Adventure in Improper Liasisons with Dr. Mary Ruthi

Ah, I think that the idea of being happy and emotionally close to another person through marriage is indeed a relatively recent idea.  A century ago, for instance, women were thought to be too unintelligent to share meaningful conversations with their husbands, and even sex was seem as primarily for reproduction and not as an emotional bonding experience.  The notion that marriage is a partnership of equals is a fairly new idea.  And, it probably does have a lot to do with women’s lib, which advocated the rather novel idea that women were as intelligent and competent as men.  

Of course, the desire for satisfaction in all areas of our lives is far more prominent than it used to be.  We aren’t content with having jobs to support ourselves; we must have meaningful jobs that pay well and don’t demand too much of us.  We aren’t content to attend church; we must be entertained and impressed by the service and by the pastor(s).  We aren’t content to have vacation time; we must go to more exotic locations and do more daring feats.  Once we have met our basic physical needs, we start going after psychological needs (wants??).

Women’s lib has changed over the past couple of decades, or so it seems to me.  In the 1960s and 1970s, women’s lib was concerned with having women receive equal pay for equal work and with securing reasonably equal opportunities for women in employment, education, etc.  Having largely achieved those goals, the women’s movement looked around for other dragons to slay and then started tilting into a bit of insanity (claiming that it was sexist to have mother/daughter banquets instead of parent/child banquets, arguing that all sex is actually rape because of patriarchy, etc.).   

Mary Ruthi, Ph.D.

Gosh, we’re so extreme.
 
See, I can see myself getting being the original notions of women’s lib. Though if someone let me stay home all day and bake and cook I’d be thrilled. I don’t know where this lust for more than we need comes from. Granted, I’m more than guilty of it myself. I have to wonder if the momentum behind it builds as things around us quicken. With the ever increasing immediacy of technology do we find that we should also be obtaining other things more quickly and more extravagantly? And is this “need” for better and better things a first world problem? I don’t really see how it could be anything, but a first world problem. It still begged to be asked.
 
There’s definitely a bleakness to this conversation, but when have we ever shied away from the truth at the risk of a lack of sunshine and rainbows? It’s raised a question with L though, which is, “Is it possible to find a godly man anymore? One that hasn’t had sex?” I happen to know the answer to be yes, but to find one that isn’t an asshat too, now that’s the real trick.
 
She finds herself daunted by the idea that such a man doesn’t exist. But I think that’s a fallacy of our generation. That 1) we think it’s something we deserve and 2) if we look hard enough we’ll find exactly what we’re looking for. Which I don’t think is ever the case. I feel like we’re all too broken to ever be exactly anything to anyone. But I feel like the women, or in some cases, girls of my generation are searching for this “ideal man.” Like life is a scavenger hunt and the perfect husband or even a husband is the prize. But there’s also this wait for him mentality. That if I sit on my couch long enough he’ll just show up at my door. Which, for me, and I think everyone, but for me especially, that’d be a dumb way to look at things. I live in a gated community! It’s dangerous. And it’s I think very telling of us as women, now. That we believe that what we want will just come to us if we wait around long enough. Not that it won’t, but I’m a pretty big proponent of living life and letting things happen.
 
Meanwhile, it poses another interesting question. How did you and the farmer come to meet?
 
Hayley

Hayley,

To me, the heart of feminism is about freedom of choice.  If a woman (or a man) wants to be a full-time homemaker/child care provider, I think that’s fine.  But, if a woman (or a man) wants to work outside of the home (full time or part time), I think that’s fine also.  I don’t like to see people constrained by gender roles.  Fortunately, there are far fewer constraints than there used to be when I was your age. Actually, in some ways, I believe that women have more freedom than men do in this area.  A married woman with small children can stay home full time, work full time, or work part time.  There’s a lot of pressure on married men to work full time, regardless of what they want to do.  And, the cost of child care (and other expenses associated with having both parents employed) is greater than the additional income produced by the spouse with the lowest salary (usually the woman, but not always).  

Certainly there are men who haven’t indulged in premarital sex, but, as you suggested, some of those men may not be particularly attractive and charming.  And, again, the double standard rears its ugly head.  Men tend to want to marry women who are virgins, but many of those men have conducted a number of improper liaisons themselves.  Grrrr!  

