Conflict Resolution in Loving Relationships

In the fairy tales, the hero and heroine walk off to get married, and “live happily ever after.” In real life, we know that it’s not quite so simple. They have to die someday, for one thing: they are human after all, and man is mortal. And that’s not the only difference between fairy tales and real life.

In real life, real women have days when they just don’t feel happy. In his book Men are From Mars, Women are from Venus, John Gray cites research indicating that women have a monthly self-esteem cycle that rises and falls. Sometimes she feels on top of the world, and sometimes she just doesn’t. And then there’s pregnancy—raging hormones, strange symptoms, weird random pains—pregnancy can be difficult, and not being able to be pregnant when you want to can be even more difficult.

So real life isn’t as simple as the fairy tales make it sound. Marriage does not mean that you and your spouse will be confirmed in virtue, and suddenly have no human faults or failings, no mood swings, and no financial difficulties.

But that’s no reason you can’t be happy ever after with your spouse, as long as you are both willing to put in some work.

Here’s a few tips to help you deal with those days when you and your husband are just driving each other up the wall.

#1 Realize that it’s okay

So one day, you just feel like you can’t stand your husband anymore. Maybe yesterday, or a week ago, he was the love of your life and perfect in every way, but now, you can’t imagine what you could have seen in him, and you feel like everything you are doing is annoying him, too. Panic might set in: Love is gone! Oh no! What are we going to do?

First of all, you need to take a deep breath and realize that this is perfectly normal. People who live together drive each other insane sometimes. That’s just the way humans are. Even saints who spend all their time trying to be perfect and practice charity towards their neighbor end up rubbing some people the wrong way.So if you and your husband are bothering each other one day, it doesn’t mean your relationship is over, it doesn’t mean it’s even in trouble. You don’t need to put a marriage counselor on speed dial. Your situation is normal, and almost definitely temporary–as long as you handle it right.

#2 Try to identify an underlying cause

Sometimes, after you take a deep breath and remember that it’s not the end of the world, or even of your happy marriage, it becomes very easy to identify the issue. Sometimes it’s as simple as lunch being a really long time ago. After a nice dinner, it’s possible everything will be better. Sometimes you are worried about something and so your stress is rubbing off on your husband who reacts by getting stressed and thus stresses you out still more. This is very common.

Sometimes, though, there isn’t an easily identifiable underlying cause.

#3 Give it some time

Sometimes men need some time alone to regroup, solve a problem, or just relax. If you and your husband are driving each other insane, and it’s a recent thing—not a chronic problem for the last five years (in which case maybe you should try getting some help) then it’s possible that your man just needs some time to regroup. If he’s the mechanical sort, he might need to go tinker with whatever machine he’s working on at the moment. He might need to go out with some of his guy friends, especially if he rarely does that, or if it’s been longer than usual. Or he might need to go sit by himself and read a book for a few hours.

When he gets back from whatever his retreat is, you will probably find him as affectionate, considerate, and pleasant as he ever was. And it might not take as long as you think.

If you can take the opportunity to do something you enjoy at the same time—like hanging out with one of your buddies, or doing a project you enjoy, you might find that all you both needed was a very, very small amount of distance, and that your appreciation of each other is redoubled afterwards.

#4 Be careful how you say things

Sometimes you can’t wait. Sometimes you really do need to discuss a difficult topic right now, or you really need emotional support right now, even if your man is not really in the mood.

This can go well, too, but it takes some care. Men hate having their competence questioned, and hate being insulted. To attack the man’s ego is the fastest way to lose his love.

A lot of women have no desire to insult their husbands or boyfriends but manage to do it anyway, especially when they are not feeling great themselves.

Here are a couple of tips to avoid insulting your husband while you are having a hard time getting along:

a) Express your needs as your needs and not as his duties.

Suppose you need to discuss some issue that has come up, and he’s not in the mood, but it’s urgent. Try saying something like, “I’m really sorry, but I really need to talk about this right now. It won’t take long.” This is straightforward and non-accusatory. It simply states a fact. Now, this doesn’t mean it’s going to make him super happy—he might end up feeling bad because he knows it’s something he should be doing and doesn’t want to, but the point is to avoid giving him the impression that you are judging him and finding him wanting. If he takes your statement as a judgment on himself, that’s one thing. You don’t want to make it any harder than it has to be—you love the guy, right?

