An Ordinary Man

Or, Men 101

Month: June, 2016

The Happiness Gap

Parents in the United States are less happy than childless couples by the largest margin than in any of 21 other countries included in a recent study, according to Mary Elizabeth Dallas, writing for HealthDay as reported on

According to the article, researchers from Baylor, the University of Texas at Austin and Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., looked the United States, several European countries, Australia, New Zealand, and Russia in the course of the study, which was published this month in the American Journal of Sociology.

The reason why non-parents are less unhappy – and in some cases happier – than parents is ascribed to the fact that American employers typically do not provide paid leave to parents to the extent that the other countries do, if at all.

I consider it a given that, all things being equal, a couple without children will be happier than a couple with them, at least until legacy considerations begin looming their ugly head (an older couple with children might become happier than an older couple without) and believe this finding dovetails nicely with that assumption in that paid leave probably allows the parent-couples in other countries to have some time for themselves, which is critical to the maintenance of a relationship.

Children suck up many, if not all, of the available dollars and minutes, with time being the more valuable of the two.  That, in my opinion, is why the study also found that “giving money to parents in child allowances or monthly payments had less effect on parental happiness than giving them the tools such as flexible work time.”  As a dad, I don’t want diaper dollars nearly as much as I want fifteen minutes alone with Mom.



Sex Studies 2 (of 2 today): Fidelity

According to Maria Masters of, as written on this morning, “people in happy relationships subconsciously think others are less attractive” and are thus less likely to cheat.  The study she reported on was performed by researchers from Rutgers University and is due to be published in an upcoming issue of the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

According to Masters, the researchers were not surprised by the finding and spoke of “a type of defense mechanism that’s known, in science-speak, as ‘devaluing temptation’ — or, in other words, thinking that something isn’t nearly as appealing as it might actually be” as one explanation.  The methodology was sort of confusing to me so I’d direct you to the article itself if I could make the link work, but in any event, there’s a strange corollary to this, as set forth in the book, An Ordinary Man.

As he noticed:

That was what was so comforting about a long-term relationship – your sexual memory was so strong, she was never older than the first time you did it with her; you were imprinted with her as she was then and while you were of course aware of changes over time, somewhere in your limbic system you were still fucking her as she was when she caught your attention the very first time. That’s why many men continue to wax rhapsodic about the beauty of women who frankly are not so attractive anymore. When men say their wife is the prettiest one in a room full of women, you can be pretty sure either she is, or she’s been doing him on a regular basis all along, keeping the memory of when she was fresh.

Sex Studies 1 (of 2 today): Housework

According to a study reviewed by Heidi Stevens in today’s Chicago Tribune, the old finding that the man who helped with the housework was less likely to get laid has changed.  I remember reading about those studies, because I helped with the housework and, um, was not happy with frequency of certain activities.

As she puts it: “Today we enjoy ‘an eroticism of fairness,’ meaning an equitable arrangement no longer puts a damper on a couple’s sex life and, in fact, boosts it slightly. Egalitarian couples [where the males does 35 – 65 percent of the housework] had sex an average of 6.8 times per month, the study finds, which is 0.5 times more per month than conventional couples [she does at least 65%] and two times more than counter conventional couples [he does most of it].”

The study she cites is called The Gendered Division of Housework and Couples’ Sexual Relationships: A Reexamination, conducted by Daniel L. Carlson, Amanda J. Miller, Sharon Sassler and Sarah Hanson, which is scheduled to be published in the August issue of the Journal of Marriage and Family.

Richard Wilson, the title character in An Ordinary Man, would not be surprised by the new research as he figured he essentially stopped sleeping with his wife at least in part because of housework:

As far as he could tell, he had stopped sleeping with his wife on account of dirty dishes in the sink. Oh, they still occupied the same bed, but back to back now, with the family dog somewhere happily in between. Once you let anything sleep in or on the marital bed, be it a cat, a dog, or a kid, your sex life is largely over anyway, or at least seriously compromised; how spontaneously romantic can you be after having to negotiate the removal of the interloper? Actually, letting the kids into their bed on a regular basis might have had more to do with his current celibacy than the dirty dishes, but the dirty dishes played a role, and he didn’t want to hate the kids for what they may have done to his marriage, especially since, to some extent, the point of the marriage was to have the kids. The dog was blameless; it would move to the foot if shooed, but one day he noticed his wife didn’t seem to care if the dog slept between them, and this being the same day she had once again forgotten to rinse out the milk glasses before putting them in the dishwasher like he always asked her to, leaving a hard-to-clean residue in the bottom after it cycled, he didn’t care if the dog slept between them either. So maybe it was the dirty dishes after all.

Of course men should do their fair share of the housework, but even if this is a given, women should still factor it into other forms of equality.

Father’s Day ≠ Husband’s Day

By the time my kids were toddlers, I had stopped celebrating Father’s Day for the simple, but ugly, reason that becoming a father had ended my being a husband.  A columnist for the the NY Daily News, Gersh Huntsman, explains it better than I could twenty-some years later:

“But first, the manhood issue: As a man, my brain is divided into two parts: The part that wants to be having sex and the other part that listens to the first part. But every stressed-out parent quickly learns that exhaustion suppresses desire. Just Google ‘sex life parents’ and you’ll get thousands of articles with alarming headlines such as ‘5 Ways to Protect Your Sex Life From Your Kids,’ ‘How to maintain your sex life after having children,’ or, most alarmingly, ‘Sexless marriage.’ Sexless marriage? A marriage without sex is not a sacred union but a friendship or a business partnership. I’m not going to attribute my divorce strictly to sexual issues (hey, being married to me ain’t a picnic), but once you become a parent, you are often too tired for sex — and choosing sleep isn’t what keeps marriages together. Sex does.

Beyond mere personal gratification, sex is a life force that binds us to the person we love. When the act itself starts disappearing, the emotions behind it start to wither, too. This is not merely my opinion. It is simply a fact.

And beyond sex, some other basic functions are lost to child-rearing: As you rush to get kids to school, birthday parties, sports and other enrichment, you find yourself skipping showers, meals, down time, your own recreation, exercise, intellectual discourse, reading, thinking, debating, dancing, putting on your favorite song, drinking, dining, caring about the outside world, inventing something to make the planet a better place, and on and on and on. So much gets lost in the shuffle. The ‘so much’ is you.

Which brings me to my next point…”

He called it “a constant struggle” – one that I lost, and one that your husband might lose.  I love my kids, but I loved my wife more.  Read his entire column, and click on the links, or consult a divorce attorney – you might need one sooner than you think.