5 Things Every Married Man Should Do Around Single Women- The Smackdown

I read this article yesterday and at first glance I was so frustrated I nearly ripped out half of my hair. Then I read the comments thread beneath it and just about lost hope for all of Christendom. And we can’t let that happen. So a rebuttal seemed in order. Of course, no decently articulate rebuttal is complete without memes and footnotes[1]. Ergo:

rebuttals

If you haven’t read said article go ahead and take five minutes to peruse the contents by clicking on these words. If you’re too rushed to do so, I totally understand which is why I will give you my summary of the contents here:

  1. This writer is concerned about Christian men preserving their marriages
  2. So he comes up with five things men should always (his words) do around single women to safeguard said marriages
  3. He then lists his five things men should always do, which are (again in his words): keep your ring on, hang up pictures of your wife at work, keep eye contact simple and short, keep conversation general and professional, talk about your wife and family often.

Let me start with the good aspects of this article[2]:

1.)  The writer is concerned about men maintaining healthy marriages. Wonderful. So am I.

2.)  He mentions men should wear their wedding rings and he alludes to the fact that this is a sign of the covenant between a man and woman. Which is good. Kudos.

3.)  The writer calls on men to lead in relationships, however vague a notion that may be…. okay, okay. Ephesians 5, I see you.

4.)  I really appreciated his tip about having a photo in one’s work space, which is of a “happy” time. Find your happy place with your wife, good stuff.

5.)  No typos. I respect that. Seeing as a majority of the things I post often times luuk lyke dizZzz (but more commas).

6.)  Oh, the name of the blog it was originally posted on is called “Manturity”. I like it. I’m always up for a pun.

7.)  Lastly, he listed some Bible verses to “support” his points. Scratch that, they were all out of context.

Annnndddd that just about sums it up. I’m sure the article was written with the best of intentions but there’s a lot of roads to Florida, I mean- hell, paved with those. Good intentions don’t excuse awful theology. [3]

care to explain?

Certainly. But rather than just launch on a rabbit trail of disorganized objections let me present you with three (semi)coherent objections.

1)   The Attack on Single Women 

Let’s start with the title shall we? The fact that this author singles out “single” women

pun
Two can play this game…

starts him off on the wrong foot. If women are a threat to one’s marriage (which they aren’t) then it’s not just single women. In fact according to recent studies married women are just as likely to have an affair as married men.[4] Even if statistics didn’t back up that point[5] the logic behind single women being the primary threat is just plain void. If men are in danger of cheating so much that such drastic measures have to be taken, then so are married women. And thus any author of an article such as this one should at least have the decency to remove “single” from the title.

harsh

No, not at all. Because the point of this article was incredibly dehumanizing and (I’m just going to say it) sexist. What this article does is play right into the pornographic culture that claims everyone is a sexual being first and foremost and, ergo, every single woman who isn’t reigned in by a husband is probably on the prowl and going to vault herself onto the first man who seems willing.

If the author was truly convinced that single woman in his office are automatically a threat to one’s marriage, then he should have the wherewithal to take his head out of the ground and realize that succumbing to this type of logic requires that one’s guard be up against all women, not just single women.

Then again, such logic leads straight to:

2 ) The Objectification/Dehumanization Of Women

This builds of my previous point that the author seems to have a general distrust of women and views them entirely as sexual threats.[6] But his advice in this article is astoundingly atrocious:

  • “keep eye contact simple and short”
  • “keep conversation professional and general”

Yes, because heaven forbid you realize the woman you are talking to has feelings. Heaven forbid you realize the women you are talking to has needs for friendship and community. Heaven forbid you actually ask your co-worker something about how you can be praying for them, how their day is going or- I dunno- something beyond “do you have the 1059A report!?” (eyes downcast). And by all means, heaven forbid you realize that your co-worker is anything other than a sexual deviant who can’t wait for the chance to rip your clothes off and your marriage in two.

sarcastic

And what about the line: “The single women you engage with each day, if you have to…[7]. Oh, yea. If you have to speak to these sub-human beings…then here’s how you handle it. If you have to go out of your way and address them, if you absolutely, no f%$&# way around it, must talk to a single woman, spray yourself down with Lysol, don your chastity belt and then go in. What the hell, better yet, I think I can get you that suit from The Hurt Locker:

hurt locker 

Yep, you’re set. But heaven help you if you look them in eye. They can sense weakness. And fear.

calm down

Maybe I should apologize for being so rash. But this is the thing that really gets me. I mean for heavens sake, treat women, treat everyone, like human beings.

please

Unless you have Bible verses to back it up….which…oh! here we go:

3) The Egregious Use of Bible Verses to Support Said Points

So confession. I wasn’t quite sure what “egregious” meant but I was pretty sure it fit the context. In case you’re in the same boat as me, here’s the definition:

e·gre·gious

iˈgrējəs/

adjective

1.outstandingly bad; shocking.