Try to avoid saying things like: “Why do you always avoid these discussions?” Or “You’re supposed to be the man in this house. Why are you trying to get out of making decisions?” These comments might seem innocuous, and justified, but they attack the man’s self-esteem. And the last thing a man needs is having his wife attack his self-esteem. It is hard for a man to love someone who makes him feel like a loser. These sorts of comments will inevitably escalate your conflict into something worse. Men in general, good men especially, want to feel that they are protecting and providing for their families—not doing chores assigned by their wives.

b) Be straightforward and calm.

Sometimes calm isn’t possible, but at least try to avoid hysterical exaggeration and raised voices. Also, nearly all men ever surveyed have stated that they prefer direct questions and direct requests to hints and vague suggestions. So if you really need something, just say so, and understand that if you husband loves you, he appreciates knowing what you need so that he can give it for you, and that if you don’t tell him what you need, he really genuinely won’t know. He might be grumpy about doing a particular thing at a particular moment, but if you have a solid relationship, and ask in a non-judgmental way, your husband will appreciate knowing your needs and being able to meet them.

c) Say thank you afterwards

If your husband does something for you, or talks over a difficult topic when he wasn’t in the mood, you should thank him afterwards. Thank him, and tell him it made you feel better. Men in general have a different way of looking at the world than women generally do, and it helps if you can give him a window into your world and how he made it better with what he did. (Also, if you show your appreciation for what he does for you, he’s more likely to repeat the behavior in the future, and who wouldn’t want that?)

Even the happiest married couples have their rough moments, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t happy. If you can handle those moments well, they will actually strengthen your union, deepen your love, and contribute to your mutual success as married people.

 

Some resources for helping your relationships thrive. (These are affiliate links)

This book describes how men (in general) and women (in general) react differently to different things. Its goal is to help people deal with the men and women in their own lives.

Yes, I recommend this book a lot, but that’s because it’s so good. Even if your relationship is marvelous, you can get something out of this book.

This is one I only read recently. Written by a woman who interviewed and surveyed dozens of men, it talks about what men want, how they think, and how women come across to men. I read it in one day. It’s a fun, easy read with a lot of interesting information. In the companion volume For Men Only, she explains to men how women work. 

A classic book on interpersonal relationships of all sorts. You might be surprised to discover that you’re making all sorts of mistakes in dealing with people.

And sometimes, the solution to our problems is chocolate…. or wine…. But Amazon doesn’t seem to sell wine…

Three Ways to Become More Tactful

three ways to become more tactful

(This is the fourth article in our series on the feminine virtues. For the introduction and the other articles, click here.)

Tact is an often overlooked virtue, but one which is absolutely vital for success as a woman. It is perhaps the most feminine of all the virtues. It makes life easier, and it makes everyone around you happier and more confident.

So what is it? Merriam Webster defines it as “a keen sense of what to do or say in order to maintain good relations with others or avoid offense.” This is an excellent definition because it does a good job of expressing both the challenge and the beauty of this quality. It is challenging because it requires intelligence and observation skills equal to Sherlock Holmes’s. And it is beautiful because it leads to good relations with all you meet.

Tact can make everything flow smoothly, help everyone get along and everyone get what they want as much as possible. At its best it is courtesy and consideration motivated by love. At its worst, the skill of tact will make you much better at manipulating people for your own ends. Whatever your motives, read on.

Examples of Tact in Action

In the Odyssey, Penelope, Odysseus’s wife, is left at home while he wanders, trying to return to her. He has been gone for twenty years, and many assume that he is dead. So there are piles of men wanting to marry Penelope. She is the queen of Ithaca, and to be her husband would be a step up in the world. Now in Greek society, women had very little power, so with her husband gone and apparently dead, Penelope is left in a vulnerable position. On the one hand, she is being pressured to marry one of the many suitors who are competing for her. On the other hand, all the suitors are losers, and she has no desire to replace Odysseus who—let’s face it—is pretty darn awesome.

