The always-insightful Brendan has stepped back from the Manosphere, but occasionally returns to comment on threads. He graced a recent discussion at Dalrock’s place with his inimitable, straightforward brilliance.
In response to a reader who noted that all married men at recent social events had strongly suggested he not marry, I commented thusly:
Buck’s comment is what concerns me whenever I think about the overall marital marketplace. I am guessing marriage follows a 20-60-20 distribution – about 20% are happy, 60% mediocre, and 20% absolutely miserable.
Brendan then weighed in (the remainder of the post is his words).
“I think that’s about right, but that there is fluidity between those bands and also some variety within them, especially in the middle one. That is, marriages can, and do, migrate from happy to mediocre and then possibly stay there or migrate back to happy or deteriorate further into miserable. Some marriages are mediocre from the beginning, too.
Whether they last has more to do with the personalities involved (especially of the woman), expectations and values.
Certain personas are less tolerant of mediocrity than others, even if there are some real benefits to the marriage, and will simply not be able to tolerate that situation long-term. Sometimes this is innate (think of the person who has to spend five minutes explaining to the waiter precisely how he/she wants the meal prepared or who routinely sends food back and so on), and sometimes it is egged-on (as Dalrock talks about here, as an aspect of choice addiction), but when it is present it tends to undermine the ability to tolerate a mediocre situation for anything longer than a relatively short period of time.
Expectations play a significant role, too. If you have very high expectations for the “fun” and “happy” aspects of marriage, and yours doesn’t satisfy those, dissatisfaction goes through the roof very quickly. This is, I think, a challenge for many couples today, precisely because expectations are so very high, and people generally plan to have “all their ducks in a row” before they get married — meaning that if expectations are not satisfied durably once the work and effort of getting said ducks in a row has been done, exit visas may be sought out relatively quickly to replace the situation with one that satisfies expectations and “justifies” the effort of getting said ducks in a row.
And, of course, values play a role, but probably the least significant one. Values are easily over-ridden by a rationalization hamster working for a mediocrity-intolerant persona or a person who has had his/her expectations dashed, regardless of “values”. Someone who is fundamentally dissatisfied and less mediocrity tolerant will have a much harder time sticking to their values than someone who is more “easy-going” (for lack of a better word) or more realistic in expectations will.
There are men and women on both sides of these spectra, but in my own experience, women are, very generally, the ones with the higher expectations in marriages *and* often the ones who are less mediocrity tolerant than men are. These dynamics tend to make women unhappy in the marriages *first*, before their husbands are — because their husbands are more tolerant of mediocrity and/or had different expectations going in. What happens next, of course, depends on the dynamics of the situation and the people involved, but generally once that wifely unhappiness is expressed, men tend to start getting unhappy. Sometimes this leads tro cheating. Sometimes it leads to divorce. And sometimes it leads to a kind of marital stalemate — i.e., a long-term low mediocre or poor marriage that people stay in because of values or kids or other circumstances. It very much varies in terms of the result. But the key, it seems to me, is avoiding certain personality types and certain expectation horizons when you are entering marriage, because these are the kinds of things that can lead to unhappiness very quickly in a life that is, by definition, going to be characterized by a good deal of routine and, yes, mediocrity.”