The Thinking 
Housewife
 

Why Marry? A Response to the Manosphere

May 6, 2013

 

AT The Orthosphere, in an essay “Can Man Live Traditionally,” Alan Roebuck addresses the argument that men should refuse to marry because of the high risk of divorce. He advises against marriage strikes and contends men should approach marriage as soldiers entering into battle:

Know that you are a warrior participating in a noble cause. We all desire peace, but ours is not a peaceful time. Every man faces only two choices: contributing to the leftist destruction of our nation by going along with the status quo, or emulating your ancestors in building up our nation and fighting leftist barbarians in whatever way you can.

He offers some sensible advice for choosing a wife:

In courtship, the traditionalist advises the man to seek a woman who has womanly virtue rather than superficial sex appeal. This, of course, requires great self-discipline. Keep in mind that the greatest of the womanly virtues is the willingness to be led by a good man, and that a wife who lacks this virtue will make your life very difficult. Marry in haste, repent at leisure.

Women possessing womanly virtue do exist, but they tend not to be the first woman who catches your eye. So start training your eye.

The husband facing a wife who threatens divorce has some tactical options. He writes:

If you are facing the possibility of divorce, understand that the system favors the enemy. Divorce, even for manifestly selfish and invalid reasons, is always permitted by the authorities. Therefore you must either convince or manipulate your wife into not divorcing you. Do not panic, and retain at least the appearance of strength and calm. If your wife respects your strength, there will be less chance of divorce.

Is there a chance of divorce? Yes. This is war, and some men die in battle. But they fight for a noble cause.

Roebuck writes:

Ideally, we would take action and overthrow the unjust laws permitting frivolous divorce and allowing the woman to loot her ex-husband. When a properly-ordered American society is restored, these evils will be a thing of the past. But these changes will not happen in the foreseeable future so for now, we have no choice but to go into battle.

I would make one revision to this. The unjust laws permitting not just frivolous divorce, but all divorce, should be overthrown. Any legal recognition of divorce ultimately leads to chaos and the sort of injustice we see today, with marriage becoming the lowest form of social contract. That’s why the manosphere does not have answers. It generally supports the freedom to divorce. There is no such thing as a good divorce law. The government should recognize separation in dire cases, but not divorce. Needless to say, divorce laws will not be overthrown anytime soon though they will probably be revised in vain efforts to make them appear more fair. They are not fair and never will be fair. Divorce is to modern democracy as salt is to the ocean. You can’t have one without the other.

 

— Comments —

Mary writes:

I would add, in case it’s not obvious, this admonition: never sleep together before marriage. Sexual involvement before marriage blinds good decisions: it’s intoxicating. It’s intended to bond you to your partner for life. Many poor matches could have avoided divorce court by avoiding the bedroom before marrying and thereby seeing each other with clear eyes. Warn your sons and daughters.

Katherine Russell Tsarnaev comes to mind.

Hey Mister writes:

The linked article, assuming you have brought us the tone and message of its entirety with your quotes, is just … stupid.

A man can live in the illusion of a traditional marriage as long as his wife allows it. Everything else I see described is how to manipulate the wife into doing so, and he even says it is. He is, straight up, suggesting a life of willful self-deceit and neurosis.

That’s at least dishonest and I suspect usually delusional. It works right up to the day that she picks up a cell phone, dials 9-1-1, and has a company of armed men show up to deal with the bully.

While his advice is good tactically, for a battle with conclusion like a dinner plans or a custody agreement. strategically it’s a loser. The ONLY way a man ever meets the mother of his children on equal terms is … extra-legally … outside law, which is dangerous and unlikely to yield the desired results.

Better to grieve the loss of your children and move on. They are likely lost anyway.

I have a friend who recorded evidence of every letter, every card, every present he sent to his daughter, receipts of every failed 1,000 mile trip to visit, every court filing and decision. When she turned 21, her mother couldn’t hide it from her and she learned the truth. She came and visited.

Guess what? It was all for naught. Even as a mountain of evidence proved to her that her father loved her, it did nothing to help raise her. It did nothing for her when she was a child, when she needed it. Her mother won. The daughter has a fondness for her father, but she’s an adult now, and he will never be her parent. It was a twenty year effort by a dedicated and meticulous man, a far better man than I, utterly wasted.

He is, at best, a sad example of romanticism, rather like Don Quixote, also delusional and dying for a whore. He’ll get to see his daughter’s children, if he send a crate of money regularly.

It’s best for men to walk away.

No, Uncle Sam, I will not be cannon fodder for you, and I’ll name you a liar to every young man I meet.

Laura writes:

And what will you be? A sterile old man? Or perhaps the father of bastards?

“It’s best for men to walk away.” Are you recommending celibacy? Okay, then say so. Illegitimacy? Okay, then admit it. You think men should walk away from their children or refuse to commit to them. Childlessness and noncommittal sex? Then say so. Admit that you are recommending sterility, self-centeredness and a lonely old age.

As for the man who was denied contact with his daughter, your argument that all was “utterly wasted” is stupid. In reality, things are not so simple. The daughter has spent her life with a selfish woman. You think she has learned nothing? Also, the desire to have meaningful contact with one’s own father does not end with childhood.

Hannon writes:

It is revealing that Hey Mister uses terms like “tactical” and “strategic” to make his case against the sanctity of marriage. Such sterile language often indicates an absence of faith in a spiritual order in our lives, which always leaves a vacuum impossible to fill with reasoning. It is also typical of the “manosphere” and other social contrivances that purport to be an alternative to liberalism. With no provision of higher alternatives, the prospects of such a philosophy are too often lonely and sad.