Sitting around waiting for the knight to come riding up to your castle on a white horse probably isn’t going to work for most women.  I think you are right that you have to live life and enjoy it as it happens.  If you meet a great guy and end up married to him, that’s wonderful.  But, if you don’t ever get married, that doesn’t mean that your life will be miserable and devoid of meaning.  Marrying a jerk is far worse than being single. However, the more you are involved in your community, church, volunteer organizations, etc., the more likely you are to meet potential husband candidates.  Most of them will end up being jerks, but it only takes one good guy to fill the husband role! 

I picked up the farmer in the Chicago airport.  He had been in California visiting his sister, and I had been in Kansas visiting my family there.  The flight from Chicago to Fort Wayne was cancelled because of fog, so the airline chartered a bus (something that would never happen today!) and hauled us to Fort Wayne.  The farmer was in the line ahead of me as we waited for the bus to arrive, and we just started talking.  He seemed nice, so when we got back to Fort Wayne, I agreed to his offer to come to Huntington to visit me the next weekend.  And, the rest is history (although it did take him a decade to get around to deciding that getting married might be an okay idea).  He doesn’t like to rush into things!  Eeeek! 

Mary Ruthi, Ph.D.

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Adventure in “People Are Selfish Little Piglets, for the Most Part”

Hayley,

Our culture (of course, a sociologist would have to mention that!) encourages us to think that all of our emotional needs will be met and we will live happily ever after if only we find Mr./Ms. Right.  The assumption seems to be that we can’t be normal, happy people unless we are in such relationships.  Of course, even the best of relationships can’t come up to the level of perfection that we expect, so we become disillusioned and go on to other relationships that we hope will be better than the previous ones.  I think women are particularly inclined to seek for those ideal relationships, which may be why women are less satisfied with their marriages (on the average) than men are.  We want to find our “soul mates” who will always understand us, listen to us, and take care of us.  But, maybe if we tried harder to understand, listen to, and take care of the others instead of focusing on ourselves, we would be better off in the long run.  People are selfish little piglets, for the most part.

I think it’s good that you are considering the complexities of relationships.  Different people define love differently, but social scientists generally argue that the passionate/romantic love that is the main basis for dating and marriage in our society tends to fade into companionate love after a few years.  So, if you are good friends and have a lot in common with the significant other, the relationship is much more likely to endure for the long haul.  Folks who have the romantic love without much other base to build on may not stay in the relationship when the excitement starts to decline.  Contrary to popular opinion, romantic love does not conquer all.  As you suggested, lasting love is more of a verb than a giddy feeling.

Mary Ruthi, Ph.D.

Dr. Ruthi,
 
Do you think that the satisfaction we find in marriages is a newer trend or one that has, for the most part, always been there? At the risk of continuing to sound less and less like a feminist, which I will never claim to be, that it has something to do with women’s lib? That we’ve made these strides towards equality and selfishness and greediness pulls us to want more? To want better, when it would be so much easier and more fulfilling to be content in what we have? Culturally speaking, it exists outside of the marriage and not just in women. I know I’m guilty of it, and with the aging of each younger generation I find myself more and more disgusted with their lack of contentment. (Maybe I’m just becoming a cynical old woman)
 
It just makes me wonder how greedy we’ve really become. It’s also pretty heart-breaking if I let myself get carried away in it.
 
Hayley

Adventure in Stop Marrying so Young if You’re Going to Keep Your Head Up Your Ass

The saga continues with more insight from the astonishing Dr. Ruthi. How long can I drag this out? There really is no knowing, but I imagine the answer is forever. If you have any questions you’d like to add to the conversation please feel free to let me know. We’ll get them worked in.

Hayley,

Young people are going through puberty at earlier ages than ever before in history, but they are waiting a very long time after puberty before they get married (mid-20s for women and late 20s for men).  So, it’s probably more difficult to avoid premarital sex than ever before.  Of course, men have always had socially tolerated options for premarital sex (prostitutes, family servants, slaves, etc.), but “nice” women generally have married soon after reaching puberty, thus lowering the risk of premarital sex.  Today, a woman is likely to become physically mature while in middle school (if not before!), but she probably will wait until age 25 or so before marrying.  The availability of birth control makes premarital sex relatively low risk, so it’s not surprising that so many people opt for the sex before the marriage.  And, I agree with you that couples who marry hastily because they want to have sex are playing a very dangerous game.  Perhaps people shouldn’t even enter serious dating relationships until they are at a point in their lives where they are ready to think about settling into marriage,  but that’s a tough goal to pursue, especially when one’s peers all seem to be in serious dating relationships by  the time they are 14 or 16.  Besides, how can one select an appropriate spouse if one avoids serious dating relationships?  I’m sometimes frightened by couples who tell me that they started dating each other at age 12 (or some ridiculously early age) and that they have never dated anyone else.  So, they get married when they are 18 or 20.  Some of them do live happily ever after, but a lot of them don’t.  I haven’t seen any statistics on the phenomenon, but it seems to me that an increasing percentage of HU students are getting married before graduating.  Maybe that’s the best way for them to avoid premarital sex, but I think they miss out on a lot of the college experience by getting married so young.

