Jim Geraghty on the beauty of the threatpoint.


Do as I say Ward, or I’ll blow up this family!

Chapter 15 of Jim Geraghty and Cam Edwards’ book Heavy Lifting: Grow Up, Get a Job, Raise a Family, and Other Manly Advice is Marriage is for Keeps: How to Avoid Divorce.  Geraghty’s portion of the chapter is a rambling jumble of modern conservative clichés, with most of the content not addressing the question of the chapter.  For example, he provides the obligatory wacky anecdote about how he failed miserably as Mr. Mom that time his wife was ill, along with a sudden and perplexing apology that the book isn’t gayer:

You may have noticed this whole book is really, really “heteronormative,” as the social justice warriors say. Look, if you’re gay or lesbian, I hope you’re enjoying this book and I hope life treats you well. I don’t doubt gays and lesbians can be fine parents.

But please refrain from whining that a book about parenting and manhood written by two straight guys doesn’t spend enough time discussing the gay perspective…

This is from chapter 15, not the introduction of the book.

Geraghty offers statistics that most divorces are for reasons other than infidelity, abuse, or addiction.  He then offers his personal theory on what is causing the lion’s share of divorce:

…my divorced friends say that fighting rarely resolved an issue.  And maybe that was the problem.  There are four ways couples respond to conflict:  he concedes, she concedes, they compromise, or it gets swept under the rug.  That last option might be the easiest, but it’s a short-term solution at best.  Each time you sweep a difficult issue under the metaphorical rug of your day-to-day interaction in your marriage, that rug gets a little harder to walk on.  Resentments build.  Eventually, the issue you’re fighting about stops being the real issue;  the real issue becomes your inability to resolve any other issue.

Geraghty explains that the problem of the risk of divorce can be resolved by threats of divorce.  More specifically, he argues that a marriage can be improved by the wife threatening to nuke the husband out of the family if she doesn’t get her way (emphasis mine):

The D-word can actually help a marriage full of conflict.  It can be a great clarifier.  Using the D-word is the DEFCON Two of marriage.  (DEFCON is short for defense readiness condition, the alert state for the U.S. armed forces.  DEFCON Five is the calmest, DEFCON One is the most severe, basically meaning nuclear war is imminent.)  When your spouse uses the D-word, it is a screaming alarm klaxon that asks you just how much you care about whatever it is you’re fighting about at the moment.

Is it worth divorcing your wife over?

Put that starkly, most of the day-to-day problems in a marriage don’t look that bad.  If you can back down from that moment, you’ve endured your marital equivalent of the Cuban Missile Crisis.  John F. Kennedy’s 1963 point about the basic common links with the Soviets applies to most warring spouses:  “We all breathe the same air.  We all cherish our children’s future.  And we are all mortal.”

Note the weasellyness of the words he uses to blur what he is trying to say.

  • He says “your spouse” threatens divorce when he means “your wife”, to make this seem gender neutral, when it clearly is not.  He clarifies in the same chapter that he is writing specifically for heterosexual men.
  • He says “Is it worth divorcing your wife over?” in reference to the wife threatening to divorce the husband if he doesn’t do as she says.  She threatens divorce, and if he doesn’t comply he is implied to be divorcing his wife.
  • He says “If you can back down from that moment” when he means “give her whatever she demands”.  He already explained that merely stopping the argument is (in his opinion) the root cause of divorce, something threats of divorce will solve.

While Geraghty’s enthusiasm for the threatpoint isn’t surprising, his hypothesis that an ever present threat of divorce makes marriage better by forcing each issue to be resolved is the opposite of what this study found:

Many currently happily married spouses have had extended periods of marital unhappiness, often for quite serious reasons, including alcoholism, infidelity, verbal abuse, emotional neglect, depression, illness, and work reversals. Why did these marriages survive where other marriages did not? The marital endurance ethic appears to play a big role. Many spouses said that their marriages got happier, not because they and their partner resolved problems but because they stubbornly outlasted them. With time, they told us, many sources of conflict and distress eased. Spouses in this group also generally had a low opinion of the benefits of divorce, as well as friends and family members who supported the importance of staying married.

