Work vs. Marriage

In today’s Juggle, the Wall Street Journal’s work and family blog, I write about a woman named Ifeyinwa Offor Walker. Ms. Walker quit her job not to raise a child or travel the world or care for a sick relative–she quit to spend more time with her husband. Her friends and coworkers were shocked. It seemed like a ridiculous reason, but she insisted she wanted to spend time “building a home and extending the honeymoon period.”

Here’s how I explain why her friends might have balked–and other ways to recapture the honeymoon period: Marriage itself isn’t as valued as it once was. (Work, meanwhile, is sacrosanct for many people.) A recent Time magazine/ Pew survey finds that nearly 40% of Americans think marriage is obsolete, for instance. And since we have one of the world’s highest rates of remarriage, it might just be a given that if your marriage fails, you can always find another one.

That said, who wouldn’t want to follow Ms. Walker’s lead and extend the “honeymoon period”? It’s so brief, yet so sweet. Early love has an obsessive quality to it that’s anathema to the year-after-year-ness of married life. Scientists have even found that people in the throes of romantic love, in so-called limerent states, have levels of serotonin—a chemical in the brain that affects mood—akin to people with obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Short of quitting your job, there are some less-dramatic, yet effective  ways to recapture some of the spark. Indeed, some small changes in your routine can have big results. Come home  just 15 minutes earlier from work every day, for example, and you’ll gain 1.25 hours a week of time with your spouse. Book a motel for a night every couple of months and leave the kids with the in-laws or a trusted sitter. Say thanks. Have sex (spontaneously).

Posted in marriage

2 Responses to Work vs. Marriage

  1. Hi!
    What a great and fun blog!

    As more evidence to your post, in the past, unemployed married women were called housewives, whereas today, they are called stay-at-home-mothers. Presumably the duties are the same, but there has been a cultural shift from the emphasis of “wife” to “mother”. Being a stay-at-home-mother has become legitamized as a “job”, probably by some economists. A family today can either hire daycare on the open marketplace, or “produce” childcare at home. But no one will even begin to argue that being a “wife” is a job. Anyone who dares to would surely suffer some harsh consequences, like hate mail from feminists.

  2. Tracy Bowens says:

    I like your suggestions regarding ways to recapture the spark in your marriage.

    Reading your thoughts about how people may view marriage made me think about the paradox of choice. People have more choices these days than they did in the past. Like you said, if one marriage fails, they can just move on to the next one. But do such choices really make people happy? The grass isn’t alwyas greener on the other side.

    I applaud Ms. Walker’s commitment to her marriage and anyone else who does the work needed to keep their relationship heathy.

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