CTNAHM: The Proper Way for Wives to Challenge

A Guest Post by Aletha

Originally posted on Yllom Mormon

Created To Need A Help Meet, pp. 41—43

Alright. We are still going through Chapter 4. So far it’s been reasons why husbands need wives, and the reasons why wives need to be needed.  It’s been a blast, and we’ve still got 20 pages to go.  Last section we ended with how men need to be challenged by their wives.  Today we’re starting with a story in that vein.

“Let’s Go” She Said

[Michael contracted encephalitis and was hospitalized for 11 days. They didn't know if he'd survive and Michael fell into a depression afterwards, mostly due to the loss of his short-term memory.  He would often re-buy things because he forgot he bought them already.]

At the time I was making kitchen cabinets for a living.  I would head out to install a set and forget where I was going.  I got scared to leave the house. I felt confused and uncertain and lost my confidence.  I felt normal until I got into a stressful situation or someone called my attention to something I had forgotten. I began to fall behind in my business and was unable to get out and do the necessary sales.

I’m impressed that Michael actually admits to feeling scared and less confident.  It must have been really scary for his family.

One day my wife said “let’s go.”  She rode with me through new subdivisions and we stopped at houses under construction.  She sent me inside to talk to the homeowners or builders.  Our first trip out netted two jobs.  She had to continue challenging me to keep me going, but after several years I seemed to return to normal.  She tells me I was grouchy during that time and seemed to resent anyone thinking that there was anything wrong with me.  I still have trouble remembering names. If she hadn’t challenged me with an offer to help, I might have shrunk into depression (but I doubt it).

Perhaps I’m misinterpreting things, but telling Michael to get in the car and taking him to a job spot seems a bit more than challenging.  Saying “let’s go” really doesn’t seem like an offer to help, does it?  I’m not sure if it’s in line with Debi’s book.  Though congrats to Debi for snapping Michael out of this depression—even though he won’t admit that part.

I am a minster of the gospel and often speak publicly.  In my earlier ministry there were times Deb challenged me in regard to the appropriateness of something I said in a sermon, or in a public setting—still does every once in awhile.  At first I resented her challenging me for it felt like rejection, criticism, condemnation. I will admit—but just this once—there were times her challenges just made me more stubborn.  I didn’t care about the issue; I just wanted her to think I was the best, number one, Mr. Infallible.  I would have been happier if she had been just an ignoramus who had no discernment and couldn’t see my errors.  So what if I hurt someone else through lack of sensitivity or over-zealousness, my wife should be loyal to me regardless! Why did she have to be so smart?

OK. I’m not a preacher, but have given talks in church.  It’s kind of a given when you preach from the pulpit, you try your best not to insult people.  It’s just a common courtesy. Especially if you are prone to speaking publicly often. It doesn’t make sense to insult the people that pay you.

think it’s very telling that Michael admits it didn’t matter what the issue was, he just wanted to be right. Also, what’s up with the backhanded compliments?  He wished his wife were an “ignoramus”, just so he can appear to be infallible.  I can understand that when he was challenged, he felt threatened.  I react the same way, and I’m sure I’m not the only one.  But I’ve never, ever wished my spouse was too stupid to catch my errors!

When husbands and wives don’t have goodwill towards one another, a wife’s challenges will be met with resistance, for he thinks she is judging him or “trying to be the boss.”  You must bring your wife to the place where she has the wisdom and grace to challenge you without pushing.  And you must garner enough humility to recognize that you do indeed need a help meet to challenge you to greater things.

He makes a good point here. When spouses don’t have goodwill towards each other, challenges (from either) will be taken badly.  Though I don’t see anything wrong with a woman trying to be the boss.  Honestly, it’s whatever works for a couple’s dynamic.  How exactly does a man bring his wife to the “place where she has the wisdom and grace to challenge without pushing”?  I remember last section there was talk about “cultivating” the wife. I still am unclear how that happens.  Or why a man needs to “bring his wife” to the place where he thinks she needs to be. Constructive observations, yes.  Telling her “you should be here because I’m the man and this is my need”, no.  It is true, though, that everyone (not just husbands) need enough humility to say “you’re right” to someone else.

When a husband has a bad attitude that may cause him to lose his job or make a fool of himself at church, his wife is his first line of defense.  He needs her to be wise and sensitive.  If she runs in too fast with too much, he might just bite her like a dog being pulled out of a fight.  If he is already in a fighting mood, she shouldn’t appear to be taking the side of the enemy.  Diplomacy is called for and a carefully crafted question is in order. “Honey, if you do confront the preacher, how do you think everyone else will respond?”  “Honey, I know your boss is sometimes rude, but if you say something to him and lose your job, where can you find employment in this economy?”