Laura writes:

Alan Roebuck advised the use of strategy too. Marriage is sacred and worldly. It doesn’t violate the sanctity of marriage to take into consideration the psychological differences between men and women and the fact that it is a civil contract. To act shrewdly or tactically in marriage may actually be to recognize its sacredness.

Hey Mister writes:

It is revealing how Hannon uses terms like “sanctity” to describe marriage, as if wrapping up a contract – adjudicated in civil courts and dissolved under no-fault divorce law – in Ecclesiastical language will make it holy. Such bait-and-switch presentation indicates an ignorance of spiritual things and a malevolent intent to manufacture shame as a weapon in the perversion of one’s own marriage.

Oh yeah, like anyone even asks whether the divorce judge is of the same denomination or even the same religion as where the marriage was made.

Laura writes:

The problem is not people like Hannon who recognize the fact that marriage is sacred, but civil authorities who do not.

Jill writes:

Hmm, this post sounds arrogant and self-serving. I believe in carefully choosing a wife, remaining celibate until marriage so that emotions don’t cloud the issue (as mentioned in the comments) but … seriously?

Every real, conservative, God-fearing woman deeply desires a man who wants her! She reads the biblical account of Isaac searching for his Rebekah and her heart goes pitter-pat.

As an “old” married woman who has seen 31 years of hewing out a marriage (and, yes, marriage is “hewn”, like wood), my husband and I have often observed that a man can plan his life out and seek a wife and outwardly seem to be “in control” but a real marriage brings a man to his knees. It humbles him. It shows him himself.

Childbearing does the same for a woman.

Those blind men who think they are in control when they seek to be married to the “right” conservative Christian woman are in for a big surprise. God ordained marriage to bring both men and women into a place of great vulnerability and struggle and that is designed to drive them to God.

So, I have a difficult time reading men who try to plan ahead how to avoid divorce. Marriage is the great plunge. It is risky, as is anything worthwhile in this life.

You may lift your chin in disdain at your brothers who throw their hearts into the arena but there is something to be said for a man who risks his whole heart in marriage. Christ, himself, sets the ultimate example of real, sacrificial LOVE. What I read in that post was not sacrificial nor loving.

Perhaps the commentator who mentioned the man who kept a record of every interaction and every “proof’. Love does not keep a record of wrongs OR rights (2 Corinthians 13)…it simply LOVES. And love DOES win out in the end. Children know when they are loved. They know when a mother or father is truly grieving for a divorce…they can tell.

I was the child of a moral (but bitter) mother and an immoral (but repentant) father. My father has won my heart.

Love never fails.

Be a real man. Don’t quote statistics and tell the world why you won’t “risk” love. Find a woman who brings you to your knees in her example of moral purity, godly passion and physical beauty (after all, God made woman to appeal to man physically). Throw your whole heart into the arena and love her passionately. You will “win.”

 Laura writes:

Risk is of the essence of marriage. Anything worth having is difficult and requires sacrifice. However, I strongly disagree that Roebuck’s piece was arrogant and self-serving. He was not “lifting his head in disdain” at men who throw their hearts into marriage. To the contrary, he was advising men to throw themselves into marriage, but with wisdom and caution. His general rule of preserving one’s honor applies to women too. Given the prevalence of divorce and adultery, it is wise for both men and women to consider the practical things they can do to avert these disasters and to understand how they might overcome them should they occur.

You write:

Every real, conservative, God-fearing woman deeply desires a man who wants her! She reads the biblical account of Isaac searching for his Rebekah and her heart goes pitter-pat.

But the biblical view of human nature is that it is capricious, willful and often inclined to temptation. A “real, conservative, God-fearing woman” can change after marriage. Her heart may go pitter-pat for someone new or for escape and freedom. And she may find friends, relatives and even churches who encourage her to be independent and make a new life. There is no guarantee for any man or woman that a spouse will remain virtuous or constant, especially in a world that makes betrayal so easy and even admirable. That doesn’t mean one should become preoccupied with these possibilities. But confidence comes also from knowing one can handle the worst.

You write:

I was the child of a moral (but bitter) mother and an immoral (but repentant) father. My father has won my heart.

Yes, this is an important point. Children eventually come to know the truth. They see their parents as they are. A parent who has betrayed a spouse is very difficult to love.

Bill R. writes:

Hey Mister strikes me as a marital nihilist and while, in all honesty, I can relate to some of his bitterness I can’t go as far as he does. He’s basically just saying, my way or the highway — and his highway seems a little too desolate for me.

With that said, I also cannot accept your position, Laura, that divorce should never be allowed. There is also, I’m afraid, a touch of the desolate in that.

I draw your attention to the fact that even you allow the possibility of legally recognized separation and I would suggest that that defeats the very purpose you are championing. Such separation is divorce for all intents and purposes. To insist that while the law recognize the practical necessity of certain people dissolving their life together, it will not dissolve their marriage is to hollow out the very purpose of marriage and make of it a sham. Such circumstances are no longer marriages and it is insult to the true meaning of marriage to force the law to continue to say they are nonetheless.

The whole idea of making divorce difficult is to encourage the couple to remain a couple. To “save a marriage” means not only saving its legal reality but its human one as well. If the couple is divorced emotionally, sexually, and even geographically, what do you gain by denying them a legal finding of the same? On the other hand, their loss is enormous. Not only have they lost each other, but you would now insist that they suffer forever the loss of any chance of making that commitment to anyone else. That’s a life sentence. I don’t think it’s right to make a person suffer such a punishment because they acted in good faith and took for truth vows that were, in fact, when spoken to them, merely a lovely-sounding tissue of lies.

