CTBHHM: Pick a Girl with Low Self Esteem (Yes Really)

Created To Be His Help Meetpp. 140-141

In the coming pages, we will discuss how we need to cook, clean, take care of your children, etc. These are important and necessary, but the buck always stops right here at the action word reverence. A man will allow his woman many, many faults, as long as he knows that she thinks he is great. If she will just look into his face with adoration, if she is thankful to him for loving her, he will adore her. She can dress awful, be grossly overweight, have terrible hair, not cook so well, be a little lazy and dumb, and not be one bit pretty, but if she will just think and show that he is wonderful, he will love you. It sounds simplistic, but it is the way of a man with a maid.

Wow, simplistic much? Men and women aren’t identical puzzle pieces. Also, really? Debi is promising women that if they adore their husbands their husbands will love them—period? This is quite a big promise to make. And yet, that’s what Debi does—and then asserts that it’s a law of nature. And honestly? This whole input-adoration-output-love thing seems demeaning to men. Men aren’t slot machines. They’re people. 

Also, adoration isn’t something you can create out of thin air. Adoration is natural during the first stages of puppy love, and in healthy relationships it matures into a sort of good, stable sense of peace, acceptance, and gratitude for a life lived together. Can you force yourself to adore someone who has done nothing to deserve your adoration, gratitude, or appreciation?  I suppose you could if you brainwashed yourself, but I’m pretty sure this isn’t how adoration is supposed to work.

Finally, while this sort of pure adoration from wife to husband regardless of circumstance might not result in a complete disaster when the husband involved is a stable and healthy individual, if the husband is abusive or has narcissistic tendencies, it could go very, very badly. 

Women, on the other hand, want their husbands to perform. They expect them to be spiritual, hardworking, diligent, sensitive, and an attentive parent, or they will take personal offense and begin a campaign to change him into “their” image. I find it amazing that a woman would marry a MAN and then become angry because he continues to act like one.

Wow. Debi’s into insulting pretty much everyone here.

So if a woman is unhappy about something about her husband, she should ignore it completely because that imperfection or difference is just part of who he is as a man, so she better shut up about it? It’s true that if you go into a marriage thinking you can “change” your spouse and reshape them into some exact model you have in mind, you’re in for some disappointment. That’s not a healthy way to approach a relationship.

But this idea that what Debi’s suggesting has nothing to do with trying to “change” your husband? Ha. Ha ha ha. Debi promises that women can make thier husbands love them and treat them well if they only approach their husbands with complete adoration and reverence. This sounds to me a lot like mounting a “campaign” to “change” them. Just sayin’.

Finally, ignoring the things that bother you about your husband and trying to change your husband into the ideal man you’ve formed in your mind are not your only two options. I’ve used this example before: When Sally was little, I frequently got annoyed with Sean for gaming when I thought he should be helping with Sally or around the house, partly because I viewed gaming as a complete and utter waste of time. Finally, I told to him about how I felt and we talked about it and we found a compromise that we were both happy with. This is how healthy relationships are supposed to work—and this is what wouldn’t have happened if I’d followed Debi’s advice.

Elisabeth Elliot, in her book, Let Me Be a Woman, wrote to her daughter, “I had been a widow for thirteen years, when the man who was to become your stepfather proposed. It seemed to me the miracle that could never happen. That any man had wanted me the first time was astonishing. I had gone through high school and college with very few dates. But to be wanted again was almost beyond imagination. I told this man that I knew there were women waiting for him who could offer him many things that I couldn’t offer—things like beauty and money. But I said, “There’s one thing I can give you that no woman on earth can outdo me in, and that’s appreciation.” The perspective of widowhood had taught me that.”

Or maybe it’s your low self esteem talking.

Look, in 1969, the same year Elisabeth Elliot remarried, she published her sixth book. Sixth. She was no mere bookworm, either. After her husband died while attempting to evangelize in South America, she put serious effort into learning another language and then spent several years living among the native groups where he had met his death, alone but for her small daughter and another female missionary. This was a woman with courage and tenacity. After remarrying, she went on to publish seventeen more books, teach at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, contribute to the New International Version of the Bible, and host a daily radio show. In no sense was this a woman who had nothing of value to offer her a man other than appreciation. I disagree with Elisabeth Elliot on a lot of things—she is the author of her own how-to-be-a-good-submissive-evangelical-wife manual, after all—but in suggesting that she had nothing to offer a husband Elisabeth is either posturing or demonstrating a startling lack of appreciation for her own talents and abilities.

As I cast around in my mind and heart for a way to define for my readers what it means to reverence a man, Elisabeth Elliot’s letter to her daughter came to my mind.

The very heart of reverence is extreme appreciation and profound thankfulness that this man, just as he is, has chosen to love me, just as I am. 

Elisabeth Elliot is a lovely, talented, successful woman, yet she chooses to honor with thankfulness the man who loves her. It is the state of her heart.

You know what? I honestly wouldn’t have a problem with this whole gratitude thing if it weren’t gendered and didn’t come with a major self esteem knock.

My husband tells young men looking for wives that there is only one absolutely necessary trait that the girl they marry must possess—a grateful heart. He tells them that the girl they choose must be joyful and thankful that you love her. “The more she believes that she is fortunate that you chose her over others, the better the foundation for the true marriage of two souls. If she feels that YOU are lucky to get HER, then you had better run, because that woman is looking for her own help meet, and she thinks you are the one to fill the job. She will spend the rest of her life trying to change you.”

Do you see what I was saying? Being mutually grateful without mixing in the whole thinking worse of yourself bit is absolutely a part of a healthy relationship. But that’s not what this is.

