A friend of mine's father advised him when he was getting married: "Remember Son, 'For better or for worse...' but not for lunch.'"

I take this sage advice to be about appropriate distance, about a man unwisely trying to enter too far into a woman's world.

Gibran, in his essay on children, advised parents: "Your children live in a world you cannot enter, even in your dreams...." I paraphrase to note that the same is even more true about wives than children, namely, that "Women live in a world a man cannot enter, even in his dreams."

A popular but dangerous ideal, rooted, I think in the equally prevalent-but-impossible illusion about two half persons becoming whole together, is that spouses should so meld their separate worlds into one that they do everything together, even "having lunch."

In this familiar ideal, a man, in effect, abandons much of his masculine world, as he lived before marriage, in favor of immersing himself in the new relationship–not only living together but also eating, sleeping, playing, watching TV, and, apart from work which is necessarily separate, trying to do everything else together, literally merging himself into a shared world with a woman. Community property, as established in Louisiana law, is, in this ideal, expanded into everything in community.

Obviously, in large measure, monogamous marriage does indeed inherently involve merging many aspects of a man and woman's separate lives into a functional union where many previously personal acts are now done together, such as, sleeping, dressing, and eating many meals in shared spaces.

Such functional sharing, including conceiving and rearing children, is, of course, the purpose and substance of this ancient institution. But this bit of advice focuses on proper limits–and exclusions–of what spouses attempt to share together, that is, how far a man may wisely go in fitting himself into harmony with a woman's world. The "for better or for worse" commitment is, of course, proper; but this advice focuses on the "but not for lunch" part of my friend's early instructions.

I term it: appropriate distance. By this I mean a functional parameter on idealized closeness. Obviously, many intimacies are both inherent and desirable. When we marry we are socially granted and personally choose many new dimensions of closeness; but what are the proper limits on such intimacy? Just how close should a man try to come to the woman he marries? How close can closeness be, without crossing a hidden line into dangerous degrees of self-negating intimacy?

To begin, I can see now that I have often crossed over this invisible line. I have abandoned much basic masculinity as I unwisely tried to venture further into woman's world than a man can reasonably go without significant loss of essential male elements.

Long ago I recognized in mind's eye that becoming a whole person begins with embracing inherent gender differences (traits initiated by 2 of 46 chromosomes -XY- in every male cell), but proceeds, at the same time, to becoming many other non-gender related capacities rooted in the remaining 44 chromosomes–that is, that whole person = gender-based "personhood," mainly being "somebody" who just happens, by accident of having one Y chromosome, to be of the male rather than female variety.

But in practice, outside my intellectual theory, I have unwittingly repressed elements of masculinity while exaggerating attention to my smaller degree of femininity as initiated by the X chromosome paralleling the Y in each of my cells. Then, to compound my error, in marriage I have tried to (at least wanted to) enter completely into woman's world–that is, to be totally close, fully intimate, with every aspect of femininity. I have wanted and tried to "share everything"–all of myself with every aspect, every feminine part of females I love.

On an even deeper level, only now beginning to appear clearly in consciousness, I have also brought a hidden-to-me agenda even more unrealistic than the first, namely, I have blindly "looked" to my wives (and women in general, beginning, I think, with my mother) for permission, support, and even blessing, for masculine aspects of myself. Dumbly, as well as blindly, I have, in effect, looked to woman to "make a man," even a "person," out of me.

How foolish, even irrational, can a man be!

But enough of confession; back to generalizing what I have learned about myself, and here to project into "advice" to other men.

In summary, I believe that I, and I suspect many other males, have erred in trying to venture further into a woman's world than is, in reality, possible–certainly than is feasible. In so doing, I observe that they too may have unwisely repressed masculine elements of themselves while trying to get "too close" to a woman they loved.

Blindly, such men as I, have, as made graphic in myths of Attis and Cybele, in effect given our balls to our wives. While often blaming it on them, we may willingly participate in our own emasculation, leaving ourselves as wimps in marriage, "hen-pecked," as it were, by our personal denials.

Point: Should wisdom prevail, a man will be careful about trying too hard to enter into ("get too close to") many elements of a woman's world which we males are literally, by virtue of inherent masculinity, unable to enter.

There are aspects of the feminine world which females may easily and delightfully share with each other, but which are also beyond realms a male may enter without loss of significant elements of himself.

The same, of course, is also true of wives trying too hard to enter the masculine world of their husbands–but this is not my subject here.

Elsewhere I focused on the greater error of any man's secret hope that any woman–even a "perfect one," could/would "make a happy man" out of a yet repressed boy/man. But here I am only trying to clarify proper limits of closeness between a husband and wife–that is, the hidden line which realistic intimacy will not try to cross.

Although I obviously cannot shine mental light on an invisible line, especially one which varies in location from one marriage to another, and even from time to time in all marriages, I can at least point toward some of the arenas in which it may be sought; or, to mix my metaphors, some of the "lunches" best avoided between "for better or for worse."

Some possible arenas beyond which a male may wisely avoid trying to cross include:

shopping; feminine hygiene; bitching (commiserating); significance of "appearances"; female psychic problems; complaints about men; realms of cleanliness; typical female repressions, e.g., sexuality and killerness; monthly periods; irrational outbursts ("must be on the rag?").

Point: rather than trying to understand before accepting, a wiser man would, I conclude, be open to accepting what he doesn't understand–without probing too far.