Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
— John 15:13
I remember learning about the declining marriage rates in America back in the early 2010s. Most of those who were interested were Men’s Rights Activist types — much maligned by feminists, and caricatured as hateful and vindictive. This strange mischaracterization is important, but to understand why, we must first point out that not just the initiation and survival rate of marriage is declining: the quality is as well. My source for this is personal observation, and the more insightful eyes of others with more research and experience than my own. Things are not catastrophic, and marriage would be an adventure worth recommending even if things were ten times worse than they presently are. But as things are, ten times worse appears not just the trajectory, but in a sense the aim. It is the inevitable effect of the logic of civilization.
This is fundamentally not a political problem. But due to the somewhat political nature of its origins, I must begin this essay by describing the relationship between politics and civilization. It is this relationship, I think, that lies at the heart of the corrosion of modern marriages.
Much of the political right-wing is — at least rhetorically — oriented toward the preservation of civilization. Most often, this is specified as “Western Civilization,” though Asians of a political right-leaning orientation often hold a similar stated aim. Conversely, the political left since Kant, Marx, and Mill has oriented itself towards greater conditions of justice and equality in all regards. This end is not exactly identical with the more amorphous end of “civilization,” or even “Western Civilization,” but serves for the Left as a proximate basis for the value of civilization itself. The Right will gesture vaguely at other benefits (like smart-phones and social media; unmitigated benefits most assuredly, according to Ben Shapiro types), but they do not fundamentally disagree with the Left in their premise. If anything, their criticism reaches and gropes for ulterior motivations and hypocrisy — of which there are no doubt plenty — and accepts, rather than rejects, the essential left-wing aim. In this, the power of the established political right and the political left agree: the justice and equality provided and enforced by civilization is a great good.
By “civilization,” neither the Left nor the Right are referring to an experience, for such an experience might be attainable through means other than the institutions which they have dedicated their careers to entering and climbing. For the politician and the political activist, “civilization” is inextricably tied up in given institutions which provide the goods by which the experience of civilization is felt. In reality, living in civilization is felt by the absence of starvation, plundering bandits, and by a general feeling of stability, order, and infrastructure which allows for the sustained development of legacy, on the assumption that such development has a reasonable chance of surviving the vicissitudes of history — in short, civilization is the feeling that the high investment of long-term creation is worthwhile. Any institutional infrastructure which does not induce this feeling cannot reasonably be considered “civilization.” But for the purposes of acquiring political power, the two must be conflated: the experience of civilization must be equated with certain institutions… not exclusively, but most importantly, with the state.
But why is such political power sought in the first place? Positions of high rank and expertise are available in a wide variety of fields and institutions; why not become a high-ranking priest, or a master falconer, or the most talented carpenter in one’s region? Such positions certainly exist, and are respected and sought, but they are not sought in numbers anywhere near those who seek political power… this despite the fact that the priest, the falconer, and the carpenter are, in almost all ways, more free and less a slave than the politician or the professional political activist. There is power in political office, a power which wields a monopoly of force over the public, but in modern Republics, this power is so indirect, so abstract, so checked against and systematized as to be experientially non-existent to the politician themselves. By contrast, the power of the carpenter over wood, of the falconer over birds of prey, or of the priest over his own spirit, is absolute. Moreover, with the current exception of the priest, these experiences of power are unmarred by the enslavement to more hidden political powers which force one’s hand — lobbyists and the logic of money, precedent, and the system itself.
I believe the motivation to seek political office in the modern age is different than it is often imagined; less nefarious and sociopathic, and more benevolent, even service-minded. This by no means makes the effects more benevolent — far from it, as I will argue shortly. But where intent is concerned, I believe that most male politicians enter politics in order to be loved.
This may seem strange, in light of the hatred and vitriol heaped upon politicians (really, upon all public figures) these days. But for the unnoticed, even hatred can be better than being ignored. And beneath the hatred is the clearly discernible appreciation for civilization itself — the experience of civilization — transferred from the women of society to the politicians, they being the proxies and embodiments of the infrastructure that, in the public’s mind, provides the experience of civilization. They have become the provider and protector of all, and their power does not lie chiefly in their military strength, but in their archetypal role as the keeper and giver of civilization itself.
This phenomenon is not a unique discovery of mine. Stefan Molyneux has spoken extensively on this subject. But there are many implications to this, some more explored than others. The implication I wish to explore here is that which this dynamic has on marriage itself, and the relationship between a husband and a wife.
