Friday, September 22, 2017

Do You Want To Be a Wife?

Dubbing herself “Greatly Appreciative” a young woman shares her existential dread with therapist Lori Gottlieb. At issue is marriage. At greater issue is whether or not GA should ever get married. To that Gottlieb responds, more or less correctly, the GA fears that no man will find her sufficiently lovable.

By the terms of her letter, she is dabbling in abstract thinking. In reality, most human beings will ask whether they should marry him or her. Better yet, they will want to know whether he or she wants to marry them. Such questions seem not to be at issue for GA. Thus, GA is flailing.

And she offers the kind of psycho explanation that the therapy culture burdens her with. She believes that she feels insufficient love for herself. Ergo, according to the accepted psycho wisdom, no one will ever love her.

Of course, GA does not understand marriage. Self-love, the kind of narcissistic self-absorption that the therapy culture is doling out in dollops is precisely what you should not bring into a marriage.

And yet, in our deviant culture, more and more people, infused with the gospel of self-esteem, think that marriage should be a therapeutic journey toward self-actualization. I have addressed the issue on this blog here and here.

Here is the text of the better part of GA’s letter:

I’m 32 and I’m dead scared of getting married. Most women I talk to who have been married for a while aren’t happy, and most of the men aren’t either. I’m wondering why we even get married in the first place.

Everyone I’ve talked to seems trapped. They stop being themselves, they lose their passions, and become kind of owned by that other person. And doesn’t everyone get tired of having sex with the same person? Especially men? If I’m with the same person for years, are they still going to have sex with me but always secretly want to be with someone else?

The prospect of marriage is overwhelmingly frightening to me. I think at the root of all this is the need to love myself; I think if you love yourself, you’re better able to love someone else and not rely on their opinion of you to make feel you beautiful or wanted or lovely or enough.

One’s initial reaction is that she should choose her friends better. She seems to have surrounded herself with a band of malcontents—doubtless, feminist malcontents—who can do nothing more than whine about the misery that marriage has brought down on them. Or perhaps they have all read the psychologists who told them that marriage should be a way to self-actualize.

For those who prefer to read between the lines, it might also be the case that said friends are being generous to GA because they are married and she is unattached. If they tell GA, who apparently is not even involved in a relationship, that marriage is wonderful, they will make her feel bad about her current manless state. Thus, they talk down marriage….

Being a woman of her times, GA makes it all into a philosophical issue. She puts nothing of herself into the letter, except for her anguish. So, we know nothing about her. We know nothing about her friends. We know nothing about her romantic attachments or her family life or her career… or much of anything.

Like many of the women who write to New York Magazine’s advice columnists, she is a perfect cipher. She is unattached and serves to be the receptacle for her friends’ complains about their marriages. She might have asked herself why her friends are all so discontented. She might ask herself why they are so indiscreet. She might have asked herself whether the therapy culture, with its emphasis on self-esteem and self-actualization has ruined her friends’ marriages.

She might also ask herself whether her friends have waded too deeply into the ideological swamps… and are suffering for it. After all, if you believe that marriage is a way for the patriarchy to oppress women and destroy their chances for happy careers, you have been indoctrinated in the theories of Friedrich Engels and feminists like the late Kate Millett. If that is your belief, your happy marriage will betray your ideology. And we cannot have that.

Being a product of a deviant culture, GA she has no understanding of marriage… whatsoever. She does not talk about self-actualization but believes that marriage is an extended love affair whose success depends on whether both partners will want to have sex with each other, exclusively, for an extended period of time.

True enough, sex is part of the marital equation, but it is not the entirety of the equation. GA is not describing a marriage. She is describing an affair. If you reduce marriage to a love affair you have stripped it of its social significance, removed the rules and roles and doomed yourself to misery.

If it’s a love affair, once the fires of lust are extinguished, you have nothing left. The party is over.

Until relatively recently, no one really thought that marriage was an expression of romantic love. People understood what GA does not see and that Gottlieb does not explain to her.