“egregious abuses of verses like Matthew 5:28”

synonyms:

shockingappallingterribleawfulhorrendous,abominable,

Yep. It fits the context.

Speaking of “context”, that’s another word this author probably should understand before he uses Bible verses to support his claims.

For instance, to support his point that men “should keep eye contact short and simple” he pointed readers to Matthew 5:28: “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart”. Okay, uh, I get it if your point is “keep your practice runs of x-ray vision to a minimum with women other than your wife”.

But it’s not.

He’s saying avoid eye contact, which has absolutely nothing to do with lusting. In fact, if you want to realize the humanity of another person, if you want to enable yourself to see them as a human being with a soul, then eye contact is probably the best thing you can do.

Furthermore, this passage falls in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount. And what does he sum up this teaching with?

“So in everything, do to others as you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12)

“As you would have them do unto you”. You know…like treat them like human beings. Look ‘em in the eye. Ask ‘em about their day. Stuff like that. I dunno. Whatever.

suggestions

But okay. Maybe that was just a slip up. Maybe he had a deadline and wanted to support his points with Biblical data like a good evangelical so he grabbed a Concordance, flipped to “Lust” and wa-la! We’ll give him that.

But then under his point “keep conversation short and professional” he cited:

‘Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness.” (Romans 6:13)

Again, this is so blatantly out of context I’m not even sure where to begin. And this article is long enough as it is. But let me just say this: Paul is writing about life in Christ as opposed to death in Adam (synonymous for sin). Leading up to this verse he is appealing to the Romans to pursue a life that isn’t controlled by sin…which this author somehow equates with asking a single woman in the office if she had a good weekend. Furthermore, when viewed in context and when the audience of this letter is taken into consideration one would learn that Roman Christians were actually counter-cultural for the way they valued singleness and single women, an ironic oversight on this author’s part.[8]

The point is, I am not the only person who (though I am now married) can remember at some point in my single life being treated like a fencepost by married Christian couples. There were moments in my interactions with married people that I literally wanted to scream:

i'm not trying

human And I’m a male. And I can pull my head out of the ground long enough to realize there are some double standards in the church: one of them being the disregard we tend to have for single females.[9] 

Members of the church, how can such actions be justified?

Look, I’m a married man. I get it. Protecting my marriage is a high priority and I am all for someone who is helping other men do as much. And it isn’t easy in today’s society. To clear up any misconceptions please let me make this clear: I am not attempting to demonize the writer of this article, and I am sorry if any of my comments have come across as vicious.[10]

But my marriage is supposed to be reflective of Christ and the church; my marriage is supposed to make single people feel welcomed into a community that has historically embraced celibacy and singleness, not felt threatened by it. Furthermore, if you treat other humans like objects in your own mind that’s quickly what they will become; and don’t think your objectification of women will not affect your relationship with your wife.

Do I have long dinner conversations with women (single or married)? No. Do I have women over to my apartment when my wife isn’t home? Yea…uh…no. Do I flirt with women? Absolutely not. Do I take off my wedding ring? Only when rock climbing (have you ever caught your ring in a finger hold? #hurtslikehell) and water-tubing (because that’s how everyone loses it). And only with my wife’s knowledge and permission.

But do I look women in the eye and treat them, if Christians, like sisters in an eternal kingdom and family and if not with the warm and accepting nature of Christ towards the woman at the well? Yes, or at least I try.

Do I acknowledge that I am a brother and a co-heir in the kingdom of Christ, that Christian is my primary identity and husband falls within that not above it? Most certainly.

Do I acknowledge that marriage is a temporary and worldly institution, one that ends with death and that if I shun and treat every single woman I encounter day-to-day like the Samaritan on the side of the road, then I could have some potentially awkward and “shoot I’m sorry” reunions for, uh, all eternity in heaven? Absolutely. Whole heartedly:[11]

yea i do

There are different ways to make single women feel valued and none of them, I guarantee you, require breaking up your marriage. Talk with your spouse and see what they’re comfortable with. If I know of a single woman at work that I want to reach out to, I often tell my wife about her and we (note the emphasis) have her over for coffee. Pretty soon she’s talking more to my wife than she is to me. But she knows that I don’t treat her like a threat. She knows that in me she has a brother in the kingdom of Christ. If she’s not a Christian, she knows there’s something different about me because I’ve allowed her into our home to see the way I value my wife up close and personal. If I treat my wife like a human being too, then this woman will see and respect the boundaries we have in our marriage and value us for them.