Moreover, one of the core claims of the book is that by following his advice men will become sexy.  Geraghty’s wisdom from his own marriage is that as the husband he must always follow his wife’s lead, lest she divorce him.  Follow Geraghty’s example, and you will become a stud, the sexiest man alive!  Yet it is painfully obvious that he has absolutely no understanding of the mechanics of sexual attraction for women.

Cam Edwards has his own section in the same chapter, and he opens with a lengthy piece on how the negative impacts of divorce on children are overstated, contradicting Geraghty from earlier in the chapter:

Jim paints a pretty grim picture of the children of divorce: more likely to end up in prison, more likely to end up on a reboot of Teen Mom, and simply more likely to end up messed up than the product of a two parent family…

…I relate [my own] story because I’m not sure I buy the statistics that try to prove that divorce is going to cause irreparable harm to the kids involved. That’s not to say it doesn’t suck, but it’s also not an excuse to destroy your life if your parents end up splitting. Absolutely none of the parents I know who’ve gotten divorced say it was because they just had to get away from the kids, so try not to take it personally if it happens.

It is a very strange and uncompelling argument.  First he explains that his own parents’ divorce didn’t negatively impact him, even though a string of counselors kept assuring him that it did.  Then he says that after his mom moved him away from his father (from New Jersey to Oklahoma*) he resented his father so much for abandoning him that he refused to speak to him for years:

I actually didn’t talk to my dad for a couple of years after that. With the impeccable logic of a hormonal sixteen-year-old, I decided Dad’s belated gift must mean he didn’t care much about me. That being the case, I was bound and determined not to care much about him.

Next Edwards describes how his wife’s children were harmed by her own divorce and decision to move the children to a distant state*, with his wife’s ex husband as the villain:

Flash forward a few years and I was dealing with another father who was largely absent from the scene. Only this time it wasn’t my dad, it was the biological father of my oldest kids. When my wife and her kids moved from New Jersey to Oklahoma, it’s not like anyone had any expectations that he would be able to come visit on a regular basis. Still, regular phone calls or letters to the kids would have been nice. When a birthday or a holiday would go by with no contact, I would see the looks of disappointment on the faces of my kids. I’d get so angry that I’d write letters to him that I never sent (eventually we wouldn’t even know where to send them). The fact that child support was sporadic (to say the least) didn’t bother me. We could take care of our family without his money. What killed me was seeing my kids go from disappointment that they didn’t hear from their biological father to the resigned expectation that he was going to let them down again. Eventually, on one rare occasion when he called, my daughter declined to talk with him. The next time he called, my son followed his sister’s lead. Their dad never called back.

Edwards then finally gets around to the topic of the chapter, and offers some murky advice on avoiding divorce.  Unlike Geraghty, Edwards suggests that an unwillingess to divorce is a key factor to remaining married.  However, he then concludes by saying that we shouldn’t judge people who don’t follow his advice:

I understand that not all differences are reconcilable, and most of the friends I’ve had who’ve gone through a divorce tried very hard to make their marriages work. Both my parents married multiple times, and if it weren’t for my wife and her ex splitting up, I would never be the man I am today. I am not here to condemn divorce or people who’ve gotten a divorce (I generally try to tend to the beam in my own eye before worrying about someone else’s mote). All I know is that I’m glad we stuck with it through the hard times. I’m thankful our differences were (and are) not irreconcilable, even if they can still lead to… let’s say spirited debate on occasion. I am truly blessed to have my family, to love them and be loved by them, and I’m mindful of this fact every day.

As is evidently the pattern for the entire book, the chapter ends with What Would Ward Cleaver Do?

Ward had his priorities straight: he kept his focus on his relationship with June and the kids. Work paid for the mortgage, but a marriage and family is forever.


*What are the odds that Edwards would marry a woman who just like his own mother moved her children to Oklahoma, away from their father in New Jersey?

Original housewife image by Tetra Pak (creative commons).  Dynamite detonator from this picture by Lilu under WTF Public License (NSFW)

Posted in Jim Geraghty, Threatpoint, Traditional Conservatives, Turning a blind eye, You can't make this stuff up | 208 Comments

Will Wilcox and the men of National Review respect you in the morning?

