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Why Pat Robertson Is Wrong About Marriage

Child hanging on broom mother is using
 

Conservative religious preacher and cultural critic Pat Robertson is known for his controversial statements, particularly about women and marriage. True to form, he recently commented that many unhappy marriages are due to “awful-looking” women.

This isn’t the first time he has blamed women’s appearances for their marital problems; he once advised a woman that her husband was behaving inappropriately with other women because she was not attractive enough. Robertson has also advised wives to respect their husbands as household leaders and joked about domestic violence as a method for dealing with a rebellious wife.

Robertson isn’t the only person who believes that women’s increasing strides toward equality are harming marriage. There’s a growing movement advocating so-called “traditional” marriage in which a woman stays home and defers to her husband. While Robertson is right that women’s equality poses some challenges to marriage—such as child care, managing household responsibilities, and navigating conflict in mutually respectful ways—there is a growing body of research that indicates that equality in marriage might, in fact, be one ingredient in the recipe for lifelong happiness.

Better Sex
Sex is a common source of conflict in marriage, particularly as the honeymoon period wears off and the reality of everyday life becomes stressful and exhausting. But equality of standing can help to improve marital sex. No longer does the burden of initiating sex rest solely on men. Women are increasingly being encouraged to take responsibility for their own sexual satisfaction, and this can increase the quality—and frequency—of sex with partners. Younger women are more likely to have regular orgasms, due at least in part to the sexual awareness brought about by the women’s liberation movement and sexual revolution.

But it’s not just sexual awareness that’s improving intimate relations in marriage. As equality increases, men tend to spend more time doing housework and women spend more time in paid work. A study published in the Journal of Family Issues found that this leveling of the domestic playing field results in more frequent sex. Couples who share equally in chores also report higher overall marital satisfaction.

Friendship and Equality
Researcher John Gottman is famed for his ability to predict a couple’s likelihood of divorcing with startling accuracy. He argues that a strong, equal friendship is the foundation for a happy marriage. Important elements of this friendship include open and continuing communication, strong positive regard, and an ability to treat the other’s opinions and beliefs as valid. Gottman also emphasizes the importance of allowing a spouse to influence you, something that’s exceedingly unlikely for people in marriages where women are not viewed as equals.

Time for Each Other
In traditional marriages of the past, men do paid work while women tend to the children. But childrearing labor doesn’t end at a set time each day, and can result in exhausted and resentful women. Men who don’t participate in caregiving activities saddle their wives with exhausting responsibility. This can greatly decrease the time a couple has for one another, which may lead to marital dissatisfaction. Women whose husbands share equally in childrearing activities also report higher marital satisfaction, and men who share in caregiving experience closer relationships with their children. Childrearing can also serve as a bonding exercise in its own right, as couples work together to make good choices for children and navigate the challenges of parenting.

References:

  1. Gager, C. T., & Yabiku, S. T. (2009). Who has the time? The relationship between household labor time and sexual frequency. Journal of Family Issues. doi: 10.1177/0192513X09348753
  2. Gottman, J., & Silver, N. (1999). The seven principles for making marriage work. New York, NY: Crown.
  3. Lee, K. A. (n.d.). Days after appearing with Romney, Pat Robertson jokes about beating rebellious wife. NY Daily News. Retrieved from http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/days-appearing-romney-pat-robertson-jokes-beating-rebellious-wife-article-1.1156959
  4. Miller, R. S., & Perlman, D. (2009). Intimate relationships. Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill Higher Education.
  5. Parker-Pope, T. (2010, January 24). She works. They’re happy. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/24/fashion/24marriage.html?em
  6. Sieczkowski, C. (2013, January 15). Pat Robertson blames “awful-looking” women for Marital problems. The Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/15/pat-robertson-blames-awful-looking-women-marriage-problems_n_2479459.html

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Comments
  • Betty January 19th, 2013 at 9:24 AM #1

    Can you prove that Pat Robertson said these things? He’s made many appearances on various programs besides his own and I’ve never heard him say anything absurd like what you contend he said.

  • daphne January 19th, 2013 at 10:22 AM #2

    I am stunned that someone in the public eye or anyone for that matter would blame appearances for why men stray. PUHLEEZ!! People stray because they are unhappy, they are lonely, but to blame it on the wayt someone looks sounds like the easy way out, like they are not willing to take any kind of responsibility for their own stupid actions. And people still listen to this kind of trash? makes me sick to think that there are actuually those who have faith in the hate he espouses and take his words to heart. And we wonder why women and girls feel bad about themselves. . .

  • marri-aged January 19th, 2013 at 11:31 AM #3

    no, women being equal does not a bad marriage make..rather it is often the ego of men that makes it so because there are so many men who just cannot see their wives as being equal..

  • Shelly January 19th, 2013 at 1:40 PM #4

    What about all the men that cheat on beautiful women? What about men that cheat on one woman after the other? Such nonsense out of that mans mouth!
    huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/15/pat-robertson-blames-awful-looking-women-marriage-problems_n_2479459.html

  • Cyndi January 19th, 2013 at 4:44 PM #5

    I read your sources on Pat Robertson. His comments don’t surprise me.

