The Man-Woman Relationship, Sex, and Marriage
Most human beings have been raised in traditions in which a family’s genealogy is of utmost importance, and those traditions regard the ideal as a man and woman mating for life and raising a family. And granted, that will probably always be the ideal. Most people regard it as the basis of civilization.
However, these days, with the growth in population and the "shrinking" of our world, the "melting pot" effect has caused race, religion and nationality to become less important to growing numbers of people. Therefore, it is perhaps time to acknowledge that our societal concepts about relationships, marriage, family and sex are evolving and advancing.
There are factions of many religions that would disagree, of course, because they insist that the patriarchal model of male superiority is natural and even willed by God, and those factions, generally referred to as the fundamentalist religious right have been fighting hard to uphold what they believe are "family values."
However, what they are actually fighting to preserve is Patriarchy. And the more they try to enforce certain religious patriarchal traditions regarding sex and marriage that are ancient and outdated, the more counterproductive and detrimental their words and actions have become.
In fact, they've become more and more theocratic in recent decades, and that has had some terrible consequences ---from women being forced to sit at the back of the bus in Israel, to the beating, raping, mutilation, wounding and even killing of women in different countries. Terrible things are being done to women because of the patriarchal traditions that regard girls and women as inferior and subject to men, and many of those traditions are considered “religious.”
That is why everyone should realize that patriarchal religious traditions stem from isolated sentences and phrases in religious texts, which, when taken out of context, indicate that men are superior to women, have dominion over women, rule women, and are lord and master of the house. However, those ideas were actually rendered outmoded during the first century B.C.E. and the first century C.E. (A.D.), even though most men paid no attention.
“Wisdom is beneficent and kind. She is the aura of the power of God, the radiance of the eternal Divine Light, a spotless mirror of God. She renews all things, and passing into holy souls from age to age, She produces friends of God and prophets. She is firm, but Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all Her paths are peace. She is a Tree of Life to them that lay hold upon Her. And Wisdom is far better than weapons of war.” – The Book of the Wisdom of Solomon
That is consistent with what is written in Proverbs 3, which also reflects the wisdom of Solomon:
“Whoever the Lord loves are corrected; even as a parent corrects the child in whom he delights. Happy is the man that finds Wisdom ... For She is more precious than rubies, and all the things you can desire are not to be compared unto Her. Length of days is in Her right hand; and in Her left hand riches and honor. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all Her paths are peace. She is a Tree of Life to them that lay hold upon Her: and happy is every one that retains Her. The Lord God by Wisdom has founded the earth; by Understanding has God established the heavens.”
Notice the term "Tree of Life" because it is discussed later in the discussion about Genesis, and it is also discussed in the separate article on The Tree of Life. It refers symbolically to a spiritual reality we should all seek to realize. It is actually why it was written in Genesis 3:22 that Man can be liberated from God's "curse" if he “puts forth his hand, and take also of the Tree of Life, and eat, and live for ever.”
It is on earth as it in heaven when an enlightened man and woman both realize true wisdom and understand that they are part of each other, as one in Spirit, as "one flesh" and mirror one another. For while Wisdom is the female aspect of God, Understanding is the male aspect according to the mystical esoteric traditions of Jewish Kabbalah and Christian Qabalah, and without both Wisdom and Understanding there is no union or oneness.
However, in the exoteric Jewish and Christian traditions, such as in Orthodox Judaism and Canonical Pauline Christianity (commonly known as Christianity since 180 A.D. and officially since 364 A.D.), the patriarchal traditions were upheld and maintained, along with other traditions that suited the interests and dispositions of men. Those traditions influenced the prophet Muhammad, which why his Quran includes some patriarchal material in it as well. And the consequence of such traditions have been very evident during the last 16 centuries, in that they have been so marked with wars, imperialism, colonialism, and Patriarchal Theocracy.
That is why between 1776 and 1787 (when the U.S. Constitution was written) the Founders made it very clear that their idea of religious freedom meant building "a wall of separation between church and state," as Thomas Jefferson put it, to prevent Theocracy.
