CTNAHM: What to Do If You Marry the “Wrong” Woman

A Guest Post by Aletha

Originally posted on Yllom Mormon

Created To Need A Help Meet, pp. 27—31. 

Mr. Pearl,

I was not a Christian when I got married.  My wife and I were drunk at the time and I think she married me because I had enough money to keep her supplied in drugs.  After five years of miserable marriage we both became Christians and now we have three children.  We have attended counseling and read several books but we are still on the verge of divorce.  I know I did not get God’s choice. How could I?  Satan was controlling my life.   The fact is I just do not love her.  I thought I did once, but if you only knew her, you wouldn’t like her either.  By staying together we are just hurting each other and the children.  I have told her I do not want to have any more children because it would be a crime to bring them into this relationship.  Is it too late for me?  Is the woman I should have married still out there waiting for me, or did she marry the wrong man also?  How do I get out of this mess?

Hurting

Dear Hurting,

Yes, it sounds like you are in an unhappy marriage.  I’m sorry that kids are caught in the cross-hairs.  It’s awful when counseling doesn’t work.  Since you are at the point where you admit to not loving her, and told her that having more kids would be a crime, I think you guys should just get divorced.  If your relationship was built on drugs and alcohol, it’s understandable why it is struggling now, even though you have both converted.  Make sure you don’t hurt the kids in trying to hurt your wife.  And while I’m at it, just because you are having problems with your wife, it doesn’t mean nobody else would like her.  That’s just rude.  Also, I’m not an oracle.  How am I to know about the woman you should have married?

Michael

Ok.  I wrote that response.  I think it’s appropriate, especially given his tone about his wife!  But here’s what Michael says:

I have heard it many times.  It is the number one cop-out of husbands divorcing their wives to make another try at finding a better match.  Let me be clear.  There is only one time in Scripture that God created one particular woman for one particular man and that was Eve, and she was essentially cloned from one of his ribs.

Wow.  I never thought about Eve being cloned.  Two things.  First, Michael doesn’t understand cloning.  Cloning makes a perfect copy.  Dolly the sheep didn’t become Donald the sheep!  And second, if Eve was practically a “clone”, that makes their relationship all kinds of messed up.  It’s worse than dating your brother—you’re dating your…father? clone buddy? Just ick.

God does not micromanage our lives, making us fulfill predetermined destines.  There is not a parallel world somewhere, an ideal one that is God’s will for us, and then this present one where we must somehow discover all that is foreordained.  The concept that God created a single match for each person is romantic, superstitious, and wishful thinking.  Marriages are “made in heaven” when God recognizes the earthly union of an opposite sex couple becoming one flesh.

I agree with a lot of this paragraph.  I don’t think God micromanages. I know, coming from an LDS background, there is kind of the unspoken thought of a different universe where you’re perfect and God grades you in this universe, how far you were from the perfect one.  That actually sums up quite succinctly how I’ve often felt.  Of course, marriage is only between opposite sex couples.  I’m surprised this didn’t come up earlier.

However, miracles are a suspension of natural laws, and it is not beyond the scope to suppose that from time to time God has taken special note of one of his servants and cultivated a particular mate for him, then supernaturally led them to intersecting paths so as to establish a foreordained union.  Certainly he will lead us and guide us to make wise choices in all things, including choosing a wife, but most of us are not foreordained from eternity to marry one particular person.

I’m a romantic, so this kind of makes me sad.  I like the idea of “soul mates” and loving one person through many incarnations. Also, take note on how God only cultivates particular mates for a man.  Like there’s a garden of women that he adds special fertilizer to until she is ready to be placed in this man’s way.  Surely this works both ways?  Oh wait…

Furthermore, when God does perform that special marriage miracle, preparing two people for each other, that in no way means they are going to jump right into a perfect marriage.  God could bring two people together because he knows the wife needs sanctifying in the worst sort of way, so God prepares a man for her that has sufficient patience and grace to sanctify his wife.

Just wow.  That’s the only example he gives in this.  An un-sanctified wife that needs a man to show her the right way.  I guess she should be lucky that the man that found her has enough grace and patience to put up with her. Isn’t Jesus the one that does the sanctifying? Not the husband?

When God chose David to be king, he chose a flawed man who would make some poor decisions resulting in the death of many of Israel.  A truly perfect marriage can only occur when two perfect people come together or when two imperfect people spend many years integrating their souls into one.  What is so special about you, or what great work have you accomplished that God should provide you with a perfect woman?  Would she still be perfect after having to endure YOU day after day?  Maybe she was a wonderful woman when you married her, but she was just not mature enough to tolerate your inconsistencies and insensitivity.  Have you seen a man buy a new tool, abuse it until it malfunctions, and then blame the manufacturer and try to trade it in for a new one?

