CTNAHM: What Your Woman Needs to Be Happy

A Guest Post by Aletha

Originally post on Yllom Mormon

Created To Need A Help Meet, pp. 33—35

Previously, I had been posting whole chapters.  However, this chapter is a ginormous 30 pages, so I’m going to break it into smaller sections.

How Do I Need Thee? Let Me Count the Ways

A man needs a woman with his entire being—body, soul, and spirit.  Every man knows his body needs his wife, but many do not know that their souls and spirits also have a deep need that only she can meet.  Many men know by her complaints that they are not meeting their wife’s needs.  What they do not know is that the need they are most neglecting is the wife’s need to be needed.  Your wife needs you to need her in body, soul, and spirit, and she will never  be content until you allow her to meet your needs.  This is not something she can turn off.  God created her with a female nature that finds fulfillment in being your suitable helper.  Likewise, you will never truly cherish her until you welcome her to minister to your soul and spirit.

Cripes.  The first paragraph of this chapter, and I’m already appalled.  I think, out of all the stuff going on in this paragraph, what I’m finding the most unsettling is “she will never be content until you allow her to meet your needs.”  And this is apparently a God-given nature that can’t be undone.  Women are created to meet the needs of men.  This has been the theme of the whole book.  But to claim that what women want most is to be needed and the chance to meet the needs of a man? I’m calling bananas.  Personally, my needs are: to be loved, taken seriously, pampered on occasion, and treated like a human.  To suggest that my husband will never really cherish me until he lets me “minister” to his needs reminds me too much of a previous abusive relationship to make me feel comfortable.

Men who complain about their wife’s lack of sexual response are ignorant of the realities that women who are not allowed to meet the needs of their husband’s soul feel used when they are called upon to meet the needs of his body.  It’s not that women don’t like sex; they just want the sex to be an expression of something deeper than animal hunger.  A cherished woman is a sexy woman.

I feel like Michael came really close to getting it right.  I think a woman with needs that go unmet (in any area), is less likely to enjoy sex.  Yes, she probably would feel used.  However, suggesting it’s because the woman wasn’t allowed to meet the needs of her husband’s soul (what are these needs, by the way?), she will be lackluster in the bedroom seems a bit . . . bizarre.  I do agree that women (and men!) want sex to be something more than lust.  Sometimes.  Sometimes animal hunger is nice, too.

Also, may I point out, it took 4 chapters, but finally Michael is addressing women as women.  Not creatures, beings, or girls.  Hooray!

Companionship

I need my wife’s companionship.  Everybody needs a friend.  I have had many friends with whom I have shared experiences.  There have been fishing and hunting buddies, guys to like to work on cars and tractors, or another woodworker who loves table saws.  Other friends like to discuss the Bible, and some enjoy a good laugh, but there is only one person in the entire world of whom I can say, “This is my very best friend,” and that person is my wife. I would rather spend time with her than anyone I know. I never tire of her presence.

Wow. I agree with almost the entire paragraph.  Everybody does need a friend, and it’s especially nice to have a best friend that you like to have around.  While I would rather spend time with my husband than with anyone else, sometimes I get tired of his presence.  Sometimes alone time is OK.  And look, what a nice compliment he paid his wife!

There are some places I go where my wife would rather I take someone else.  She doesn’t want to get up at four in the morning and head to the lake to fish in the hot sun all day.  But she does like to go for a short fishing trip and picnic once or twice a year.  It is all about how you make her feel.  If she’s jealous of your friends, it’s an indication that you are not allowing her to be your number one companion.  When a wife knows that you enjoy her companionship, she is much more willing to allow you to go do those man things without her.

This started off so well.  Why should you make your wife feel like your number one? So she’ll let you go do “man things” with your man buddies.  Not because it’s important to her.  Not because a man should want to make his wife feel loved and special.  Because it allows him to do what he wants elsewhere.

If she ever gets the feeling that you are choosing other friends because you like them better, then be certain you are failing to meet a need in her, and you are failing to allow one of your own needs to be met.  Another man cannot truly meet your companionship needs.  If you think he can, it demonstrates that you are a man only partially fulfilled.

