Read Between the Lines

By: No One

Many truths are to be found in *fairy tales* and biblical advice. Although often cleverly concealed, numerous insights are lost because, not only are writers often less than blunt, busy moderns simply do not take the time to understand the message behind the story.

Then, there is that old battle between *new books* and *old books*. Somehow, what is *new* is always supposed to be better according some people. For others, the opposite is true. In time, though, old truths are *rediscovered*. Moderns forget that - at a time when self-help books and professional counseling were not available - our ancestors faced many of the same problems that we do today. They had to devise strategies for dealing with these difficulties at a time when marriages could not so easily be cast aside and children could not be farmed out to the psychologist or conveniently packed off to an extended stay at summer camp.

While the ages old strategies were not necessarily *better* than more recently concepts, they withstood the test of time because they tended to solve the problem. For example, any parent with an active teenage daughter knows that grounding can quickly become more work for the parents than it does for the daughter. Cutting her out of soccer can do everything from punching holes in her extra-cirricular activities resume to threatening a potential scholarship to a desirable school. Curtailing trips to the library can have more insidious effects. Then, there is the problem of what to do if the daughter does not stay grounded or just will not listen to reason. Faced with these difficulty, more than one mother has rediscovered - or, sometimes, discovered - the efficacy of a hairbrush. More experienced mothers - especially those with more than one daughter - may bypass the grounding game altogether.

It is not that different in marriage. Although some problems can be *talked out* by two *rational* people, some difficulties are more intractable. One is the novel concept of *equality* regardless of circumstances. This insidious concept leads to a power struggle. Constant bickering is devastating to marriages. Arguing wastes time and energy that could be more wisely expended in problem solving.

One of the great tragedies of modern life is its insistence on documenting and seeking approval for each step in loosening the Gordian Knots of everyday life.

Not long ago, a woman and her husband went to see a counselor. By her own admission, the woman's problem was that, after putting in long hours at work, she would come home and take out her frustrations on her children. She would yell at them and throw temper tantrums. Although she knew her behavior to be wrong, she admitted that she did it because she knew she could get away with it! When the counselor pointed out that the hostility she exhibited toward her children would likely cause future stress-induced medical problems in later life, the mother was horrified. She had never considered there might be long-term consequences for her actions. Although supportive of his wife, the woman's husband had no idea how to handle his tempestuous wife - much less tame her.

He was, by modern standards, the model husband.

After listening to the couple's problems, the counselor presented three basic options to the couple, as follows:

  1. The wife could work fewer hours, the couple could downscale their lifestyle, and they could see if this improved things at home.
  2. The wife could continue to work and continue in counseling - to see of they could find an acceptable solution. The second option might include incorporation of the first option.
  3. The wife could apologize to her children and accept responsibility for her actions. That accountability might include agreeing to a privately administered *bare bottom paddling* from her husband if she engaged in future tantrums.

The woman was shocked by the third possibility. After all, she said, "Spankings are what my children get!" Yet, after further discussion, she admitted that the possibility of a paddling would make her think twice before throwing a tantrum. Nevertheless, she preferred the second option because it was less controversial and gave the appearance of *trying everything*. Her husband agreed since he did not feel comfortable with the thought of paddling his wife.

Typically, modern fee-for-service counseling usually opts for the second option. Counseling of indeterminate length is a big moneymaker for behavioral therapists. Although touchy-feely solutions often do not solve the problem, they give the illusion of having done something constructive. It also feeds the current trend of relying on paid *experts* to solve even the most routine problems encountered in daily life.

Only a few decades ago, the third option - paddling or equivalent - would have been acceptable. In fact, it would have been expected! As one mother put it, she knew better than her children how to behave. Since she spanked them when they acted out or otherwise misbehaved, she had no problem with her husband holding her to the same standards of behavior, nor did she have a problem with his imposing the same consequences.

Years ago, another mother wrote - that if it were up to her - every couple would receive a *punishment paddle* as a wedding gift. Attached to the implement would be instructions saying it should be firmly applied to the wife's bare buttocks a few times before either the husband or, more likely his wife, called a divorce lawyer!

Even in the best of times - much less in a age of economic turbulence - relatively few families can afford the extensive counseling necessary to overcome the effects of chronic tantrums.

There was a time when brides were explicitly warned that there were certain behaviors that would get them soundly *spanked*! While most of these behaviors had been learned through childhood encounters with parents - such as lying and disrespect - a few were added to the list. Perhaps the most common was what today we would call *cheating* or *having an affair*.

Commonly practiced in Europe - before divorce became acceptable - the punishment was variously called *stripes* or *whipping*. The rules of the game were clearly understood. Although there were obviously exceptions, most wives agreed to *obey* their husbands. Brides were warned what would happen if they *deceived* their husbands. As a result, although some women rebelled, society was relatively stable.

Then, the rules changed. Women were encouraged to challenge the traditional authority of men on all levels. The promise was a brighter future through equality. It never happened. Instead, the institution of marriage floundered. Children raised in the absence of fathers became documented liabilities to society. Enshrined into the *rule of law*, the newly created lies persisted. Today, the whole fabric of society is threatened - not so much from outside forces - rather by internal weakness as families disintegrate.

Across lines of socioeconomic status, religious persuasion, or other important interests, trust in the status quo is greatly diminished as problems within the society multiply. Few people trust the government to do the right thing. Political parties are fracturing. Membership in mainline Christian churches is in decline as denominations splinter over once nonexistent *issues* such as abortion and homosexuality. As promiscuity increases, marriages is either postponed or avoided altogether. Children are considered to be anything from optional to excess baggage.

These are not sustainable situations.

In time, there will be an unexpected - by some accounts, *unimaginable* - return to previously discarded traditions. Men are fed up. So, too, are a surprising number of women.

Saint George will return to slay the feminist dragon that bedevils marriages. Those women wishing to contribute to the future gene pool will welcome it. The others will disappear from the human genome.