Their idea was excellent, though largely ignored by theocratic evangelical preachers who believe that freedom of religion means freedom for Christians to indulge in theocratic imposition. In fact, they believe they are entitled to rule on religious grounds, even though their theocratic political actions violate Article 6 and the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
That is why Americans need to honor the intent of the Founders, and of the Constitution, and bring their ideal of religious freedom to fruition. For we all need to honor the essential universal spiritual values common to all religions, and also honor modern, civilized humanitarian values that are reality based, reasonable, and founded in truth that trumps patriarchal sexist customs, ancient superstitions, and ancient myths.
However, establishing gender equality just legally would not cure or resolve the real problem, because the real problem is the religious myths. Therefore we need to understand how and why sexist patriarchal myths were established.
Patriarchal Myths vs God's Nature and Women's Liberation
Because Christianity is the largest religion in the world, the sexist patriarchal myth that has had the most profound effect on the world is that of women being “cursed by the sin of Eve” thereby causing all womankind to suffer pain during childbirth and to be ruled by their husband.
That, according to the book of Genesis written by the Jewish patriarch Moses, was God’s everlasting punishment for Eve’s disobedience. However, what many religious patriarchs even today do not understood is that the story of Adam and Eve is a symbolic allegory that doesn’t mean what they think it means (as is discussed later in this article in the section titled Commentary On Sex).
The point here, however, is that we need to understand The Nature of God and realized that most of the patriarchal myths and claims of male superiority and dominance are based on religious scriptures or religious customs and traditions that are outmoded. And humanity cannot evolve sufficiently unless and until those myths, traditions and customs are recognized and acknowledged as antiquated and detrimental to the spiritual growth and evolution of humanity.
The most educated and enlightened people understand that, and many understand that the movement advocating for gender equality is actually part of a greater spiritual liberation movement. For example, the women's liberation movement that grew in America the 1960s was part of a greater movement for civil rights, equal rights, social justice, liberty, freedom, and peace.
To educated and enlightened people, the fighting by the “religious right” which intends to drive us backward and negate what progress has been made is ironic, because it is very apparent that religious patriarchs, especially those who follow the Mosaic-Abrahamic tradition, conveniently forget some very important ancient religious wisdom (such as that in the books of Proverbs and Wisdom mentioned above, as well as in most other religious texts of other religions).
That is why we need to re-examine and analyze the relationship between men and women — particularly regarding sex, but also regarding living together in a committed relationship — because some traditions, whether religious or cultural, are based on a patriarchal model and are antiquated, outmoded and unnecessarily repressive and inhibiting, and they make true spiritual union difficult if not impossible.
In many cases the patriarchal model was established because it was recognized that romantic love can fade in mature marriages. It was understood that when it does, a wife and husband can vie for the power to assert their will over the other. That's why men decided that they should have the final word, not merely because they were stronger, but because their ultimate authority was "God given."
However, that decision was Man's, not God's, and there are many words in scriptures that reveal that the man and woman should be partners, helping and supporting each other. Furthermore, even Moses wrote that God is not a man, nor a son of man. And Jesus of Nazareth actually confirmed that fact when he said to his disciples: "You have not heard God’s voice or seen God’s shape at any time," and God "is greater than I."
The Hebrew Bible recognizes not only that the Lord Our God is not a man, nor a son of man. It clearly states that Man cannot be compared or likened to God. God has both male and female aspects. The "image" of God is not the image of a man. All human beings are made in God's image, and thus we are Children of Light. And God is not only the Divine Light-Energy-Source of our existence, but the eternal, omnipresent Supreme Consciousness, the Essence of all life and form, and the primordial "Word" that was in the beginning and is made flesh in all of us.
Many religious people do not understand that. And, because of erroneous beliefs and patriarchal traditions, many men think they are superior to women. Even today some women in the world are still forced to serve as chattel, because egocentric, spiritually blind man is territorial and he strives to own his property and rule his domain.
