Forget what feminists have told you. The male role is to protect and provide.
I have studied the subject of the relationship between men and women for decades. I started out as the independent, self-sufficient feminist. I rebelled against what I saw as a dominant patriarchy.
Over the years, I gradually moved away from my rebellious stance to one of greater understanding. I got married. I became a mother. But I never relinquished my distinctness and my sense of self. I never allowed my “self” to be wrapped up in my husband’s identity. I did not allow him to overshadow my being. I’ve remained my own person because I firmly believe that this is the kind of woman a man will respect and cherish.
In my early twenties I began to see a void in my life. By then I had lived in many places and held many jobs. But I was lonely. I wanted to share my life with someone. Like any woman, I wanted to be loved by a man but I didn’t know if I would ever find “the right person” so I waited. I could have waited forever. A pastor changed my take on finding a marriage partner when he told a group of college-aged adults that in selecting a partner, we would need to look among the people we knew. I determined that I needed to expand my circle. I also looked at all the men I knew and asked myself who would be a most likely candidate for marriage. I realized that my prince would not come riding out to me on a white horse.
A certain man had pursued me for some time, but when I was ready to commit I discovered he had found someone else. That ship had sailed. I saw another possibility, someone I met as I travelled. We had a long distance relationship. For some reason communication ceased. I’ve sometimes wondered if I should have followed up with more intent. But that too ended.
Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice has three different models for marriage. There is the marriage of lust or passion. There is the marriage of convenience. And finally there is the marriage of mutual compatibility and deep love. Of course the latter is what we all want.
As a practical being, I considered the possibility that I might never encounter the deepest kind of love. I would probably need to make some compromises if I wanted to marry. I decided how far I could compromise. This was a big step for me. Looking back, I see that it shifted me out of fantasy and into reality.
From my mother I learned that her life took a similar turn at one point. She experienced deep love in a relationship that ended. She took stock and then looked into her future. She chose a man who she thought would be a kind and reliable person. It sounds a little boring, I know, but given a chance, love does indeed grow, whereas fiery passion wanes. I’m not saying there shouldn’t be sexual attraction but it is not the dominant factor when thinking long term.
I did not marry a man in order to have someone to provide for me. For years I had provided for myself and this was a way of life. When I eventually got married it seemed like an unbelievable luxury to have someone else to help me out financially. I continued to contribute, because I needed to use my strengths. But once children came along, I immediately saw that I would either delegate their care to others or raise them myself. I realized that, more than anything, I wanted to watch our children grow and to be a part of their education. I knew in my heart that I didn’t want to miss this. This decision came with some adjustments, one being that we needed to adapt our lifestyle to having one income and looking at what I was able to bring in as a bonus.
Suddenly my goals had changed. Along with my decision to devote myself to nurturing our children I accepted the responsibility of taking the primary role in caring for our home. It only made sense since I was spending more time in the home.
The biblical term “help-mate” has been badly maligned and rejected but it is really a very appropriate description of the relationship between two people who are committed to each other for life. We help one another. We work toward a common goal. We try to keep the love flames burning and we mutually seek and long for peace and a sense of security in our home.
Men are admonished in the Bible to provide for their families. It is their assumed role. Historically they were hunters while women remained at camp and cared for children. This was not social conditioning. This was a biological survival tactic.
We all have an obligation to contribute, whether we are male or female. However, we contribute in different ways. Often these are gender specific. The vast gender experiment we have seen in developed countries, in the last century, is not working out and it never will. The reason is that gender roles are hard-wired in the general populace. They are not the result of social conditioning. From early times man has been the bigger, stronger one, the greater risk-taker, the protecter and provider, while the woman has been the one to give birth and nurture children. Either is capable of assuming many of the responsibilities carried out by the other. At the risk of bursting someone’s bubble, I assert that men are actually better at some things than women. However, even if it were possible to equip a man with a womb–perish the thought–that would not change his instinct to protect a woman and to provide for his family. The unique roles of men and women are dictated by our innate survival instinct.
The Bible refers to man as the “head” of the house. I’ve wondered if this was a social construct of that era in time. Perhaps it was. Perhaps someone decided this is how a marriage relationship worked best. I think it is a short-cut. I’ve resisted this teaching, naturally, being an independent-minded woman. I’ve carefully examined various interpretations of scripture by theologians. I simply don’t like the idea of hierarchy and I don’t believe it to be the ultimate sort of relationship between a man and a woman. On top of that, I believe my view is biblically supported. Jesus sometimes elaborated on Old Testament laws and Jewish traditions. On one occasion he said that God did not condone divorce, but it was allowed due to the hardness of people’s hearts. My personal take is that “submission” became a dictate for the same reason. Men and women did not know how to navigate a complex relationship, so the solution was to simplify it. In another passage we read that men and women are to submit to one another, and I believe this is actually the ideal.