Getting married means becoming a wife and functioning as same. If GA and her friends do not understand that the role comes with rules and obligations, duties and responsibilities to other people, they will inevitably fail at marriage. Their failures will breed resentment and that, in and of itself, will throw a damp blanket over their desire.

Back in the day, when women consulted with me because they wanted to get married, I used to ask them a simple question: Do you want to be a wife? Often enough, they were horrified by the question. They took grievous offense. Their looks seemed to say, What kind of woman do you think I am?

Today’s younger generation, having imbibed the dual elixirs of psycho self-esteem and of feminist ideology, has gotten marriage wrong. Young women are acting like mistresses within a context that requires them to be wives.

If they do not want to be wives, they should not marry. There is no law that forces them to do so. If they do marry, they should act like wives. Their husbands should act like husbands. They might not want to observe all of the proprieties associated with the traditional division of sexual labor. They might want to change the rules to serve their lives. But, they ought not to make their marriages into political statements. They ought not to politicize their marriages or to think that they can use their marriages to achieve a therapeutic goal. If they do, they will find misery.

Marriage is an alliance between families. It is the most significant and most important social alliance. We wish all married couples the greatest sex imaginable, but in truth married couples are engaged in a cooperative enterprise. They must know how to work together, to negotiate compromises, to engage in give and take, to be responsible, reliable, trustworthy and loyal, to stop thinking that their marriages should feed their narcissism and to stop expecting that their spouses should be masters of BDSM.


Ares Olympus said...

It is interesting to compare marriage to affairs, and of course traditionally for many men, especially more powerful men, it was expected they would have affairs. I mean this goes all the way back to Zeus and his unlimited lust, and the Greeks, swung both ways of course - marriage was a civil arrangement to run a household, while ideal love, whether intellectually, emotionally or physically was between men, or men and boys.

I agree weddings ought to include careful consideration of vows and gender-specific duties for wives and husbands, including generally whether the wife is required to obey her husband, and even what faithfulness means in marriage when sex gets boring.

And in the era of Trump, perhaps politically correct speech is now not necessary and we men, at least the alphas, can be honest if we expect affairs to be a part of our future. And then women really can decide if they want to be wives with proper knowledge of what's to come, or if they prefer to be the other woman, or prefer to look elsewhere for a man or husband, or find their own wife as luck allows.

Jack Fisher said...

AO, how is your future ex- today?

jaynie said...

Great essay on an important topic. I am concerned for the future familial happiness of my college age son, like the Princeton Mom (?), because of the ridiculous mind warping that young girls, his peer group, have been fed.

And I am surrounded by middle aged divorced women friends looking to date who have a warped ideal in mind as they remain alone. They want this, this and this from a man. The qualities sound to me like they just want another girl-friend. My husband and I sure haven't got it perfect, but I sure don't want him to fulfill the role of girlfriend companion.

My son left New England for college in an area heavily LDS populated. And what an eye opener. Around here the gals regularly put down guys and think only of career. Out there, the young people think of career and of building a future family at least equally, if not leaning more towards marrying and starting a family. Wildly refreshing. Not perfect, of course, but refreshing.

Good job, leftists, good job wrecking the idea of stability of the family unit.

Sam L. said...

And let us not forget about children, usually a result of marriage.
GA needs new friends.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

CS Lewis wrote "We Have No Right To Happiness," which covers some of this ground. Most of it can be found here:

GA talks like a modern woman, but the root of her distress seems to be something from even the generation before mine or earlier. She thinks the point of marriage is to be in love and stay there, enjoying passionate sex through unending years. Marriage is more for mutual encouragement and protection, for nurturing children, and (gulp) embodying the love of God. Even the sex part she misunderstands, by thinking about it so much. The Puritans could have explained to her that the purpose of the marriage bed is to knit the heart of the husband and wife together - a beautiful image.

She's not the only one, and perhaps not much to be blamed. Where would she have learned otherwise? From TV or the movies?