    Many [but not all] evangelical pastors teach a wife is (to submit) (i.e, to obey) her husband (in everything), out of reverence for God. If you’re an evangelical wife married to an evangelical military man, resigning to the husband’s dictatorship approach is disastrous, degrading, and very damaging to the woman’s self care and self esteem. She’d be free to separate or divorce him, only provided that she can prove he’s habitually unfaithful with another woman.

    Thank goodness there are excellent psychologists and counselors, in where the suffering woman will gradually discover relief. Keep up the good work: counselors, social workers, psychologists are absolutely amazing!

  • betty January 20th, 2013 at 2:52 PM #6

    I don’t know where you all are going to church or otherwise getting your evidence to back up these statements. It takes one occasion of adultery to justify divorce according to the Bible. I don’t know of any Christian marriage where the wife has to be submissive to her husband. The Bible says wives be submissive but it also says immediately afterwards for men to be honorable and lead in the right way. If he doesn’t, he’s failed and she doesn’t have to follow. Why don’t you get off the soapbox of Christian-bashing. The fewer Christians there are in the world the worse it gets. Why don’t you study Islam and then you might appreciate Christianity.

  • Stacie January 21st, 2013 at 4:54 AM #7

    When I give any sort of relevance to anything that this man says… well let’s just say it will be a cold day in you know where

  • Cyndi January 21st, 2013 at 8:26 AM #8

    Zawn Villines presents a balanced approach, greatly respecting the dignity of the human being. The article fully supports enhancing a mutual respectful Christian marriage for both the husband and wife. As I explore Good Therapy’s website I’m surprised in what I’m learning, in which I’ll discuss the details with my counselor. Keep up the good work.

  • Marcy January 21st, 2013 at 3:51 PM #9

    Those comments made by Robertson are so upsetting, I can’t even keep listening to them when people report on it… hmphh.

    Great article though. I love the marital advice. My favorite tip, because it is not one I often hear, is to let your partner influence you. This is so true in creating a bond and feeling emotionally validated. I love it. Thanks

  • Formula None January 22nd, 2013 at 12:11 AM #10

    Although I do not like what he says,we should analyze what’s being said about equality here. First of all equality means just that – being equal. It does not mean men and women have to do the same things or that they have to share every responsibility. It means they are equally important and should give as much importance to the other that they expect for their own selves.

    Mistaking equality for enhanced ego and territorial way of thinking can harm a relationship. It is not the ‘traditional’ roles or marriage that we should pursue but rather the true meaning of being equal. And Mr.Robertson, unhappy marriages are no tradition!

  • Vena Jensen January 28th, 2013 at 2:02 PM #11

    This is important information for married (or soon to be) men and women to learn. Especially this part: “…a strong, equal friendship is the foundation for a happy marriage…” I wish I had learned this a long time ago.

  • amanda martel May 17th, 2013 at 4:01 AM #12

    I think rob is right in a way if the women lets her self go and doesn’t have trust in her husband she never will and she will make him crazy everytime he goes out and accuses him of cheating even if he isn’t you the wife should make there home enticingand a happy home to come home to and doll her self up sometimes men do stry yes but like he said just shut up and trust him and have better self estem same goes for ugly woman doll yourself up change your look if your not happy eith yourself then or love yourself how can your husband or anyone else he gets bored of you just nagging him and its unattractive see bella and him are great for each other yes she admitted she cheated but he forgave her and there over it but she takes care of herslf and has confidence in herself knowing that he is a man and he may stray but as long as she loves him and its unconditional like in twilight then she wont have a problem the women need to keep her self looking good and trust in her husband because you keep accusing him everytime he is going to stary if you say oh your cheating on me your fucked her why don’t you just fuck her you don’t want me the guy is going to say maybe I should even if he is telling the truth he isn’t cheating hes going to be like well she already thinks I am I can’t change her mind I maybe I will you know not saying he should have said the marriage isn’t working cause maybe your not pretty enough but looks are somewhat important its not the most no but you should be pretty on the inside just as well on the outside good looking women have less a chance of getting cheating on yes but even ugly ones a man is going t be a man leave rob alone he has a right to his opion everyone does he was only joking about the domestic violence part he doesn’t seem like the type to hit and beat women up I mean come on it would make his image look bad and he isn’t going to do that he loves Kristen he is happy in his home with her cause he goes by his beliefs and she makes him happy she takes care of him he provides for as well as she provideds for him that’s the way a marriage works he loves her doesn’t mean he might find other girls attractive too but if he has the will power to say no I can’t do this I have to much to lose or maybe he isn’t worried cause he knows that whatever they go through the good the bad they will always go back to each other and get through it together there meant to be and maybe just maybe this married couple he gave advice to doesn’t have that and can’t work it out cause she is stubborn and doesn’t want to make it work as hard as other might do

  • Tissy May 17th, 2013 at 9:13 AM #13

    I love the article about Pat Robertson’s views and why he is wrong about marriage. Thank goodness there are some educated people in this world that can help people that need it. Thank you Zawn!

  • Tissy May 17th, 2013 at 9:15 AM #14

    Hmmmm…..Wonder what his views are on a cheating wife????

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