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marry marry quite contrary
are the inmates running -- or ruining -- the institution?
by jael mchenry (@JaelMcHenry)
pop culture

So Jennifer Lopez is getting married again. Must be Friday.

I don't mean to single (whoops!) her out. She's hardly the only Hollywood multimarried. Nicolas Cage and Lisa Marie Presley are divorcing, after a whopping 14 weeks of marriage. Angelina Jolie lasted a comparatively long two years with Billy Bob Thornton (apparently not having checked his four-divorce track record beforehand.) But Lopez is already on her third marriage at 32, with the first two each lasting less than a year. This gives me whiplash a la Hamlet, when the "funeral baked meats did coldly furnish forth the marriage table." You could book the caterer for a bulk discount: three new menus, same damn bride.

It makes me wonder if my attitude toward marriage is hopelessly outdated. It's a very simple formula. Marry once. For love.

How did this very basic idea come to be viewed as quaint and amusing?

It's tough for any historical analysis of marriage and divorce to make perfect sense. My old-fashioned ideas about lifelong marriage shouldn't be viewed as nostalgia for "the way things used to be." Things used to be awful. Being trapped in a loveless marriage your whole life because your religion forbids divorce certainly wasn't any fun. Also there was that whole period from, say, at least the 1500's to the 1800's, where the primary issue in brokering marriage was to secure adjacent plots of land. I'm not calling for a return of the not-so-good old days. Many times people rushed into marriage because they weren't given the choice: brides and grooms were matched up with no regard for compatibility, desire, or even affection. There were economic concerns, or societal pressures not to get "left behind," or family alliances, or simply a perceived lack of options that led people to make choices that would lock them into a loveless marriage from which similarly inflexible concerns didn't allow them to escape.

People might say the divorce rate is going up because of the new freedom and flexibility of society, but... isn't that a reason the rate should go down?

After all, there's no reason to rush into marriage. There isn't the Spinster's Social Stigma afflicting all women over 25. Advances in fertility are expanding the childbearing years. People don't assume you're bad merchandise just because you're single, and I've yet to see any friends or acquaintances disowned for "living in sin." So why not stay single until you're sure you've picked out the right person? Instead of a wedding, why can't you just have, well, a relationship?

As with so many other trends in today's society, this cavalier attitude toward marriage is magnified in Hollywood. Helen Hunt and Hank Azaria dated for six years, lived together, everything. They should've known whether they were compatible. They married. Then, about six months later, they separated and divorced. What possibly could have happened in that short time that they couldn't see coming?

I know a number of people who decided it was time to get married, and then went out and found a person, and married him/her. Usually the concern was age. They just felt it was time. One friend actually made the statement to me that "I'm tired of dating, so I want to marry the next woman I date." Is that a good reason to unite your future with someone else's? Fatigue? This is amazing to me. Shouldn't it be the other way around? Shouldn't you find a person you can't live without, and then make a lifetime commitment?

(Or, as with Lopez, a commitment at least as long as your cell phone service contract.)

But this seems to be considered weird these days. People are cavalier about commitments. Or they want the romance, that new-love rush. They want to get swept away. They want to have the romantic story that Mommy and Daddy fell in love at first sight, and immediately knew they were right for each other. It simply isn't true. You can't know someone well enough to make a commitment to them after only a few days, a few weeks, a few months. But society doesn't reward the long haul. There's no disapproval of hasty marriage, nor of hasty divorce. And all the self-help news focuses on how to live after your marriage is over: not how to stop your marriage from ending, and certainly not how to get to know a partner to know whether marriage is right for you.

I laughed until I cried at the painfully true Onion classic "Darling, Will You Spend the Next Six to 10 Years With Me?" Probably more crying than laughing, in the end.

Because marriage really isn't just about the two people in it. The children born into that family also need to be considered. From a recent Washington Post article about mothers and their role in society: "But in most cases, the sacrifices necessary to raise the sort of children we want are likely to be unequal and tolerable only if marriage is accepted as permanent."


If you don't accept it as permanent, don't do it. It's very simple advice. If you're not prepared to spend the rest of your life with the person you marry, make and accept sacrifices, why get married?

Honestly: why?


