The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Replicating Failure

Posted on | February 4, 2015 | 102 Comments

The other day, we encountered Jillian Dunham, the 37-year-old who had her eggs frozen because she can’t find a husband.

Who is to blame for men’s unwillingness to become husbands and fathers? Could it be the phenomenon of “frivorce”? This portmanteau of “frivolous” and “divorce” was coined by Men’s Rights bloggers to describe situations in which a woman leaves a marriage that is not objectively bad, but which she perceives as failing to satisfy her emotional needs. The Douchebag Credo: “I gotta be me.”

One of the best books about the disastrous decline of the American family is Barbara Dafoe Whitehead’s The Divorce Culture. To summarize briefly a very complex argument, marriages are falling apart because people have forgotten what marriage is about, replacing traditional beliefs with what Whitehead calls the “love family ideology.” The decline of marriage is also part of what Christopher Lasch analyzed in The Culture of Narcissism as “a society that has lost interest in the future.” How does this manifest itself in everyday life? At Jenny Chancey’s Ladies Against Feminism blog, a commenter named “David J.” explains:

Ladies, here’s one of the biggest reasons, if not THE biggest reason, that Christian young men are leery of marriage: the behavior of their mothers — your Christian sisters.
My wife and I were married at age 21, two days after graduating from a conservative Christian college. We have three sons, ages 23, 20, and 16. The oldest graduated from a Christian college last year and is a 6th grade teacher. He is tall, good-looking, brilliant, fun, heavily involved in a very good church, and has many friends of both genders. But he is not even dating, let alone looking for marriage. My second son is a junior at a Christian college and will be going into law enforcement. He is also tall, good-looking, smart, hard-working, and very popular. He is playing the field, not dating seriously. The youngest is obviously not of marrying age, but he is seriously estranged from his mother.
The reason? Their Christian mother filed for divorce, without biblical grounds and contrary to our pastor’s and Christian marriage counselor’s advice, 4.5 years ago, after 26 years of marriage. She later withdrew that filing but then re-filed two years later. The divorce was final a little over a year ago. She immediately began dating online, then met, “fell in love” with, and married a twice-divorced man who lives 400 miles away — all within a span of 13 months. She has now relocated, taking our 18-year old special needs daughter with her.
My sons are shell-shocked, both by the unbiblical divorce (commonly referred to in the “manosphere” as a frivolous divorce, or a “frivorce”) and by the rush into an unbiblical remarriage. They are asking themselves why they should even contemplate marriage when their primary example of Christian womanhood and wifehood has demonstrated that nothing protects them from a unilateral, frivolous divorce at any time — not the law, not the woman’s profession of faith, not the input of Christian counselors, not the church (which is afraid to step in or “take sides”), not the length of the marriage, not even the interests of the children. Perhaps most importantly for this audience, my sons also saw that other Christian women will do nothing to protect them from a frivolous divorce.
I’ve learned that mine is not at all an isolated situation. In fact, two-thirds of all divorces today are initiated by wives, and only rarely for non-frivolous/biblical reasons.
So, if you really want to raise the level of interest in marriage for Christian young men and/or increase the number of potential suitors for your daughters, (1) don’t divorce their fathers and (2) don’t sit silently by while your Christian sisters initiate frivolous divorces.

Parental behavior communicates a powerful message to children, and how parents treat each other is part of that message. Bail out after four kids and 26 years of marriage? Why? Do you really think you’ll be happier as someone else’s third wife? You think he’s Mister Perfect, but his first two wives just weren’t good enough for him?

Failure replicates:

Many people see remarriage as a fresh new chance at happiness with a partner whom they should have chosen in the first place.  But the statistics reveal that second or later marriages are much more likely to end in divorce.

Not only does marital failure replicate in this way — people who have divorced once are more likely to divorce again — but it also replicates in the subsequent generations:

The National Opinion Research Council conducted a survey of adult children of divorce that spanned more than 20 years. Here’s what they found: In 1973, adult children of divorce were 172% more likely to get divorced than adult children from intact homes. In 1999, adult children of divorce were only 50% more likely to get divorced than adult children from intact homes . . . which sounds like good news.
However, the bad news is that the survey also found a 26% lower rate of marrying in the first place among adult children of divorced parents. . . .
Children of divorce often experience expectations of failure, fear of loss or abandonment and fear of conflict throughout their lives. These anxieties are reflected in their romantic relationships by poor partner or behavior choices, giving up too quickly when problems arise or avoidance of any perceived level of commitment.

People see statistics like that and say to themselves, “Well, my choices won’t follow the trend,” but exactly where the hell do you think  trends come from? Trends don’t cause human behavior, human behavior causes trends. Your choices, your decisions, your actions inevitably have far-reaching ripple effects on others, and yet narrow-minded selfishness causes people to think they can live according to the Douchebag Credo — “I gotta be me!” — without consequences. These are the same people, of course, who blame “society” for their problems without pausing to look in the mirror and realize they are part of “society,” too.

You can’t outsource personal responsibility. And failure replicates.



102 Responses to “Replicating Failure”

  1. David J.
    February 8th, 2015 @ 4:09 pm

    Daniel, thank you; I appreciate it.

  2. robertstacymccain
    February 10th, 2015 @ 8:35 am

    “… the mistake that so many men make about women: assuming there is something wrong that you CAN fix with a sufficient amount of observation, logic and sacrifice. …”

    You have gotten very close to the nub of it here. Men tend to be pragmatic, to see a problem in terms of finding a solution. Women, by contrast, tend to see a problem in terms of a problem.

    I’ve actually had this conversation with my wife. She’ll be telling me about a problem — a hassle at work, or some trouble one of her friends is having — and I’ll start trying to come up with a solution, but that’s not what she wants from the conversation. She’s just sharing the problem with me, not asking me to fix it. But it is my nature to take action, not to be a passive spectator in life, and what might seem to be my know-it-all attitude — “Let me fix that for you” — is actually the necessary condition of psychological agency, a confidence in one’s ability to cope with problems.

    Women often see men as arrogant for our active “can-do” approach to problems, but as with so many other things, don’t listen to what they say, watch what they do. Women are always attracted to success, and successful men always have what might we may call pragmatic arrogance, the belief that they can solve any problem they encounter. So long as they are successful, their confidence in their problem-solving ability is certainly justified, and it is only natural that such a man would expect that he can also solve the problems in his marriage. Alas, the problems of a discontented wife involve her own feelings, and these feelings (whatever they are) cannot be solved by anyone but herself. In fact, too often, it is the man’s success (and his confidence in his own judgment which that success encourages) which is the true source of her unhappiness. The wife begins to feel that her husband thinks himself superior to her, and she does not want to be the moon to his sun, merely reflecting his glory. From this kind of discontent much mischief can ensue, and this is possible even if the husband is loyal and attentive. Too often, of course, the successful man is disloyal (having extramarital affairs), or he is so wrapped up in his career that he feels burdened by his wife’s demand for emotional involvement.

    Whatever the circumstance may be, objectively, the “frivorce” arises from purely subjective sources, the emotions of the spouse who seeks divorce simply because they feel unhappy. As someone else in the comments has pointed out, however, the purely frivolous divorce — one-sided and without any sound justification — is relatively uncommon. In the majority of divorces, there is a list of particular grievances by the spouse initiating the divorce, even though those grievances are usually not be made public. Quite often, the spouse who initiates the divorce is the real source of the problem in the relationship, but exaggerates faults of the spouse they wish to dump, in order to rationalize what is actually a selfish choice.