Am I less than the dust beneath my husband’s chariot wheels?

And if I were – would that be what God wants me to be?

Around the ‘sphere, discussions have popped up about some popular books on being a good wife – Created to be His Helpmeet and Fascinating Womanhood in particular.

While we can glean useful information from these books and articles, there is often an undercurrent of manipulation.  “If you display this behavior, your target will respond in X fashion”.   “If your target is failing to display the desired behavior, then you are somehow failing in your own display”.

I’m not saying that the instructions never work – far from it.  What I am saying is that these instructions rely upon the “clean up the outside” method of self-improvement.  And that method is neither Scriptural or useful in the long-term.

Scripturally, we are told to submit to the process of sanctification, as we are given a new heart at the time of salvation, and as the Holy Spirit works through us, changing us from the inside out.  We become harder workers for the sake of Christ, we are given the spiritual gifts of agape love and joy and faith and peace, we learn to rely upon the Lord our strength and our shield.

I have been this woman… the woman who idolizes her husband, and puts on the outer garments of godliness in order to acquire her husband’s approval.  The woman who lies in order to avoid displeasing her husband. The woman who gets stomach cramps because something happened that day that won’t please him.   The woman who casts herself down and makes herself small, in a pathetic show of submission.  The idolater.

Not only was that woman clearly in sin, she didn’t make any points with her husband!  My husband HATES that.  He hates lies, he hates dissembly, he hates it when I hedge… heck, he doesn’t even want me to wait until he’s unwound from work before I tell him what random little thing broke that day.    And God?   God knew my heart, and knew who I was really trying to please – and that I would sacrifice my relationship with Him in order to get it.  Do you think I was making any points with God?  Oh – but those books, those BOOKS told me I was doing things right.  And I could take pride in doing things “right”… couldn’t I?

When we make ourselves small, we lie about who we are.  We lie about what we are capable of doing.  We cheat our husbands of our full resources of strength, intelligence, courage, resourcefulness, and wisdom.   We are poor stewards of the gifts that God created us with.  We fail to bring Him glory.  We are the third servant in the parable of the talents – the one so afraid of his master that he hid his talent rather than investing it and putting it to use and increase.   Do you remember how the master treated that servant?

This is not to say that having worked as hard as we are able, we are not then to lay our produce at the feet of our husbands.  No.  The Bible says that it is my husband who is leader of this household.  Whatever increase I can manage – even if it’s better skill with the needle – is a benefit to my husband.  Why?  Because I obey God by submitting myself to my husband.  I do not make myself smaller … I kneel.  You can say that those are the same thing, and you’d have a point.   But when I hear “lower yourself” I hear, “make yourself less”.   I hear the advice in all those books, much of which involves acting like you have the brains of a grapefruit and the backbone of a squid.

Truly – what do you want of the one who is your helpmeet?  Would you not want someone who did everything to be as good at things as she could be, so that all the skill she found, she could then turn to the good of your family, your household?  Is not a skilled worker more valuable than a fool?

Now.  There are those who have bought our culture’s paradigm of womanhood so thoroughly that they don’t understand the joy of giving themselves utterly to their husbands, and that whatever they can acquire is not for their *own* glory, but for the glory of their husband, for the glory of God.   These women need a reality check.  They need a heart change.

Reading a book about being a better wife, looking for what she can glean to fine-tune her behavior, asking her husband for guidance… if those things come from a heart that has already surrendered, then they can be of great effect.  But if the one reading the book is looking for ways to manipulate her situation, it’s all trash.

At the end of the day… if I work hard to become the smartest, strongest, most loving, wisest woman I have the potential to become, maybe MAYBE I’ll be half the wife my husband deserves.  The very last thing I need to do is make myself less, make myself smaller.

All that I have is his, because all that I have is God’s, and God has given him dominion over me and responsibility for me.  That doesn’t lower me.  Obedience doesn’t lower anyone.

It is my honor to submit to my husband, and I do not consider myself “lessened” thereby.

 

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85 thoughts on “Am I less than the dust beneath my husband’s chariot wheels?

  1. Elspeth

    I love, love, loved the way you put this:

    This is not to say that having worked as hard as we are able, we are not then to lay our produce at the feet of our husbands. No. The Bible says that it is my husband who is leader of this household. Whatever increase I can manage – even if it’s better skill with the needle – is a benefit to my husband. Why? Because I obey God by submitting myself to my husband. I do not make myself smaller … I kneel.

    A lot of those self-same people who recommend FW or suggest that a woman go lower (if that is what’s needed for her husband to truly be able to exercise headship) will say that they mean exactly this. And I suspect that many do mean exactly this.

    But what they fail to recognize is that while there are some women who need to “go lower” because they are haughty and contemptible toward their men, and their men have reacted like a scorned puppy, not all men are in need of diminutive womanhood. Mine doesn’t.

    Reply
      1. Elspeth

        I’m in agreement with you on the fakery. I don’t know if “going lower” (there’s a reason I keep putting it in quotes) is necessarily a diminishing of person-hood as much as it is a refusal to allow oneself to step into the void of leadership.

  2. Elspeth

    Now if the idea promoted by FW and the “go lower” crowd is what you’re thinking it is (and you may be right since I haven’t read the book and you have) then yeah. That’s just nutso. If a wife has to do all that and actively pretend to be less intelligent, less competent, less capable for the sake of helping her husband hold his head up, then that’s a real problem.

    Reply
    1. hearthie Post author

      It’s been a long time. I remember being told to remake your personality – and I also remember the bit about pretending to be angry. Never being actually angry, but pretending to be angry… and the silly way you were supposed to act when you were doing that. “Insults” that he’d take as compliments (aka “you big old bear!”) and then… yeah. You get it.

