The thing that is so surprising about this is not the fact that the NYT found that the happiest wives in America are religious conservatives but that the New York Times actually reported on this at all. As far as their actual findings go, I say they make an awful lot of sense.
Researchers W. Bradford Wilcox, Jason S. Carroll and Laurie DeRose wrote that “Fully 73 percent of wives who hold conservative gender values and attend religious services regularly with their husbands have high-quality marriages.”
“When it comes to relationship quality, there is a J-curve in women’s marital happiness, with women on the left and the right enjoying higher quality marriages than those in the middle – but especially wives on the right,” read the report.
Yes, they found that following the 73% of religious conservative women who are happy with their marriages are their political counterparts: religious progressive wives. Basically, the categories are conservative women who are religious (Christian, Jewish, Muslim, etc.); conservative women who are not religious; progressive women who are religious (which is kind of an oxymoron); and progressive women who are utterly secular.
The report finds that married couples who are in the middle, both in terms of religion and political ideology, are less likely to experience a high-quality marriage:
“We suspect that part of their relative unhappiness, compared with religiously conservative women, is that they don’t enjoy the social, emotional and practical support for family life provided by a church, mosque or synagogue. We also suspect that these groups are less likely to have husbands who have made the transition to the ‘new father’ ideal that’s gained currency in modern America – and they’re not happy with their partners’ disengagement.”
While 73% of religious conservative women are happy in their marriages, they are followed by religious progressive wives (60%), secular liberal wives (55%) and then comes the considerable minority of secular, non-political wives (33%).
The report says that the central reason for religious conservative and progressive wives’ happiness was devoted husbands and fathers:
“In listening to the happiest secular progressive wives and their religiously conservative counterparts, we noticed something they share in common: devoted family men. Both feminism and faith give family men a clear code: They are supposed to play a big role in their kids’ lives. Devoted dads are de rigueur in these two communities. And it shows. Both culturally progressive and religiously conservative fathers report high levels of paternal engagement.”
This one, I find interesting, and I think it makes a lot of sense. Despite the differences in political ideology, both feminist men and religious men have their own reasons to spend time with their kids. For feminist men, the reason is their belief that they ought to be perfectly equal to their wives, and that includes raising their children equally. For religious men (I will largely be speaking for Christian men, as I am not all that certain about how Muslim or Jewish families would interact, more so Muslim ones), the reason is that Scripture tells us we ought to be a big part of our children’s lives.
There are many places in the Bible where we are taught to teach our children, both in the Old and the New Testaments. Proverbs 22:6 says: “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
Ephesians 6:4 says: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
One of the most memorable verses and moments for this type of situation comes in the Book of Deuteronomy, in the 6th Chapter. Shortly after Moses delivered the 10 Commandments to the Jewish people, he said in Deuteronomy 6:6-7: “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk away, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”
So God commands us to teach our children the ways of the Lord, the Word of God, and to raise them right. As a result, a good, Christian husband and father will spend time with his children, which in turn makes their wives very happy. And as they say, a happy wife is a happy life.
But returning to the actual report, I think the biggest reason for such happiness is not necessarily because of the work the husbands do in the marriage when it comes to raising the children (though that plays a big factor), but because both religious conservative and religious progressive women set some sort of path, or purpose, within the marriage.
Matt Walsh from The Daily Wire puts it this way: “The secular understanding of marriage is that it’s a union between two people who love each other…” and he poses fair questions surrounding that belief such as “what happens when that love is no longer there?” and more specifically “why do you need marriage for love?”
Back when the issue of gay marriage was at the forefront of the political world, one of the arguments often posed is that we should “let people who love each other get married to show that love”. But the problem here is that marriage is not about a union of two people who love each other (and I’m hard-pressed to believe people aren’t conflating lust with love in this scenario). Marriage is a holy union (why it’s called “holy matrimony”) in the eyes of the Lord. That is where marriage comes from, after all. A marriage certificate isn’t what tells someone they are married (legally, yes, but not necessarily in the eyes of the Lord). A union that is acceptable in the eyes of the Lord is a marriage.
