In case you didn't hear, there was some serious breaking news yesterday: It turns out that Vice President Pence and his wife are in a healthy, normal marriage, and they love each other very much. It was revealed in an interview with Karen Pence that she and her husband have established some basic boundaries, which include a policy where neither will go out to eat alone with a member of the opposite sex (family excluded, I presume). This is the part that has gotten a lot of attention in the news and on social media.
Now, you might say that it is, actually, a somewhat Earth-shattering revelation these days that two people, especially politicians, are in a respectful and committed relationship. Maybe we really ought to be putting this on the front pages. Maybe every 25 or 35 year anniversary should be celebrated with fireworks and a parade down main street. What was normal 50 years ago is now something close to an aberration. In that sense, all of the attention is warranted. But any rational and decent person, if they are inclined to pay attention to this kind of story at all, would pay it positive attention. They would see it as a nice and encouraging thing. They would say, "Wow, the Pences sure to do love and respect each other. Isn't that wonderful!"
Unfortunately, there is a large population of abnormal and indecent people in our country, so the story provoked the opposite sort of reaction. The media wrote marveling, condescending headlines about the "strict rules" adopted by the puritanical Pences, while a herd of cackling hyenas on Twitter spent all of last evening mocking Mike and Karen Pence and anyone else who may agree with their prudent approach to marriage. I, inadvertently, found myself in the midst of the hyena swarm when I sent out a couple of tweets agreeing with the Pence marriage policy, and wondering aloud what could possibly be an appropriate reason for a married person to go on a dinner or lunch date with someone of the opposite sex.
I really didn't think the issue, or my position on it, was that big of a deal, so I went to bed and forgot about it. This morning I woke up to find that I'd been trending on Twitter and my tweets had received thousands of hysterical, angry, vulgar responses in the span of just a few hours. People were screaming at me for my "oppressive" and "backwards" and "chillingly psychotic" views, and accusing me of condoning Shariah Law (incidentally, this is the first time I've heard any liberal actually criticize Shariah Law). Oddly, I was even accused of being a rape apologist and dehumanizing women. And, again, this is all because I said a married man shouldn't have a one-on-one dinner with a woman who isn't his wife.
As you can imagine, I'm unfathomably distraught over receiving all of this attention on the same week my book was released (BUY IT HERE NOW!), but I promise I didn't plan it this way. I never even considered the possibility that an opinion like "Yes, Mike Pence and his wife are smart for having boundaries in their marriage" would be some radical, extreme, groundbreaking opinion that would trigger frightened and emotional responses from thousands of unbalanced people. But these are absurd times, and in absurd times the most controversial thing you can do is state the obvious. On that note, I've got a few more tweets planned for tonight that I'm hoping will gin up even more controversy and publicity. Here's one:
"I don't care what anyone says — water IS a liquid!"
Or I might try this:
"I'm sorry if you're offended by this, but I still think it's a bad idea to bathe in donkey manure."
I'm just full of provocative opinions like these.
As far as the subject at hand goes, I'll make a few additional points here in the interest of lending a little more clarity to a discussion that I still can't believe we're actually having:
1. Our culture knows nothing about marriage.
Let's establish something basic. My parents' generation couldn't manage to stay married. My generation can't manage to even get married to begin with. Our cultural attitude towards marriage is that it's either something temporary and casual and self-centered, or it's something scary and mysterious and we'd rather stay away from it and live like teenagers until the age of 35 or so. It's generally a good rule of thumb, therefore, that you should just ignore what everyone says about marriage and generally do the opposite. Often, the people delivering the advice have never even been married and are imparting this wisdom based on what they read in a Nicholas Sparks novel (more on that in a moment). So, if your approach to marriage provokes jeers and taunts from the emotionally stunted mob, you should feel pretty good.
2. If you aren't married, you especially know nothing about marriage.
One woman scolded me this morning for having a "codependent marriage." I explained to her that marriage is, by its nature, codependent. That's sort of the whole point. She countered that my attitude is precisely why she isn't married. Shocking, isn't it?
I'm not saying that every person reacting with over-the-top hostility to Mike Pence's marriage policy is unmarried themselves, but a great number appear to be. To those people I have one recommendation: humility. You have no clue about this topic. You only know what people have told you, and of those people, you should only listen to those who've done it successfully for a number of years. I'm not referring to myself here. I've been married for 5 years and have 3 kids. By today's standards that makes me some kind of marriage prodigy, but in reality, I've just barely graduated beyond rookie level. Listen to the vets who've been in it for 20 or 30 years or longer. You'll find that the vast majority of them would agree with Pence, or, at the very least, understand his approach and respect it. That should mean something to you. They know what they're talking about. You don't.
