I consider myself a modern man, sensitive to the ways women have been subjugated to various forms of exploitation and oppression in the history of the marriage contract, not the least of which are outlandish dowries foisted upon the woman’s family and “arranged” marriages with unscrupulous ogres who don’t want a wife so much as they desire an auxiliary functionary who will aid them in their pleasure seeking and self-aggrandizement. I am also aware of the staggering divorce rate in these modern times, with the odds against even the most well-intentioned couples to have a thriving, enduring marriage. Alas, we read every day in the gossip rags and entertainment websites about the decadent lives of celebrities who trade in their spouses with the turning of every season or who in engage in scandals so elaborate that they would not believed if they were presented in works of fiction. Saturated with the hedonistic scandals, we tragically feel entitled to experience the same “freedom,” the kind that results when we unfetter ourselves from a well ordered marriage with agreed-upon rules of conduct.
Indeed, it seems to me that one of the major reasons behind the collapse of today’s marriages is that they lack structure, definition, and rules. Without a clear definition of what a marriage should be, and what it should not be, and without rules and boundaries to protect the rights and the sanctity of each individual spouse, there is confusion, abandonment, and inevitable hurt.
Another result of a marriage without a firm definition and rules is that it quickly degrades into the adolescent’s notion of a marriage—a Big Goody Box. Whenever you want a goody, you reach into the Goody Box and you keep taking and taking until the Goody Box is empty upon which you discard the Goody Box and find yourself a new one. Sadly, this is what marriage has become for too many of us and it accounts for our epidemic divorce rate. This Goody Box marriage is not the kind I want to have. I want one that is strongly defined and the strength of its definition lies in its firmly established policies.
Now let me make it clear that last thing I want to do is turn my marriage into a stifling prison wrought with countless rules and regulations. Therefore, as I consider the appropriate boundaries my marriage needs in order for me to function at my optimum level as a husband, I want to be sure to maintain a balance between order and freedom. Lean too heavily in one direction and the marital equilibrium will be thrown way off course. And how difficult it is to restore that balance.
Balance, of course, is the key to any healthy marriage. Husband and wife are lovers but not lovers at the expense of friendship. Otherwise, when their passion fizzles and there is no friendship to take up the slack they will shun each other. On the other hand, if they are friends, or “good buddies,” at the exclusion of passion, they will be less husband and wife and more like roommates and as such they will violate the marriage ideal. Therefore, my arduous task to lay down rules and regulations is not in the slightest about my need for control and power. Rather, it is about my hunger for balance.
Another compelling force behind my rule-making is my desire to be at my best, both mentally and physically. A healthy husband is in far better condition to serve the needs of his wife and his marriage in general. Therefore, with sober mind I wish to establish a few rules, gentle guidelines if you will, that will provide a counterpoint to our culture’s nebulous, sometimes hedonistic, definition of marriage, to give my wife a clear idea of what I need in order to serve her well as her husband, and to maximize my physical and mental health so that I can be at my best to fulfill her needs. If laying down the rules required to make a marriage run more smoothly strikes you as dictatorial, please consider that for a marriage to survive and thrive love alone is never enough. Love without bread will wither like a flower in the desert. And just as love needs bread, it also needs rules. If we agree with this principle, then we may proceed.