Over the last year or so there has been a concerted effort by men associated with National Review to woo men into marriage.  The most recent example of this is W. Bradford Wilcox and Nicholas H. Wolfinger’s February 9th article at the National Review, Hey Guys, Put a Ring on It.  Back in December of 2016 National Review contributor Jim Geraghty and conservative blogger Dennis Prager created a video with the same message titled The Sexiest Man Alive.  And prior to that in May of 2016 Prager and Wilcox created another video titled:  Be a man. Get married.

I should start by noting that I am a happily married father and a firm believer in marriage.  Marriage is not only the foundation of the family, it is given to us from God.  However, I am writing to warn you that when Wilcox and the men of the National Review whisper sweet nothings to you about marriage and commitment, they are really only after one thing.

Certainly they will cheer you on when you announce your engagement, and no doubt they would heartily pat you on the back if they were at the wedding party.  And of course, they will be filled with good wishes (and perhaps a bit of envy) for you on your wedding night.  But what about the day after you give them what they desire in response to their flowery words of love and commitment? Will Wilcox and the men at National Review respect you in the morning?

I wish this weren’t true, but I have to warn you;  no, they will not.

How can I know?  You just have to look at the long string of men that came before you, men they seduced with the very same lines.  Once the wedding is over, once the men of National Review have gotten what they wanted, the men who naively trusted them are discarded like yesterday’s trash.  Do you really believe you will be the special one, the one they don’t toss casually away once they get what they want?

Wait.  You didn’t think you were their first conquest, did you?

Consider just one of the many men who came before you, Carly Israel’s ex husband.  Ms. Israel tells us at the Huffington Post that he was a kind man and an excellent father.  Despite knowing that it would destroy both him and their three boys, Israel decided to divorce this good man because she was no longer happy honoring her marriage vows.  Moreover, Israel is teaching other women that frivolous divorce which devastates good men and children will make a woman more moral:

You get closer to God

More troubling is that Israel’s moral message celebrating frivolous divorce is the norm.  Modern women shamelessly fantasize about divorce, and publications like the Huffington Post have responded with a never ending stream of tales about wives crushing good men and innocent children on the path to moral enrichment.  Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Eat Pray Love was a runaway success, and lead to a blockbuster movie by the same name.  More recently Cheryl Strayed’s bestselling book about how frivolous divorce made her a better person was also made into a movie.

Not surprisingly Israel is a huge fan of Strayed, and closes her piece with a quote from her:

Go, even though you love him.
Go, even though he is kind and faithful and dear to you.
Go, even though he’s your best friend and you’re his.
Go, even though you can’t imagine your life without him.
Go, even though he adores you and your leaving will devastate him.
Go, even though your friends will be disappointed or surprised or pissed off or all three.
Go, even though you once said you would stay.
Go, even though you’re afraid of being alone.
Go, even though you’re sure no one will ever love you as well as he does.
Go, even though there is nowhere to go.
Go, even though you don’t know exactly why you can’t stay.
Go, because you want to.
Because wanting to leave is enough.

Wilcox, Geraghty, and Prager at the National Review see the culture telling women Divorce him!  Divorce him!  Divorce him! and their response is to tell men Put a ring on it!

Why aren’t Wilcox and the men at the National Review condemning frivolous divorce, and standing up for the good men and innocent children who are devastated by it?  Why aren’t they teaching that frivolous divorce is morally wrong?  If they do believe that frivolous divorce is morally wrong, they are careful not to say this publicly.  In Dennis Prager’s case we know the answer, as Prager is adamant that high divorce rates are not a moral problem:

…whenever conservatives describe [moral] decline, they include the high divorce rate, along with crime and out-of-wedlock births, as a prime example. I believe conservatives are wrong here.

They aren’t arguing men should marry for reasons of sexual morality; they want men to marry because they believe that more men marrying is good for society.  If that means good men are crushed in the process, so be it.  Again from Prager:

…as a rule, it is far better for society to have people marry and divorce than never to marry.

