Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Roles Part 2: Marital Instabilities

     This morning, Dr. Helen Smith has a brief article on the subject. The knockout punch:

     I love the way most of the burden in marriage is put on men. Women's roles have changed but they still expect men to earn the money and help with the housework. No wonder so many men are going on strike.

     True, all true...but a commenter added this perspective:

     I don't think this is about the burden of earning money being on men. I agree that men's employment status is an important factor in marriage and divorce. But it's deeper than it seems.

     I'm a woman who was happy to be sole breadwinner in my marriage. The problem is my husband started to feel emasculated. He started acting like a teenager...playing video games all night. It was horrible. I suggested he get a job just to change the dynamic of our marriage. He didn't want to.

     We ended up divorced. We had no money problems cuz I made more than enough for our whole family. It was more of a psychological issue for my husband.

     I haven't remarried yet. But I vow to never marry a man who makes less money than me...just cuz I know it means he'll have his psychological health about the whole issue.

     I’ve seen the pattern commenter “CaliCrystal” describes at close range. It’s real, it’s what men have been fashioned to be by millennia of evolution, and it’s almost never possible to escape it.

     It isn’t always the wife whose expectations create the burden her husband feels. He carries it not merely on his shoulders but in his genes.

     From the earliest anthropoids to the present day, men have been the protectors and providers; women have tended the hearth and raised the children. A pattern that’s at least a quarter of a million years old cannot help but be imprinted on our psyches by mechanisms beyond our abilities to modify. The contemporary expression of that pattern, of course, is that the husband has primary responsibility for earning the family’s living. Both he and she believe it and expect it, regardless of any verbalizations to the contrary.

     The most constructive response of a man to being exceeded by his wife as a breadwinner is to look for other ways to assert his usefulness to the family. That can take several forms. He can start a business of his own. He can put his energies and skills into improving the family home. He can attempt to raise the family’s status through involvement in the community. No doubt there are other, comparable avenues.

     But above all, a man needs to feel useful – productive. He cannot simply consume. In a striking demonstration of this need, retirees often waste away emotionally from the loss of their sense of usefulness, whether or not they’re well provided for financially.

     The combination of innate expectations, the feminist movement, and the legal regime that governs the dissolution of marriages have proved highly destructive – perhaps permanently devastating – to the institution of marriage. The tensions are many. They pull at the marital relationship from several directions. When calamity strikes, the most visible victim is the man, but ultimately sorrow descends upon the woman and (if they have any) their minor children as well.

     When I wrote in my earlier tirade on sex roles that:

     Just as the manly virtues define the essence of respectable manhood, there are feminine virtues that define the essence of respectable womanhood:
  • Nurturance of a man;
  • Management of a household;
  • The skills demanded of a mother.

     A woman who lacks those virtues isn’t merely a marginal creature, unlikely to contribute constructively to her society; she’s a disruptive and destructive force. occurred to me that the “disruptive and destructive” aspect could stand to be emphasized...perhaps written across the sky in flaming letters, with ruffles and flourishes. It’s the woman who initiates three-quarters of American divorces. Her expectations of her husband are often at the heart of her decision. Her response is to junk him – used husbands have no trade-in value – and perhaps seek another...after first extracting whatever savings he’s amassed through the courts.

     But the crowning irony is this: It’s almost always the woman who’s responsible for her dissatisfactions. Perhaps she wants more than he can provide. Perhaps her feminist “sisters” have persuaded her that she’s entitled to a life of carefree hedonism – a life women imagine to be every single man’s automatic possession. And perhaps she entered the marriage under false pretenses, being unwilling to be a wife: i.e., to care for their home, for their children, and for him.

     Every man needs maintenance. Rare is the man who can see to it entirely by himself.

     I don’t expect the sentiments above to be popular. They’re starkly countercultural. They inherently dismiss the claims of the feminists and the “women’s liberation” types, root and branch. But they’re long and well considered, heavily supported by experience, and lived out every day by millions of Western men.

     The men of “older” cultures have been less affected by the cultural plagues that have afflicted America and Europe. Note that the lowest birthrates are found among the supposedly “advanced” nations where women have migrated away from their traditional roles and into the world of commerce. Note also that marriage itself has been dramatically devalued, reduced to a ceremony and little more, in those “advanced” nations. All it takes to obtain a divorce is for her to say “irreconcilable differences,” LawSpeak for “I’m not happy with him.”

