Marriage 1.0, Marriage 2.0, and the D-word

A more serious post than usual today. While doing a little research about Divorce (specifically who files – answer, mostly women), I stumbled across this post. Sadly the article left no room for comments, so I am making mine here.

As I read through the article I started to get a sinking feeling. By the time I reached the end I was annoyed and disgusted; partly at how wrong I felt they were, but mostly at what marriage has become in over the past couple of decades.

Let’s start with the initial complaints:

  • “I hurt all the time because I feel alone and abandoned.”
  • “My husband is no longer my friend.”
  • “The only time he pays attention to me is when he wants sex.”
  • “He is never there for me when I need him the most.”
  • “When he hurts my feelings he doesn’t apologize.”
  • “He lives his life as if we weren’t married; he rarely considers me.”
  • “We’re like ships passing in the night, he goes his way and I go mine.”
  • “My husband has become a stranger to me, I don’t even know who he is anymore.”
  • “He doesn’t show any interest in me or what I do.”

As I read these complaints, the words “Chick Flick” leaped unbidden into my mind.The article goes on:

“Women tend to be more concerned about their marriages than men. They buy most of the books on marriage to try to improve them and initiate most marriage counseling. They often complain about their marriages to their closest friends and sometimes to anyone who will listen. And they also file for divorce twice as often as men.”

Complain to whom? Most of the complaining that women do is with other women, where the emphasis is on sympathy (“Oooh you poor dear…”) which creates and reinforces a victim mentality, rather than solutions (“What you need to do is…”), which admits the possibility that she may actually be (shock horror) part of the problem. I have heard several men admit that a divorce was their fault, but I have yet to hear a woman make that admission.

I have come to accept as axiomatic that women strive for perfection and men strive for sufficiency. To a man the marriage is either working or it isn’t – “tune-ups” are for cars. And if it’s working, “improving” it may or may not be worth the effort involved. So when she says: “We can do better“, he is thinking “Why? What’s in it for me?” This leads me to Blindingly Obvious Fact #1: Offer a man a night of mind-blowing sex and he will do almost anything. Offer him admiration and adoration and he will make extraordinary efforts on your behalf. Offer him bad moods and silent glares and he will simply leave the room – which will probably drive you nuts.

But most women apparently do not consider or even attempt to understand this, presumably because it does not fit into their preconceived ideas of how the universe should work. Counselors encourage them to couch their complaints in terms like “It hurts me when you…” “I don’t like it when you say…” This is emotional blackmail. I have never heard a woman say “When you do this, it makes me want to <something pleasant>” – while I suspect that more than one girlfriend has used such terms, wives seem to think that an all-stick-and-no-carrot approach is unacceptable. This is like trying to train a dog with beatings instead of treats; they are trying to push a rope.

As a scientist, when a system no longer works correctly, I ask one simple question: What Changed? Most couples get married with the best of intentions, but something happens along the way. An old saying comes to mind:

“A woman marries a man hoping that he will change – and he doesn’t.
A man marries a woman hoping that she won’t change – and she does.”

So what changes are we talking about here? Three come to mind:

  1. Children and other distractions: When children come along, her focus changes. The center of her world switches from her husband to her newborn child, and he is expected to support her. This is both right and proper – temporarily. But at some point he needs to resume his place as the undisputed master of the house. Dad needs to be in charge – and children need to see this. Too many women make the mistake of putting their children first at the expense of their husband. Blindingly Obvious Fact #2: He is the Captain. You are the First Officer. His job is to lead. Your job is to help. I can almost hear women yowling at this one. Does this mean he is always right? No, it means he has authority – which he delegates to you – and is always responsible. Too many women seem to want authority without responsibility , which is immature and childish.
  2. Henpecked Husband syndrome: There’s the old wedding-toast joke about the bride walking into the church. She looks up the aisle to the altar and sees a hymn book. And then it hits her: AISLE. ALTAR. HYMN! The sad fact is that too many men have been beaten into submission over the years by their women. Blindingly Obvious Fact #3: Undermine his leadership enough, and he will abdicate leadership. Permanently. And then you will complain to your (female) friends that “He’s not the man I married”. Well, duh!
  3. Female changeability and general hormone stuff: Women are unpredictable. This is a given, particularly in young women. Men, not so much. Part of his job is to be the tree that withstands her gales, the granite cliff that is utterly unmoved by her storms – and when the tempest has passed, he is still standing, invincible and indomitable. Blindingly Obvious Fact #4: Most women want a servant, but they crave a master. Not a master-slave relationship, but a masterful man who sweeps them off their feet and doesn’t beg, grovel, or ask permission for a kiss. Your hormones change, his don’t – and sometimes he will have to tell you when you are behaving like a nutjob. Understanding this truth is key.

