The Marriage Ref?

Okay, I was drawn like a moth to a  flame (or more like watching a car accident) to keep on NBC after the closing ceremonies and watch The Marriage Ref last night under the deluded hope that maybe this would be a tv show with dispute resolution in action.  The tag line for this lovely show is that it finally gives you what every couple wants–a winner.  Well, it might do that for couples but it does not do that for television viewers.  First, as Roger Fisher once told me with very wise marital advice, if you think you have won an argument with your spouse (and celebrate afterwards!) you have missed the point.  So, I don’t think that marriage in general is better off with winners and losers.  If you start to treat marriage like football games–or litigation–you might as well file your own litigation in family court.   Second, where do they get these stories (a dead stuffed dog!?!) and who are these couples?  I suppose that reality tv might have completely deadened our sense of privacy and shame but really,  I need to hear about a couple’s argument on a stripper pole?   This is entertainment?  I mean, it is barely more than an argument about intimate marital relations which, let me say again, don’t stay intimate if you share them on tv!  So….no more Marriage Ref for me (unless, of course,  I really need to feel superior in my marriage.)

4 thoughts on “The Marriage Ref?”

  1. One more thought: advice columns often address these kinds of issues.

    T.R. Reid’s book “Confucius Lives Next Door: What Living in the East Teaches Us About Living in the West” devoted a fair amount of space to looking at the Japanese version of these columns. While U.S. advice columns frequently counsel assertiveness or drawing the line, Japanese columns of the same type apparently almost invariably urge women to suck it up, submit and comply with what their elders and husbands tell them to do or seem to want.

    While I’d agree that advice columns, the Marriage Ref and the like don’t function well as dispute resolution forums within marriage, a constant barrage of these kinds of analyses regarding other people’s problems, particularly if discussed by couples and other confidants before they have those particular problems, may be useful in forming norms that both members of the couple come to share, thus preventing dispute.

  2. FWIW, the Marriage Ref concept is not a new one. Tribunals to resolve questions of love, at least as a literary device, go back at least as far as the late medieval period in Europe, and has even spawned a law review article or two (although alas, I can’t put my finger on a cite at the moment).

  3. I really enjoy your posts. Your comment that you were drawn to this show is as true for me, as is your disappointment. Too bad, they could have had an interesting show.

    I do think, as for example, in construction arbitration, that having an umpire to resolve the matter is very appealing — and can work on the smaller details of life (but, stuffed dog and stripper pole? Where did they get these people?)

    Too bad, good idea, lousy execution.

    Dan Dozier

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