In a modern and enlightened view of marriage, do husbands and wives feel entitled to demand respect and patience from each other? We hear laments about the weakening of marriage as people give up too soon over trifling grievances. But how often does a woman leave a husband who refuses to give her the consideration and respect as a human being that she feels is her due – her need? Does she have the right to demand open and honest communication as the hallmark of a unified celestial marriage? Why should she settle for less? Or is it better for her to stay bound to a man who treats her as a subordinate, as a pet, a panoply of projections, any number of substitutes for the “equal partner” that is such a recent teaching in the Church that it is still invoked more often than understood or realized? If all of the married women in the Church whose husbands don't fully respect them were to suddenly leave them, I sincerely wonder how many marriages would remain intact. I think we would have to set up something like monasteries and convents in every single stake.
We all know married couples who stay together even though the “need” for respect is unsatisfied in one or both partners. I think we all have met couples who don't even acknowledge anything as liberal as a need for respect, and whose communication remains less than honest or open, even for the sake of keeping an affectionate appearance or even basic civility. They manage their lives and houses the old-fashioned way, and maybe they'd say they get along just fine. They might say any number of things, even that they really love each other, and you could just take their word for it and leave it at that. Just don't walk into their house without knocking first.
Do wives need affection, understanding or patience from their husbands? Do husbands need patience, forgiveness and support from their wives? Then do they have a right to demand those things of them? What does it do to my marriage if I demand that my wife forgive me? By now we all should know what a recipe for disaster that can be. I can pine, yearn and burn for another's forgiveness, but I don't recognize a right to demand it: that's a terrible coercion! So does that mean I don't need forgiveness? The tough part of me that wants to be Howard Roark (the hero of The Fountainhead) replies that I certainly don't, not from anyone. But another part of me feels wounded if I know that someone I love still holds something against me.
Eternally, we all need God's forgiveness to return to live with God. But we certainly have no right to demand that. Or didn't I get the memo?
If someone feels an obligation to forgive me, that can discourage her from being open and honest. She might decide to placate me by giving me false forgiveness. Or she might not. You see, there still is a potential for open and honest communication: “I know we're commanded to forgive and I have an obligation to forgive you, but I don't feel like I can yet.” Such honesty and openness can be encouraged if she feels free to express herself truly, instead of feeling obligated to defer and serve selflessly. So here is the flaw in Stearmer's third point: the choking of potential for open and honest communication goes deeper than someone saying they have sexual needs. A sense of obligation certainly discourages open and honest communication, but it takes a very powerful indoctrination, or relentless show of force, to remove even the potential for them. But long before that is accomplished, the other partner can demand anything from sex to a sandwich.
This isn't hair-splitting, it's making distinctions and insisting that words be taken for their meaning. We need that in order to think.