What they want is more weddings, even though they know an obscenely large number of those weddings will lead to devastation for the men they are wooing.  Wilcox knows it is common for fickle wives to fall out of love and destroy the family, and instead of standing up for the sanctity of marriage lectures husbands that they must work hard to be “emotionally engaged”. If Wilcox respected these men, if he cared about them, he would be outraged at the rampant injustice.  But once he’s gotten what he wants from them they are out of mind, just another notch.  Moreover, if he respected men considering marriage he would be forthright with them and tell them that no amount of marriage counseling or emotional availability will stop their wife from falling out of love and destroying their family.

In fact, Wilcox knows men have excellent reason to be hesitant to marry.  In 2009 he wrote:

…the ill effects of divorce for adults tend to fall disproportionately on the shoulders of fathers. Since approximately two-thirds of divorces are legally initiated by women, men are more likely than women to be divorced against their will. In many cases, these men have not engaged in egregious marital misconduct such as abuse, adultery, or substance abuse. They feel mistreated by their ex-wives and by state courts that no longer take into account marital “fault” when making determinations about child custody, child support, and the division of marital property. Yet in the wake of a divorce, these men will nevertheless often lose their homes, a substantial share of their monthly incomes, and regular contact with their children. For these men, and for women caught in similar circumstances, the sting of an unjust divorce can lead to downward emotional spirals, difficulties at work, and serious deteriorations in the quality of their relationships with their children….

Yet today, in Hey Guys, Put a Ring on It Wilcox opens suggesting that men are avoiding marriage not because the system is designed to fleece them, but because they are lazy and unwilling to make sacrifices:

Marriage is not worth it. It’s not worth the financial sacrifices, the lost sexual opportunities, and the lack of freedom. All in all, it’s a ball and chain — of little benefit to any man interested in pursuing happiness and well-being. This is the view that we’ve encountered from many young men of late.

There is no doubt that marriage requires sacrifices, and lots of them. Successful marriages require men to work harder, avoid cheating, spend less time with friends, and make a good-faith effort, day in and day out, to be emotionally present with their spouses. Many men find these sacrifices hard.

This is similar to Wilcox’s tone in The Divorce Revolution Has Bred An Army Of Woman Haters, where he dismisses men who fear divorce as misogynistic and lazy.

Wilcox sees millions of men making huge sacrifices in a system designed to destroy, not protect, their families, and complains that more men aren’t willing to do so.  Wilcox clearly doesn’t respect the enormous sacrifices married men make, or he wouldn’t take them so completely for granted while casually dismissing the very real concerns of unmarried men.

The lack of respect for men who marry is displayed in many other ways, including:

  • Wilcox pretends the sacrifices married men make to support their families financially are not sacrifices at all, but a benefit men receive from marriage.  He calls the financial burdens men take on when marrying a “marriage premium” for men.  He doesn’t respect married men’s willingness to work longer hours at more stressful jobs, so he pretends they are lucky to be able to do so.
  • Wilcox pretends that the man he calls “Six Pack Craig” represent you, the average unmarried man, when he knows that Six Pack Craig instead represents the kind of men your future wife very likely spent years having no strings sex with until she and Wilcox both decided you should put a ring on it.
  • Wilcox and Prager give the impression that by marrying and having children you will become respected in our culture.  Yet in reality everyone from the secular left to Republicans to modern Christians holds married men, especially married fathers, in contempt.

It is my sincere hope that Dr. Wilcox and the men of National Review will turn away from their love em and leave em ways regarding men and marriage, and start treating the commitment of marriage as sacred.  Old habits are hard to break, yet with God all things are possible.  But until that day I can only warn you;  they are only after one thing, and once they get it they won’t respect you in the morning.

Note:  I will send a link to this post to Dr. Wilcox and would welcome his response.

Hat tip to readers who shared links used in this article:  Heidi, Jeff, Deti, Anon, and Boxer.

Posted in Cheryl Strayed, Dennis Prager, Disrespecting Respectability, Fatherhood, Jim Geraghty, Marriage, National Marriage Project, National Review, New Morality, Satire, selling divorce, Traditional Conservatives, W. Bradford Wilcox, Weak men screwing feminism up | 271 Comments

UK Millennial men earning like women.

