CTBHHM: Michael’s Meat, Sit Down and Shut Up, and It’s All in Your Head

Created To Be His Help Meet, pp. 72-73

Now that we’re finally finished with Debi’s scare tactics, we get another anecdote from the early years of Debi and Michael’s marriage.

I remember the night Michael and I married. My new husband decided we needed to go shopping and cook a meal before we went to bed.

Remember that Michael and Debi married on a Sunday night exactly eight days after Michael’s spontaneous and completely out-of-the-blue proposal (they hadn’t even been dating, if you recall). Going to the grocery store right after you get married is a bit odd, but people do crazier things all the time. I still remember the first time my husband and I went shopping together after our wedding—we were honeymooning and needed some more cereal. And swimsuits, which we’d forgotten and left behind. And cooking a meal together late at night can be quite romantic, so okay, go on…

I had no idea how much money he made, or how much he had for our honeymoon.


Maybe I’m just naive, but I thought money was something all engaged couples talk about—indeed, something many couples talk about long before they’re engaged. My husband and I do our finances together, and always have, and we definitely talked circles around money while preparing for our wedding and honeymoon. Marrying someone without knowing how much they make seems like a very bad idea indeed! So too, for that matter, does marrying someone before talking in general about how you as a couple plan to handle money. I mean, I grant that eight days is a very short engagement indeed, but eight days was at least long enough for Debi to ask Michael how much he earned!

But I suppose that’s no the point of this anecdote, and I probably shouldn’t get hung up on it. Let’s continue…

Yet, here we were in the grocery store at 10 P.M. on a Sunday night, having been married for less than an hour, when I first felt the critical spirit rise within me. He was picking out ground beef and was about to pay a very high price. I tried to reason with him. “Don’t you think that is priced too high, and wouldn’t it be better to buy a cheaper priced meet?” He was twenty-five years old and had never had a woman question him about how he was spending his money, and I will never forget the bewildered look on his face. It was as if he were trying to remember who I was and why he had put himself in a position to be criticized.

According to Debi, wives must never, never criticize husbands. And according to Debi, simply suggesting that buying cheaper meat rather than the expensive kind might save some money is criticism. And according to Debi, husbands can’t take criticism, and shouldn’t have to. Thing is, not being able to take input or criticism is not a sign of maturity. It’s a sign of immaturity. The fact that Michael went into shock because he wasn’t used to criticized—and come on, Debi’s comment was input, not even really criticism—doesn’t speak well for him.

Look, when you get married, you’re teaming up with someone else. That means you have to get used to taking input from another person before you make decisions. And that’s what Debi’s comment was—input. The trouble is that Debi’s version of marriage has nothing to do with being a team. It’s more of a master/servant relationship. What the master says goes, and it’s not the servant’s place to question the master’s judgement.

I must have sounded as though I was patronizing him, speaking to him as if he were a stupid kid, because that is how I felt about what he was doing. I was suddenly shocked at my attitude. What right did I have to treat him like a stupid jerk? How did I know how much money he had? I wasn’t his wife yet, in the biblical sense, yet here I was thinking, “You stupid nincompoop. I wouldn’t spend MY money like that!”

I’ve said this before, but Debi seems to be unable to imagine what an equal partnership actually looks like. In her world, one partner must always dominate, and if it’s not the husband it’ll be the wife. What she’s doing here is reinforcing that dichotomy.

Look, it’s possible to offer input—and even constructive criticism!—without treating someone like they’re a “stupid kid.” People do it all the time! I mean, it’s true that people sometimes (often?) offer input and/or criticism in ways that demean or put people down. I’ve done it myself, and I’ve had it done to me as well. It’s absolutely something to avoid, and I don’t want to negate that it happens. But offering input and advice can be about making truly cooperative decisions, and can be—and very frequently is!—done in perfectly healthy ways.

Debi knows exactly what she’s doing here, and she’s doing it well. With her anecdote, she is inferring that offering your husband input or wanting a say in decisions that affect both of you is automatically infantilizing him and treating him like “a stupid jerk.” I mean, note the exact wording of what she said to her husband! “Don’t you think that is priced too high, and wouldn’t it be better to buy a cheaper priced meet?” That simple question, that simple suggestion, is portrayed as treating your husband like “a stupid jerk.” And apparently, it’s just too much for a man to take. I mean, really? How hard would it have been for Michael to say “Today is our wedding day, so I thought we were due for a treat” or “It’s okay, we can afford it on our budget”?

So, let’s see how Debi draws out the moral of her little story:

Satan didn’t even give me a chance to get properly bedded before he introduced himself to me, just as he did to Eve, and I, like my big sister Eve, fell for his line. I was amazed at my critical spirit. There, standing at that meat counter, I made up my mind that I would not allow this to be the story of my life. I would learn to be a woman of God, regardless of what my husband bought or how dumb he seemed to be in the way he spent money.