Jael is tired of being stereotyped as just another novelist/poet/former English teacher/tour guide/"Jeopardy!" semifinalist/bellydancing editor-in-chief with an MFA who was once an overachieving oboe-playing alto newspaper editor valedictorian from Iowa. She was also captain of the football cheerleading squad. Follow me on Twitter: @jaelmchenry

more about jael mchenry


how to get famous in one easy step
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topic: pop culture
published: 10.4.00

good pirate, bad pirate
media, book piracy and how things yarrrr
by jael mchenry
topic: pop culture
published: 2.4.11


juli mccarthy
12.4.02 @ 2:36a

Marriage IS too easy to get into (and out of) and you're absolutely right in thinking people are going about this all the wrong way. I think the problem is that people confuse "being in love" with "loving". Being in love has to do with hormones. Loving has to do with commitment, compromise, and cooperation. And Heather recently pointed out that weddings have very little to do with marriages.

However, I do believe in love at first sight. I once went on a blind date, then came home and told my sister I'd met the man I was going to marry. That was almost fifteen years ago and guess what? We're still together, and I truly believe our marriage is one of the very best.

tracey kelley
12.4.02 @ 9:59a

Juli, that's beautiful.

One of the rack rags in the check-out aisle had a big headline: "J-Lo Surprises Ben with Pre-Nup! $5 Million if Caught Cheating! Sex At Least 4 Times A Week!"

Hysterical. Like someone marrying J-Lo would actually need to fulfill a coitus contractual obligation.

jael mchenry
12.4.02 @ 10:42a

The whole thing smells like a publicity stunt for both of them. How else could you possibly explain Ben Affleck as the Sexiest Man Alive? He's as sexy as terry cloth.

sarah ficke
12.4.02 @ 10:45a

Yeah, I'd rather date my bathroom towel. Maybe J-Lo thinks this will further her acting career, such as it is.

russ carr
12.4.02 @ 11:08a

I honestly think there's a fame addiction that brings these stars together, and it's deeply rooted in insecurity. Their paranoia at losing their sparkle draws them to each other, hoping the "couple" will get them thru the lean times when they don't have a hit movie/TV show/single.

It's like Jack and Marla in Fight Club -- only instead of attending recovery and support groups, a substantial number of stars marry, usually within their own ranks. They're all damaged goods and what they have in common may be enough to draw them together at first, but at an ever-quickening rate, they're discovering the solace they believe they've found with each other isn't love, it's commiseration.

russ carr
12.4.02 @ 11:09a

BTW: Heard this morning that Neve Campbell and John Cusack broke up again. Just sayin'.

jael mchenry
12.4.02 @ 11:12a

I'm on it. sound of running footsteps

Which is worse, superstars marrying each other or superstars trying to marry non-superstars and then realizing they have no common ground? It'll be interesting to see if Julia Roberts makes it work with cameraman Danny Moder. (Important to note also it's the second marriage for both of them.)

matt morin
12.4.02 @ 11:30a

I think stars marry other stars because they know that they're not just in it for the money or fame.

Think if you were really rich and famous. How would you ever know for sure the person you were marrying wasn't in it only because you were famous. You'd never know if it was you or the fame they were in love with. By marrying another famous person, at least that part is out of the way.

erik myers
12.4.02 @ 11:34a

But if they thought that they weren't just in it for the money and fame, then they wouldn't sign pre-nups.

You don't sign a pre-nup if you're planning on staying together forever.

russ carr
12.4.02 @ 11:36a

Oh, I don't think that's the case at all. I think plenty of stars marry each other because they don't have enough and want more. By marrying another star, they can double (or better) their worth, marketability and allure overnight. The extravagant divorce settlements between celebs bears that out, in my opinion. You'd never hear either member of a divorcing celebrity couple say, "I've still got my fame and you've got yours...let's just call it even."

matt morin
12.4.02 @ 11:45a

Erik, that's like saying "You don't get insurance unless you're planning to get in an accident."

Pre-nups just protect their own money, that's all.

russ carr
12.4.02 @ 11:51a

Pre-nups just protect their own money, that's all.

That's the point, Matt -- they're putting something ahead of the relationship. They're going into it with enough of an expectation of failure that they feel obligated to protect "their" money. Or, in the case of JLo, apparently, to safeguard her inexhaustible libido. Pre-nups demonstrate a marked absence of trust in the other partner, faith in the strength of the relationship, and displacement of priorities.

matt morin
12.4.02 @ 11:58a

I totally disagree. I don't think anyone goes into a marriage thinking, "I can't wait to put this pre-nup to use when my marriage fails!"

