Monday, March 1, 2010

The Road to Marriage

Maybe you've seen the old cartoon. A man driving through the countryside stops to ask directions from a farmer. The farmer leans toward the driver and says: "Come to think of it; you can't get there from here."

That was my first thought when I read Hannah Seligson's article: "Destination: Marriage. Route: Anybody's Guess." Link here.

At its best, her article reflects the state of the current dating scene. It does not offer solutions or directions. More importantly, it makes a point I have been at pains to articulate: social, culture, and sexual revolutions have left women disoriented and confused, not knowing how to attain the goal that most of them still want: marriage.

Seligson does not have a solution, but she is happy to cast blame. First, on society. Second, on men.

Surely, it is better than taking personal responsibility for one's own actions.

In Seligson's words: "... society's messages to young women are so mixed that the path to that goal [i.e. marriage] has been obscured and, at times, blocked."

Of course, she does not ask which messengers are mixing the messages and fostering an anarchic dating environment.

She continues to say that young women have learned from bitter experience that: "dating-- and getting into a relationship that leads to marriage-- is at turns ambiguous, arduous, perplexing, and often heartbreaking."

Seligson believes that in the "Wild West of dating" young women are looking for rules, anything that would "order the chaos," but can find none.

Apparently, there are no signposts and no guidance, so young women are being cast into a chaotic dating scene where they are being forced to make up their own rules as they go along.

Seligson is correct to note that things would be much better if there were a book outlining the rules for dating, especially for dating that would lead to marriage. As it happens, there is such a book. It is called "The Rules." As I have blogged, it was all the rage a few years back, and was attacked and discredited by people who prefer anarchy to rules, who prefer ad hoc arrangements to formal institutions like marriage. Link here.

The anarchic dating world was the creation of contemporary feminism. If you are going to denounce the message, you would do well to identify the messenger.

After blaming society, Seligson is happy to blame men. She is joined by Jenna Goudreau who writes in Forbes Woman today that marriage is: "the last frontier of the women's movement." Link here.

Apparently, men are to blame. For not being sufficiently attuned to feminist concerns. And for not living up to the stereotype that feminism has cast them in. One would be hard put not to conclude that men are being blamed for not being sufficiently docile and subservient.

Since feminism is an ideology, it wants women to have it all on their own terms. But when have you ever heard of a marriage in which one partner had everything on his or her own terms? At best, this is an unattainable ideal, one that actively discourages women from developing the negotiation skills that are essential to a happy marriage. At worst, it is a formula for domestic tyranny, one that will always end badly.

Let's follow Dr. Helen Smith and call this by its rightful name: misandry. As Dr. Helen has long explained, when men are constantly criticized and excoriated by the culture, when they are punished disproportionately in divorce courts, why would they ever want to get married?

Those who criticize men might think that they are trying to improve male behavior, but Dr. Helen is correct when she says that men hear the message as a red flag warning them against marriage.

How do these ideas infiltrate the culture? Read Dr. Helen's post on Suze Orman for a truly extraordinary picture of advanced male-bashing. Link here.

Orman, who has no real training in marriage counseling, is telling a woman on national television that she must divorce her husband. Orman makes no attempt to disguise her prejudice, and this means that she assumes that her view is the conventional and accepted wisdom. She does not even think that she is saying anything controversial.

When Lori Gottlieb recommends that women settle for a less than perfect man, would it not be reasonable to say that if men are as bad as the "women's movement" has made them out to be, a woman has no choice but to settle.

If there is no such thing as a good man, then a woman's task is to find the one who is the least bad.

And be assured, when a woman is prone to see the worst in men she will almost certainly find confirmation for her beliefs.

If you do not believe that there are any good men, you are not likely to recognize one when you see him. If he appears to be a good person, the culture would have taught you to assume that he is a sham, a simulation of human goodness. Your task will be to find fault, to criticize anything you can, to pick him apart.

Don't be surprised if this does not bring out his best. It will tend to induce him to act badly. Not so much because he has been repressing his essential wickedness, but because he will not want to disappoint your expectations!

I don't want to leave this on a pessimistic. Just because Seligson is clueless about how to get to from dating to marriage does not mean that I might not have a few helpful ideas for young women. After all, I spend some of my professional time doing relationship coaching.

First suggestion: act like you respect yourself. As everyone knows, the path from Girls Gone Wild to conjugal bliss is long and arduous. I am not saying that it is impossible, just that it is very difficult. If you want to get married, do not accumulate too many experiences that you will have to live down.

Second suggestion: if you have had a bit too much fun in your past, don't share it. It is none of his business. He does not want to hear about it. If he tells you that he wants to know, and if he swears on the Bible that he must know your past, he still does not want to hear about it.

Third suggestion: act like you respect men. If you do, most of the time they will be more than happy to be respectful toward you. And they will be far more likely to want to marry you.

Fourth suggestion: if your man is acting like a child, ask yourself whether you are treating him like a child. If you give a man most of the advantages of marriages without requiring any commitment, then you should not complain if he is happy to comply. As I said, he will not want to disappoint you.

Fifth suggestion: cultivate in yourself the virtues that you want to find in a man. If you want a man to be more responsible, be more responsible yourself. If you want a man to commit to you, honor all of your commitments to him. A woman who cannot show up on time when she swears she will do so cannot expect her man to see her as someone he can trust to honor a larger commitment.


Anonymous said...

Be sure to read this sweeping article, 'The Misandry Bubble.'

Anonymous said...

Be sure to read this sweeping article, 'The Misandry Bubble.'

Anonymous said...

'Second suggestion: if you have had a bit too much fun in your past, don't share it. It is none of his business. He does not want to hear about it. If he tells you that he wants to know, and if he swears on the Bible that he must know your past, he still does not want to hear about it.'

I disagree with this.

When I ask for a woman's sexual history, I want to know the relevant information, and I want to have a competent medical lab back it up. E.g., when she says that she didn't get a venereal disease, I want her doctor to vouch for that.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

I think that we should distinguish between a medical condition and past sexual history.
Surely, anyone has a right to know if his or her partner has an STD or other medical condition. Such information can be transmitted without explaining the details about how said STD was acquired.

Anonymous said...

And how did that strategy work out in "Chasing Amy"? She didn't share her past, but he found out through friends about her past from high school. I would be similarly shocked if I found this out about someone I was dating - and it would take a while to figure out how I felt about it.

Stranger said...
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