I try not to do too many of the “take a look at this terrible article” type of post, but I couldn’t help myself today.
The article in question is at Slate (where else?), “The Work of “Marital Maintenance” Is a Privilege.” In it, the author explains to readers that she is divorcing her husband and is tired of being told by friends that she and her husband should have worked harder at “marital maintenance,” which is apparently the new word for Spending Time Together, except that in this author’s world, it has evolved. That is, it seems that she is the “poor one” in her social world, who, along with her husband, works at paying the bills on time, while her friends hire babysitters and travel on couple-only vacations, or so-called “marital maintenance vacations” and instagram their time in Italy or on the beach. And, watching this, she acquired the notion that lower-income couples split up more often not just because of the financial stress that they deal with, but because
It also means fewer dollars to put into keeping your marriage afloat. If you aren’t making deposits, literally and figuratively, pretty soon you’ll be coming up empty. . . .
What’s not said enough is that becoming passing ships doesn’t just happen out of sheer negligence, though. Romantic dinners and getaways might be one helpful component to a lasting marriage. But imagining everyone has that kind of freedom is a certain kind of privilege. No, money might not buy happiness, but it does buy more date nights, therapy, and those ever-loving adults-only vacations I keep hearing about.
Now, one could pick apart the many comments the author makes about how she and her husband chose to live their lives. In order to make her husband’s one week of vacation a year “count,” they put it on the credit card and went further into debt. She describes herself a freelance writer trying to make a living with one day of family-provided childcare, plus night and weekend writing — but at the same time, she speaks of the household chores as an “extra” duty that added to her burden, which suggests that she’s fallen into the trap of imagining that her children’s waking hours with her have to be suffused with “quality time” rather than “let’s do laundry together” time and “help mommy cook” time.
But the notion of “date night,” let alone “couple’s vacations,” has gone too far if people are getting the idea that marriages will fail without the proper amount of “quality time.”
Yes, my husband and I occasionally go on “dates” — that is, out to dinner without the kids. But until the oldest became old enough that they could stay at home together, this was a rare event. We have had one overnight “vacation” alone, when the kids were babysat by my in-laws, plus two instances of attending conferences together. And, when we both worked at the same office, we occasionally had lunch together, instead of with our respective workgroups.
But — and be sure you’re sitting down if you’re easily surprised — I have a helpful tip for you: you don’t need a “date” to connect and spend time together. You can have conversations at the dinner table. You can talk while folding the laundry after the kids are in bed. You can go on a walk together. And so on.
Of course, the author then says that, in her case, they did not have any such time available due to long work hours, and, of course, we readers have no further details on their finances or other aspects of her life. But she’s not going to persuade me that low-income couples can’t reasonably be expected to stay married because they can’t finance couple time.
Image: a flicker photo; https://www.flickr.com/photos/69184488@N06/8091027271/in/photostream/; creative commons license.