I had a great time in Austin at the conference hosted by King’s Cross, pastored by my good friend Garrett Craw.
Michael Foster and I have collaborated several times now, including speaking together at the Stronghold Conference (Huntsville, 2021) and an 1819 podcast but this was our best joint venture yet, as I thought our talks complemented each other very well. And I should add, they complemented one another even though we had virtually no discussion beforehand about our content. Many thanks to Garrett Craw and Jordan Vimont for putting the conference together.
This last point needs a little plain speaking. Men have so horribly abused their power over women in the past that to wives, of all people, equality is in danger of appearing as an ideal. But Mrs. Naomi Mitchison has laid her finger on the real point. Have as much equality as you please – the more the better – in our marriage laws, but at some level consent to inequality, nay, delight in inequality, is an erotic necessity. Mrs. Mitchison speaks of women so fostered on a defiant idea of equality that the mere sensation of the male embrace rouses an undercurrent of resentment. Marriages are thus shipwrecked. This is the tragi-comedy of the modem woman -- taught by Freud to consider the act of love the most important thing in life, and then inhibited by feminism from that internal surrender which alone can make it a complete emotional success. Merely for the sake of her own erotic pleasure, to go no further, some degree of obedience and humility seems to be (normally) necessary on the woman's part.
The error here has been to assimilate all forms of affection to that special form we call friendship. It indeed does imply equality. But it is quite different from the various loves within the same household. Friends are not primarily absorbed in each other. It is when we are doing things together that friendship springs up – painting, sailing ships, praying, philosophizing, fighting shoulder to shoulder. Friends look in the same direction. Lovers look at each other -- that is, in opposite directions. To transfer bodily all that belongs to one relationship into the other is blundering.
“I don’t think I look on marriage quite as you do. It seems to me extraordinary that everything should hang on what Mark says…about something he doesn’t understand.
“Child,” said the Director, “it is not a question of how you or I look on marriage but how my Masters look on it.”
“Someone said they were very old fashioned. But-“
“That was a joke. They are not old fashioned; but they are very, very old.”
“They would never think of finding out first whether Mark and I believed in their ideas of marriage?”
“Well – no,” said the Director with a curious smile. “No. Quite definitely they wouldn’t think of doing that.”
“And would it make a difference to them what a marriage was actually like – whether it was a success? Whether the woman loved her husband?”
Jane had not exactly intended to say this: much less to say it in the cheaply pathetic tone which, it now seemed to her, she had used. Hating herself, and fearing the Director’s silence, she added, “But I suppose you will say I oughtn’t to have told you that.”
“My dear child,” said the Director, “you have been telling me that ever since your husband was mentioned”
“Does it make no difference?”
“I suppose,” said the Director, “it would depend on how he lost your love.”
Jane was silent. Though she could not tell the Director the truth, and indeed did not know it herself, yet when she tried to explore her inarticulate grievance against Mark, a novel sense of her own injustice and even pity for her husband, arose in her mind. And her heart sank, for now it seemed to her that this conversation, to which she had vaguely looked for some sort of deliverance from all problems was in fact involving her in new ones.
“It was not his fault,” she said at last. “I suppose our marriage was just a mistake.”
The Director said nothing.
“What would you – what the people you are talking of – say about a case like that?”
“I will tell you if you really want to know,” said the Director.
“Please,” said Jane reluctantly.
“They would say,” he answered, “that you do not fall in obedience through lack of love, but have lost love because you never attempted obedience.”
Something in Jane that would normally have reacted to such a remark with anger or laughter was banished to a remote distance (where she could still, but only just, hear its voice) by the fact that the word Obedience-but certainly not obedience to Mark – came over her, in that room and in that presence, like a strange oriental perfume, perilous, seductive, ambiguous..
“Stop it!” said the Director, sharply.
Jane stared at him, open mouthed. There were a few moments of silence during which the exotic fragrance faded away.
“You were saying, my dear?” resumed the Director.
“I thought love meant equality,” she said, “and free companionship.”
“Ah, equality!” said the Director. “We must talk some other time. Yes, we must all be guarded by equal right’s from one another’s greed, because we are fallen. Just as we must all wear clothes for the same reason. But the naked body should be there underneath the clothes, ripening for the day when we shall need them no longer. Equality is not the deepest thing, you know.”
“I always thought that was just what it was. I thought that it was in their souls that people were equal.”
“You were mistaken,” he said gravely. “That is the last place where they are equal. Equality before law, equality of incomes–that is very well. Equality guards life; it doesn’t make it. It is medicine, not food. You might as well try to warm yourself with a blue-book.”
“But surely in marriage…?”
“Worse and worse,” said the Director. “Courtship knows nothing of it; nor does fruition. What has free companionship to do with that? Those who are enjoying something, or suffering something together, are companions. Those who enjoy or suffer one another, are not Do you not know how bashful friendship is? Friends – comrades – do not look at each other. Friendship would be ashamed…”
“I thought,” said Jane and stopped.
“I see,” said the Director. “It is not your fault. They never warned you. No one has ever told you that obedience – humility – is an erotic necessity. You are putting equality where it ought not to be.”
