppose: is cheating natural? Are some people designed that way, or poorly educated by society.


Ozkirbas said...

The ads for this site are... tasteless. Really not surprising.

Cheating... well. I think it has to do a little bit with it being taboo and, as you said, a significant lack of respect for your marital partner. Probably because one's focus on the self to the exclusion of the other. In most situations, anyway. seems to have a pretty express predatory campaign. Given the skew of these two ads, I wonder how many of those 6,000 users are men?

B.Graham said...

Wow. And I mean wow.

Expressly visiting a website with the intention of cheating on your spouse with someone who is also cheating on theirs? IS there something more reprehensible?

Ozkirbas said...

Side Note - They use the term "Married Dating."

I'm just throwing that out there.

David Pratt said...

I rarely watch the show Boston Legal, but I did happen to catch an episode with a theme I enjoyed. A woman came into the firm asking to sue her husband's divorce lawyer, stating that they were happily married until the lawyer began putting billboard ads up. The ads, she claimed, were responsible with filling his head with ideas which led to their divorce.

A hearing was called to decide whether or not the case should go to trial. In it, the member of the firm expressed that it was Gregory Peck's performance in "To Kill a Mockingbird" which persuaded him to become a lawyer in the first place. And maybe the profession is not so honorable, not so high a calling anymore, but is it really right to put up advertisements encouraging people to get divorced? Shouldn't there be a line between practicing the law, whatever cases you choose to take on, and actively attempting to stir up new business?

In the end, the judge allows the case to be heard in court. I wonder what the result would be if someone sued as a result of their website leading to the end of a marriage.

Jason Heat said...

@ Dave -

I think everything you've written is thoughtful, valid, and honorable so take this question as an addition not a disagreement -

What happened to the strength of our love and relationships being above the act of temptation?

David Pratt said...

I was thrown off by the first part of what you wrote because I don't know how else I could take it but as a question. It doesn't seem to disagree or even directly relate to anything I said, at least not that I'm seeing.

Anyway, to answer, love is an overrated term. People throw it around like it still means something after the abuse it has taken through the years. They think "but I love you" is an excuse, or some magical solves-all solution to their problems. Well, it isn't. People have issues. Sometimes these issues have nothing to do with the other person in a relationship, and trying to take them on only makes things worse. Other times, it is a relationship issue, but one or both people involved are unable or unwilling to put forth the effort to solve it. And sometimes you love someone completely and entirely, with every fiber of your being, but they don't love you back. If you can really fill yourself up with that much love, you need to find someone willing to accept having it directed towards them.

Love doesn't solve everything, or in some cases, anything. It certainly opens you up to greater energy and a mental state where you can draw on the strength necessary to work out problems, or resist temptation as the case may be, but whether or not you do so is entirely up to you. People use because they entered a semi-permanent legal contract with another person and are unable to live up to their end of the arrangement. Maybe they think they can find happiness in someone else, maybe they think the fault is with their spouse, or maybe they're just bad people. Whatever the case is, it's an affront to an already dragged-through-the-mud term to refer to their "love." When you love someone, and I'm using the term as I believe it should be, there's no issue of resisting temptation, because temptation doesn't exist.

So yes, love and relationships should be above temptation. That's why I highly doubt anyone who signed up for a date at this website ever really understood what love meant in the first place.

Jason Heat said...

@ Dave

I've felt recently that a few things I've said in life have been inrterpreted as attacks, or challenges, or what have you when that hasn't been intended so I'm getting the habit of leaving no question.

Jason Heat said...

@ Dave -

In terms of it relating, it's in the context - is it valid to blame someone else for offering what you CHOOSE to take? I like to think lawyers should be honorable, but can they be held responsible for offering an idea? No one is pressuring you to take it. We need to be stronger ourselves, not limit our intake or what we let society offer us. If it's even only a matter of discipline, not love, so be it.

But I think ashley Madison or those billboards aren't the CAUSE. They capitalize and give shape to what's there.

A sad state anyways, sure, but diofferent.

Damo said...


"Is it valid to blame someone else for offering what you CHOOSE to take?"

What a fantastic question! It's a tough one, too. Seems like a chicken/egg issue to me. There is such a thing as the power of suggestion. Also colors, sounds, images, themes, etc. can easily be used to manipulate your thought processes. Ad agencies are using empirical data to determine what methods work best for getting us to buy their crap.

For those reasons I take serious issue with rampant ad culture. Look around, your entire world is an advertisement. I can see about 50 brand names in my peripheral vision just from my cubicle!