     Yet who among us will carry the standard of the traditional, till-death-do-us-part marriage where he labors to bring home the bacon and she fries it and washes the pan afterward? The sort of marriage where he willingly allows her to manage the family finances, because learning to do so is part of a young woman’s training for wifehood? The sort of marriage where his friends come from his workplace, hers from her neighborhood, and neither expects the other to accommodate them? The sort of marriage where either spouse would tell his own mother that she has no business criticizing his spouse or encouraging him to be dissatisfied with her?

     I’m feeling rather alone about all of it.


Malatrope said...

No need to feel alone, there are plenty of us still in the traditional marriage you describe. What I'm surprised with, however, is that you laid all the psychological effects of "being useless" out on the table without connecting it to the welfare state. Every terrible side-effect that comes about from having nothing meaningful to do in a relationship also happens, sometimes with even greater force, from having nothing meaningful to do in society.

Thus two things follow: a) many give up, sitting on the couch all day with video games, a phone glued to their heads, and b) "cause activism" increases, whereby far too much import is attributed to desperately important subjects such as bathroom control.

Anonymous said...

Nope, you're right on target, as usual.
I have two examples in my immediate circle of this very thing.
First, my own mother, who, (in 1985) when I was fifteen, dumped my dad because she thought the grass was greener on the other side of the fence. My dad was not providing for her in the way she wanted. He was a farmer at heart and was working a full time job, then coming home and running the farm. He had a plan to work until he could make close to the same money on the farm, then quit his day job. He had been doing both since 1978, when we bought the farm, and by 1985, he was actually very close to making it happen.
My mom had recently taken a job (after being a stay at home mom since day one) at a nice restaraunt, where she made all new friends (mostly divorced women her age) who liked to live a care-free life. This local looser became a regular of hers, coming in every day for coffee and leaving her a $20.00 tip.
That was pretty much the end of my dad. She claimed he was mean, never took her anywhere, all their extra money went to increasing farm production, and she was tired of living the shitty life of a farmer's wife. In one fell swoop, she dumped my dad, me, and my little brother.
Now, my dad is working a day job, still trying to make a go of the farm, but now with out the help of my mother and with being the sole parent and provider of two kids. Not to mention the huge loan he had to take out to pay her what she was "entitled" to after sixteen years of marriage.
With the big loan, and having to raise us with zero help, physically or financially, from her, he did the best he could but after a couple of years he realized that he was never going to be able to make the farm generate enough money to justify quitting his day job. He sold off his cattle, equipment, etc., and ended up retiring about eight years ago from driving bus for Greyhound, the job that he got when I was six months old. That's pretty much how the whole thing ended.
But, you know what, it actually didn't end for my mother. Her actions had an effect she hadn't considered at the time. By leaving us, we learned to get along with out her, in fact, after a time, we didn't need her at all. My dad did a hell of a job being both parents. We suffered in the beginning, but she suffered in the end, and she does to this day. Her life, since leaving my dad, has been one failed relationship after another. She's dated, I can't tell you how any married men, who she thinks will marry her, but just dump her when they decide to go back to their wives. She now tries to see us ( me and my brother) on a semi-regular basis, but really, we can't be bothered with her. We see her on holidays and birthdays, and a few other times during the year (only out of guilt that we could care less about her). We keep hoping and praying that she moves out west with her sister.
I didn't mean to write a book here, but, this post hit me at the core. I just wanted to let these women know what the end game is for them when they decide to dump their hard working, honest, family oriented, not so wealthy husbands' for some big life they feel they're missing out on.
Oh, and I simply can't leave out the very last part.
You know that big burdensome farm that mother just had to escape from? Well, I only have one thing to say about that...Marcellous Shale, baby!!! Yeah, it happened. Big time.

Unknown said...

Francis, I agree ...Selah

Linda Fox said...

I actually have one of those marriages. I do work (our kids are grown and gone), and happen to earn very close to what my husband does. He takes pride in mentioning that his retirement is larger, and that he will always earn more.

Meh. Occasionally, it does irritate me. I generally shrug it off. It's just not as important to my sense of self as it is to his.