It’s true.  If a wife feels that her husband likes her friends more than he likes her, then she definitely has a need that is going unfulfilled.

And if I’m not mistaken, there’s a sneaky little anti-gay reference.  “Another man cannot truly meet your companionship needs.”  Trying this means you’re not really a fulfilled man.  How sad.  I think it’s fairly obvious that men can meet men’s needs, (and women women’s needs).  Love and respect should be in every good relationship, regardless of sexuality.

I Need Her Fellowship

Aren’t companionship and fellowship the same thing? Not at all.  The word “fellowship” implies communing and communicating.  It involves a transparent sharing of one’s space.  “For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of a man which is in him? (1 Corinthians 2:11)”.  I spoke of needing our wives body, soul, and spirit.  It is in the human spirit where fellowshipping takes place.  Fellowship occurs as we walk in the light of honesty and truth.  There is no fellowship walking in the darkness.  Unless both parties are walking in the light of truth, they will not care to be open and transparent.  A man with secret sins cannot fellowship with his wife.  Likewise, if a husband or wife is critical they will not be open in fellowship.  True fellowship draws strength and encouragement from the one with whom we commune.  There is acceptance and lack of criticism in fellowship.  It refreshes the spirit and encourages the soul.

I wish he would give dictionary definitions of the words he uses.  Dictionary.com defines “fellowship” as: the condition or relationship of being a fellow (as in fellow human being), friendly relationship or companionship, community of interest or feeling or etc, communion as between members of the same church, and friendliness.  I think it’s odd that he doesn’t define the word, but tells us what it implies.

A man who shuts himself off from communing with his wife is hiding his soul, either because she hurts him when he opens up or because he is concealing the darkness inside his soul.  We need the fellowship of our wife because it has a sanctifying effect.  She becomes a constant mirror of our soul.  Every time we look upon her with openness we are forced to come into the light “that our deeds may be made manifest. (John 3:21)” Fellowship with our wife guarantees that we will never be able to walk in darkness without it being known.  A man who learns to walk in darkness will always have the curtain drawn on his soul.  His wife will never feel she has his heart.  She will sense his distance.  It is a place of safety for us guys to have a wife with whom we fellowship.

Call me crazy, but what he is calling “fellowship” here sounds a lot like honest communication.  Seriously. Replace “fellowship” with honest communication (he implied that it’s kindasorta the same above), and tell me that doesn’t make way more sense. Why not just say communication? Fellowship brings to mind bringing a casserole to the new neighbours or something.  And the thought of the wife mirroring the condition of the husband’s soul is a bit off.  Shouldn’t she mirror the condition of her own soul?  Though it is true that a man who doesn’t communicate (or fellowship, if you must) with his wife will never make her feel like she has his heart.  She will usually be uneasy and unsure. So fellas, have a good honest chat with your wives every now and again, K?

You need her fellowship, but she needs yours just as much.  A man who does not have the fellowship of his wife will experience a great lack, but a woman who does not have the fellowship of her husband may become emotionally unstable. Many women base their self-worth on the companionship and fellowship of their husbands.  Your wife was created to give herself in fellowship just as you were created to receive it.  Let her become your source of fellowship.

I’m really hoping every section will not end with “if you think it’s bad for you, your wife will feel tons worse if you don’t let her ______ for you!”  I don’t know how many women really do base their sense of self-worth on their husbands, but it sounds unhealthy.  Though, I suppose, in a conservative Christian environment, women are to stay at home and produce and raise Godly children.  Guess there’s not much place for external validation.  But still, there’s a reason it’s called SELF-esteem.  Because, ideally, it should come from yourself. Not a man, not a boss, not God.  But from you.

Coming up next time are a few more reasons why men need women.  Or why women need men to need them, and in what ways. Take your pick.

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.

  • Jolie

    “There are some places I go where my wife would rather I take someone else.” Now how about places where the wife would like to go without her husband? Hmmmmm… I kind of get the feeling it won’t be exactly the same.