But you're right! We need to be stronger as individuals in order to resist emotionally and physically harmful temptation that we have the power to ignore.

Individuals needs to be stronger to resist manipulation. People need to learn to think, and strengthen their resolve to decide for themselves. But how much of this is being prevented thanks to an all-consuming advertising culture that sends us signals 24/7 about what to buy, what to look like, where to go, and what to think, none of which, at its foundation, is designed to make us better people?

Jason Heat said...

@Damo -

I think of a lot of it comes from a step in the process long ignored by everyone - thinking before doing. And I don't just mean thinking about the action, thinking about the WHY.

Like, seeing that Ashley Mad ad makes some guy realize he wants an affair. Now imagine he wonders why before logging on. Really invests in that question for awhile. My guess is that there have been issues plagueing him and that relationship for a long long time and maybe if he takes the time to isolate the feelings this ad brings up, he can begin to address those feelings in a productive and constructive way.

In that sense, the ad becomes a tool for self examination by confronting us with our hidden fears and desires out in the open.

Too optimistic to hope for? Probably. Not what the ad is for at all? Certainly. The entire enterprise being shameful? 100%

But nothing is without opportunity for good and growth if you take the time to really invest in self awareness.

Damo said...


Here! Here! Bravo! Well said!

Now if we can just get the other 6.6B people on board we'll have ourselves a movement.

Jason Heat said...

These Gentlemen, leading the way again.

Discussions like this is why I love our site.

Ozkirbas said...

As opposed to providing my own perspective... I'll ask a few questions to the gentle readers:

"How much agency do we, as people, have in making our own decisions? Have we grown far too passive in allowing the constant bombardment of advertising to distort, manipulate, or frame our thinking? Or do such messages serve only to poke, prod, or goad on what's already there? Can a billboard be responsible for the split of a marriage? How should the human being approach institutions whose primary motivation is opportunism and profit? These Gentlemen certainly has a perspective. What's yours?"

David Pratt said...


I disagree with your assertion that it should be up to the individual to do the right thing because advertisers, lawyers, and the people who run are individuals as well. It's easy to see them as a faceless entity, floating just beyond the range of our peripheral vision, luring us in with temptations we never knew we wanted so badly, but the truth is that it all comes down to people like you and me.

If I'm expected to hold myself to a higher standard of, dare I say, gentlemanship, then I do not consider it unreasonable to hold the same expectations of others. Yes, making the choice to have an affair is morally wrong, but equally as wrong is choosing to help people facilitate said affair, and at the end of the day both choices are made by ordinary people.

Perhaps my hope that individuals in a society develop a greater moral conscience is just as blindly optimistic as your desire for us to take moments like these as cause for deep introspection, but it is one I will not abandon.

Kat said...

In response to people just being wired a certain way:

The link is to an article about a "monogamy gene" in men. Thoughts?

Ozkirbas said...

It's an interesting article. The genetic predispositions of certain behaviors always shed an interesting light on discussing voluntary behavior. When it really comes down to it, when looking at this information, I guess one should ask whether it serves as either an explanation or a validation for behavior that is (traditionally considered) morally reprehensible. When applied to cheating, my feeling is that these tend to sway to the latter, particularly since "disposition" doesn't necessarily take away from one's agency or awareness of a given trait.

I don't think one's propensity to cheat can be entirely explained by low levels of vasopressin (as complex as hormones are). I can't honestly defend a person for cheating by saying, "They can't help it. It's their nature." or "It's ok. Their vasopressin is just low." It's an argument that loses a lot of value on its face and that's probably because society has accepted cheating (and promiscuity) as conscious, decisive behavior. It's an assertion that takes a lot more to defeat than showing a correlation between gene markers and behavior.

Of course, for the sake of argument, we could consider that vasopressin does directly effect behavior and say that varying levels causes someone to cheat (or more to the study's relevance - simply be promiscuous). This doesn't necessarily mean that a person shouldn't be aware that they want multiple partners. In fact, they would probably have a responsibility to recognize this factor about themselves and realize that they shouldn't enter into relationships with people who they know are going to want to be exclusive. If they're in an exclusive relationship, wanting to see other people, and plan to act on it, they need to leave their partner first. Otherwise, it would be no different than a person who wants to cheat and doesn't have a vasopressin "imbalance."

But hey, that's just me. It's certainly an interesting article. I'd certainly be willing to see whether or not the expression of the "monogamy gene" is effected by social factors or if simply having it causes the flux.

kolbs said...

My boyfriend lives in Austin. Oh no!

B.Graham said...

And what do you think about this--> ( site? I think I might blog about it fully.