Sunday, June 25, 2017

Why Relationships Fail

Consider this a footnote on yesterday’s post about “Why Marriages Fail.” You recall that Harvard professor Alexandra Killewald’s research showed that women were more likely to walk away from marriages when men were not breadwinners. That is, when men became the kind of male beings that feminists have told them to become.

Fortuitously, New York Magazine has just written up a case study of a relationship that failed because the man did not make enough money. (via Maggie's Farm)

Carly is 38, with a five year old son. She has her own business and barely makes ends meet. Jackson is 37, without children, but who loves her children. They have a great rapport and great sex. Yet, Jackson has no real ambition and does not make much more than he needs.

Carly said:

 It felt great having a boyfriend. A giant weight was lifted off my shoulders because I had someone to talk to, someone to rely on, someone who fit with me and my son. Plus, the sex was incredible. It was kind of picture perfect, despite the untraditional-ness of it all. I guess the only issue from the very start was that Jackson didn’t have a stable job. He’s a super-talented photographer, but his work was a little unsteady. If I’m being honest, I thought maybe there was family money, and I hoped for that only because it meant I could stay with him forever. I didn’t want to be with someone who couldn’t contribute; I knew that would only lead to resentment. But there wasn’t family money …

He was not going to be a breadwinner. End of relationship.

To be fair and balanced, Jackson offered his own viewpoint:

I didn’t make the kind of money she wanted me to, which bothered her way more than me. I feel like I’m lucky that I have a rent-stabilized apartment and work that I enjoy. In my eyes, there wasn’t anything I couldn’t provide for her or her son. Love, affection, adventure. I was devoted. Dollar signs weren’t a thing as far as I was concerned.

Carly’s response:

It started to annoy me, big time, how little he worked, how rarely he thought about money or ambition. He’d do the littlest thing, like maybe smoke a joint with my friends, and I’d just boil over inside. Like, “You fucking stoner deadbeat!” Meanwhile, all my friends were also smoking and I’d be like, “Cool, love you guys.” But I was conflicted — he and my son had gotten so close and there was so much I loved about Jackson too.

But, Jackson has work/life balance:

She wanted to change this very innate quality about me, which is that I’m not driven by money. I’m not materialistic. I don’t need fancy things. I just need good people, creativity, inspiration, honesty, a beautiful woman, a cold beer on my front stoop …

I would have done anything to make it work, except get a terrible, soul-crushing job. And that was the only thing she ever wanted me to do. It got real ugly. She’d yell at me about everything. I went from this man she wanted to raise a child with to someone who couldn’t do anything right.

Carly saw it as “the Urban Cowboy thing” and she refused to make it a part of her life. As opposed to what we read in therapy columns, this account shows a good dose of responsible adult reasoning. 


David Foster said...

" I thought maybe there was family money, and I hoped for that only because it meant I could stay with him forever."

It is somewhat surprising to me that she thought family money would have made the difference. Yes, it is always nice to have more funds available, especially when one is having difficulties making ends meet. But him having family money would not solve her concerns about "how little he worked, how rarely he thought about money or ambition." I suspect if the HAD possessed family money, these factors would have caused her to lose attraction for him over time, and to ditch him if she though she had a better alternative.

Shaun F said...

I went to the article. As soon as I saw, "met online", "single mom" and a reference to "Sex in the City" I knew this was going to be a disaster. I swear there has to be some weird on line dating cycle as most of the stories I hear have a very similar narrative and ending.

James said...

I agree with you. Also honesty is the best policy, even if honesty reveals (as it has with these two) a lot of uselessness.

David Foster said...

Continuing on the 'family money' subtopic.....In Hans Fallada's novel 'Little Man, What Now?', there is an interesting passage of sort of a play-within-a-play variety. The novel's protagonists, Sonny and Lammchen, are a likeable young couple trying to survive in late-Weimar Germany and having a rough time of it. One day, they see a movie.

The film's protagonist is a young bank clerk, very much in love with his wife...the wife being less than happy with their financial circumstances. The clerk begins thinking how easy it would be to steal money, and one day his hand actually moves toward a pile of currency...but he just can't do it. He is noticed, though, by his friend the Management Trainee (son of a bank director), who takes pity on him and gives him money.

The clerk cannot bring himself to tell his wife how he got the money, but implies he has embezzled it. She is thrilled..."You did that for me?"...and their relationship improves dramatically.

But the Management Trainee meets the wife, and falls in love with her...still, "she only had eyes for her husband, that brave, reckless man, who would do anything for her." Finally, the Management Trainee tells the wife the truth about how the clerk got the money, and she laughs in her husband's face.

Note the implied priorities of the wife's attraction...her husband the Thief is more attractive than the high-status and well-off Management Trainee. However, the Management Trainee is more attractive than her husband the Recipient of Charity. Also, her husband the Recipient of Charity is clearly less attractive than her husband the Mere Bank Clerk.

When the movie ends, Sonny is devastated, frightened by the parallels between the movie and his own situation. (In the event, though, Lammchen remains steadfastly loyal to him)

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...
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