    Also… I might be in many ways blissfully unaware of the culture, so what I’m going to say might sound like a ton of Captain Obvious- but I get very strong vibes in the sense of “when the man does something without his wife, it must be usually in an all-male group, and when the woman does something without her husband it must be always in an all-female group”; which sounds very limiting.

    Contrasting with my own situation/relationship: I tend to have slightly ;more male friends than female; my boyfriend has about the same number of male and female friends. While we do include each other in most friend gatherings, there are times when we will do things separately (mainly because I don’t care much for video games as a social activity; or for watching action movies, and he isn’t that much into board games, karaoke and salsa dancing); or there are times when one of us needs to give emotional support to a close friend in private. However, we’d never think to segregate by gender rather than by hobby,

  • Norm Donnan

    I think most men would like to know where we can meet an average lady just so we could fulfill her need to fulfill our needs.

    • Cassiopeia

      Fortunately for women everywhere, Michael Pearl is talking out of his ass.

    • Sally

      I love this sentence.

  • ako

    This is not something she can turn off. God created her with a female
    nature that finds fulfillment in being your suitable helper.

    Undoubtedly, he’d hit me with the “You really just don’t know yourself deep down inside” routine, but I’m female and of all things I need to find personal fulfillment, a man who lets me cater to his needs isn’t even on the list. I don’t need or want a romantic relationship with a man, and I certainly don’t need or want a relationship where I’m oh-so-generously allowed to cater to all of my partner’s needs.

    I think a woman with needs that go unmet (in any area), is less likely
    to enjoy sex. Yes, she probably would feel used. However, suggesting
    it’s because the woman wasn’t allowed to meet the needs of her husband’s
    soul (what are these needs, by the way?), she will be lackluster in the
    bedroom seems a bit . . . bizarre.

    Yeah, he’s taking something that’s true in a gender-neutral way, and trying to force it into a gendered box. People don’t like being used without any consideration for their needs and desires, and due to a combination of anatomy and culture, it’s much more common for men to be in a position to get themselves off without concern for if their partners enjoy it, and women to be expected to lie back and think of England, than the reverse. But taking the first part seriously involves abandoning his whole approach, so he twists it into a claim about Inherent Feminine Nature, and adds on “By taking care of her, I mean letting her do more stuff for you!”


    And if I’m not mistaken, there’s a sneaky little anti-gay reference.
    ”Another man cannot truly meet your companionship needs.”

    That’s what I was thinking. Rigid gender roles and anti-gay bigotry are tied together, and this is his way of trying to reinforce both.

    A man who does not have the fellowship of his wife will experience a
    great lack, but a woman who does not have the fellowship of her husband
    may become emotionally unstable. Many women base their self-worth on the
    companionship and fellowship of their husbands.

    Um, if she’s basing her sense of self-worth on how well you treat her, she’s already got serious emotional issues. It might be a good idea to try dating women with enough sense of self that they don’t let you totally define how they feel about themselves as a person. Maybe someone with outside interests, some confidence in their own judgement, friends even?

    Wait, no, someone like that might object to incessant painful sex, sleep deprivation, or being forced to run barefoot over sharp shells. They might even take issue with being constantly insulted and belittled. Not a good victim, I mean helpmeet.

  • grindstone

    Please lord, let this be the closest I ever come to agreeing with Michael Pearl, and no closer. Amen. ; )

    • That Other Jean

      Amen. In some ways–admittedly, not all that many–he makes sense; at least he makes far more sense than Debi. It’s interesting that he seems to talk a decent game about love and companionship, and even some ways about mutuality. Then there’s Debi’s book, demonstrating how little of the talk translates into action. And then there is what the two of them do to children, illustrating better than anything else how messed up they are.

      • Sally

        Part of me wonders if he didn’t secretly realize that Debi’s book is too harsh so in writing a version for the men, he’s trying to fix that. Yeah, Debi’s book is actually a manual for how to be a slave and even an abused wife, so I better tell the men to treat them a little better than that.