      Reply
  3. wordsofgold

    FW is definitely a manipulative format. I own the book and found a few things interesting in it but I saw right through the facade of innocence a process of manipulation. It is like the princess syndrome and places women on a pedestal. Created to be his help meet is different. I do not get the vibe that Pearl is telling women to put on an act, rather she exhorts women to follow their God given role and responsibility as a wife. She writes very straightforward and doesn’t candy coat any of her message.

    Reply
    1. hearthie Post author

      I haven’t read it myself, but have read any number of reviews … if I see at the the library, I’ll grab it and give it a more intelligent once over.

      Reply
      1. wordsofgold

        I think it is worth the read. I’ve found it to be very helpful. If after you read it and find it lacking I’d love to read your thoughts. I’m willing to admit when I’m wrong and I’m always learning. Thanks!

  4. seriouslyserving

    Hi Hearthie,
    This was a beautiful post, really well put!
    Early on in our marriage, I had a very hard time respecting/submitting to my husband and I tried the fakery, “make yourself lower” approach. I would answer his honest questions with “I don’t know” or “I don’t mind”, when I did know, and I did have a preference.
    He hated it!
    I think the reason I did it was partially manipulation (I wanted him to behave a certain way, in response to me doing the right things), but during the moments of genuinely wanting to submit and respect him, I think I had a misguided idea that a wife was either demanding/assertive or diminutive/disappearing. I couldn’t understand how she (I) could be anything else.
    It took me a while to learn that what my husband wants is the true, full me, submitted to the true, full him. I am still learning how to do that!

    Reply
    1. hearthie Post author

      “It took me a while to learn that what my husband wants is the true, full me, submitted to the true, full him. ” – THIS. This exactly. -applause-

      Reply
  5. Sarah's Daughter

    I haven’t read the books you are referring to. I do know that I was a Christian long before I stopped rebelling. For 10 years I was given a pass at having my emotions (irrational as they were) control the aspects of our marriage that we weren’t in agreement. (For the most part we were in agreement, it was rare that my stepping into “the void of leadership” would happen but when it did, looking back now, it was very ugly).

    But what they fail to recognize is that while there are some women who need to “go lower” because they are haughty and contemptible toward their men, and their men have reacted like a scorned puppy, not all men are in need of diminutive womanhood. Mine doesn’t.

    I wouldn’t have described myself as haughty and contemptible because I was so blind. My husband didn’t present as a scorned puppy, looking back it was more of a tinderbox building within him. Neither of us could pinpoint the problems we had though, our family/association/church/books we were reading (like The Five Love Languages), even Christian mentors would not have suggested that my rebellion toward God was the problem.

    These women need a reality check. They need a heart change.

    Absolutely.

    You can say that those are the same thing, and you’d have a point. But when I hear “lower yourself” I hear, “make yourself less”.

    This might just be a semantics issue then. The heart change that I remember going through was certainly a lowering of my haughty self, a figurative stepping off the pedestal and a recognition that the institution of marriage, as designed by God, has an order to it. And, like in the Army, the LT is of lower rank than the Captain. Within my heart I felt the consequences of my insubordination but I didn’t know that is what it was. After the heart change, repentance, and deliberate implementation of biblical instruction I started to experience a very new measure of calm in my heart. I have come to understand that calm that had been missing for the first 10 years of our marriage was the consequence.

    I think the mixed messages can be very confusing to a wife who hasn’t had that heart change yet, whose husband is still quietly suffering the worldly programming he’s received. Should that wife who has always asserted her opinion ask that husband if he can handle it, he will likely say “yes” but inside might be dying to tell her to keep her mouth shut. The time it takes for a husband to learn of what his headship role entails will vary among men. Some seem to “get it” much earlier than others.

    Reply
      1. Sarah's Daughter

        I just saw over at Stingray’s you said you found Love Languages to be a very helpful book. You must have read it with a good heart. I didn’t and it became a guide for discontentment for me and “look what I’m missing” “I behave this way because my love tank is empty”. That book is for mature women only of which I was not one.

    1. hearthie Post author

      YMMV, definitely. I believe that it is the heart change that is most profound. My husband, even when we were both most secular, has never NOT been in charge. Els and I are married to very similar men, so I’ll let her response stand for mine.

      Yes, LL was super helpful. I was trying so hard to please my hubs, make him feel loved – and that first year was pretty rocky. (Isn’t it for most couples, esp if they’re young?) I would LITERALLY write him at least 3-4 poems/lovenotes/sonnets per **week**. And my household management involved saving up all the errands for one day, getting them done in a sweep…. and he felt unloved because I wouldn’t run out for the whatchamagig right then. So – the heart was right, the behavior was wrong. LL is very helpful if you’ve got contrasting behavior.

      Reply
  6. Elspeth

    Good morning SD. My situation was different because my husband was never a silently seething tinderbox. On the contrary, he simply could not, would not, and is not built in such a way that he could receive disrespect from a woman and take it on the chin. He loved (and still loves) hard and deeply but it has taken years for him to grow as a Christian to the point where he can turn the other cheek…sometimes, and I mean that metaphorically.

    I was more like Hearthie, married to a strong confident man, a little bit (maybe more than a little bit) in awe of him, and frankly, afraid to displease him. So the temptation to make myself smaller in terms of my thoughts and opinions was strong. I didn’t want to disagree and he wanted my honesty whether I disagreed or not. Like you and RLB, we rarely disagreed on anything of substance, but still.

    Most of what we read in this corner of the web is based on helping husbands and wives with the exact opposite dynamic, which is what the majority of couples are dealing with (particularly in the wake of 50 years of sexual confusion), so that makes sense. What Hearth has to say here is important because it helps us to remember that while the sex differences can often be summed up neatly and in general terms, not every man need or wants the exact same things from his woman.

    One size does not fit all. Trying to go lower (when I already perceived my husband’s greater stature) only served to irritate him because that wasn’t the woman he fell for and frankly there was really not much I could do to make him feel more like a man. He just needs me to help him accomplish the goals he’s set for his family. His manhood was already well intact. He gets along way better with feisty El than he does with diminutive El, and he finds the former much more fun. But he still expects to be obeyed. The two aren’t mutually exclusive, which seems to be the general consensus.

