‘What women should know about men’

Padraig O’Morain: A 1965 Redemptorist pamphlet provides some guidance

Men, it suggests, evolved to be aggressive, to advance in the face of difficulties and to doggedly pursue difficult goals in keeping with their role as fathers.

Men, it suggests, evolved to be aggressive, to advance in the face of difficulties and to doggedly pursue difficult goals in keeping with their role as fathers.

 

“More than one marriage has been rendered unhappy because the wife failed to understand the way her husband looks at things,” writes Fr Thomas Tobin in his 1965 Redemptorist pamphlet, What women should know about men.

The pamphlet is meant to help avoid such misunderstandings.

It takes the form of a letter to Barbara, who has invited the author to her wedding. If Barbara was a feminist she might have scoffed at some of Fr Tobin’s statements. His description of “a certain so-called progressive group of women” who “have thought that they would become the equals of men by losing their specific feminine identity” and who “have attempted to make themselves smaller versions of the male sex” would have got her going.

I wonder, though, if women might agree with him that “a man’s sense of knowledge is concerned more with general impressions than with detailed attention to particulars”. A man, he asserts, can attend a social event and have only the vaguest idea of what people were wearing, or what the place looked like. “A woman, on the other hand, would be able to tell you everyone who was there, and what each one wore down to the last visible stitch.”

Men, he suggests, evolved to be aggressive, to advance in the face of difficulties and to doggedly pursue difficult goals in keeping with their role as fathers. “I would advise you that when you see your husband is obstinate on some point, not to keep harping on nagging, but to drop the matter for a while, to bring it up at a more suitable time or place, or to attain your object in another way.”

Not bad advice

I guess that’s probably not bad advice on the marital battlefield, though I think he is mistaken in the assertion that aggression, perseverance and doggedness are the preserve of men. Which doesn’t mean that his advice not to keep on nagging isn’t a good idea.

I wonder if Fr Tobin was a golfer or perhaps likes to kick a football around. Many women, he writes, “become jealous of their husband’s work, his game of golf, or a Saturday afternoon football match, as though these were threats to the husband’s love for them. The man, in his turn, not realising the woman’s viewpoint, is amazed at the vehemence of her objections to what seemed to him to be entirely reasonable pursuits and recreation.”

Interestingly, he refers to men’s feelings of insecurity and inadequacy concerning their roles as fathers and providers. Men, he says, worry about whether they’re doing well enough at work to support the home and whether they can give enough time to their wife and family because of the demands of work. The question of the woman being the one working to support the family didn’t arise - and indeed that is how it was in the 1960s. The marriage bar that drove married women out of the civil service was not repealed until 1973, three decades later than in the UK.

Stronger passions

And then there’s sex. Man, he tells Barbara, is by nature the aggressor. His passions are stronger and more quickly aroused and endure for longer in his life. Woman on the other hand is attracted more by the romantic side of marriage and “quite often she has little or no interest in the physical side of married life”.

He counsels mutual consideration in which “the man must learn to be thoughtful, tender and unselfish in the exercise of his rights. The woman on her side must be aware of the stronger passions of the man and realise that by the marriage contract she bound herself in justice to permit to her husband the exercise of his marriage rights whenever he reasonably asks.”

I found Fr Tobin’s pamphlet in a box of items from my late parents’ home. From its pristine condition I reckon I was the first person to read it. The Redemptorists published a companion pamphlet called, What men should know about women,but it wasn’t included.

If you find it in the attic, let me know.

Padraig O’Morain (pomorain@yahoo.com, @PadraigOMorain) is accredited by the Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy. His latest book is “Mindfulness for Worriers”. His daily mindfulness reminder is free by email.

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