You can be on your guard without dehumanizing other people and playing into the lie of our overly sexualized society. The answer is not sequestering single woman but establishing a marriage that reflects the kingdom of God in every day and age. The answer is not exclusion but inclusion. The answer is one that values everyone no matter their walk of life and meets them there.

The answer is in our calling as Christians first and foremost and the blessed calling as husbands and wives we find within that.

 


[1] Which, like any half decent graduate student, I will use to make comments I simply couldn’t excuse including in the rebuttal.

[2] Despite my potentially deceptive tone, I’m not being sarcastic here. I truly thought these were good aspects of the article. All six of ‘em.

[3] DISCLAIMER: I bear no ill will or grudge towards the author of this article. I’m sure he’s a good guy with a good heart. The pacifist in me felt the need to say that.

[4] This is based on a recent study from Indiana University reported in this news story: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/women-cheating-men-study/story?id=13885519#.UENkZ1QcAi4

[5] Which…by the way, they do. See above^

[6] Though, to be fair, maybe its emotional affairs he’s concerned about. But from the tone of the article there is no reason to see it that way.

[7] I realize I just broke the cardinal rule of writing and used emphatic amounts of bolding and type adjustment to enhance my point. Please forgive me.

[8] Ready for the longest footnote ever? Here it goes:

In the ancient world, women had very limited power over their own well-being. They couldn’t inherit estates, own wealth and often times were unemployable. Their value depended on their fathers and then on their husbands and, as a last resort, on their sons. A single woman with no sons was in big trouble; this is what makes the story of Ruth such a powerful one. Ruth chose poverty and almost certain death to remain loyal to her mother in law; as a result she was not only provided for but found a place in the lineage of Christ.

Ergo, early Christians were a threat to the Roman Empire because of many things, one of which being the fact that they valued singleness; women didn’t have to be married to participate, live and thrive in their communities. This led to a breakdown in family structure and a lack of trust placed in the empire and worldly security. Instead, trust was placed in Christ. They were counter cultural in their love and acceptance of single woman and the way they treated them not as merely objects or wives but as valuable participants in the kingdom of Heaven.

Contrary to this today, articles like this sequester singles and label them as threats to our the sanctity of marriage, which suddenly has a higher importance than the God-given role of the Church. The author of this article sounds more like the Roman culture than the Roman Christians he associates himself with in citing Paul’s letter.

For more on this: see S.K. Johnson’s pending thesis: Singleness and the Early Church. I can get you a copy if needed.

[9] If you don’t believe me. Read the comment thread on this article. A single female raised similar objections to mine and was told, rather abrasively, that she was taking this “too personally”. They might as well have attempted to cite the Biblical passage “speak only when spoken too” (note: not actually in the Bible, more sarcasm)

[10] I mean it. Truly. If my sarcasm denotes anything other than sincere critique, I apologize.

[11] Do I take excessive liberty in the realm of run-on sentences? Yes.

To The Frozen Pond, An Apology

My fiancé and I fight. Sometimes. I’m told its part of engagement and part of being human. I’m also keenly aware that as much of it is due to my perpetual asinine nature as anything. Hopefully that’s a start.

A couple days ago, we were out walking with another couple by a small pond. The temperature had dipped below zero the previous night and a sheet of ice floated on the surface. I looked at the ice and came to an immediate conclusion: seeing as the temperature had only recently dropped to seasonal norms, the ice couldn’t be very thick. As if to prove the point to myself, I picked up a piece of gravel and threw it into the lake, fully expecting it to bomb through the ice with an edifying crack. Instead it fell with a resolute thud onto the surface where it remained. The ice held.

I was amazed. As my fiancé can tell you, I’m usually not so wrong.

“Look! Look!” I yelled to everyone. “The ice is so much thicker than I thought! The rock didn’t break the surface!”

They paused for a moment. The other couple looked at me with a concerned version of curiosity and my fiancé gave me a sweet smile, the kind of look a mother gives to her three-year-old when he’s elated to discover that with a simple push of the handle his poo-poo disappears down the toilet. So I stifled anything resembling wonder and quietly shuffled away from the lake, leaving the rock sitting on the surface of the ice. Stupid pond.