Again, I absolutely admit that having a “critical spirit” is toxic and can mess up relationships. But there is such thing as balance. Debi is suggesting that the alternative to having a “critical spirit” is to just let her husband do whatever he wants. No, really. Look at her last sentence—she concludes that resisting Satan’s temptation (i.e. a critical spirit) means keeping her mouth shut and letting her husband spend money however he likes, even if his financial decisions look disastrous. Debi honestly doesn’t see any middle ground of input and constructive criticism, of treating your husband as a partner and working together with him to make collaborative decisions. It’s either be overly critical of everything your husband does and treat him like he’s a child, or just shut up and sit down. It’s like a middle ground doesn’t even exist!

Having told this anecdote, Debi makes a couple of additional points. First, there’s this:

Were you mad at your husband this week over something he did, like being late, speaking to you rudely, or yelling at the kids? Did you seethe with bitterness and intentionally avoid looking into his eyes so as to express your disdain? … Yes, your husband deserved it. Yes, it is your right. But is there any satisfaction in your punishing responses? … He practices his faults, and you practice your bitterness. You are both practicing for divorce. Your children watch and are practicing being poor future mothers and fathers.

He has faults . . . you’re annoyed by those faults . . . I could have sworn I knew some way to solve this problem. Something about communication, maybe?

Look, I will be the first to say that my marriage isn’t perfect. No one’s is. We have our differences just like anyone else. But if I get mad over something my husband is doing (or isn’t doing), I talk to him about it. And we work it out, you know, like two adults. Debi’s solution is to ignore the husband’s faults and ignore the root of the wife’s bitterness and instead . . . drum roll please . . . state that the wife should just stop being bitter. That is so stunted and backwards I’m having troubles finding words for it. Also, let’s cut this gendering. Husbands grow bitter at their wives’ faults too. It’s not a gender thing. It cuts both ways. Husbands and wives—like men and women in general—both have faults, and sometimes those faults grate on each other, and if that’s not addressed it can lead to bitterness. And again, the solution is to communicate about it and work it out rather than just letting it build up.

Let me give an example. There was a time in my marriage when I was really bothered by Sean playing computer games, something he did a lot. They seemed wasteful and purposeless to me, and when he was playing them everything—kids, dishes, what have you—would fall to me. For a while, I just got upset and bitter about it, and then I realized that was completely pointless. So I told him my concerns and how I felt. He listened to what I had to say, and then told me that computer games help him relieve stress, and relax after a long day. After we talked, I no longer saw computer games as completely wasteful, and Sean understood that it was hard for me when he played computer games when there were things that needed doing. So we found a compromise—he would still play computer games, but would let me know before he started in case there were things that needed doing that he was unaware of. But if Debi had her way, I would be keeping my mouth shut while Sean played computer games willy nilly, and would see my ensuing bitterness as a personal fault to be overcome.

I want to make one more point regarding the way Debi ignores actually addressing the husband’s faults. What if Michael was looking at the expensive meat because he had never learned how to handle money? Wouldn’t it be a good idea for Debi to help spur him to learn good financial skills, rather than letting him recklessly spend his way into debt? And let’s look at the other examples she gives here. If a man is constantly late, wouldn’t it be a good idea for his wife to help him learn some time management skills? If a man is constantly rude to his wife, wouldn’t it help for her to let him know that that is not appropriate? If a man yells at his kids, wouldn’t it be a good idea for a wife to help him learn to better manage his anxiety or frustration around the children, or to gain some better parenting skills? But Debi’s solution leaves these men with these very real problems, and prevents their wives from helping them correct them.

Debi’s “sit down and shut up” formula doesn’t fix anything whatsoever. In the ensuing paragraphs, Debi talks about habits, and about how you need to set good mental habits, and about how bitterness is the result of giving in to bad thought processes. In other words, it’s all in your head.

Anxiety attacks, depression, somber moods, feelings of not being in control of your mind, unfounded fears, and bursts of anger all start in the mind. They are what you have allowed yourself to become through your 40,000 daily thoughts. By reacting the same way repeatedly, you establish habits that become so much a part of you that they may seem to be organic—a part of your physical make-up.

Debi makes any mental issue—be it depression or bitterness or anxiety—a person’s own fault. It’s all in your head. The solution isn’t to address the root cause of bitterness, or anxiety, or to see whether there is an actual medical issue going on that needs treatment. The solution is to just change your thought patterns, because you’re doing it to yourself. As Debi points out, God tells us to “guard our minds.”

I don’t think I really need to say how insidious this is, but I will anyway. You think you should offer your husband input on a decision, or—God forbid!—criticism? Think again! Just shut up and let your husband keep doing whatever it is that’s bothering you! He’s spending you into poverty? He’s yelling at the kids? Anything’s better than you—God forbid!—correcting him! Oh, now you’re growing bitter over your situation and your husband’s faults, which have been left unaddressed? How could you let this happen? You’ve created this bitterness yourself in your own head and need to exercise your mental energy to break this terrible habit! What, now you’re feeling depressed, and like your life isn’t worth living? It’s all in your head! You’ve done this to yourself! Repent! Debi talks over and over about creating a “heavenly marriage,” but the marriage she’s describing sounds more like a terrible, dysfunctional hell hole.