  • Mira

    I honestly feel like he’s saying “my wife is my best friend” in that she is expected to be his friend for the things HE wants to do. Not for the things SHE wants to do. He wants to go fishing at 4 am: he never even considers that she doesn’t want to: it’s something she has to do because SHE is his friend. Or something.
    It feels terribly imbalanced.

    • Sally

      I agree it comes off selfish, but I think he’s saying he doesn’t make her go at 4:00 a.m.; he goes will male buddies for that.

      • luckyducky

        I think this is beyond selfish… seriously sociopathic and narcissistic, breathtakingly so. The instrumental view of one’s partner — even when supposedly addressing meeting her needs, he turns it around into “if I don’t meet her needs, she won’t meet my needs” which is akin to “if I don’t change the oil in my car, it won’t run optimally.” That is before you even get to “and her need is to meet my needs” which is… well… WTF?

        This is just so nakedly self-serving, it astounds me that it sells to Christians who at least give lip service to the idea of service and self sacrifice. It affirms for me my understanding that religion is a tool that people use to do what they already want to do (separate thread), good or bad.

      • Sally

        Well said. I will say that not all even conservative Christians go for the Pearls. I have spent many years on a Christian homeschooling curriculum’s forum and when the Pearls are brought up, someone is quick to point out that their theology is messed up, they advocate abusive child rearing practices, and their marriage advice is highly twisted. In fact, someone sent someone to Libby Anne’s blog a few months ago and that’s how I found her blog as I was following that thread. Still, the fact that these books are out there and selling means there are people reading and trying to follow them.

    • http://musings.northerngrove.com/ JarredH

      I’m totally with you there. I mean, he goes on to talk about how she’s okay with the occasional “quick fishing trip and picnic,” yet never once mentions the activities that she most enjoys and how he might join her for one of them on occasion.

      • Cassiopeia

        That’s because he’s a Manly Man and doesn’t do Girly Things which his wife (because she’s a woman) would want to do.

      • Monika Jankun-Kelly

        Of course not. Him doing something she likes, for her sake, would be him meeting her needs. She’s supposed to meet his needs. He’s supposed to “let” her meet his needs, because deep down, what she really needs is to meet his needs. Ugh. Michael actually thinks he’s being kind, understanding, and supportive, probably. Let’s not forget, he himself says it took him TEN YEARS to figure out the little tiny bit that he has managed to get right.

  • Sally

    “…she will never be content until you allow her to meet your needs. This is not something she can turn off.”
    What a minute! Debi’s entire book is dedicated to telling women they have to stop being selfish and start being a help meet. Why does she need an entire book telling women that and proof-texting it with twisted Bible verses when “this is not something she can turn off?” Debi doesn’t say you will be fulfilled if you do this; she says you won’t end up in a dumpy duplex if you do this.

    “…she is much more willing to allow you to go do those man things without her.”
    Willing to allow you? If a woman in Debi’s presence said, “I am willing to allow my husband to …. anything,” I dare say she’d want to “grab her and shake her until her teeth rattled.”
    Seems very inconsistent with the message Debi gives. Kind of like the beat them down so they can be built back up the way you want idea. But if God is behind all this, it should all fit together, make a lot more sense, and be consistent.

    • Christine

      It makes sense that Debi’s book would still need to exist, even if it was true that women had a need to meet men’s needs that we couldn’t turn off. One idea behind Debi’s book is that women are unhappy because we are trying to deny that we have this need. There are other self-help books with similar themes (and many of them aren’t nonsense so much as they’re blindingly obvious) – that we are trying to change who we are in a way that we can’t change, and we need to accept what our needs actually are, and meet them.