It's just protection. Just like you protect your car from an accident or your house from damage. Just because you protect yourself if something happens doesn't mean you think something will happen.

jael mchenry
12.4.02 @ 12:04p

I can't quite decide how I feel about it. Is there a way to set up financial housekeeping with another person and still keep separate accounts so everything's either in one name or the other? Then, zoom, no pre-nup necessary and if, heaven forfend, things do fall apart, the lines have still been drawn.

russ carr
12.4.02 @ 12:15p

Jael -- but don't you see my point, that you're putting your personal wealth/finances ahead of the relationship? As soon as you draw those lines, you're putting restrictions on what's supposed to be a partnership...a level of intimacy that is more than a mere certificate from the county courthouse (as demonstrated by Trey and Heather). As you concluded in your column, if you're not prepared for the sacrifices and the permanence, why enter into that covenant? Who are you trying to satisfy? A pre-nup is like saying "I love you," and then putting an asterisk on it.

matt morin
12.4.02 @ 12:15p

All a pre-nup says is, here's what was who's before the marriage. And sometimes they also spell out what the other person is entitled to in the event of a divorce.

matt morin
12.4.02 @ 12:18p

No Russ, a pre-nup says "I love you, but if you don't love me like you really claim to, you don't get to take half my money."

I think a pre-nup is a comfort level that the other person is doing this for the right reasons and not just to cash in.

jael mchenry
12.4.02 @ 12:29p

Russ, I do see your point. Totally. You do want to unite your future with the other person's, and that's financial as well as everything else. I suppose if I'm going to make the argument I made, it would only be consistent to deny the role of a pre-nup. But I do have the tiny itching doubt way back in the back of my head that reminds me you can't see the future with 100% accuracy, and the unforeseeable can happen.

Do most of us really have enough money to worry about in this situation anyway? Or is it more for the pink-diamond-wearing Bentley-gifting multimillionaires?

russ carr
12.4.02 @ 12:39p

Strikes me that if you're so scared as to question the validity of your potential spouse's love, you should be questioning your own. Pre-nups have nothing to do with love and everything to do with litigation. You can spin it any way you want to, but it's still selfishness -- an escape clause absolving both parties of responsibility. It's like a condom on the institution of marriage, eliminating the risk and cheapening the act, to the point where marriage is just the super-sized version of a one-night stand.

jael mchenry
12.4.02 @ 12:49p

I think it's not so easy to put it down to "question[ing] the validity of your potential spouse's love." That makes it sound like there's Love and Not-Love, which I would never argue for. (Matt would, though.) There are a million different kinds and levels of love. And it's possible that you could find yourself on one of the levels you never thought you could be on -- the kind where you love the person desperately but they've hurt you in a way you can never forget or forgive.

Then again, that's not my argument. I'm just trying to see the other side.

My argument is, if you divorce within a few years of marriage, you probably saw it coming and pretended it wasn't there. We all fool ourselves somehow. Marriage is one of the places we can't afford to.

sarah ficke
12.4.02 @ 1:01p

I think a pre-nup echoes the older idea of a dowry, like "If you divorce me then you have to give me as much money/land/cows as I brought to you when we married." I'm torn over the idea as well because on one hand it sounds like you are expecting or considering that divorce might happen. On the other hand, it makes divorce that much more simple if it does happen and might save everyone a lot of grief.

erik myers
12.4.02 @ 1:10p

If a divorce happens under messy circumstances, it's going to be nasty whether or not there's a pre-nup. It might make it nice and easy if the divorce is a mutually agreed upon, "Yeah, we're just not happy." kinda deal, but if it's a "You slept with my sister and I have a child by you and thought that this was forever" kinda divorce a pre-nup is only going to take care of a small, small part of it.

I see pre-nups as insurance policies that are, essentially, self-fulfilling prophecies. I don't care how you look at it, by signing a pre-nup you are planning on the divorce before you get married.

russ carr
12.4.02 @ 1:13p

Marriage is one of the places we can't afford to.

Exactly. But society has enured itself to believe we can...that marriage is just as disposable as any other institution. I'm not saying divorce is inescapable; people change. But like you point out, Jael, if it's within a few years (for argument's sake, let's say under three years) then, yeah, chances are the ground under your feet wasn't exactly the most solid to begin with... and when the divorce comes within a matter of months or weeks, that's just absurd, and it's a mockery of what marriage is meant to be.

