This is a messy blog post. It is an idea I want to share because, though it may not be The One Truth, it's a story that has been helpful to me.
My husband and I have a great relationship now, but we didn't always. We had horrific childhood attachment issues to overcome in addition to terrible relationship models coming from our two sets of divorced parents. There was a key moment in our relationship right after we got engaged. We got into a terrible fight (of course I cannot remember what it was about). I called my mom, and she said, "Yeah, relationships end. Sounds like yours has run its course." He called his mom, and she said something similar.
When we made up from that fight we realized we could never call our parents to help us through our marriage struggles (if our goal was to stay married). Similarly, I couldn't turn to the advice offered by Ayn Rand or Nathaniel Branden on the subject of marriage and relationships as neither of them had marriages I would want to emulate. I started my search for new relationship role-models.
A few years later Tom and I were married, and I was pregnant. Tom's single friends at the time were Tindering it up, and his married friends (and him) were all feeling a little jealous and trapped. I had this realization then, that changed how we saw the situation.
Joseph Campbell wrote about the "human story." He saw a woman's life story as having three main arcs: Maiden then Mother then Crone. For a man was: Squire then Warrior then King. I don't think those work well for today, so I updated them to: Maiden then Warrior Queen Mother then Wise Woman and, for a man, Squire then Warrior King Father then Wise Man.
"The problem," I said to my husband, "is that your friends think they are still squires. They are like the 40-year-old married women running around in short skirts. They're living the wrong story. I'm not a maiden anymore. It's hard to let that story go. Flirting with squires was fun. But now I will live the Warrior Queen Mother story, and I will try to make that story as glorious as my Maiden story was.
As a Warrior Queen Mother, I don't want to wear skimpy dresses and flirt with boys. I want to fight for the survival of my kingdom (e.g. my children). Your married friends would feel a lot better if they stopped seeing themselves as squires who are supposed to be chasing maiden-tail. They are kings now, and they have kingdoms to fight for. They can be heroes. Or they can be playboy princes that destroy their kingdoms."
This story rings even more true now. I was at a department store the other day trying on dresses for a cocktail party. The saleswoman was trying to get me to buy something extremely short and "sexy." "You've got such a great body; you should flaunt it!" she kept telling me. I was totally uninterested and tried to explain to her that I am in my mid-thirties not my mid-twenties, that I am married, that I an not trying to attract anyone, etc. She found it sad that I didn't think I "could" wear sexy stuff anymore.
I became interested in this exchange. Hollywood loves the maiden/squire story and has fed us a ton of one-liners to keep us pursuing our mates rather than building kingdoms. It is rare, on television, to see loyalty between partners. There is so much back-stabbing. And yet it is partnership and commitment that leads to riches, the kingdom we create that leads to a better life.
Squires and maidens tend to spend money in their efforts to show off and attract a mate. Smart kings and queens are more likely to save money because security and ensuring the survival of their offspring is what motivates them. Maidens and squires, whether they have children or not, are largely focused on attracting a mate, not kingdom building.
Maybe it's because we give away our children to be raised by others – there is no kingdom to fight for anymore. Maybe it's because of all the subterfuge involved in today's battle for survival. On the subject of nutrition alone – how many wealthy dynasties have failed because of inability to produce viable heirs due to nutritional depletion of genetic stock across generations? Many wealthy and middle class people think they are successfully "surviving," but they are not, not if you take a long-term (three or more generations) view of it.
I find this reflected in my parent-friends who, rather than be focused on the battle for the survival of their children, are focused on their careers. "Your family is your job!" I want to say. The point of a flashy career is to attract the best possible mate. A married person overly focused on career is a person looking to get divorced (and "trade up" in mates). A king or queen would only be interested in their career to the extent that it could benefit their kingdom, perhaps by making family alliances so that their children can find the best mates possible. But in a very deep way, Kings and Queen know it's not about them anymore, and that's wonderful!
I am all about selfishness, but for me, the battle for the survival of my children is what I want right now. Every time I hear my parent-friends talk about their search for sexual fulfillment, I can't help but think – you are stuck in your old story. By all means, if you are so wealthy that your children are eating farm fresh organic Weston A Price food, if you and they have straight teeth with no braces and no cavities and no other signs of physical degeneration, if you have fantastic communication skills with your partner and your children and you are raising them and not having them raised by others, then perhaps you have so much free time that you could be focused on "sexual fulfillment." Otherwise: You are falling for what seems to me like a media sales gimmick.
When a twenty-year-old tells me about her wild sex life, it's entertaining. When a forty-year-old does so, there is something unattractive about it. And I think it's this: The social cues you are giving me with your focus on sex or your career is that you are not focused on your kingdom.
