What is the business theory of marriage?
Marriages are made by two individuals who have made the judgement that they have a higher than average degree of compatibility and can please each other to such an extent that institutionalizing the relationship seems only logical. Why let a marvellous person in your life just float in and out when, with effort and commitment, that relationship could flower into a lifelong partnership? So rather than simply shake hands on the deal and flip a coin as to who will move in with whom, people, as civilization has become more complex, have created the institution of marriage. This makes the two lovers aware of the fact that they have committed themselves to each other, that they have certain legal obligations to each other that normally do not exist until they are married, and that this now has the backing and approval of society, one’s personal friends, and the law courts themselves. It is a serious business because in most cases before many years pass it will involve other human beings and an estate, which, at times, can amount to a fortune. With all this at stake it only makes sense to legitimize the relationship.
For the woman in particular, it is a critical move. When she agrees to walk down the aisle with her fiancé and to make herself vulnerable to whatever good or bad fortune may come of her husband’s efforts to provide for her during periods when she is rather helpless (either during periods of pregnancy, illness, or the rearing of a family), she had better have some guarantees that she will not be abandoned casually during these critical times. If she is going to allow herself to be in the position of giving birth and rearing children she will certainly want to have reassurance in some form that she will not starve, have to give the children away, or go into prostitution to support herself and the children. In this respect she is simply being intelligent, using good judgement, using her head rather than her heart, and facing the reality of what might happen to her if she does not make some hard business decisions.
A man owes a woman this kind of reassurance because, if the two of them want a family, it is so ordained that she will be the one who will carry the child, deliver it, and in most cases rear it. This means that she will have to forego many of her own career plans which, if she were not to raise a family for herself and her husband, would at times allow her to have a very interesting life and sometimes even allow her to acquire considerable wealth. But being a housewife and homemaker does not always coincide with being able to support oneself in a reasonable style. That is an unspoken agreement the couple make when they get married and decide to have a family. Therefore, she has as much right to his income as he had because she forfeited her opportunity for an independent wage when she decided to please them both by having a family. It is entirely unfair to a man to expect his wife to give him a family, to give up her own career, and then to insist that the money he makes is his when there is no other way he could have had a family. It surprises me how many women do not understand their rights to the husband’s earnings because of that fact. I have talked to hundreds of women who do not know how much their husbands earn and who have no say in the purchase of the next car. They accept the fact that, because he actually did the work, the money is his and she must be content with his sense of generosity to let her have enough for a dress or groceries. This is chauvinism at its worst. And too many women abide by it.
A woman in this condition does not give herself the credit she deserves. She has every right to equal control over the family funds for two more reasons. The first is that she certainly earns every penny she shares with her husband because she services his needs and the family needs in dozens of ways. Most women don’t sit at home throwing bon-bons in their mouths and getting fat while they watch TV all day. The average housewife works hard, handles a multitude of responsibilities, and often lives a lonely and boring life that would drive the husband nuts if he tried it for three days. Any husband who doesn’t believe this ought to spend two weeks at home while his wife goes off on holiday. In a great many instances the man finds out just what it is like to care for children, pets, laundry, cooking, and keeping the house shipshape just so she won’t gripe when she comes home.
The next reason why women have a right to equal control over the funds is that they are the blue-collar workers of the family, and unless they strike once in a while their deep desires and needs will go completely ignored. Isn’t it odd that the same man who walks the picket line against the factory that will not recognize his reasonable demands, will go home and take the role of management in his own house and strenuously reject offers from his wife which she makes in the role of labourer. It does seem as though what we regard as right or wrong depends largely on whether we are asking or giving.
However this may be, it is extremely important that you begin to look upon a marriage as a business arrangement between two people who had better get a fair amount of happiness from the business if they don’t want it to collapse. A factory cannot succeed if either management or labour are not getting a fair share of the benefits, and a marriage cannot succeed if the same conditions are not met. Therefore, try to see the marriage as a business arrangement between one partner joining forces with another rather than as an employer and an employee. The marriage is like a company called Smith and Co.; and if the company makes a profit the marriage is happy. Happiness in marriage is the equivalent of a profit in a business. Being in the red, having more debts than you can pay for is, in marriage terms, being unhappy. The similarities between a business and a marriage go on. If you don’t like your job, you quit it. In marriage that’s called desertion. If you want to leave your job permanently, you resign or get fired. In a marriage that’s called a divorce.
It is my observation that those marriages which spell out the conditions of the marriage beforehand often have less difficulty than those that do not do so. And aren’t they acting like a couple of business people when they do this? If a man and a woman decide that they will put money away every month to buy a house, that they will have a family started no later than three years after the marriage, that they will alternate spending Christmas at each other’s parental homes, and so on, this couple will usually encounter fewer frustrations than the couple which has made no such plans.
A marriage and a business handle frustrations in very similar manners. If an employer is unhappy with an employee he or she notifies the employee and makes a suggestion that the tardiness be corrected, that the employee spend less time on breaks away from the job, or that the work be done more carefully. In a marriage, husband and wife also have frequent conversations describing their mutual frustrations and how they would like to see them altered. He wants her to keep the house a bit cleaner. She wants him to be a little bit more giving of his time to the children.
If these similarities between business and marriage don’t impress you, then what about the fact that both of them involve huge sums of money, they take legal means to organize the marriage or the company, and they require legal measures to end them. And need I remind you that for hundreds of years a marriage was not primarily a matter of love at all, but an agreement to cement governments, countries, or tribes. It was strictly a business arrangement in which cattle were offered or dowries were expected.