Ironically, Debi finishes by quoting II Timohty 1:7—”For God hath not given us a spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” Debi seems to be quoting it because it uses the phrase “a sound mind” and she was just talking about things like anxiety and depression, but it seems to directly contradict what she said earlier about how important it is to be afraid—literally afraid—of God. Furthermore, to be honest, the verse seems to go against the blaming, vindictive feel of this entire passage. Debi’s attempt to proof text just isn’t working out for her here!

Finally, get excited, because next week we learn that there are exactly three kinds of men.

CTBHHM: Playing Telephone with God
CTBHHM: "I Am His Water"
CTBHHM: What "Companionship" Means in Pearl World
CTBHHM: A Young Wife Should Be "Bored and Lonely"
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.

  • BringTheNoise

    Oooh, next week sounds FUN! Will I be type 1, 2, or 3?

    And why do I have the feeling that the answer is “None of the above, along with 99.999% of the rest of men in the world”?

  • BabyRaptor

    “It was as if he were trying to remember who I was and why he had put himself in a position to be criticized.”

    To any sane person, that would be a giant red flag. How on earth she could think this was okay is completely beyond me.

    • Anonymouse

      Once again Debi demonstrates how much contempt she has for men, and how her version of faith treats men like helpless newborns to be constantly coddled and managed.

      • Nea

        I’m not wildly sure it’s Debi’s contempt. The more punishing her words against women, the more she bangs on about “it’s all in your mind,” the more I hear Michael’s voice nagging at her, wearing her down, gaslighting her very thoughts until she snaps. The contempt is implied for men, but it’s outright stated for women… and who benefits? It’s Michael, not Debi, who thinks that being questioned is being defied. It’s Michael, not Debi, who needs to enforce that wives are for sex (“before he even bedded me”) and that women are inherently deluded sinful (“my big sister Eve.”) And most importantly, it’s Michael, not Debi, who has an extremely vested interest in telling suppressed, angry, depressed, confused women that their problems are what they’ve “made themselves.”

        Debi has internalized it all, she probably believes it all at this point… but it didn’t originate with her.

      • http://republic-of-gilead.blogspot.com Ahab

        Agreed. This kind of Christian patriarchy is toxic and demeaning for both sexes.

    • ScottInOH

      It’s certainly a red flag to me. Yikes.

      I’m reminded of Amanda Marcotte’s post from yesterday (http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/02/28/photo-essay-shows-how-abusers-manipulate-victims/), which includes a discussion of “the steps an abuser goes through in order to manipulate the victim into accepting abuse.” Step #1 is a “whirlwind romance”–8 days probably qualifies–and it goes on to describe most of Michael and Debi’s relationship.

      Debi looks like a victim of serious emotional abuse to me. I would feel much sorrier for her if she weren’t trying to make sure lots of other women ended up the same way.

      • ScottInOH

        This would also explain why Michael would approve of Debi’s accounts (and perhaps embellish them, as Caramello says below). Abusers don’t think they are doing anything wrong. Many of them are glad for the chance to explain themselves. (“She thought I was a NINCOMPOOP. I could tell by the way she was looking at me. I couldn’t let that stand, could I?”)

    • ako

      Yeah, if a guy’s response to his wife encouraging him to buy cheaper meat is “Who is this woman and why did I bring her into my life?”, the problem is him.

    • Emily

      Right?! I have conversations like that with my spouse at the grocery store All. The. Time, to the point that my spouse has internalized my “shop sales and be cautious!” perspective and I am often the one saying, “I know it’s expensive, but I really want to make a special meal with this meat, do you mind if I get it?” If he didn’t look at those conversations as normal, totally appropriate, everyday things we would have a giant problem.

  • Jasmyn

    I’ve known a few people who had fathers who yelled and had mothers who said/did nothing. Noone ever told me,”Wow! I sure am proud of mom for performing her godly duties and staying quiet.” I have heard, “My dad wa distant and emotionally abusive for years,and my mother just allowed it.” Debi seems to be ignoring the mental and emotional well being of children. Of course, this hardly surprises me.

    • http://www.carpescriptura.com/ MrPopularSentiment

      This is something that’s been confusing me about this CTBHHM series. Debi goes on and on about preserving a husband’s delicate feelings, but she never mentions children. Maybe I’m just a crazy liberal feminist atheist, but doesn’t being a family imply a need to balance the needs of all members (or, if we’re really hung up on the whole “women are slaves” thing, at least balancing the needs of husbands and children)?

      • Nea

        In her world, children are things you whip until they show you nothing but happiness and obedience. The only need she thinks children have is to have the crap (and individuality) beaten out of them.

      • http://sylvia-rachel.livejournal.com sylvia_rachel

        Not really. Because the children are at the bottom of the hierarchy, while the husband is at the top, so naturally the husband’s needs will always come first.

        Which presumably explains why it’s wrong to suggest that your husband shouldn’t yell at the kids, but praiseworthy to make sure that your kids never bother your husband — even if you have to whack them with a stick to do it :S

  • http://atheistlutheran.blogspot.com MargueriteF

    This stuff is just creepy. If I had a husband, and he were rude to me, he’d hear about it. There’s nothing wrong with valid criticism or complaints, or about discussing normal things like the price of meat with your spouse. She seems unable to differentiate between nagging and normal human interaction.

