Self esteem and marriage failure

At our men’s breakfast on Saturday, we discussed an article by India Knight on the break up of Madonna and Guy Ritchie.

Madonna and Guy Ritchie

According to Knight, the 7-year marriage followed a typical path:

  1. Two successful, fulfilled people with lots of self-esteem meet and marry
  2. The woman continues to be successful whilst the man’s career flounders
  3. The man suffers an ego crisis, a loss of self esteem
  4. The woman finds his loss of self esteem unattractive and gets irritated, no longer respecting her man
  5. The man’s self esteem drops lower
  6. The woman finds this even less attractive and begins to be repulsed
  7. The marriage is over

Here’s how Knight put it:

It goes like this. You meet each other. You’re doing well; things are going swimmingly at work for both of you; you feel like equals (when Ritchie met Madonna, he was a hot young director, whose film Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels was a worldwide success, and of whom great things were expected).

Fast forward a few years and add children, and sooner or later one of you will get to the point where they can’t shake off the feeling that their star is on the wane while their spouse’s continues to rise.

Worse, the wife knows who she is (she’s Madonna!), she’s good at her job, she knows what she wants and she’s not really in the business of playing doormats to soothe wounded male egos. Aside from anything else, she’s busy.

As the months and years pass, her husband’s lack of success – and, sure as eggs is eggs, growing self-pity – do not elicit cooing sympathy, but irritation. The more irritation she displays, the more emasculated he becomes. And the more emasculated he becomes, the more irritated she feels.

The school of self improvement says  self esteem is good, but this is wrong.  Self esteem is only another word for pride. Being proud of our achievements is a recipe for failure because the consistently high performance which is necessary to produce high self esteem can never be sustained. Pop stars, with the notable exception of Madonna, become passée. Great athletes grow old and start losing. Film directors have a bad run. Company fortunes ebb and flow. Churches grow and shrink.  As the tide of personal performance ebbs and flows, and with it ourself esteem, then attractiveness must ebb and flow too.  It is when the tide is out that self esteem turns to mopping self pity and this is a potential marriage breaker.

So where does our sense of value come from if not from our performance? My value cannot be separated from God my creator and Christ my redeemer.  I know I am valuable not because of what I do but because of what God in Christ has done for me. Human value is extrinsic not intrinsic. The love of God in Christ Jesus is the root of all personal esteem and so, secure in him, my confidence can always be high regardless of how well I perform.

See another similar post on Madonna and Generation X women.

About neilrobbie

I am a 6'6" formerly ginger Scot, in a cross cultural marriage to my lovely Londoner wife. We've lived in SE Asia and since 2005, I have served as an Anglican minister in Wolverhampton and West Bromwich.
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