    I just saw over at Stingray’s you said you found Love Languages to be a very helpful book. You must have read it with a good heart. I didn’t and it became a guide for discontentment for me and “look what I’m missing” “I behave this way because my love tank is empty”. That book is for mature women only of which I was not one.

    The 5 love languages helped me because it taught me how to pay attention to what my husband receives as love vs. what I was trying to give to him as love. I wasn’t worried as much about me as much at the time I read it because (again) my whole heart was turned toward him. And I had to be convicted of the sin of that.

    Reply
  7. Scott

    But when I hear “lower yourself” I hear, “make yourself less”. I hear the advice in all those books, much of which involves acting like you have the brains of a grapefruit and the backbone of a squid.

    In the context of Mychaels post on at MCR a couple days ago, I don’t think she meant “lower” this way. In fact, your post here is pretty much the way she does it.

    Without the benefit of having read all the comments here–what she says she struggles with most is making sure she is getting her way by deciding what she wants (and sometimes actually doing it first) and then buttering me up (or asking “permission”) to get it. That is not submission, and it is a common tactic.

    It occurs in every hierarchy known to man. I have bosses who I know I can manipulate and make them think it was their idea all along. This is the sin she is trying to avoid.

    Reply
    1. hearthie Post author

      Scott – I completely understand. This post has been building up for a bit. Stingray’s post on FW (seriously, that book nearly got me a divorce), some of Deep Strength’s recent posts… the thing is, some of those books help you figure out how to top from the bottom more than they help you have the will to obey. I am hard-lining this – don’t fake it. No one, fake anything. You can take on a role in obedience to God’s will and choose to obey Him and choose to learn to fill that role, understanding that it is your role for life… or you can choose to look for the carnal rewards of the role first.

      One of the duties of a wife is much like the duty of the second in command – to give the commander/husband all the information, all the consequences, and then step back and wait for his decision. It is understood that too many women have a problem with the “step back and wait” bit… but there are those of us who are quaking in our boots about the “give all the information”.

      Reply
  8. Maeve

    Hmmmmm, Hearthie…not that I have any skin in the game anymore, but it does have me thinking about the dynamics of my marriage and those aspects which ultimately led to its demise. I don’t know that I completely agree with your post – but I don’t entirely disagree either. Must ponder some more.

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      1. Maeve

        I understand that one pretty well (and rather failed at it, truth be told) for a really long time – the God first part. I was just so unable to tolerate even the slightest hint that my ex-husband was unhappy.

      2. hearthie Post author

        Yes. And that’s why I’m so on about “this must be an act of will” rather than an emotional response. Emotionally I respond with submission to my husband – but then I go so far on the other side that it becomes sinful and fearful. So my relationship with my husband must be based on my relationship with God.

        And whichever way your particular see-saw tips, that’s the key. Base it on your relationship with God, your submission to *God*. If you’re right and tight with God, you’re very unlikely to be a horrible wife. You might need to learn a skill or grace, but you will still be a decent person to have around.

  9. Sarah's Daughter

    I agree with the “Don’t fake it” message and haven’t found it to conflict with “deliberate implementation of biblical instruction”. When the words that would cross my lips were disrespectful, I needed to not say those words. When my eyes would roll, I needed to know that derision was sin. I couldn’t hold to the notion of “this is just how I am”. There is a line between feisty and disrespectful and it was very blurry for me for a long time. When I could see straight, I didn’t feel like I was being fake when I would literally bite my tongue, I felt convicted and truthfully, a little mortified at how much I had to take my thoughts captive. Like I’ve said, this was a decision independent of RLB, I wasn’t doing or not doing anything in response to him. I was analyzing my own thoughts and behavior. Having done so, my thoughts and behavior started to change. I am not tempted to roll my eyes any longer or say “whatever” dismissively, but it was a deliberate training I put myself through. So far he hasn’t told me he misses either of those things. 😉

    Reply
    1. hearthie Post author

      Oh gosh no. Those two things shouldn’t conflict.

      Like Els, if I am disrespectful (I have been with DH for 28 years now, 20 of those married – it’s not like it’s never happened) I am IMMEDIATELY and unpleasantly corrected. So … ahem. Not really an issue. Never has been. I had to train myself to say things like, “this course of action will make me completely miserable” – which is usually paired by blushing, staring at my toes, and stammering.

      Reply
      1. Elspeth

        Again, totally relate: “Who are you rolling your eyes at?” But this:

        I don’t really have any boundaries with my hubs, other than, “God first” – which is, for me, an effort of will.

        Yep, could’ve written that. Thankfully I don;t have a man who revels in being idolized. Obeyed and loved selflessly is enough.

      2. St. Thomas More Academy

        I’ve found the best thing to do is just shut up. 90% of the time what you’re going to say is going to be considered disrespectful, so there really is very little point in even attempting any meeting of the minds. Like you said — immediately and unpleasantly corrected — and not too different from the “I Love Lucy” shows where Lucy would do something totally stupid and get in trouble for it, and she always paid the price by losing her credibility and being humiliated. It’s pointless. You’re better off keeping your mouth shut and considering the source…..also, to remember that nothing lasts forever and someday it’ll all be a blip on the screen — so you can basically handle anything. All love is an act of willpower. Bishop Fulton J. Sheen (a favorite of mine) came to my rescue with that fact in his “Life Is Worth Living” series which I read as a teenager — love is not an emotion, it is an act of will. Each morning you get up and will to love various family members for the next twenty-four hours. Too many of us think in terms of years, which is a mistake, because in thinking only of today, we keep it manageable. It’s “years and years” thinking that leads to thoughts of divorce. You only have to do this for twenty-four hours, that’s it. And then you wake up the next morning and make the act of will for the next twenty-four hours, and so forth. Much easier. I really recommend it.

