Guest Column: In defense of ‘obey’ in wedding vows

By Norman Bleed

I remember well that I almost wrote Register Star columnist Elizabeth Davies a personal letter of commendation upon reading her May 1 essay discussing thoughtfully how a bride’s vowing to love, honor, and — yes, still today — obey her husband creates a synergy that “builds trust, maintains peace and develops intimacy” in their ensuing union. (I wish I had.)

Davies opined that it was “unfortunate” that Kate Middleton, like Diana Spencer 30 years before her, had elected to omit to “obey.” As for how that worked out for Princess Diana, I would add that two years later (1983), she had a horseback riding instructor, James Hervitt, to whom Prince Harry, born in 1984, bears an astonishing resemblance.

I would also add that marriage itself is, properly, not only a synergy — something that is more than the sum of its parts — but also a tertium quid: “some third thing — i.e., an entity unto itself, and one, moreover, constituted of a mysterious potpourri of the polarities of the first two entities.

What it is not — again, ideally, is a quid pro quo — “something for something” — or a continual squaring of two adversarial accounts. Rather, it is, or can be, a true meeting of minds, based on, and flourishing from, the POLARITIES of those minds.

An alternative definition for “husband,” for instance, is “a prudent or frugal manager.” As for “wife”? Please. No, again, marriage is, or can be, a real celebration for both partners, of the myriad (literally, “ten thousand”) ways they don’t so much supplement, or complete, each other as complement, or perfect, each other — all based on their God-given gender differences.

But from our friends on the Left come these persistent questions: “Aren’t spouses EQUAL?” Sure they are, at least as much as EAST and WEST are; but then again, they are what they are, “and never the twain shall meet.” Or, as the French say, “Viva Las Vegas!”

“But isn’t marriage a partnership between two consenting adults; one of mutual respect, mutual love and mutual sacrifice?” No, now you’re describing cohabitation, which at best is a flinty-eyed business arrangement, and at worst is a sick joke — always played on the female, who patiently persuades herself, until she can’t anymore, that the reason her inamorato is so disinclined to marry her is that he really wants to, so darned badly.

And, just as there is no honor among thieves, there can never be any real trust between “consenting adults”: they’re always two or three quarts low on trust. Even their shrewdness is pathetic: always making sure everything is 50/50! Heck, even when they’re both penniless, they probably have each other sign prenuptial agreements — not that they intend to marry anytime soon. (Better to play it safe!)

“But isn’t this ancient way of thinking, wherein the woman gladly agrees to be the helpmate of the man who gladly agreed to sign on the dotted line for her, and her alone, to be his, tremendously harmful to and disempowering for, women?”

Well, even at our most misogynistic here in America, we never held a candle to the utter dehumanization women routinely experience still today in many parts of the world. Also, frankly, your insinuation that some lone, loony girl’s pledging her troth to her beloved just might well set back legal precedents for our human rights by decades, if not centuries, is as unappreciated as it is revealing.

But to answer your question, no, quite the reverse is actually true. As radio talk show host Dennis Prager puts it, a husband wants to cherish someone who respects him, and a wife wants to respect someone who cherishes her. So, gals, would it be so bad just to at least let the Old Boy think he wears the pants in his family?

No, it wouldn’t — and he’ll love you for it. Far from being a “slave” to his “master” — any exceptions are tragic ones, of course — you’ll be Ginger Rogers to his Fred Astaire: she did every dance move he did — and did it backwards and in high heels!

Completely ignore the femi-Nazi voices urging you, as a wife, to kick some butt and take some names. That’s not your style. Don’t be ashamed, when your family “airliner” suddenly needs to be landed in the “Hudson River,” to let the “captain” do it. Try being nice to him; he married you, didn’t he?

Norman Bleed is a resident of Rockford.

From the July 13-19, 2011 issue

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