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Single Living


There are two sides to everything.

Quite
a few men who read my article last month, What Women Want , graciously
accepted the criticism I presented on behalf of single women. However,
a few were more trenchant (one fellow was downright angry) and
challenged my premise that women want heroes.

“I disagree that women want heroes,” said one gentleman. “Women want servants.” He goes on to write, “They
will never admit it, and it can certainly ‘translate’ to 'hero' in a
limited concept, but women of all ages want young, attractive men to
wait on them and make them happy. . . Women might be initially
attracted to brave and strong men but the relationship endures
only if the income level of the 'hero' is sufficient to satisfy the
woman's long-term expectations.” 

“What happens,” he asks, “When the hero gets old, fat and bald?”

A recent poll of more than 3,000 married women answers his question. 36% of married women would not
remarry their spouse, 76% fantasize about another man, and 76% of
married women surveyed keep secrets from their husbands, according to a
recent poll by Women’s Day/AOL.[1]

And, according to a New York Times analysis of 2005 census results[2], 51% of women reported living without a spouse, up from 49% five years earlier.



Young women today are postponing marriage. Current statistics indicate
that fewer than 33% of women in their late 20s are married. Women are
also staying divorced longer, or are never marrying.

What do these statistics mean?

One
interpretation is that proffered by my aforementioned male reader:
Women start out wanting a knight in shining armor and then, when he
turns out to be an idealistic dreamer battling at windmills, we are
disenchanted. Initially thrilled with a successful breadwinner, we
become disgruntled when we discover he is a work-a-holic who spends
long hours at the office and is frequently away on travel.

We
want our men to be sensitive idealists … but also excellent providers
who will allow us to stay at home in the regal fashion we deserve. We
want them to be handsome…but not at the cost of brains and earning
potential. Our man should have a doctorate in theology, but bring home
the bacon like a Wall Street trader. 

Are our expectations too high?

Or worse, are we gold-diggers?

As
a matter of fact, being a successful breadwinner is number 3 on the
list of top predictors of marital happiness for women, in a recent
study by sociologists at the University of Virginia.

“American
wives, even wives who hold more feminist views about working women and
the division of household tasks, are typically happier when their
husband earns 68% or more of the household income.” (www.happiestwives.org).

 

Original Sin

It
is tempting to blame it all on Eve. After all, she was the one who ate
the apple first. But we are reminded by John Paul II in Mulieris Dignitatem that “first sin is the sin of man, created by God as male and female.” [3]

But,
since we are talking about women here, let’s take a look at Eve’s role
in Original Sin. Perhaps her first mistake was to listen to the serpent
and begin to doubt God’s providence. As soon as she looked at the tree,
she saw that the tree was good for food, pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom
(Gen 3:6). See how she rationalizes? We women are easily persuaded to
overturn our original decision (in Eve’s case, her decision to obey
God), in favor of the delights of the imagination: look at how attractive that tree is!
Surely it must also be excellent to eat and also, as the serpent said,
excellent for wisdom (a good rationale for doing what I want). Eve not
only loses her resolve to follow God’s will, but (worse) she begins to
doubt that God was speaking the truth when he told her that she would
die if she ate from the tree.

One of the results of Original Sin is that our imaginations are out of control. [4]
The imagination is a marvelous and valuable instrument, but it must
remain subordinate to the intellect and will. Yet our imagination
overpowers our will, hi-jacks our intellect, and provides us with
insipid mental pictures that allow our intellects to limp along at a
third-grade level.

What does this mean for women,
especially with regard to men? It means we should not let our
imagination get so carried away that we expect to live in a fairy tale
instead of the real world—a fallen, imperfect world. Women who dwell in
their imaginations construct ideal worlds that do not exist—then they
are disappointed when nothing measures up. They may find themselves
waiting forever for Prince Charming…until they have wasted their lives
alone. If our imagination gets the better of our intellect and wills,
our minds will not be sharp enough to identify the good when we see it
and our wills will not be strong enough to pursue it when we have
identified it. Another side effect of the overuse of our imagination is
(to put it bluntly) perpetual bitchiness. If I am convinced that
everyone (except me) lives in an idyllic world, then I will always be
dissatisfied and unhappy.

Another effect of Original Sin:  “Your desire shall be for your husband…” (Gen 3:16).

“If
they [women] are just content to just be in love with a guy and not be
willing to go out and try to accomplish something on their own, then it
leaves the guys in a position where they can not reach their full
potential, because they must spend so much time reassuring the ladies
about their self worth,” Charlie told me. “Women need to be a support
to men.  I want someone who has goals and dreams of their own…It
can't be a partnership if both people are not willing to fill
roles.” 

Charlie makes a good point.

