CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA. Dec. 12 (DPI) — Scholars trumpeted the latest survey results of the University of Virginia’s National Marriage Project, which addresses something that’s not quite a revelation: “Generosity” between spouses makes for happier marriages.
The report was treated on the internet as big news, but to many readers it wasn’t. In fact, readers expressed amusement that the point had to be made at all. “More evidence that academics have too much time on their hands,” wrote one poster. Announcing that generosity is important in a relationship — not simply marriage — reflects “a real firm grasp of the obvious.”
According to The New York Times, the survey tallied the responses of 2,870 men and women. Generosity, the survey said, was defined as “the virtue of giving good things to one’s spouse freely and abundantly” — like simply making them coffee in the morning — and researchers quizzed men and women on how often they behaved generously toward their partners.
How did readers react? “Well, duh,” one reader replied on NYTimes.com. “And I can tell you that when one partner is generous and the other isn’t you have a recipe for disaster. ”
A reader who identified himself as Preston Moore of Williamsburg, VA, wrote a highly recommended post:
“Someone should do a study of how many thoughtful writers in the NYT have jobbed out their own fine judgment to a “study” in the past, say, year. David Brooks, a fine and compassionate writer, is just one leading example among many.
This article is in the same vein. We should do this or that, be this way or that, “in order to” make our marriages work better, or whatever.
Generosity is a profoundly natural human impulse. What has happened to bury that natural impulse? If I bring my partner coffee IN ORDER TO make our marriage better, then it isn’t really generosity. It’s simply mutual self-interest. Another dreary arms-length dealing. Instrumental and conditional “love” is no love at all. Love brings coffee because it brings coffee. It needs no empirical study. ”
“Even the most profoundly spiritual things are, in our society, subjected to the utilitarian slavery of statistical studies. The minute we say “in order to”, the conversation is over. We are simply acting as machines made of meat. We are ignoring the spark of the divine in everyone.
“That spark yearns to fetch coffee and do a million other kindnesses. Forget the metric-worshiping statistical STUDIES! Listen to your heart!”
The following was the highest recommended among 124 reader replies as of noon Monday Dec. 12: “My dad’s closing speech at our rehearsal dinner, “If each of you expects to give 40% and receive 60%, the marriage won’t work. If each of you expects to give 50% and receive 50%, the marriage may work (but don’t count on it). If each of you expects to give 60% and receive 40%, you will have a happy life together. Truer words he never spoke. This should not come as a surprise to anyone…”
Some readers ungenerously focused on their own experiences: “One who wishes to be generous must be with a well-balanced person capable of receiving and sometimes reciprocating that impulse. Having been with a counter-dependent, paranoid-type person, my kindness and generosity was seen as weakness, and even manipulation. At least, that’s the story I got when he chose to bail … While I have never believed in tit-for-tat, or tallying goodnesses done, I now believe that it is not good to give more than one receives (esp. as a woman), as one might be seen as a pathetic doormat. Relationship so often devolves into a game with a scorecard. Sandburg said, ‘Make yourself a mule, and someone will ride you.’ And so it is.”