Matt was the one who was reducing a pre-nup to questioning the validity of love: "I love you, but if you don't love me like you really claim to, you don't get to take half my money." I'm unswayed in my belief that a pre-nup belies an insecurity in the relationship that should be warning enough against marriage. After all, how many Mr. and Mrs. John Does do you know who have gotten them? From my perspective, they appear to flourish strictly within the arena of the wealthy and/or famous, where marriages are more aptly described as mergers.

matt morin
12.4.02 @ 1:20p

Wrong, wrong, wrong. Do you people live in Mayberry or something? A pre-nup is not saying you're planning for a divorce, just like auto insurance is not saying you're planning for a crash.

If I asked each of you right now, "Are you ever planning to purposely crash your car?" You'd all say no. But you still have insurance.

Russ you said it yourself - prenups have nothing to do with love and everything to do with litigation. So you can still love your spouse-to-be and have a prenup. All you're doing is protecting yourself incase something unforseen happens.

sarah ficke
12.4.02 @ 1:21p

I think Russ' point is that you are supposed to trust the person you marry. We get car insurance because we don't know or trust all of the other drivers out there who might hit us. In marriage, you are supposed to trust your partner not to wreck it, as they should trust you.

russ carr
12.4.02 @ 1:24p

Thank you, Sarah, that's it precisely. And since I know you don't live in Mayberry, and since you're currently in a relationship, I think we can all respect your perspective.

sarah ficke
12.4.02 @ 1:27p

Nope, not in Mayberry unless Mayberry has a secret majority population of Armenians.

As for my perspective, I'd hardly call myself an expert, and I can understand where Matt gets his argument. But I like to think that, were I to get married, I'd feel like I didn't need a pre-nup.

jael mchenry
12.4.02 @ 1:28p

Russ: cheap shot.

But Sarah expressed it perfectly. Insurance doesn't say the driver is going to crash the car. And a marriage is more important than a car, anyway.

matt morin
12.4.02 @ 1:42p

Hey, everyone with a driver's license is legally trusted that they're a good driver and won't get in an accident. But provisions are made (insurance) if something does. Same for a pre-nup.

A pre-nup doesn't say you don't trust your fiancee. It says if something happens, here's what we'll do.

Hope for the best. Plan for the worst. That doesn't necessarily mean the worst is going to happen. That just means you're covered if it does.

russ carr
12.4.02 @ 1:51p

I get my shots wholesale. Enlightenment no more comes with an urban existence than inbreeding comes with a rural one. I don't believe that respecting what's supposed to be a sacred, permanent institution rather than painting it as merely a legal status with all the wiggle room granted thereunto paints me as small-minded. Pre-nups are for people more interested in covering their own asses than fostering a legitimate relationship.

Whatever happened to dating, anyway? Ben and JLo were together how many weeks before this snowballed into matrimony? How long did Tom and Penelope canoodle and now everyone's clamoring for a ring? Juli's proof that "love at first sight" can happen, and that's cool...but I'm betting Juli didn't marry her beau the next week on, right?

brian anderson
12.4.02 @ 2:02p

Matt, I think the problem that people are having with saying "it's just an insurance policy" is that, unlike an insurance policy designed for come-what-may eventuality, it's affecting one specific person who is expecting (maybe in too idealistic a sense to Matt, maybe in a defining way to Russ) a whole-hearted commitment. Many people would not have a problem with a pre-nup, but others may well be disappointed in their partner. It's not logical, but then, we're dealing with emotions here.

Am I making any sense to anyone else here? My own thoughts are confused.

matt morin
12.4.02 @ 2:02p

The fact is, marriage is both a sacred institution and a legal status.

You talk about me being black and white - thinkig marriage is just one and not the other is kind of naive. Sweet and optimistic, but naive.

The wedding vows cover the first part, I don't see a problem with a pre-nup covering the second part.

adam kraemer
12.4.02 @ 2:03p

I'm in favor of rich people having pre-nups. I can't imagine, what with the enmity that usually accompanies a divorce, not having a piece of paper that at least says "this was mine; this was yours." It's not planning for divorce, but especially in a no-fault state like California, I think it makes a lot more sense to sign a pre-nup and never use it than to "trust in love" and find out that you're out millions of dollars because two lawyers worked it out that way.

jael mchenry
12.4.02 @ 2:16p

Russ, I meant the "since you're currently in a relationship, I think we can all respect your perspective" shot. We can respect people's perspectives either way, I'd hope.