Also, to say that any recognition of divorce at all will render marriage the lowest of social contracts is, I think, extreme and untrue. It does not follow that because it is bad divorce is too easy that therefore the answer is to make it impossible. That’s like saying in the midst of a flood it would be better if there were no water at all. By the same token, to insist that a contract be maintained inviolable regardless of the facts about the parties involved, their behavior, their fidelity to its terms, regardless of how deceitful or horrendous the circumstances may be, is to invite cynicism and contempt. Furthermore, for the law (of marriage) to concern itself entirely with the contract alone while refusing utterly to take any account of the conduct of the parties who enter into it, is to have the law say that it makes no distinction between an honorable and dishonorable marriage. That is not, in my view, the way to make marriage a higher form of social contract. However appropriate it may be for God’s law to sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust, that is not what man’s law is for.

Man’s law was made by very imperfect beings for very imperfect beings. It was never intended to make them perfect but to punish and restrain transgressions that an orderly society cannot abide but also to forgive mistakes that have not threatened the civil order so that such citizens can rebuild their lives and return to their roles as contributors to their society (e.g., bankruptcy, divorce).

By making divorce very difficult but not impossible, you have a way, on the one hand, of not forcing marriage to remain in partnership with deceit, ugliness, or even evil, and on the other, of not turning it into a farce of the other extreme, a contract so weak and easily breakable that it can’t be taken seriously.

While marital anarchy, exemplified by the ease of divorce and most radically by today’s same-sex marriage movement, brings its own devastating consequences to the institution, that does not mean a totalitarian approach is the cure.

 Laura writes:

This is a very long statement, but let me reply to your many points in brief.

You say that by admitting the possibility of separation, I am only advocating another form of divorce. Not so, as you yourself later admit. The difference between separation and divorce is that in separation, the marriage still exists, preserving the conjugal bond for children, as well as for the spouses and community. There is no possibility of remarriage. That is a major difference. Divorce is desirable precisely because it offers the possibility of remarriage. Absent this, many people would be hesitant to abandon their marriages and would take the whole business of marrying much more seriously.

You describe a divorce-free society as “totalitarian.”  That label seems to better fit the era of divorce, which so often strips spouses of property, children and an entire way of life purely on the whim of one partner and denies children stable bonds of kinship. You say it is possible to have a reasonable system of divorce. My point is that legalized divorce inevitably leads to no-fault, unilateral divorce, and history so far supports this claim. Once society accepts the idea that marriage is contingent on personal happiness, it must take this principle to its logical end. The traditional reasons for legal divorce are adultery, abandonment and marital violence. But these conditions easily lead to abuse. In order to get out of a marriage, a spouse then only needs to commit adultery or be abusive — or to make claims of adultery or abuse. This kind of divorce is much more easily obtainable by the wealthy, who can afford the hefty legal costs, which is one reason why no-fault divorce comes to seem more attractive and just. Legalized divorce also presumes some authority which can enter into the private and extremely intimate affairs of marriage and make a reasonable judgment as to what has transpired. By contrast, no-fault divorce in which no governmental authority is put in the position of adjudicating marital relations comes to seem more fair and reasonable — and in many cases it is.

You write:

 If the couple is divorced emotionally, sexually, and even geographically, what do you gain by denying them a legal finding of the same?

And who, may I ask, will make the determination that a marriage has ended emotionally or sexually? A divorce court? Given that any marriage entered into voluntarily  was at some point emotionally fulfilling and sexual, how can any court know that it will not be so again? And you say, after according government such powers, that a divorce-free society is totalitarian!

You write:

Furthermore, for the law (of marriage) to concern itself entirely with the contract alone while refusing utterly to take any account of the conduct of the parties who enter into it, is to have the law say that it makes no distinction between an honorable and dishonorable marriage.

The law cannot judge between “honorable” and “dishonorable” marriages. That is pie in the sky. Once civil authorities enter into the business of judging the conduct of spouses in this most intimate of spheres, the voting public has no choice but ultimately to throw up its hands, divesting the government of the power to make such determinations and letting happiness as judged by any one partner be the guiding standard. And, as we have seen, the expectation that marriage be always happy has very disturbing and coercive consequences.

Fred Owens writes:

My friend Alan Archibald says your views are absolutist with regard to divorce, and he objects to this, in his blog.

I am twice divorced myself. Divorce is a tragedy of major proportions, I can testify to that, but, not just from my personal experience, I believe that it should be permitted in some cases.

Laura writes:

When Mr. Archibald says things such as this, how am I supposed to respond politely?

Revealingly, absolutists refuse to sit down with their “enemies” unless there are preconditions already in place, preconditions that must be favorable to “the absolutists.”

I sit down with my enemies all the time. I often take objections to my points.

As for my absolutism, the expectation that marriage be always happy is absolutist and has led to pervasive anger, mistrust and alienation. Does Mr. Archibald open his eyes and look around him at all? Why does he think the bottom half of America is not marrying anymore? Why does he think the illegitimacy rate among whites is 30 percent? People have lost the capacity to endure any marriage, let alone multiple marriages.

Terry Morris writes:

I only have a few moments, so I’ll be brief, and very general.

I personally don’t visit the manosphere sites, so I can’t speak to the general attitude there towards marriage. But judging by what I’ve read of them here and under Mr. Roebuck’s original piece at the Orthosphere, I conclude that, to the man, they are in the wrong frame of mind to build successful marriages, thus are right to avoid marriage. But that’s about as far as my agreement with them goes. I will write to you later about this important topic when I have more time. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, I see that you have addressed the issue of alienating one’s children through betrayal of a spouse in a reply to one of your commenters. This is one very strong reason my wife will likely never seriously consider divorcing me despite everything else. If men will properly utilize their God-given attributes, they can raise extremely loyal children, and a mother cannot help but see and understand this … and all its implications concerning her should she momentarily consider divorce an option. What law is there that can break the bonds of a Godly child’s affection for his father, or his mother?

Laura writes:

Your last point cannot be emphasized enough.