For example, look at Genesis 24:67, after Rebekah was taken to Isaac by Abraham’s servant: “Then Isaac brought her into the tent of Sarah his mother and took Rebekah, and she became his wife, and he loved her…”
It mentions that Isaac loved Rebekah, and I have no doubt that he did, but they literally just met and she became his wife because the Lord found it to be not only an acceptable marriage but entirely ordained as well. She was supposed to be Isaac’s wife that she might give birth to Esau and Jacob. I can assure you they did not receive a marriage certificate to make it official and their marriage was not simply a union of two people who loved each other.
Returning to Matt Walsh’s point, he says that “Religion grants a higher purpose to marriage. Religious people know that their vows have been consecrated by God; that they are now taking part in something bigger that themselves.”
And it’s that last part where we can also find another similarity between a religious conservative married couple and a progressive one. Both couples believe they are taking part in something bigger than themselves. To the religious conservative couple, that is holy matrimony in the eyes of the Creator and sovereign King of the universe. To the progressive couple, that is the union of two like-minded people who wish to be part of a larger global community (supposedly for good).
But one can still notice the considerable gap between religious progressive wives and religious conservative wives. A 13-point difference is hard to ignore. And while this comes as no honest surprise to me, there were plenty of people on social media who refused to accept this.
For example, one Twitter user replied to the NYT’s tweet by saying: “I know Christians from having been in the evangelical church for 20 awful years of my life. Several different ones, different denominations. But all the same. Full of hate. Full of fear. Pretending everything is okay for fear that being ungrateful will make them lose everything.”
While I am not sure I would count myself as an “evangelical” (though I do like Billy and Franklin Graham), they are Christians all the same and this really tries to speak for Christians as a whole, but it only shows this man’s own hatred. It is unfortunate that after 20 years of going to church he did not receive the Holy Spirit at any point (granted, some churches do suck so it depends on the pastor and the congregation, but still), otherwise he would understand that there is nothing but love to be had with Jesus Christ and the only fear Christians have is the fear of the Lord. But unlike what many think, it is not an unhealthy fear, but rather, a healthy one.
Similar to how you respect and fear your parents (especially the punishments you would receive upon doing something bad), we Christians hold nothing but respect for our Father and fear His Wrath, but know we would not receive it, and be spared, by receiving His Son, Jesus Christ, as our Lord and Savior. His Wrath only falls on unrepentant sinners, not on the repentant ones. What fear Christians have is not the same type of fear people in Venezuela or North Korea or Russia have, where they feel like they are under constant threat by an evil dictator who will punish them for the most ridiculous of reasons. God is Just, Man is not.
This is something Christians understand and find happiness and joy as a result. If people pretend things are okay when they are not, it is not out of “fear that being ungrateful will make them lose everything.” What will make people lose everything would be turning away from God, as this man has done.
Another Twitter user said: “This is hilarious. They all asked their spouses if it was ok to answer the survey in the first place. Then they made it a dinner table conversation to make sure they answered the questions correctly. I know evangelicals. Women do not have separate lives.”
Someone is rather salty that they are not as happy as religious conservative wives are. First, that’s rather insulting to the wives, isn’t it? The idea that religious wives are essentially slaves to their husbands is ridiculous (well, outside of Islam, at least). And as far as “separate lives” goes, I take that to mean separate lives away from their husbands and family, to which I would say: does a career make a woman happy? Happier than a happy marriage and family?
I can assure you the women that say their careers make them happy largely do not have families of their own. And what’s more, 66% of divorced couples in the U.S. do not have children, according to Smart Marriages. So children also bring about some unique happiness to wives. So they might not have “separate lives”, but the lives they do have are far better than many others’.
When a wife has a devoted husband, has children of her own and they are engaged in a marriage that is centered around God, the wife will tend to be considerably happier than people who are not in such relationships. As you can see, many people hate that and consider that to be fake news, but it makes complete and total sense to me.
When your life is focused on God, you tend to be happier than someone who is not focused on God. That happiness is multiplied when that focus is shared with someone else.
Again, not surprising to me.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
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