I'm with you on the "whatever happened to dating" idea. Again, magnified in Hollywood, but showing up all over. One of the funniest and most depressing things to do is look through old entertainment magazines and see all the raving rabid quotes new brides make about their husbands and vice versa. J-Lo on Cris Judd sounds exactly the same as Angelina Jolie on Billy Bob or Jennifer Roberts on Danny Moder or Nicolas Cage on Patricia Arquette or Meg Ryan on Dennis Quaid. The idea of "I was born to love him" is silly. The idea of "We belong together" is also silly. The idea of "I love this person and yet recognize the difficulties of being with the same person for the next 45 years" is the only sane one, but no one ever says that. Doesn't make good copy.

michelle von euw
12.4.02 @ 3:51p

Side note: pre nups rarely hold up in divorce court. Most lawyers can get them thrown out by claiming they were signed under coercion, or point to extenuating circumstances that occurred in the marriage that override the paper, anyway.

My basic stance is the same as Russ's: pre nups assume that the marriage may end; if I believed that could happen, I wouldn't walk down the aisle in the first place. Of course, I owned a '96 Geo Metro and a $100 First Communion savings bond at the time of my vows. If a $40 million annual income was at stake, who knows how I would have felt?

matt morin
12.4.02 @ 4:02p

No matter what, all marriages may end. Anyone who doesn't believe it could happen to them is kidding themselves.

I know a couple of friends' parents who were married for 30+ years before getting divorced. Does that mean they shouldn't have been married in the first place? Of course not.

I also know a friend's parents who were the happiest couple you could ever meet, even after 20-some-odd years of marriage. Then she was raped and as a result, she never wanted to be touched or hugged or have sex with her husband (or any other man). Despite a lot of therapy, she never got better and they got divorced.

My point is, you never know. And some of that not knowing is part of what a pre-nup covers.

jael mchenry
12.4.02 @ 4:21p

I know a couple of friends' parents who were married for 30+ years before getting divorced. Does that mean they shouldn't have been married in the first place? Of course not.

What do you mean, of course not? Maybe they shouldn't've. Maybe they were unhappy, but quiet, that whole time. Maybe a long-buried disagreement came to the fore. Maybe they stayed together "for the kids." The only way to avoid divorce 100% is not to get married in the first place, and I don't understand why that scares so many people so much that they'll rush into a mistake rather than consider life "alone."

heather millen
12.4.02 @ 5:46p

I know that I'm very late to jump in, but it now appears I have a huge sexual propensity toward terry cloth. See above

Great. Just great.


heather millen
12.4.02 @ 7:19p

And now that I’ve had time to read this lengthy discussion: Here’s the perspective from the gal that sees nothing wrong with a flippant Vegas wedding just for hell of it.

It's ridiculous to me to imply that a prenup discounts the love that the two people hold or the life they intend to embark on together. But things don't always go as planned. Marriage is much more than that commitment to each other, an entire legal entity comes with it and a prenup really only covers that legal binding. It by no way diminishes to me the signifance of the vows these two exchange.

I also don’t see it necessary in most normal marriages (company of Ben, JLo and the like excluded). But if I were to be involved in a Hollywood marriage, I think I'd be suspicious of someone who wouldn't have a prenup.

jael mchenry
12.7.02 @ 6:00p

3 1/2 days later... let's try to get that momentum going again. Damn storms!

robert melos
12.8.02 @ 1:48a

Okay first let me say, Ben isn't the sexiset man alive, but he is hot. I'd take him over Matt Damon any day. Hell, if rumors were true I'd probably have to fight Matt Damon for him.

Anway Ben's desirability aside, after reading the discussion I look at my own situation in a different light. I'm denied the right to marriage in its fullest sense, and suddenly not having that right doesn't matter. If I'm emotionally tied to another person to the point where I want to be faithful to him and him alone, then I'm going to be, and no prenup or legal paper is going to make any difference. As it is now I can have my cake and eat it too, so to speak.