Mary writes:

Laura’s views on marriage and divorce are beautifully audacious. The charge of absolutism should give her no pause, for it is a worthy thing to be an absolutist about life. And marriage equals life; or put another way, marriage flows from life; it is part of the continuum that fulfills man’s desire to be fruitful and ends with death. Therefore describing divorce as a tragedy of major proportions is inadequate; it is tantamount to saying that death is a tragedy of major proportions; it is an insubstantial description.

If this statement sounds lofty and extreme it’s because we’ve forgotten that marriage is essential. We have come to think of marriage as one more aspect of life that we can shape and control as we see fit. Mankind created government, controls it, and by rights can change it and has changed it. Not so marriage. Marriage is not the creation of man; it is not a decision or choice we made, such as democracy. It pre-dates government. It is the essence of the human condition, and the only true way to ensure that human life continues through the formation of healthy societies. Marriage is the natural ordering of mankind.

Just as we have no right to control life through abortion, cloning, etc., ultimately we have no right to control marriage in a way that harms it. We certainly can and should protect and strengthen marriage however possible, whether through government or culture. It is no coincidence that when we stopped protecting life in this country we stopped protecting marriage.

When we ponder the consequences of free access to divorce we are logically led to ponder the world when divorce was difficult and stigmatized. Marriage’s slow decline and the fact that we have become inured to the harm of divorce makes the very idea of a divorce-free society sound impracticable and idealistic. But we can and should idealize marriage, for how else can a thing be lifted – or hoisted back, in this case – to it’s highest potential, if we don’t imagine it the most generous and positive terms?

Laura writes:

Thank you for an outstanding comment.

People who cannot entertain the thought of a society without divorce focus more on the suffering of spouses who are unhappy with each other, suffering which is indeed real, than the hardship that comes with divorce. Divorce is a cause of overwhelming social dissolution.

That said, laws do not completely determine marital habits. The inner life is decisive. Marriage is defined so strongly by our thinking on the subject that even if divorce was made illegal, people would get around the prohibition if they were strongly enough inclined. Similarly, a group could live in a society in which divorce is easy and yet stigmatize it so much that it virtually does not exist.

Buck writes:

Bill R. writes:

However appropriate it may be for God’s law to sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust, that is not what man’s law is for.

Man’s law was made by very imperfect beings for very imperfect beings. It was never intended to make them perfect but to punish and restrain transgressions that an orderly society cannot abide but also to forgive mistakes that have not threatened the civil order so that such citizens can rebuild their lives and return to their roles as contributors to their society (e.g., bankruptcy, divorce).

Bill R. reveals the essence of a profound quandary; the inherent conflict and the permanent structural defect in man’s law. Perfect law exists. It has an Author. It is up to man to discover it. Contrary views are overlapping circles of logic or infinite regressions. Endless apologetics are between imperfect men.

Either God sanctifies marriage or He does not.

Also, how does Mr. Archibald, whom I assume is simply a man, and who posted his remarks under a masthead that proclaims that: “The profoundest truths are paradoxical,” how does he with seriousness, argue anything at all? He lives in a paradoxical world in which nothing can be valid. If there exist no absolute truths, or no truths at all, what value then, is there in anything that he bothers to say? He’s a talking contradiction.

Laura writes:

If the profoundest truths are paradoxical then the truth that ‘truth is paradoxical’ is paradoxical, in which case truth is both paradoxical and absolute.

Bill R. writes:

Buck writes, “Either God sanctifies marriage or He does not.”

If it is sanctified by God then God can marry them. But God does not marry them. Man does. But if God does sanctify them and if a man has been married twice which one did he sanctify? The first, you say? But I’m not a Catholic and I say he sanctified the second one. I’m saying the first one was an abomination, a trick on the human agents who performed it and were led to think, like those women in the congregation, that this union was being sanctified by God when, in fact, it was being cursed by Satan. But then a third says, no, you both have it wrong. He sanctified both of them. Impossible! says a fourth. No, says a fifth, because all things are possible to God. Then a sixth says he sanctified neither one of them because marriage is a wholly human institution which you would have understood had you taken to heart Jesus’ words that “In the Resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage but are as the angels of God in Heaven.” Furthermore, his apostle Paul said it was better not to marry at all but to do as he did and be celibate; but he did concede that it was better to marry than to burn. What!? You mean God sanctifies something that’s only just this side of burning!? Well, that’s certainly cutting it close! And on it goes. And eventually, of course, we’ll get down to the one about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

My point, dear friends, is not to disparage any of these disparate views but to highlight the fact that they exist. And these are just a few of the disagreements about God’s law with regard only to marriage and only among Christians, and it’s a blizzard already! So before we lose each other forever in this blizzard we must come to some practical, workable agreement that will enable us to live together in some degree of civilized harmony with these disparate views. That agreement is called man’s law. It is an agreement that does not mean God’s law does not exist; it means we either don’t fully know what God’s law is yet or we can’t agree on it — that we see, as Paul said, through a glass darkly.

 Laura writes:

One does not need to recognize marriage as divine to understand the ways in which divorce is oppressive and unreasonable. Nevertheless, let me address your response to Buck, which touches on the religious issues. You write:

If it is sanctified by God then God can marry them. But God does not marry them. Man does.

But if man is a creature of God, then everything he does is in relation to God. 

But if God does sanctify them and if a man has been married twice which one did he sanctify? The first, you say? But I’m not a Catholic and I say he sanctified the second one.

Marriage, even secular marriage, always involves a vow, a promise to remain together for the remainder of life. Therefore, the question of which marriage is valid is quite simple. The first vow takes priority because the breaking of the first vow renders all subsequent vows meaningless. The second, third, and fourth vow are each a sham as vows and hence as marriages.