        Hearthie,
        “I don’t really have any boundaries with my hubs,”
        Usually they have a lot of boundaries with us. We really can’t have too many with them due to the nature of our relationship, but you can learn to live with his boundaries by what I described above…..it’s a way to manage. Men are pretty strict about their boundaries and they don’t permit you to bend them, which is good in a way, I guess. You can build interior boundaries that help you to honor his boundaries. I’ll give you that it can be very lonely, but it is better than the immediate and unpleasant consequences of brushing up against his boundaries. I think it is a learned process that often takes a number of years as you figure everything out and learn where the limits are and what you can and can’t expect. The result of the whole process is that you learn an awful lot about people and you toughen up to take care of your own problems.

  10. Booky McBookerson

    I do not make myself smaller … I kneel.

    I think this is the best part of the post – I’m keeping that for myself, lol. The distinction is between “lowering” as in “making less” and kneeling as you are. One can definitely kneel without diminishing one’s self – indeed, when we kneel before Christ, are we made smaller? I think not. As Elspeth says above, the need to diminish one’s self for a husband to maintain his headship signifies a serious problem.

    Reply
  11. Sarah's Daughter

    One can definitely kneel without diminishing one’s self – indeed, when we kneel before Christ, are we made smaller? I think not.

    Smaller in reference to whom? Christ?

    This isn’t sitting well with me and I think it’s just a semantics thing again, I don’t know if lowering means “making less” to me it means putting oneself into proper alignment.

    Reply
    1. Booky McBookerson

      Lowering could mean either, which is why I clarified that. I think you are meaning it in a “get over yourself” way, no?

      As for the smaller in reference to whom question, I think it is a bit of a paradox, where we can realize our smallness in one sense (lowly worms or whatever), but also that only through Christ are all things possible. Furthermore, we can only do that when we lower ourselves (in your sense).

      I’m not sure I’m doing a great job of explaining but I meant “smaller” in a more general sense, certainly not in relation to Christ. FWIW, I don’t necessarily see “lowering” as “making less” either, but it seems as though that is what is advocated as a manipulative technique in certain books aimed at Christian women (I haven’t read them but I think I get the jist).

      Reply
      1. Sarah's Daughter

        Thank you for clarifying.

        It sounds as though Hearthie and Elspeth were already in proper alignment (by their own hearts or not, their husbands are the type of men who don’t present nonaligned marriage as a possibility). So for them to “lower themselves” isn’t fitting. For those of us who yes, indeed, needed to get over ourselves, reading the actual words on the Bible’s pages was crucial in order to really know that God meant what he said. The book that helped me most as a conduit for biblical instruction was Love and Respect. It’s been a while but I don’t think there was anything that could be used manipulatively in there. It did a great job of showing me how much the “rules of our marriage according to SD” were completely out of line. I was that wife that held a threat point. It wasn’t spoken, it was assumed “behavior X by RLB warrants consequence Y from SD” (as it did for my parent’s marriage and most of the people we associated with) Even if behavior X was not even close to something RLB would do, it remained my “line in the sand” which he better not cross. Love and Respect taught me that that line in the sand in and of itself was disrespectful to him and in rebellion to God.

      2. hearthie Post author

        I liked L&R, and my church uses it extensively. It came at the point in my life when all I really didn’t know was the bit about hanging out with your hubs even if you couldn’t participate, but that was a benefit, my hubs really DOES enjoy that.

    2. Booky McBookerson

      *it seems as though that is what is advocated as a manipulative technique in certain books aimed at Christian women, which is what Hearthie is talking about here, which is why I used the term in that sense. Again, I agree with you that “lowering” doesn’t necessarily mean “making less for the purpose of making something else appear more”, lol.

      Reply
  12. Elspeth

    SD,

    I don’t think kneeling and laying one’s produce at her husband’s feet is the action of one who is rebelling against proper alignment. More later.

    Reply
    1. Sarah's Daughter

      More later.
      That’s good because I’m a bit confused. I was saying that from the sounds of it your marriages are properly aligned and were from the start. Our perspectives are very different so just as I’m sure it’s very hard for you to imagine having a husband who, for a time, put up with a disrespectful wife, it is just as hard for me to comprehend a wife who has always known her place. What I can comprehend is a woman who married into that correct place (due to the type of man she married) and grew to appreciate why God designed it that way.

      Reply
  13. Elspeth

    A wife with a husband who won’t put up with disrespect, she manipulates. At least she tries to, but then those kinds of men are often pretty quick on the draw then you get caught, which makes things worse.

    The growth into appreciation for God’s design does take a different trajectory because it has to. Once the shine began to wear off the awe (and it always does a little bit), it felt stifling, especially as a mid-20’s bride with 3 kids (the last two came in our late 30’s). You kind of wish sometimes that he wasn’t so….intense? It’s funny how the same things that make you pant and melt at the beginning make you crazy later.

    But for me, what happened was a direct result of the fact that when we married I was a believer and he was not. God showed me -again and again and again- that my husband, even in his regenerate state, was just equipped to lead our family. See, I never rebelled outwardly (and I still think he’s hot as fire) but inwardly it bugged me that he wasn’t moved by my outward show of piety. He wasn’t buying what I was trying to sell because he knew me.

    He loved me, but even though he wasn’t raised in a Christian family (I think he was 15 when his mother came to faith), he was raised that the man is in charge of his house. Period, end of conversation.I was raised that way too, which helped a great deal. My father is a man of strong frame and my stepmom (who is a feminist no matter how you cut it) stands down when he makes a decree.

    The biggest lesson I needed to learn was to not idolize my husband and my marriage so that my submission would be pure, so that I wouldn’t be tempted to dishonor God for the sake of being pleasing to my husband. Or, what I thought was pleasing to my husband because he got really irritated when I got all uber demure and refused to say what I thought if I thought it was different from what he thought. When I was quite frankly afraid to make a move without running it by him even though he had demonstrated trust in my ability to do it by delegating it to me in the first place.