      • Sally

        I hear what you’re saying, but I’m still seeing an overall confusing message. We can’t turn the need off (naturally have the need), yet we have an undeniable tendency (natural) to be selfish and ignore the need (according to Debi). So we have to have people like Debi explain what is natural to us, so that we can get back to what is our true nature. But we have to be persuaded with twisted Bible verses and threats of Dumpy Duplexes and even insanity to be convinced of the very thing that is actually the most natural thing for us to be doing.
        To me, if something is natural to do, you don’t need to be convinced of it with books and speeches. If the argument is that you’re going against your own nature because the culture has taught you to do so, then wonderful stories of getting back to your natural self should be highly motivating- sort of peeling away the unnatural messages and habits of modernity- and you’re left with your natural help meet self. But instead, Debi threatens, shames and beats down her readers. I can see how a book written for women would be needed to be the other half of Michael’s book. I don’t see how the core of their message (it is in a woman’s nature to be a help meet) makes sense when they have to spend so much time convincing their readers of something that is “natural,” particularly given Debi’s approach to women in her book. I guess what I’m saying is Michael’s book is coming across gentler to women right now than Debi’s. So his is easier to take at this point (although deeply flawed at it’s core message). But the fact that he’s writing statements about women that Debi would want to scream at a woman for making shows there’s a huge inconsistency here and that writing books like this gives away the fact that their claims are false: an entire gender is not made to serve the other gender. These are roles society, or people like the Pearls, put on them.
        What’s her true nature? -To go with her husband fishing at 4:00 a.m. because he likes her company or to let him know that she’d rather go for a fishing/picnic outing a couple of times a year instead? Debi’s book would send the woman fishing at 4:00 a.m. whether she liked it or not, because it’s in her nature to be his help meet and there can be “no greater joy.” Michael’s book says she’d rather not do that so he goes with buddies instead. So fishing at 4:00 a.m. whether she likes it or not doesn’t bring her “no greater joy” and he doesn’t expect it to. (How that fits in with the honeymoon scene, I have no idea- other than Michael has matured past his honeymoon days at least in some ways???)

      • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

        SIN.

        That’s the only explanation you need.

        Women ARE created to be this way, but because of SIN, we rebel. So we must be instructed to be natural.

      • Sally

        “SIN: So we must be instructed to be natural.”
        I love it. I think this should be the title of all Debi’s speaking engagements.

      • Christine

        Well of course it’s a confusing message. These people could tell me that rain falls from the sky and make no sense. Everything either of them tries to say is wrapped in all sorts of confusing assumptions, and it’s very difficult to figure if something is self-consistent or not.

      • tsara

        I think it has to do with for whom the books are written; it’s pretty easy to get guys (even well-intentioned ones) to go along with Woman Is ______. It’s less easy to get women to believe bullshit about the True Nature of women, and I think you sort of have to fill them with horror at the dire consequences of not living the way God wants them to.

  • Christine

    I, depressingly, actually agree somewhat with the statement that a wife should feel valued because then she’ll let you go and do “man things” with your buddies. If your partner feels neglected then they are much more likely to resent time that you spend with your friends, away from them. In a healthy relationship they will be ok with you having outside friends and interests.

    • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

      It’s not the statement that’s the problem, it’s the sentiment behind it.

      Like that the ONLY reason you should make your wife feel valued is because of how it benefits you, not for the benefits it gives your wife.

      • Jayn

        Not to mention the whole ‘she’ll feel valued if you let her take care of you’ thing. WTF? No mention of taking care of her needs, just getting out of the way so she can take care of yours.

        I’m so glad I married a man who actually ENCOURAGES me to have a life outside of our marriage. Apparently I could have done much, much worse in oh so many ways.

      • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

        Thing is, there are a FEW times, where he comes so close to getting it right, but for all the wrong reasons, like the above about making your wife feel valued and you can have independence.

        Or the part about wives not feeling amorous because they are “unappreciated”. Recent studies have shown that families that have an egalitarian and balanced share of housework have more active sex lives. So he’s close in diagnosing why women can feel disconnected from sex(aside from the toxic sexual expectations in fundamentalist homes), but STILL misses the mark, because he’s still able to twist it into catering to his needs instead of her own.

      • sylvia_rachel

        Thing is, there are a FEW times, where he comes so close to getting it
        right, but for all the wrong reasons, like the above about making your
        wife feel valued and you can have independence.