Jane is not attracted to Mark because women are never attracted to men that they pity. (The fastest way for a single man to get friend-zoned is to make himself the object of a woman’s pity rather than respect/admiration. Women are not attracted to effeminate weakness but to masculine strength. Men who whine and grumble are not likely to get anywhere because they appear to women as incompetent and fragile.) But the real reason Jane thinks their marriage is a mistake is because they have not lived in marriage according to its design. They have been concerned with equality rather than reality — namely the reality that men and women are different and need something different from each other. Until Jane learns to surrender herself to Mark and obey him, she will not be able to fully love (and make love) to him. Deep down we all know this. A real romantic love story premised on equality would be impossible. One of them, after all, will have to ask the other out. One of them, after all, will have to propose marriage. One of them, after all, will have to lead the dance, while the other follows. Marital love is about many things but it is certainly not about equality, at least not in the modern sense of the term. Indeed, equality is the enemy of romance. Equality kills romance. It is only polarity — sexual differentiation — that can revive it. Dating and romance are nearly dead in our day for precisely this reason. One of the main killers of marriage and the marriage bed in our day is androgyny.
It goes without saying here that not only are men and women not romantic equals, but their roles are not reversible or interchangeable. The man must lead. The woman must respond. Otherwise, the relationship will go nowhere.
The infamous Dalrock has some posts that address some of the same themes that I spoke about, especially in my second talk. In the post, “She Felt Unloved,” Dalrock uses his own experience to explain how he shook off bad advice and stepped up his game in order to increase his wife’s attraction to him. He did not allow his wife’s feelings to become the standard of love (Scripture is the standard), but he did wisely come to better understand what his wife needed (and wanted) from him in order to feel secure and cherished. In "Romance 101,” Dalrock explains how a man can change the dynamic of his relationship. “Untethered” gives several instructive vignettes of women who are ready to divorce their husbands, but not necessarily for reasons the husbands think. This one is particularly helpful for men to consider:
My sex hang ups come when I start feeling like he is tippy toeing around me and constantly looking to me to make a decision on things…
But all the little “beta” actions wear me out and leave me feeling like I never get to lean on him, that he isn’t there for me if I have a bad day or fall apart. By “beta” I mean things like going back and forth 15 times as we text about whether he wants to do a certain activity with the kids the next day, bc he doesn’t want to just come out and say, “I don’t want to do that.” Or hearing me vent about a relative or one of the kids’ behavior and not stopping me when I let my mouth run too far, because he doesn’t want to upset me more. Argh!
I know a cranky wife can be intimidating, guys, but most girls really appreciate the strength and confidence you show when you are not fazed by her emotions.
She knows she rides a roller coaster,and even if she can’t express it, having a husband who will insist on having a talk when one is needed and who will keep that convo on topic with an aggressive concern for the marriage will encourage and bless her and very likely turn things around after a time!
I think I finally communicated this to my honey yesterday. I explained that feeling in charge when he was around, feeling like EVERYONE in this house looked to me to call the shots, watching him hesitate and come off as soooo sweet and passive, was a HUGE turn off for me.
…I’m talking about wanting my husband to say, “I am going to rip your clothes off when I get home. Put the kids in front of a long movie.” and then doing it, despite my groaning, and convincing me I really did want him to. )) I’m talking about him asking what my schedule was for the day, and then telling me that I was going to take child X with me on those errands while he took W, Y, and Z with him, and he would bring home dinner so don’t cook. Aaaaaahhhhhhhhhh! To be able to lean on him, to see him take an aggressive interest in how the house works and what is going on, to feel like he desires me so much he will not take no for an answer and kisses me out of my stress…
…it’s the stuff our fantasies are made of, guys! Maybe not every woman, but every married girl I know gets starry eyed as they tell stories of their husband leading in such an in-tune and family-focused way, esp if it involves romance and sex.
…guys, lead whether she bats her eyes at you at first or not!… Too much beta-helpfulness can backfire, bc you are presenting as a wimp weaker than she is, and who wants a leading man like that? She wants to feel like your leading lady, not your mother.
Dalrock routinely explains that the great tragedy of feminism is that it led women to rebel against the very thing they most crave and most need from men. Feminism has created men that women no longer find attracting or arousing. Men conditioned by feminism actually end up frustrating women, including even feminists, because their passivity is unattractive.
I really like this equation:
A Proverbs 31 woman + a Job 29 man = a Psalm 128 household
A Titus 2 woman + a Psalm 112 man + Psalm 45 wedding = a Psalm 128 household
Feminists cannot acknowledge the divide between men and women when it comes to sex and sensibility. Doing so would violate what Steven Pinker calls the blank slate doctrine, a foundation stone of modern liberalism. One of that doctrine’s core tenets is that “differences between men and women have nothing to do with biology but are socially constructed in their entirety,” in Pinker’s words. Ignoring biology, feminists recast difficult sexual interactions in terms of power and politics.
Far too many husbands let their wives do all their thinking for them. Be a man, think for yourself, form your own judgments and correct hers when needed. Of course, be humble and accept correction from others (including your wife) when you need it. While you symbolize Jesus in the marriage you are not Jesus and therefore you will make mistakes. But a man should be continually working to improve himself, to continually level up his game. As Foster pointed out, too many Christians have downplayed self-help as if it were always Pelagian. In reality, we are commanded to strengthen ourselves.