Having been born into poverty and having been studying successful families since the minute I understood what I wanted, and knowing that most people who make it into the top 1% will stay there less than two years and 80% will stay there less than ten years, and knowing that while I worked my butt off and rose in wealth throughout my life, I have watched most of my friends (who were raised in wealth) fall. Why? Why is it so hard for a family to keep its wealth once it has acquired it?
One conclusions I have made is that wealthy people equate their wealth only to money. This is a fatal mistake in the creation of a dynasty. Ask any of the failed dynasties why they failed: Inability to produce heirs (decline in genetic stock), poor parent-child relationships (which the parents will pass off as unmotivated kids), fighting among heirs (failure of family to share values).
It became clear to me while I worked for unhealthy 1%ers that you cannot lose focus on health and healthy relationships. My husband and I talk about this as we build our wealth. We will build our wealth more slowly than we can, but we will do it right. The foundation of physical health for our bodies and our children's bodies is our highest priority. We can always make money. But money cannot buy good health that has been lost.
Same with relationships. Divorce destroys kingdoms. Children who hate their parents destroy kingdoms. So though my husband and I could be moving toward our financial dreams twice as fast if we put Anders into school and I joined the paid workforce, that is sacrificing the future for the present. And it would likely destroy our kingdom, if not in our lifetime, in our children's lifetime. And why? My husband and I are taken; we don't need flashy amounts of money or success to attract mates. We only need enough money for our own enjoyment and to maximize the quality of our offspring.
Money will only serve the mind that can match it. It is far more important that we focus on giving our son a mind that can match and grow our current level of wealth, than that we keep growing it.
The battle for survival that my husband and I fight is glorious. We must be quite high earners just to feed our family properly. Tom has to earn twice as much as husbands whose wives work so that I can raise our son. But we have a dream of a family like one we have yet to see in our lives. There is nothing more bonding, nothing sexier, than going to war in this way with my husband. It's exhausting of course, but it's a beautiful, fun, and interesting exhausting because it is meaningful for us.
Something else I noticed recently: Battle scars are tragic and hideous on maidens and squires. On kings and queens they are hot, proof of our strength, our prowess. And thank goodness, because I don't think anyone makes it to old age without them.
The belief that we are warriors now, not innocent, happy young folk, also helps us on to the next phase of our life story – old age and accepting death. When you are a maiden or a squire death is tragic. When you are exhausted from battle, scarred, used, death is rest, something that you can be happy about (just a little bit).
This is a subconscious experience for us, an emotional story. But you better believe I am out there making friends who are living this story. Most parents I meet are still maidens and squires. They are not kingdom building and alliances with them are becoming more and more unfulfilling. They are married and have children, but seem to have bought into the advertising media pitch that their life purpose should be ... sex. I like sex as much as the next person, but as your meaning in life?
I was having lunch with a friend of mine the other day who is getting her PhD in sexual health. She was telling me how important sexual fulfillment is, and when I told her it wasn't a priority to Tom and me, she became worried. But upon further questioning it turned out that we have a "healthy" amount of sex. Yet we don't make sex dates or have a date night as is recommend for couples with children. Just the fact that we like each other is enough to get us into bed. I am not holding our relationship out there as a Model For Everyone To Follow, but I think that we are still attracted to each other because of how we see each other. Like I said above, there something bonding and super sexy about seeing each other as warriors fighting a battle together.
Here are some more metaphors: I think many wives subconsciously do their best to stay maidens because they think that is how they will keep their husbands. But it's actually the opposite. If you stay a maiden and keep your husband in squire-mode, eventually you will break up. Why? Because a mother cannot compete with the maidens. A forty year old woman cannot out maiden real maidens. Even if she isn't older than they are, her focus is divided, her story is wrong, and there is always something unattractive subconsciously about people living the wrong story. Rather, the woman who wants to keep her husband should specifically try to not be a maiden or compete with maidens. She should focus on being the most incredible queen any king could wish for. No maiden can compete with a true warrior queen. And no king is attracted to maidens - they are pretty, silly things, not useful to him in battle.
What does it mean when a married woman and mother dresses in a way to attract men? Does it mean she is confident about her body? I don't think so. Something about it is unattractive. (And that is interesting to me.) This is what I think: What it says to me is she is not happy in her relationship, that she may cheat on her husband, that she may wish she were still a maiden, in other words: I should not trust and form alliances with her kingdom as she is alerting me to its instability or lack of success. Perhaps she genuinely thinks she is just showing the world that she doesn't care what it thinks – but that's just out of touch with reality. And I don't think it's attractive to be out of touch with reality. The fact that you will be judged by how you present yourself is unavoidable. To dress as if that is not a fact just makes you in denial and likely to fail.
