CTBHHM: On Being Your Husband’s “Playmate”

Created To Be His Help Meet, pp. 42-44

This section follows Debi’s story about the time Mike tried to show off, ended up spilling a sack of garbage, and then marched off in embarrassment leaving her to clean it up. The moral of Debi’s story was the last part, where she attempts to show that if wives just humor their husbands’ juvenile tendencies and approach life with humor their marriages will be full of fun, joy, and laughter. In this passage she moves from her specific anecdote to speaking more generally.

Mike is my playmate. He needs someone to play with every day. I am his help meet. That is, I am his helper, suited to his needs. I meet his need for conversation, companionship, and a playmate.

Once again Debi makes clear the subordinate position of women. Women exist to fulfill men. You know what’s interesting? Debi has never once talked about the ways a man might fulfill needs a woman has. Not once. Why? Because she believes women were created to fulfill men, and not vice versa.

It’s also interesting that Debi chooses the word “playmate.” That’s the word Hugh Hefner used for the models for Playboy magazine. It seems to me that there is some similarity in how Hefner and Debi view women, except that Debi believes each man should have his own, personal “playmate,” sealed with a marriage contract, of course, while Hefner would rather be able to collect scads of them.

Our delight in each other did not happen because he is the perfect man. … It happened and continues to happen because of the choices I make every day. I never have a chip on my shoulder, no matter how offended I have a right to be – and I do have reasons to be offended regularly. Every day, I remember to view myself as the woman God gave this man. This mind set helps me to be just that: a gift, a playmate, his helper.

In other words, Debi says that she and Mike have the relationship they do because she lets him walk all over her. No matter what he does, she always just lets it roll off her back. Rather than trying to address things that annoy her, she ignores them. Why? Because she was created to fulfill him – to be his “gift,” “playmate,” and “helper” – and not vice versa. How fulfilled she is depends on how adept she becomes at ignoring the things about her husband that bother her and remembering that she exists to be her husband’s helper.

Early in our marriage, we each made a commitment (independently) to please and forgive the other no matter how hurtful the actions or words that were spoken. Somewhere over the years, having goodwill and a merry heart to each other has become as natural as breathing. We have learned that all of life is fun and needs to be shared with our best friend, playmate, and lover.

Pledging to always please and forgive your spouse no matter what is a terrible idea! What if your spouse is abusive, either physically or emotionally? You just keep trying to please your spouse, and simply forgive your spouse no matter how bad it gets? What about healthy things like talking about problems, or working to change bad patterns, or going to marital counseling if you need it? I understand pledging to always do the best you can to work through tough times in your marriage together, but making an independent pledge to simply ignore problems and focus on pleasing your spouse – to the extent of ignoring your own self – sets you up for a lot of trouble.

But what’s most interesting about this passage is that, unlike most everything in this book, it’s two-sided. She says that both she and Mike made the same pledge. She speaks of them learning together to share life as best friends, playmates, and lovers. (Quick nitpick: Not all of life is fun, and saying it all is minimizes how painful life can be sometimes, and that it’s okay to hurt sometimes rather than being continuously joyful.) That part – being mutual friends, playmates, and lovers sharing life together – actually sounds like something I would say. But it sticks out as odd in a book that continually reveals how insensitive Mike is to his wife’s feelings and needs and how quick Debi is to step in and clean up after him because she was created to be his “helper.” In the end, I suspect that a husband pleasing and forgiving his wife has different requirements than does a wife pleasing and forgiving her husband.

And then, of course, Debi follows this up by once again likening her relationship with Mike to her relationship with God.

Because I have known such love and closeness with a man, subsequently my understanding of God and my appreciation for him are much deeper. A relationship based on law, rules, willful humility, and formality is death. I have learned to approach God just as I approach my husband with love, joy, and delight.

Debi rejects the idea of basing a relationship on things like laws or rules, but she spends her entire book telling women that they need to submit to, obey, and serve their husbands. Her characterization of her relationship with Mike as being full of love, joy, and delight erases the fact that her relationship is based on a hierarchy of man and helper, master and servant. What she is saying here is that she has found a way to have joy and delight in living a marriage relationship based on obedience and service, and that our relationship with God should be the same.

Debi finishes this section by attempting to speak to women whose pasts and marriages are less than perfect:

Now, I know what some of you are thinking. You think it is too late for you. You are struggling on your second or third marriage to an unbelieving porn addict, or are suffering through emotional scars from your godless youth.

She goes on to explain that Jesus always gives people second changes and that it’s never too late to start again. This is really standard evangelical fare, the argument that you’re never too far gone to turn your life over to Jesus and get a new start.

But what I want to point out here, briefly, is what these sentences reveal about how she categorizes people. Namely, women who don’t think they can have the joyful and cheery relationship (she thinks) she describes must be either married to sinful and unbelieving men, i.e. porn addicts, or suffering emotional scars that a godless youth must leave. But this also reveals something about the women she is targeting with her book, namely those who are married to non-Christian men who are not responsive to their wives’ needs or wants (anyone who would describe their husband as a “porn addict” clearly feels something is broken or troubled in the relationship) and women who, for whatever reason, now regret things they did in their “godless” past.

And now comes the part where I pull this all together. I would simply finish by explaining why I chose the title I did for this post. Debi’s fleeting attempt at egalitarian language aside, this passage illustrates her belief that, as her husband’s playmate, she exists to meet Mike’s needs and fulfill his wants. Understood against this, background, it becomes clear why she believes she must clean up after him and ignore the things he does that bother her. She exists for him, not him for her. But I would ask, does this sort of wifely pattern actually prove helpful to a husband? After all, the patterns she suggests won’t help a husband grow as a person. Instead, they enable a husband to act like a child without having any consequences for doing so. In fact, I would venture to say that I am a better helper to my husband by being an outspoken and equal partner than a woman following Debi’s instructions will ever be by being a silent and long-suffering servant to her husband.

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