  • Edward Gemmer

    I’m trying to figure out what would have been cheaper than ground beef. I mean seriously, who celebrates their wedding with ground chuck? Maybe he gave her the side eye because there wasn’t any actual cheaper meat available except for Spam and Vienna sausages.

    • http://criticallyskeptic-dckitty.blogspot.com Katherine Lorraine, Tortue du Désert avec un Coupe-Boulon

      Fat percentage can sometimes boost the cost of ground beef. An 80-20 may be less expensive than, say, a 95-5 (or the other way around, I’ve been a vegetarian for over a year so I haven’t bought ground beef in a long time. Although I do remember that a 90-10 or 85-15 are better tasting in the end.)

    • Uly

      Well, there are different types of ground beef. When I go to the store, I can get sirloin for about twice as much as chuck, and they’re both ground. Ground turkey is cheaper, and chicken on sale is usually cheaper still. Organ meats are generally comparable to ground beef or a little lower, but unless you’re buying chicken livers you’ll have to buy more at a time, so you spend more up front.

    • Christine

      Ground beef can be very expensive. What I question, though, is why they’re that worried about the cost if they’ve already decided to buy something that pricey.

      • http://www.facebook.com/lucrezaborgia Lucreza Borgia

        It’s very pricey. If I could grind it myself, I would! Until that day, I keep a close eye on the local store sales and buy large amounts of chuck at the absolutely lowest price, then separate and freeze. My husband thinks I’m crazy.

      • Christine

        What’s the blockage to grinding it yourself? You don’t have a good source of meat to grind? If you have the freezer space to buy it on sale then you probably have the freezer space to grind your own.

      • http://www.facebook.com/lucrezaborgia Lucreza Borgia

        I don’t have the freezer space or a grinder :(

  • http://criticallyskeptic-dckitty.blogspot.com Katherine Lorraine, Tortue du Désert avec un Coupe-Boulon

    The thing that’s scary about this stuff is how she discounts mental illnesses. Depression, anxiety, stress, all of these things can KILL you if they remain undiagnosed. Debi’s advice is basically just ignore something that may result in your death or incapacitation since it’s all in your head.

    • The_L

      As a person with both depression and anxiety disorder, I hate “it’s all in your head” as an excuse not to do something about emotional or psychological problems. Brain tumors are in your head too, but that doesn’t mean they can’t kill you.

    • Nea

      Not just the woman’s death or incapacitation. See: Andrea Yeats.

    • ako

      I have a lot of friends with mental illness, and endless repetitions of “Not happy? It’s all your fault for letting yourself have wrong thoughts and feelings! Try harder! And micromanage every thought or feeling or else terrible things will happen!” is quite often a big part of the problem, not the solution. Piling more of the same on is just toxic.

  • Caramello

    The whole story is deeply uncomfortable. Why did they get married at 9pm and not have food in for dinner already? Fine if they were a happy, egalitarian couple who also happened to be unconventional and spontaneous, but taken with the weird controlling nature of their relationship, that sounds like a way for Michael to catch his new wife off-balance with the unexpected announcement that nothing has been planned in advance for this very special meal, with possible subtexts of (a) “Don’t imagine you’re valuable to me,” (b) “Don’t imagine you get any say in what we do this evening,” and (c) “I’m now going to show you how I want you to do my shopping in future”. And could she really go from being a normal person making a normal, reasonable comment to being a doormat within a few minutes, on the basis of Michael’s crestfallen expression? Sounds more like he carefully explained to her his own wildly disproportionate reaction to ‘criticism’, which would be completely in line with his other narcissistic tendencies. Yuck.

    Of course if she really was thinking “You stupid nincompoop. I wouldn’t spend MY money like that!” then that’s a disproportionate reaction too. But from the first part of the narrative, it sounds more as if she was just thinking “Maybe the cheaper meat would be better,” and then she puts a really exaggerated interpretation on it afterwards when she wants to explain that she was being controlled by Satan.

    Finally, even if we imagine that Debi would really think like this even without Michael, and hasn’t been horrendously Stockholmed, how sick must Michael be to have read all this stuff and approved it? Shouldn’t he be querying the negative way she talks about herself, not to mention being embarrassed about the number of times she mentions behaviors of his that upset her? The spilt garbage incident alone should have mortified him! The man must be a complete monster. I guess poor Debi is just practising a survival strategy — but it’s a shame she has to do it by publicly glorifying abuse.

  • http://afterabrokenwrist.blogspot.com/ Janice

    “Satan didn’t even give me a chance to get properly bedded” WTF Debi, that would make no difference!

  • http://equalsuf.wordpress.com Jayn

    “Debi makes any mental issue—be it depression or bitterness or anxiety—a person’s own fault. It’s all in your head. – See more at: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism/2013/03/ctbhhm-michaels-meat-sit-down-and-shut-up-and-its-all-in-your-head.html#sthash.Ilge11IJ.dpuf

    As my husband once put it, “And diabetes is all in your pancreas”.