But I’m not a Catholic and I say he sanctified the second one. I’m saying the first one was an abomination, a trick on the human agents who performed it and were led to think, like those women in the congregation, that this union was being sanctified by God when, in fact, it was being cursed by Satan.

At best what you describe is a primitive, barbaric conception of domestic life. Such views have never led to a high degree of civilization.

But then a third says, no, you both have it wrong. He sanctified both of them.

Your point is that there are all these conflicting views that are equally valid. But they’re not equally valid. Some have been proven to be false or inferior. Polygamy creates strife and unhappiness. It strikes most Westerners as inhuman. I realize you are not arguing for polygamy, but are trying to say there is a welter of conflicting views. No, there isn’t.

When a sixth says he sanctified neither one of them because marriage is a wholly human institution which you would have understood had you taken to heart Jesus’ words that “In the Resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage but are as the angels of God in Heaven.”

Christ did not say that marriage is a wholly human institution. He said there is no marriage in heaven.

Furthermore, his apostle Paul said it was better not to marry at all but to do as he did and be celibate; but he did concede that it was better to marry than to burn. What!? You mean God sanctifies something that’s only just this side of burning!? Well, that’s certainly cutting it close! And on it goes. And eventually, of course, we’ll get down to the one about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

Paul was talking to early Christian missionaries when he recommended celibacy. He was not recommending it to people at large. Again, you refer to confusion where in fact there is clarity.

My point, dear friends, is not to disparage any of these disparate views but to highlight the fact that they exist. And these are just a few of the disagreements about God’s law with regard only to marriage and only among Christians, and it’s a blizzard already!

Your point is to disparage at least one of these views because you imply that the arguments for monogamy are equal to those for serial polygamy and weird theories about demonic marriages. You say the view that a vow is meaningful is simply one of many viewpoints. In fact, there is no blizzard. Most people want to be married for life and the normalization of divorce makes this very unlikely for many (as we see from this discussion, it creates reluctance to marry and general distrust of the institution). Children want their parents to be married. Divorce leads to government intrusion because it creates social chaos and some authority must regulate and oversee family breakdown, which has become in our day a veritable industry.

So before we lose each other forever in this blizzard we must come to some practical, workable agreement that will enable us to live together in some degree of civilized harmony with these disparate views. That agreement is called man’s law. It is an agreement that does not mean God’s law does not exist; it means we either don’t fully know what God’s law is yet or we can’t agree on it — that we see, as Paul said, through a glass darkly.

Man’s law if it is truly man’s law must be attuned to human nature. Divorce denies basics of psychology. It denies the well-established facts of child development. It also denies the behavioral patterns of men and women. For example, when a wife divorces a husband who is adulterous she may end up in the unfortunate situation of seeing her husband, the man who vowed to remain with her, marry the woman with whom he has had an adulterous affair. So divorce can become for the faithful partner an added form of betrayal. Divorce often makes things worse, or no better, but it offers the illusion of escape. And, whether it causes happiness or unhappiness, it destroys trust, the meaning of vows and the stability necessary to children over the course of generations.

Hannon writes:

This passage of yours struck a chord for me:

“… and some authority must regulate and oversee family breakdown…”

Precisely so. It is not the healthy society, comprised of people ordered in their historic tradition, that requires ever-expanding governmental oversight and social management. It is only an unhealthy, spiritually depauperate population that will be susceptible to– and demand!– the excesses of the regulatory state. The vacuum created by social dis-integration, with divorce as one of many obvious markers, will be readily filled by the agency of officialdom. This process can only result in increased distrust among society members in general and there is ample evidence that fear of independent minded individuals and groups rises in proportion to dependence on government.

Bill R. writes:

You write, “The law cannot judge between ‘honorable’ and ‘dishonorable’ marriages.”

Of course it can and it must. That’s not pie in the sky. It’s what’s done all the time in cases of every description, civil and criminal. Is it absolutely sure and foolproof? Of course not. What determination ever can be when you weren’t there? Mind you, when I say the law I’m including the process of adjudication within the courts. Obviously written laws alone can’t provide a formulaic response to the infinite variety of circumstances that are possible. A divorce is a lawsuit. To the civil courts it is a lawsuit like any other, as it should be. You bring your facts to the court and the court will adjudicate them and decide if the marriage is sufficiently flawed to warrant its dissolution.

I’m not using “honorable” and “dishonorable” in anything other than an ordinary sense and I know they are not legal terms. Perhaps I could have chosen better words. I certainly don’t mean the court would decide in some transcendental sense whether the marriage was honorable or dishonorable.

In addition, most people engaged in what they should not be doing tend to do it in private, and it’s no more difficult (or easy) to decide if a marriage warrants a difficult-to-obtain (as I would have them) divorce than it is to decide, as this jury in Arizona has just done, that this woman’s claim of self-defense (an honorable act) was ridiculous and the killing of her boyfriend amounted to first-degree murder (quite the dishonorable one). I happen to think the jury got it right. Do I know? No, and neither does the jury since the murder happened in the privacy of the defendant and her boyfriend’s home, the same place where the relevant details of a marriage happen.

 Laura writes:

I realize this is not your full response, but as it is very long, I’m going to answer this part of your comment and hope to post the rest, or some of the rest, later.

Divorce court and criminal court are wildly different things. When making a finding in a murder case, the question is whether the accused committed a crime. When determining whether a spouse has been irresponsible, the question isn’t ultimately what the accused has done. It is whether the marriage vow is still in effect. Marriage vows almost universally stipulate that marriages are in effect no matter what. People vow to remain together “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.” Other words may be used but even the most secular of vows include some kind of promise of loving each other and remaining married no matter what. The marriage agreement specifically acknowledges the possibility of bad times. The contract presumes it. The fact that one spouse does not love adequately does not cancel out the guarantee by the other spouse to love and to remain married no matter what. 

