Thursday, October 19, 2017

Building up our houses

I've often thought that one thing missing in modern life is older women passing down healthy social mores to younger women (what can you pass down when the social creed is "do whatever you will"?).

So I was pleased to see an example (via Dalrock) of a woman trying to pass on some good advice about marriage to other women. Her name is Heidi Stone, and I know little about her except that she appears to be an American Protestant Christian.

She begins by noting how many marriages are failing in her social circle. She then points out to her female readers that divorce often does not lead to a happy future relationship:
Remarriage for women, as we age, becomes less and less likely. Should we get started talking about the cost of child support? On both sides? What about how alimony can financially cripple either party’s ability to provide for a second family. It doesn’t happen or it takes too much of the paycheck.

Simply? It makes sense to just stay married. Especially for us, ladies. Especially for us.

That’s you and me, darlin’. You and me. We’ve already invested our perky selves, baby-making hips, and the “looks cute in a two-piece” years. We’ve given them to the man we wake up to and the children we make dinner for and unless we are careful, that investment might not pay off.

I know I want to reap the rewards of that investment.

I’ve earned those rewards. There is no way I want to jeopardize where I end up and how I live because I didn’t have the courage or willingness to pursue my marriage and family with integrity now. Before the hurricanes and menopausal tornadoes.

See, to be blunt, we don’t fare well in the re-marriage market as only 25% of women who are divorced in their 30’s-40’s actually remarry. Men will generally marry at a rate closer to 50% but, even then, they aren’t looking at our Match.Com profiles. They tend to marry women far younger than themselves the second time and, well, that rather gives a raspberry to both our aging marketability and our chances at second time marital bliss.

So only 25% of women who divorce in their 30s and 40s will remarry, and only 7% of single women aged over 50 will ever even cohabit again with a man:
The people most unlikely to find a partner and settle into a new long-term relationship are women aged over 50, with only 7 per cent moving in with a partner.

If a woman "invests" her youthful beauty and fertility in marriage, then she maximises her chances of being in a loving relationship with a man in her later decades (in the second half of her life). If this is ignored, then many people will live alone from middle-age. In trailblazing feminist Sweden 52% of households now consist of only one person:
Why, then, does Sweden stand out when it comes to the high number of single households? Trägårdh says that Sweden is a "radically individualistic" country with a social structure that enables people to live independently - that is, to avoid having to rely on one another.

"It has something to do both with values and with the types of institutions we have created in Sweden in more recent decades," explains Trägårdh.

"Individual autonomy has been important for a long time here, as well as the idea that relationships - even in family and love - should be voluntary. And our institutions guarantee the possibility for relationships to be voluntary, for individuals to make the decision to leave a relationship if they so wish."

The emphasis in Sweden is on the liberal aim of maximising individual autonomy by making it easy to dissolve marriages and to live independently of anyone else - but they have succeeded so well in this aim that a majority of households now have just one person (in comparison the percentage of single person households in nearby Poland is 24%, in Singapore it is 11% and in India 3.7%.)

The next part of Heidi Stone's advice is equally good. She asks women to think about the mistakes that wives sometimes make that bring down their own houses:
This is to the sisters who bulldoze their own security and future. Shingle by shingle. Tear by manipulating tear. Guilt trips by angry blaming.

Every day, systematically destroying their homes, one snark, one bitterness, one resentment at a time the foundation crumbles until there is nothing left to preserve. Nothing left to fight for or hold on to.

I don’t have to make a list, we are familiar with the usual suspects. Anger, resentment, bitterness, defensiveness, and arrogance. No one needs to be convinced those elements are at the heart of poor choices. Toxic to our warmth and hospitality.

But we justify. We excuse our failures. When we are at church thinly masking our dishonor of our spouse with a carefully worded prayer request or trying to explain our behavior to our friends… Maybe we spend too much time searching for a friendly ear when we believe we’ve been horribly “wronged”.

But there really is no limit to the depths of ugliness in the human heart. Have you thought about how disrespect and comparison, victimhood, and slander can pull down your house?

Men are brought up to think that failure or success depends on their own efforts, their character, their strength. But the fate of some marriages is decided not by the actions of the husband, but within the mind and soul of the wife. The marriage rests on her ability to manage her thoughts and emotions, so that she does not dwell on the negatives, or hold on to grievances, or seek to belittle, or slide between a sensitivity to being patronised and a feeling of superiority.

Is it not one task of a human culture to help women to inhabit the better part of themselves ("our warmth and hospitality") rather than the more destructive parts? Is it not important for men to take an interest in this, given that men seek emotional and physical intimacy with their wives but are unlikely to genuinely achieve this if women cannot overcome the kind of failures that Heidi Stone describes?


  1. "Men are brought up to think that failure or success depends on their own efforts, their character, their strength. But the fate of some marriages is decided not by the actions of the husband, but within the mind and soul of the wife. The marriage rests on her ability to manage her thoughts and emotions, so that she does not dwell on the negatives, or hold on to grievances, or seek to belittle, or slide between a sensitivity to being patronised and a feeling of superiority."

    Wow. Where were you when I needed to hear this, thirty years ago?

    1. Thanks, but I was naive about all this 30 years ago. And am still trying to learn.

  2. The problem is no one wants to publicly acknowledge the darker side of the female psyche. We hear a lot about the characteristics of dangerous men. Dangerous women look & act different but few know what to look for.

    1. Well put. I think part of the difficulty is that dangerous women can still have the very appealing side of womanhood (the warmth, the vivacity etc.) What marks them off is that they are less able to regulate the more negative side. Perhaps because of a personality disorder, or because of childhood trauma, or brain chemicals, or cultural influences, or personal character.

      The other difficulty is that women are as a rule more oriented to getting things in relationships from the opposite sex, so they are more able to put on a face when needed, hide things when needed and so on. A husband might end up being the last to know what his wife is really thinking.

      Third problem is that most of us live in large, anonymous cities in which someone's past, which sometimes reveals the most about them, can be easily shed.

    2. It is human nature to present oneself in the best light emphasising the positive qualities and concealing the negative in order to achieve specific aims. A car salesman uses the same techniques on prospective buyers.A good sales man understands his customer and the triggers he needs to hit to entice his buyer and close the sale. A woman who wants to marry a man uses the same techniques.

      However it is the responsibility of the buyer or prospective marriage partner to undertake the due diligence required to establish objective truth and reality rather than relying on subjective emotion.

      Conventional wisdom upholds that marriage partners must be selected from within one's family and social circle from families who are known well and adhere to the same values. The rejection of this tradition in favour of marriage to strangers is a high risk strategy with inevitable high rates of failure. One cannot know a stranger, one can know them only over a period of time. That is usually the time between marriage and divorce.

      If a stranger is considered as a marriage partner, the normal course of action is to hire a private detective to do the groundwork information gathering about the background of the prospective partner and her family.This way problems can be identified.

      The failure to do this is both negligent and irresponsible.

  3. The Swedes imagine themselves to be 'independent', when they've merely replaced interdependence with other human beings by becoming dependent on the State. When the State finally lets them down it will not end well.

    1. Yes, good point. Hard to see the dignity in being dependent on the state. Better to be interdependent within a family of your own.

    2. In Sweden the only strong and reliable institution is the state which continues to dependably execute its responsibilities regardless of the change of Government. The Swedish family is not an institution. It is a personal relationship which in the majority of cases is unstable and incapable of reliably executing its duties to its dependants. Over 50% of Swedish children are illegitimate. Over 50% of marriages end in divorce. Is there any surprise that Swedes prefer to rely on the state in preference to their own unstable relationships?