    The thing that gets me, though, is that pointing out a price difference isn’t about how much money you have. It’s about not spending more than you need to, and that’s good financial sense no matter how much money you make. There may be a reason to buy the higher priced version, or there may not, but the question should at least be asked.

    Also, did anyone else read, “My new husband decided we needed to go shopping and cook a meal before we went to bed,” as, “Michael decided he wanted his new wife to cook him a meal”?

    • http://musings.northerngrove.com/ Jarred H

      Also, did anyone else read, “My new husband decided we needed to go shopping and cook a meal before we went to bed,” as, “Michael decided he wanted his new wife to cook him a meal”?

      That, and I was a bit surprised he didn’t just send her shopping on her own.

      • Nea

        And trust the little woman off the leash before she was even properly bedded?

    • Nea

      Also, did anyone else read, “My new husband decided we needed to go shopping and cook a meal before we went to bed,” as, “Michael decided he wanted his new wife to cook him a meal”?

      I read it as “I was gagging to have sex with my man and he was making clear everything happened on his schedule.” The one thing throughout these excerpts is that Debi enjoys sex with Michael… but she’s not allowed to initiate it. Presumably because that would be the woman telling the man what she wants, which is Right Out. The closest she can do is challenge him into conquering her (as in getting him annoyed with her and then channeling that into sex).

  • Christine

    And once again we see how anti-feminism hurts men too. You’d better know EVERYTHING, because there is NO ONE who can help you figure out how to live your life. Drop that juvenile expectation that there would be someone who you can rely on, and talk to on a daily basis if something is difficult, or who will step in and tell you that there’s a better way if you don’t know. You are the only adult person in your life.

    A man might want to make things easier for his wife (so that she can do more work for him naturally), and yet he’s never going to know that he’s asking her to do things in the most difficult way possible. Because, as a man, he shouldn’t be forced to understand degrading womanly things like housework, and it would be very wrong for his wife to tell him that something could be done better, because that might be criticizing him. I’m sure that Debi, in a case like this, would just say that the wife should work harder, until she makes the impossible happen.

    • Shannon

      This is exactly what I was thinking!

    • Kat

      “You’d better know EVERYTHING, because there is NO ONE who can help you figure out how to live your life.”
      Exactly my thought. About a year, my fiance was looking for a better job and not having much luck. I have a fair amount of experience helping people write resumes, and I asked if he needed any help with his. He said yes, no one had ever shown him how to write one, and he would appreciate the help. So we went through it together and improved it. Apparently that was the wrong thing to do, because it involved finding what was wrong with his previous version and making suggestions. Not to mention insinuating that he might not know everything in the first place.
      He sure seemed grateful to me, but I bet that was all an illusion. You know, because I’m going crazy as a result of shrieking all that criticism at him or something.

  • damianarose

    Wow….. I have recently stumbled upon your blog and I LOVE it….I especially love the CTBHM reviews you are doing. I read the one about single moms first and it just enraged me, you know has a ragged divorced single mom about to turn into a lesbian. lol I think my ex husband would have probably stayed around a lot longer had a done what Debi here is preaching…But I wouldn’t have wanted him to and that’s the simplest answer. Who “wants” a man to stay with them knowing that they only do so because their wife is a subservient dog? Marriage is a partnership….what Debi here is describing is a slave master relationship without the fun of BDSM.

  • http://sylvia-rachel.livejournal.com sylvia_rachel

    OK, I know I write this every week, but: Just when I think this book can’t get any creepier, any more dysfunctional, any more JUST PLAIN WRONG, it does. And, I mean, I already knew that the Pearls are creepy and dysfunctional, but … but …

    Now, what strikes me about this week’s little window on dysfunction is that Debi says some things that I think one could trace back to what could be pieces of decent, workable advice. This makes me wonder whether someone once gave Debi these two pieces of advice and this is what she (or, more likely, Michael) turned them into. Or maybe I’m just making stuff up.

    The first one is: Don’t patronize your spouse or talk to him/her like you think s/he is stupid. This is really true! You shouldn’t do that! You should not, in fact, say to your spouse, “You stupid nincompoop. I wouldn’t spend MY money like that!” If only Debi had stopped there, instead of extrapolating from “Don’t call your spouse a stupid nincompoop” to “Don’t ever say anything to your husband that might be construed as even mild disagreement with anything he does or says“!

    The second one is: Your habits of thought can have profound effects on your mood. This is also a real, actual thing — although obviously people’s mileage will vary. I have been married for 15 years to someone who suffers from clinical depression; he’s been on medication for a long time, and the medication helps and is necessary, but it has also made an enormous difference for him to start recognizing and changing habits of thought that were making him feel worse instead of better. The brain is an amazing thing, and some stuff actually is in your head: to take an example from my own life, when someone cuts you off in traffic you can choose to get really angry and be convinced they did it on purpose and then obsess about it for the rest of the day, or you can — it may take some effort — choose to take a deep breath and let it go soon after it happens, reminding yourself that this person doesn’t even know you, nobody was hurt, and there are happier and/or more productive things you could be thinking about. The same thing really does apply in relationships — it’s a bad idea to become obsessed with small annoying things such that they loom larger and larger and ultimately lead you to freak out — but with the difference that your partner is someone who does know you, and so while sometimes you will need to let some things go because they aren’t worth it, sometimes — often — you will need to actually address things, and s/he will need to address things, and they will be REAL THINGS that need to be changed or at least understood differently, not imaginary or inconsequential things that will go away if you just ignore them. Does it help your relationship if you keep your attitude positive? Yes. Does it help your relationship to be so deep in denial that not even the top of your head shows? Somehow I doubt it.

