“Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.”

Our failure to see the natural roles of husband and wife has real consequences. This stands to reason. When we miss the difference and complementarity of man and woman, we likewise miss how each provides for the other in specific and irreplaceable ways.

A crucial part of a man’s place is how he cherishes and protects his wife. Yet common ideology, which works into our subconscious thinking as well as our customary interactions, especially undermines this protecting role of man. To protect is seen as patronizing, or even aggressive.

So, men and women approach one another as though not only on an equal but also an undifferentiated footing. In combination with a rejection of the deeper nature of sexuality and so also of sexual restraint, this makes the toxic cocktail that has poisoned what should be a central joy of human life—the courtship and marriage of men and women.

How different it can be when men accept the gift of their responsibility to be special guardians of two closely related realities: the integrity of the sexual realm and the honor of the women they love.

This comes home to a man when he really falls in love with a woman. He sees and is moved by her in all her beauty and likewise experiences the desire to come close to her. He perceives that there is something profound and mysterious somehow embodied in her. And he likewise senses, in part because of a struggle he experiences within himself, that there is something vulnerable here; something that needs to be protected—from anything or anyone, including himself, who might threaten it, by not seeing it and cherishing it for what it is.

The point is certainly not to remove responsibility from a woman. She has a complementary role in preserving, and indeed growing, their mutual good. Here I focus on the man’s responsibility, from the day they first meet to the day, if they do marry, that death does them part.

His is to discover how there is so much more than first meets his eye. His is to realize the deeper meaning of the sexual realm, and its inseparable connection both to the dignity of persons and a call to generosity. His is to convey these convictions in his actions, often in his restraint.

In this we men have often failed, sometimes in little ways, sometimes in bigger ways. We must reckon to the best of our ability with the consequences. And we can start again and strive anew.

Part of starting again will be an honest assessment of how we have failed. This is not about self-flagellation and living in regret. It is about really seeing her, and seeing what is due to her, and what she has not fully received from us. If this includes a painful glance backwards, then let us do it. The reason to look back is for the sake of the relationship now.

The women we love deserve more than we have so far succeeded in giving. It will be a gift, not only to them but also to ourselves, to start anew.

This week’s video gets specific about Apologizing for Pre-Marriage Mistakes

Image: by John Singer Sargent (American, 1856-1925)

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