    In other words, submission to MY husband meant, Don’t play coy and don’t stop being his feisty girl and don’t think that having different likes and dislikes from his means I’m not in submission.

    Reply
    1. St. Thomas More Academy

      “A wife with a husband who won’t put up with disrespect, she manipulates. At least she tries to, but then those kinds of men are often pretty quick on the draw then you get caught, which makes things worse.”

      Most men like this regard any attempt at communication as manipulation. You ask for something, it’s manipulation. You’re too tired to think, it’s manipulation. You can’t become someone else who had five times the energy you have, it’s manipulation. You finally throw down a towel and say I’ve had it — it’s manipulation. You’re better off being polite and saying “yes” or “no” to whatever they ask for. Keep your opinions to yourself. When you get really upset, you can keep a few things on hand that are for the express purpose of blowing off steam. True, it does develop into a silent, polite relationship in which things bubble and simmer under a surface of smooth calm marble, but it’s better than confrontations in front of children. I think we can all agree on that. You cannot communicate with a man, pure and simple. It is just not possible. The only communication a man understands is in which he talks and you listen and agree. If you disagree, keep it to yourself. If you try to voice disagreement, sure as shooting you’re going to get involved in a verbal exchange in which you will invariably end up waving the white flag to capitulate in exhaustion. It’s just so not worth it.

      Reply
      1. Elspeth

        STMA:

        I get that this is your reality, as I’ve read it myriad times. It is however, an error to paint it as “all men” or “all commanding men are like this”.

        It is really, truly, not what live with. My husband is generally attentive, and responsive with me when I am real and honest with him. I would say that 9 out of 10 times when he pegged me as being manipulative, I was being manipulative. He has a pretty good radar. When I am honestly upset or overwhelmed he stops and helps me out. He is protective if his wife.

        It happens that quite recently he (again) made me thankful that despite his general intensity and commanding way of being, he cares about me and not just in a general way.

        Our weekends the past three weeks have been crazy busy, and on Saturday we had a church ministry obligation in which I mistakenly recorded the wrong start time. We weren’t together, he got there before me, was quite peeved with me for my carelessness, and let me know that over the phone. I was so very overwhelmed that it pricked me in a way that it normally wouldn’t have under less insane circumstances.

        As soon as he saw me he knew I was hurt and he knew it wasn’t an act or a manipulation and that he’d missed that I was carrying too much.

        He made it better, without a lot of ceremony, which I actually like about him. I don’t live with a man who wans me to keep my thoughts, feelings or opinions to myself.

        What you are describing is not a confident man who commands respect in his own right. The kind man you are describing is a man who can’t handle all of who his wife is because he isn’t comfortable in his own manhood. So all he has to offer is bluster and demands for a automaton wife. Or a silent one if he can’t have that.

        Please (I beg you) stop assuming that my strong commanding husband is an uncaring tyrant because that’s an inaccurate interpretation based on your own limited experiences.

        I don’t mean to discount your experience but when you take my comment about my man and follow it up with the lead in “The thing about men like that is…” it rubs me the wrong way.

      2. hearthie Post author

        E – do you think we should write a post about alpha men and what they are and are not?? Lots of misconceptions from people who want the fringe benefits without the weight of responsibility, IMO.

      3. hearthie Post author

        I want to make sure I don’t just write a post about MY guy, I want to cross check. Although our husbands are exceedingly similar.

      4. hearthie Post author

        I will write you a proper response presently. For the moment – I lived your reality, now I live Els’. Things can change, keep hope.

  14. Feminine But Not Feminist

    Wow, this is an awesome discussion! I’m glad I popped back in to read it.

    Question:

    You would never know it from reading a lot of my comments over the past two years around these parts, but I can be very “go with the flow” and not have strong opinions on things that I don’t deem to be important. So if I end up being married to a man that (like Elspeth’s and Hearthie’s husbands) wants my input on things, I hope he doesn’t think I’m being an unhelpful doormat or something. For example, if he wants to go out and do something and he wants to know what I would like to do, and I say “I don’t care, I’ll be good doing whatever you want to do,” that would be the God-honest truth. I really wouldn’t care what we go do, and would want to do whatever he wants to go do (barring sinful things, obviously, and perhaps a few things that I couldn’t do, but I would speak up and tell him what I think in those rare cases). I would just be happy to spend the time with him doing something that he likes. So, to Hearthie and Elspeth in particular (since you have that kind of husband): any advice about how to not be fake (aka, pretending to care about something silly like that when I really don’t) while still not making him think that I’m being an annoying doormat that is afraid to give input?

    Reply
    1. hearthie Post author

      I don’t care much mostly either. I’ve learned to answer, ‘My priority is x” on that sort of thing. Like, “where do you want to have dinner?” “I really want to sit with you and catch up… why don’t we go to…” or “I am just dying for some really great food, can we hit …” Or, “I don’t care, but I”m hungry…”

      Reply
  15. Elspeth

    I don’t usually care about those little things either. And I answer in the same way as Hearth. The biggest thing is speaking up and being open when it counts.

    Reply
  16. Elspeth

    Another thought about my type of guy (from recent occurrences): My husband moves on quickly. An advantage of his being up front, direct, and to the point about things is that they are dealt with in the moment and no matter how ridiculous my behavior or attitude, I don’t hear about it again.

    We hear a lot about women throwing things up in their husbands faces months or years after the fact, but I have known quite a few wives who deal with that sort of dredging up also, mainly because their husbands seethe instead of just calling the thing out right then and dealing with it.

    I am thankful (since this is the season of thanks) that in our marriage confrontation, confession, resolution, and forgiveness and handled in short order.

    Reply
  17. Maea

    I’m a little late to this conversation, but from what I’ve noticed people are very afraid of the “rebellious wife.” She’s the cause of poor marital dynamics, failed marriages, and Everything Wrong With The Church World. I’m being a little tongue in cheek here, but it’s true. I wonder…why do we as Christians give rebellious wives so much power?

