I argue here that most men should attempt to marry, for several basic reasons. First, marriage is necessary for the survival of a people. Second, men (and women) need to be a part of a good order if they are to live well and a good social order includes marriage. And three, men were designed for leadership, as they are more attuned to the practical application of truth and justice, and are more able to impose their will on a situation, than women are.
This essay does not refer much to Christianity. Of course, all men and women should be Christians. But that is a subject for other essays.
Throughout our Western Civilization there is a crisis of marriage. Not enough marriages occur. Homosexual pseudo-marriage is causing (and reflecting) extreme moral confusion and devaluing real marriage. Many people marry later in life than is healthy for them and for their children. Many fewer babies are born per woman (married or not) than is healthy for our nation. And many children are no longer raised properly, that is, with a father to provide masculine order and authority and a mother at home most of the time to supervise the children.
So what can be done to make things better? And who’s at fault?
The basic answer to the less important question, the second question, is this. In the immediate sense, and with exceptions acknowledged, it’s more the fault of women than of men. Men, by nature, are always seeking relationships with women, but women do not always seek relationships with men. Therefore womankind is always the ultimate factor determining whether relationship occurs.
But in a broader sense, marriage is in crisis because our entire society is in crisis. America is not a basically healthy nation in which, for some mysterious reason, marriage is failing. No, American society is fundamentally and radically disordered, and one manifestation of this disorder is that marriage is generally no longer done correctly, or even adequately. The proper way to do marriage is rarely taught, and when it is, the teaching is often rejected.
What then can be done to make the marriage situation better? There is no glib answer to this question, at least no glib answer that is valid. The best an individual can do is know the right way to marry and then seek to do it. The rest—both his marriage and the state of marriage in his nation—is in God’s hands.
At the start we must make three disclaimers. First, this essay mostly presents general principles rather than specific advice. All the specific advice that could be given would fill volumes, so the present work will only offer specific advice in order to illustrate general principles. This is as it should be, because the principles are the ultimate source of the advice, and advice is of little use unless one understands the principles.
Second, this essay deals in generalizations, and generalizations, by definition, are true most of the time but not all. When we speak of how men and women behave, we of course do not mean that all of them behave that way all the time. But when a man must decide how to order his life, he has no choice but to make use of valid generalizations.
Third, this essay does not claim that all men must marry. There are some individuals who should not marry, and there are others who choose not to marry for honorable reasons. This essay argues that most men should seriously consider marriage.
The Basic Problem
We have seen the summary. Let us unpack it:
Why, in the immediate sense, are women primarily at fault for the marriage crisis? Because we men, by nature, are always eager for action with women, but women, by nature, are not always eager for action with men. The woman generally determines what sort of action will occur, and these days, she usually determines that proper marital action will not occur.
And not enough proper marital action is occurring primarily because women have been taught—and have generally believed—that traditional marriage is bad for women and therefore to be avoided. As a result of the liberal propaganda that has surrounded us for several generations, many women (possibly a majority) postpone marriage, attempt to pursue a career, are sexually promiscuous, only attempt to have children when their fertility is low, place children in day care rather than take primary responsibility for their well-being, refuse to regard their husbands as the head of the household, demand that their husbands submit to their whims, and, when they divorce, think themselves justified in divorcing their husbands for reasons our ancestors would correctly have viewed as trivial or wicked.
The liberals have created this situation partly by working hard to saturate society with the teaching that traditional marriage is wicked and that selfishness is admirable. And they have also ensured that society’s laws reflect their perverted beliefs. To give only the most important example, divorce laws now uniformly allow a woman (and the majority of unilateral divorces are initiated by women) to divorce her husband for any or even no reason.