Just when you are ready to give up on relationships and to have all males exiled to Antarctica, a high quality male will come along and sweep you off your feet (probably!).  Wouldn’t life be simpler if we had arranged marriages?!?           

Mary Ruthi, Ph.D.

Dr. Ruthi,
 
Gosh, arranged marriages. I think about how much better that would be all the time. As someone who sees love as a choice and less of a dopey feeling I think that it just seems more logical. If love weren’t something we did and not something we felt we wouldn’t be told to do it.

I’m very much of the mind that the dating game is a silly thing to get mixed up in, if one isn’t ready for a more serious and lasting commitment. I find myself horrified with you for those who get married having never really encountered anyone but the person they’ve dated since high school…or middle school. (Middle schoolers dating. I can’t handle it)

On a personal level, I can’t imagine knowing myself well enough, even now, let alone at 18 or even 20 to say, “yes, this is clearly the exact sort of man I’d like to spend the rest of my life with and who will best build me up in Christ and live my life with me. And whom I will best benefit.” That isn’t to say some people don’t know themselves well enough for that, but most of the 18 or 20-year-olds I’ve ever met hardly know what they want for breakfast. (perhaps in part because they don’t wake up for it) I can’t imagine them making more important life decisions with discernment.
 
And I’m sure to many I sound like some stuffy prude or a heinous and jaded woman with no place to speak to the subject of relationships. Maybe that’s true, but I’ve seen enough people make stupid, life-altering mistakes to want to be a part of those statistics. That isn’t to say I shall never pursue a serious relationship, but it definitely has me thinking more carefully than I see a lot of my peers who are just happy to have that attention of another. Which is understandable, but the instant that begins to be the reason we start relationships we find ourselves on a slippery slope. That leads to sex and more approval or using each other for our own benefit. We begin to find our self-worth in someone else. In a person who will inevitably let us down. Because people do that, whether they mean to or not. It’s scary that that’s a game anyone would want to play with their self-esteem, heart or mind.
 
But what do I know?!
Hayley

Adventure in Continuing Questions with Dr. Mary Ruthi or Gosh, I Give Up!

For those of you less interested in what I have to say, just wait. In a few days I’m sure we’ll have more information from the ever-intelligent and entertaining Mary Ruthi. Meanwhile, my latest e-mail to her.

Dr. Ruthi,
Then I think it’s time to plan that important trip to Chicago O’Hare that every girl should take. Hopefully only once in her life. Right? Right?! Just kidding. Sort of.
 
I was discussing that concept with some friends in the last few months. This idea that Christians rush to get married because pre-marital sex is explicitly addressed in the Bible. “If we can’t have sex unless we’re married then we better get married.” Arguably, it seems like a worse life decision to get married to someone under the pretense of love for the sake of sex than to just have pre-marital sex. I’m not a proponent of pre-marital sex, but I am a strong advocate for not screwing up one’s life. I guess you could make a case for either action doing that, but I think one would be easier to get over. And I’m certainly not a fan of increasing the divorce rate. But then I’m also not a strong advocate for remarriage after divorce. OPINIONS. (also, some biblical backing there) (I’m looking at you, Blackhawk Christian School class of 2005)
 
It’s a relatively heart-breaking concept isn’t it? I mean, okay, as far as feminists go I’m a pretty horrible one. We got the vote. I’m satisfied, and I don’t even really like to vote. But there’s something about the sort of manipulation involved in these relationships and interactions that’s just gutting. That as women we would be so desperate for that affection and attention that we would make pretty stupid sacrifices. Moreover that our brothers would be that selfish and controlling. But then, I’ve met men. I know how that works. (Granted, we women aren’t real gems either).

