Dreaming the Impossible Dream of Marriage (An Evangelical Horror Story)

Dreaming the Impossible Dream of Marriage (An Evangelical Horror Story) October 31, 2021

Hi and welcome back! It being Spooky Day, my attention turns to the topic of evangelical marriage. In previous years, we looked at the struggles that evangelical women face as they search for husbands within their tribe. Now, though, let’s witness together the self-made tragedy that evangelical men experience in their own searches for suitable wives. Like the women, they want something specific — and they want it desperately — but they have forever locked themselves out of even the mere possibility of ever getting it. Today, our evangelical horror story centers on the men who dream an impossible dream — of marriage.

spoooooky day
(Ján Jakub Naništa.)

(Each quote below contains a source link to the screenshot I made of the subreddit post in question. Also, today’s post involves screenshots from a subreddit comprising mostly hard-right evangelical men. I do not include these posts to pick on anybody, but rather to illustrate my points. Please don’t try to find these guys or give them grief. They’re a gold mine of useful information about how standard-issue fundie guys think, though they don’t realize it.)

Of Misogynists and Marriage.

In years past, we’ve talked on Spooky Day about evangelical women and their increasingly-frustrating search for ideal marriage partners.

And, too, we’ve checked out the general lay of the romantic landscape for evangelical women:

However, we haven’t talked much about evangelical men on that level — including the struggles they face in finding wives:

Perhaps evangelical women are simply louder about their struggles, or more visible than single evangelical men are. Evangelical men definitely do have struggles, though. They also have dreams of their ideal mate, just like their female counterparts do.

And also like their counterparts, evangelical men don’t realize that they have forever locked themselves out of their yearning dreams — simply by maintaining a misogynistic, inherently sexist, authoritarian worldview.

Dream a Little Dream of Marriage.

I lurk sometimes on a subreddit made up mostly of hard-right evangelical Christian men. These guys aren’t nearly as repulsive as actual MRAs (Men’s Rights Activists), nowhere near as extremist or as creepily violent and rapey, but they are still definitely not good people at all. Their subreddit functions as a sort of relationship forum where they can complain about how awful and unfair modern women are to them.

And a while ago, I noticed a very subtle trend in their complaints.

This was the first post that caught my eye on that score:

They don’t care about us as people.

We’re providers, builders and doers.

The most disgusting comment I’ve ever heard from a woman is that they’re not responsible for our [meaning: male partners’] mental health. [Source.]

Shortly after that, I spotted another:

“They don’t know how to be good partners to men.” this really is the underlying cause. the other things are symptoms. a woman doesn’t have to be a virgin but if she’s banging random dudes for 10 years she isn’t on a path to be a partner. She hasn’t practiced or demonstrated cooperation, you cannot make her what she isn’t. [Source.]

And then this:

Girls don’t want to build they just want to move in. They don’t want to run the race they just want to meet you at the finish line. [Source.]

Yall, this stuff really got my thinker thinkin’.

The Dream They Dream Together.

Obviously, I do not agree in the least with these men’s views regarding sex, nor condone their obvious contempt for women. But are you seeing the yearning that I’m seeing? Like with this guy:

Most men would be happy in marriage where the wife took care of herself and the household and regularly had sex with her man. Men’s desires usually aren’t complicated [. . .][Source.]

And these two:

OP: It’s like the romantic disney ass mf in me wants to find a woman who i can treat like a queen and give the world to, and who will reciprocate. But reality has shown time and time again that such a mentality only leads to getting taken advantage of. [. . .]

Reply: I have to remind myself daily via forums/RP [Red Pill] content. It’s really twisted to be in this situation where your good faith efforts are used against you [. . .] [Source.]

Their frustration intrigued me. So I dove into their subreddit.

I found dozens and dozens of posts full of different men talking about their ideal marriage mates, what they wished they could find in terms of relationships, how unfulfilled they felt all the time because their nurturing impulses either didn’t feel appreciated or were outright rejected and scorned by the women they sought out.

I could go on and on. I’ve got a whole folder full of these screenshots. Hopefully, though, I’ve made my point.

What these men want in marriage isn’t completely unreasonable. So (I wondered) why can’t they find it?

Their Hell is Locked From the Inside.

It was like these misogynists shared this one common dream together — this dream of perfect marriage. As one of them put it, “A lot of us had dreams of that as well.”

However, they wanted something that none of them had actually found.

And indeed, I saw none of them describing themselves as being in a current relationship that fit this loosely-defined dream they kept offering. Some were married, but weren’t really happy. None of them had found a marriage partner who was trustworthy, cooperative, kindhearted, supportive, reciprocal, and on and on and on.

So, they’d all concluded that this dream woman simply did not exist. She could not be found. They could have no marriage like that, because the necessary element of a wife was impossible to find. Any man trying to convince them otherwise (and I saw a few of these, plus occasional female interlopers to the group) got downvoted to heck and back.

These men stand in the middle of a forest and yet perceive no trees at all.

My immediate impulse upon seeing these plaintive complaints was — and is — to interject that I know lots of very happy married couples who operate just as they dream. I know lots of women who are extremely supportive, giving, cooperative, and trustworthy, and they are women whose marriage partners thank their lucky stars for them every day.

