Beyonce's steamy performance at the Grammy Awards may as well have been an advertisement for marriage.
Clad in a sheer bodysuit, the "Drunk in Love" singer was certainly seducing the audience, but there was no doubt she was singing for her husband Jay Z as well. When he joined her on stage toward the end of the song, the effect was palpable. Not only does the romance stay alive after tying the knot and having a baby but, they seemed to be saying, the attraction intensifies.
There appeared to be another message too as the two superstars joined together into one force: It's possible to cherish your independence while being an equal partner in your marriage.
Certainly, Beyonce and Jay Z are living in a rarefied world that's out of the grasp of the majority of us, but at the root of their relationship, they have a marital bond we can all aspire to.
Or so it would have been nice to believe until psychotherapist Lori Gottlieb came around with a depressing article in the New York Times Magazine to pop our bubble. A sexy and equal marriage? It's a fantasy.
In her very long read, "Does a More Equal Marriage Mean Less Sex?," she writes that "in an attempt to be gender-neutral, we may have become gender-neutered." An explanation:
"Today, according to census data, in 64 percent of U.S. marriages with children under 18, both husband and wife work. There's more gender-fluidity when it comes to who brings in the money, who does the laundry and dishes, who drives the car pool and braids the kids' hair, even who owns the home. A vast majority of adults under 30 in this country say that this is a good thing, according to a Pew Research Center survey: They aspire to what's known in the social sciences as an egalitarian marriage, meaning that both spouses work and take care of the house and that the relationship is built on equal power, shared interests and friendship. But the very qualities that lead to greater emotional satisfaction in peer marriages, as one sociologist calls them, may be having an unexpectedly negative impact on these couples' sex lives."
Want to live happily ever after? Consider this stat from Gottlieb's piece: "The risk of divorce is lowest when the husband does 40 percent of the housework and the wife earns 40 percent of the income."
Tracy Moore at the women-focused website Jezebel isn't buying it. Calling foul on Gottlieb's article, Moore argues that "chemistry might always be a bit of a mystery that doesn't always line up with what we intellectually believe to be best for us, but it's naïve to think that equality inhibits the ability to get wild in the sack."
If you were to ask Daniel Jones, however, he may disagree with all of the above. As editor of the New York Times' Modern Love column, he's seen his share of perspectives, which he distills in this recent article: "Good Enough? That's Great."
"No one doubts the enduring benefits of long-term relationships," he writes. "But marriage can also get boring, punctuated with deadening routines, cyclical arguments and repetitive conversations."
So perhaps it's not equality that's to blame for extinguishing the romance but rather the routine of life. (Will Jay Z and Beyonce ever have to worry about that? Eh, probably not.)
Which is not necessarily a bad thing. As Jones points out, the married folks who seem happiest are not the ones trying to restore or improve their relationships with schedules and goals like we saw in the tragicomedy "This Is 40." Rather, says Jones, it's the ones who, "appreciatively resigned, rise each morning not dwelling on their marital shortfalls but counting their mutual blessings, whatever they may be: a shared sense of humor, an exchange of kind gestures, the enthusiastic pursuit of a mutual interest." These are the couples, he says, that "grow together rather than apart."