And prenups are not only for the wealthy. If you happen to own a house/condo etc., prior to marriage you might not want to risk losing that property should your sacred institution crumble to dust. Many of my customers ask about this when buying a home. They want to know, should they meet the perfect partner shortly after closing, they will not be risking more then their hearts.

joe procopio
12.8.02 @ 9:45a

This has probably already been said. A pre-nup is a symptom of divorce laws going haywire. Yes, a pre-nup is a self-fulfilling prophecy, and if you wait long enough to get married, then you'll realize how foolish it is.

As for finances and the like, bring them all together. Everything from the checking account to the box of Twinkies or whatever. They're "ours." What's mine is yours and vice-versa, because, and this is opinion now, I would say the vast majority of divorce begins with "Well, what about me?"

Human nature.

On a separate note, money is the toughest thing about being married. We have a plan where we each get a sum of money every week that is pocket money. Not hers, not mine, but its a sum we have control over. It's a goal, not an allowance, and it really helps keep the big picture in persepctive when we're eyeing a DVD or a buying a birthday present without the other one there.

robert melos
12.8.02 @ 3:33p

Joe makes a great point. When I think of all the divorced people I know, the one common factor when speaking with them about their failed marriages is the "I". They will say "I didn't expect it to be like this," or "It just wasn't what I was looking for," or "I was going in another direction."

I think the marriage that work are the ones where people think in terms of "we" rather than "I".

I'm not saying a person can't act as an individual in a marriage, or that they must always check in with their partner before making a decision, because I believe it is possible to maintain individuality in a relationship while being half of a couple, but thinking in terms of "we" lowers the risk of divorce. Anytime you consider the feelings of your partner you are working as a "we" instead of an "I".

As for the money issues, people have to realize how temporary life is. Money comes and goes at a rapid rate, and it can cause heartache, but again the individual has to decide what is more important to them. If the wallet wins out over the relationship, they shouldn't be in the relationship.

Just my opinions. I'm still happy to have my cake and eat it too.


robert melos
12.8.02 @ 3:38p

Darn, ran out of room. Here's the rest.

I always felt my parents had a great marriage, because both mom and dad would go out as individuals, as well as doing things together. They always discussed money issues, and really trusted each other. I would only hope to have a relationship as good as theirs was. They were
together 34 years, until my father's death, and my mother tells me she was very happy.

russ carr
12.8.02 @ 3:44p

Beautifully stated, Robert.

jael mchenry
12.9.02 @ 9:33a

Yes, Robert, that's gorgeous. My parents have 31 years and going strong. I think a lot of my insistence on the lifelong thing comes from them -- because I've seen them grow and change together instead of changing and growing apart. And they married very young. So they've set a really good example for me of how you can change over a long span of years yet still love the same person you loved many years before.

adam kraemer
12.9.02 @ 1:25p

My parents are at 32, with probably about half of those being "good years." Should they have not gotten married? Dunno. I'm glad they did. I'm glad they're still married. But it's also shown me that marriage is not an institution to be taken lightly.

That said, Joe commented earlier: Yes, a pre-nup is a self-fulfilling prophecy, and if you wait long enough to get married, then you'll realize how foolish it is. Personally, if I had money to lose going into a marriage, I might want to protect it. If it's a question of being foolish, I'd rather (in that situation) get a pre-nup I never need, than find out I should have gotten one. And, for that matter, what about couples that stay together even after they should have split up, because he (or she) doesn't want to lose half his money? Forced to stay married because of the lack of a pre-nuptial agreement. That's no better.

russ carr
12.9.02 @ 6:32p

Now that's a weak assumption, that divorce automatically warrants a specific split of assets when there's no pre-nup. Divorce attorneys (aka post-marital agents) are there to negotiate a fair settlement between each spouse. Is it always amicable, or fair? No, because if it's a divorce on acrimonious terms, then there's a likely possibility that one or both people will be looking not for "settlement" but for "damages," in effect. But I would think in the majority of cases when the reason for divorce is simply, "We don't want to be together anymore," that devising the division would be -- could be -- just a matter of equitable negotiation.

As Michelle points out, a pre-nup is no more a guarantee of covering your assets than a marriage license means 'til death do you part.

adam kraemer
12.9.02 @ 11:37p

Well, we started talking about stars in California, which I believe is a no-fault state which pretty much means that most terms are close to 50-50. The problem is if one member of the couple came into the marriage with $10 million, and the other with $200,000. A 50/50 split isn't exactly fair in that situation, is it?