In her vulnerable situation, she cannot simply tell all the suitors to get lost and that she’d rather die than marry any of them. So she comes up with a tactful answer. She has to finish the funeral shroud for her father-in-law. She then weaves it every day, and unravels it each night, and thus drags out the task for years. This way she protects herself and her household by not angering the suitors too much, and succeeds in waiting for her husband as she wants to.

Another example of tact which is a little closer to home is a stay-at-home mom who wants her husband to fix something that broke in the house. A tactful wife might wait till after her husband has eaten supper and is relaxed, rather than springing the bad news on him as soon as he walks into the house tired from work. Or a mother correcting a child’s bad behavior in private rather than in front of his friends.

So, how can you up your tact game?

Observe, then Appreciate

In his famous book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie writes that “Appreciation is one of the most powerful tools in the world. People will rarely work at their maximum potential under criticism, but honest appreciation brings out their best. Appreciation, though, is not simple flattery, it must be sincere, meaningful and with love.”

How does this apply to real life? Well, if you have a person you are having trouble getting along with, at work, at home, at school, or anywhere, take your next opportunity to observe them closely. This is where your Sherlock Holmes skills come in handy. Try to find something admirable about them. It could be anything—the way they comb their hair, the way they smile, the way they do their work. Almost everyone has some good quality that you can admire.

Next, once you find their admirable quality, tell them about it. “Hey, I like the way you comb your hair. It looks great.” “I just wanted to say how much I appreciate the way you always double check your work.” “Your got that floor really clean when you mopped it.” It doesn’t matter how trivial it is. Comment favorably on their behavior. It will—for all but the most ornery of people—almost definitely result in them doing more of the admired behavior, and, with any luck, they will feel more confident and therefore do other good things too.

What’s in it for You.

Next time you try to get someone to do something—whether it’s trying to get your boss to go ahead with your suggestion, getting your mom to let you watch another show, or getting your kids to clean their room, listen to yourself and see how you ask. Often we are so focused on why WE want something to happen that we completely forget how it seems to other people.

If you want to be effective at getting other people to do things, and like doing them—we can usually find some way of getting our kids to do stuff but it’s not always fun—you need to figure out what’s in it for them and present that first. Now, this has to be done rather subtly sometimes. Not everyone likes being told what they want. A little bit of mental role-play will often give you a clue how to present a question to someone else. Find out what they want, and then explain how your suggestion will help them get it.

This can get kind of complicated when you are doing it with your children. You don’t want to bribe your children with things that they want, like toys and movies and candy. Instead you will want to play to your children’s desires to be treated as a grown-up, and to feel confident and accomplished. But your children are pretty smart and probably won’t respond to “I will think of you as a big responsible and smart person if your room was clean.” It would probably work better to tie privileges to duties as a regular system and to treat your (older) children as responsible humans who can choose to either have their privileges or not.

Let the Other Person Feel Like It Is Their Idea

This is possibly the most powerful technique, and also the most difficult to apply. Has anyone ever tried to convince you to change your mind about something? It’s hard to accept someone else’s idea instead of yours. People just plain like to be right. We all want to feel like we are the smartest person around. And whoever you are trying to convince is no different. But sometimes a person is absolutely sure he is right, but is not so sure what exactly he thinks. This is when this strategy will be your best friend.

If you idea is any good, you can usually persuade someone else that he thought of it himself by simply suggesting it, step by step, and pretending that it was their idea. Not that you lie and say that it was their idea. You simply point out how your idea fits in with their suggestions, and assume, (out loud) that they must have thought of it themselves. It works like a charm.

Now I am not recommending that you go around manipulating people for your own ends. But there are times when you have to get other people to do things, or tell people bad news, or ask people for help. In all of these cases, tact is a fantastic asset to any woman’s toolkit. It makes your life much more enjoyable, and used properly, makes the lives of those we meet more pleasant.

 

More resources to help you develop tact skills: (These are affiliate links.)

Probably the most famous self-help book ever written, Dale Carnegie’s book is an easy read and can change your life. He explains each of his techniques simply and uses lots of stories to illustrate his points.

Written a few decades ago, this book seems a bit dated in parts but the general idea remains valid today. This is a book about how to have fun as a wife, and how to keep your husband happy and get what you need from him. I enjoyed it a lot.