I think you hit the nail on the head though. As women we’re so often so concerned with offending someone or slighting someone. And for some reason in our heads, at least in mine, slighting one man is saying, “No please don’t talk to me all men. I’m not a fan of any of you and I’d much rather live out the rest of my life alone with my cats. And my shotgun.” Which maybe to some degree that’s how it’s perceived too. Like women, men also talk to each other about these interactions. But who are we benefiting by continuing a charade of interest in someone for the sake of not hurting their feelings? “I don’t want to offend you so I’ll just date you. That way when I don’t actually care about you, it won’t hurt as much, because at least I didn’t shoot you down.”

Relationships are stupid-lousy, and the concept of them isn’t looking any brighter.
 
Hayley

Adventure in E-mailing Dr. Mary Ruthi

Recently I had been discussing sociological things with a friend. We did not come to a conclusion, so I posed our questions to my favorite sociology professor, former employer and hero.

Here is our informative exchange. You’re welcome. But also, women, I’m sorry.

Well, hello!
Mary Ruthi is to Hayley Johnson as Jerry Smith is to Brett Jenkins-Braun.
 
So I was discussing boys with L today and a question came up. Now I remember you saying that we pursue those of equal attractiveness to ourselves. I know because I said “No one wants to be the group ugo.” But L said someone else told her that women pursue men on their level or under, but men pursue women on a higher level of attractiveness. I’m not saying either is necessarily wrong, but I just wondered what it was you exactly taught us.
Obviously we’re both disgusted by all men anyway.
Hayley

Hayley,

I think that being disgusted by men is the main message!  No, I’m just joking!!

Physical attractiveness seems to be valued more highly by men than by women.  Women (having more sense, of course!) attach somewhat more value to men’s personalities and social standing.  This is probably why ugly (but rich and/or charming) men often end up with cute chickies.  It may also explain part of the “trophy wife” phenomenon.  A guy who becomes an economic success in mid-life or even later can use that as a bargaining chip in seeking a more attractive woman to replace an aging and decreasingly attractive wife.  However, as more and more women achieve high educations and good jobs, it’s not unheard of for those women to look for “trophy husbands.”  So, the differences between men and women may have as much (or more) to do with gender roles than with biology.  But, I digress! 

Mary Ruthi, Ph.D.

Dr. Ruthi,
This has been most helpful.
It raises a few other questions for us.
Namely, what’s wrong with us? Or which of us is more ridiculous? Because when L sees a mismatched couple she thinks “How’d a guy like THAT get her?” While I think, “How’d she get him?”
And do you think it more likely for women to pursue relationships with men they see on their level because of insecurities? We’ve been talking about this for a while, obviously.

Hayley

Hayley, There’s nothing wrong with either of you.  It’s true that women tend to have lower self-esteem than men.  So, women might be more likely to date below their actual levels of attractiveness because they think that more attractive guys would never be interested in them.  Guys tend to assume that they are God’s gifts to the world, so they probably are more likely to go after women who ought to be out of their league.  Besides, women may worry more about hurting men’s feelings by rejecting the men’s overtures, so some women “waste” time by dating men who don’t really interest them.

Also, the whole dating/marriage system creates some serious problems for women.  The reality is that sex outside of marriage is so common that men feel almost no pressure to get married.  It’s easy for an average guy to find lots of women who will have sex with him and who will even cohabit with him (and who will have children with him, for that matter).  So, why should the guy bother with marriage, especially since guys tend to be commitment-phobic?!?  Maybe by the time the guy is 40 or 50 years old, he will decide to settle down and get married.  But, women who want to have children can’t really afford to wait until they are 40 or 50 to find those guys who want to get married.  Besides, those 40 and 50-year-old guys will be going after the 25 or 30-year-old women.  Yes, I’m sounding cynical.  Imagine that!  Women are confronted with pressure to have sex early in dating relationships.  They worry that refusing to have sex may mean that they will be rejected by men whom they find attractive, but, on the other hand,  having sex may reduce the men’s eagerness for marriage.  More conservative Christian guys who aren’t sexually active before marriage tend to get married young (about age 3 or 4, I believe……well, I exaggerate a bit) so that they can begin having sex.  You ladies are victims of social dynamics over which you have little control.  

I’m not sure what’s the solution.  Perhaps you should make a concerted effort to get involved in activities that would attract more males than females (volunteer in a political campaign, join a coed softball league, take up whitewater rafting, hang around farm supply stores, etc.).  Personally, I find the Chicago airport a good place to meet men.  Eeeeek!        

Mary Ruthi, Ph.D.