You write:

You bring your facts to the court and the court will adjudicate them and decide if the marriage is sufficiently flawed to warrant its dissolution.

Sufficiently flawed? Not only is this always a subjective determination, (even in cases of proven adultery a spouse may be capable of change or be penitent), but it assumes that the marriage consists only in what has happened so far, not in what will happen in the future. It is not possible for any court to determine whether two spouses are incapable of reconciliation. The fact that a divorce court finds that bad times have indeed occurred does not mean it has determined that the bad times will never end. That’s one reason why divorce proceedings are not like other civil suits. Also the claims of children to the marriage are not similar to the claims of parties in other civil suits.

 Bill R. continues:

You write, “You say that by admitting the possibility of separation, I am only advocating another form of divorce. Not so, as you yourself later admit. The difference between separation and divorce is that in separation, the marriage still exists…”

My point was your legal separation argument advocated the guts of divorce without allowing the accompanying legal acknowledgement that would allow the parties to move on. You say in separation the marriage still exists. My point is that some “marriages” are so hellish that even you would agree there’s justfication for separation and so would I. But my further point is that to then say that in such a separation “the marriage still exists” is, while legally true, in actuality ridiculous because such a thing is a travesty of marriage and an insult to the institution (an insult I know you do not intend, but which I believe is the effect.) A divorce by definition cannot be an insult to marriage (it may be bad for marriage but it’s not an insult) because it is a divorce and not a marriage; a separation which is forced by law to call itself a marriage but which, in point of fact, is all of a divorce except the name is an insult to marriage.

In short, your legal separation provides all the substance of divorce but not the legal title, and none of the substance of marriage but only the legal title.

Laura writes:

Separation does indeed retain some of the substance of the agreement because the parties remain married to each other. They cannot remarry and therefore they do not break an essential aspect of the monogamous vow. I am not, by the way, advocating separation. It is to be avoided as much as possible.

You write:

My point is that some “marriages” are so hellish that even you would agree there’s justfication for separation and so would I. But my further point is that to then say that in such a separation “the marriage still exists” is, while legally true, in actuality ridiculous because such a thing is a travesty of marriage and an insult to the institution (an insult I know you do not intend, but which I believe is the effect.)

My dear friend, every marriage is a travesty of marriage. Every marriage is, at least at moments, hellish. (Ask my husband. He has endured me for 26 years.) You have a very utopian conception of the institution if you think there is any behavior, no matter how low, with the exception of spousal murder, that has not been surmounted again and again by sheer endurance, understanding or forgiveness. The institution has been insulted by faithful spouses often enough. Yes, some marriages are unusually wonderful, but there must be — and there always will be –martyrs to the cause, which is life itself. Right now, the martyrs are innocent children and people whose marriages are unilaterally ended in tyrannical courts. (It’s interesting how you fail to show any real sympathy for these victims and yet show considerable sympathy for those adults who are unhappy in marriage.) In a society without divorce, the martyrs are those individuals who endure the agreement they themselves voluntarily entered into even though it causes them pain and who courageously stand up for their own mistakes. Remember, marriage is voluntary. We should not reward spouses for their bad choices anymore than we should reward people who are shiftless with government benefits that support them. Some spouses are relatively innocent and suffer from an impulsive choice. They deserve our compassion, admiration and endless support in their difficult lives. They can serve as instructive examples and ideally they find happiness in simple pleasures. There are worse fates.

Buck writes:

Bill R. quotes my simple proposition, but he never addresses it. Instead he posits a collection of “buts” and “ifs” piled, along with tricks, curses and abominations, onto the head of a pin. He then proclaims that he has nothing disparaging or disagreeable to say about any of the disparate views that he conjured up himself, but wishes only that we learn to get along.

Repeating modern liberal assertions that nothing is true or knowable, except for what the autonomous individual thinks is true and knowable at any given moment; and that therefore every disparate view is as valid as another, and any disagreement should be politely managed again and again is spinning our wheels in the mud.

Are we trying to know and do what God wants or to satisfy man’s desires?

Bill R. writes:

But God does not marry them. Man does.

That’s an unconstrained, modern liberal view of marriage, one that has turned marriage into a meaningless civil process handled by any municipal clerk and a court; or worse, into whatever any disparate view wants it to mean, which amounts to the same thing.

When is a vow or a covenant made with God, not a vow and not a covenant with God?

Someone will tell me if I’m over stating this, but; if we can’t agree that keeping a commitment to God, to our wife or husband, and to our children is the most important commitment that we can make, then this whole discourse is a pointless exercise. I thought that, at least in our quarter, that we had general agreement as to what the right thing to do is, and that we were trying to figure out how best to re-establish it; not that we are still trying to figure out what it is.

Laura writes:

Most avowed conservatives believe divorce should be legal in some cases, and that government should recognize serial polygamy, so it is an important issue to hash out.

Bill continues:

You say, “You say the view that a vow is meaningful is simply one of many viewpoints.”

I never said any such thing. I’m having difficulty recognizing your interpretations of my words. You might accompany them with the relevant quote next time. I believe a vow is always meaningful and serious. But I also believe its failure to be kept can be forgiven and one can vow again.

You say, “Your point is to disparage at least one of these views because you imply that the arguments for monogamy are equal to those for serial polygamy and weird theories about demonic marriages.”
No, it is not. But nor does that mean I regard them equally. One can regard something as inferior, even untrue, and still show respect for it and not disparage it. Furthermore, the reasoning that allows you to suggest I’m implying the arguments for monogamy are morally equivalent to those for polygamy is abstruse, at best.