Consider for a moment the fundamental wickedness of these laws: A man and woman marry because they love one another and intend to start a family. As time passes, the disappointments and resentments that are unavoidable in life begin to make one or both of them wonder if they made a mistake. Any noble enterprise is difficult, and in the face of adversity, man (and woman) is sometimes tempted to give up and start over. But to “give up” would be to betray one’s spouse and children, sentencing them to a life of hardship that can be avoided by remained married. And, in the majority of cases of divorce, even the spouse one who wanted the divorce does not fare well after the divorce. In view of this, the law should force the unhappy spouses to tough it out because everyone involved will be happier in the long run. And a society cannot be happy unless its citizens are happy.
But what does the law do in this situation? It allows the unhappy spouse (usually the woman) to divorce, causing much avoidable misery, whenever she wants. It gives (usually) the woman unlimited power to destroy the lives of husbands and children for no other reason than a whim. And even if most divorcers make the decision with much fear and trembling, the fact remains that the law permits her to do the wrong thing.
Today, for the first time in human history, the authorities permit a married person to divorce his or her spouse for no reason. The natural result is that many marriages fail (more properly, are deliberately destroyed), and the empirical data show that a solid majority of unilateral divorces, divorces sought by only one of the spouses, are the fault of women. This basic fact points to a fundamental asymmetry between how the sexes view marriage, with the women generally being the ones who strikes the fatal blow.
The Fault of Men
Women, of course, generally say that it’s not their fault. Their explanation of the marital catastrophe is that there are not enough good men.
Although it misses the mark, this complaint contains an element of truth. A strong element. With the general cultural decline of the West, most young men are demoralized. Men much more than women are attuned to the philosophical and spiritual nature of society. Most men have a natural love of order, and a natural desire to form and support a good social order. And when they observe the disordered society in which we live, and that efforts to correct this order (efforts commonly called “conservatism”) generally fail, they become demoralized.
[To be sure, some men respond to the disorder by loving it because it allows them more easily to indulge their lower nature.]
Demoralized men show their demoralization by becoming either unmanly or hyper-masculine: wimp or thug. Many men respond to social disorder by becoming selfish: If society is messed up, thinks the man, then I’m not going to work hard to support it. I’m just going to “game the system” as best I can. It’s a dog-eat-dog world, and every man for himself. Other men respond by becoming depressed. Things don’t work, so what’s the use?
But men respond to women, just as women respond to men. Most men will become properly masculine if they can find a good woman who will respond to them in a properly feminine way.
Unfortunately, many women are not helping. It is primarily women, with their inflated sense of self-esteem in marriage (a self-esteem held by few husbands) who are the immediate cause of the marriage crisis. Women know that law, custom and the general worldview of the West all support them in the battle of the sexes. Instead of recognizing their duty and doing it, they often look for excuses to be selfish.
We are, of course, speaking in generalizations, and there are exceptions. Most of the female exceptions are of two sorts. One is the women who has a naturally feminine nature and is happy to admire her husband despite the liberal propaganda and the unavoidable troubles that occur in every marriage. The other is the woman who has adopted these beneficial attitudes as a result of participating in a conservative religious tradition.
How to Respond
So how should a single young man react? How should he order his life in light of the situation?
There are two key factors: The general atmosphere of ideas in society, and your personal response to them.
The atmosphere of ideas is indeed toxic, as a foolish liberalism has become the de-facto ruling philosophy of America and all of the West. Under the rule of liberalism, we have normalized and officially mandated the love of sexual promiscuity and perversion, filthy and nihilistic entertainment, mass abortion, the denigration and pulling down of white people, mass immigration leading to Balkanization, unlimited governmental control over society, and countless other ills. And, most relevant here, we have institutionalized the tearing down of male authority over families and the promotion of a female selfishness and independence that are dissolving the family.
You, as one man, cannot cleanse the poison from society. But although you cannot change the atmosphere of ideas by yourself, you can make a small personal contribute to the restoration of a properly-ordered society by supporting properly conservative enterprises. And in your personal response to the conditions of society, you can stand firm, refusing to agree with what you know is wrong.
