Saturday, September 07, 2019

How Not to Crash and Burn (75)

A 2009 University of Canterbury psychological study of long-term couples turned up an interesting fact: ‘marriage goggles’ are every bit as real as ‘beer goggles’. On average, men in happy marriages rated their wives as notably more attractive than their wives rated themselves. (If you’ve ever gone dress shopping with your wife, that will probably not surprise you.) Furthermore, notwithstanding the ravages of age, men in happy marriages consistently rated their wives more attractive than third parties rated them.

This may help explain why women who abandon their partners in their forties and fifties for an internet fling often wind up alone. Nobody will ever find them quite so attractive as their former husbands will. Even if they would like a do-over, there simply isn’t enough time left to them to build that sort of bond all over again.

The Oracle of King Lemuel (Proverbs 31:28-31)

An Excellent Wife Inspires Enthusiasm in Others
“Her children rise up and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
‘Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.’ ”
The excellent wife is thought happy by her children, presumably because she IS happy. Why would they not believe this? Their mother is productive, energetic, generous, uncomplaining and all-around praiseworthy, as we have discovered throughout the chapter. Her attitude is infectious and her spirit and work habits rub off on the people closest to her.

Moreover, an excellent wife is lauded effusively by her husband ... although his choice of wording may initially give us pause. On the surface of it, the husband’s grandiose praise of his wife (“Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all”) may make those of us with a logical streak question whether he may have had a little too much wine with his supper.

You understand what I mean. If the Wicked Queen asks her magic mirror, “Who is the fairest of them all?”, there can only be one right answer. Adding 999 more wicked queens and 999 more mirrors doesn’t help spread the attractiveness around the kingdom more equitably. Truthful magic mirrors must all give the same retort: Snow White. There can only be one “fairest of them all”.

Likewise, only one excellent wife can surpass all the other women who have done excellently. If multiple husbands tell their excellent wives “You surpass them all”, all but one are lying. Only one wife can win the Superbowl of Excellent Spousehood.

Or are those husbands lying after all? Here’s where the University of Canterbury study comes in. Men whose wives are industrious, supportive, realistic, self-starting, well-thought-of in the community, and who keep a competently-run, peaceful home are far more likely than other men to be genuinely happy in their marriages, and far more likely to believe their wives exceptional on that account. They may think them exceptionally beautiful, sure, but they may also think their wives are smarter, harder-working, wiser — you name it.

If we are going to insist on being pedantic about it, all but one husband must be dead wrong in his assessment. Bob’s wife is only the 1,235th most excellent wife in the kingdom, not number 1 at all. But the point is that Bob believes what he is saying. He is not pouring out empty flattery in hope of getting dinner served earlier. He is not trying to avoid a fight. He genuinely cannot imagine anyone else being in a better situation than he is right now, and he is deeply grateful to God that he has such a woman in his life.

And from Bob’s wife’s perspective, if her husband is just a little too generous in his assessment of her value, well, who cares?

An Excellent Wife Need Not Be Physically Attractive
“Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Give her of the fruit of her hands,
and let her works praise her in the gates.”
“Beauty is vain.” Men, do we believe this? Probably not in our twenties, if we are ruthlessly honest. And perhaps we can be forgiven for our naivety at that age. Maybe in our thirties or forties the truth starts to sink in: that looker you married doesn’t look much like the woman in your wedding photos anymore. And frankly, you don’t look much like yours either, but then Proverbs 31 is not about you, is it?

Do you care that time is doing what time does? If she’s an excellent wife, probably not. What’s happening is that a bunch of scriptures are being proved true, as happens regularly. “All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.” You know what that’s like: here today, gone tomorrow. “What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” “Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow.”

Grass, flowers, mist, breath, shadow ... you get the picture. It’s as true of your wife as it is of you. Statistically, she’s likely to outlive you, and she will probably not be remembered primarily for her looks, even if they were once spectacular. At best, a woman gets a couple of decades out of her visual appeal before the younger beauties sweep by her and draw away the appreciative eyes of the young men.

This being the case, how much wiser is it to major on character? A woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. And a woman who fears the Lord acts like the woman in verses 10-28.

Wisdom is justified by all her children,” said the Lord Jesus. What he meant, I think, is that the prudence of various courses of action may be assessed over time by the results those actions produce. Wisdom is not theoretical. It is intended to generate desirable outcomes in the real world. This is how Proverbs closes: with a desirable outcome. The excellent wife receives back the consequences of her wise choices, and her pattern of life is recognized and well spoken of in her community.

For the excellent wife, the proof of her wisdom is in that happy ending.


  1. Hmm, it is exactly so. My guess is that the contributors here must be married (and their wives read their blogs ;-)? Anyway this one will also go to my excellent wife as did the previous blog on this topic.