Why must women be emotional regulators of their husbands?  I’m not saying don’t talk him down if he’s going to do something tremendously stupid. Definitely do that.  But Michael kind of makes it sound like if he’s angry, cool him down.  Just don’t be too harsh or take someone else’s side.  Adults should be able to regulate their emotions.  I realise the irony in a bipolar person saying that, but at least I’m on meds that help.  Also, why is the only allowable way to get a husband to think about his actions (which he should be doing internally anyway!) one carefully worded question?  My husband is laid back and patient, so when he gets riled up, it’s been building for a good long time.  I’m quite the opposite.  But we have a mature enough relationship where either of us can say something to the effect of “You’re being unreasonable.  Calm down.” without having to tiptoe on eggshells.  Maybe that’s the rub.  It doesn’t sound like Michael and Debi have a mature relationship.  It sounds like he gets what he wants when he wants it and she makes it happen.  Not mutual giving and taking.  Moving on.

You may tell me your wife is more likely to say, “Don’t be so stupid.  You have no marketable skills, and if you lose this job, I am going to take the kids and live with my mother until you find another one.”  If that is your situation, then you have a bigger job cut out for you at home than you do at work.  You need to bond with your wife, let her know that she is cherished, fellowship with her; walk in the light, and then be ready to allow her to second-guess your attitudes.  It is amazing that when a wife knows her husband is going to consider her critique, she grows more tactful in her approach.  But if he has proven to be a stubborn fool, she will treat him with scorn.

Hmmm.  Guess I’m more like that wife.  I’m not above making threats to get what I want.  And it’s not for lack of bonding or fellowship.  It’s because I came from a very neglectful childhood, and the threat of my husband losing his job and me not having what I need is a huge trigger for me.  So maybe the wife responds badly because she’s scared and doesn’t respond well to fear.  Maybe it’s the 100th time they’ve had this conversation.  I don’t know the situation.  It just seems silly to completely ignore the WHY of the wife’s outburst and focus on the “give her more attention and she’ll treat you better”.  I would think the right advice for this situation (and yes, I have been in this situation) is: “Wow.  You seem really upset.  Why does this situation cause such a reaction?  Are you scared?  I see.  Why are you scared? Oh. That’s a good point.” etc.  It just seems like Michael treats women like vending machines.  Pop in a few kind words and quality time, pop out the desired results.  People don’t work like that!  Though he does have a point that if someone is going to be a stubborn fool, they will probably be met with scorn.

When a woman finds her soul refreshed by her husband, she will not speak to him in a way that might cause her to lose the blessedness of that fellowship.  When he values her and she values him, they stop hurting one another and treat each other with respect and tolerance. You need someone on the front line to challenge you.  Wives are real handy.  They just need to know that they are valued for their perspective.

I don’t know what soul refreshed-ness is, but I’m assuming it’s something to the effect of warm fuzzies.  Michael’s point sorta kinda makes sense.  If you make your spouse happy, they are less inclined to make you unhappy.  Though I think there’s an implied threat hidden in that line.  If the woman speaks in a condescending manner, she’ll lose the “blessing” of her husband’s fellowship.  I guess it’s a “Play nice and I’ll be nice” type of thing.  Which really seems to be the way marriage relationships (at least according to the Pearls) are cast.  Wives must submit to their husbands in order to make the husbands into godly men. Ick.

However, Michael does have a winner in the next line.  “When he values her and she values him, they stop hurting one another and treat each other with respect and tolerance.”  I think this should have been his main point.  He could have talked about the ways to show the wife that she is valued (that don’t  point out how she was created to help a man out), or ways to stop hurting each other if that’s the case.  I don’t think there would be many people that could find fault with that kind of philosophy.  It’s very Golden Rule and simple.  I appreciate that.  “Value each other and treat each other kindly.” The end.

Nope. Not the end.  Michael has to get his twist in there a bit.  “Women are handy.”  No, Swiss Army Knives are handy.  Spatulas by the oven are handy.  Women are people that deserve respect.  Not merely because they can provide things that men need.  But because they are equal partners in their marriage and have needs themselves.  Besides the “God-given” need women have to want to be help meets, Michael ignores any other needs women might have.  Even though he preaches respect, it doesn’t seem to me like he really offers it to women.  I could be wrong, though.

*Also, I’m debating skipping the rest of this chapter. It’s a lot more of the same, though we do get gems like “I Need to Be Her Protector” and “I Need My Wife to Meet My Erotic Desires”.  Let me know if you want me to slog ahead and finish out the chapter, or just compile a list of the highlights.*

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.

  • AAAtheist

    “…When a woman finds her soul refreshed by her husband, she will not speak to him in a way that might cause her to lose the blessedness of that fellowship. When he values her and she values him, they stop hurting one another and treat each other with respect and tolerance. You need someone on the front line to challenge you. Wives are real handy. They just need to know that they are valued for their perspective. …” {All emphases and strikethroughs are mine.}

    Leave it to Mikey to put absolute jewels right next to complete lumps of coal in the same display case.

    And what’s with the war metaphor? Does he really equate marriage to charging a machine gun nest?