    I’m struck again in this passage by how little is expected of men in this model of family life, and how much, by contrast, is expected of little children. Elementary- and even preschool-age kids are expected to absorb disappointments and setbacks without showing any upset, delay gratification to whatever (possibly indefinite) extent the adults in charge consider appropriate, always show respect however little the adults deserve it, and even deal with what may be serious physical injuries without “whining” and without involving adults — yet an adult man can’t deal with polite, non-confrontational input from his wife on a topic she knows something about? WTF, Debi?

    • http://equalsuf.wordpress.com Jayn

      “Just when I think this book can’t get any creepier, any more dysfunctional, any more JUST PLAIN WRONG, it does. – See more at: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism/2013/03/ctbhhm-michaels-meat-sit-down-and-shut-up-and-its-all-in-your-head.html#comments

      My expectations have gotten to a point where something has to be extremely, extremely bad for me to do more than sigh and shake my head.

      “Now, what strikes me about this week’s little window on dysfunction is that Debi says some things that I think one could trace back to what could be pieces of decent, workable advice. – See more at: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism/2013/03/ctbhhm-michaels-meat-sit-down-and-shut-up-and-its-all-in-your-head.html#comments

      I think that’s the most dangerous aspect of a lot of this, and I think it can be traced back to the black-and-white worldview she has. Something is either Right or Wrong, and something that is Right has to be taken to its extreme or it’s actually Wrong. There’s no ‘sometimes’ or ‘a little’ in her mind, and that’s terrifying because she takes otherwise decent advice and turns it into a dangerous absolute.

      • http://equalsuf.wordpress.com Jayn

        I’m also curious why C&P from here has suddenly started adding links to my clipboard…

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        So am I, actually.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      I absolutely agree. And I think this is why the book becomes insidious. It has these things sprinkled throughout, like jimmies on the top of an ice cream cone. But somehow Debi manages to twist these things beyond recognition! It’s painful to watch.

      • http://sylvia-rachel.livejournal.com sylvia_rachel

        I’ve noticed the same phenomenon in their “child training” materials. Lots of their articles are full of perfectly unobjectionable and even positive stuff like the importance of spending time with your kids, having fun together, taking their childish joys seriously, showing your love for them, etc., and then *bump* all of a sudden they’re telling you that part of showing your kids you love them is whacking them repeatedly with plumbing supply line, and you’re like … O_O

  • el

    So the nature of godly gender related inequality isn’t even President/ Vice President, it’s more like Master/ Slave?

    Good to know.

  • http://tellmewhytheworldisweird.blogspot.com/ perfectnumber628

    This book just gets worse and worse. The scary part is some people might actually read it and think it’s what God wants. Ugh.

    • Rosie

      The scary part is that someone might be one of my six nieces.

      I might hang on to the copy my sister loaned me indefinitely, just to keep it out of their hands.

      • http://abasketcase.blogspot.com Basketcase

        Excellent plan. Alternatively, you could burn it. I would go with burning myself. Then no-one will ever read that copy again…

      • Monimonika

        I would advise against burning the book. The book is still technically someone else’s property (the sister’s) and it would help to have it on hand if there comes a time to point out how awful the book literally is to someone else.

      • Rosie

        Honestly, I’m not even sure it belongs to my sister. It might be from somebody in her bible study, or church, or homeschool group.

        But if I knew for sure I could do anything I wanted with it, I think I’d scribble notes and rebuttals in all the margins rather than burning it. So that hopefully the next reader would be able to recognize just what all is wrong with it.

  • dj pomegranate

    “He was twenty-five years old and had never had a woman question him about how he was spending his money.”


    • dj pomegranate

      Also, ““Satan didn’t even give me a chance to get properly bedded” is just squicky on so many levels.

    • http://sylvia-rachel.livejournal.com sylvia_rachel

      Yeah. Most of what I know about managing money I learned from my mom. Just sayin’.

    • http://sylvia-rachel.livejournal.com sylvia_rachel

      Yeah. Most of what my brother and I know about managing money, we learned from our mom. Just sayin’.

    • Lee

      No kidding. Where did he grow up, on Athos?

      (Ethan of Athos by Lois McMaster Bujold.)

  • Gail

    I think I see what’s going on here. Debi is trying to make her marriage to Michael seem so terrible that he’ll never have any other options should he decide to leave her.

    • http://www.carpescriptura.com/ MrPopularSentiment

      That is GENIUS!

