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What is Their Incentive

What's Their Incentive Now?

In the past few weeks, a number of female patients have either had significant exacerbations of their chronic illnesses or a new onset of another illness in addition to their chronic medical condition. What in the world is going on? Increased stress.

The word stress is an interesting one. Humans think in schemas, therefore the visualization of the word stress varies mightily between people. Some have the image of Atlas holding up the world as representative of stress. Others may have a mental image of stress similar to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Stress comes in all sizes, shapes, colors, words, sentences and relationships. No matter how good a relationship felt at one time, nothing lasts forever. One thing is for sure, women's health is more strongly impacted than men's by marital conflict or satisfaction, such that unhappily married women, those who are in psychosocially disturbed relationships have worse health relative to their single female counterparts. A married woman's health declines rapidly when her marriage becomes troubled. In my practice, I see unhealthy women who are in unhealthy marriages. Their illnesses flair when their marriages become unhinged. Fatigue, memory loss, insomnia, chronic pain, autoimmune joint pain, skin rashes, sex hormone disturbances, insulin and cortisol levels all become unstable as their marital relationships fester like a boil.

I doubt hunter-gatherers ever really married. From what I can glean from the literature on the history of marriage, ancient primitive people really did not consider the bond between a male and a female something we label marriage today. A molecular genetics study of global human genetic diversity argued that sexual polygyny was typical of human reproductive patterns until the shift to sedentary farming communities approximately 10,000 to 5,000 years ago in Europe and Asia, and more recently in Africa and the Americas. The zoological definition of the word polygyny means the mating of a male animal with more than one female; I am using the word in that context here. Hunter-gatherers were nomads, traveling in relatively small groups. Once farming and domestication of animals began about 10,000 years ago, marriage was introduced. Prior to that time, men mated with multiple women in their roaming groups.

It appears that the initial marriages (10,000 years ago) were more like an exchange of property: men bought women. As times changed, arranged marriages seem to take center stage and woman came into the marriage with a Direct Dowry. A bride's parents would distribute a portion of their wealth to their daughter when she married instead of willing it to her when they died. It was also customary during that time era that woman could not inherit wealth from her deceased parents, because it was all passed down to the son(s). The Direct Dowry was supposed to establish a conjugal fund, the nature of which varied widely, ensuring their daughter's support in case of widowhood. If she died, the wealth eventually went to provide for her children. It behooved parents to arranged marriages based on who in society would be influenced by their wealth.

To make matters even more complicated, Direct Dowry contrasts with bridewealth, which is paid by the groom or his family to the bride's parents in an arranged marriage. There was also an indirect dowry (or dower), which is property given to the bride herself by the groom at the time of marriage, remaining under her ownership and control after the marriage commenced.

As primitive as it may seem, some cultures today still arrange marriages and invoke Direct Dowry, bridewealth and indirect Dowry. Furthermore, some children are forced into marriage when they are of a certain age. Forced marriages are when both male and female do not wish to marry each other, however the parents have the control to arrange and seal the deal.

At the turn of the twentieth century, the Troubadour's songs and poetry about love persuaded both men and women to seek marriage to the sake of love, not wealth. This is referred to as companionate marriage. At one time in ancient history, marrying for love without regard to parental wishes was considered adultery which was different than post marital infidelity. Over the years, I have learned that Love is not the raw emotion that Western culture makes it out to be. Men and women may have married for the raw emotion at one time, but now love has morphed into a cultural construction shaped by the social and economic conditions of our modern industrial society. Society has changed, allowing men and women more economic freedoms. Now the value of their personal choice and liberty to live as they see fit is much more important than living with the extended family. The nuclear family is the focus of modern marriage.

Modern love is a culturally constructed label that is shrouded in cultural symbols that situates an emerging relationship within a particular set of cultural expectations. Once these expectations are met, marriage follows. Women who wish to have children in particular tend to seek out men who above all else, have the capacity to be economically fit which will presumptively lead to a good home for rearing children. A man's particular worldview and character, sexual attractiveness, hygienic practices, overall goodness and his devotion to his passions are secondary to a woman's desire to live in financial security. To most mothers, the nest is more important than the rest.

Recently, I have witnessed the same approach by men who are seeking out wealthy women to further their own economic refuge. Consequently, courtship prior to marriage is filled with all kinds of dishonesty, inauthentic conversations and misrepresentations of one's individual Truth. Neither a wealthy man nor woman can trust a potential suitor for marriage. Men who seek trophy wives will bear the constant burden of their wife's entitlement and insatiable appetite for materialistic gain. Women who seek Daddy Warbucks will have to expand their personal morality to allow for a peaceful, unfulfilling marriage in the throes of constant infidelity and emotional criticism.

Until the turn of the twentieth century, marriage was viewed as one of the most important financial decisions of one's life, determined in large part by property transfers such as dowry (or dower) and parental controls. As capitalism emerged, parents no longer arrange marriages, their children demanded the freedom to choose who they wished to marry under the illusion of love. Unfortunately, all that has transpired is that women and now men have adopted an illogical but rational economic decision making algorithm as the most important aspect of choosing a husband or wife, and romantic love has been abandoned, physiological arousal and tantrism has been traded in for occasional ho-hum duty sex.

So why are so many women coming into the office with exacerbations of their autoimmune diseases and new ailments that are making them sicker? Bad relationships. For many of them, their past twenty-five years have been filled with poor choices, infidelity, rearing children, denial, fear of impoverishment and the illusion that their spouse will at some point value them for who they are and what they believe rather than how they look in a party dress. Some women choose to stay overweight in an effort to keep their husbands from wanting any physical contact with them. Look around, it is everywhere.

What's even more disturbed is the hope that their husband's will somehow she their authentic true self and show compassion and caring for them, especially when they are ill. If their spouse didn't care when they got engaged and married years ago, what would be their incentive to care now?


Posted by Amanda Sanders at 11:48 AM
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