Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Brooks (almost) right about family

Amber Taylor disagrees with David Brooks, who insists that married couples should have joint checking accounts. I am inclined to disagree with anything that Brooks writes about family, but here I'm more or less with Brooks, though I do think couples should just decide for themselves, without too much intervention from the smug pundits of the nation. But what seems impractical to me about Amber's suggestion is that, in this ultra-romantic couple she envisions, who pays for dinner when the pair goes out? Will the couple, after 45 years of marriage, be saying, "You ordered the entree, but I only ordered the appetizer, so you owe..." I'm thinking this would get tiresome after a while.

Amber makes a point I mostly agree with, which is that "a separate bank account can be the only way for people in abusive relationships to escape a controlling spouse." The problem arises, though: Just because the account is separate doesn't mean there's any money in it. Assuming the abused spouse is also the one who raised the kids, there's no particular reason to assume that she's saved up enough from high school or college part-time jobs to go and live on her own if her husband becomes unbearable.

And finally, Amber asks, "what must it be like to be married to someone who sees your relationship as based on sacrifice, not mutual benefit and joy?" Here, I'm not sure why these are mutually exclusive categories, except because David Brooks differentiates between "the romantic happiness, which is filled with exhilaration and self-fulfillment, and family happiness, built on self-abnegation and sacrifice," and it is with him that Amber is arguing. In any relationship, the joy ought to be greater than the sacrifice, but if a relationship (of any kind) is abandoned whenever the first day passes in which sacrifice outweighs the joy, then there would be no marriages, no friendships, no families, no normal work environments, and so on. There is a certain joy, also, in sacrifice itself. Knowing that there are people who will put up with you even if you're being kinda annoying is, I believe, pretty basic to happiness.

1 comment:

Amber said...

I don't find any joy in sacrifice, but there's no reason to abandon a relationship when things get rough if you reasonably expect that the long term benefits of staying and working it out would be greater than the short term benefits of leaving. But if you've got decades of "meh" stretching out in front of you, and you don't live in 19th C. Russia and can make your own life without a husband, why stay?

The food question bothered me too, but I would say that can easily be handled either by agreeing that all food is paid from a joint account, not your separate accounts, or by keeping my current rule of "person who picks the restaurant/proposes going out pays."