Pride and Vulnerability

Pride and Vulnerability
Daniel in the Lions' Den
Daniel in the Lions’ Den (c. 1900 – 1930) by Briton Riviere (1840-1920) via via State Library Victoria

The other day Katy made a stray comment about how my desire for financial independence entails a reluctance to depend on my husband. I’ve been thinking a lot about pride and vulnerability since then.

According to, (among other things irrelevant to this post) pride can be

  1. An excessively high opinion of yourself, or
  2. A dignified sense of what you are due.

Whereas vulnerability is:

  1. A susceptibility to wound, or
  2. An openness to attack.

Both of which might seem very odd things to mention in terms of marriage.

But just like marriage, pride and vulnerability have both “light” and “dark” sides.

In times gone by, a married woman became her husband’s property. Not only did she lose her name and become Mrs Q Citizen, but unless her father was very clever, she lost everything she had previously called her own. Not just money, or choice, but control of her body too. She was more susceptible to physical violence, but if she chose well, her marriage would give her a dignified place in society.

Nowadays, people prefer to marry a like-minded person in more of a partnership type of arrangement. Something more along the lines of a business merger. You each bring different but equal skills and experience to the marriage. And in this situation, we bring an excessively high opinion of ourselves to the marriage, but at the same time, we bring a deeper willingness to lay ourselves open to attack by our partner.

But marriage can be a strange thing. While pride and vulnerability are more or less the same across populations, no two marriages are the same. While you can predict the consequences of pride or vulnerability, you can’t even begin to guess what might happen in a marriage.

I have been very fortunate that DB has supported me through many years of ill-health. Many men made of lesser stuff would have fallen by the wayside. To have a husband who takes canine primacy and knee-deep drifts of dog hair with amused good grace, and tolerance. Who is, as Dr Phil requires, a soft place for me to fall.

I’m not entirely sure I’ve got to the bottom of why I feel the need to be financially independent, and why I don’t want to rely on DB’s support. Or to use a more old-fashioned phrase, his patronage. Perhaps it’s something to do with the drift of meaning in “patronise” from supporting an artist or trading with a business to behaving in an offensive or condescending manner.

Perhaps we could more kindly interpret my desire for financial independence as a wish to support him . To share the burden of mortgage payments and vet bills. To draw less upon his resources, and give him a semi-inflated airbag on which to land?

Only he knows, and he isn’t saying.

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