First, I wouldn’t categorize David’s mistakes as poor.  Some of them were outright catastrophic!  And really?  Use the guy who killed Bathsheba’s husband just to get in her pants as your example?  Ugh.  Then, of course, we move into insulting the letter writer.  This is a tactic Debi’s book uses as well.  I do have to say, though, I never thought Michael would stick up for the woman, no matter how round about he went at it.  I think he has good points. Maybe she was great when they got married!  Who knows?

Don’t Skip This Paragraph

As a point of clarification, God designed the nature of women to be help meets, not a particular help meet to a particular man; in other words, the nature of women is that of a helper suited to the needs of the generic man.  Every woman is by nature equipped to be a help meet to any man.  No matter the circumstances that brought you together as man and wife, she is equipped in every way to be your helper.  You must discover the path to maturity for both of you.  That, my friend, is God’s will for you.

Interesting.  I think this goes along with the whole “any Christian man and woman can have a lasting marriage” type of thinking.  Here, once again, the teachings of the Pearls align with the teachings of Mormon prophets:

Soul mates are fiction and an illusion; and while every young man and every young woman will seek with all diligence and prayer fullness with whom life can be both beautiful and compatible, yet it is certain that almost any good man and any good woman can have happiness and a successful marriage if both are willing to pay the price.  (Prophet Spencer W. Kimball)

I wonder what the path to maturity that Michael speaks of and if the price that Kimball talks about are the same thing.  I don’t think it’s quite true that any good man and any good woman can have a happy marriage.  Sometimes people aren’t physically, sexually, intellectually, or emotionally compatible.  No amount of praying or sacrificing can make up for gross inequalities or lack of compatibility.  This kind of thinking is destructive, because when people believe this, they are more willing to stay in unhappy or abusive marriages.  If any man can be with any woman, might as well stay where you are.  The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t, after all.

What’s Wrong With My Helper?

Few men actually “marry the right lady” and live happily ever after.  Two sinners decide to sign a contract that binds them in a partnership for the rest of their lives.  They will live in the same house, share everything, and be in each other’s faces for better or for worse until death separates them, and they are not allowed to kill each other.  Such an arrangement seems doomed from the start.  It sounds more like a recipe for psychosis and bipolar disorder.

What a lovely picture he paints of marriage!  I guess props to him for not being idealistic?  But still…why would anyone want this?  And as a bipolar person, I am a bit offended that he arbitrarily throws it out there that BPD is caused by bad marriages.  It’s a tricky chemical, emotional, and circumstantial disorder, and nobody knows quite what the cause is.  Grrr.

You married a sinner.  She may have been a dedicated Christian, but she was not even half sanctified.  You assumed the responsibility for somebody’s daughter.  I can hear her father driving home from the wedding saying “Well, she’s his problem now.”  You might have thought you were getting a brand new car that was guaranteed to never need repair, but the one thing you bought was actually in recall.  She came off the Eve assembly line—Chinese made.  And, considering that you are not a trained mechanic, but rather a self-absorbed, fleshy, fallen creature, making this thing work is going to demand more than you supposed.

It’s interesting that he insults everyone in this paragraph.  First, how does he know she’s not sanctified?  What’s his definition?  Second, I’m never going to be a father, but if I left the wedding saying “She’s not my problem anymore, do dah do dah,” I would hope someone slapped me upside the head.  I wonder if that’s what he thought when his daughters were married?  Third, comparing women to a car?  Not just a car, but a Made in China car—racist much?  And what’s an Eve assembly line?  The purpose of an assembly line is to rapidly produce identical products.  Is he saying women are identical?  Perhaps he is, now that I think about it.  Fourth, finally, he calls man “Creature”, too.  I guess nobody is human to Michael Pearl.

When you get married you signed on to the most colossal undertaking imaginable.  The hardest thing you will ever do in your walk with Christ is to bring your marriage into the blessed state of holy and delightful matrimony.  It can be done.  I am a witness to many successes, but none took place automatically.  It takes heart effort.  This book will help you succeed.

I feel it’s appropriate to note that while Debi’s book speaks of changing a marriage into a heavenly one singlehandedly by the woman, this book also has that goal, aimed at men.  I’m not sure how it will play out by the time it’s done, but at this point in time, I like that Michael says it will take work, and not expect the woman to do it all.

Of Conflict and Triumph

If a man could marry and immediately move with his bride into the Garden of Eden, a perfect place devoid of the curse, without death or disease, their marriage would be no easier than it is now, for all marital problems are rooted in the self-seeking of two people.  In fact, I do believe God intended marriage to be a mini cosmos of human development.  It is the perfect context for the sanctification of a fallen race.  It replicates the world at large, having all the element of temptation and trial.  It is a personal character building package designed to try, prove, and perfect the content of our souls.  If a man succeeds in marriage, he succeeds in life.  That is why God designed marriage to be “until death do us part,”  for to bail out of a troubled marriage is to bail out of your sanctification program.