You will sometimes, perhaps even often, be forced to accommodate yourself to the false ideas that currently rule. But you must never let yourself begin to agree with them. This is the key. When forced to accommodate, you must recognize that you are making a pragmatic choice in order to protect yourself, but you must never let the fact that you have participated in liberalism let you begin to accept it. You must keep liberalism outside you, as an external pollution that can be washed off when need be. You must never let the poison into your soul where it can kill you.
You must also avoid spiritual lethargy. We all desire to live a peaceful life, and sometimes we weary of fighting evil. But we must not let this natural desire lead us to drop our guard against danger or to begin to agree with falsehoods.
The current basic rule of male-female interaction is this: Anything goes, as long as you have the permission of your partner and you do not try to invoke religion, morality, tradition or authority to get what you want. There are, of course, innumerable smaller rules, but they are all based on this one basic rule.
If you play by the current rules, you will probably have short-term success, that is, occasional pleasurable female company. But playing by today’s rules guarantees long-term failure, because a good life cannot be based on “anything goes.” A good life must be based on your participation in a good order. A good social, moral, intellectual and religious order. Left to his own devices to order his life in any way he wants, man inevitably degenerates.
A properly masculine man, then, does not settle for occasional sex and other forms of trivial companionship with females. Man was designed by God to be the leader of a family, and that means finding a wife with whom he can beget and properly raise children. Living in this way, the man is not just a parasite on a society created by others, but rather a sustainer of the life-giving order that is human society. For marriage and the childrearing to which it naturally leads are the foundation of any society, and no nation can prosper, or even survive long-term, unless its marriages are done correctly. Marrying well therefore ought to be the goal of the properly masculine man.
We must acknowledge that some men will be unable to locate a good wife, and will have to settle for either permanent singleness or a wife who has been significantly corrupted by feminism. But you should at least set your sights higher, for the future of our people is at stake. Without marriage and children, a nation passes out of existence. And young feminist-brainwashed women have been known to change their minds.
A Good Order
Many men are tempted to “game” a corrupt system in which real marriage seems unattainable. Such men think that occasional pleasure is all they can expect from women, and so that is all they aspire to.
But you’re not a woman, so don’t act like one. What we mean is this:
With occasional exceptions noted, most women are content to affirm the status quo, even a corrupt status quo, as long as they can have a comfortable life. (This is true of many men too, but it is more common among women.) Most women are relentlessly practical, and we must acknowledge that there is a need for the practical. But you are not a woman. A life of comfort is not enough to sustain you. You need to participate in a virtuous order (a social, intellectual, religious and moral order) if you are to avoid demoralization and spiritual sickness. If this order does not currently exist in your environment, you must begin by participating by yourself in such an order. You must seek the traditional order of your people, currently hidden and suppressed by our current liberal overlords, and begin affirming it and seeking to live by it and within it.
The “traditional order of your people” includes the traditional religion of Western man, Christianity. (And Christianity has the additional virtue of being true.) It also includes what are currently called conservative and traditional sex roles, morality, and patriotism, understood not as uncritical praise of all things American, but rather a love for the America and the American people to which you are indeed connected. The traditional order also includes the traditional philosophical understanding of the nature of things, an understanding that, among other things, allows one to make wise decisions.
You know the status quo is corrupt and dying, so don’t go along with it. As a man, when you see a problem, you take action, either to make things better or at the very least to enable yourself to endure it. You don’t cheerfully go along with a corrupt system. Nor do you complain that somebody else ought to fix things. You move to a better environment, or, at the very least, you find allies to help you endure. What you don’t do is surrender to what you know is wrong.
A properly masculine man facing the shortage of womanly women and an atmosphere that is anti-traditional-family does not give up his ideals and behave like a degenerate. He takes action to secure his future and to contribute to the revitalization of his nation.
How Man Should Relate to Woman: Basic Principles
To be successful in love and marriage you must understand the proper way for men and women to relate. You must understand the proper roles that men and women ought to play in society and in marriage so that you can play—to the best of your ability given these corrupt times—your proper role.