Perhaps the most objectionable part of the piece came later, when they talk about a man’s life being like a house with many rooms, and how a woman should be invited into all of the rooms in order for her to feel emotionally connected to him. I call shenanigans on this. In their real-world analogs, the woman typically, “owns” the kitchen, the bathrooms (most of the objects in a typical bathroom cannot be identified by the average man), the bedrooms… and most of the house. If he is lucky, the “lord of the house” gets a “Den” or a “Man-Cave” – a Fortress of Solitude where he goes to be alone and unmolested… and where women are discouraged, if not disallowed. Yes, folks, men need their space too – so quit rummaging through his closets. If “a girl’s gotta have her secrets”, so has her guy.

Most women have no interest in sports, fishing, carpentry or auto-maintenance, or whatever the man’s hobby or passion happens to be, which is as it should be. Which dovetails neatly into Blindingly Obvious Fact #5: A man’s mind is a scary place, full of sex, food, conflict and problem-solving. Here be Dragons, and a woman ventures into that place at her peril. Sometimes the best answer to “What are you thinking?” is “You don’t want to know” (hint: it’s probably sexual). This is not to say that a man shouldn’t share his heart, but he should do so sparingly and from a position of strength, as too many shows of weakness will lower her self-respect for him.

There are two biblical precedents behind this. The first is in Genesis 3:16 (“the other 3:16”), where God curses Eve with the words: “and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee“. The phrasing here always mystified me, until I found out that the word we translate as “Desire” is found in only one other place, Genesis 4:7 “…sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him”. This is a desire for dominance – for power and control. This leads to Blindingly Obvious Fact #6: You can’t have it both ways – you don’t get to grab the wheel whenever it is convenient, and then expect him to “man up” and take the wheel once the car is in the ditch.

The second precedent is perhaps one of the most oft-misquoted passages in the bible. Ephesians Chapter 5: “Wives, submit to your husbands… husbands love your wives…”. Too many preachers go to extremes over this one, either preaching the first part without the second, or misquoting the second to turn men into “sacrificing servants” – in other words, compliant wimps.

So now we come to the end of our little journey. Many women who have managed to get this far without their heads exploding in a fit of apoplexy will probably have dismissed this screed as the random ramblings of a sad, lonely individual living in his parents’ basement. And you would be spectacularly wrong: I am happily married to the most wonderful woman I know for over a quarter of a century, and fully expect to be so unto death. Both of us wants to die first for the same reason. Perhaps, if we’re really lucky, we’ll go out together – we’ll be the ones holding hands and yelling “Woo-hoo!!” as the plane goes down or the bombs start falling.

But we got married in a different age, in a different culture. We were young, innocent and stupid, but we grew up together and now we are old(er), battle-scarred… and still kinda stupid. But we got into this with the implicit understanding that the only way out was in a box, and it has turned out better than either of us could have hoped – we were the lucky ones.

Modern marriage – “Marriage 2.0” – is a different beast entirely, with overly high media-induced expectations (I m convinced that most young women want to be a bride, but few want to be a wife). Thanks to “no-fault divorce”, there are too many easy ways out (“He doesn’t do it for me anymore” and “I can do better” are acceptable excuses to leave, “she’s a wackjob”, not so much). With and a strong possibility of divorce-rape (biased family courts awarding everything to the wife), can it really be that much of a surprise that “he won’t commit”? I feel truly sorry for today’s young people.

Oh, and my parents’ basement is six thousand miles away. I believe that’s Game, Set and Match.

I welcome your opinions and feedback… if you have been married for more than fifteen years.

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