    It gets tiring after a while, to constantly hear how devout wives, who are truly intention in their faith and their desire to be holy wives, get thrown in with the rebellious wives. Ick.

    Rebellious wives should be addressed accordingly. But, as Hearth has been able to provide, it’s good to be reminded of what marriage can look like. Rebellious wives should not require all other wives to reduce themselves. All wives need to be honest with God, and go from that point.

    Reply
  18. Object of Contempt

    With respect to devout, sincere wives being thrown in with rebellious wives, I haven’t really seen this happen. However, I think christian culture has some really bad problems with perception in some areas. If a stereotype is used to define a rebellious wife, then there is infinite opportunity to simply pick some behavior to attack. Any wife who does that behavior then becomes easily identifiable as one of the rebellious ones.

    I think the real rebellious wives are either a) not present because they don’t pursue God at church — they might be told they have to stop rebelling! OR b) they blend right in because they are very good at acting the part while maintaining their own sovereignty at home. My wife is very rebellious, but she has everyone convinced that she is one of the very devout, submissive ones. This is a problem that goes very deep, and began on day one.

    Aside from that, I find that pastors and christian counselors nearly always have a culturebound view that undermines husbands. I have been on the receiving end off manipulation and defiance, even false accusations and more. I have told my wife that I want her to apologize and repent in the hearing of those that she lied to about me, and manipulated to attack me. This isn’t likely to happen, since she will not even admit any disrespect to me directly — even if I was present and saw it (google: gaslighting “george simon” ). When I describe this to pastors, counselors, etc. they assume that I am causing it. They see symptoms of CPTSD and having no understanding, they treat me with contempt. I was told recently that I just need to forgive automatically, and pray for her. Apparently, if I’d just love her as Christ loves the church, she would *want* to submit. I was also told that I don’t have any place to demand submission from my wife. Demanding submission and respect from my wife is futile anyway. The thing that bothers me is that they have no qualms with undermining the husband’s place, and the way they torture (or ignore) scripture to do it. This is *very* common.

    All the resources I’ve found assume that both husband and wife desire a good marriage to at least be candid and honest through their conflicts. My wife has told me it’s not a sin not to be in love, therefore she thinks that it is okay to never pursue me (and she has admitted that she never has). She believes she is not in sin to leave me out in the cold. The contempt in her is enormous.

    The point I’m trying to make is that the people who really need help in this area are largely invisible to the people who produce the resources. They don’t think of situations like mine at all. The result is that resources intended to help with marriage, especially things like submission, very often only help those who are already convinced and willing to work at improvement sincerely and together. Those who are in the most desperate need have little to no resources.

    After well over twenty years I wish I could afford a divorce, and I *never* thought I would say such a thing.

    Reply
    1. hearthie Post author

      I’m sorry to hear of your pain.

      One thing I hear in your comment is that “if I would X, she would submit” – that’s one of the things that I rail about in this post (only from the opposite perspective). Lie from the Pit, right there – and it causes additional pain.

      I will not say that to you. Only God can change your wife’s heart. That’s a shame, but it’s her shame.

      I am leery of offering anything approaching advice to a man, but at the end of the day, the only solace you have is at the foot of the Cross.

      May God meet you there, and may the blessing you find fill your heart.

      Reply
    2. Maea

      I was actually speaking broadly of what I’ve seen purported on the internet, which is the place where people often talk about these things. Many conversations do center around your situation as well.

      Reply
    3. Maeve

      Maevey the Heretic chiming in again…..

      I’m rather not a fan of the “rebellious wife” concept (who here is even remotely surprised by this?). I mean, how does one define that? “can’t/won’t be the wife her husband wants her to be?’ Just a miserable b***h? I think cloaking s****y behavior in the rather catchall phrase of “rebellious” is not useful; nor is it a good way to actually define the specific problem. Seriously, call the traits for what they are – manipulative, selfish, untruthful, self-centered, rude, cold, callous, whiney, whatever….. but don’t wrap it up in “rebellious”, because then it takes the emphasis away from the offender and brings the other spouse into the equation (after all, in order for one to be rebellious, on must be rebelling against someone/thing else). That’s not a great place to start. One needs to have an individual own his/her own behavior, regardless of the relationship. A b***h is a b***h; and an a*****e is an a*****e, regardless of marital status. Sorry for the profanity in your house, Hearthie. (one year it got rather particularly bad and I gave up swearing for Lent – as my children will tell you, it was “THE BEST LENT EVER!!!” watching me trying to clean up the pottymouth. Le Sigh).

      Reply
      1. hearthie Post author

        -snorts-

        You can be rebellious without being (ahem) bratty. It’s not even particularly difficult. Well. For me. 😉

        But I agree that you should call a spade a spade – if you’re being horrid, you’re being horrid. Be specific, not general.

      2. Elspeth

        Rebellion: To do what one knows is against the express will of the husband, regardless of whether or not he actually said anything about it. I was queen of this one.

        Rebellion: To disobey a direct and unambiguous request from the husband. This can take the form of “Oh, I’ll do that later (when it’s more convenient to my plans even though I know he wanted it done today).” I was pretty good at this too.

        Rebellion: To act in a way that advances one’s own ideas of what direction the family should be heading because “I know better/am more righteous/smarter/whatever”.

        All of these are fully and easily done without being loud, bratty, bitchy, mouthy, belligerent, etc.

        For the record, a wife can be submissive and still be an integral part of the couple, complete with helping make major decisions.

  19. Object of Contempt

    I was intending to make that connection about the formulaic approach, but the topic is so frustrating I got derailed. Elspeth said something that hit a chord, too. It was with respect to how a wife can show contempt for her husband, and then blame him for the poor outcome, as if her contempt were of no consequence. Of course, if a man suggests that his spirit is hurting because of something his wife has done, he is accused of playing the blame game. The connection is not allowed to be made.