And you must understand that even if you are defeated, you are participating in a truth that is higher than yourself, and you are supporting—even if in a very small way—a future restoration of a properly-ordered society.
Notice that this is exactly the opposite of the advice the liberals give. (Nowadays, everyone who is not explicitly conservative—and many who call themselves conservative—is a liberal.) The liberal advice is “be yourself,” “don’t discriminate,” and “don’t judge.” In other words, their advice is “We don’t know what you should do, so just wing it and hope for the best.”
The liberals are confessing, indirectly, that they don’t know anything. Indeed, they are not allowed to know anything about how marriages ought to be ordered, for such knowledge would constitute discrimination, which is for them the greatest sin. So do not look to liberals for advice. Let the blind lead the blind; you seek a guide who can see.
We do not claim that this essay can give all—or even most—of the advice you need. We are not so arrogant as to think that we can solve the problem. All this essay can do is point out some important facts that currently are not widely acknowledged, and describe a general framework for understanding the times and taking action.
End the Hostility
Men and women were designed by God to love and support each other in marriage, but modernity has set them against one another. The most accurate brief way to characterize the current disorder in male-female relations is to say that modernity has made men and women into rivals, each seeking to gain the advantage at the expense of the other. At the outset, then, the properly masculine man rejects the modernist paradigm. Although probably a majority of women will not be seeking a proper relationship with a man, and many women will be hostile toward men from the start of any relationship, you will transcend the hostility. You will not mistrust women in general (although you know you must be wary of many of them), because you know the God-ordained purpose of marriage: Fellowship between man and woman, under the leadership of the man, leading to marriage and children. And even if your woman shows signs of hostility or rivalry, you will recognize it as a sin to be opposed rather than accept it as an unavoidable expression of the fundamental female nature.
Man’s basic role, in society at large and in his family, is leadership. Men were designed to rule, but modernity has denounced male rule as sin. Indeed, the feminist identifies patriarchy (literally “rule by the fathers”) as her ultimate enemy. She will not submit to be led by a man.
But as the maverick feminist Camille Paglia has pointed out, “patriarchy” is another name for civilization. It is only through male rule that a proper order can be established and maintained, either in the family or the nation. This is simply because of the natures of male and female. There is overwhelming empirical evidence that men far more than women are concerned with the abstract concepts of truth and justice that are necessary for the establishment of any good social order. Women, in general, are content to live within whatever order (or lack of order) is present, as long as they can meet their immediate practical needs. This is not to badmouth women; there is a great need for female practicality in the affairs of everyday life. But when it comes to establishing social order, which every nation and family needs in order for its people to live well, only the male spirit can supply what is needed.
Indeed, one of the primary reasons that American society is becoming more and more disordered is that the male spirit is being driven from the public square. Male virtues such as intellectual clarity, decisive action, and the protection of our people and way of life, are being officially villainized, and replaced with the female virtues of tolerance, flexibility, openness and inclusion. These virtues have their places, but to make them the fundamental ordering principles of our nation is to court disaster. Enemies of the physical, intellectual, moral, and spiritual type do exist, they can do real harm, and they must be defended against. And there is the enemy of entropy, as it silently and spontaneously disorders and weakens us. Only the male spirit can protect us.
It is similar in the family. The woman has her virtues, but leadership is not one of them. The woman needs a man to lead the family.
After the fog of courtship has dissipated, men and women do not naturally relate properly one to another. Most men are naturally lazy and most women are naturally rebellious. Only effort can make the relationship a proper one.
Since you cannot control your wife’s actions, we only offer advice to you. There is one cardinal rule that controls all the myriad of other rules concerning how properly and effectively a man ought to relate to a woman. There is one rule that contains within it all of the other valid advice that you will ever hear on how to prevent marital discord.
The rule is this: Appear strong.
