Advice From the Trenches

Stuck with You: Was Granny ultra modern or out of line?

Dear C and Dr. B;

My grandmother is 76 now, which means she grew up back in the days when men were the masters of the house and a woman’s main job in life was to please them. But listen to this story about her wedding night! I really want to know what you think!

After a big church wedding and all the customary traditions, Granny put her own twist on the marital bedroom. She brought a bottle of Crazy Glue with her and told her newly wed husband: 

If you are ever tempted to disrespect me or violate our vows, I just want you to know that I have this bottle of Crazy Glue and it is ALWAYS going to be in this drawer.” It was a somewhat vague warning, but I think Grandpa got the message because they were married for 65 years and there was never a hint of trouble between them.

It seems a little hostile to me – does this really seem like a good way to start a marriage? I’m looking at Granny in a whole new light.

Dr. B says: I have a poster in my office that says “Be Nice but Take No Shit.” Your grandma optimized this philosophy, which I find really commendable as it was not the norm 65 years ago. My ex said something similar to me. She showed me a pair of scissors and said she would cut off my balls in my sleep if I ever deserved it. That is not why she is my ex. In fact I support the idea that in a patriarchal society all women should do something like your granny did. 

In the traditional Jewish wedding ceremony, there is a Ketubah, which is essentially a marriage contract. It lists the consequences should the marriage not work out, including large monetary fines for the man. Studies show that not only are marital outcomes better if there is a stake in the game, but additionally, people behave better if they feel they are being watched. 

Too often, men in our culture are not held accountable for their actions. Your Grandma is a good role model. Be like her instead of the chopped down sacrificial giving tree that is our cultural model. 

C says: While I can commend Dr. B for his support of female empowerment, and I fully support the idea of a pre-nup, I have to point out that there are a HUGE number of ways in which Granny’s strategy of establishing a standing threat could backfire. I’ll give you a few:

1. We are assuming that the bride is in full control of her faculties and does not have a history of PTSD from male abuse. If she does, we could find ourselves in a position where the police are called and a body bag is brought in. Why? Because people who have been abused do not always interpret circumstances accurately – they can imagine a threat or an insult where none is present. Let’s say that a woman, we’ll call her Diana, was betrayed and then seriously abused in the past. Let’s add suppressed rage and a desire for vengeance to the mix. Now, let’s give Diana too much to drink at a party. She looks across the room and catches another inebriated woman draping herself all over her husband. Diana misses the part where he disgustedly pushes her off, because she has already stormed out. When the guy gets home there’s a good chance Diana will exact a punishment that he does not deserve. What if she pulls out the scissors first and asks questions later? Sorry, honey, I didn’t mean to cut it off. Can we sew it back on? 

2. Granny’s tactic assumes a posture of distrust from the get-go. If a basic trust hasn’t been established between two people, and they feel that dire punishment must be suspended over their partner’s head in order to ensure fidelity, then THAT is a problem right there. Either you trust someone or you don’t. If you don’t, then for god’s sake, don’t commit to spend the rest of your life with them!

3. We are also assuming that the bride herself is worthy of trust. What if she is the one who ends up cheating? Does this mean that the husband just deserved what he got? Sorry, not fair. That’s what pre-nups, and the Ketubah, are for – everyone gets what they agreed to deserve.

I hope that Granny was otherwise an honorable woman who  treated others as she hopes they would treat her. If she wasn’t, then let’s just say that she was one conniving bitch who was years ahead of her time.   

You can visit Dr. B’s blog at drbrilliantcliche.wordpress.com

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