        Yeah. It’s like he has these flashes of insight into human behaviour, and if he could just let go of his patriarchal ideology long enough to think them through …

      • Christine

        And that’s what the Pearls do. They can take something that is very wise, has a lot of evidence to back it up, will result in good things, and then twist it. And that’s why it’s so depressing to agree with them (not just because I think they’re messed up and don’t like agreeing with them). It’s not as commonly accepted as it ought to be that this is a necessary part of a healthy relationship, and that you should balance time with your partner and time with the guys/girls. So why does it have to be championed by the PEARLS?!

      • Sally

        James Dobson encourages separate friendships outside of the marriage. Does that help? (Probably not.)

      • Christine

        I think that Evangelicals and the rest of society (and I’m not quite sure who falls into “the rest of society” here) are at odds, and each overreacting to what the other says, and going to an equally unhealthy extreme. I had a very boring workterm before I got married, and spent time reading wedding Q&A boards, and you would not BELIEVE the number of people who fell into one of the following categories: we love each other we never argue, it’s clearly wrong if a couple argues; it’s stupid to get pre-marital counselling, we love each other so much we don’t need to worry; relationships aren’t work, why would people say that they are?; any of the above combine with “because we’re so much better than everyone else (by fitting into the above categories), we don’t need to worry about divorce”. It’s as if they only just discovered that compatibility is a factor, and now they expect it to be magic.

        Does this sort of stupidity justify the “it doesn’t matter who you marry, any Christian [provided they're *real* Christians of course] can have an equally good marriage with any other Christian” nonsense? Of course not. But I can’t help but think that each group is looking at the other, and using the fact that they’re messed up as an excuse to reject the middle ground.

      • Sally

        “But I can’t help but think that each group is looking at the other, and using the fact that they’re messed up as an excuse to reject the middle ground.”
        Good insight.

  • TLC

    “She will never be content until you allow her to meet your needs.”

    Cripes, indeed. I call BUNCHES OF bananas.

    I know that I enjoy being a caregiver for both my son and my clients, but they are all adults, and I have a CHOICE about how much care I give them, or whether I continue to care for them at all. This makes it sound like if a woman is not dedicating her entire life to meeting the needs of a HUSBAND, she will be cut off from her life force, wither and die. It’s all about him, isn’t it? Forget about kids, pets, siblings, parents or friends. The husband supplies the life force.

    It would be an interesting experiment to take about 30 readers of this blog, hook us up to blood pressure/heart rate measuring devices, and have us start reading about the Pearls’ books. If we could take that surge in energy from the anger/outrage generated and convert it to electricity, we could probably generate enough power to run a major city for a day!

  • Jackie

    So a man will just feel like something is missing, but the woman may acquire a mental disorder if she doesn’t have fellowship with her husband? Is this how he justifies a wife who is angry with her spouse when he’s selfish – that she’s got a mental disorder? Not only that, but what does this tell men whose wives do have mental health issues – that it’s all their fault? Have a spouse with Major Depressive Disorder – just cuddle up and she’ll be fine. Yuck.

    • Jackie

      This makes me think of Andrea Yates, the mom who drowned her children after suffering from untreated mental health issues for years and yet was forced to continue having children and to homeschool.

      • Abby Normal

        Yuck, me too. Unfortunately, the mindset above coincides with the suspicion that these folks have for psychiatry (and modern medicine in general for that matter)–it makes for a very bad scene.

  • butterfly5906

    “many do not know that their souls and spirits also have a deep need that only she can meet. ”

    I’m not Christian, but I go to church with my husband. The pastor makes a point of saying regularly that the one and only person who can meet all your needs is Jesus. Is Michael saying that even a man with great faith is still missing something in his soul? That feels a little unchristian.

  • MNb

    “she will never be content until you allow her to meet your needs.”
    I wonder what will happen if the author meets some women who think otherwise? Like my counterpart, a Surinamese moslima? Oh, she likes to take care of me. But she sets the limits, not me.


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