There’s an old Polaroid picture in the novel I’m reading. I purchased the book this summer at a library and upon discovering the photo employed it as a bookmark.

The picture is of a woman, a young woman, maybe even a teenager. She is standing in a white doorway wearing a black sweatshirt with long brown hair that’s arranged in a ponytail and resting upon her right shoulder. She has her hand outstretched toward the camera with the palm face down so that her arm covers the bottom half of her face. I assume she is smiling, just from the way her eyes are narrowed and the skin around them pushed upward.

I am tempted to believe the world is as I see it. And when the ice doesn’t break I’m tempted to give in to the demons of apathy that so readily piece together the remnants of my pride.

I am jealous of couples who say they never fight, as I am jealous of one who throws a rock into a pond and isn’t the least bit surprised when it doesn’t break through. Sometimes I feel the need to defend the way we are to the world as I see it, one in which true love doesn’t consist of bickering and the girl with her hand in front of her face is smiling and not yelling at the man behind the camera for being an obstinate ass. Even though he probably deserved it.

I mentioned this to my fiancé the other day and she disagreed. “I’m glad we fight,” she said, “otherwise we’d be pretty awful at apologizing.” When alls said and done, I’d still choose her. Again and again.

For there is a photograph of a young woman in my book, she may be smiling but she could also be frowning, angry or even sad. There is a pond outside that is freezing over faster than I’d imagined. There is a world and a cosmos that exists in a mystery that will continue, whether or not I am able to figure it out.

And so I throw rocks and read books and I remain aghast when the world around me proves itself stronger, colder and more beautiful than I had perceived. To the pond, my fiancé, the entire cosmos to which I belong, and the Creator Of It All, I hope you will consider this an apology. An apology for my pride and my hubris, my heart of asinine willfulness and my eagerness to believe in the truth I hold up instead of the Truth That Is. I hope you will consider my perpetual befuddlement and awe as proof of my sincerity.

When alls said and done, I am grateful for moments when my perceptions becoming a boomerang of truth careening back into my face. I am thankful that reality is reality whether or not I see it as such and thankful that my hubris is capable of cracking before the ice on the pond. I am thankful for the grace that grants photographs in old books, composure to apologize, pretty women to smile, and wonder in the face of it all. Lest I just become an obstinate ass, permanently.

So my fiancé is grateful as well.

Always Second Chances: The Man Cave

Below is another post in the ongoing effort between myself and a fellow blogger to prompt good discussion on Christian relationships. Today we addressed the inevitable question: “What are you thinking about?” If you like this snippet, then be sure to check out the full discussion here.

 

man cave

 

 

DEBBIE: 
“What are you thinking…?”

“Oh, nothing… what are you thinking…?”
It’s this endless charade between couples, a vicious cycle that highlights the vast differences between males and females. Because, when a man says he isn’t thinking anything… he usually isn’t. When a woman says she isn’t thinking anything… she usually is.
I didn’t really believe this until recently when enough guys that I casually surveyed admitted that there, indeed, is such a thing as the ‘man cave’. The place where men go mentally to escape every day life. The place where they are literally, sometimes, not thinking about anything.
I can look back at myself in the “what are you thinking” circles in past relationships, believing firmly that the men were actually holding back some secret thoughts from me. I knew I was…so, naturally, they would be too.  The thing about the “what are you thinking” moments, is that the girls ask guys what they are thinking out of some desire to know, but mostly out of an ulterior motivation to be able to tell men what they are actually thinking (or they’re simply fishing for compliments). The thing about the “what are you thinking” moments, is that guys are usually honest about their thoughts (no matter how shallow, stupid and non-related to the relationship they are), where girls tend to reveal only half truths or generous overtures about their significant other in hopes that he will one-up her. The thing about these moments is that girls are often verbal processors and guys just need to think about absolutely nothing for a while…or something seemingly insignificant to her or their relationship.
I don’t really get it, since I’m currently unable to sleep because my mind keeps racing and because, while I’m in one, a relationship seems to occupy a lot of my thoughts. How do guys think about nothing? Can you enlighten me (and our audience) on this one, Bryn?
ME: 
This is an interesting question, and unfortunately I think it varies wildly from one guy to another, particularly as you cross lines between extroverts and introverts. I’ll simply speak from personal experience as a somewhat (read: very) introverted male.

