02 August, 2006

Men, Marriage and the South

Yes, I am married to the perfect man. There's no getting around it. He's not faultless or flawless, but he is perfect in that way that good mates are supposed to be. Supportive? Check. Understanding? Check. Totally hot? Check.

Which leads me to pose two questions that have been bugging me for a long time.

1. Is it a Southern Thing to constantly run your man down in a group of women? When I was a kid that just wasn't done--at least done around me. But now that I'm grown, married and in the South it seems to be the done thing. 90% of the time when I'm with a group of women at work or at church or at a knitting thing the topic of conversation seems to be The Stupidity And Uselessness Of the Men We Married. I generally have little to add to those conversations, but that doesn't stop people. He works too much. He doesn't listen. He never helps out around the house.

We know a woman whose husband-bitching has escalated into full-on man-bashing. She once predictably joked to a room full of people that men were useless. At the very same time the men in the room were organising to help her out with something she needed done around the house while her husband was away for an extended period of time. I think that she is so immersed in the culture of husband-bashing that it didn't even occur to her as irony. So is this something that went on in the married women circles of yankee land or is it truly a Southern thing?

2. Why get married if you AREN'T best friends and you DON'T think highly of the other person? I swear I do not understand this. Obviously there are a lot of marriages that are made for the wrong reasons. I'm probably a bad feminist (for any list of reasons) because I don't think it's bad for women to need men. Men need women, women need men. That's how it works for a majority of people and I don't think admitting need is a sign of weakness. Whether the need is the concrete I-can't-haul-all-that-mulch way or the more ethereal need for a masculine outlook to temper the feminine, it's an honest thing.

But just because there is that core need is no reason to saddle yourself to a limp partner. When will women understand this? Life has a way of working out. If you need a man and don't have a husband there are other men (friends, coworkers, church members, guys in the drama troupe, etc.) who can meet any large number of your man-needs. For everything else there are dogs and batteries. For crying out loud, don't commit to a lifetime of forced togetherness with someone you can barely stand.


At 11:47 AM, August 02, 2006, Anonymous JJ said...

I am not married, but my mother who has been married to my father for 36 years has made similar observations to me. She gets very discouraged that so many of her married friends spend most of their time criticizing their husbands. She says the active Christian women are the worst. By "active Christian" I mean they are the ones who work the most with the church, go on frequent mission trips, are elders' wives, lead Bible studies, etc. (That probably isn't the best terminology, but it's been a really bad day at work and that's the best I can do.) My mom is Southern, but not all of the women she has told me do this are.

At 11:57 AM, August 02, 2006, Blogger Exador said...

Mrs Schwartz constantly brings this complaint to my attention. We're both yankees, and she says the gals do it up north as well.
I was going to blame it on having children (childless couples don't do it) but if JJ's mom is also complaining, my theory has a flaw.

At 12:12 PM, August 02, 2006, Blogger Michael said...

I think the partner bashing can go both ways. And I still don't quite understand it all.

One thing I've learned from my relatiosnhips is that I far prefer to have the solid friendship first and not just have it based on the--wow, I think she is hot connection. Don't get me wrong here...I want to be with soemone I find physically attractive but if that's the only reason we're together, we are screwed and not in a good way.

At 12:29 PM, August 02, 2006, Blogger Amy said...

you're right, and it's sad. I don't necessarily think it's just a Southern thing though...in fact, before I got married, the most beautiful example I saw of a wife respecting and honoring her husband, always praising him instead of tearing him down, was a Southern woman :)

when I noticed the way she treated her husband, both to his face and behind his back, I knew I wanted to be the same way and strive to build my husband up instead of criticize him and join in the men-bashing. good on you for doing the same!

At 1:07 PM, August 02, 2006, Blogger Chance said...

I think you have hit on something important. The apostle Paul says that men are to love their wives, and women to respect their husband. Many of the writers of marriage books, at least the Christian ones, have started to realize this concept and have started to hit on it, so it sounds like the examples you give, there is a lack of respect.

Men may not complain about their wives as much, but may tend to not actively "love" them, such as not spend quality time with their wives, or may tend to yell at their wives when angry.

At 1:18 PM, August 02, 2006, Blogger SistaSmiff said...

Don't many of us marry men we don't think are perfect. We hold them in high esteem and do for them and they do squat for us and after time, you grow a little bitter and you need to vent.

You are fortunate.

At 1:24 PM, August 02, 2006, Anonymous nm said...

