Marriage Is Fleeting; So What?

Marriage Is Fleeting; So What?

Marriage Is Fleeting; So What?

The XX Factor
What Women Really Think
June 17 2009 9:50 AM

Marriage Is Fleeting; So What?

Like Hanna and Meghan , I read Sandra Tsing Loh as arguing that companionate marriage involves trade-offs ; that for all we gain in trading hierarchy for equity, something, perhaps, is lost. But I was most struck by the fact that Tsing Loh has such high expectations for the longevity of marriage; so high that her eventual disavowal of the institution is almost inevitable. It’s not like she got hitched late one night in Vegas and regretted it the next morning. She was with her husband for 20 years. They produced two seemingly happy kids, and Tsing Loh has managed to build a fantastically successful career while raising them. This is what failure looks like? Why is this split treated as a lack of will-"a gravestone sunk down on two decades of history"-rather than a natural, peaceful end to a happy and productive union?

As Tsing Loh says, Americans marry and divorce, and divorce and marry, and continue to attend endless engagement parties without deeming the institution a waste of everyone's time. Tsing Loh thinks we’re deluded, but perhaps we’ve adapted to the fact that modern unions can be both meaningful and temporary. Surely, given the reality of serial marriage, we can come up with a better metric for determining a successful partnership than "does/does not last forever"? Tsing Loh asks "why we still believe in marriage," but I’d like to know why she still believes that the only successful partnership is one you’re in when you die.

Kerry Howley's work has appeared in the Paris Review, Bookforum, and the New York Times Magazine. She is currently finishing a book about consensual violence, ecstatic experience, and the body.