Yes, I know, I recommend this book a lot. But that’s because I think it’s really good and it can change your life, even if you aren’t married, just by the realization that people need to be loved differently.

(I am running a giveaway for this book. Sign up for email updates to enter.)

Cooperation: the Engine of Success in Marriage

This is the third article in our series about feminine virtues. See the introduction here.

cooperation for success in marriage: enjoyingwomanhood.com

The proper role of woman has been the great social question of the last hundred and fifty years. In particular, what is appropriate for a married woman? She is said to have the duty to obey, to submit, to inspire, to respect, to give life, to make the home, to be interesting and charming, to communicate, to demand her rights. But many of these activities are difficult to reconcile to one another, if they are not downright contradictory. If she is a passive, submissive piece of furniture, how is she supposed to make the home, or inspire her spouse? If she is demanding her rights constantly, how is she supposed to be loving and respectful?

The answer is that you must break free from the false choice between submission and independence. The rational woman does not yield silently to her husband’s every whim, nor does she demand to control every aspect of his life or angrily resent anything she did not initiate. She instead builds a relationship of cooperation–and not a servile, pragmatic, or manipulative cooperation, but a cooperation founded on respect.

Respect: The Foundation for Cooperation

To respect someone is simply to recognize their worth as a human being. It is possibly the one most important predictor of success in any relationship. It is impossible to treat others well, to communicate with them properly, or to love them, if you are thinking of them as being less than yourself. Stated this way, it seems fairly obvious. But it is often lacking in relationships.

While all relationships require respect, there is a special kind of respect in the relationship between a husband and wife. The husband and wife are partners in the foundation of a family, a fantastic and unique institution in which new people sometimes come into existence and must be inducted into the mysteries of the world. While other institutions, like hospitals and fire departments, save lives, only a partnership between a man and a woman can create lives. Thus the family is the most important institution, the foundation of all other institutions, the institution that all others depend on for their existence.

If you were going to found a hospital, a fire department, or even a clothing company with a partner, you would certainly make sure that your partner was someone you respected. Mr. Bezos, the founder of Amazon, is a good example of this. He has such a high opinion of his company that he wants to ensure that each employee matches certain requirements. The person in charge of hiring people is supposed to ask himself three questions about new applicants, the first of which is, “Will you admire this person?” He wants to make sure that all his employees can respect each other, and thus cooperate at a higher level.

Cooperation: The Engine of Success

What would happen to a business venture that was missing the mutual admiration so important to Mr. Bezos, if the partners did not trust each other’s abilities? Clearly, there would be problems.

So the relationship between partners in a business venture needs to be one of respectful cooperation. If one partner always runs around behind the other’s back, spending money, making hiring decisions, and changing company policy without discussing it with the other, the company will quickly disintegrate.While they might cooperate for a time–perhaps they might defer to the largest shareholder, or the one with the biggest mouth—eventually, productivity-killing conflicts and a toxic work environment would undermine the company and it would fail.

A marriage will similarly fail if cooperation is missing. So, how can a woman practice cooperation in her marriage?

People form partnerships because one person has certain resources or talents that the other lacks, and together they make a good team. Perhaps one partner is good at coming up with new ideas for products, while the other is good at creating a business plan. Both are equally necessary for a successful business. A marriage should be similar. There will be a difference in the talents and resources of the husband and wife. Perhaps your husband is good at home repair and you are good at accounting. Both of these are important aspects of home life. Or maybe it’s the other way around. Maybe you’re a DIY queen, and your husband is better at keeping track of money.

A cooperative wife, unlike a merely submissive one, will actively work with her husband on an equitable and mutually supportive division of labor. It may well happen that the woman will end up bearing the brunt of housework and childcare while the husband works at a job outside the home. When children are infants, this is almost definitely going to be the case. The feminine virtue of cooperation will help the woman to realize that this she is not “relegated to the home” or somehow less than her husband because of this division of labor. She will realize instead that she and her husband are working together at the most important work in the world, and that they are in partnership, each using their talents to contribute what they can.