    By the way, your response is very respectful and thoughtful. Thank you.

    Reply
  20. Sarah's Daughter

    It gets tiring after a while, to constantly hear how devout wives, who are truly intention in their faith and their desire to be holy wives, get thrown in with the rebellious wives. Ick.

    I have never not deserved to “get thrown in with rebellious wives” even though it has been years since my rebellion was visible and causing damage to my marriage. I know my heart and that which I take to Him and I know it all has its root in rebellion regardless of my desires. The fine tuning is still very much needed. I have yet to meet a woman who is “in tune”.

    Reply
    1. hearthie Post author

      Ah, but when you’re trying your best to be ‘in tune’ and it’s not helping, it is no less frustrating and painful than what OoC expressed. Hearing more of the same over and over and over is salt in the wound.

      Sometimes we need fewer formulas and more Jesus. Okay, we always need more Jesus. 🙂

      Reply
  21. Sarah's Daughter

    I’m curious, your husband sounds like the kind of man who lets you know if something is out of tune. What was it that led you to read the books you read and to implement changes he subsequently told you he didn’t like? If that’s too personal, no problem.

    When I mention fine tuning, it is going to be different for all of us. As LgRobins (where did she go, BTW?) said it so well: the best advice to wives is to do what your husband requires.

    Reply
  22. Elspeth

    It seems to me SD that your definition of “in tune” is “never have a sinful thought ever again”, which by that definition means I too am out of tune although my husband would say I’m close enough to in tune for him. I don’t expect I’ll ever walk in perfectly perfect submission this side of heaven.

    Reply
  23. Maea

    I don’t expect I’ll ever walk in perfectly perfect submission this side of heaven.

    Same here, no matter how hard I try to be “in tune.” No one is perfect at being submissive.

    Reply
  24. Sarah's Daughter

    My intent wasn’t to be overly pedantic, Elspeth. I’m in agreement. There is no formula or specific method (manipulation) to submission. It is a condition of one’s heart towards God – that of obedience or rebellion. Idolatry of our husbands is rebellion to God. Hiding our lamp under a bowl is rebellion to God. Disrespecting our husbands is rebellion to God. Being a help to our husbands (no matter the form that takes) is obedience to God. Since our husbands vary so much, there can not be one prescribed “do this”. While there are some behaviors that are more obvious than others (derrissive eye rolls for example, I haven’t heard of a husband who appreciates those), we really just need to focus on the cues we get from our husbands – who are most often very forgiving of our initial ignorance.

    Though my husband would also tell you that I’m close enough in tune for him, and the temptation to be in-submissive is no longer the primary battle I face, I’m not quite ready to declare myself a non-rebellious wife because I know me and the stupid crap that comes out of my mouth and independent of my husband’s reactions to it, I know I’m out of line and out of tune.
    Here’s an example from a couple weeks ago: He was leaving for the weekend and needed his bags packed before work in the morning. I got up early but ran into a time crunch because of what I put off the night before. I said to him “will you come help me pack your bathroom bag?” He (not being a morning guy) said emotionlessly: “I’ll come back for it” to which I fully internalized my projective interpretation of what he said and spouted, in front of our daughters “oh, for f*** sake!” And huffed into the bathroom and packed his bag quickly. Awarding my own self wife/mother/example of the year. 🙂 I know, some wives would never do that. I would never do that except for the fact sometimes I still do that.

    One of the many things I’m thankful for today and everyday is that my husband is gracious and forgiving , and not a grudge holder.

    Happy Thanksgiving ladies!

    Reply
  25. St. Thomas More Academy

    Ladies,
    In my opinion, after both reading the book several times through and then coming upon a lady who is doing a group study on it, “Created to Be His Help Meet” is a VERY dangerous book. In my opinion, worse than “Fascinating Womanhood”. Now, I must say that a lot of this comes from personal experience — I was raised in many of the same ways that the Pearls describe in their childrearing book “To Train Up A Child” and my relationships with my family of origin have essentially shattered. I have also had to place some pretty severe restrictions on them with regards to what I will not stand for in their relationships with my children.
    I wrote a review of CCTBHHM here, if anybody wants to read it — http://stthomasmoreacademy.blogspot.com/2015/12/book-warning.html
    and I think my concerns are justified. Not to mention the fact that Debi Pearl is extremely rude in her writing. An example is how she treats anybody who can’t mend a screen door or change the oil in her car — it’s sort of like, you lazy lady, how dare you not be able to mend the door yourself, change your tires, and oh, by the way, cook a great dinner and homeschool your kids and drop dead in the process because you’re just lazy. Her favorite word for someone who isn’t a one-woman perpetual motion machine is “dumb-cluck”. Very polite. I would be willing to bet most of us know how to do all these things and we do ’em, or at least most of ’em. I can crank out ’till I drop, and I certainly don’t need someone beating me up verbally once I’m exhausted.
    “Fascinating Womanhood” was written by a Mormon lady. I don’t know if you’ve worked with or had friends who were Mormons, but I grew up with a lot of Mormon friends, so the tone of that book didn’t surprise me. The sections on “sympathetic understanding” and “childlikeness” are best left either unread or you can read them and get a good laugh, because they are ridiculous. However — in my experience, I found that FW was more of a personal development book for me. I was fortunate to have a very good mentor at the time I read it who cautioned me as to the religious background there — you see, in LDS circles, and even more so in FLDS circles, a woman’s salvation literally hinges on whether or not her husband is pleased with her. Especially in the FLDS, the women literally resort to whatever survival tactics they have at their disposal just to make it…..how would you cope if you are only one of multiple wives, or multiple “spirit” wives? The whole LDS theology is such that I am not the least bit surprised as to the FW book — these women literally grasped at straws to do anything possible in the hope that they might become beloved of their husbands, especially with having to compete with so many other women. I completely agree that if you simply read FW, take it literally with no guidance from someone who can take things with the requisite grain of salt, it can ruin things. She absurdly guarantees that your husband will ADORE you if you do all the things she says, and that simply isn’t true. There is no way on earth you can get your husband to love you. He has to decide to do that himself, and anybody with even one working brain cell knows that.