One of the more popular movements in the marriage self-help world (or at least one of the movements I have personally heard much about) is the “love and respect” theory. The premise of this theory is essentially that men most need to be respected by their wives, while women most need to be loved and cherished by their husbands. According to Dr. Emerson Eggerichs, much female disrespect towards their husbands arises from a feeling of being unloved — or rather, insufficiently loved. Conversely, much male coldness towards their wives arises from feeling disrespected by their wives.
Speaking only from my own experience, this dynamic seems intuitively correct… and given the widespread success and popularity of this book (even limited as it is to the Christian world), I will suppose that I am not merely speaking for myself. But this dynamic presupposes a self-starting downward cycle, as though the propensity for male coldness and female disrespect were natural and self-contained within the marriage alone. All of the principles of Love and Respect are tools meant to engage a negative dynamic, to treat the symptoms, but never explore or address any possible external root causes. While moments of disrespect and coldness are inevitable, a standing dynamic of mutual coldness and disrespect does not seem natural to me. Is it truly the natural state of things for wives not to respect their husbands? Is it truly the natural state of things for husbands not to love their wives? Such an assumption would presume an unnaturalness of the institution of marriage itself, perhaps even of stable pair-bonds. The Christian might refer to human’s sinful nature, which arises after the creation of woman for man, and man for woman, but such a sin-nature could only cover over the deeper telos of the man-and-wife bond; it could not replace it. This kind of argument also runs the risk of pathologizing coldness and disrespect altogether.
From a less Christian perspective, I believe that although marriage may have once arisen as a kind of economic transaction, the deeper psychological health, purpose, and joy associated with long-lasting marriages indicates a value deeper and older in life-long pair-bonds than sheer economics. This health, purpose, and joy, however, are incompatible with a lengthy dynamic of emotional neglect or contempt, of withholding love or respect from one’s spouse. This speaks to a more recent origin to a need for male love for his wife, and female respect for his husband, one much younger than marriage itself — perhaps within the last 200 or 300 years, but which has been rising towards a cultural tipping point in recent decades at which the pathological becomes the new normal. If such a need is caused by sources external to the marriage itself, then a marital philosophy that focuses solely on correcting those behaviors that result within the context of the marriage alone will be of limited power, for the external cause might grow in strength and ubiquity, and human will — largely a consequence of environment — can only resist what is incentivized by the outside world for so long.
While writing my first book, I had set out to demonstrate that hatred was a reflection and manifestation of love. But I discovered a corollary to this in the course of writing: that love could actually be destroyed by removing the capacity for hatred. Such a destruction of love is not always a bad thing — one example I gave was of a toddler knocking over and breaking an expensive vase. After an initial moment of anger, the parent is likely to think to themselves “well, it was just a vase.” They will probably be far more concerned that their toddler was not cut by shards of broken ceramic than they will be about the destroyed vase itself. In this instance, the re-ordering of love through the inhibition of hatred may be considered a positive and clarifying experience.
But the inhibition of hatred is not limited to vases and the like. If someone rapes or kills a family member, invades our home, insults our family, or threatens our very nation, we are prohibited from allowing our hatred to motivate any action. Indeed, such action is likely to be punished with far greater severity than the instigating action itself; the man who rapes another man’s daughter may get several years in prison, but if the father coolly plans out and accomplishes the murder of the rapist, he will likely get a far greater sentence. Some noble, pre-civilized men — we might call them “the last men” — may still choose to undergo such vengeful action, in spite of the consequences, but they have become the exception.
This instinct that civilized man must repress — a subset of the instincts often labeled “toxic masculinity” — is not just an obsolete hold-over from pre-civilized times, however. It is at once the most powerful expression of male love, and the greatest source of female respect for men. This is why the male politician strives for his office, for the single, last position credited for providing what all men were once expected to provide: protection in the form of violent action. The politician does not perform this action himself, but he is at least associated with the effects of this action, even more than the soldier, the police officer, or the MMA fighter.
Consider, by way of illustration, the following strange phenomenon: highly attractive women seem drawn to serial killers. This is not a rare event, but a predictable trend, and I suspect that social inhibitions thoroughly hide the breadth and depth of this trend. Most women would not send such letters, even if they were left yearning for a violent killer. Those who cannot repress those instincts simply reveal — like the much larger population of women reading vampiric BDSM novels — much greater psychological truths across the female population.
The institutions which constitute political civilization concentrate this violent action in the hands of law enforcement and the military, both of which serve as the hands of the politician. This concentration of violent enforcement, however, is also a concentration of the claim to responsibility for the experience of civilization. It therefore represents a concentration of the female respect in the political institution and its politicians, and, to that degree, a dilution of female respect toward their husbands who have been drained of their right to express their love for their wives in the most ancient and powerful fashion, for which their bodies and minds were designed.