Of course, a necessary requirement for appearing strong is actually being strong. But strength is attained in part by making a pose of strength. “Assume a virtue if you have it not” reads Shakespeare’s advice. And strength is also of no value in a relationship if your wife does not see you as being strong. You must therefore begin by acting deliberately to make yourself appear to be strong. In so doing, you will foster both genuine strength in yourself and respect in your wife. A strong husband and father calms the wife and children, and allows them to be themselves without fear of disaster.
Strength, of course, must be tempered by love, wisdom and compassion. But without strength of character, your other virtues cannot truly exist.
[For another view of this issue, and from an explicitly Christian perspective, see Dalrock’s post “Headship Game” here.]
What exactly do we mean by being strong? Precise definitions cannot be given in a broad discussion such as this. We presume that the reader has an intuitive sense of what we mean. But the strength being discussed here is primarily moral strength, the ability to persevere, and to appear undisturbed, in a course of action that is unpopular but right.
Decisiveness is another important part of strength. Women and children often have difficulty making up their minds, and masculine decisiveness is crucial for the smooth functioning of any enterprise.
Man’s role is leadership, but what does it mean to be a leader? Much could be said, but the key point is this: Proper leadership consists of knowing what must be done, then seeing that it gets done. Leadership does not necessarily mean giving orders and being obeyed, although it often entails just that. But ordering and obeying are only the form of leadership. The substance is knowledge of what must be done, coupled with an acceptance of the responsibility to make it happen and the ability to impose your will on the situation in order to make it happen.
A leader must therefore understand how things work. This knowledge is of two basic types: knowledge of how things are (descriptive knowledge), and of how things ought to be (prescriptive knowledge.) The two go hand-in-hand, and each is worthless without the other. To be a good leader, then, you must study how the things and processes of the world work, especially how groups of people work, and you must learn how things ought to be done. Although it must be based on accurate “book knowledge,” this study is not primarily carried out in the classroom, for much of the necessary knowledge is not codified in books. Instead, you must observe the events of the world, ask questions about them, seek the counsel of wise elders (generally in the form of what they have written), and draw conclusions yourself.
But knowledge is not enough, for you must also learn how to decide what must be done in any situation, and how to implement your decisions. And this learning can only come about through practice, which will necessarily include many errors.
The point is this: As a man, you are a leader right now, like it or not. You have been endowed with a nature that desires to lead, and women instinctively look to men to provide leadership. Your only choice is whether to lead well or poorly.
Leading Your Family
As the leader of your family it is your responsibility to understand the natures of your wife and children and then to push them (usually gently) in the right direction. Women and children, although sometimes capable of pushing themselves toward a difficult ideal, will often need your help keeping to the right course of action. [And, of course, you will often need help keeping on course.]
Look at it this way: Even if all its members refuse to acknowledge the fact, every group needs a leader. Even if they occasionally (or often) resent it, the other members of your family need someone who will provide order in the family, and the only person who can do this job is the husband.
A great deal of the order that the husband must supply is seemingly trivial: What will we do this Saturday? At what time should we leave to go shopping? Should I buy the black dress or the blue one? Can Junior go to the mall with his buddies after soccer practice? Although these decisions may seem trivial, your leadership in the relatively trivial is actually a great source of comfort to wives and children. It gives them the sense that the captain is on the bridge and the ship will therefore not run aground.
When we think of male leadership in the household, though, we generally think of the more weighty things: Which church should we attend? Is it acceptable for Junior to join the Navy? Is Susie mature enough to begin dating? Should the family move to Virginia so that Father can get the promotion? In this area, leadership consists of hearing the concerns of all family members, and then making the decision that is of the greatest benefit to the entire family, or perhaps that avoids the greatest detriment to one of the family members, regardless of your personal preferences. As the leader, it is your duty to think of other’s welfare before your own, much like a military officer. Just as the Colonel of the regiment does not eat or sleep until the needs of his men are met, you do not satisfy your own needs as a father until the basic needs of the other family members are met.