If I were really cynical I’d have to say it sounds like Michael is telling young men to prey on women with low self esteem. No wait, I will say that: Michael is telling young men to prey on women with low self esteem. (Note that unlike Debi, I am calling these women women, not girls.) Note that Michael says that if a woman feels a man is lucky to get her, she is being a man and looking for a helpmeet. In other words, a man looking for a helpmeet should feel that a woman is lucky to get him. This is so unhealthy.

If a husband feels that his wife is lucky to have him and his wife feels that she does not deserve him and is lucky he picked poor, lowly her—this is not a good setup for a healthy marriage. The opposite—a wife who feels her husband was lucky to get her and a husband who feels he does not deserve her—is not healthy either. In a healthy relationship, each partner respects and values themself and each partner is grateful to have the other partner in their life. The imbalance that Michael is promoting is unhealthy and creates a balance of power and esteem that is incredibly ripe for abuse. This is how abusers work, after all—”you don’t deserve me” and “if you leave me, who else would have you?”

To reverence a husband is to be delighted and thankful, like the purple flowers PJ girl. It means that you must be the opposite of the “don’t-mess-up-my-hair” girl and that you believe in him enough to dream good things about him. You reverence him by teaching your sons and daughters that their daddy is the #1 man, and then help them make a sign and hold it high, so everyone can see how you think and feel about him. In summary, it is to believe that you are blessed for being loved by this wonderful man.

Debi says that to reverence her husband a woman must “believe that you are blessed for being loved by this wonderful man.” But what if he is not a “wonderful man”? What if he is abusive or unfaithful? What if being loved by him is not a blessing at all? Two of the four stories Debi references here were with just such men—the first was serially unfaithful and the second was physically abusive and even tried to murder his wife. If these men fit Debi’s “wonderful man” standard, I don’t want one.

Anonymous Tip: Meet the Lawyer
CTBHHM: What “Companionship” Means in Pearl World
If We Can’t Come to Grips with the Past, How Are We to Grapple with the Present?
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.

  • NeaDods

    A psychologist would have a field day with all this. As an editor, I’ll just say that treating reverence as a verb instead of a noun is making my teeth clench.

    No the whole thing is making my teeth clench. Michael found himself a woman with a major crush on him and thinks, as usual, that his experience is the sum and total of all humanity.

    She can dress awful, be grossly overweight, have terrible hair, not cook so well, be a little lazy and dumb, and not be one bit pretty, but if she will just think and show that he is wonderful, he will love you

    I can’t be the only person who caught that sudden subject shift, can I? Nor can I be the only person to realize that no matter what mental baggage Debi dragged into the marriage, it’s obvious that Michael cannot have done a thing to try to shift that load for her, but instead added to it for the single purpose of convincing her that dog-like devotion was the only thing she had to offer?

    And then she writes “man” in all caps? She couldn’t be more Dom/sub unless she refused to write her own name without caps at all.

    • NeaDods

      Discus is doing me wrong again. Can’t edit to add that I think the thing of the woman with the hair really happened, because Debi’s sure not getting past it, like she can’t get past Michael not taking out the trash.

    • j.lup

      Yeah, the reverence things bugs me a bit too. Linguistically, its a perfectly fine verb, but it does have a weird resonance, and makes me wonder if the CP brigade use it instead of ‘revere’ so as to diminish the connotation of idolatry.

      From other posts I’ve read, it seems to me less that Debi had a whole lot of mental baggage, but rather that Debi was a young teenager who had this years-long crush on Michael, and then when she found herself suddenly married to him she realized what a tyrannical man-child he is, and she went into crazy-mode as a coping and self-preservation strategy. It’s not entirely Stockholm Syndrome, but rather what I like to call ‘Chameleon Dependent Spouse Syndrome,’ where the financially or socially dependent (or otherwise trapped) spouse genuinely alters their own behaviour and beliefs to suit their partner. And in Debi’s case, she’s reinforced her own brainwashing and legitimized her abusive and adaptive relationship dynamic by turning it into a lifestyle manual for others that’s earned her a pretty penny and a loyal following.

    • Kate Monster

      I would actually love to see what a trained psychologist would say about this and the Pearls’ other publications. It’s all so horrifying from a lay perspective that I can’t help but imagine someone with training and expertise would have SO MUCH to say about it, you know?

  • Cassiopeia

    ‘She can dress awful, be grossly overweight, have terrible hair, not cook so well, be a little lazy and dumb, and not be one bit pretty’

    None of these are personality flaws.

    Unattractive, unattractive, unattractive, not domestic, not domestic, not intelligent, unattractive

    (I put lazy down as ‘not domestic’ because some people really hate house work but can be focused on all manner of other things).

    So basically, the only faults that ‘reverencing’ your husband allows are not being attractive and not being domestic enough.

    Not intelligent isn’t a flaw in any kind of sense. Intelligence is relative.

    It makes sense. In this sort of relationship women aren’t allowed to have anger issues (because they might disagree with their husband), aren’t allowed to be overly ambitious (because they might outperform their husband), aren’t allowed to be arrogant (unless it’s about how awesome their marriage is), aren’t allowed to be sceptical (husbands know everything, no questioning allowed). I could go on.

    With this sort of relationship, women are forced to suppress so much of their personality to fit into an ideal the only flaws they can have that are allowed are being unattractive or not domestic enough.

    Maybe the woman who is too lazy with her housework is dreaming of going to law school, or being an accountant, or going skydiving, or any number of things that she’s been told she can’t do.

    Frankly this kind of relationship sounds awfully creepy, with one partner just following the other one around, not questioning anything and adoring the other.