The virtue of cooperation will also help her to objectively and respectfully discuss with her husband what the best division of labor will be. Will she do the accounting and shopping, or will he? Who will plan the family vacations? There is no right answer. There is only what is right for your family.

Other tasks must be done together if they are to be successful. Educating and disciplining children must always be done by both parents (if both are present) in order to succeed. Decision on these matters will also require the virtue of cooperation, which will allow the wife to discuss options with her husband. Her respect for him and his respect for her will allow them to value each other’s insights and opinions, and to come to a decision they can both agree with.

The virtue of cooperation will further help the woman in living with the decision that has been made in this way. If she finds it does not work, rather than changing it unilaterally, she will work together with her husband to find a new solution.

The woman who possesses the virtue of cooperation will be far more effective in building a marriage than either a merely submissive woman who adds little of her own ideas and talents to the relationship, or an aggressive woman who refuses to allow anyone else to contribute.

 

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How to be Kind (Without Being a Doormat)

This is the second article in our series about feminine virtues. See the introduction here.

This article may contain affiliate links. Purchases through these links earn us a small commission with no extra cost to you. 

You’ve all seen the nice girl. She’s nice to everyone. If anyone asks her to do anything she’ll do it. If someone says something mean to her, she won’t say something mean back. She’ll go along with whatever everyone else wants. She desperately wants love and friendship, and she’ll do anything to get it, but somehow everyone just uses her and then leaves her. When she needs help, friendship, comfort, there is no one to turn to, though she has always been there for others.

You’ve probably also met the mean girl. She demands what she wants. If you don’t like it, you need to get out of the way. She always gets her way, if not by physical force then by criticizing, demanding, and mocking. She would like to find love and friendship (she is human after all) but her abrasive personality drives away everyone but mindless groupies she despises. When she wants help, friendship, comfort, there is no one to turn to, as she has driven away anyone she would respect enough to confide in.

Are these the only two options? Sometimes it seems like this is the story that we are being sold. There are two stereotypes: the “Liberated woman” who will stand nothing from anybody, or the “Submissive woman” who will submit to anything from anybody. If you don’t want to be one, you have to be the other.

But what if I don’t want to be either? What if I want to have real true friends, both men and women? What if I want life to be pleasant both for myself and those around me? Isn’t there another option? There must be….

First of all, let’s look at the two stereotypes we have presented, and see what’s really going on.

The Nice Girl

The nice girl on the surface seems about as close to saintly perfection as it is possible to be. But if she is, and virtue leads to happiness as Aristotle says, then why isn’t she happy? She’s always nice to everyone, she wants everyone else to be happy—so far so good. They say happiness comes from making others happy, so she should be positively delirious with joy… But she’s not. She cries, she’s frustrated, she might end up with a nervous breakdown. And the people around her aren’t necessarily actually happy either.

The submissive girl’s difficulty is that she has no inner sense of what is her due, and what is her identity. She wants to love and be loved, like and be liked, but she has no respect for herself. Her sense of self-worth comes from being of use to others, being approved by others, being loved or liked by others. Because her self-worth is founded on this unstable ground, she is terrified of saying no to anyone. If she says no, they might not like her anymore. Wendy Shallit in her book Girls Gone Mild, tells stories of girls who give sexual favors they would prefer not to give, get in cars with drunk drivers, and are generally completely incapable of saying no to a man for fear that they will be rejected, either by the men or by society. They bend over backward to give people exactly what they want, whether it is good for them or not.

But in being unable to say no, the nice girl sabotages her chances of happiness. In everyday interactions she is seen by friends as lacking personality. She adds little to conversations and decision making processes for fear of offending or bothering someone else. Thus her friends are deprived of her thoughts and talents.

In relationships with men, she is often the victim of unscrupulous or abusive partners. She is too afraid to stand up for her rights or leave, afraid that she will not be able to find another partner, and dependent on the sense of self-worth that her abusive partner’s attention gives her. Sometimes she is even genuinely convinced that she is “making him better” and that it is her mission to stay and help him. In reality, she is enabling his dysfunctional behavior, and simply submitting to his abuse will never make him better, and will likely make him worse.

As a mother she is hopelessly wishy-washy and terrified that if she disciplines her children, they will hate her. As a result, she (and they) are unhappy and stressed.

