In response to my post two weeks ago, on Tennyson’s telling of the ancient tale of Geraint and Enid, a thoughtful reader questioned Geraint’s testing of the woman he loves. Some husbands make big demands of their wives, and over time, this becomes an abusive relationship. How does one distinguish between what seems to be Geraint’s mere immaturity and a lurking pattern of exploitation?
It is a good question. I do not know all my readers, but I imagine this particular questioner to be a smart, dexterous, generous woman who is creative and artistic. She probably pursues a wide range of interests and has successfully raised a number of children who now rise up and call her blessed. Again, this was just a question posted on a website, but I think I can discern through her words a deep, attractive faith, a tranquil beauty, and a highly tuned sensitivity to people. I am guessing she can probably even untie knots with her toes. Just a hunch.
Anyway, the questioner’s graces should not distract us from the actual question: How should you, as a woman, perhaps searching for a real man, one you might marry, avoid a future abuser? Well, fortunately, I just wrote a book about it! Drawing on that work, Dating With Discernment, we can highlight two ways to tell the direction of a man you date, whether abuse is a likely future.
One of the main questions you should be asking (doing your own testing) of a man you are dating is, “Can he take charge for me?” The question’s last two words are as important as the words before it. As you spend time with him, you want to see if he is able to make decisions and be directive, yes. But you can also try to discern the reasons he is exhibiting control. Is it to be a blessing or just to be controlling? Is he seeking to take charge because of insecurities in himself or to benefit you? The motivation is what you are looking into as well as the ability.
Of course, if you have recently just met, and only known him a short time, you might not be seeing him as he really is (an argument against short engagements). And it is possible for you to misread his trajectory. Some men have the ability to cover their hearts from you. But there is another tool you have to really get to a deep understanding of who this man is. It is the most important step of dating, that should never ever ever be skipped if you want to understand your future: Meet the family!
Yes, meet the family. As soon as you have an actual relationship with him. As soon as possible and as much as possible. If feasible, get to see his parents’ relationship, his relationship with his mother, his relationship with his sisters and brothers, and any other significant tie, or untie, for him. Among such relatives it is hard to conceal the patterns of the man.
In Enid’s case, Tennyson tells the backstory of how they met and Geraint’s interaction with her family. I think that the bottom line was how Enid perceived that Geraint was out for her benefit, his own angry pride notwithstanding. There are extreme cases that make guarantees impossible, but you, o woman, can easily become wise in these ways to get yourself into a growing marriage.