Thus women are treated as if their only proper role is to be virginal daughters obedient to their fathers, then loyal wives and servants obedient to their husbands. Some religious traditions are very sexist and patriarchal, authorizing men to treat females unfairly and even with cruelty.
Even in the generic modern Christian marriage ceremony the presiding church authority asks, "Who gives this woman..." It is a tradition that originally assumed that a daughter is a father's "property," to be given away or handed over to an approved would-be husband and master.
Some men carry it to such extremes that their daughters and wives have very little freedom. In some religious traditions men force women to dress in clothes that completely hide their identity. They forbid girls and young women to be educated and deny them other human rights, keeping women docile, subservient, and out of sight. They believe that the purpose of women is to fulfill only one duty, as wives to keep the house, bear and take care of children, feed their families, and treat their husband as a king.
Of course, a lot of men in the world would say there's nothing wrong with that. And, granted, there is nothing wrong with it IF it is the free choice of a woman, IF she serves her husband and family out of genuine love and a pure sense of giving, and IF her husband treats her the same as an equal partner.
However, when a woman is forced to do it as a duty, either by cultural tradition or "religious" law or patriarchal dictate, and she is limited to it without freedom to develop her talents or follow her dreams and fulfill her potential, it is oppressive, inhibiting, and tyrannical. And it is simply wrong.
That is why the Women's Liberation Movement in America was so needed, and so popular. And, even though right-wing conservative religious patriarchs have done their best to try to stop it and discredit it during the last 30 years, new research studies show that it was very successful.
Today many American women are not afraid to say they actually feel they are smarter than men, can manage their financial affairs better than men, and will not marry or be in a relationship with a man who insists on being the "boss." And while some women think they should be the boss, many wives insist only on being equal partners, and rightly so.
Indeed, today some of the brightest and most innovative and influential people in the world are women. This was inevitable, and it is part of the evolutionary process. It is natural that many women are feeling encouraged and empowered, and it was predictable that there would be a natural adjustment in order to produce gender equality.
Today it is a wise man who avoids the temptation to try to control a woman and bend her to his will. He understands how and why many men are so self-important, self-righteous and power hungry that they resort to anger and violence to intimidate and control their wives and children. And he sees what fools such men are.
Of course their are foolish women as well, who bend their husbands to their will using various tactics. However, the issue here is domestic abuse and violence perpetrated by men, and it is discussed here on behalf of all the female victims of such abuse because there are far more female victims of abuse and violence than male victims.
Intimidated and abused women should know they are not alone, and they should have some recourse to programs that may intervene and even try to help abusive men see how counterproductive and self-defeating their behaviors are. And, if all efforts fail to correct bad male behavior, women should be able to find support and courage to avoid or leave such men.
In time, though, both men and women will understand that they are meant to be equal partners. All the antiquated sexist roles, whether they are considered "religious" or are simply cultural and traditional, will become obsolete. We will all be liberated — men, women and children.
Granted, parents should give their children proper guidance and establish proper limits, but with love and trust. And when children betray that trust, or willfully disobey legitimate, universal rules of behavior, parents should enforce proper, appropriate, corrective discipline.
In order to accomplish that, parenting education should become something that all new parents would receive, automatically, as part of the public education system. We should also realize that we are not supposed to expect our loved ones to live up to our own personal expectations or fantasies. We are supposed to give our loved ones the gift of unconditional love, and the freedom to follow their heart and their dream, and live up to their own potential.
Commentary on True Love
An old folk song titled The Water is Wide says, "Love is handsome, love is fine; clear as a jewel when first it’s new. But love grows old, and waxes cold, and fades away, like morning dew."
That speaks of romantic love, which can fade away. That’s why there is so much divorce, and so many unhappy marriages.
