NR Digital

The Privilege of Marriage

by Amber Lapp & W. Bradford Wilcox

Working-class women are saying no, to their detriment

After Kelly married her high-school sweetheart, Jake, she encouraged everyone she knew to get married. She and Jake bought a trailer in Maytown, Ohio. (Maytown is a pseudonym to protect the identities of the people described. All their names have also been changed.) Jake became a manager at Jiffy Lube, and Kelly mostly stayed at home to take care of their two babies. Their marriage was great, she says. But one day, while Kelly was at her part-time job snapping eighth-grade yearbook photos for Olan Mills and Jake was at home with the kids, he slept with Kelly’s best friend, a move that threw their marriage into turmoil.

For the next year Kelly and Jake were on again, off again, until Kelly fell in love with someone else, named Ty, and decided to move in with him. A year into this relationship, she discovered (via a police officer checking up on Ty) that her new man was a registered sex offender who had molested a four-year-old. Kelly broke up with him and spiraled into depression and drugs, losing custody of her kids along the way. Kelly’s grandparents, who had raised Kelly after her mother began struggling with depression, partying, and men, are today raising Kelly’s children, their great-grandchildren.

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