Laura writes:

Let me once again quote your previous remarks:

But if God does sanctify them and if a man has been married twice which one did he sanctify? The first, you say? But I’m not a Catholic and I say he sanctified the second one. I’m saying the first one was an abomination, a trick on the human agents who performed it and were led to think, like those women in the congregation, that this union was being sanctified by God when, in fact, it was being cursed by Satan. But then a third says, no, you both have it wrong. He sanctified both of them. Impossible! says a fourth. No, says a fifth, because all things are possible to God. Then a sixth says he sanctified neither one of them because marriage is a wholly human institution which you would have understood had you taken to heart Jesus’ words that “In the Resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage but are as the angels of God in Heaven.” Furthermore, his apostle Paul said it was better not to marry at all but to do as he did and be celibate; but he did concede that it was better to marry than to burn. What!? You mean God sanctifies something that’s only just this side of burning!? Well, that’s certainly cutting it close! And on it goes. And eventually, of course, we’ll get down to the one about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

Here you present the various positions on marriage and say that it all devolves into endless conflict and “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.” In other words, it’s all so much abstruse reasoning that is a matter of opinion. That’s how I read this comment.

Bill writes:

You write:

You say, “The first vow takes priority because the breaking of the first vow renders all subsequent vows meaningless.”

That is manifestly ridiculous. The idea that because someone failed to live up to a vow once, even more than once, that that makes any other vow forever meaningless is not only morally and legally untrue, but demonstrably untrue as a matter of practical fact. There are plenty of people who were successful at a second or even third marriage and their vows were not meaningless to them.

Laura writes:

They have already proven, if they divorced willingly, that they view marital vows as conditional. The subsequent vows may not be meaningless, it’s true, but they are vows that can be broken. Thus they are something less than vows. While these individuals may very well remain faithful to subsequent spouses, they have helped changed the general, social meaning of a marital vow and this redefinition of the vow has consequences for those who are less inclined or less able to observe their conditional vows.

Bill writes:

Buck writes, “Bill R. quotes my simple proposition, but he never addresses it.”

I believe God sanctifies all marriages, even second and third ones. If that’s inconsistent to you, then that’s your problem. I am not going to play God as you seem content to do and announce what his limits are and what he can and cannot sanctify. Did that address your proposition?

Laura writes:

But you already have announced what God’s limits are and what he can and cannot sanctify. He is limited to approving of all marriages! He does not sanctify only a first marriage if a second or third one takes place.

Bill writes:

Let me ask you: This rather mild-mannered, ordinary-sounding, middle-aged woman up in Washington who found out not too many years ago with the rest of the nation, to what I can only imagine is a horror beyond words, coming suddenly as it did out of total oblivion on her part, that her husband of many years had just been discovered to be the infamous Green River Killer responsible for the murders of at least 49 women in and around the Seattle area over a period of some twenty-odd years, now ranked as one of the most prolific serial killers in American history — you would have denied even her a divorce from such a demon? But you would let her separate (as if the authorities had not already accomplished that permanently, to the great relief of many a Seattle-area woman, I might add).

You write, “My point is that legalized divorce inevitably leads to no-fault, unilateral divorce, and history so far supports this claim.”

Divorce has existed for centuries and only within the last couple of generations has it developed the way you describe. Even within the span of a single lifetime from the present, divorce was still regarded in many places as a scandal and a source of public shame. That’s hardly a symptom of the lowest of social contracts. Your inevitably argument I dispute as having the requisite evidence to support it.

Much of the goals you describe, the kind of reverence for virtue vis-a-vis marriage I agree with, Laura; I simply think that they can be accomplished with divorce being difficult but not impossible.

Laura writes:

As to the wife of the Green River Killer, I’m curious as to how you know this came totally out of the blue for her. I would suggest that he was not a normal man when she married him, but nevertheless in a sane world, such a man would be executed, freeing the wife to remarry. I can’t address what should be done about such cases in an absurd world where such a man is allowed to go on living. When you have been arguing for legal divorce, I got the sense that you were arguing for more than the very tiny number of cases such as this.

Divorce has existed for centuries and only within the last couple of generations has it developed the way you describe.

There were various serious impediments to divorce that do not exist today. They included presumptive paternal custody, limited property rights for women and restricted economic opportunities for women. So for all intents and purposes, divorce as we know it today has not existed for all that long. Nevertheless, I would say that the principles that set in motion divorce hundreds of years ago led to what we have today.

Presumptive paternal custody, as I’ve said before, would end much of divorce. But it is as undesirable in the thinking of most people today as is a near-complete ban on divorce.

Buck writes:

I understand why Bill R. was reluctant to begin with his late concession, that “God sanctifies all marriages.” That could be construed as “playing” God. That would be inconsistent with his strict admonishments, though clearly he’s haunted by a feeling of inconsistency, or why would he project it on to me. He shouldn’t be. He’s finally made his position clear and consistent. All marriages are equal and equally sacred to God. God sanctifies each and every one without discrimination.

All we need now, is for the laggard and sluggish written law of man to be perfected. We’ll finally have our complete, unfettered, unconstrained modern liberal paradigm. Individual human desire, desire being the ultimate and essential human driver, will have conquered All.

Bill R. writes:

Buck writes, “he’s haunted by a feeling of inconsistency.”

No, he’s haunted by a feeling of uncertainty.

Bill R. continues:

Buck writes, “We’ll finally have our complete, unfettered, unconstrained modern liberal paradigm.”

I’m not a liberal, modern or otherwise. And if you’d read my words a little more carefully I think you’d see that. Nor am I in favor of handing out divorces to anyone that wants one for any reason.

We’re on the same side, give or take a point or two, which shouldn’t be decisive for people looking for enough unity (not everybody “getting along”) to plant the seeds of a traditional rebirth.