Lianna Brinded at Business Insider notes that weak men are screwing feminism up: The gender pay gap is narrowing for millennials — ‘but for the wrong reasons’

Millennial men have earned less than Generation X men in every year between the ages of 22 and 30, resulting in a cumulative pay deficit during their 20s of £12,500 ($15,638). However, the unit found that millennial women’s pay is stagnant compared to the last generation.

The problem is that young men in the UK are starting to work like women:

[Men] are taking up jobs that used to be predominantly taken by women — part-time, low-paid work – according the think tank Resolution Foundation’s “Intergenerational Commission” unit.

This is precisely the kind of change we would expect as men slowly react to the removal of the incentives of a marriage based system. We are of course witnessing something very similar in the US.

Posted in Disrespecting Respectability, Economics, Patriarchal Dividend, Pay Gap, Weak men screwing feminism up | 174 Comments

Feel the love.

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, the New York Times warns us that Husbands Are Deadlier Than Terrorists.

Husbands are incomparably more deadly in America than jihadist terrorists.

And husbands are so deadly in part because in America they have ready access to firearms, even when they have a history of violence. In other countries, brutish husbands put wives in hospitals; in America, they put them in graves.

Red Alert responds, pointing out that married women (and their children) are far safer than unmarried women are.

This constant drumbeat of contempt for men who play by the rules isn’t limited just to Carlos Slim’s blog.  The message that married fathers are fools at best, and dangerous brutes at worst is the same message on offer from Christian leaders.

H/T Boxer

Posted in Disrespecting Respectability, Domestic Violence, Marriage | 318 Comments

Time and fantasy.

Picking up from my last post, the root of declining marriage rates isn’t just that there are substitutes to marriage, but that marriage itself has been degraded for many decades.  Time is our enemy here, because inertia has delayed the effects of our war on marriage from becoming fully evident.  Each new generation of men is slowly starting to respond to the radical changes we have made to marriage, and this is changing their perceptions of marriage.  The first generation of men who grew up watching the societal celebration as fathers were tossed out of the house en masse were largely unfazed;  nearly all of them went on to marry.   Yet with each new generation witnessing the same pattern we are slowly burning through an enormous reservoir of goodwill from men.

But there is another way that time is our enemy, and this is that as young men are waiting for their future wives to tire of having sex with other men, there are plenty of diversions available to pass the time.  A young man knows that his future wife won’t likely be in the market for marriage for roughly a decade.  Instead of knocking himself out today to signal provider status while he waits, the temptation for a young man is to focus instead on video games, porn, legal marijuana, and now even a pint sized virtual girlfriend:

Pastor Fiene is concerned that young men will be too distracted by fantasy women to notice how feminine, selfless, submissive, and meek modern young women are.  What should worry him instead is that the fantasy women young men are turning to demonstrate by contrast just how aggressive, masculine, and bossy modern women are.

There are after all two opposing fantasies at work here.  The pathetic young man above with the virtual girlfriend is engaging in one fantasy, but men like Fiene are trying to sell an equally absurd fantasy.  The longer a young man engages with fantasy submissive women, the harder it will be for conservative Christians to convince him that what should turn him on is a bossy woman.

Time is the enemy in other ways.  The longer a young man waits for women to be interested in marriage, the more he will be taught about the realities of modern marriage.  He will watch movies like Fireproof and learn that a husband’s primary job is to constantly remain on guard, always scrambling to keep his contentious wife from becoming unhappy and divorcing him.  This same message will be endlessly reinforced in articles like The secret to a happy marriage may be an emotionally intelligent husband, where he will learn that women are better at marriage because they have years of practice being catty, self centered, and dramatic:

When boys play games, their focus is on winning, not their emotions or the others playing. If one of the boys get hurt, he gets ignored. After all, “the game must go on.”

With girls, feelings are often the first priority. When a tearful girl says, “we’re not friends anymore,” the game stops and only starts again if the girls make up. In “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work,” Dr. Gottman explains, “the truth is that ‘girlish’ games offer far better preparation for marriage and family life because they focus on relationships.”

Related:  Losing control of the narrative.

Posted in Cracks in the narrative, Disrespecting Respectability, Fantasy vs Reality, Feral Females, Marriage, Traditional Conservatives, Turning a blind eye, Weak men screwing feminism up | 245 Comments