Which Comes First?

Comments were closed pretty quickly on a guest post at Sunshine Mary’s site, probably because they degenerated into an argument about whether men or women are more to blame.  So I’ll riff a little here on one line that jumped out at me from the more general point about how men have to lead if they want women to submit:

With any luck they figure this out before they get married!

That’s really the crux of it.  Yes, a man has to show headship to convince a woman to submit to him — but that should happen before they get married.  She shouldn’t agree to say the vows, “to obey,” until she’s made that commitment, and she’s not going to feel comfortable making that commitment unless he’s shown the ability to be her head.  If people went into marriage with the right expectations and intentions, this wouldn’t be a problem.

That’s not usually the case, though, and isn’t what most people have in mind when reading a blog post like this.  They got married because they “loved” each other, and probably tried to have a fairly egalitarian marriage.  The bloom comes off the rose, she gets unhaaaappy, and the man starts looking around for answers.  He gets a dose of red pill and finds out about submission, and realizes he needs to get his wife to submit somehow.  He comes back to the red pill blogs and says, “She won’t do it!”  Some people (especially women) say, “Probably because you haven’t shown enough leadership, so she doesn’t trust you enough to submit to you. Learn some game and be more of a man.”  Others (especially men) say, “To heck with that!  She married him; she’s obligated to submit to him whether he’s a great leader or not. He shouldn’t have to game his wife.”

They’re both right; the problem is they’re talking about two different time frames.  Yes, she’s obligated to submit, but if she didn’t know that going into the marriage and he didn’t make it a deal-breaker then, she’s naturally going to be confused and upset when he starts moving the goalposts on her. Post-marriage, he’s negotiating with one hand tied behind his back, because the state will make him meet his obligations whether he’s happy with her or not. He’s lost the power he had before the marriage. And yet, he can’t afford to let things continue as they are, trying to run the marriage 50/50, which really means she’s in charge and is going to get bored with him. He has to try something.

For the man who wants to fix his broken wife, the fact that she’s obligated to submit is true but irrelevant.  She’s not going to submit unless he triggers her desire to do so (and even then, she probably needs to be a fairly virtuous woman to do it right).  He shouldn’t have to do that — because he should have done it before the marriage, or not married her — but it’s the only chance he has of getting a properly submissive wife at this point.  So as a practical matter, he does have to “go first” on changing things, whether that’s fair or not, if he’s the one trying to fix things.

Look at it from the other direction: if a woman’s husband is getting a wandering eye or starting to stray, how can she put a stop to it?  Sure, she can tell him he’s obligated to be faithful to her, and try to shame him into stopping, but how likely is that to work?  Her chances will be a lot better if she loses the weight she gained since the wedding, gets some new lingerie, and does something new for him in bed every night for a couple weeks.  Should she have to do that to get her husband to keep his vows?  Of course not, but in real life, sometimes you have to do more than the minimum requirement to get the things you want.


3 thoughts on “Which Comes First?

  1. You have captured how simple this is and how difficult it is to do. It is nigh unto impossible to have a good marriage if a proper foundation was not established in the beginning. It takes a jackhammer to change what has become set. People are frustrated that they cannot make their relationship as it should be so a discussion devolves into a blaming exercise. This is why the debate escalates.

  2. Yes. Good points.

    I am surprised that couples get married without talking about this. In my experience, of a failed engagement and a successful engagement and subsequent marriage, these issues do come up during courtship (dating). I got some theoretical agreement to feminine submission from my first fiancee (she was an Anglican as we call Episcopalians in Australia, from a fairly traditional family). But it was grudging and there were obvious signs during the engagement that she was headstrong and was not going to accept leadership. The girl I eventually married was more naturally submissive and made a few positive remarks about the need for someone to be the head, the husband specifically, and I felt she would also “walk the walk”, which she mostly has over the years.

    It is a very big issue, how decisions will be made in a marriage, and men and women need to understand that this should be worked out before marriage, not after. Also, egalitarianism seems more feasible when you are young and in the glow of love, and when the marriage has not been seriously tested yet, especially by the realities of children arriving. I think egalitarianism is not a good idea for most couples, although I have seen some apparently happy such marriages.

  3. Yes, I know of women who can talk a good game regarding submission, headship, etc. But they also happen to be very reluctant to get married, and that’s not an accident. Intellectually and as part of their religion, they know they’ll have to submit to their husband and why. They know that’s necessary for a good marriage, and that ultimately it’ll make them happy and be good for their soul’s direction. But emotionally, they resist the idea, thanks to Eve, and thanks to an entire society constantly asking them, “But what about that trip around the world you never took?” Somewhat paradoxically, the fact that they know how important submission is makes them that much more afraid of marriage.

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