We
cherish the dream that our boyfriend or spouse will be our soul-mate
who perfectly understands us, who will solve all our problems and take
care of us, and who will answer all our deepest needs. This is too
great a burden to place on one fallible human being.
Movie
romances (and our runaway imagination) have deluded us that there is
such a thing as a perfect man and, when we find him, he will fulfill
all our most romantic dreams and will be the ultimate source of our
happiness. Instead, our trust needs to be
in the Lord. He alone is our perfect soul-mate. Only Christ understands
us perfectly—better even than we understand ourselves.

There is yet another result of Original Sin: Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you(Gen 3:16).

There was a reason for the feminist movement. “Throughout the world, men have dominated and exploited women in all societies of which we have any historical record.”[5] The fundamental equality of the sexes due to their dignity as persons (see John Paul II, Mulieris Dignitatem) was violated through Original Sin.

Over
the centuries, women have had the worst of it. But the answer to male
domination is not for women to become exactly like men. Radical
feminists and ivory tower academics once tried to convince us that
equality between the sexes would be achieved by denying the fundamental
nature of our gender differences. Thus, women had simply to adopt men’s
roles—such as fighting in the front lines of war, or foregoing
childbearing to climb the corporate ladder.[6]

The
mistake was not the perception of the problem, but the solution. It is
wrong to deny the very essence of our womanhood. But the answer is not
the Stepford Wives or turning back the clock to a bygone era of woman
as domestic goddess and man as macho provider.

A better solution is for women to discover our “feminine genius.”

What is the feminine genius? Psychologist Paul Vitz[7] tells us that there are three views of sexuality:  the
exploitative model (male dominance); the androgeny or unisex model; and
the Christian model, which is the complementary model so eloquently
traced to its Biblical origins by John Paul II in his meditation on the
dignity and vocation of women, Mulieris Dignitatem. 

Discovering
our feminine genius includes recognizing the fundamental significance
of our capacity for motherhood–which includes spiritual motherhood.
This makes us inherently open to new life, gives us a unique “communion
with the mystery of life,” and even makes us more spiritually
receptive. Women are naturally sensitive and intuitive (especially when
it comes to interpersonal relationships), and possess a greater
capacity for suffering (both physical and moral). In short, women have
an unusual strength that John Paul II attributes to our awareness that
God has entrusted all of humanity to women.

This openness to new life (whether physical or spiritual) is not passive, but is actively creative. “I have produced a man with the help of the Lord,” says Eve. (Gen 4:1).

She doesn’t even mention Adam.

This woman is strong, creative, and life affirming (“I have produced a man”), while acknowledging her dependence of God. Yet this strong woman also loves a man—whom she is called to support.

 

The Ideal Wife

John
Paul II tells us that “the ‘perfect woman’ (cf Prov 31:10) becomes an
irreplaceable support and source of spiritual strength for other
people, who perceive the great energies of her spirit” (MD 30). The
Proverbs Wife is no desperate housewife. She is compassionate,
industrious, witty and wise. She is a creative and successful business
woman, managing her household creatively and prudently: “she picks out a field to purchase; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.” She rises before dawn, makes sure that her family is well fed and well dressed; and she also is well dressed in fine linen and purple. Others seek out her counsel, for she is not only wise, but also kind and generous. Her husband and children praise her: “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.” (Prov 31: 10ff).

A tough act to follow, but not impossible.

As
Paul Vitz tells us, “the lives of the female saints have been filled
with language describing the intensity of their personal relationship
with Jesus and with God. It is as though the capacity of women for
spiritually intense relationships is rooted in their capacity for many
and intense relationships in the natural world.” [8]

John Paul II writes that the test of love is for both man and woman: can they learn to love each other as persons made in the image and likeness of God?

“She
would of been a good woman, if it had been somebody there to shoot her
every minute of her life,” says the Misfit, just after he kills the
grandmother in Flannery O’Connor’s short story A Good Man is Hard to Find.
She was a dislikable character–cranky, self-centered and
manipulative–but as she faced death, she had a moment of grace. “Why,
you’re one of my babies,” she says to the Misfit.

And,
perhaps that is the truth of it. Without grace, there is nothing but
“some meanness.” Men and women cannot find the strength to live with
equal dignity. Without grace, there is no mutual support—only control
and domination. Without grace, our relationships are filled with
misunderstandings, jealousy, infidelity, lust and domination.[9]

But God created us out of love, for love. “[M]an is created in the image and likeness of God who is himself love.” [10]Men
and women are made for each other . . . but not as manservants or as
objects of lust and domination. Christ gave his life so that we might
live. “He emptied himself taking the form of a slave…he humbled himself becoming obedient to death” (Phil 2:7-8). He wants us to do the same: “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another” (Jn 13:34).With God’s help, we can find the true love that God has chosen for us, even before the world existed (Tobit 6:18). And with the help of his grace, we will be able to pass the test of love, loving each other the way Christ loved us.

 

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