I grew up with two ready made answers to all this pain, and they are still very common.
The first says it's all her fault. Monthly moods, female instability or inferiority, plain female bloody-mindedness are all part of the basic misogynist answer to the pain of partnership. This answer is neat- it neatly absolves the male of responsibility. And of course, it is no answer, for it leaves nothing but to despise the woman, or at best patronise her as the weaker sex.
Perhaps we really think they are the weaker sex... well go down that path, but I can not. Christianity says clearly that this is not the case.
This "answer" also cuts off my soul. Why did I fall in love with this woman? Sex aside, was not there a gentleness, a vulnerability, an ability to feel, a live emotional being in me that I saw in her? I projected onto her what is in me and the ranting in her touches me so raw because it is me, too. What do I do to me if I despise her, or cut myself off from her?
The second ready made answer to a hard relationship is to "make her happy." Fancy footwork or a fat wallet try to make the woman content. The more crass among us try and buy her happiness. Others, more nobly perhaps, seek to learn the rudiments of listening, or do more housework, or "do the right thing," whatever that is.
This cannot work in the long term.. Either it truly does seek to buy her off- anything for a quiet life, or it places her on a pedestal of which she is unworthy.
If we try and buy her off then the feminist critique that marriage is a kind of prostitution is correct. For sex, cooking, and the rudiments of companionship, we will pay you with a house, some money if you have no job, and a surname. "Now for God's sake will you stop whining. What else do you want? Aren't you ever happy?"
And of course, she is not. She did not plan to be a socially sanctioned prostitute- she loved us, and wanted to be loved.
It is also not good to put a woman on a pedestal. The only valid pedestal on which to place a person is the one on which we stand. She too is a human person- and we stand in that enormous privilege and exquisite torture together. Putting her on the pedestal and worshipping her seems to me to have 3 possible flaws. It may simply be a "Victorian veneer" over misogyny. We dress up a basic dislike of women, or sense of their inferiority so that he pedestal exists in name only. It is more of a prison than a pedestal of honour. "Women and children first... because they are weaker and inferior."
Secondly, we may make her the primary person in the relationship so that we do not live with her, but for her. This either becomes a kind of reverse patriarchy (and some women will grab at the opportunity) or breeds angry resentment, or plain despair, on our part when it does not work... because it won't. No one is worthy of a pedestal. Truly great people are great because they are off the pedestals society offers and are admirable whilst being human like the rest of us. She will never live up to our expectations when we raise her up to worship her. She is plain human and fallible. She will never be always happy, no matter what we do for her.
The pedestal can also be a cop out. We can avoid growing into partnership and growing ourselves by implicitly saying she is the 'real' person and we are inferior.
June 25 2001
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