An obvious question arises. Why should I subordinate my desires to the needs of my family? Because you are not just an individual. You are part of an order. A God-ordained order. Unless you believe this, your life will be meaningless. If you do believe it, you can endure hardship and achieve a measure of greatness.
Most women will respond well to a man who exercises domestic leadership without being a bully, but what if the wife refuses to be led? There is no easy solution to this problem, but we offer some advice: Divorce is a great evil, so you must remain her husband. She may divorce you, but you must not initiate evil. Instead, you must seek to hold the family together. To do this in the face of a selfish wife requires a balancing act. On the one hand, you must not appear be so tyrannical that you provoke her to open rebellion. If it’s not that important, let her have what she wants. But you must also avoid appearing weak, for that will arouse her contempt and therefore make divorce more likely. Whenever her desires are not illegal or immoral you must accommodate them to the best of your ability, and you must reserve your righteous indignation for instances when she really is in the wrong. If you look strong, your wife will respect you (and therefore find you attractive) even if she manifests momentary anger over the fact that she’s not getting what she wants. And “strength” does not mean anger and bluster, which are actually signs of weakness. Strength means remaining relatively calm in the face of adversity, and cheerfully brushing off the trivial irritations that constitute the majority of the conflict-inducing clashes of marriage.
In other words, keep your eye on the big picture, and don’t let yourself get down when the usual details of life cause conflict with your wife.
Marriage, of course, begins with courtship. We avoid the word ”dating” because this term often refers to the search for temporary sex partners, whereas the properly masculine man seeks female companionship that will lead to marriage. That being so, we can identify one fundamental piece of advice: Court only women who appear to be interested in marriage, and who appear to be properly feminine.
[For a somewhat crude but still useful list of some “types of women to avoid,” see here. For those not familiar with Manosphere jargon, “NAWALT” means “not all women are like that.”]
Another basic problem with dating is this: If you spend enough one-on-one dating time with a woman to get to know her, it is likely that you will become emotionally attached to her even if you discover that she would not make a good wife. It is better if you can get to know the woman without “going out with her,” for the latter implies an emotional connection from the beginning. It is better if you can court only a woman who you already are reasonably sure would make a good match.
The Men’s Rights Movement
The men’s rights movement has some good points to make. But its fundamental flaw is that, generally speaking, instead of advocating that men work to restore a proper, traditional order in their lives and in society, the MRM tends to advocate that men accept the premises of modernity and work to maximize their short-term advantages. The error of this way of thinking is well expressed by Nicholas Davidson in the introduction to his translation of Louis de Bonald’s On Divorce,
In truth, there are no “women’s questions,” no “men’s questions,” no “children’s questions.”…There are only social questions, which can only be answered in terms of society as a whole. Do you wish to help any of these groups? It can only be done by strengthening the bonds of society. To attempt specifically to help any of these groups necessarily corrodes those bonds, injures vital relationships, and so hurts those it purports to help.
[The author is grateful to Lawrence Auster for publicizing this important quote.]
Thus, for example, Bonald held that divorce should be illegal in all cases. He recognized that some would suffer under this rule, but that society overall would be far healthier, as most husbands and wives, realizing that there is no easy escape from an unsatisfying marriage, would have to work harder at making a tolerable marriage and family life.
It is true that not all members of the Men’s Right’s / Manosphere movement think this way. But to the extent that an individual member of the MRM does advocate for restoring proper order, he is transcending his movement. [For the moment. We may hope that the Manosphere will one day mature.]
Most people, even if they are inclined to be sympathetic to traditionalism, say, when they first hear our traditionalist proposals, “It’ll never work. The old-fashioned ways have been decisively refuted, and nobody wants to go back to them. Your ideas will never be implemented.”
Of course society will never implement them under current conditions. But individuals can implement many of these ideas right now. And social conditions do change. We must work for the future.
And man is always guided by his ideals.