  • butterfly5906

    I’m curious what Debi (or Michael) thinks husbands should do if their wives do something that annoys them? Just smile and accept it, because anything else would be showing a critical spirit and practicing for divorce? Because a man offering his opinion about the way his wife is doing something is calling her a “nincompoop” and is a sin, right? Right?

    • http://abasketcase.blogspot.com Basketcase

      I suspect the answer to that one is coming in a future installment.
      And its been somewhat established with the rubbish incident too, when she laughed at him and he forced himself on her (which of course, she claimed to enjoy. I cant say whether she actually did or not, but man that was a yeuck bit to read)

  • http://eschaton2012.ca Eamon Knight

    My former Christian self is as boggled and appalled as my current atheist self. Back when I was engaged, the Christian marriage books recommended to us were all about communicating with your spouse about, well, everything — money, sex, what they could do that would make you feel valued and appreciated, habits they have that annoy you. Yeah, there was some confusing some-are-more-equal-than-others crap about submission (which was supposed to be mutual, except when it wasn’t) in the mix, but mostly it was the same as a lot of secular relationship advice, with some Bible verses sprinkled on (just to prove that Christianity totally had this figured out way before modern psychology came along).

    Debi doesn’t seem to know of any way to handle marital friction other than “STFU and pretend you enjoy it” (good, by her standards) or “Get all passive-aggressive, bitter, and manipulative” (bad, by any standard) . “Darling, X isn’t working and we need to do it differently…” does not seem to be in her vocabulary.

  • Stony

    “it’s Michael, not Debi, who has an extremely vested interest in telling suppressed, angry, depressed, confused women that their problems are what they’ve “made themselves.” ”

    Nea mentions this above and I think it’s important to remember that Michael explicitly vetted every word in this book. If I wrote this, and handed it to my husband to read, I’m pretty sure he would be horrified, hurt, and maybe a little angry at the pathetic, ridiculous man-child portrayed. And yet Michael has created his little fiefdom with a slave wife, who lauds him at every opportunity, and sends this way of life out as prescriptive. It is a grotesquerie of mammoth proportion.

    • http://www.carpescriptura.com/ MrPopularSentiment

      If my husband and done that garbage incident thing, he’d be humiliated and would never want me to tell anyone. Ever.

  • J-Rex

    You know, egalitarianism is regarded as much more confusing than patriarchy by Christians. They say that it’s confusing to not know what women want or how the sexes are supposed to interact in X situation. It’s so much easier if we just know that women are good at these things and men are good at these, and this is how men and women interact. Always.
    But it’s weird to see how even in a situation that is stereotypically something the woman is better at, she’s still not allowed to help. And she mentions that a woman shouldn’t even correct her husband for yelling at their kids. Women are always stereotyped as being better parents and having more understanding of what their kids need in a given situation, but they can’t step in even if they’re supposedly better at it? It’s so disturbing that patriarchy is all about the different roles of men and women, but it doesn’t even let women take charge of what she’s supposedly good at.
    In an egalitarian relationship, whoever is better at shopping or likes it more can do it, or they can do it together. That’s so much more simple! The only thing that’s more confusing about egalitarianism is that you have to actually get to know your spouse.

  • saraquill

    Just reading this post made me think of how attractive it makes celibacy look. Maybe purity ring groups should hand out this book to discourage its members from ever thinking of marriage.

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ WMDKitty

    This book, “Created to be his helpmeet”, should have been titled “how to be a doormat”.

    • SirWill

      Hey hey hey! That’s not fair at all!

      To doormats, that is. I know some very stiff and respectable doormats. This book does not describe doormats.

      Unfortunately, I can’t think of anything that’s walked on more than doormats. We need a new word, now!

      • LadyCricket

        The sole of a shoe? A sidewalk? …Naw, everything I can think of that gets walked on has more self-respect than women like Debi.

    • Rosie

      I’ve told people it should be subtitled “How To Be a Victim”. Less humorous, perhaps, but accurate.

    • Jasmyn

      When I started reading this to my husband (it’s our favorite Friday activity. We laugh and discuss), he heard helpmeat. He literally thought that they meant women were simply pieces of meat to help men. Since then, in my house, we’ve started using the made-up term meatslave. He says it makes far more sense because that’s all women are in the Pearl’s world.

  • http://smashed-rat-on-press.com/ The Rodent

    Just out of curiosity… You quote, and write: “cheaper priced meet” twice. Is that typo in the original? Or made during re-typing for the blog?

  • http://smashed-rat-on-press.com/ The Rodent

    Oh, and this has to be one of the creepiest things I’ve ever read:

    ” Satan didn’t even give me a chance to get properly bedded before … ”


  • Kimberly

    ” Satan didn’t even give me a chance to get properly bedded before … ” so creepy and weird, I couldn’t even wrap my mind around it. Our church taught submission, and as the talkative, strong, extrovert with my husband as the passive introvert, it was very difficult for me to play that role. As others have said, I felt responsible to my child to call my husband out when he was being unfair, lacking in compassion, rude, or irritable. He grew up in a family where both parents were distant and authoritatve–duty over relationship–and he often tried to deal with our child the same way–which I could see putting distance between them. I wanted my child to know that being treated rudely was not okay, and I didn’t support it. So if my husband was being unfair, I called him on it in front of our child. Our Christian training said to discuss matters in private away from the child, but I felt it was more honest and healthy to show him that I would stick up for him if Dad was being unfair and that Dad needed to deal with it right then and there and not have resentment building among us. As a result, we all have a great relationship, I now have an adult son who doesn’t let people run over him.

