Jennifer Roback Morse is one of my favorite writers on family issues, because she is just so positive about men and the roles that men play in the family, and the challenges that men face while performing those roles.
She wrote this article in appreciation of her husband, and it’s a must-read, especially for men looking for some appreciation and encouragement.
The feminist movement introduced an unbelievable amount of tension into the relationships between men and women. Feminism gave us women permission to nag and criticize our husbands, which most women can do just fine without any special permission. The legacy of the feminist movement has been to turn the home, which should be the place of cooperation, into a sphere of competition between men and women. And ironically, feminism, which was supposed to be about getting beyond stereotypes, supported the most negative of stereotypes about men.
I have my own pet theory about the stereotype of men dragging their feet about getting married. The socio-biologists claim that men want to invest their seed in as many women as possible, and therefore do not want marriage. I think this is only a dim shadow of the whole truth. The whole truth must include this great fact about men: They are capable of heroic loyalty. When men finally do marry, they are capable of committing themselves to the care of their wives and children. Many men spend a lifetime working at jobs they don’t like very much, for the love of their families. When men marry, they take it very seriously. It is women who initiate most divorces. It is divorced men who commit suicide at twice the rate as married men, while divorce has little impact on the suicide propensities of women.
When women marry, we get things that we want and value. We get the opportunity to become mothers. We get a home, our nest for our little ones. What do men get? They get the right to throw themselves on a live grenade for the protection of their families. Or, as St. Paul suggested to the Ephesians, husbands get the right to be crucified.
Most men, with an insignificant number of exceptions, are capable of this heroic loyalty. We women can call this out of our men. We don’t achieve this by nagging. We certainly don’t achieve it by competing with them over who makes the most money, or by keeping score with them on who does the most household chores. We need to build them up, as St. Paul says. Watch them sit up straighter and taller when we appreciate and admire them.
We need to build up our marriages because our children suffer from broken relationships or non-relationships. We now know that father absence inflicts a wound on children that social science can measure, but only partially fathom. We are finding that even the children conceived by artificial means long for a relationship with their fathers.
So if we are going to honor fathers, we women have to honor our husbands, as husbands. And sometimes, just sometimes, we will find that they will honor and build us up as well.
A woman cannot go wrong by studying what men do, why men matter, and what men want from women and children. Creating the conditions for a married man to thrive in his roles is an important goal for women, after their goal of pleasing God. To get the man to perform, a woman has to create the ideal conditions for him to perform. And that means providing the right environment and loving him as if she had never been hurt. Dr. Morse knows what men are supposed to do, and she knows what she has to do to create the conditions where her husband can perform. Wives need to create the right incentives for husbands to performing their roles, and to fill them up with love by encouraging, acknowledging, recognizing, affirming, accepting and desiring them. If men don’t get the things that they need from their wives, then they won’t be able to perform. They’ll just go silent and withdraw.
Dr. Morse’s podcasts are here, and the recent interview with Warren Farrell is worth listening to for those who would like to understand men a little better.