How serious is the complaining you describe? I know that I can get involved in complaining about men in general, and my husband in particular, with other women. Mostly about household chores. But they aren't big complaints, and it feels more like a collective letting-off-of-steam thing than a serious step towards men-bashing or specific-man-bashing on anyone's part. It beats complaining in front of the kids, or nagging the spouses, and articulating the problems and hearing how little they are tend to make them evaporate. So why turn it into a problem?

At 2:06 PM, August 02, 2006, Blogger Kat Coble said...

We hold them in high esteem and do for them and they do squat for us and after time, you grow a little bitter and you need to vent.

I'm sorry. I should have been more clear.

I think there are marriages where a spouse DESERVES criticism for clearly poor behaviour. That's a real marriage. If you're a drunk, it's your spouse's JOB to tell you there's a problem and to help you get help.

But if your just an insurance claims adjuster who works until 6:30 every evening and plays golf on Saturday, it's bad form to have your wife run you down for "neglect" every chance she gets.

If anything, there isn't real support for people in truly rocky marriages, because everyone's concern is eroded by all of the false complaining they hear from people without real complaints.

At 2:21 PM, August 02, 2006, Blogger Southern Girl said...

I don't think it's a Southern thing as much as it's a "this day and age" thing and I put at least a little bit of the blame on the television culture -- talk shows, sitcoms, and what-have-you are filled with men and husband-bashing. It's pervasive, and as my parents always told me...garbage in, garbage out.

At 3:51 PM, August 02, 2006, Blogger Michael said...

I blame TV and Everybody Love Raymond for this...LOL

At 4:15 PM, August 02, 2006, Blogger Kat Coble said...

Oh my gosh don't even get me STARTED on ELR. I hate hate hate that show for this very reason. The whole men-are-stupid-idiots/running down the family thing just grates on me SO bad.

What's ironically (?) funny is that the actress from that show is a pretty religious conservative person. Like most of the women in the circles in which I move. I wonder what part of our conservatism or Christianity is to blame? Maybe it's our culture.

If so, it's pretty sad.

At 4:29 PM, August 02, 2006, Blogger Ivy, the Great and Powerful said...

What SistaSmiff said.

I love my husband, and when we got married, he was a totally different person than he is now. It does tend to make a person bitter. Very bitter.

And I do know what you're saying about it making those of us who really do have problem marriages less credible. I do love a good b*tching about husbands session. It makes me feel less alone in the whole thing.

At 5:19 PM, August 02, 2006, Blogger Malia said...

Like JJ's mom, my mother made similar observations to me before I married my husband, kind of a "teaching moment" thing. I've always remembered it through my marriage and have tried very hard not to disparage my husband to others. She always said that it was more a reflection of the wife's character than of the husband's character. But I have been guilty of it and I can understand its trend. Like Ivy said, sometimes women want to know they are not alone in their marriage struggles.

And for the record my husband is supportive, understanding, totally hot (for me)...in a word...perfect!

At 7:42 PM, August 02, 2006, Anonymous tom said...

I really liked your post. I doubt that it's a problem wholly in the South. I'm fortunate that most of my married friends are better suited than to sit around complaining about each other.

From a truly outsider's perspective, I think that what's really to blame is the cultural personalization and individuality that is shoved down our throats. "He works too much" sounds an awful lot like "so he's not paying attention to me."

Marriage is a partnership of two people becoming one. Yes, keep your individuality but lose your self-centeredness. Consideration, empathy, and compromise are the key building blocks to good relationships.

At 7:56 PM, August 02, 2006, Blogger Ivy, the Great and Powerful said...

"He works too much" sounds an awful lot like "so he's not paying attention to me."

Ah, Tom, but some people *do* work too much so they don't have to be home to pay attention to their spouse/children/dogs.

At 8:44 AM, August 03, 2006, Blogger jag said...

I'm guilty of the first point, but not the second.

I'm trying to figure out a way to anonymously send this post to someone who's about to commit #2. Not a single person can figure out why these two are getting married, much the half of said couple who is our very close friend.

At 9:55 AM, August 03, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't believe that it is a southern thing or a generational thing, it tends to be a personality thing. For example: my sister-in-law was born and raised in one of those northern cities and she not only bashes her husband, but both of her brothers. She seems shocked when I don't join in.

Let me just take a moment and say my husband may not be flawless, but is also perfect for me. IF I communicate a need, he does well to meet it. He is caring and compassionate and I see him striving to make a difference in the world. But I don't always appreciate this. I find myself all to easily getting dragged into male bashing conversations.

At 9:58 AM, August 03, 2006, Anonymous shauna said...

All the "goofy dumb husband and beautiful together wife" sitcoms" don't help the situation.

I see a lot of this with new moms talking trash about their uninvolved husbands. Maybe their husbands are less involved because of all the stupid inept father jokes made in childbirth classes?


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