What is critical to identify here is that we are not at the terminus of this path. As civilized as we are, and as outsourced as our violent protection is, we are only further on the scale than has been reached in the past; we are not at the furthest possible point. Police still take time to arrive, and some parts of the country are becoming almost lawless; the further reaches of the countryside and certain inner-city neighborhoods in particular. It is in these places that heroic action — and therefore, heroic love — is still possible. But the inefficiencies of institutional power can be streamlined and improved, the gaps in the various safety nets can be closed together, and the small regions of uncivilized freedom can be conquered. The separation of man from his masculine role can be completed more thoroughly, and this seems to be the desired trajectory of every politician on both the right and the left.
As I see the marital dynamic, treating the reciprocal withholding of love and respect as an internal problem is a doomed affair. Put a scrawny husband next to a beautiful, 6’5″ champion MMA fighter, and you pit the poor wife’s will against her biology. Command the scrawny husband to get on his knees and scrub the floor while the MMA fighter continues to pummel other fighters, and the woman’s will — which is seated inside our biological bodies! — eventually crumbles. Her respect for her husband cannot survive such an experience unscathed. Biologically speaking, this is a good thing, but becomes perverse and evil when the husband — when he sees the external cause for neglected respect and tries to rectify — if forbidden from exercising and rising towards the role of the fighter.
A husband restrained from this great expression of love for which his body was built suffers a variation of the experience of the parent watching their toddler break the vase. He sees certain men take responsibility for the protection of his own wife, a very subtle claim of ownership that is difficult to detect. But should he take even moderate steps in accumulating the power to provide that protection himself, he will be seen and treated as pathological, toxic, an anomaly and even a threat. And even if he succeeds in his preparations in secret, he knows that acting — even in need — upon his love is legally guaranteed to bring about more harm than good, to such a degree that the laws seem calculated to deter men from independence of the state’s own violence. This renders preparations of the aforementioned kind simply boys at play; a mere hobby, a sort of past-time which can be talked about and laughed at as something unnecessary and unserious.
Individual variations prevent me from making sweeping statements in absolute terms. However, when we look at the general trend of coldness and disrespect, I believe corrosion of the emotional needs of the marriage lie in institutionalized civilization itself. The wife’s disrespect is the natural response to the husband’s castrated love, and his inadequacy in other areas of her domain, such as dishes, house-hold chores, childcare, etc. In short, to his purposelessness. The husband’s coldness is a natural response to the disrespect he detects from his wife, and a byproduct of his inhibited ability to express his love for his family towards legitimate threats to it, or even to meaningfully cultivate his capacity and power for such an expression. Unable to take action which would demonstrate certainty in his love, his body expresses an uncertainty which his wife will detect, even if it does not match his abstract mental beliefs about his own values.
And here we see the true source of feminist hatred for Men’s Rights Activists. Feminism, upon close examination, is simply a coalesced and politicized disrespect for men — a disrespect originating in the repression of men’s ability to fully express their power and the strength of their love. And to think they would lecture men about “fear of commitment!” Men’s Rights Activists accept the feminist premise of equality, but — correctly — point out that feminists are being hypocrites. In doing so, they misunderstand the origin of feminism, and damn themselves to eternal female contempt by pledging themselves never to take on the uniquely male struggle for violent power by which true masculine love is most purely expressed. One could say that the Men’s Rights Activist is, due to his consistency, an even greater impediment to is own respect and happiness in marriage than the feminist.
Of course, many will suggest that such a view of things does not take health and security considerations seriously enough. Would I really rather have the opportunity for deep love than the more certain protection of my family in civilization? After all, roving bands of bandits are not to be laughed away — looking towards the Mexican border and to central Africa — and perhaps more importantly, civilization provides protection against threats against which hatred is powerless: drought, famine, cold, disease, loneliness. I do not mean to attack civilization as an unmitigated evil. But in recalling the conflation — between the experience of civilization and civilization as institutional infrastructure — the choice presented by politicians between civilization and not-civilization appears as perhaps a false one. Perhaps even a self-serving false one. The state is, no doubt, a necessary institution for any society which wishes to survive, but it is abundantly clear that the modern American state has amassed for itself power beyond the scale and scope of any state in history before. In this context, the question ‘to have, or not to have’ a state appears as a transparently dishonest question and a false dichotomy, one seeming to come from the state itself, asking for us to choose between anarchy and absolute tyranny, and taking our reluctant preference of the latter as a kind of endorsement of the legitimacy of their rule.