    • sylvia_rachel

      Frankly this kind of relationship sounds awfully creepy, with one
      partner just following the other one around, not questioning anything
      and adoring the other.

      I have seen this relationship in real life — this is precisely how my stepmother related to my late father, so precisely that as I read Libby Anne’s reviews I’ve started to wonder if my stepmother was actually a Debi Pearl devotee — and it is UNBELIEVABLY creepy. Being around them for any length of time actually made me squirm and want to run away.

      This was my father’s fourth and longest-lasting marriage. His previous wives — at least #2 (my older siblings’ mom) and #3 (my and my little brother’s mom) are capable, intelligent, talented, independent women who eventually got tired of his narcissistic arseness (also, his infidelity and verbally/emotionally abusive behaviour). Neither was sufficiently abject and adoring; both, as Debi would predict, ended up being single parents (my mom is now married again, to a much nicer guy who thinks she’s awesome); but, contra Debi, both are MUCH HAPPIER than when they were married to my dad. Whoops.

    • NeaDods

      As usual, Debi is all about the outward appearance and not the inner reality.

      • The_L1985

        It always bugs me how much my mother is bothered by other people laughing at me. I’ve long since learned to shrug it off, and no longer care what random people think. But Mom is very much a what-will-the-neighbors-think sort of person, and she can’t imagine a person being unconcerned what other people think without also being depressed and/or hating zirself.

  • Allie

    If the formula for love is simply to adore a man completely and he will love you back no matter what, then there are a lot of former members of the NSYNC fan club who should be asking for their money back. Debi told me all I need to do is adore someone with my whole heart and he will have no choice but to love me, yet I don’t see Taylor Hanson hanging around my door and bringing me flowers even though about 15 years ago I thought the love I felt for him was something from which I might never recover. Debi lied to me.

  • Parisienne

    I attended a wedding last weekend where the bride is from Singapore. Consequently they honoured a Singaporean tradition – literally two hours before the ceremony the bride and bridesmaids send a list of forfeits to the groom and his friends, which he has to perform on his way there in order to prove that he is worthy of the bride. (For this particular wedding, the forfeits were pretty good-natured – eating a bit of crazy-hot chili, singing in Mandarin Chinese…)

    It was noted that no similar challenge is required of the bride. The rationale is that women are worth suffering over, and men in general ought to be grateful that they ever find one willing to marry them (traditionally at least – I think people like my friends just honour the tradition as a bit of fun). Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, Michael Pearl :D

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

      I find the cultural aspect interesting. When my Muslim sister-and-law got married to her first husband, it was done very much like a contract negotiation where both parties had to set out their “expectations.” The imam gave them suggestions, like that the bride might demand that the groom and his family provide her with a house within one year, or the groom might demand that the bride stay home with their children (these were the examples he used).

      The expectation was very clearly that the woman is to be given material things while the man is to be given service-oriented things – which seems rather in line with the Pearls, though, of course, they probably wouldn’t suggest divorce if the husband fails in his part (which is what ended up happening – her “demand” was flowers on her birthday, which he didn’t even bother to fulfil the first year. After they were having a lot of trouble and obviously not getting along, they went to an imam for marriage counselling and, based solely on the groom’s failure to provide the material thing he’d promised, the imam recommended divorce).

      (Note that this isn’t necessarily representative of Islam as a whole, just the community in which they were both adherents.)

      • Gillianren

        I had friends who, at their wedding, did both dowry and bride price. (These were ren faire friends–he gave her, among other things, a necklace of fist-sized chunks of amber; she gave him a water buffalo drinking horn.) The reasoning was that they were both worthy of having their contributions to the relationship acknowledged. The thing that’s worth noting, too, is that (other than her giving him a half-share of her extremely successful business), what they gave each other showed awareness of who the other one was as a person. Which is why one of her gifts to him was an enormous water gun.

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

        Which touches on another important point – the gift stuff. If I see one more “just get her flowers/chocolate/jewellery” or “get him gadgets or a tie,” I think I’ll scream.

        If my husband just bought my flowers, chocolate, or jewellery, I’d be really unhappy. I’d be unhappy because it would mean that he put zero thought into who I am as a person and just reduced me to my gender.

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        I completely agree. Also, those are things that tend to be expensive so there’s the additional undertone of being bought, or of a man showing he is worthy of you because he has money. Blech.

        I’ve never been in a relationship with a man that didn’t have very little disposable income. My own interests and professional pursuits (none of which are lucrative) don’t tend to put me into contact with such men and, like most people, I tend to be more interested in people who share my interests and values anyway. But a man giving me things or doing things for me that are cheap or completely free but which show thoughtfulness, consideration and an understanding of who I am is infinitely more romantic to me than if he spent money he didn’t have on expensive jewelry or something because Teh Wimminz like shiny things, amirite? I have no interest in being a kept woman.

        Also, it’s a two-way street. I also get little things or do things for significant others to show love and care and because it would make them smile. That’s not just a man’s job (so presumably he can pay his dues and get sex in return because, heaven knows a woman won’t be interested in “giving” him sex unless he pays for it first by giving her expensive gifts!)

      • Gillianren

        I wouldn’t mind flowers, chocolate, or jewelry (though I’m fussy about jewelry, and I’m not sure he’d pick out what I like), though I’d prefer books or DVDs. But my boyfriend gets audio books for Christmas every year and wouldn’t know what to do with a tie if I gave him one. As for gadgets, well, I did get him a plasma globe as a combination graduation/Fathers’ Day present this year. But I doubt that’s what they mean.

      • CarysBirch

        I love gadgets. Boyfriend is a clothes horse.