That is why we need to realize that romantic love is not actually the ideal love. It is wonderful, if or while it lasts. However, for too many people it does not last very long because they did not realize human beings are capable of a far greater love -- a oneness, not only with one's partner, but a oneness that is all-inclusive and universal.
True love is not romantic. True love comes from by being enlightened by love of God, which enables one to love selflessly, without possessiveness or jealousy.
True love is not something we can hang on to, but a feeling and state of being recognized and appreciated when realized. True spiritual love brings utter abandonment of self-serving desires or expectations, and opens one’s eye to the divine reality in which one sees that God’s love permeates and encompasses all. One sees how and why we are actually connected and "one" in spirit, and thus sees the world in a new light.
In a way, it is spiritual rebirth, but, is not something that happens once and you're done. It is an ongoing process. It has nothing to do with religious oaths or creeds or doctrines or any such thing. It has to do with transcending the separate-self ego of the "old self," and being reborn in spirit as a new person in love with God and humanity. And, for some of us with stubborn egos, the process is long, and true love is not easy to come by, not even after you've once known it. It requires constant surrender, and constant forgiveness.
Of course, as young people we confuse true love with physical attraction, but that is problematic. That is why we should all realize there is a far greater, ideal, universal love that we are capable of -- because it enables us to have much better relationships at home, and in the world.
More and more people will realize it as humanity evolves, regardless of their religion, and whether they are religious or not — because it's not about religion. It is about recognizing our relationship with God, our relationship with each other, and with all others.
Most people have not realized it yet, though. In fact, most people are only human and don't yet realize that what we really are is far greater than that. Most people have not yet learned to "eat of the Tree of Life" (the "leaves" of which are "for the healing of the nations," as John's book of Revelation puts it). Therefore, we should discuss loving and/or sexual relationships in a practical way.
Commentary on Sharing a Home as Partners
Marriage or sharing a home as partners is not easy, as elderly people know, and that is usually because human beings tend to avoid honest communication, or fail to communicate properly. If they don't express themselves in words or in non-verbal ways, it's usually because they don't want to rock the boat and cause a confrontation. But such avoidance tactics causes stormy seas that rock the boat anyway.
Communication is paramount, but it must be tailored, appropriate, sufficient and effective, because too many couples who have been living together for more than 30 years fall into blaming each other for poor communication. Often the woman simply claims that he "doesn't listen to me," while the man resents having all the blame laid upon him and feels that she is the one who has failed to communicate effectively or sufficiently.
If both partners insist on winning that argument rather than solving the problem, their marriage is in jeopardy. But marriages can end because of many different problems, whether they be struggles for power, or money, or family tragedy.
Some marriages end in divorce because romantic love can eventually wax cold and fade away. Some couples divorce because one or both of them find someone else more physically attractive, or because their partner’s attractiveness dims in their eyes. Their attraction may have been merely superficial, based on visual appearances without a spiritual bond, so they look for another who will fit the visual model they desire.
In that vein, there’s a great movie titled Take This Waltz, which takes its name from a Leonard Cohen song by the same title. The movie description says it is about a happily married woman who becomes very desirous of another man. However, it also reveals how romantic love can “wax cold” after a period of time, especially when a husband doesn’t pay attention to his wife’s needs, unwittingly belittles her opinions, asserts his point of view while blindly dismissing hers as invalid, and yet vows that he loves her. And, ultimately, it’s about the consequences of the failure to communicate and come to mutual understanding and a state of mutual respect.
That is especially the case in long lasting marriages where there are not only those problems, but also other problems than can arise and persist after sexual intimacy diminishes and even ends because of physical disability. Then many elderly couples become at risk of separating and divorcing, or striving to keep their love alive but simply becoming more and more bitter and resentful because they can't let sexual desire go.
Granted, some couples divorce because they simply grow apart due to increasingly different interests. In following their heart or finding their way, they sometimes go in different directions.