I think about the things we used to think (as a society) were "bad." Dressing slutty. Divorce. We don't want to stigmatize the people who do these things. But at the same time, in some ways, they signify someone's success or failure to grow up.
I went to a conference over the summer where I was hit on rather a lot. It was flattering, but it occurred to me that it's boring to me now. What's interesting to me is my son and my husband, our growth, our finances, the creation of the best life possible for our family, the dream of building something that could last generations. Several times I was hit on by people who have open marriages who wondered if I have the same. And I ... don't see that in my future. Because it's boring. Seduction and being seduced was once the most fascinating and marvelous thing to me in the world. I read books on it! But now it simply doesn't serve me. It doesn't serve my kingdom.
I can't help but wonder about the people who are married and have children, but are still pursing mating. I wonder how their kingdoms will do (long term) with their energies so distracted.
Likewise the high percentage of women who abandon their children and return to the workforce. This is a subconscious signal to me that they don't trust their relationship. Their relationship is on such shaky ground that the woman cannot afford to specialize in the children, she has to be prepared for the coming divorce. She has to have "her own" money. If you haven't even figured out how to make a committed alliance to your own husband, how can I trust any alliance you make with me?
Not to mention your children. I am looking for the best mates for my own well-raised children. If your children are going to be raised by servants, middle class teachers, and the television, they are not good mates for mine.
Some women think that staying in the workforce is sexier to their husbands. These women are completely out of touch with reality. Every father I know wants his wife to "do whatever makes her happy." But every last one of them hopes that caring for his children (and him) is what will make her happy. I have never seen a man jump for joy when his queen announces that she, actually, would not enjoy caring for his children. What man can forgive that betrayal? Of course they smile and pretend they are modern, but I think that when their wife shows she cares so little for the children, he starts to detach from them as well.
A man cannot become a king without a queen. A woman in the workforce is not a queen. Queens are focused on their kingdoms, on their children. Likewise men pursuing outlying career success are not kings. Kings are focused on their kingdoms. That is what the money is for.
Both partners must choose to mature. If the man stays a squire he will be obsessed with maidens, and since his wife cannot be one anymore, he will end up leaving her for one. And with his new wife he will start a kingdom a second time. And then he will leave her for a third maiden. Never will his kingdoms progress or grow in glory. He will have wasted decades of valuable kingdom building time reliving the same old story rather than committing to the new one.
I maintain that kingdoms can be built at any social status. It is a way of life, not a social status. Some people will argue that their family "cannot afford" to have one partner at home, but according to Ann Crittenden in The Price of Motherhood, if the wife isn't making over 50k (possibly 65k in today's dollars), it doesn't actually pencil for the woman to be working. What does "cannot afford" mean? Money is all about choices. We choose what we value. For a kingdom builder, nothing is more valuable than the children.
For the record, I don't agree with women being stuck in the house with the kids. Please see: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1185171129?type=review#rating_109775433. But I also don't think there is any other option today for the woman that values the health of her children and future of her kingdom.
When my children are ready, I will give up my throne and become a wise woman. This is one of the hardest and most important things a king or queen must do. The failure of many parents to "give up the throne" destroys relationships, and especially the children. It is this awareness of my future obsoleteness that enables me to give Anders my very best happily. Nothing like being a warrior for a few decades to make you feel excited about resting!
I had lunch with one of my favorite girlfriends the other day. Unlike me she grew up in a wealthy family, and she has happily married parents. She said, "Many girls marry rich men because they want to be a princess. But to be a princess you must make your husband your servant. If you make your husband your servant, he will soon be poor. Instead you must seek to be a queen at his side, and make your husband your king. If you treat your husband like a king, he will soon be more rich."
I love this story too. Princess-wives are another example of a way people can fail to change stories.
I apologize for any of this sounding judge-y. Like I said above, this is not The One Truth. There are many glorious stories to live, this one has been mine.
Frank pointed out below that it might be easiest for people to move on to their next story when they have lived their current story to the fullest. As in: squires and maidens who milked every last drop of their squire and maiden experience might be happier to settle into the warrior kingdom mode. Likewise, those who accept the warrior kingdom and live it to its fullest might be the happiest to let that go and become the wise "letting go" generation.
In my studies of death it occurred to me that Buddhism is a disturbing religion for the young. Nor is it helpful for the kingdom builders. But man is it the perfect religion for the old! It's about acceptance and letting go. The entire Tibetan Book of Living and Dying has one main thing to teach: how to die with grace and dignity. Buddhism is the religion for our final stage. I would say Christianity and Judaism (war-making religions) are quite fantastic religions for kingdom building. And for maidens and squires? Well, they should be Pagens. Again, not saying this as Fact. Using these ideas as metaphors to describe the human experience and how we can best facilitate one another to live our stage to the fullest.