        (okay, he loves gadgets too and I’m also a clothes horse. It’s why we get along so well. But we totally like non-gender stereotypical stuff… and boiling me down to chocolates which I don’t love, and jewelry which I don’t care about much either way is annoying. And heaven help the person who buys him sports gear…)

      • sylvia_rachel

        I like flowers and chocolate. (Actually I could stand to get more flowers from DH … He’s got the chocolate angle nicely covered though.) But I really, really like my Eleventh Doctor sonic screwdriver :D

      • Matthew Kimber

        Oh my God! That is exactly what my wife gave me yesterday for my 40th (also LEGO!) I love that woman so much.

      • Gillianren

        My boyfriend has never bought me flowers. Chocolate, occasionally. And he thinks giving jewelry as a gift is tacky, though I’ve never been able to work out why. I don’t even want to admit how pleased I was to get the commemorative tin with the first season of the 1950s Disney Zorro a few Christmases back, though.

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

        I get dice :) New shiny dice sets in greens and purples.

      • The_L1985

        I stopped asking relatives for books a long time ago. My well-meaning aunt gave me too many fundie self-help books.

      • Gillianren

        Oh, I have a wish list. But my mom actually had the opposite problem when my cousins were younger. One of her brothers is born-again, and he was opposed to so many books that it was really hard for Mom to find ones she thought were interesting but were things her brother would approve of. No fantasy, for example. And to the best of my knowledge, my cousins didn’t have wish lists. But there are certain things that are tradition in my family, and giving books is one of them. Heck, there are certain authors who are tradition. I already know one of the things my mom is giving me for Christmas, because one of my favourite authors has a new book coming out in the fall.

      • http://lanahobbs.wordpress.com/ lana hobbs

        I was never able to put my finger on it before, but i think that’s why the red roses my husband bought me when we were newly married bothered me a little. because he never asked to find out what i liked, just got the cliched red roses that women like. i don’t care for red roses; i prefer peach roses and colorful bouquets :) (but would prefer a thoughtful book) now he knows what *I* like and not what *women* like.

      • The_L1985

        Which reminds me of something my father said once that really bothered me. “When I was dating your mother, I bought her those diamonds and furs you’ve seen your whole life. Some days I went without meals just to afford that stuff, to prove that I was committed.”

        If a guy deprived himself of necessities like food in order to buy me jewelry (which I already have enough of), fur coats (which are REALLY impractical in Florida) or other such luxuries, my thought would be, “There are 3 possibilities here. Either he’s got self-esteem issues, he’s really, really bad at managing his finances, or he’s trying to buy my love. None of these are GOOD things.”

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

        Agreed. As far as showing evidence of being worthy of a relationship goes, I’d be terrified by a guy who blows all of his money on aesthetic/status goods. To the extent that I consciously chose my husband, his demonstrations of responsible financial management (which is different from stinginess – think of it as a middle ground) went a long way towards reassuring me that he was ready for a serious relationship.

      • Leigha7

        That reminds me of when I first read that a man is supposed to spend three month’s salary on an engagement ring to prove he’s good with money. To me, spending 1/4 of a year’s pay on a small shiny thing with no useful function shows you’re bad with money. I’d be kind of upset if my boyfriend spent that much on a ring. I’d also be afraid to ever wear it, for fear of losing something so costly.

      • Mogg

        And this is why I was thrilled my partner bought me a motorcycle helmet for my birthday :-) I did buy myself some flowers the other day, though.

      • Kellen Connor

        Like a boss. I like this lady. Does she have any single sisters?

      • Gillianren

        If you’re referring to my friend, I have no idea. I have a single sister, and you don’t want anything to do with her.

  • Kit

    What strikes me is that there’s nothing here about mutually making each other better people. A key part of any relationship I choose to get in, for another person, is a willingness to encourage me to be a better person. So when I make a mountain out of a molehill (not unusual for me), it’s good to have someone around to put things in perspective and tell me I’m being unreasonable. This works mutually, though I can’t think off the top of my head of anything I tell my partner now other than “If you hate your job that much, try finding another one. You know they aren’t paying you enough, you’ve been headhunted for other job opportunities, and you know you could use the extra income. Just freaking take those interviews and move on!” because he’s caught in a sense of inertia and comfort and, well, doesn’t like looking for a job.

    Mutually encouraging each other to be better people is clearly nowhere in Debi Pearl’s manual. Also, that was really demeaning to men – the way I see it, if a man can’t take a little bit of challenging and can’t handle having a woman who has her own career interests and so on, then he can’t have had much self-esteem in the first place. No one should be relying on others to give them self-esteem.

  • Jolie

    Straight as I am, if heterosexual marriage worked as Debi describes, I’d consider looking into the possibility of lesbianism.

    • dj_pomegranate

      Heck, I’d just start a commune. Any ladies want to live with me and a bunch of cats? We can share cooking responsibilities; I’ll bring the wine.

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        Can we have dogs too?

      • http://aztecqueen2000.blogspot.com/ AztecQueen2000

        If you don’t mind little girls, where can I sign up?

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

        That would be wonderful! I can bring the other alcohols (a huge number of them anyways- a hobby of mine and my husband’s is mixing cocktails, and it’s amazing how many random ingredients go into them).

        Of course, I’d have to leave said husband behind, which would be no good. Maybe a commune that was also open for part-timers who showed up on some weekends, looking for estrogen?

    • Jayn

      I think that’s what the fundies think as well, which is why they’re so opposed to marriage equality. If marrying someone of the same sex is seen as a viable option, then why would anyone (who thinks marriage should work the way they present it) want to marry someone of the opposite sex?

