What About Love?

At some point during my teenage years, my father gave me a list of requirements for a future suitor. This list was not more than a page long, and it included a variety of doctrinal and political views along with the stipulation that the suitor must be able to provide for me. The point was to ensure that the many I married was doctrinally and politically pure as well as a good protector and provider. My father told me that any man who met the requirements on this list would be given my parents’ blessing to marry me, and my parents would attend and help pay for my wedding, and he would personally give me away.  

Unfortunately, the young man I later met and fell in love with did not meet the religious or political qualifications my father laid out in his list. He did have other qualifications, though. He loved me, for one thing. He cherished me, valued me, respected me, thought I was the best thing ever. He told me I was both beautiful and smart, a perfect combination. He listened to me, to my fears and concerns. He put what I wanted before what he wanted, and respected my boundaries and strange requests. He agreed not to kiss me until I was okay with it (we’re talking months), and he stopped using language I found offensive (you know, the kind of words that no one but a fundamentalist has a problem with).

And most of all, he put up with everything my family put him through. You see, because he didn’t agree with my parents beliefs, he was persona non grata, and he knew that. Yet when he would visit my parents’ house with me, he would avoid conflict and ignore my parents’ attempts to bait him into political or theological conversations. He tried to focus on what he and my family had in common instead. He listened to the condemnations of global warming and discussions of the evils of socialism and the coming governmental collapse and never batted an eye. He knew my family was crazy – and he still loved me.

And you know what? He loved my family too. For all their eccentricities, he saw the good in my parents and focused on that, and never derided or slandered them. More than that, he loved my dozen siblings like they were his own. And they loved him too. No, they adored him. He wrestled with the little kids, played computer games with the bigger boys, and let my sisters prattle on about their dolls and games. He cooked with my siblings, letting them help pour the pancake batter on the griddle. He participated in all their plans and shenanigans. He already had a way with kids even at a time of life when few other young men even have kids on their agenda. And when the whole situation was too much for me and I was overwhelmed by my parents’ emotional manipulation and the fear that what I was doing might be wrong, he held me while I cried and accepted me as I was. He supported me and was there for me. He was a rock I could depend on. He let me cry on his shoulder and listened while I poured out my fears to him. He believed in me and let me be anything I wanted to be. He was amazing. And yet, he attended the wrong church and voted for the wrong candidates, and he therefore did not meet my father’s list of requirements.

Reader, I married my young man. I knew what I saw in him was something I didn’t want to let go of. My parents refused to give me their blessing and were dead set against it, but then that’s only what I expected. They told me I was making a huge mistake that I would later regret, and they refused to participate, but I did it anyway. It’s been several years since my wedding now, and I’ve never regretted it. I literally could not imagine a better husband or father than the young man who beamed at me like I was the sun itself as I walked down the aisle dressed in white to meet him all those years ago.

I recently shared my father’s list of requirements with a valued friend of mine. She was completely taken aback. “You mean, there’s nothing about loving you or treating you well on that list?” she asked. Uh, no. I had never thought of it that way, but there wasn’t. It was all political and doctrinal purity and the ability to provide. She then told me that when she started getting serious with the man to whom she is now happily married, her father asked her only two things: “Does he love you?” and “Does he treat you well?” When she answered yes to both, he gave his hearty approval. To her father, it was love and good treatment that mattered, and everything else was optional.

This conversation made me see just how problematic my father’s list, and his valuing of political and doctrinal purity above all else, really was. After all, an awful, controlling, hateful, abusing man who only wanted to marry me to make me his servant would get my father’s blessing if he met my father’s political and doctrinal purity test and could provide for me. At the same time, my loving, adoring, hard-working husband was unable to gain my father’s blessing no matter how wonderful he was simply because he was a member of the wrong denomination and voted for the wrong political candidate. There is something seriously wrong with valuing doctrinal purity above love and kindness.

According to Christian Patriarchy, love is dangerous, unpredictable, uncontrollable. Correct doctrinal and political views and the ability to lead and provide is what is important; love and kindness are nice, and should be there too, but they’re secondary. What matters is that the suitor has a Biblical understanding of the family and of the roles of the husband and the wife and can protect and provide, because this is what treating the wife well involves, not bringing flowers or saying sweet things or providing a shoulder to cry on. This is probably why a few followers of Christian Patriarchy have gone so far as to embrace betrothal and matchmaking: proper doctrine comes first, love comes second.

I look at my husband today and I think how backwards that all is. Proper doctrine does not guarantee someone will be a loving and devoted husband, and improper doctrine does not mean that he won’t be. I feel my husband’s devotion and love for me every day as he puts my wants before his, listens to my concerns and hopes for the future, supports me in ever endeavor, and romps with our daughter. He never has harsh words for me, never puts me down, never holds me back, never tires of my eccentricities. I love him with all of my heart and look forward to growing old with him. And so I say, what about love?

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11557037093560947882 Anne — QuicksilverQueen.com

    Sounds a lot like my husband…he loved me and cared about me BECAUSE I was me, not so he could make me into what he wanted me to be. We only knew each other online until three days before we got married, but he knew me better than my own father did…because he took the time to get to know ME, not project what he thought I was onto me. I doubt my parents acknowledge my marriage, but I wouldn't trade him for anything.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16232186225573312896 Incongruous Circumspection

    Crap. One day, I want to be like your husband. Reading your description helps me to realize that, in many ways, I am a failure as a husband and a father. Sure, I have sparks of brilliance, but, more often than not, I wouldn't be surprised if my family threw me out on my ear.Thank you for writing. And, by the way, I can't believe in global warming because I live in Minnesota. But, at times, I would welcome the heck out of it.Issues like that are pretty much a non-issue for me, except when someone starts to use it to trample on my water and toilet paper usage, but mostly my wallet.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby

    Anne – Exactly!Incongruous – I shouldn't have used the term "global warming," I should have used the term "climate change." Climate change is a scientifically accepted fact, and I tend to think that the scientists probably know what they're talking about when it comes to things like this better than I do. Also, climate change doesn't mean that everywhere will get warmer – some places will get colder, some will get stormier, etc. On average, though, things are going to heat up, and the evidence shows that they already are. But I really don't want this to turn into a debate about climate change, because that's not the point! Let's leave science to the scientists! As for your fathering skills, understanding you're not perfect is the first step to becoming better. So don't despair! And seriously, my husbands not *perfect.* He's just…pretty darn awesome.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11557037093560947882 Anne — QuicksilverQueen.com

    I agree that the "understanding you're not perfect is the first step to becoming better"…HOWEVER, you can't just rest in that…my dad ALWAYS said "I'm the first to know I'm not perfect" blah blah blah, but the thing was he didn't move PAST it. It was his excuse.Probably not applicable to you Incongruous Circumspection but I couldn't not point that out anyway. lol

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16232186225573312896 Incongruous Circumspection

    Thanks, Anne! I need that a lot too. I know how to beat on myself, but lazy is my middle name. And Libby, my apologies. I wasn't debating it, more than just being facetious. I don't care either way. In fact, the fewer days I can wear a coat, the better.Anyway, the whole purpose of this article is more important than that "debate". Thanks for the reprimand.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby

    Oh no, it wasn't a reprimand, I just wanted to say my piece without turning this into a debate on a whole different topic! No worries!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15654013636892916062 Erika Martin – Stampin’ Mama

    It's interesting that your dad was the one with the list and not you. After all, it wasn't your father marrying the guy, but YOU!When you say your parents didn't participate, do you mean that they didn't come to your wedding? Curious, as that's exactly what happened to me. When I made the decision to marry a man my parents didn't approve of because he went to the wrong church, they refused to come to the wedding, turned people against us, wouldn't let me talk to my brothers and didn't even acknowledge our marriage for a year, instead telling people that we were "living in sin." My father held to old Mosaic law that he could disallow the vows of his daughter because he didn't give his blessing.Your post reminds me of what my dad used to tell us. "You love the one you marry. You don't marry the one you love." UGh! And what's so wrong about marrying the one you love? *sigh*

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11557037093560947882 Anne — QuicksilverQueen.com

    Your post reminds me of what my dad used to tell us. "You love the one you marry. You don't marry the one you love." UGh! And what's so wrong about marrying the one you love? *sigh*My dad used to say that all the time too! x(My father held to old Mosaic law that he could disallow the vows of his daughter because he didn't give his blessing.Same with my folks…when I told my mom I was engaged she said "No you're not," and I'm like "…why?" and she said "because your dad hasn't said you are." Of course once he heard about it and didn't approve, that meant it was undone according to that law, to him.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby

    Erika, Anne, thanks for reminding me that things could have been worse! My dad did accept my wedding as valid, and my family did actually come (they sat in the back), though even that took some arm twisting (my mom did the twisting – she didn't want to miss it and then later regret it). But my siblings weren't allowed to be in my wedding, and my dad refused to walk me down the aisle. Not that I wanted him to at that point anyway – I belonged to ME, I didn't need any "giving away"!I'm going to blog about this later, but my dad was sort of a "reluctant patriarch." Yes, he believed that he was my authority and that that meant I must submit to him, but what actually happened was that when I started questioning what he said and not obeying he simply put me out from under his authority. And with the wedding, he simply refused his blessing and withdrew from me completely (we had been really close growing up). He was like a brick wall, totally emotionless, but I knew that he was hurting inside just like I was.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15654013636892916062 Erika Martin – Stampin’ Mama

    That's so sad, Libby. And what these types of patriarchs don't realize when they do all this stuff, is that it only makes them look stupid, vengeful and angry and no one looks kindly on that. My grandfather walked me down the isle, but it wasn't to give me away, but as an honor to me. My dad refused to come so he obviously refused to give me away. When my father found out that I'd asked my grandfather to walk me down, he called my grandfather and chewed him out and telling him that it wasn't his right to take his place. My grandfather told my father that he refused that privilege and he (my grandfather) was honored to be asked by me and was honored to be a part of it and he was going to do it, regardless.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby

    Erika – My grandfather offered to walk me down the aisle too, actually. I turned him down because I didn't want any more family drama, and also because I really wanted to make a show of my independence. It was nice that he offered, though!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03234821657523195681 Elizabeth

    This is one of the most beautiful love stories I have ever heard. Thank you for sharing it… I was touched and inspired.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15654013636892916062 Erika Martin – Stampin’ Mama

    Libby – That was nice of him to offer. :) I can totally understand your reason for declining the offer, though. Since my parents refused to even come to the wedding and my grandparents were my support net for all the years I survived through patriarchy, it was a good decision for me.

  • http://www.blossomandglow.com Caitlin

    I just thought this post was really touching and sweet. It sounds like you found an amazing man. Congratulations! ♥

  • Jo

    Libby, just wanted to say that your friend's reaction (and what her dad said) reminds me of me. I have a dear male friend – entirely platonic, it's one of those "I've known him so long he's like my brother" and therefore can't imagine being sexually/romantically interested in him.. but I care about him a lot. He has just terrible luck in his love life.. he dated a bit in highschool and Uni, nothing emotionally serious, and then just hadn't connected with anyone for like, 10 years. And finally he has a serious girlfriend. When I finally met her, I asked her, "Is he treating you right?" and asked him "Is she treating you right?" … and that's all that matters to me.

  • Gina

    Thanks for sharing Libby, I'm glad you found such a wonderfull guy! I know a list like that… but perhaps one day it won't be remembered.

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