3. Marriages have boundaries.
It's not about having "rules." Only a child looks at every boundary or limitation as a "rule" that oppresses him. In a marriage, both spouses should understand that they cannot continue carrying on exactly as they did when they were single. If it's a healthy marriage, neither spouse would want to, anyway. You may not agree that the "meal policy" is a necessary boundary, but if you have no boundaries other than "don't cheat," you've set yourself up for failure. Inevitably, if cheating is your only boundary, even it will eventually be crossed. The whole point is to set up boundaries a considerable distance away from cheating, so that nobody ends up teetering on the edge of it.
4. Adultery happens.
I've heard many people say that they don't worry about their spouse going out for meals with other men/women because "they would never cheat." I wonder if these people seriously don't realize that literally every person who has ever been cheated on would have and probably did say the same thing beforehand. In most cases, adultery doesn't happen because one member of the marriage went out specifically looking to commit adultery. Nobody wakes up and says, "I think I'll go have a little adultery today!" Rather, in almost every instance, a person who "would never cheat" finds themselves suddenly in an inappropriate situation, having inappropriate feelings, thinking inappropriate thoughts, and next thing you know...
Do you believe your spouse is literally impervious to the sin of lust? If you do, please tell us how you managed to climb to Heaven and marry an archangel. If, however, your spouse is a human just like the rest of us, they aren't impervious to anything, least of all lust. We must take active and purposeful steps to protect ourselves from stumbling into sin and betrayal. If we take no such steps, we are much closer to doing the thing "we would never do" than we'd care to admit or imagine.
5. It's about respect.
It's pretty much impossible to respect your spouse too much in a marriage. It's impossible to take your vows of fidelity too seriously. It's impossible to love and honor them too much. A spouse ought never to put themselves in a situation where they have to justify their behavior by shouting, "Don't you trust me?!" Often, the appropriate response to that question is another: "Don't you respect me?"
A man may refrain from dining with a woman because he wants to avoid even the appearance of impropriety or even the possibility of an inappropriate dynamic arising. He refrains, in other words, because he respects his wife. This is good policy. How any one could possibly object to it is beyond me.
6. Why do you need to do this?
In a marriage, rather than asking "Why can't I do this?" or "Why should I do this?," perhaps the better question is, "Why do I want to?" and "Why do I need to?" It's telling that so many people are so defensive about their dinner dates with friends of the opposite sex. Why is it so important to you to have this one-on-one time with a man who isn't your husband or a woman who isn't your wife? At the very least, you should be willing to drop the habit, if your spouse grew uncomfortable with it, without any reservation at all. If this individual and personal relationship with another person of the same sex as your spouse is really that much of a priority, you're halfway to Adulteryville, or even closer. Arguably, you're already there.
I'm willing to accept that there may be some exceptions to the meal rule. There may be a few scenarios where it could be appropriate or acceptable to have a meal with someone of the opposite sex, one-on-one. But these exception are just that: exceptions. They shouldn't happen regularly, they should be for some specific and limited reason, and they shouldn't be that important to you. And you certainly shouldn't be cultivating individual friendships with members of the opposite sex.
Personally, I have no desire to go out with women other than my wife. I have no desire to maintain friendships with women. My wife and I agreed from the outset that we would not have friends of the opposite sex unless the friends are mutual, and even in that case, we would always hang out with the person together. There are many aspects of marriage that may be challenging or require effort, but, for me, this isn't one of them. Frankly, when I have some time to myself, I much prefer to either spend it alone, reading or fishing or something, or with male friends who I share a fraternal bond with. A man can't have that kind of bond with a woman. It's an absurd proposition.
I firmly believe that husbands and wives should have friends. But they should have friends of the same sex who they can relate to in a different way from how they relate to their spouse. My wife is my wife. She isn't "one of the guys," and I don't want her to be. I want her to be my wife. And sometimes I want to get out for a little bit and be "one of the guys," and that's OK. That's healthy. What would be unhealthy and weird and disturbing is if I had some great urge to get away from my wife and join in fellowship with some other woman.
This all, to me, seems obvious. It's obvious to Mike Pence and Karen Pence. It's obvious to many married people. But, as we've established, there's nothing that makes people more upset these days than the obvious.
To see more from Matt Walsh, visit his channel on TheBlaze.