      It’s a supreme misunderstanding of both marriage and sexuality, but within it’s own framework it makes total sense.

      • Hilary

        You might have a point there.

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

    My husband grew up with some pretty low self-esteem, and, early in our relationship, he was often commenting on how “lucky” he was that someone “like me” would ever want to be with someone “like him.”

    But I’m not Michael, so I never saw this as a good thing and I had no interest in taking advantage of the situation. Ironically, I have used similar strategies to what Debi describes (it’s that old “even a broken clock is right twice a day” thing), in that I’ve very consciously and deliberately built him up. I tell him, often, that I love and appreciate him, and I’m specific about it too. I don’t just say “I love you,” I say “I love you because you are so active in taking care of our child and our home” or “I really appreciate how hard you work to take care of our family” (and other stuff that’s more unique to who we are – for example, I think it’s amazing that he’s so good at playing StarCraft). I also try to address his insecurities directly. For example, I know that he thinks he’s stupid (he’s introverted and hated answering questions in school, so they “diagnosed” him as having a bunch of learning disabilities that he obviously doesn’t have and put him in a special ed school). So when he studied for his driving test and passed it on the first try, I’ll point out to him how smart he his, and how obviously capable of learning.

    But the difference is that I’m not just heaping praise because I think it’s what I should be doing as a woman. I am only being consciously aware of voicing how impressed and happy I actually am. If I were in a relationship where I didn’t have all these good things o compliment and I had to start making stuff up just to be submissive enough, we’d have a very different (and unhealthy) dynamic.

    • Gillianren

      My best friend is in a relationship with a guy with low self-esteem, and that’s actually a way she’s been actively working to change him over the years. (Weirdly, it manifests in part in making him no longer take advantage of how awesome she is. The reasoning, such as it was, seemed to be “well, she’s going to dump me soon anyway, so I might as well get everything I can out of this.” Not that it was conscious in any way.) She doesn’t want a doormat. She wants a partner. Building his self-esteem is a route to that.

    • ecolt

      My fiance and I both have our own metaphorical demons. He tells me constantly how lucky he feels to have me. Contrary to what the Pearls may think, this makes me appreciate him more. Yes, it builds up my (sometimes lagging) self-confidence. But when he tells me the things he’s thankful for about me, it reminds me of what we do for each other. We remind each other that we work well together, that one of us can pick up where the other fails, that we can rely on one another. It reminds me of how much he does for me too, and how much he has brought to my life. I get frustrated once in a while, feeling like I do more or sacrifice more or work harder. Then he tells me just how much he appreciates it and how lucky he feels to have me and I remember that it’s worthwhile. Things aren’t always easy, but I’m doing it for a reason. If I didn’t have that occasional reassurance that my fiance really appreciates me and loves me for who I am, I wouldn’t be able to keep working so hard, and I’d lose sight of the fact that he’s working hard too. He has his flaws and I have mine, and we have our problems and struggles together, but what keeps us both constantly growing and working is that we know the other person cares and is trying just as hard. He tells me he’s lucky to have me and it reminds me that I’m lucky to have him too.

      I almost pity Michael and Debi Pearl for missing out on that aspect of a relationship.

  • Monica Swanson

    This section reminds me of a post I read on NLQ, about the four stages of love:

    Stage 1: I love me, for my sake. (Self-love)
    Stage 2: I love you, for my sake. (Selfish love)
    Stage 3: I love you, for your sake. (Self-sacrificing love)
    Stage 4: I love me, for your sake. (Loving yourself to better love others)

    The post pointed out that, in the patriarchal model, the husband is stuck at stage 2 and the wife is stuck at stage 3. So the wife does everything for the husband’s sake, and the husband ALSO does everything for the husband’s sake. And this is how it’s SUPPOSED to work. *headdesk*

  • Lunch Meat

    They expect them to be spiritual, hardworking, diligent, sensitive, and an attentive parent, or they will take personal offense and begin a campaign to change him into “their” image. I find it amazing that a woman would marry a MAN and then become angry because he continues to act like one.

    Is she actually saying that men are naturally not spiritual, hardworking or diligent? Then what’s the point of them? They’re pretty useless. Honestly, I’d rather be single and taking care of myself.

    He tells them that the girl they choose must be joyful and thankful that you love her.

    I feel like this is a problem with our gendered one-sided dating culture as a whole, that men are the ones who are “supposed” to do the asking out, so women aren’t encouraged to actually seek out people whom they like and are compatible with and instead are expected to be grateful to the men who pay attention to them, to the point that a woman “owes” a man something if he’s nice to her. At least that’s the way it was in high school.

    • TLC

      This was my thought, too. So it’s too much to expect men to be “spiritual, hardworking, diligent, sensitive, and an attentive parent” ? And if I expect that or look for that in a man, I’m already trying the change him?

      If men AREN’T supposed to have these characteristics, then what, exactly are they supposed to be? Would Debi tell me to look for a man who’s not spiritual, lazy, inconsistent, insensitive and doesn’t want kids? Woo-hoo, sign me up for Christian Mingle RIGHT NOW!!!

    • The_L1985

      Ugh. I remember those days. I also remember feeling worthless because I wasn’t being asked out by anyone.

    • http://loosviews.livejournal.com BringTheNoise

      Also, if men are “naturally” not spiritual, why are they in charge of the church? If they aren’t hardworking, why should women be financially dependant on them, etc, etc? It’s a recipe for disaster!

  • Jayn

    But I said, “There’s one thing I can give you that no woman on earth can outdo me in, and that’s appreciation.”