Buck writes:

I agree with the honorable Bill R. that some context is in order. This has not been an easy discussion, but as often here, it is vital. It has helped me to clarify my thinking as we worked out our thoughts in this indispensable format. I’m grateful for the privilege of participating with the likes of Bill R. and others, as generously hosted and lead by Laura Wood. We are on the same side. I get that.

Obviously there is a necessary tension between our oughts and our actions, there has to be, or we wouldn’t engage. Measuring ourselves against perfection while struggling to know what it is, while never futile, is humanly impossible. But, the alternative is nihilism.

Bill R. writes:

Buck writes, “I’m grateful for the privilege of participating with the likes of Bill R. and others, as generously hosted and lead by Laura Wood.”

Replacing “Bill R.” with “Buck,” let me heartily second those well-said words.

Laura writes:

Thank you.

Bill R. continues:

You write, “Marriage vows almost universally stipulate that marriages are in effect no matter what.”

I grant you that. I’ve never denied it. I’ll say something else. I wouldn’t want the marriage vows to say anything less than what they do. And those vows should be kept. When they’re not it is a failed promise of the highest order. There is, perhaps, no more solemn or serious a promise one can make and therefore break. But the failure to keep it is not unforgivable. I don’t say it’s easy to forgive or should be easy. But it is possible.

[Laura writes: The issue of forgiveness is irrelevant. The question is whether government should sanction more than one marriage per person and thus weaken the social understanding of a vow.]

You write, “It is not possible for any court to determine whether two spouses are incapable of reconciliation,” and again, “The fact that a divorce court finds that bad times have indeed occurred does not mean it has determined that the bad times will never end.”

I agree, but the fact that no court can divine the future is irrelevant. Ultimately, the divorce would be granted based on what has already happened in the marriage not on what might happen in the future.

[Laura writes: The possibility of reconciliation is not at all irrelevant. Nevertheless, couples have the option of separating.]

You write, “But you already have announced what God’s limits are and what he can and cannot sanctify.”

No, because I only said that I believed it, not that I knew it. [Laura writes: No one else went any further than statements of belief.] Perhaps I only hope it’s true. I certainly don’t know that it’s not.

You write, “As to the wife of the Green River Killer, I’m curious as to how you know this came totally out of the blue for her.”

I don’t. And your point is well taken. All I can say is when I saw her interviewed she seemed ingenuous. Apparently, if you believe her, Ridgway, except for a ferocious sexual appetite, was quite normal with her. His kill rate went way down during the years he was with her; that much was verified independently. She doubtless saved many lives.

You write, “…in an absurd world where such a man is allowed to go on living.”

I couldn’t agree more with that.

You write, “When you have been arguing for legal divorce, I got the sense that you were arguing for more than the very tiny number of cases such as this.”

If we had a traditional society I would ratchet up the standard for divorce very high. Insanity, extreme chronic physical abuse, habitual adultery, extreme or incorrigible criminality, those might be some of the cases that would be considered. But there would certainly be no divorces for “irreconcilable differences” or “mental cruelty.” You wouldn’t even be able to file for divorce if that’s all you had, let alone have a court take it up. Unhappiness alone would be no excuse for divorce. It would have to be something bad. Very bad. Unhappiness is not necessarily bad, only unpleasant. That wouldn’t be enough.

Laura writes:

But happiness is the issue if one is married to an adulterer or someone who is mentally ill. To grant habitual adulterers the right to remarry and deny it to those who are faithful and in unhappy marriages seems unfair, which is why, as I said before, divorce gradually comes to seem unfair unless it is permitted to all those who are unhappy. I will grant that some kind of annulments should be offered for marriages that are not consummated or in which a spouse refuses to have sex or procreate.

But, in all those other cases, separation could be an option. I see no reason why government should grant more than one marriage per person. The whole reason why government historically recognizes marriages is to support them, not destroy them. If this were the case, i.e., only one marriage per person, there would be ways that people in extreme situations could make their lives livable after separating without damaging the public institution of marriage. Divorce offers spouses a temptation to inflict revenge in a way that separation does not. I believe many spouses divorce precisely because they want to inflict maximum harm on the other. It is an institution that incites the ugliest forms of revenge.

 John E. writes:

I greatly benefited from reading this discussion. The problem of divorce strikes me as endemic to the general foolishness of our day. I suspect that our ability to avoid or delay death and suffering from serious diseases as a result of medical advances has removed an important instructor for the general populace, and we aren’t learning our lesson through other means. A permanent limp from polio, a permanent loss of hearing from a serious fever, or facial disfiguring from a skin condition was once considered one’s unavoidable lot in life, to which the best disposition was a docile and life-altering resignation of part of one’s physical human faculties, a reminder of the fact that life here below is imperfect.

Along with the elimination of chronic physical setbacks from medical advances, have we not also foolishly supposed that unseen spiritual realities can be similarly made to “disappear?” Rather than a quiet and willful resignation to the remainder of one’s life spent with a difficult spouse, do we not deceive ourselves into thinking that we can avoid and defer by performing something like plastic surgery on our wedding vows?

MarkyMark writes:

As part of the manosphere, I am not in favor of divorce-certainly not in it’s present form. That said, easy, no-fault (read man’s fault) divorce is the norm. Since that will not be changed any time soon, the only answer we have is to avoid marriage. Because women comprise the majority of voters; because of that, we have the society that women want, including easy divorce; the only option is to avoid marriage, with the intent to hurt women enough that they’ll clamour for and demand change in the divorce laws. Avoidance of what most women want (i.e. marriage) is our answer.

Laura writes:

Women did not alone bring about the era of divorce. It was supported, and is supported, by men.

Nevertheless, I won’t attempt to dissuade you. As Mrs. Farris pointed out, those who think this way would not make good husbands or fathers anyway.

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