    Reply
    1. LDSReponse

      I have been LDS for awhile now and women’s salvation is not dependent on if her husband is pleased with her. She is saved by keeping the commandments. I have no idea what the FLDS stance is.

      Reply
  26. Sarah's Daughter

    E – do you think we should write a post about alpha men and what they are and are not?? Lots of misconceptions from people who want the fringe benefits without the weight of responsibility, IMO.

    Yes! Please write this. I completely understand what you are saying with the fringe benefits/responsibility – I can recognize this in women who are married to men like your husbands. You mentioned you lived her reality and now you live El’s. What changed? How did the transition happen? I’m hungry to learn these things because of what my daughter is going through right now with a young man who just doesn’t seem to be like my husband and my son so it is new territory for me. Her attraction toward him seems unstoppable at this point so I’m seeking guidance. While I have seen several relationships where the man is like your husbands, it’s so rare to hear from the wife. I believe after reading about you and Elspeth that a woman can be very content and at peace in these relationships, I’ve feared the example like St. Thomas More Academy’s. I couldn’t encourage my daughter into a relationship of quiet desperation where she plows through one 24 hour period at a time all for the thrill of having been swept away by the uber confident, dreamy dude. I’m still in a position (weak as it is) to encourage her away from this guy but the truth is, I believe she’s up for it. She is leaps and bounds beyond where I was at her age.

    Reply
    1. hearthie Post author

      I’m going to get with Els on this, but it boiled down to the (nasty for him) realization that I am, in fact, the weaker vessel, and I can’t bear the burdens that he asks of himself. You find me an alpha male (a real one) who doesn’t hold himself to a crazy high standard, we’re putting him in the cage with the unicorn and the phoenix.

      Reply
      1. Sarah's Daughter

        So many “I get it”‘s going on right now. Thinking back to discussions I’ve had with notorious Alpha’s on Vox Popoli, on FB and in real life. The crazy high standard thing I’ve seen almost destroy a man and his family. His circumstance was beyond his control (blow to the back of his head so heard that he broke all the bones in his face) but the reality of being dependent and unable to even think the way he wanted to drove him down a very dark road.

        And what has appeared to me as “egalitarian” – she can do x,y, and z, maybe isn’t a feminist position, it is what they actually believe?

      2. hearthie Post author

        It is what they actually believe. 🙂 And it is a nasty nasty shock when that isn’t true, it requires re-writing their reality. It helps to think of alpha males as pack-leaders rather than dudes-getting-laid-more-often. What does a pack leader need?

  27. Elspeth

    For the record, I lived STMA’s reality for the first bit of my marriage as well. I just don’t live it now, and I don’t want for one minute to take away from the transition we’ve experienced over the past decade, because it is wonderful, and I am very thankful for it. We are proof positive that people can get better.

    Reply
    1. Maea

      I too, lived STMA’s reality for a long, long time in my marriage. In the last year, we are now recognizing we need to be reading the same book before we get to the same page. Heh.

      What helps is to recognize super submissive/accommodating/sycophant behavior is effective. It’s not. Neither is idolizing husband (BTDT), believing he’s at the same level of God (misuse of “submit to your husbands as unto the Lord”), or appeasing his emotions. Wives are not mothers, and that was one of my biggest flaws.

      His readjustment to understand that I just well…am not a SAM with boobs and a uterus was a big turning point for us.

      Yuuup. BTDT, too. To inject some humor, I was watching a commercial on shoes and commented on how I liked a pair I saw. My husband gave me a look and said, “I noticed you’re a girl. You like shoes.” I wanted to say welcome to planet Earth, but I kept my trap shut. I can’t entirely blame him for thinking the way he did. Important to remember: what’s your husband’s FOO like? How do they treat the complementary aspects of men and women? Do they acknowledge complementarity? If they don’t, it’s a problem.

      Reply
      1. Elspeth

        Important to remember: what’s your husband’s FOO like? How do they treat the complementary aspects of men and women? Do they acknowledge complementarity? If they don’t, it’s a problem.

        For us, I don’t think it was so much a misunderstanding of complementarity as much as my husband being 1) a perfectionist 2) a believer in working hard with intense focus at whatever you put your hands to*, and 3) that he expects the same of his pack, er…wife, LOL.

        There are plenty of female perfectionists and there’s nothing inherently un-feminine about hard work and focus.The breakdown came because my peak intensity (not to mention strength) and focus in certain areas was well below his. But he’s always understood the difference between girls and boys.

        * He also plays hard and kicks back to fully relax fully without the slightest bit of guilt for doing so, something he’s helped me with tremendously.

      2. hearthie Post author

        LOL My hubs also has always known that I’m a girl. The nature of the burden they expect you to be able to bear is different from man to man, but the “of course you can handle this” attitude seems to be the constant.

        I can’t speak for Maea or Els, but the transition period wasn’t pretty. Once you’re on the other side though, totally worth it.

    1. Elspeth

      It is what they actually believe. 🙂 And it is a nasty nasty shock when that isn’t true, it requires re-writing their reality.

      Yes! See? Told you you didn’t need me. This was us, to the letter. There was so much that my husband just expected that I could do and handle. His readjustment to understand that I just well…am not a SAM with boobs and a uterus was a big turning point for us.

      And yes SD, to people who are into the hyper-feminine and hyper masculine ideal, we absolutely looked egalitarian right up until it was apparent that he -and ONLY he- is the captain of this ship. Then male friends/relatives were like, “You the man!” while female friends/relatives were fairly well horrified on my behalf, LOL.

      Reply
  28. Pingback: Because chicks can be enlightened too… | Things I Wish I'd Known Sooner

  29. Pingback: Abused? | Things I Wish I'd Known Sooner

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