The submissive woman, or “nice girl” is unhappy, and also fails to bring happiness to those around her. So what is the solution? Should she do the opposite? Force her ideas on everyone else, be aggressive and domineering?

The Mean Girl

The mean girl realizes that the “nice girl” system doesn’t work. Sometimes she is even a reformed nice girl. She is determined not to be a doormat. No one will force her to do anything she doesn’t want to do. She wants to be happy and independent—so far so good. She chooses her own way, and does her own thing, and gets what she wants. Sounds like a recipe for happiness, doesn’t it? Except that she too, is never happy. Why not?

While the submissive woman’s trouble is that she has no sense of self-worth that is not given to her by others, the “mean girl” has no trouble knowing who she is. She knows, and everyone else had better know it too.

The mean girl’s trouble is more that she has no sense of what is due to others. She forgets that other people also need to feel valued and respected. She has no patience for other’s shortcomings. She takes everything personally, because she wants everyone to value her as much as she values herself. She has no trouble pushing others out of her way in her quest for what she wants. She is, after all, the most important person, and no one else’s ideas or desires really matter.

But, as Aristotle says, “Without friends no one would choose to live, though he had all other goods.” And the mean girl wants friends just as much as any other human. Meaningful relationships are essential to human happiness.

But she sabotages her own chances of having these relationships. In everyday social interactions, she is is considered abrasive and domineering. She allows no one else to add their ideas and talents to a situation, and thus impoverishes her life without even realizing it.

In relationships with men, she often drives away potential partners with her controlling and derisive behavior. She demands that everything be her way, and sensible men run for their lives, leaving her with wimps who someone to tell them what to do, rather than real men who want life companions.

As a mother, she is controlling and demanding. Her children have to be perfect, strong, and submissive all at the same time. They must act like her perfect imagination of them, or else they are failures. The stress of trying to live up to this expectation damages the child, and the mother is constantly frustrated by the incompetency of all who surround her.

The Kind Woman

Both the “nice girl” and the “mean girl” fail to be happy, make friends, or find love because they look for it in the wrong places. The nice girl looks for happiness in fulfilling the desires of others. The mean girl looks for happiness in fulfilling her own desires. What is missing?

In order to be happy and make those around you happy, you need an internal principle which will lead to balance. In other words, you need to have standards. There should be some things that you won’t do, no matter who asks you. Don’t be afraid to set boundaries. Recognize that there are things that no one has the right to ask you. No one has the right to demand that you give up your conscience, your health or your values for them. Determine what is genuinely important, set your boundaries, and don’t budge. A polite refusal to budge on core values is one of the most admirable traits any man, woman or child can have.

Secondly, understand that everyone else also has the right to set boundaries beyond which you cannot go, and that everyone has feelings that are just as valuable as yours. So when you say no, say no politely but firmly. If the person you are refusing to change your values for is offended by this, that’s okay. You probably didn’t want them as a friend anyway.

It’s also important to be able to care deeply about other people and to do things for them and give things to them. This is an extremely important part of life and happiness. Just don’t give everything to just anyone.

In everyday social interactions the kind woman confidently presents her ideas, but often agrees to other’s suggestions as well. She listens to others opinions, and uses courtesy in agreeing or disagreeing.

In relations with men she is not afraid to say no, but when she says no, says it courteously, unless a courteous refusal has been disregarded. She tries to make the people she is with feel valued and respected. These traits will make honorable men admire and respect her.

As a mother, she is firm and caring, setting boundaries and goals and maintaining discipline. She treats each child as an individual and helps each one feel loved and cared for, and confident to try to do good and even great things.

The kind woman, liberated by her principles from the stress of trying to please everyone, will be able to please the people she cares most about in the world, and will be able to achieve her own goals of happiness and fulfillment. She will be valued by those around her, and will know how to value herself.

Graph, illustrated with characters from Pride and Prejudice

 

The Qualities of the Ideal Woman

What is a woman supposed to be like? This is a fascinating question that has been answered in radically different ways over the course of history. But there must be an answer that works in all places and in all times.