    Did anyone else think of Homer Simpson when Marge kicked him out of the house?

    I agree that the gendered dynamic is the effed up part (DH and I had a period where we both thought the other was too good for us–not a great dynamic either, but at least balanced). And as much as Debi is harping on appreciation in this section, it’s not really supported by the rest of the text as being the ONLY or PRIMARY thing, unless you count all the submission and servitude stuff as being part of the appreciation bit. It’s fine to want to be worthy of your partner, but as usual a thread of good advice gets spun into something supremely dysfunctional.

    • TLC

      Maybe it’s because I’m having a drink at the end of an 11-hour and VERY stressful workday. But the comparison of Michael and Debi Pearl to Homer and Marge Simpson is making me squeal with laughter!! Thank you for the MUCH-needed laughter!!!

      BTW, is Homer a champion tomahawk thrower, too?

  • Mel

    Oh, Pearls. Will your mental issues ever end? Mike shows his narcissistic psychopath side (again) and Debi gives information on how to catch your very own narcissistic psychopath (again).

    Here, I can give you the same ideas in a few lines and you don’t even have to buy a book from me.
    1. Men – When looking for a partner, start with about 20 girls. (Avoid women. Get ones much younger than yourself.) Make it clear you’re running a reality-show style competition for your future wife. Behave in confusing, contradictory and demeaning ways towards the girls. At any sign of anger or disgust from a girl, cut her off. Eventually, you should be left with a girl is so wrapped up in your approval that you can do no wrong. Marry that one.

    2. Women – When interacting with men, you might have “red-flags” when a man behaves in a certain way. Those “red-flags” are from the Devil; you must go towards men who trigger those red-flags. As long as you keep ignoring the red-flags, your relationship with this man will be wonderful.

  • dj_pomegranate

    I would just like to say that mr pomegranate is damn lucky to have me.

    …Did I just ruin my marriage? *looks around* Nope! Still intact!

    • Kate Monster

      Look again: are you sure you aren’t really in a lesbian duplex?

  • Composer 99

    Contra Debi, to be honest, I’d probably appreciate it – in the long run, anyway – if my wife got a bit more on my case about doing some stuff around the house. Yeah, I might be irritated for a few minutes right after, but if/when I’m slacking I need the accountability.

    In other words, it’s not a bad thing for my wife to try to make me a more conscientious person – that is, to try to change me.

    (I suspect she takes a softer line because I don’t get on her case about anything, either, so we mutually enable one another’s slack-offness when it happens.)

    • grindstone

      I wouldn’t phrase it like this, but for me it’s, “I love you too much to let you slide into slack-assitude.” And I would hope he does the same for me. We make each other better people, I don’t just gaze adoringly at his socks on the floor and think how lucky I am. That’s psychotic.

  • ako

    She’s really terrible at making heterosexual marriage sound at all appealing.

    On one side, there’s a woman who isn’t expected to contribute a personality, passions, intelligence, skills, judgements, independent interests, or talent (and may not even be physically attractive), but will provide an endless supply of adoration, housework, and pretending-to-enjoy-it sex. As much as I enjoy opportunities to get out of housework, I’d rather wash every dish, mop every floor, and scrub every toilet myself for the rest of my life than spend it attached to a slavish little doormat who never showed a flicker of her own opinion.

    On the other side, there’s a man who’s allowed to do anything and everything he wants, entitled to be served in every possible way (including painful and dangerous ways), and the only acceptable recourse is apparently to be nice at him until he spontaneously decides to behave better. And in exchange you get…to be wanted. That’s the big prize. That’s your triumph. A man, one who you might not ever like, wants you. A tyrant will want you as his personal subject to tyrannize over. And this is supposed to be an honor.

    If that’s what’s on offer, might as well give up and get a puppy. They’ll adore you and want you in their life, and won’t demand to take over yours. Plus, puppies have personality.

    • Kate Monster

      Right? Debi’s theory of perfect helpmeet behavior is basically to act like a particularly dimwitted golden retriever. “Who’s a good helpmeet? You are!”

      This damn book just keeps getting creepier and creepier.

  • http://valuesfromscratch.blogspot.com/ Marian

    Ugh, this whole passage is really hurting me right now.

    I’ve been blogging (at valuesfromscratch.blogspot.com ) a lot over the past few weeks about my own marriage, which is crumbling and I don’t know if it’s going to make it. But this low self esteem stuff is a big part of what’s destroying us right now.

    I had low self-esteem and thought I was just lucky my husband married me. My husband is bi-polar, but was undiagnosed until very recently. Even though I’ve been consciously supportive of egalitarian relationships since I got married, subconsciously our separate issues ended up with me being very emotionally controlled by him… and he in large part was clueless as to how much he was controlling me. And advice like this, which was ingrained in my subconscious even if I rejected it, very much contributed to that dynamic.

    Now I don’t know if we’re going to survive, and it’s breaking my heart. Stupid Debi and her ilk, she’s done so much damage.

    • Lunch Meat

      I’m sorry you’re in that situation. :-(

    • CarysBirch

      I want to click “like” out of solidarity, I struggle with low self esteem and being controlled by others who don’t intend to be controlling, I’m just easily dominated by strong personalities. But I don’t want to “like” the dissolution of your marriage which is tragic.

      • sylvia_rachel

        Yes, this.

      • http://valuesfromscratch.blogspot.com/ Marian

        Thank you, all of you, for the sympathy. I don’t know what’s going to happen. But Lee and I are trying. He’s trying to understand the dynamics so that we can fix it. Some days I have hope and some days I don’t. But it helps to know that even strangers on the internet care.

