Marriage Doesn’t Require Amnesia. Try Humility.

I read an article this week in the New York Times that you won’t believe unless you see it. The female author (Heather Havrilesky) wrote that marriage requires amnesia in order to forget how much you hate your husband…

Yeah–I’m not kidding.

Here’s an excerpt of her exact words, to give you a more complete understanding of her points.

After 15 years of marriage, you start to see your mate clearly, free of your own projections and misperceptions. This is not necessarily a good thing. When encountering my husband, Bill, in our shared habitat, I sometimes experience him as a tangled hill of dirty laundry. “Who left this here?” I ask myself, and then the laundry gets up to fetch itself a cup of coffee. This is not an illusion; it’s clarity. Until Bill has enough coffee, he lies in a jumble on the couch, listening to the coffee maker, waiting for it to usher him from the land of the undead. He is exactly the same as a heap of laundry: smelly, inert, almost sentient but not quite.

Why Marriage Requires Amnesia, New York Times

That smelly, inert pile of laundry is a lucky guy, isn’t he? He gets to spend the rest of his life with a woman who insults him publicly and justifies her rude musings as simply “clarity” of thought.

And, if you read the whole article, you’ll see it doesn’t get any nicer… Miss Havrilesky doesn’t come around and realize she’s being unfair at best and emotionally abusive at worst. She actually doubles down on the belief that her husband is insufferable, and she proposes that only a certain Marital Memory Loss can make a relationship with him possible.

I see Bill with a scorching clarity that pains me. This is why surviving a marriage requires turning down the volume on your spouse so you can barely hear what they’re saying. You must do this not only so you don’t overdose on the same stultifying words and phrases within the first year, but also so your spouse’s various grunts and sneezes and snorts and throat clearings don’t serve as a magic flute that causes you to wander out the front door and into the wilderness, never to return.

The author repeats the same Theory of Amnesia here:

Bill also clears his throat constantly. He’s just a phlegmy guy in general. I can almost get away with being this mean about him because he has remained the same amount of smart and kind and extremely attractive that he was when I met him 17 years ago. This is just how it feels to be doomed to live and eat and sleep next to the same person until you’re dead. Because the resolution on your spouse becomes clearer and clearer by the year, you must find compensatory ways to blur and pixelate them back into a soft, muted, faintly fantastical fog.

You’re welcome to finish reading the article, if you can stomach it, by clicking this link.

But, for our purposes here, you only need to know that Ms. Havrilesky reveals she does hate her husband. And this leads to the enlightening rhetorical question, “How is hatred not the natural outcome of sleeping so close to another human for years?”

That gives you the gist.


Two things occur to me as I read the unrelenting criticism of Bill, and the suggestion that hatred for your spouse is inevitable:

#1. The author only gets away with publishing this belittling tirade because she’s a woman who’s denigrating a white male.

In the Matriarchy that is modern America, we don’t tolerate disrespect when it’s directed at wives/mothers. Our senses are sharply tuned to recognize signs of abuse/neglect that may disadvantage a poor woman. In fact, we insist upon all things Empowerment and Positivity for her. (“You are kind and smart and important, Mama!”)

But the “Bills” of the world don’t get the same treatment.

If the 1950s were known for anti-female sexism, I would say the pendulum in 2021 has swung about as far in the other direction as possible. We can only hope this NYT article will age as poorly as the old advertisements featuring husbands giving their wives a good spanking. (You know the ones I mean?)

Yet, even if we never wake up and realize how sexist we’ve become toward men/husbands, I can say with confidence the New York Times would not publish this same Amnesia Article, if the gender roles were reversed. Nobody in this decade will tolerate a male author, complaining about how loud and dumb and slovenly his bride is–especially if he declares the solution is memory loss to forget the reality of her awfulness.

The author’s female privilege is showing.

#2. Godless people often confuse “being real” with saying the first mean thing that pops into their heads. They don’t know how to confess their disappointments or unmet expectations…without resorting to selfishness, ugliness, and destruction.

It’s only through a redeeming relationship with our Creator that we come face-to-face with our own flaws first and foremost. Only after we’re sufficiently humbled by the truth of our own unworthiness can we be patient and kind to the other flawed humans in our lives.

We don’t need less truth.

Not less honesty.

Not less clarity.

We don’t need amnesia.

We need a godly clarity that encourages us to see the truth about our own sinfulness, rather than dwelling on petty grievances with others.

If your advice to married couples is to seek ways to dull reality and obscure the truth in order to carry on together, may I suggest a more honest worldview?

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