Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Reliance versus dependence

We've been having a running discussion around here (offline) about how so many marriages where the woman works outside the home either don't seem very solid, or have ripped apart entirely. Mind you, we know marriages where the wife works that appear solid (I've worked off and on through our marriage, as an example), so we've been comparing. (Discreetly, of course.)

The working hypothesis (such as it is), is that the rocky-marriage women seem to subscribe to a notion that it is, somehow, a good idea to prove that you don't 'need' your husband. We know of at least one instance where the wife actually said to her husband, "I don't need you, so you'd better be nice to me." The sad thing is, we know of several more instances where that sentiment isn't put into words, but comes through loud and clear.

One theory behind that sort of behavior, I guess, is that if you take money out of the equation, you can (supposedly) concentrate on love (or what passes as love when you take trust out of it). Another theory is that if you prove your independence, the other person has added incentive to mind his manners because he's got no other 'hold' on you.

Having been inside the feminist camp in my sometimes-somewhat-misguided youth, I think I know where these ideas have come from, but be that as it may, shall we try putting the shoe on the other foot to see if this sort of thing sounds like a good idea when examined?

Let us say, for instance, that a husband rents and furnishes an apartment, and tells his wife about it, in the form of 'I have another place to stay, so you'd better be nice to me, because I don't need to live here with you.'

Let us say, for instance, that a husband takes a cooking class, not so he can be a better cook or so that he can pitch in more often, but to remove one obstacle to a potential divorce. Let him say to her, 'I know I don't know how to cook, and therefore it would be tough for me if we got a divorce, but this cooking class will take care of that. You can divorce me and it won't hurt me much. So, now that I don't have to worry about that, let's be nicer to each other, shall we?'

Do you think the wife, in either case, would feel that the husband was committed to the marriage? That he was making the team stronger? That he loved her? That he was aiming for a contented old age together, God willing?

Would she not be likely, instead, to see it as some sort of extortion? Or at least emotional distancing?

Would she not be inclined to wonder when he was going to bolt, since he seemed to be laying the groundwork for bolting?

And yet again and again I see women in effect laying the groundwork for an 'easy' divorce (the long term damage of divorce is usually worse than they anticipate, so it's rarely as 'easy' as they hope), and then being dumbfounded and angry when their husband feels threatened, or runs for his life.

Go figure.

Anyway, if you're young and haven't figured this out, it's entirely possible to rely on a husband without being overly dependent. And when a husband and a wife can rely on each other, that's a good thing.

So, to get back to the opening point, the working theory, such as it is, is that it's not the working outside the home per se that damages the marriage. It seems to be the 'lining up circumstances and setting aside provisions to make it easier to run away from home' that's the problem. Yes? No? Maybe?

I mean, living with somebody who insists on keeping her hand on the exit door can't be easy. Or encouraging. Or comforting.

(To be clear here, I think Christians are forbidden from divorcing for any reason except adultery. I believe that marriage is a covenant. I also recognize that the broader culture has a problem seeing the wisdom of that, much less the value of it. But can we agree that a 'marriage' where the wife and/or the husband is perpetually poised for divorce is not a healthy relationship? And can we agree that the brand of feminism brewed in the 1960s and '70s tends to encourage that? And that this is not a good thing? Or very smart, for that matter?)

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