I don't think I'm going to get a prenuptial agreement when I get married. But when assets are so great, monetarily, it makes sense, in my mind, to make sure you're protected in case you discover you've made a mistake. Just like taking an umbrella to work doesn't mean you're necessarily expecting rain.


robert melos
12.10.02 @ 1:06a

I find it interesting that we've seemed to boil down marriage to money. I know marriage originally was about what one person or their family could do for another, but what about romance? What about love? We barely touch on those topics. It's as if the bulk of marriage is about finance, when there are so many other reasons for marriage.

Yeah, protecting ones self is important, but life is full of risks. If marriage were more of a risk, I think people might give it more thought than many of them seem to do. Although, among this group, you all seem to have given it a great deal of thought.

matt morin
12.10.02 @ 1:36a

What you're all missing is this: A pre-nup has nothing to do with marriage. It has to do with divorce.

A pre-nup doesn't cause a divorce any more than a will causes death or insurance causes accidents.

russ carr
12.10.02 @ 1:48a

Yes, but the leading cause of divorce is marriage.

jael mchenry
12.10.02 @ 10:44a

Not getting married is the only way you can be 100% sure you'll never get divorced. But a lot of people would rather take that risk, sometimes unwisely, rather than check the "never married" box. Why?

russ carr
12.10.02 @ 10:55a

Go back to my first post in this discussion, and there's my theory -- just as applicable for "plain folks" as it is for celebrities. For some it's fear of being alone, for others they're looking for a crutch. Some just want to dip their toes in the water to know how it feels. While I think it's getting more acceptable to be single forever (or at least legally unbound), for most of our history at least, the status quo has been to take a spouse and raise a family. It's hard to escape that kind of social programming.

As for "unwisely," given all the other unwise behaviors of man, why should matrimony be any different?

erik myers
12.10.02 @ 11:34a

A pre-nup doesn't cause a divorce any more than a will causes death or insurance causes accidents.

Nobody's saying it does. What we're saying is that going into something with the predisposition that it's going to end can be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

ie -- If I go out driving every day expecting to get into an accident, I believe it's more likely that I will, simply because I'm going to be that much more skittish about things because I'm expecting it. Same deal with the pre-nup.

jael mchenry
12.10.02 @ 11:49a

As for "unwisely," given all the other unwise behaviors of man, why should matrimony be any different? Because marriage should viewed as permanent and irrevocable. If I decide to go to college, if I realize partway through it's a bad decision, I can drop out. If I take a job and discover I hate it, I can get a new job. If I buy a car and want a newer model, I can sell it or trade it in. If I get married and have kids, I shouldn't just wake up one day and decide to get rid of those things. Because those are other people, not just things, and the decisions ripple.

juli mccarthy
12.10.02 @ 12:24p

Let me just say I'm in favor of pre-nups in theory - I subscribe to the "insurance policy" argument - but I personally would never marry someone who wanted one, nor would I ever ask someone to sign one for me.

As for Ben Affleck's coronation, well, all I can say is I think he's cute, but it's a sad day in a woman's life when she realizes lusting after the sexiest man alive pretty much makes her a pedophile.

jael mchenry
12.10.02 @ 1:23p

Oh, he's not a kid. By any stretch. Jesse Bradford, he's a kid. Mmmmmm, swimfan.

adam kraemer
12.10.02 @ 1:29p

Yeah. Affleck's a few years older than me.

I think, getting to Jael's other point, a lot of people find it necessary to get married at some point because either they want kids, or they want someone in their life who they think will fill a void, or they're just conditioned to want to get married.

And, by the way, anyone who thinks that love is enough to keep a relationship together, is pretty naive.

What I don't get is why marriage should be viewed as "forever." I'm not a fan of divorce, but why is it pretty much the only life decision we make that we're not 'allowed' to take back or do over?

russ carr
12.10.02 @ 2:37p

Jael: I wasn't trying to defend those who enter into marriage lightly, I was painting with a broad brush and decided (for brevity) to omit examples of unwise behaviors, such as unprotected sex w/o thought of consequences, driving after drinking, and the like. Taken alone, sex, liquor and marriage are all fine things, but all three are enjoyed irresponsibly more often than I care to think, with little thought for what the end result could be.

