Taking the Polygamist Challenge: What Your Choice Says Bout You

The marriage debate as hot and heavy as two newly-weds on their honeymoon, and it may be just heating up. In a strange way conservatives have been given some consolation from a strange place: the lame-stream media outlet known as Time. In a recent issue Belinda Luscombe[1] acknowledged a long-running GOP fear that ‘weakening’ the definition of marriage might open the door for ‘alternate’ lifestyles beyond the pale. In her well-written article she described the opening up of the polygamist community which hopes to ride public support for gay marriage to allow open practice of their love for many women.

While I was not convinced of the reliability of that plan (either for legalization or marriage itself), I found myself pondering a study mentioned in the article.[2] A study was mentioned in which the following scenario was given to women:

1) Suppose polygamy is legal.

2) Suppose you have two vying candidates for marriage in which A is middle class and single; while B is a billionaire and married.

3) Given these two suppositions are true which candidate for marriage would you choose?

In this scenario 70 percent of the women in his classes have indicated that they would be willing to go with B. Interestingly only 10 percent of the men have been willing to even consider B. Luscombe spun this as an example of polygamy not being as strange as we may think. I think there is another option.

One could argue that beyond that answer: the study shows more about our current cultural conditioning, than any feelings about polygamy. Our society tells two stories about marriage. One story is about love and happiness. The other story is about societal, financial, and physical safety and provision. Though both stories are told, and accepted as fact. I wonder if this study doesn’t say a lot about who is being pitched which story. Men in our society repeatedly told to find a mate that will make them happy. Women are being told to find a mate that will protect them and provide for them.

I was not sure, and mentioned the story to several women whose wisdom I trust. Both agreed. And really this makes sense of anything something I have wondered this past three years. During that time I have been involved in various jobs for a bookseller. I have long joked that in five minutes I learn more about a person than any their spouse knows. Often in five minutes I get a refresher in the person’s past decade. More than once I have received an order that begins with books on being single, has books on marriage, and books on child-raising. In one fell swoop there is the status of a person’s life. It is worse, however, to move on to books about affairs and divorce. At those times I stop processing the order and say a quiet prayer for the person involved.[3] Yet one thing that has struck me has been the orders chock full of romance and erotica novels. Before these three years, I would have thought that these books would be the purview of the young and single disparate for love and marriage. Yet if the success of 5o Shades o’ Boring have taught us anything, then it’s that there are a lot of married women disparate for hot, spicy loving from an emotionally-stunted but rich man. In fact all of these books are some variation on this theme:

1) Woman has a boringly stable middle class boy friend.

2) Woman meets exciting man who albeit emotionally fragile is blindingly well endowed.[4]

3) Women is swept away to a life of pleasure that can only be provided by that full and never-ending endowment.[5]

Whether the man is a pirate, duke, or rancher, all that matters is that man B is rich and able to sweep the woman off her feet and preferably into a nice, new set of manolos. The woman never ends up with Mr Stable Middle Class. It is always Mr Big.[6]

The problem I have here is not with the desire to find something to read that allows its reader to slip away into a new life that is different than the one they already maintain. I enjoy a good bete noir with strong, smooth, charismatic P.I.’s helping dames in distress as much as the next guy (not to mention my love for heroic scifi and comic stuff). Yet, if we want to yell about who is ruining marriage in the West, we have no where to look than beyond these pages and these two stories. Both men and women are being trained to expect certain things from marriage: happiness, fulfillment, stability, and safety. Yet these are things that cannot be attained by searching after them. The more one seeks happiness, the more diffuse it becomes. The more one expects to gain from a husband, the more one is apt to be disappointed. A woman cannot be your source of happiness. A man cannot be your source of security.

Here I am reminded of the words of Paul:

“For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.”[7]

Or perhaps the more familiar:

“Husbands should love their wives as they do their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hates his own body, but he nourishes and tenderly cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, because we are members of his body.”[8]

In the Christian ideal of marriage, the one is not concerned for themselves. Marriage is not about what you are going to get. Marriage is about what you have to give. Yet subtly our cultural message about marriage has preached just the opposite. Is it any wonder that married women flock to the bookstore to get a book about rich men catering to their every desire? This is what society has told them marriage should be, and then after the ceremony they are left with a lump that is looking to them for their own fulfillment. So it goes this standoff as two people level guns of need at each other waiting to see who blinks first. It also explains the opposite reaction occurring in the wake of 50 Shades. In a sense this desire to be dominated is merely a perversion of the need to submit one to another. Here the disparate spouse seeing no provision in sight secretly desires to accept whatever is dished out. After all as the song goes, “a kiss with a fist is better than none.”

The answer is not another marriage seminar. It is not escape into the bookstore romance section.[9] The answer stands thusly: “take up your cross and follow Him.” Die to yourself. Die to the stories that society has whispered in your ear. Open yourself up to the one truly grand story out there; the story of a man who came to die, that you might truly live. That truly is a story worth living; both as a single and a married.

[1] The opening graph of the article can be found here. Unfortunately Time insists that only subscribers be able to read all of the content, so if you are a subscriber such as myself enjoy. If not, it is cheap and worthwhile. All I can say to Time is that this is why I would refer to you as lame.

[2] Joe Henrich of the University of British Columbia has been proposing this quandary to members of his Evolutionary-Psych classes. This is far from a representative sampling, but instructive known the less.

[3] Note to any of my managers reading this: it’s a short prayer. Note to my customers: a love you, and I’m not judging.

[4] Here we are talking about his trust fund. Why, what did you think we were talking about?

[5] Again? Really?

[6] A side ploy often used in these things becomes the workaholic power-crazed chick who learns to be domesticated by her newly rich boyfriend.

[7] 1 Cor. 7:4.

[8] Eph. 5: 28-30.

[9] Although my creditors appreciate your patronage of my store.


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