You don’t like the idea that your marriage is a business arrangement? Frankly I don’t like it either. When you take away all the hearts and flowers, you are left with a pretty hard-nosed business arrangement. And if you don’t believe that, you should just hear some of my friends talk about how they are going to take the husband or wife to the cleaners once they get them into the court room. And what do you think they are going to fight over in court? Custody of the children, support payments, alimony, and how to divide up the furniture, the house, and the car. That’s not a bingo game; it’s hard finance.
The notion of marriage being a loving business may be harder to accept by men than by women. I have a hunch that women have always seen marriage as a business arrangement about which they had better be quite practical. That hasn’t been the case with men. That’s why I feel the male is by far the more romantic of the two. When he falls in love he actually does not regard the relationship as much a business as the female does. I am not praising him over the female when I say this, I am only making an observation.
For example, this is why men fall in love much more quickly than women. In considering his proposal to marry, the man usually thinks of sex, having a home and family. He likes her looks, he likes her figure, and she seems reasonably easy to get along with. What other considerations does the man need to think of when he makes a proposal? He usually isn’t going to ask himself whether she can support him. At least that’s not the way it’s been for hundreds of years. He isn’t going to ask himself if she would desert him if he becomes handicapped or pregnant. Young men don’t think they can ever die, much less be incapacitated. In short, he doesn’t want a lot from her. He wants her. He’ll supply the rest for himself.
For the woman it is quite another matter. She is a fool if she does not think of the marriage in very practical and businesslike terms. Most parents accept this in regard to their daughters. If the girl brings home a young man in whom she is interested, what is the first thing we parents want to know about him? We of course want to know what he looks like, what he acts like, whether he’s a man of character and intelligence or whether he’s a knucklehead. And we certainly want to know what his educational background is, his work experience, the skills he has, and how responsible and hard working he is. Why do we ask those questions of the male much more than of the female? Because he is usually the one expected to bring home the money. He will earn the living while the woman will sooner or later have a family and have to stay home to care for the children. Even though there are women who do a better job of supporting their husbands than vice versa, or who are able to have a career and children at the same time, my statement is true on the average for most of the women throughout the world. They become dependent on the man’s skill for bringing home the bread and the bacon: It is therefore incumbent upon them (and very wise besides), if they look him over very carefully, not just for his sex appeal, but for what kind of a father he is going to be, if he is going to be a considerate husband, whether he’s going to be a drunk, and whether he is going to be able to provide her with the kind of living she enjoys. This is why the men who make the most money, who show the most promise, who have the best education, become the most eligible bachelors.
Think of two contests, one featuring the most desired bachelors in a city, and one featuring the most eligible single women. What are we thinking of when we think of each? Are we going to judge both by the same standards? Of course not. The most eligible bachelor is going to be someone who is loaded with dough, dripping with charm, dresses like a fashion plate, looks like a movie star but most of all can give a woman a lifestyle that she has always dreamed of. It’s great of course if he happens to be as handsome as a movie star, but that isn’t the biggest drawing card as far as women are concerned. If he’s bald headed and not particularly good looking, but he’s a charming man and he has great financial security, that will make up for what he lacks in physical appearance.
But the most eligible single woman has to have curves all in the right places, a lovely head of hair, white pearly teeth, look like a model for a beer advertisement, and then have the right personality and character. She doesn’t have to have wealth. If she is packed solidly and enjoys being made love to she’s practically won him over.
That’s why I say it is the man who tends to be the romantic. His heart and soul are focused on the physical and social pleasures the woman can give him. Her focus is just as often on the material advantages she can get from him, along with what she feels for him personally. She is the practical one, the man is the dreamer.
A word of caution, and a word of defence. I am not criticizing women because of this statement. I accept it as reality, and I am not making a judgement about it. Nor am I saying that men always remain more romantic than the women. Actually, after the honeymoon, if often turns out that he loses much of his romanticism while she gains more. The tables are turned: she often winds up craving him on a personal level much more than he craves her, and he finally wants more material things and fun with others than he does with his wife.
Just after I had written the above remarks, I met a new friend, a woman who was living with a man with whom she had just had an argument. She was dependent upon him financially; so it was quite a shock when he asked her to pack up her bags and leave his home. My friend was capable of dealing with this sudden reversal and had some means by which she could survive the temporary hardship. However, she pointed out (without my asking) that she could now understand why women want to be brides rather than mistresses. As she put it, ‘There is simply no protection for the woman if she breaks up with the fellow. At least if she’s married, she has child support rights, she shares in his estate, insurance benefits, and perhaps alimony. At my age that makes a whale of a difference when a relationship ends as suddenly as mine just did.’
I wondered why she hadn’t figured this out years ago since she was a perfectly intelligent woman. I had to conclude that she was basically one of those romantic types much like the men I’ve been describing. She lost the sense of practicality that most of her sisters have, and this experience made her realize again what love and marriage are truly all about.
Do you begin to understand why I called marriage a loving business? Is it still so difficult to see a marriage as an agreement similar to any other contract? Unless the terms of the contract are met, the relationship, no matter what kind it is, will be broken. I contend therefore that those marriages that are run like efficient businesses are more likely to develop romance and last longer than those that start out being purely romantic, never become practical, and wind up with the couple being disturbed, hysterical, angry, and wondering what the devil happened to their wonderful dreams.