But none of these couples are hard-right evangelicals. 

Instead, they are egalitarian and feminist — which these men perceive as absolutely hostile to marriage. And to their credit, they’re right in a way: they, themselves would not know how to function in a marriage like that. They’d wreck the ship long before learning to sail such unfamiliar waters.

The Marriage Lessons Authoritarians Learn.

Think about the harsh lessons that authoritarian men and women learn as they grow up. They are harsh indeed, and they’re very difficult to unpack, untangle, and unlearn. These lessons center around protecting oneself from predation, for the most part.

Unfortunately, the easiest way to circumvent predation in authoritarian culture is to proactively prey on the other person in the relationship first — and to cultivate a facade of strength and power. Also unfortunately, missing a chance to prey on someone else becomes an announcement of weakness in turn.

That’s how authoritarian relationships work. Marriage for evangelicals in particular is a constant test of wills. Any sign of weakness or vulnerability becomes the signal for the other person to attack. Every night, each partner tallies up the hurts and victories of the day and decides if they’re the winner or the loser. If a man loses too many times, the toxic masculinity of his culture makes his wife — in this case also an authoritarian, thus also subject to toxic masculinity in her own way — to lose respect for him. If he loses too much of her respect, she will abandon him — or find ways to make him suffer for years to come.

You might have noticed that guy quoted above complaining about his good-faith efforts not being appreciated. I saw a lot of men talking like that. And that lack of appreciation itself is part of authoritarian culture. Acting in good faith means following the rules. Following the rules is for the weak. The strong do not follow the rules; they ignore them, flout them, flaunt their wrongdoing, and then laugh at any attempt to rein them in. Anyone following the rules is simply announcing their weakness to their fellow authoritarians — and that admission will result in an attack.

So the marriage of authoritarians is a pushme-pullyou with each side demanding respect, attacking and defending, and trying to push the other into doing more work, all to feel superior.

Sounds super fun, right? Really loving? But it gets worse.

The web tightens.

Impulse Control and Good Faith in Marriage.

Add to this the fact that evangelical culture does not teach men impulse control (again: following the rules = weakness!), and actively denigrates boundary-setting and self-ownership in women, and you have nothing but a recipe for disaster.

If I wanted to create a paradigm guaranteed to produce only unhappy couples headed straight for divorce court, I could not possibly improve on what evangelical leaders have wrought over the past 30 years or so. Evangelicals’ rules for marriage literally only work if both partners come at it with the best of intentions and refuse to attack each other for any reason or take advantage of each other. But evangelical culture itself prevents either men or women from being capable of living up to those ideals.

So when I look back at all the married couples I knew as a Pentecostal, which includes my own relationship at the time to Biff, what the couples almost all remind me of is a pair of bickering seven-year-olds in the back seat of a car on a long road trip. It’s just this endless slapfight and squabbling and yelps of “MOMMMMMM, HE’S ON MY SIDE!” “No I’m not!” “Yes you are! Your hand is on my side!” “No it’s not!” and on and on, except there’s no parent in the driver’s seat threatening to stop this car right this instant and go back home.

Instead, there’s just an imaginary friend that both parties agree is driving their car, but they both can ignore him as they please.

Locked Forever Out of Their Dream.

These misogynists I beheld in their natural environment ache to move out of the kiddie backseat and into a real growed-up relationship. But their very own worldview prevents any possibility of that ever happening. They can rail against whatever they like, and oh believe me they do.

But as long as they seek women operating under the same authoritarian rules they follow, it just can’t ever happen.

They’ve written their own existential horror movie. They don’t even realize it. They wove the very spiderweb that ensnared them. And if any of us tried to help them escape, they’d accuse us of lying (and piously express trollish pity for any men they could identify).

That’s really what puts the cherry on this entire stinking sundae: these misogynists still think, despite all the faults and obvious flaws of their worldview, that theirs is the best one ever — and produces the best marriages of all. They still think, despite anybody trying to tell them differently (even through sharing years of personal experience), that egalitarianism and feminism can’t possibly produce happy marriages or make men happy.

They have built their own relationship hell from the ground up, from the foundations to the tips of the towers of their ramshackle, decaying gothic mansion.

And now, let us tiptoe away from that dismal prison. As purely awful as it is to live there, its inmates would not have things any other way.

NEXT UP: LSP!


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About Captain Cassidy
Captain Cassidy grew up fervently Catholic, converted to the SBC in her teens, and became a Pentecostal shortly afterward. She even volunteered in church (choir, Sunday School) and married an aspiring preacher! But then--record scratch!--she brought everything to a screeching halt when she deconverted in her mid-20s. That was 25 years ago. Now a comfortable None, she blogs on Roll to Disbelieve about psychology, pop culture, politics, relationships, cats, gaming, and more--and where they all intersect with religion. She lives with an adored and adoring husband named Mr. Captain and a sweet, squawky orange tabby cat named Princess Bother Pretty Toes. At any given time, she's running out of bookcase space. You can read more about the author here.

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