My ultimate point after all this: we are inherently foolish, even the best of us. Expecting that marriage could somehow be exempted from that foolishness is delusional. It's a pity, in this case, that the marriage license requires no qualifying exam.

robert melos
12.11.02 @ 5:27a

Russ, there are qualifications for marriage. Unfortunately common sense and love are not among them.

Aside from that, isn't much of life in general delusional? And isn't it important for that delusion to exist for the majority? If it didn't, if people really saw how big of a step marriage was, without the safety net of pre-nup or divorce, most people wouldn't even give it a try.

I was raised to believe you married once for life. I think that's why I admired my nextdoor neighbor. He was on his 5th wife by the time they moved when I was 7. He was unconventional and broke the rules. Now I just think he was a fool, but back then he was cool.


juli mccarthy
12.11.02 @ 11:00a

My mother's been married three times, and her longest union was 12 years. My sister's marriage lasted 6 years, my brother's, 6 months. None of them really thought my marriage would last, because marriages in my family don't.

I once read a Valentine's Day survey in the paper asking people "what's the secret to true love?" LOTS of people - mostly younger - answered along the lines of "you feel your pulse quicken when he/she walks in the room." PUH-LEEEZE. That happens when I see a spider. My answer is this: you commit to eternity together, you never entertain the notion that your marriage is not permanent, you fight about stupid stuff but agree on the important things. Love is not about heartbeats and body parts. It's about devoting your life to being united.

Old-fashioned? Maybe. Self-righteous? Probably. But an awful lot of people ask John and I what our secret is, so I really think we found the right answer.

adam kraemer
12.11.02 @ 11:05a

What about marriages that don't work, but the couple won't admit it because they're too stubborn? At what point is it time to end a "commitment for eternity" that's turned into a prison sentence?

sarah ficke
12.11.02 @ 11:23a

5 out of my 8 aunts and uncles have been divorced. On the bright side, the second marriages in my family have a great sucess rate. But if I want the secret to a good marriage, I watch my grandparents. They've been together for over 50 years and while my grandfather's pulse may not jump when grandmother walks into the room (he's 93, it probably wouldn't be good for him anyway) but they obviously love each other very much.

juli mccarthy
12.11.02 @ 11:33a

I don't know, Adam. A marriage should be terminated instantly if it becomes abusive, or if someone is wholly miserable. I would hope that people wouldn't enter into a marriage if they're not 100% sure of themselves AND their partner. I do realize that is probably unrealistic of me, but I prefer to think (as Jael seems to) that we take marriage entirely too lightly as an institution, and that if we went back to regarding marriage as a permanent condition, maybe we'd think a little more before getting married, or work harder to keep one together. A marriage shouldn't be ended over trials and tribulations (which are a fact of life, whether or not you're married), or over one's desire to re-discover or re-invent oneself.

robert melos
12.12.02 @ 12:44a

I think, if we took away the financial rights of marriage, I mean legally wipe them away, and make marriage strictly about love, fewer people would get married.

jael mchenry
12.12.02 @ 11:21a

Well, that takes kids out of the equation, and although there aren't always children in a marriage, I think that's another aspect that would keep marriage popular even if the financial rights were dissolved. It still wouldn't be "strictly about love," I think.

robert melos
12.13.02 @ 11:33p

In the perfect world in which I would hope to someday live, children would be the result of love, and not the reason to either get married or to stay together. I see your point about a marriage not being "strictly about love." I tend to oversimplify on that topic.

It would be great if people would just think before they act. I'm not talking about going through a year or two of planning "the event," but just sitting down and talking about expectations before they go out and have a marital train wreck.


jael mchenry
12.16.02 @ 8:48a

Proving yet again that the mainstream media is several weeks behind us as a matter of course, here's an article on exactly the same subject, using most of the same examples, from today's Washington Post.

erik myers
12.16.02 @ 8:59a

We are the bleeding edge.

jael mchenry
12.16.02 @ 1:40p

Ew. Is it necessary to bleed? Can't we lead instead?

russ carr
12.16.02 @ 3:13p

Given the old journalistic maxim, "If it bleeds, it leads," the two would seem to be inseparable.

jael mchenry
12.16.02 @ 4:49p

a) I knew it would happen, and b) I knew you'd be the one to do it.

russ carr
12.16.02 @ 6:08p

Color me translucent.

jael mchenry
12.19.02 @ 7:23p

Not "black and white and read all over"?

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