Sunday, December 19, 2010

Offending Marriage

On Twitter this morning, I ran across a link to a story celebrating the marriage of a couple that met at their kids' school activities, while each was still married to the other parent of said kids. The article takes and odd "Isn't that something?" attitude toward two families being torn apart because the adults saw something they liked better (though it's hard not to notice that the only people who seem happy in the picture are the couple themselves), including passages like:

As Mr. Partilla saw it, their options were either to act on their feelings and break up their marriages or to deny their feelings and live dishonestly. “Pain or more pain,” was how he summarized it.
Given such a choice, I tend to think the better option is to choose the "pain" that also doesn't go along with completely uprooting one's family.

“The part that’s hard for people to believe is we didn’t have an affair,” Ms. Riddell said. “I didn’t want to sneak around and sleep with him on the side. I wanted to get up in the morning and read the paper with him.” 
I think some people may have forgotten why there's a societal sanction against extramarital affairs.

“He said, ‘Remind me every day that the kids will be O.K.,’ ” Ms. Riddell recalled. “I would say the kids are going to be great, and we’ll spend the rest of our lives making it so.”
Objection!  Leading question on direct examination!  But I guess if they think the kids are going to be great as a result of them doing what they want to do, what can we say?  And by the way, what about that other person you had promised to love and honor all the days of your life?

They finalized their divorces this year. “I will always feel terribly about the pain I caused my ex-husband,” said Ms. Riddell, 44 and working freelance. “It was not what I ever would have wished on him.” Or on her children.
“My kids are going to look at me and know that I am flawed and not perfect, but also deeply in love,” she said. “We’re going to have a big, noisy, rich life, with more love and more people in it.”

Pity those children who are stuck with thei original parents for their entire childhood, and are thus deprived of the "big, noisy, rich life" of those whose parents follow their hearts.

And can you find in this article one reason to believe this will last other than that the couple are "really in love."  What  will happen if the T-ball coach or dance teacher is very attractive, and one of the parents feels an irresistible connection?  We can't expect them to deny their feelings, can we?  Well, not with the precedent they've set.

And spare me the "don't judge" speech.  They put their story out there in the  New York Times, not me.  Part of what they were trying to do by doing so was increase the acceptance of what they did.   Note the asides about being "ostracized" by those around them, likely parents who would prefer their children not be constantly worried if one of their parents will bolt the instant they feel an instant "connection" with someone of the opposite sex.  If we don't want this type of behavior to become more common, we criticize it when it's put in our face.

This was a deliberate action, and the actors are presenting it for us to evaluate.  This is mine.

Of course, this is 2010, so we don't just offer straightforward criticisms of immoral behavior -- there has to be a "hypocrisy" angle.  And so, the tweet I read pointing to this story was quickly followed by this one:

On that NYT story: next time some talking head says we need to protect marriage from the gays, remember Carol Anne Riddell & John Partilla.
When I replied that many of those opposed to SSM believe they are pushing back against a culture that enables things like this, I received the reply:

well funny how they take that out on the gays instead of, say, trying to make what this couple did illegal.
First, I will say that a society that applauds this couple has no non-bigoted basis for not allowing same sex couples to marry.  And that seems to be where we're headed.

I will also concede that bigotry is probably a reason why there is more energy behind opposing same sex marriage and other efforts to bolster marriage.

However, if I had to bet, I would suspect the writer of that piece supports same sex marriage.

Which vision of marriage would the Riddell-Partilla marriage more comfortable fit into?  Something like Conor  Friedorsorf offered a couple years ago:

Marriage is the union of people who fall in love with one another, decide that they want to spend the rest of their lives together, and commit to do so monogamously
or the "thick" marriage described by Ross Douthat?

This is the essence of the non-bigoted case against same-sex marriage.  It's not that gays are going to ruin marriage.  It's that a vision of marriage that would include same sex couples is flimsier than a thinker one in which same sex marriages would make no sense.

The problem is that reality, as evidenced by this story, is pretty far from this ideal, so opposition to same sex marriage looks a lot like bigotry.

But for those who think that "defenders of marriage" should focus on couples like this instead of opposing same sex marriage, I have a question: What law would you join us in supporting that would address situations like this?  Ban no-fault divorce?  Cooling off period between divorces and second marriages?  I'm up for it, but my experience is that those who favor things like this are considered reactionaries out to turn back the clock. 
Post a Comment