I understand the “complimentarian” explanation of this reference and have done considerable research into this view. To me it still smacks of hierarchy and I find myself resisting it. I am not a naturally submissive woman and I believe in the importance of authenticity. I cannot do something on the outside that disagrees with my insides.
I have fought hard for equal rights. One thing I have learned, in the process, is that the evidence is clear–men and women are not equally equipped for every role. We are designed differently and uniquely, which means we work better together if we take this into consideration. Men, for one, are much less intuitive, generally speaking, when it comes to the needs of children and infants. And biologically, men are not designed as well for nurture, since they cannot breast-feed an infant. No amount of outcry from feminists will alter this.
Men are instructed to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her. A lot of Christian women have given up their “rights” and “submitted” after being convinced that a man has the greater obligation, literally to give up his life for her. I don’t buy this. Even if a man is willing to give up his life for me, in a Christ-like fashion, I still feel like this is a manipulative trade-off. I apologize in advance if down the road I am convinced otherwise, but right now I am not there and part of me doubts that I ever will be. As recently as this past year I heard a very gentle-voiced man explaining the need for women to be submissive in a marriage. I admit I didn’t like it. I didn’t agree or approve. Please don’t manipulate women. We are equal in value to men, and our role is of equal value. We are to lay down our lives, just as well as men, so the application goes both ways.
I have a habit of supplementing my biblical understanding with common sense and biological references. I think this is only reasonable. When we look at nature, for instance, we don’t commonly see a female being submissive to a male, or a male dominating over a female. Humans are much more complex than animals, but this is a starting place to begin to understand our relationship with the opposite sex. Male and female are equally important contributors and we contribute in different ways.
I appreciate that my husband places a very high value on the administrative duties in the home. In fact, early on I decided that we needed some parameters. We were arguing over petty things concerning the home and I decided that he needed to stay out of my domain, mostly, when it came to deciding things about the home. I was better equipped at comprehending what was needed. In this area we did not have equal negotiating power. I had fifty-one percent of the shares. However, when it came to finances, I allowed him to have fifty-one percent. It was not because I was required to do so, but because I saw he was a good financial manager and we needed a way to break a gridlock. Of course I challenged him. This was expected.
We have done a lot of negotiation in our marriage. Sometimes I yield. But I do not submit because I am required to submit, due to some ordinance. I submit because it is important for one of us to submit in order to move forward. And I fully expect him to be able to do the same.
It may seem strange in these times, when we have primarily fallen for feminist dogma, to believe that, generally speaking, the best model for marriage is to consider the man as the one primarily responsible for providing. There are, of course, exceptions. The man can delegate this responsibility to the woman if she is agreeable to this. In some marriages this works out well. What is critical is that each maintains a sense of dignity in their role.
As I said earlier, I am grateful that my husband places a very high value on the care and planning that goes into making a home. So many skills of the home have been farmed out—think of daycares, decorators, cleaners, gardeners, seamstresses, bakers, cooks, cake decorators, teachers, personal assistants, family counselors and caregivers, etc. For one woman to take on all of these roles is phenomenal. If we are blessed with a partner, then we don’t have to do it alone. We can share this responsibility. If we are honest, we need a “helper.” This is why it is so important to learn to negotiate and be agreeable in a committed relationship.
If the man is willing to provide, I find that I am more than willing to oversee the home. When I go out to work I need to delegate the jobs at home to others, whom I in turn pay to do the things I would otherwise do. It is a trade off. Some women would rather do work outside the home and have others care for their families. I get that. Women vary in their level of nurturing skill. But I maintain that there is nothing as rewarding as influencing a person’s life from birth to adulthood.
I highly esteem my husband for carrying out the role of provider but that still does not mean I lower myself and think I have to submit to him. I collaborate with him. Yes, sometimes I yield my body to him, because I want to delight him. I cannot be thinking only about myself in this area or any other area. But I yield only as far as I am comfortable with doing so. I am not property. I am a queen in my home. I rule alongside my king.
There is another illustration in the Bible comparing a marriage to Christ and his church, with the church being the submissive bride. I think we do a disservice to the church and to Christ by taking this view of unquestioning obedience. Christ expects us to wrestle with concepts we don’t understand until we can grasp them and embrace them and make them our own. He doesn’t expect us to sacrifice our God-given intellect. He doesn’t expect us to ignore our hesitation. He expects us to inquire and to wrestle, not with a sense of distrust, but with a sense that he truly wants to reveal his ultimate best to us.
Some can meekly accept and yield, genuinely from the heart. Perhaps they have the insight at the beginning that takes others years to learn. But it’s also OK to take our perceived “truths” and subject them to the refining fire. If they are true and real, they will survive. In fact, they will come out shining and strong.
What women want is to be loved, and that is what men want too. We want to be considered as equals, to be valued and heard. We also want to be good help-mates. We want to work as a team.