There are innumerous times when my fiancé will ask me “what are you thinking about?”. To be fair, it’s usually because I asked her first. More often than not, she has a clear succinct answer and it’s usually sweet or endearing; it usually relates to us. What’s awkward is when she turns the question around on me and the only thing I’m positive I wasn’t thinking about was exactly what I should’ve been thinking about: us. Many a car trip has evolved around conversations such as:

Me: “What are you thinking about, dear?”
Her: “Oh, I was just thinking about how much I love taking drives with you. What are you thinking about?”
Me: “Oh-uh, I was just wondering who on earth came up with the color for yellow lines in the middle of the road. Don’t you think life would be totally different if they were, say, lime green?”

The thing is, I find females (particularly extroverted ones) often take this personally and think that because a guy isn’t thinking about them while they’re sharing a quaint experience (such as cross-country road trips) he must not care. This simply is not true. The only time an introverted male has a one track mind is during sporting events or in the middle of a really gripping movie; I’d throw physical intimacy into the mix but the truth is even during passionate moments a guy can be pondering deep mysteries of the universe. Horrible as that may sound, this is nothing personal; it does not mean we don’t care about you, its just part of how we’re wired. For introverted men, we are either hyper-focusing (to the extent that breaking our concentration would be as safe as lighting a fire cracker by a sleeping tiger) or wandering down a million different paths of thought at once (which is where the nickname “space cadet” may come in handy). Many times, the thinking question will catch me off guard, and instead of attempting to explain everything that was running through my head (“did I turn off the stove?”, “I bet the Bruins are gonna pull up an upset tonight…”, “Man, Bill Bryon’s new book was spellbinding…”, “Did I call my Father for Father’s day?”, “Oh- I love this radio station!”) my response will just be “nothing”. This is not a lie, but a simplified truth. As a fellow introverted professor one told me “you have no idea what it’s like being inside my brain!”. Sometimes, ladies, we tell simplified truths to spare you the realization that you’re dating a half-crazed, ADHD poster-child.

On the flip side, there is truth in the fact that we sometimes need to retreat into a space where we don’t need to think about anything and can just clear our heads. For me, this is while running and the drive to work in the morning; if anyone tries to talk to me during these moments they will be greeted with the conversational quality of a brick wall. This is how we recharge; it’s how we empty ourselves and gain a sense of where we are in the world. It’s vital that an introvert get this time, vital that a man feels secure in his place in the cosmos before stepping into a relationship. Thus, if my significant other asks me what I’m thinking about in these moments, she’s lucky if I even answer “nothing”. If I do, this is not a simplified truth, but as real as the car we’re driving in.

The key to understanding another person isn’t (ironically) understanding them. It’s grasping that there’s some spheres of their consciousness that you will never understand. It’s easy to take things personally, and easier still to fill in the blanks. The response “I wasn’t thinking about anything” can easily lead into the conceived notion that “he’s lying, he’s gotta be thinking about something. So I bet it’s how annoyed he is with me. Or I bet he’s thinking about his ex-girlfriend, and that cashier at the counter that bashed her eyes at him…how could he do this to me?” In situations like this, trust is essential. Learn to trust the person you’re with, let their “nothing” be nothing and their silence be a sign of respect. Let them sit in their “man-cave” when needed and leave well enough alone.

After all, we may just be thinking about why the median lines aren’t lime-green.

DEBBIE:
I think it’s good for us females to realize the broad spectrum of what we might be up against when we ask The Question. Mostly I think it’s good for us to realize that we shouldn’t take it personally and it may be good for us to recognize that we should be aware of possible ulterior motives when we ask what our guys are thinking.  If we really want to know, fine… but if we’re just fishing for a compliment, or if we are trying to get him to ask us what we are thinking…
we should maybe think twice about our approach.

I think there’s something really valuable in letting go of this need we have to understand each other, too. Of letting ourselves exist in our weird trains of thought without having to completely understand the other and without taking any of it personally. Great points and insights here. Trustis essential and letting these moments be what they are can simply be life-giving…instead of having to over-analyze, read into, believe lies about what the other is thinking (or not thinking).

Sometimes the silence is a beautiful thing, too.
The silence as we both think about a million things, or stare off into the abyss, wondering about absolutely nothing at all…and letting ourselves just exist in each other’s presence, understanding that we won’t understand everything and that it’s okay.

Let’s let the men have their mental ‘Man Cave’ and not take it personally when we can’t go there with them.