This is the second part of this post,the first is available here
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Over the last few weeks it occurred to me that a husband could effectively stop this – maybe not so much the pursuit of God, but the expression of the other talents. He could do this by using his “husbandly authority”, by insisting that I should submit. This thought has actually occurred to me in different guises and permutations over the years, but I believe that this is the first time it has occurred to me in terms of a glass ceiling; that is, the glass ceiling which I have otherwise managed to avoid might finally descend upon my life in the form of my husband himself, my own living breathing glass ceiling, happily waiting for me when I get home, following me wherever I go around the world, ready to veto all my big plans and to scupper all my exciting projects.
And why might a husband do this? I guess it is possible that a husband might frown on a wife’s plans purely because he wants his wife at home to look after the house and the children. There is nothing wrong with this desire, and there is nothing wrong with this kind of life for a woman. However, if you as a husband want this, then I believe that this is the kind of thing that you should bring up before marriage, to make sure that this is also the kind of life that your intended wife aspires to.
However, the thought that really scares me is the idea that a husband might essentially hinder his wife’s ambition purely because of his own ego. That is, not for any tangible, real, worthwhile reason whatsoever; not because there is the slightest thing truly wrong with what the wife is doing, but simply because the husband feels that his wife’s progress in some way attacks his own credibility as a man, as the leader, as the provider. That is, a man might have absolutely no problem at all if his wife pursued even the highest heights in pursuits that he considered safe and “womanly” and completely unthreatening to him. Concerning less safe pursuits, a man might be happy to encourage his wife’s dreams, as long as her perceived level remains considerably below his. However, if she were to start getting too close, or if her level, for instance in her career, were to shoot stratospherically beyond his own then – oh dear!
You know what, I actually think that this is sufficient to break marriages – whether or not it is acknowledged as the real reason for the breakup. I think, as with many issues, many men might not be able to recognise this mindset within themselves, or even honestly acknowledge it where they do recognise it, which would not help the situation. I mean seriously, have you ever heard of a woman stamp her foot, get into a rage, or stomp off in a sulk, because her husband is too successful? (That is, unless his success means that he no longer has time to spend with her…) I mean, would that not be ridiculous?! And yet pragmatically speaking, we know that men express this kind of discontent all the time! As I thought about this – this is a controversial statement – it occurred to me that marriage is probably the number one reason why women consistently fail to achieve their potential. Not only because of any external glass ceilings, and not just because as women they might be otherwise employed in marriage – that is, by having kids and looking after them, or doing housework, but also because, pragmatically speaking, each woman also has to manage the demands of her husband’s ego. If a certain percentage of men struggle with this, then for that same percentage of women, “putting their marriage first” in practical terms might mean surrendering their dreams for the sake of their husbands’ insecurities.
And then there is also the fact that many times these issues will not actually be expressed verbally. However, it will fall to that famous “female intuition” for you as a woman to deduce the issue – and deal with it. It is a bit of a cliché, but the older I get, the more I realise how true it is that the real rules in any situation are the ones that are not written or otherwise tangibly expressed. So a husband might never ever say to his wife – probably never would:
“Your success is making me feel insecure….I would prefer it if you slowed down a bit and gave me a chance to catch up, or surpass you” or
“I am the man, I am the one who is supposed to be great!” or
“Why do you always insist on reaching for the stars? Why don’t you come back down to earth to live with us mere mortals?!”
However, as a woman, you might quickly realise that your husband’s congratulations on your latest exploits sound a little hollow, or what if he does not congratulate you at all, but greets your “exciting news” with silence, or what if you perceive a gradual stiffening or hardening in his attitude towards you over time, as your success grows? This is how perverse human nature is – that he might even be growing too. He might even be growing faster than you. And yet he might be upset by the mere fact that you are noticeably growing at all.
As with so many issues I have discussed on this blog, I believe that the ideal “solution” to this is best applied before marriage. And the ideal solution I propose for this is the solution I propose for everything else – choose the right spouse in the first place, by praying very, very hard and looking for a man who is genuinely striving after God as hard as he can, and also by praying to make sure that God authorises and empowers that marriage. I am directing this at the woman as it may be your dreams that will be at risk, so if you don’t want your dreams to die, the onus will be on you to find a husband and marriage who will preserve those dreams.
However, if you are a man, even a husband already, then I also believe that you should pray about this, and if you intend to be my husband, then I doubly advise you to pray about it! It is only going to become more of an issue as time goes on, and women grow increasingly emancipated regarding careers and life options.
In a way I could stop here, you could say that now there is a solution, you don’t need to worry about all the bad things that could happen as long as you apply that solution. However, a few more thoughts did occur to me, and I am going to express them. I believe that this issue could be huge, and this is why it is so important to actually pray – not just go through the motions, or pray for God to validate the marital choice that you have already made.
Because marriage in some sense is necessary for human procreation and from that the continuation of the human race, in practice all this might mean that half of humanity has to give up its dreams just to keep humanity itself “ticking along”. And no prizes for guessing which half of humanity that would be.
I know that in marriage men also give up their dreams. For instance, a man might give up his dreams of professional creativity in one area for the sake of a more stable and well paying job outside his dream to support his family. A man who yearns to be an entrepreneur and work on crazy dreams might go to find “a proper job”. However, these are solid and tangible reasons to give up your dreams. The point here is that a man might ask his wife to give up her long-held dreams for essentially no necessary reason at all, other than his ego! (“But Tosin,” you might say, “That is a necessary reason!” “No,” I would reply, “Really, it is not!”)
16 For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.
Wedding Rings image by Petr Kratochvil at