  • saramaimon

    the part about helping your spouse learn life skills like time and money management- id say only if its warmly welcomed. otherwise back off.

  • http://thechurchproject.me Tracey

    Sylvia Rachel is right that Debi embeds good advice with bad. I am familiar with working to stop negative thinking patterns that come with depression. It’s certainly not the only therapy I use and it would be wrong to suggest its the only therapy ANYONE should use. Treatments need to be individualized. But Debi probably can’t see individuals at all. All she sees is ‘man or woman?’ and that’s all she thinks one needs to know.

  • Ember

    I can’t even fathom living the way Debi suggests. Long, long story, but in short my boyfriend has been in treatment for cancer for about 6 months now. Most of the time, I actually do have to unquestioningly cater to him because he isn’t healthy enough to do much more than push himself to eat, take short walks, and do his physical therapy exercises. Between that and generally worrying about his health, it’s been so stressful I’ve been in the hospital recently myself for severe GI upset (currently looking for therapists) – and I do schedule time to get away and do what I want for a bit. To be living like this with no “me time,” for no purpose beyond “because he said so,” is unimaginable.

    On top of that, a few weeks ago I may have literally saved his life by throwing a “sinful, devil-guided” fit over his lack of care for himself. Post-chemo he spiked a high fever with a rash and could barely stand up, yet refused to even call his doctor. He understandably did not want to end up hospitalized, but those symptoms are undeniably dangerous. I talked to him about it a few times in the morning, and when nothing had changed by noon I went to, “call your doctor right now, or I will.” Turned out his white cell count was less than 250, with an infection starting in his abdomen.

    But, you know… My bad, Debi. I guess I should stop being so “bitter,” and next time I’ll just let him slip into a coma. *eyeroll*

  • http://sylvia-rachel.livejournal.com sylvia_rachel

    I keep thinking about this.

    Anyone else here read Lois McMaster Bujold? Because there’s a line from her book Komarr — which is largely a portrait of a very bad marriage — that keeps coming back to me: “If I grow much smaller, trying to keep my height under his, I believe I must soon disappear altogether.” The woman who has this thought comes from a very patriarchal society that values honour very highly, and she has been married for ten years to a man who has spent that decade, again to quote her own words, “protecting her so hard, especially from anything that resembled growth, she’d felt scarcely larger at thirty than she’d been at twenty.” He’s not a good, clever, able, or competent man; he’s short-tempered and immature and, apart from the religion thing, very much like Michael Pearl, actually. (That is, the portrait of Michael Pearl that we get from Debi’s writing about her marriage.) He’s careless, he doesn’t listen, he doesn’t respect his wife; he thinks he loves her, but if he loves anyone it’s this image of her that he’s constructed in his head. She doesn’t love him anymore, if she ever really did, but she sticks with him because she made a promise to do so when they married. She’s tried all this time to be a good wife, but all she’s succeeded in doing, she realizes, is enabling his bad choices and turning herself into a person she no longer likes very much…

    • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ M

      Oh yes, the Vorkosiverse has come up a few times here and there. I hadn’t thought about Ekaterin’s marriage in relation to the Pearls’, but you’ve come up with a really good comparison. Even her inability to properly care for her son’s illness because that would be “criticizing” Tien fits right in.

      • http://sylvia-rachel.livejournal.com sylvia_rachel

        I hadn’t quite seen the specific parallels until we got to this bit, when zing! they all sprang into focus for me. In Debi’s vision of “godly” marriage, the husband has unlimited freedom to behave as badly — as abusively, as childishly, as paranoiacally, as erratically, as idiotically — as he likes, and the sole duty of the wife is to “keep [her] height under his” and never, ever suggest that he might need to do anything differently.

        The difference, of course, is that Ekaterin sees exactly how dysfunctional her marriage is and longs to escape it — although she still feels like a traitor when she does.

    • Christine

      And a crucial fact here (without giving away too much plot) is that the man is suffering from a fairly severe mental illness resulting in paranoia. The Pearls are recommending that a marriage should resemble this. And that even people from within the society were horrified at what he did – patriarchy doesn’t actually have a point at which it is internally consistent and “works”.

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ M

        I thought it’d been specifically mentioned that while the (neurological) illness *could* result in paranoia and violence, in Tien it had manifested almost exclusively in physical symptoms. In other words, you couldn’t blame the illness. He was just like that.

        But yes, even people from that society were horrified by how he acted and how he treated his family.

  • Judy L.

    I have to wonder if the Pearl’s didn’t first try writing this book from Michael’s perspective, but then realized that a manual entitled “Created to be His Helpmeet: To Train Up and Beat Down A Wife” might be too hard a sell.