TNR Asks: Why Assume Marriage Is Better Than Single Life?

Presumptuousness about single and married life.

Posted Feb 25, 2010

In The New Republic (TNR), Ruth Franklin poses this question about Lori Gottlieb (aka, Ms. Marry That Rude, Stinky, Creepy Person Since You're Not Perfect Either):

"Why does she assume that being married is better than being single?... In Gottlieb's unashamedly marriage-boosting book, I counted all of two references to unhappy marriages. Marriage is simply presumed to be a good, better by definition than being single. There is no awareness of domestic violence and other abuse-not to mention other far more minor grievances that seem petty on the surface but erode a person's well-being: the daily squabbles, the claustrophobia, the loneliness of discovering that the person you thought would be your constant companion no longer has the interest or ability to meet your needs. In ten years, will Gottlieb's comfortably, tepidly married subjects reunite for the sequel, Divorce Him? That's a book I'd be curious to read."

I tried to leave a comment at TNR, but it turned out that only paid subscribers could post. So, with some elaboration, I'll share my comment here.

Thanks, Ruth Franklin, for raising the important question, "Why does she assume that being married is better than being single?" There is a research-based answer to the question of whether getting married makes you lastingly happier or healthier or live longer: No. I reviewed the relevant research in Chapter 2 of Singled Out. I also explain there, and at my Living Single blog for Psychology Today, why so many people, such as IowaBeauty [one of the people who commented on the Franklin article], hold the inaccurate view that getting married is the royal road to life's riches. Finally, for some hints as to Gottlieb's views of people who are happily single (when she's not on her best book-tour behavior), check out this post.

As for the proposed book, "Divorce Him," I think the Atlantic magazine has already given us a preview of that. It was called "Let's call the whole thing off," written by Sandra Tsing Loh. Living Single discussions of the issue are here and here.

From Lightness Back into Darkness

Of course, while people such as Ruth Franklin are offering some enlightenment, there are still others trying to pull us back into the blight. Over at CNN, we learn that poor Lori "feels a bit misunderstood." That's fine, I suppose, but look at how the author, Jessica Ravitz, introduces the story. Speaking of single women in their 30s and 40s, she proclaims that Gottlieb's message made them "stop their feet in defiance." Nice. Fully grown single women portrayed as 2-year olds.

Finally, we can also always count on "Smartmarriages" for some stupid singlism. To the long list of readers of their listserv, they advise: "Buy the book [Gottlieb's] for all the single ladies in your life." Because, you know, we all want to get married and yearn for Gottlieb's advice on how to do so. Also, our married friends know more about how we should lead our lives than we do. (Previously, they urged their members to go to Amazon and post glowing reviews.) How about this? Maybe the members of the Smartmarriages listserv should read the chapter in Singled Out about the myth of the wonder of couples. It is subtitled, "Marrieds know best."

Let's keep looking for the light.