  • grindstone

    You know what, I AM lucky to have my husband. But he’s also lucky to have me. Either one of us could probably find someone else rather quickly, but we choose not to, because we like and respect each other, and have lots of compatibilities, like career and financial plans. Together. I know, shocking…

    If hubs ever started treating me like Michael treats “girls”, then all you’d see of me is skid-marks as I leave the driveway at 45 mph. And if I end up in a duplex, it’s because I own the duplex and am renting out the other half. Because I’m a real live PERSON in my own right.

  • persephone

    Taking advice from the Pearls is like taking advice from the thirteen-year-olds who hung out under the bleachers.

  • C

    It’s also insulting to men to basically say it’s too much to ask that they be diligent, hardworking, and an attentive parent. Sheesh! And anyway isn’t hard work and diligence part of a masculine stereotype? Just want kind of men are we “supposed” to want? I don’t understand how on the one hand, men in this book are caricatured and strong and brutish and the women’s protector in every way, but on the other hand are lazy and useless and have NO redeeming qualities. If you expect your husband to have anything admirable about his character, you’re expecting too much.

  • Mary

    I love how she phrases the “a man will allow his woman many faults” bit. To me, it doesn’t sound as if she is saying “a man will put up with crap”, but rather “a man will deign to generously allow his female property to…” Dude. These people are messed UP.

    • skyblue

      Yes — we hear that word all the time in a context like “the children are allowed to climb the tree”, or “customers are not allowed behind the counter”, but in the context of marriage? Beyond creepy.

      It sounds like her entire sense of self-worth comes from having no sense of self-worth.

      • NeaDods

        That last line is a very profound and accurate statement on the mindset of fundamentalist women.

  • sylvia_rachel

    I’m starting to think there is no good idea that the Pearls can’t twist into something vile. (Anyone read The Curse of Chalion? Like that.)

    It’s good advice not to marry someone with the intent of remodelling them! … but that doesn’t mean you can’t help each other become better people.

    It’s true that you shouldn’t have to be attractive, well-dressed, a good cook, or a perfect housekeeper in order to be loved by your spouse! … but you shouldn’t have to be a doormat, either. Your spouse should love you because of who you are — because of whatever things about you made the two of you fall in love to begin with, because of the good things you do for each other, because of the memories you share, because of the ways you’ve helped each other through bad stuff in the past, because … well, there are many reasons for people in a relationship to love each other, and everyone’s reasons are different, because PEOPLE ARE NOT ROBOTS, YOU GUYS.

    This may just be me, but I feel like Debi’s kind of lost track of a thing that’s kind of important to a marriage, which is that you have to like each other. The way she characterizes both women and men in these supposedly happy marriages, in addition to making the men sound like awful, awful people, really robs them of any individual personality and any reason why they should like each other or even find each other interesting to talk to, let alone enjoy being married to each other for decades. Seriously, what’s to like about any of these (fictional) people? We know nothing about any of them except the most superficial details and whatever wacky-ass feelings and motivations Debi has made up and ascribed to them. The men all seem like particularly brutish three-year-olds and the women are all either consumed with spite or completely free of thoughts or feelings. All of them are boring, two-dimensional cardboard robot people, and it’s never clear how they ended up married to each other in the first place. I realize that it’s overwhelmingly likely that Debi has made all of these people up, but as a writer, I just want to point out that if I put a character as boring and implausible as these people in a book, my agent and my editor would rightly call me on my epic characterization fail and make me fix it…

    • NeaDods

      Debi wanted Michael… But does she like him? The prize she says she got so that he treats her well, not that she likes him.

    • CarysBirch

      A million likes for mentioning the Curse of Chalion! That’s one of my all time favorites. One of my five desert island books, even!

      • sylvia_rachel

        I actually like Paladin of Souls better, mostly, I think, because I relate so strongly to Ista. But Curse is amazing, too.

  • Lisa Bennet

    “be a little [...] dumb”
    Well I would hope that my husband wouldn’t mind my being a little dumb. There’s no way I’d look like a moderatly intelligent form of life if I follow Debi’s advice.

  • Mira

    Yuck. Yucky yucky yuck. I can’t emphasise how much I want to go take a shower right now and scrub myself with one of those metal scrubby things.
    I am still flabbergasted (dunno why, guess I should be used to it by now) with the *de-emphasis* on communication and an *emphasis* on self-restriction and silencing true thoughts. The only times my relationship suffers is when I DON’T communicate with my S.O. and when I DON’T tell the truth, no matter how uncomfortable it is for him.
    I think it says a great deal for the poor quality of man that Debi is gleefully selling. If your man is too “fragile” to deal with you telling him how you feel, or being displeased with him, perhaps you should RUN. My S.O. and I are mutually grateful for the other–he’s happy he has me, I’m happy I have him. We both are well aware of what we bring to the relationship, and we both do our best to encourage the other. I see nothing healthy in a one sided epeen fest. I thought their bible book thingy (it’s important right?) said something about building each other up…dunno, guess it isn’t as important as the Michael and Debi Pearl(TM) word.

  • Liz

    My husband and I always joke that one of the secrets to a happy marriage is both people secretly feel like the other one got the short end of the deal. But in all seriousness, when BOTH partners feel that they are so lucky to have their spouse that can only be a good thing. (We also think another secret is that only one person is allowed to be crazy at a time, but that’s a different post.)

    • sylvia_rachel

      (We also think another secret is that only one person is allowed to be crazy at a time, but that’s a different post.)

      So true. I can cope when DH is depressed; he can cope when I’m freaking out. When both things happen simultaneously, things become less good.

  • Hina

    ” I find it amazing that a woman would marry a MAN and then become angry because he continues to act like one.”

