Monday, August 09, 2010

James Dobson on Marriage

Why are men so insensitive to women's needs today? [...]

[...] I doubt if men have ever responded as women preferred. Did the farmer of a century ago come in from the fields and say, "Tell me how it went with the kids today"? [...] What has changed is the relationship between women! A century ago women cooked together, canned together, washed clothes at the creek together, prayed together, went through menopause together, and grew old together. [...] Alas, the situation is very different today. The extended family has disappeared, depriving the wife of that source of security and fellowship. Her mother lives in New Jersey and her sister in Texas. Furthermore, American family move every three or four years, preventing any long-term friendships from developing among neighbors. And there's another factor that is seldom admitted: American women tend to be economically competitive and suspicious of one another. Many would not even consider inviting a group of friends to the house until it was repainted, refurnished, or redecorated.

What effect does this breakdown in the relationship between women have on marriages?

[...] Depriving a woman of all meaningful emotional support from outside the home puts enormous pressure on the husband-wife relationship. The man becomes her primary source of conversation, ventilation, fellowship, and love. But she's not his only responsibility. He is faced with great pressure, both internal and external, in his job. [...] By the time he gets home at night, he has little left with which to prop up his lonely wife...even if he understands her.
From Dr Dobson Answers Your Questions, pages 339-341. Discuss. :-)

Related Posts:

7 have poured out their souls in electronic text:

  • Laura

    Well, maybe. I do think it can be rather lonely for a SAHM to look around at all the women she knows and realize that none of them are available during the day because they are at work. And I know from experience that being far from family and living in a place with a culture where you don't quite fit in can make it hard to find women to spend that kind of time with.

    But I also think the picture of women spending so much together is pretty idealistic... many women would have lived a long way from the nearest neighbor and would not have been able to turn every chore into a social event.

    And the expectation of the husband initiating conversations about how his wife's day was is blatantly high. A more reasonable thing to hope for him to do (and I have proof that this one is not too lofty a goal for a man!) is to simply listen when the wife says "Let me tell you how my day went." Expecting him to cry with you is unreasonable, but I don't think it's too much to ask him to offer you his shoulder for you to cry on.

    If you need someone to cry with you, then yes, your husband is not likely to fit the bill. But for the many of us who just need that shoulder and the sympathetic ear, I think going to your husband for these things is only going to strengthen your relationship. There's something a little off to me about pushing women to their women friends instead of their husbands for support.

  • Harmony

    Laura, that's exactly what I thought when I read it in Dr. Laura's book The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands. "How silly!" I thought. "She says so emphatically that wives should not treat their husbands as their best friend. 'He's a husband, not a girlfriend' - that's not the way you're supposed to treat your spouse!"

    ... But after reading it again in Dr. Dobson's book, I began to wonder. Is 'venting' to your husband, ultimately, not good for the marriage? Perhaps not, if these experts are to be believed.

    For what it's worth, both Dobson and Dr Laura also suggest that if a woman has no other outlets and must treat a husband like a best friend or a sister, that they wait until 1 hour after the husband gets home to even broach the subject of her day.

  • Harmony

    Oh, and regarding your point that women lived too far from other women, I think you're wrong.

    You're right that at certain points in history and in certain places it would have been hard for a woman to find another woman to share chores with, but that would be far from common. In the pioneer west, yes. But I'm having a hard time thinking of ANY other point in history where women were so isolated.

  • Laura

    I admit that I'm not a marriage expert, but I have a hard time accepting that a wife should pretend that everything's okay when she's around her husband, and only be honest about how frazzled she is when she's around her girlfriends. How can you be close to your husband if you're not connected with him emotionally? And how can you be emotionally connected with your husband if you withhold from him the things that affect your emotions the most?

    This is coming from a wife whose husband is uncommonly perceptive about whether something's bothering her, so I know for a fact that it would require lying for me not to talk with him about what's bothering me. But even if he couldn't tell, it just feels like it would be deceitful for me to detach myself from him to the point of not sharing with him these kinds of things.

    I don't have my copy handy, but what does His Needs / Her Needs say about the woman's need for emotional connection? Does he qualify how much the wife should vent? Or does he encourage open communication? (Honest question; I don't remember.)

  • Laura

    One more disclaimer: I should admit that my husband has frequently expressed to me that he's thankful I don't have emotional crises as often as other women. :-P

  • JunkMale

    I'm not quite sure about those experts in the venting sense. I don't know if my view of marriage is twisted or something, but I always considered my wife to be my best friend :D

  • Laura

    Something my husband pointed out was that this advice might be more appropriate for extroverted wives than for introverted wives, who naturally don't need so much "conversation, ventilation, [and] fellowship."

    Not only is it a relatively small burden on the husband to ask him to be be his introverted wife's primary source of these things, but it's actually an added burden to ask that wife to schedule lots of extra "people time" so her husband doesn't have to fill her own modest need for social support.

    We have but 3 years of experience, and my husband has not yet worked a 40-hour/week high pressure job as Dobson assumes, but for us it has been very healthy to be each other's best friend and to go to each other first when something is the matter.