But practically relevant as this digression may be, I think it is irrelevant to the deeper reality, which is that given the choice, most people really do prefer powerful love to powerful security. Female fantasies about serial killers may be dismissed as the ignorant daydreams of the secure, unaware of the realities of a truly insecure life, but what of suicides? What of the white men and women who, when exposed to more independent ways of the Native Americans, preferred to live in that fashion and stayed — a trend not mirrored by natives living among whites? What of missionary families moving to dangerous and uncivilized parts of the world? Of pioneers? Of American ex-pats in Mexico, including a great number of veterans and their families?
It is entirely possible that among humans, there may be two types: those who prefer love to security, and those who prefer security to love. The opinion of the medical establishment aside, it does not seem obvious to me at all that physical security ought to take precedence over intense love. To me, the opposite seems more self-evident. But supposing that both of these views are valid, and both types of people have a place in this world, it seems deeply wrong for civilization to cater entirely to the latter, security-over-love types, especially if access to civilization is advanced as a “right” (read “obligation”) by the political establishment, even to those for whom their castrating power is hateful.
As civilization seeks to unite itself in uniformity around the globe, it risks overreach, weakness, holes, and eventually, retraction. This is an opportunity for those possessed with a burning need to love deeply and passionately, although it is a cause for fear among those who seek the security of the state. But if the global project is successful, and contrary to all historical precedents, unites in permanent harmony a total and absolute outsourcing of violence to the state, then it will have effectively castrated all possibility of true, masculine love.
That is, anyway, if such a global civilization can preempt the inevitable response. What one would expect to happen in such a case is that those men capable of deep, passionate, overpowering love will identify their love as being contingent upon the possibility of love. Such men would see those responsible for outlawing hate as, themselves, the ultimate object of hate, and would, for the sake of their love, willingly lay down their lives both for the objects that they love, as well as for the transcendent possibility of love itself. In order to preempt this, global civilization and its agents would need to prevent the initial experience of deep and powerful love in the first place, or to maintain a general psychology of fear within all populations of men, for fear is antithetical to true love and to hatred.
Until civilization begins to contract in America, and to withdraw its absolute monopoly on force — or at the very least, to halt its expansion of this monopoly — I expect the general trend among marriages will continue towards coldness and disrespect. This does not mean that couples should not do what they can to mitigate this, either through Love and Respect type programs, or by moving to places less controlled by the state. But I think that trying to find the source of disrespect and coldness within the marriage itself may be a mistake, a confabulation or invention which itself may lead to feelings of misunderstanding and resentment. Very likely, feelings of disrespect or neglect in love may be the result of external context, which can easily displace itself and masquerade as an internal source… dishes, folding laundry improperly, etc. The pettiness of the source should be a clue to the existence of other sources, but if those sources appear as vast as civilization itself, it becomes understandable why people may prefer to believe it was merely a household chore.
This may sound pessimistic, but I don’t believe this to be the case. Millions of Americans are concerned about the possibility of civil war, or the undermining and possible collapse of “our democracy.” Is it possible that such concerns and deep care are keeping the overstretched civilization alive? It seems more likely that their concerns are assisting in its division and destruction, but one gets the sense that given their loyalties, they would do what they could to preserve the nation, even at the cost of friends and family members, whom they have ostracized in the name of politics in great numbers since 2016. This is, needless to say, perverse beyond description, but it further illustrates both the corrosive relationship between love and the state, and also an optimistic path towards greater love. For if the state is in as great a danger as people believe, the relationship between love and institutionalized civilization makes the danger from a source of despair into a source of great hope.
Further, I believe a point will come in which the fate of the state will hang upon people’s loyalty to it. While the strong political opinions people hold presently place it under enormous stress and strain, these strong opinions indicate a loyalty which will save it in the moment of need, and thus prolong their own divorce from the possibility of true, powerful love, of a symmetrical kind between man and woman; the kind which allows great love from a man, and commands involuntary respect from a woman — rather than the self-coerced, voluntary, artificial kind we settle for in Love and Respect programs and the like. Seeing this relationship allows for a detachment from loyalty to the overreaching state, an uncaring indifference to its plights and dangers from which a democratic state like ours cannot survive in the long run. Like a marriage, a democratic state needs care in order to last. By siphoning the capacity of violence from individual men and establishing a monopoly which distributes “civilization,” it sucks the blood from interpersonal relationships and takes it for itself; the respect and the love.
But we can choose not to love the state. We can choose to not care, to be indifferent, and in doing so, reorient our own values in a more healthy order… one more conducive to powerful personal relationships. The man who holds the state in distant contempt, who takes responsibility for violence in the protection of his own circle, and who prepares himself for such violence with the firm conviction that such a need is likely, he is the sort of man who may experience true respect from a woman, at least from certain kinds of women. And he will be capable of demonstrating unrestrained love of the kind that women crave, but presently, find only in literature in our emasculated, loveless world.