I guess there’s never any excuse to get out of a marriage.  You signed the contract, you’re stuck!  I also distinctly remember Michael saying in the introduction that his book wasn’t philosophical, but embarrassingly pragmatic.Perhaps it’s just me, but I wish there were a bit more pragmatism and a bit less flowery comparisons…

Why?

We are placed on this earth to grow beyond our origins.  There are some things God wants that he cannot create out of nothingness, like love, mercy, patience, grace, sacrifice, honor, and glory.  Those things are achieved in an environment where character is tested, a battlefield of good and evil choices, selfishness or service, where the end is a product of free will, and choices have eternal consequences.  Marriage is the boot camp of life where men and women discover their strengths and weaknesses, and have opportunity to adjust their characters.  If a man cannot succeed in marriage, he is not qualified to hold any position of authority in the church.  “For if man know not how to rule his own home, how shall he take care of the church? (1 Timothy 3:5).

I’m a bit confused.  If God is omnipotent, omniscient, and all powerful, why couldn’t he create things like love, mercy, etc.?  Isn’t everything good attributed to God, anyway?  I understand that these traits usually necessitate some type of struggle, but if you believe in a God that can part waters and raise people from the dead, surely it isn’t much of a stretch to say that he can create glory out of nothing.

I would never, ever, compare my marriage to boot camp!  Boot camp brings to mind people being yelled at by an uncaring boss, doing physical trials that are almost beyond my capabilities, and terrible food.  I think a better analogy would be an obstacle course.  There are things you have to overcome.  Sometimes they take 3 or 4 tries until you get past them.  But it’s great having someone to help you; someone to be strong when you’re weak, someone to help you grow, and vice versa.  At least that’s how I think of my marriage.

Marriage is the second big challenge in life.  Maintaining your virtue is the first.  Marriage is like a three-legged sack race.  You cannot win by leaving your partner and crossing the finish line alone.  When she falls, you must stop and recover your partner before you can proceed.  You only win if you learn to cooperate and work together, running in rhythm, feeling your partner’s every step and holding her more tightly when she is prone to stumble.  Your strength becomes her strength and both of you become a crutch to lean on as you keep your eyes on the prize and the glory set before you.  There are many winners.  All you must do is get to the finish line together still smiling and on your feet with your leg in the same sack.  You can’t win by getting in the sack with someone else.

Ok. I kind of like this analogy.  Kind of.  There’s something that is sitting wrong with me, but I can’t figure out what it is.  Maybe you can explain it down in the comments if you feel it, too?  I’ve been in a few 3-legged races before, and none of them required smiling at the end.  Maybe that’s the JOY of Jesus?  Also, I am so amused at this last line.  “You can’t win by getting in the sack with someone else.”  Double entende, anyone? Hehehe.

Like dancing, the male must take the lead, but he is likewise responsible to keep his partner in step with him.  A dancer who blames his partner will never gain the favor of those watching.  And a dance team or three-legged sack racers are never better than the weakest member, so it falls to the stronger to encourage the weaker, “Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honor unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered (1 Peter 3:7)”

I took a ballroom dancing class in college.  I was taught it was my responsibility to follow where my partner leads, but that I was in charge of my own steps.  If I wanted to cha-cha while he was doing the rumba, I could.  We would just both look silly.  (Yes, I tried.)  And whose favor are we trying to gain, Michael? God’s? Yours? The church’s?  Why is the weak one always the wife?  I know with my husband sometimes I’m weaker, and sometimes he is.  I think it works out better, so nobody has to be the strong one for everything.  I think that would be too much to bear, especially during a crisis.

Yes, marriages are made on earth, one act of kindness and goodwill at a time.  Like expensive wine it takes years to mellow a marriage and it is worth every day of it, more so as the years pile up.  The direction you are headed now is the place you will be when you are 66 years old, as I am now.  If you are headed the wrong way, turn it away now or get used to sitting in the middle of the playground alone with an empty sack and no dance partner or aged wine.

I agree.  Marriages are made one act of kindness and love at a time.  I, personally, feel that marriages can start out good and get better as time goes on.  Sometimes there will be ups and downs, but as long as there is trust and compassion, things usually right themselves. Trust and compassion from both parties, I should add.

Coming up next time, we discuss the ways men and women need each other.  It’s sure to be a blast!

CTNAHM: Don't Command Your Wife to Obey
CTNAHM: Women Are Cursed---Twice!
CTNAHM: Eve and Her Gullible Female Nature
CTNAHM: Obey vs. Submit
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.


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