Sometimes one or the other or both are unable to allow each other to grow, follow their heart, and fulfill their dreams and potential. Some cannot put their ego and self-interest aside and let the other be free. Some seek control over the other, and then get upset when the other does not live up to their expectations. And some deeply resent the other for not "obeying" or or living up to expectations, and even punish the other, one way or another, even if it’s just emotionally.
The struggle to be "master of the house" is waged by women too. Both men and women can be guilty of fighting for personal power and control over their mate. But a crucial realization is that neither patriarchy nor matriarchy is God's will (contrary to what "religious" patriarchs claim). Marriages founded on true love will last if we really love one another and treat each other as we would have the other treat us, with loving mutual respect -- as full and equal partners.
Granted, there are sometimes irreconcilable differences, and in some cases separation or divorce is the best for all concerned. Sometimes people are in relationships temporarily because that relationship was meant to teach each person a specific lesson and the relationship was not necessarily meant to be permanent.
Nevertheless, many marriages could be saved, with work — work on examining one’s motives, on discovering and facing root causes, on honest communication, on compromise, on understanding, on mutual respect, and on forgiveness – especially forgiveness.
Fault-finding and blaming the other is easy. What is difficult and hard, but usually more worthwhile and rewarding, is getting at the truth and being bravely honest in expressing to your partner how you feel, and why you feel that way – without being accusatory or trying to lay blame.
However, our tendency is to not want to voice our feelings because we want to be polite and accepting. We don’t want to rock the boat or cause a scene by being confrontational. But when we keep our feelings inside we let resentments build up, we tend to voice them when we get annoyed, or when we get angry and blow off steam. And, even though our judgment and criticism may be what the other needs to hear, they often do not accept it because of the way it was delivered. They feel attacked and react defensively, and perhaps defiantly and in denial, and they may even retaliate.
That’s why it’s not good to be confrontational or speak in anger. That’s why it’s best to speak out either before we reach a point of exasperation or anger, or after we have let it pass, and bravely and honestly express how we feel without accusing the other. That's much easier said than done, but well worth the effort.
On the other hand, it is sometimes better to just hold your tongue, especially if and when you are annoyed that your partner has not lived up to your expectations, and especially when there has been no agreement or understanding of what is expected. In such instances, we should think twice, and realize it would not be fair to say anything.
Perhaps a good marriage for average people is one where each partner is content the majority of time and is happy some of the time, but is also annoyed and even angry at their partner at times. How could it be otherwise? We are not perfect, and sometimes we are thoughtless and inconsiderate. Sometimes we tend to be self-centered, self-absorbed, and even selfish, and we fail to see our partner’s point of view. We see only our own. That, after all, is our default position, because selfishness is part of our natural survival instinct. And that can cause us to simply dismiss and reject our partner, and call it quits.
However, we can overcome most problems. Reason, understanding and temperance can keep us grounded in the fact that we are part of a whole, whether that whole is a pair of lovers, or a family, neighborhood, community, nation, or world. That is why our spiritual and religious traditions remind us that it is vain folly to indulge in egotism and selfishness, and that selflessness, generosity, charitable good deeds, compassion, empathy and forgiveness earn spiritual rewards far greater than material rewards.
It is an ongoing task and often even a struggle to overcome our egocentric tendencies, especially as we grow older. That's why many old married people become grumpy and bitter if their partner has not bent to their will. But we should consider that sometimes when we are irritated at our mate it’s because they are showing us a reflection of our own self. And often the key is striving to be more fully aware, being fair, looking on the bright side, and looking at both sides, reminding yourself of the good things and not dwelling on the bad things to the point that they fester and become worse than they really are.
As the Beatles sang, all you need is love, and as Sting sang, if you love someone, set them free. That’s pretty good advice. There are many songs about love, because it’s the most powerful feeling and emotion. Life would be worthless without it. And the song of the heart is one of God’s greatest gifts, and the world would be a far better place if more songs were really heard and felt, and not merely sung to the air because people don’t really listen.
(Continued at Man-Woman Relationship, Part 2, with Commentary on Sex and Human Sexual Capability)