The People's Perspective on Medicine

Show 1059: What Are the Sacred Cows of Marriage?

What happens when sacred vows of marriage get replaced with sacred cows arrayed against divorce? How good are the arguments?
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What Are the Sacred Cows of Marriage?

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Nearly half of all marriages end in divorce, if we are to believe the statistics. Despite that, there is significant social pressure on married couples to stay together, even though the relationship may be unraveling.

What Are Sacred Cows?

Our guests examine the rationalizations the friends and family members often employ when a marriage starts to show some strain. They term these arguments sacred cows and show their inconsistencies and weaknesses.

What did you really agree to in your marriage contract? What happens if it needs to be renegotiated? Having a conversation about goals might be the best place to start if counseling seems wise.

This Week’s Guests:

Astro and Danielle Teller are co-authors of Sacred Cows: The Truth about Divorce and Marriage.

Danielle Teller, MD, has held faculty positions at the University of Pittsburgh and Harvard University, where she investigated the origins of chronic lung disease and taught in the medical intensive care unit.

Astro Teller, PhD, is a computer scientist and entrepreneur who currently oversees X. X is part of Alphabet, the umbrella company that also owns Google.

Listen to the Podcast:

The podcast of this program will be available the Monday after the broadcast date. The show can be streamed online from this site and podcasts can be downloaded for free for four weeks after the date of broadcast. After that time has passed, digital downloads are available for $2.99. CDs may be purchased at any time after broadcast for $9.99.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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I’m a bit dismayed at the negativity displayed by so many of the comments. People change over time, and so do their needs and their desires. Choices that we made 10, 20, or 30 years ago are not necessarily the ones that we would make now. Danielle and Astro’s advice will not suit everyone, but it does provide some understanding and support for those who choose divorce over perseverance in an unsatisfying and imperfect situation. I’ve found wisdom in the following unattributed quote: “Don’t cling to a mistake just because you spent a lot of time making it.”

Given what the Tellers express in this show about marriage and divorce I must ask, “Why did you marry?” ALL aspects of society on the face of this earth have “sacred cows.” Society needs these “cows” to create the unity and harmony that permit diverse peoples to exist in a given society. The loss of these “cows” – as we have seen in our own society as well as in others over the past 60 years – brings about division and chaos.

The minimizing of the value of the marriage “contract” – both by finding reasons to void the contract (divorce) and by “individualizing” it into a string of random, meaningless platitudes by the parties to the contract – has hurried this process along making a joke of our society and its “cows.” Any society needs hard work and dedication to a purpose to bring its diverse elements together to live and work and prosper in harmony. Remove those sacred cows – religious, social, financial, legal, educational, moral, civil, any other – and the society will collapse.

I was disappointed in People’s Pharmacy for promulgating this perspective. It ignores big caches of research and furthers the false ideas that a marriage should always feel good. Stick to medical advice!

What nonsense! Love is NOT an emotion, it’s a decision. There will be times in your marriage where you’re just not feelin it! But you chose to love anyway. And the goal is to love one another so that we each become the best version of ourselves. I might add… this comes at incredible personal sacrifice (hence the work!). These people demonstrate views today that erode the institution and set totally unrealistic expectations.

I was glad to see that many of your listeners are skeptical of the authors who speak of the “sacred cows” of marriage. Marriage, involving as it does the physical, social and spiritual union of two human beings created in the image of God, is itself a sacred institution.

Its purposes include its physical pleasure, companionship, mutual support, reproduction of the race and a human imaging of the love relationship of Jesus Christ and his bride, the church as revealed in the New Testament of the Bible (Ephesians Chapter 5). I pray that the authors of this book may gain a deeper understanding of the realities of marriage. :+)

On the contraire, like this program, is a tremendous pressure to solve all couples problems with divorce. Marriage has become a commodity, a contract for services that when is not fulfilled is broken. The market has invaded family relationships.

This was an interesting show bringing up interesting issues. Even though I tend to agree with some of their cows, logic is a small part of the consideration. I’m not surprised they didn’t find wisdom around the world that didn’t agree with their philosophy. I’m sure there’s plenty of wisdom, Astro and Danielle just didn’t agree with what they found.
I’m half way through a MSW program with the aim of getting into family and couples counseling, so I listened with interest to their comments about the professional cow. Part of my inspiration to have marriage counseling be part of my work in the future is the inability to find a counselor in my rural area who was competent in that specialty. Teaching two people how to get along and foster both connection and autonomy is totally different than treating one person with anxiety and depression. A good counselor will find out what the goals of the individuals are. You don’t get into a taxi and tell the driver “just take me where you want to go”.
It seems like their cows have common parents. That would be either/or thinking, thinking of things being either good or bad. Wisdom is in thinking of things as being both good and bad, or neither good nor bad

Your guest’s perspective on seeking a therapist when considering divorce misses the mark. A family therapist does not provide “professional advice” but offers questions, reflection, and observation to the couple that elicits their values and vision. This expanded perspective allows the couple to explore their issues and make their decision in a more thoughtful and considered way. Then the couple can plan for a transition that supports their children and helps other family members to understand their decision.

Any therapist who has an agenda of encouraging the couple to stay married, or for that matter, to divorce is UNETHICAL!! This is NOT the role of a therapist. If a couple experiences this kind of bias, they should know that they are not participating in a therapeutic experience and seek a different therapist.

Whether it’s statins, diets, supplements, or today’s show on marriage and divorce, my wife and I can always count on The People’s Pharmacy for the view from all sides. We’ve watched our daughter’s self-esteem spiral down as she sees her failing marriage as HER failure. Seeing her change from happy and confident is also terribly damaging to our grandchildren. We’re hopeful that today’s guests and their book will help her see the light in the dark tunnel she’s afraid to leave.

Joe and Terry:
I listened to your program today as I usually do. Unfortunately, this program was no help to people unless, of course, your world is entirely materialistic as these two people’s approach was utterly materialistic, and, I might add, typically American!
I would also like to add that you featured Esther Perl a while back without pointing out the utter immorality of some of the aspects of her “advice.” The end does not justify the means!

What a small and sad perspective… I can’t even imagine one of my four son-in-laws having approached me with “I would like to marry your daughter, and I’ll love her as long as I feel like it”.

Catchy title, but a stretch to be claiming the truth about divorce and marriage. The truth is that marriage is hard, because love, the self-sacrificial, in sickness and in health, till death do us part, kind of love is hard – but so worth it.

Half of all marriages end in the divorce than we have a large percentage that live in codependent relationships due to the partners insecurities and addictions, subtract from that the partners that go outside their marriage for happiness, in other words cheat on their spouse and those that stay in the relationship for financial reasons, children etc etc, by computing all the factors, I doubt if there are more than 10% of partnerships are actually happy in their unfulfilling monogamous relationship!

The reason is very simple: before you can love another you have to be able to love yourself first and medications are the antichrist of happiness therapy.

Anyone watch this? I simply can’t sit still for a podcast. ADHD!
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