I had no intention ever of writing a post about feminism and marriage, but last week, while visiting my local library, I came across a book called The Proper Care & Feeding of Marriage by syndicated radio host and marriage counselor Dr. Laura Schlessinger.
I’d heard things about Dr. Laura, things that didn’t align with the liberal, somewhat feminist working mother and wife I believed I was. Yet I found myself taking the book off the shelf, flipping it open to the jacket cover description.
“Dr. Laura asserts that in order to produce and sustain a wonderfully satisfying marriage, spouses must recognize and appreciate the polarity between the masculine and feminine.”
Not what I’d expected. It sounded almost new age, like worship of a feminine and masculine divine. I turned to the introduction.
“This is not your typical marriage manual. I’m not going to present the usual psychobabble nonsense that has been dominating the marital therapy field since the sixties which condemns masculinity and disdains femininity.” (1)
Thank God for that. I hated psychobabble nonsense. I’d experienced enough of it to know that I was usually better off working out my issues on a yoga mat or in a journal.
I believe that the single most horrible problem for marriages today is a lack of understanding, not only of what is needed by a man in a woman but also what is needed by a woman in a man.” (1)
How simple; me Tarzan, you Jane. Not that such a backward concept had any place in today’s modern society.
I kept reading.
“Chivalry is largely dead, and feminism is the murder. It soured both males and females on the joy, awe, wonder, excitement, thrill, satisfaction from, and mystery of femininity and masculinity…Spouses are more likely to suffer from behavior that resembles sibling rivalry where there is competition for resources and power.” (3)
OMG, I had to read this book. I whisked it off the shelf. At home, in my favorite chair, I read.
“Women today do not think of themselves in the context of helping “their man.” Women have been brainwashed into thinking that efforts in that direction are in the category of oppression, subservience, and catering to frail male egos…feminism demoted that singularly magical ability of women to transform deflated men into heroes and warriors into a notion of massaging the frail, pathetic ego of a weak man…” (14)
Dr. Laura’s traditional views on marriage were resonating with me, though they went against the conditioning my generation was raised on. The traitor-to-feminism feelings they invoked reminded me of the time, about two years ago, when I saw feminist Gloria Steinem speak.
At first, I was in awe to be in the presence of this women’s rights pioneer, whose efforts had made it possible for my sex to have choices. Then, about midway through her speech, I had a startling thought: What did this woman — who wasn’t a mother and hadn’t become a wife until late in life — know about the struggles moms and wives face? What qualified her to tell us how to live our lives?
She had never had to place her infant in the hands of another woman 10 hours a day in order to go to work. She had never had to wake in the night multiple times to nurse a baby, and then drag her exhausted butt to a job the next morning. What did she know about the toll this kind of lifestyle took on a marriage and a woman’s soul?
She knew nothing, at least not first-hand. Yet here she was, giving advice, saying that men needed to step it up, as if they were the sole culprits of these struggles, as if women weren’t making choices for their lives that left them feeling exhausted, guilty, and resentful.
Suddenly, I resented her, and have wrestled with conflicting feelings about feminism ever since.
Chasing career and personal goals with little regard to the impact it is having on your spouse and family is a map where all roads dead-end. Men who do this usually end up with heart attacks; women who do this end up with out-of-control families and Valium drips.” (113)
I never want America to go back to the way things used to be for women, when husbands took over their property, when they couldn’t vote, when they were forced to bear too many children, when they felt trapped in abusive marriages because they couldn’t earn a living and would lose their children if they left. Feminism freed women from all that.
I also recognize that there are couples who are making their marriages work, despite both working full-time and/or taking on non-traditional roles.
But what of the slightly over 50% of couples that aren’t making it? Divorce is taking a toll on our children, health, finances, and societal well-being. Men alone aren’t to blame. Women must acknowledge their role and responsibility in the demise.
“Don’t use discussions about how bad your spouse is as entertainment with your friends. Do take every opportunity you can to build up your spouse in your mind by relating wonderful, positive stories.” (121)
I’ve been guilty of the former, of picking on my husband rather than finding things to appreciate and praise. Now I see that this says more about my state of mind than his character. Seriously, I could burn an entire meal and the man would eat it without complaining, yet God forbid he leaves his socks on the bedroom floor.
Dr. Laura claims that feminism “soured both males and females on the joy, awe, wonder, excitement, thrill, satisfaction from, and mystery of femininity and masculinity.” (3)
Is she right? Or are other factors contributing, such as the economy, fast-paced lifestyles, materialism? Have we become a nation of whining, selfish adult brats who expect our spouses to resolve our childhood pains, meet all our needs, and mend our broken parts?
I don’t have the answers, but I suspect that helping one’s husband feel like a warrior goes much farther toward creating marital bliss than getting him to clean the toilets.