    Since in debi’s world women aren’t suppose to be interested in sex and don’t have a sex drive.

    Why isn’t she telling men, after marrying a woman they shouldn’t become angry because she continues to act like one if their wives don’t want to have sex with them. If women are not interested in sex then men should accept that because after all that is women’s nature. Instead in this case she tells women to suck it up even if sex is uncomfortable for them. She doesn’t even give advice to what the couple can do to make sex enjoyable for both but suggests the woman just change how she feels and do what her husband wants.

    I really wonder what led debbi to have such hate for women

    • katiehippie

      I didn’t pick up on sex necessarily. If I told my ex I didn’t like something he did, he would say, ‘well YOU married me, you must like me like this’ Somehow trying to shift the blame to me. He wanted me because of my low self esteem and wasn’t even highly religious.

      • Mary C

        FYI, The stuff about sex and Debbie’s expectation that wives will always give it up no matter what, even if it hurts, is found in other sections of the book.

  • smrnda

    This seems to assume that all men are narcissistic and that their biggest need is a subservient woman who will give them an ego boost.

  • mpanchuk

    “This whole input-adoration-output-love thing seems demeaning to men. Men aren’t slot machines. They’re people.” As I read this, it dawned on me for the first time that the Pearls believe in some odd sort of Behaviorism in which the Bible (at least their interpretation of it) serves as the “owner’s manual” to the machines that are wives, husbands, and children. Of course, their combination of Behaviorism with the concepts of sin, guilt and repentance is just plain bizarre to me.

  • Olive Markus

    This is how abusers work, after all—”you don’t deserve me” and “if you leave me, who else would have you?”

    You nailed it. My experience 100%. The shitty part is that I learned to believe it.

  • Susie M

    So he took the idea that spouses should respect one another and turns it into that.
    I feel sick.
    And he is so freaking demeaning to women. “Have terrible hair…” What?! He’s this creepy mountain, whose wife and daughters have never gotten a haircut.

    Also, careful when you take on E.E.. Debi Pearl is one thing, but Elizabeth Elliot, oh goodness. (I guess what you’re saying, though.)

  • Baby_Raptor

    Huh. My boyfriend didn’t start liking me simply because I admitted to having a crush on him…It took him getting to know me, seeing how I act around other people, and in various situations…In other words, getting to know me as a person.

  • Hat Stealer

    Fundamentalism in a nutshell: everyone’s terrible! Also, sex is icky.

    • Kate Monster

      No, no, no. WOMEN are terrible, and that’s WHY sex is icky. Men are incredible reflections of Godliness here on earth, and everything would be perfect if it weren’t for those meddling girls.

      • B.E. Miller

        By that logic, then shouldn’t all men have a male lover, like the Athenian Greeks, and only have wives to give them children?

  • jhlee

    In a healthy relationship, each partner respects and values themself
    and each partner is grateful to have the other partner in their life.

    THIS. SO MUCH. (Ungrammatical yet necessary singular third-person gender-neutral reflexive pronoun notwithstanding.) I consider myself lucky to have my husband in my life, and also think my husband is lucky to have me in his. These two sentiments are not mutually exclusive. Being loved for exactly who I am was the single best thing to happen to my self-esteem–a truly loving couple build each other up. A relationship that consists of one or both people tearing the other down is unhealthy and probably abusive.

  • c

    One more thought…as a Christian I will say the Pearls’ attitude and descriptive language represents the POLAR opposite of most concepts conveyed in the New Testament and gospel of Jesus. If we get anything out of the Bible it should be that we are loved for who we are, not what we bring to the table.

    Again I’m sure Biblical interpretation is up for debate here and I don’t want to stir the pot, but I believe this passionately. Jesus communed and dined with and befriended and radically loved the most undesirable people of society: lepers cast out of the city gates for their horrific diseases, tax collectors shunned for their greed and underhanded deeds, prostitutes, adulterers, impoverished outcasts, and those the culture had deemed unworthy. He washed his disciples’ feet. He forgave the sins of those the religious teachers had declared beyond saving. That is why I love Jesus. There is NO place in true Christianity for language tearing people down because of their level of physical attractiveness. There is NO place for performance-oriented conditional love. We are called to love our enemy, turn the other cheek, pray for those who persecute us, care for the orphan and the widow…Debbi would probably blame the widow for ending up in her situation and rebuke her for being a single mom living in a duplex. The Pearls are worse than just misguided or radically conservative. They are toxic, wolves in sheep’s clothing, they abuse the Bible for sick self-righteous gains, and they are dangerous to all the women and men unable to see this teaching for what it is. I’ve said it before–we are here on this comment thread shocked and appalled, but there are women crying themselves to sleep tonight because they didn’t do the dishes with enough of winsome smile on their faces. As a Christian I want to publicly renounce the Pearls and distance myself and Jesus’ teachings from them in any ways possible!

  • Theo Darling

    “Women, on the other hand, want their husbands to perform.”

    DAMN RIGHT, hahahaha.


  • Kellen Connor

    Men aren’t slot machines. They’re people.

    I would have said “vending machines;” I think that’s a little closer to how Debi describes them. Slot machines, while not accurate either, is actually a little closer to reality than Debi’s view: you can fill one with your nickels of adoration all day, and there’s no guarantee you’ll hit jackpot.

  • Not Another Fake Geek Girl

    “A man will allow his woman many, many faults as long as he knows that she thinks he is great.”

    Because it worked so well for Harley Quinn.

    • Veleda_k

      I don’t think Debi would see a single thing wrong with the dynamic between the Joker and Harley.

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