I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m really enjoying this
whole ongoing “men and women” discussion. Apparently you have too,
since the feedback I’ve received has been overwhelmingly positive.
This month, I want to take on the myths and realties of the “independent woman.”
I’m thinking of a talk I gave to a large group of singles several years
ago. They were all grateful that the issues they faced every day were
finally being addressed openly, and after I spoke we had a very
spirited and enlightening question and answer period.
was one question in particular that I remember to this day. A guy,
probably in his thirties, stood up and asked me about “independent
women.” His point was that, at his age, most of the women he meets are
very independent and self-sufficient. That was very difficult for him,
he said, because he really wanted to take care of someone and to feel
needed. But once she had her home and her car and her retirement
account, “what does she need me for?”
I can’t remember ever being asked a question that was so sweet, and at the same time so sad.
was sweet for obvious reasons. I, like most women I know, love the fact
that men have a natural instinct to want to take care of us. I find
that particular trait very, very attractive, and I think it’s very
unfortunate that so much of modern feminism has dismissed or belittled
men’s instincts in that regard. I understand, of course, that original
sin distorts everything, and that a man’s natural inclination to
protect a woman can easily be twisted into a sort of condescension, or
a mistaken notion that women are incapable of taking care of
themselves. That’s obviously wrong. But let’s not throw the baby out
with the bathwater here. This instinct, as God intended it, is good.
And I think most women, if they can get past their fear of its more
twisted forms, see it that way.
But I was saddened, too, that
this really good guy with such a good heart was reducing this
beautiful, God-given instinct to strictly financial terms. Did he
really think that material possessions were all he had to offer a
woman? Did he really think that was all she would need or want from
These days, for whatever reason, many more of us are
remaining single longer, or becoming single again after being married.
And, by necessity, we’re taking care of ourselves. We get jobs, and
over time we advance in those jobs and start to make decent money. To
get to those jobs we need cars, and because it stinks to break down
without a husband at home to bail us out, we often tend to drive
late-model, reliable cars. And it makes no sense to rent indefinitely,
and we have a natural tendency to want to “nest,” so many of us at some
point buy a home.
Does that mean we have no need for a man in
our lives? Of course not! (Okay, this may be turning into a confusing
double-negative. To state the positive, “Yes, most of us still want to
have a wonderful man in our lives.”)
First of all, a lot of
these us would really much rather be at home building a family than out
in the world building a career. Creating a new life obviously requires
male participation. (Although, I suppose in this day an age that
“participation” could be limited an anonymous encounter or a visit to a
weird kind of “bank.”) On the strictly material level, the presence of
a breadwinning husband frees a woman from the burden of having to
support herself, and allows her to either leave or scale back her
“career” to focus more of her energy and attention on her family. And,
beyond that, ask any single mother about the great and important “gift”
the presence of an active and involved father would be in her
children’s lives. Raising kids is a two-person job.
are so many more “gifts” that a good husband brings to a woman, whether
or not they have children. Starting on the material level, there’s
relief from the burden of having to support herself, by herself. A man
can give a woman’s home back to her, by helping to take on the
mortgage. Or he can give her a different home that they share together.
again, the non-material is so much more important. We were created to
only find real happiness and fulfillment through giving ourselves in
love. John Paul II, in Love and Responsibility, said that “Man has an
inborn need of betrothed love, a need to give himself to another.” Most
single women, on some level, long to do that. We want to wake up in the
morning thinking about someone else’s good instead of just our own.
I’ve written elsewhere about how we as singles “work around” that by
building community, by giving of ourselves, by involving ourselves in
the lives of others. God “writes straight with crooked lines” and often
gives us great satisfaction in our single lives of loving service. But
none of that negates the great value, fulfillment and “gift” we can see
in the possibility of a truly loving and self-giving marriage.
lot of “independent women” won’t admit all of this right up front.
Quite honestly, there’s a part of me that thinks I’m crazy for
acknowledging my own personal vulnerabilities to the extent that I do
in these columns. When we have to build so much of our lives in the
often “male” career world, we don’t get particularly far by crying in
board meetings, or laying our vulnerabilities bare for the world to
see. And we grew up in the feminist era, where Gloria Steinem famously
announced that a woman needs a man “like a fish needs a bicycle.”
(Steinem, ironically, is married – apparently quite happily – today.)
In this atmosphere, it’s easy to lose touch with these deeper parts of
ourselves, with that inborn desire for “betrothal.” It’s not that it
isn’t there, just that for some women it may require a man’s loving
patience to fully recognize it again.
So guys, please stop
selling yourself short. Let go of this silly notion that the only way
you can feel needed and take care of a woman is through material and
You really have so much more to offer us.