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How does one determine what any given thing is supposed to be like? How do we know what a chair is supposed to be like, for instance? We determine what the purpose of the thing is. For a chair, the purpose is to be sat on. So, therefore, the chair which is best, is the chair that fulfills that purpose the best. A chair that has no seat would not be considered a good chair. A chair that had a spike sticking out of the backrest would also not be an ideal chair. These traits would prevent the chair from being sat on comfortably.

Living beings, being more complex, have more complex purposes than chairs do. So, if we want to know what makes an ideal woman, we need to know what a woman is for. We know that she is a female of the human species, and like all humans therefore has some traits in common with animals of other species. Humans are not mere animals though, but are capable of culture, thought and altruism.

Still, we can often learn about ourselves from the traits we share with animals, so it might be helpful to briefly study the traits of females of other mammalian species.

As a mate, or spouse

The first and most obvious purpose of the female in any animal species is to provide one half of the reproductive equation. The male and female work together to produce offspring. If either is missing, the species does not continue. In the animal realm this is called mating. It is obviously necessary for the good of any species that reproduction occur. So, how can we apply this to humans, who are not mere animals, and have purposes beyond mere survival of their species?

Because humans do have a purpose beyond reproduction, “mating” for humans has historically been enshrined in the institution of marriage, which is a cooperative lifelong endeavor. What qualities would a woman need in a marriage, or for that matter, in any relationship of trust and commitment? Cooperation is a necessity. Communication skills would also be necessary, as humans don’t act instinctively as animals do, but emotionally and rationally. Loyalty also would be important, as marriage requires trust to function well, and trust presupposes that each party will respect the other’s dignity, property and secrets.

As creator of the home culture

What else does the female do? In species as widely disparate as rabbits and gorillas, the female is also the nest builder. While pregnant rabbits dig a burrow, line it with grasses and other vegetation, and finally with their own hair, thus providing a warm, safe place for their helpless young.

Among humans women are also usually the ones who create the environment for the children to grow up in. While rabbits are limited to their instinctive nest-building behavior, and can only make one kind of nest, and care for their children in only one way, human women on the other hand are capable of thought and artistic expression, and the homes they make are not merely shelters for the bodies of their family, but also homes for the mind. A good home is an environment which stimulates, forms, and civilizes those who live in it, and only a woman can make such an environment.

To do this well, she will need many talents, like resourcefulness, using what is available to make something better; frugality, using what there is well; and last but not least, an appreciation for beauty. The ability to recognize and deliberately create beauty is a uniquely human trait, and one of the most important skills for a homemaker.

As giver of life

The female in every species is also the one that gives birth to the young and nurtures them from her own body. She is provided with special organs which allow this. For humans, it is hard work, requiring endurance and patience to get through the pregnancy and labor, which require a special sort of toughness, but also gentleness and as it deals with fragile and helpless beings who require constant feeding, protection, and love.

As teacher

Once the young are beyond the helpless stage of infancy, they begin to learn the skills of their species. Female cats will teach the kittens how to hunt their own food by dragging dead prey back to the nest and eating it in the presence of the kittens, later she will bring back live prey for the kittens to experiment with. This is not particularly enjoyable to watch, but it is an important part of a kitten’s learning development. Finally, the mother cat will bring kittens along on a hunting trip and they will soon be ready to hunt alone. Chimpanzees will show their young how to build nests, and other species will teach their young the skills they need to survive.

Humans however, need to do more than just survive. They have to build, think, connect, and grow in ways that other animals will never do. And human mothers have to be ready to teach their children how to do these things. As G.K. Chesterton put it in his entertaining book What’s Wrong with the World, she must “be Queen Elizabeth within a definite area, deciding sales, banquets, labors and holidays; be Whiteley within a certain area, providing toys, boots, sheets, cakes and books, be Aristotle within a certain area, teaching morals, manners, theology, and hygiene…” A challenging task to be sure! And she will need patience, tact, patience, wisdom, patience, and a strong sense of humor, if she is to do it well.

While not all women want to become spouses or mothers, these same virtues, or good qualities—cooperation, communication, loyalty, reserve, resourcefulness, frugality, order, appreciation of beauty, kindness, endurance, patience, wisdom, and tact—are necessary to any woman who wishes to be a well-developed human.