    Aletha, feel free to highlight if you think it best. Those upcoming sections (“I Need to Be Her Protector”; “I Need My Wife to Meet My Erotic Desires”) don’t sound promising. Why not “I Want a Marriage Where We Can Be Good for Each Other” and “I Want Us to Satisfy Each Other’s Erotic Desires”? That’s a rhetorical question, by the way. I know why not.

    • mary

      There just wouldn’t be as much drama, er, cash, in a marriage book that said

      There are no easy fixes. You need to be compatible, healthy adults who want to work at it. If either of you is not, just divorce now. If you are compatible, healthy, and committed, marriage will be a lifelong lesson in a balance of mutuality, unselfishness, personal agency, healthy boundaries, and if you’re not asexual, good, fun sex. You may have children, you may travel, you may do a lot of things- buy if it works, it will be wonderful, and hopefully you’ll build a history with another person that enriches both of you and teaches you humor, grace, and how to be strong for yourself and others. Have fun, kids, and good luck. Give it your best, and you may get something really special. Oh- and keep good records. Joint taxes can be a bitch.

    • Jolie

      The emphase and strikethrough thing remind me a lot of how I read Ayn Rand’s novels :) wish I had the time to do that to them.

  • JasmynMoon

    How could you consider skipping his erotic desires? Isn’t that on all of our minds?
    /vomit.

    • TLC

      Oh, please don’t skip the erotic desires. I HAVE to see what they consider “erotic.” I will hopefully will read it first thing in the morning before I eat so I won’t have to use the /vomit command.

    • Gillianren

      I don’t want to think of either of them in an erotic context.

    • Monika Jankun-Kelly

      I’m curious to see what spin he’ll put on “good women don’t ever say no to sexual demands” and “if men don’t get sex N times a week, their heads explode and their manly parts fall off”.

  • Sally

    I just can’t get past the inconsistency with Debi’s book. He doesn’t even seem to care that his description of the wife’s role is so different than Debi’s.

    • TLC

      Exactly. I can’t imaging what goes on when a wife is reading Debi’s book at the same time her husband is reading Michael’s book. He’s trying to engage her and get her opinion, and she’s shut off her brain because Debi said so. Talk about a feedback loop!

  • ako

    If she hadn’t challenged me with an offer to help, I might have shrunk into depression (but I doubt it).</i.

    Did he just realize how honest and vulnerable he was being, and backtrack into "No, I am manly man! Too manly for depression!"?

    • Liz

      Oh yes, because Michael is much too “manly” to ever suffer from something so wimpy and emasculating as depression. (Can you see my eyes rolling from here?)

      • http://gaychristiangeek.blogspot.com Rainicorn

        Yeah, I can’t get over how incredibly childish he seems when he adds those little asides: “(but I doubt it)”, “I will admit — but just this once.” Is he really that monumentally insecure? It’s quite sad, really.

      • Monika Jankun-Kelly

        He’s a selfish, callous bully and tyrant. I really do think he’s genuinely that insecure. :(

      • NeaDods

        Not to mention desperately afraid someone will see him as less than the alpha male. He drips insecurity.

      • Jackie

        And the fact that he was clearly depressed. Not wanting to work, irritable, in denial that he was avoiding difficult tasks. What does he think depression looks like?

      • NeaDods

        He probably thinks it looks “girly” like constantly crying. And he’s too butch to cry and therefore cannot be “really” depressed.

      • Monika Jankun-Kelly

        This! Big yes to what Nea just wrote! “Real manly men” can’t show emotions! They don’t get depressed! They don’t ask for help! They might maybe, after 10 years, get some small clue about how their wives think and feel, and how much they need their wives, but they sure as hell aren’t going to let the wives read that in their “men only” book. He’s so horrid right now, it’s difficult to imagine that he may have actually been even worse years ago. My mind just boggles at this guy.

    • luckyducky

      Pretty sure that someone screening for depression would read/hear:

      I got scared to leave the house. I felt confused and uncertain and lost my confidence… She tells me I was grouchy during that time and seemed to resent anyone thinking that there was anything wrong with me.

      And think “Ding, ding, ding, we have a winner. Please tell our contestant what he’s won. Well, he’s won a 6mo prescription of an antidepressant and therapy.” Because, you know, anxiety, irritability, and loss of confidence are all pretty standard indicators of depression.

      • Sally

        Absolutely! It sounds like he got out of it by getting out there and carrying on with her support, but a prescription might have really taken the edge off and made it easier on everyone. Meanwhile, I absolutely agree he already was depressed.

      • elisa

        So there you go, everyone! Marriage advice from a man who believes that if you don’t admit that you have a specific problem, using that problem’s commonly accepted name, then there is no problem.

  • Lunch Meat

    He needs her to be wise and sensitive. If she runs in too fast with too much, he might just bite her like a dog being pulled out of a fight. If he is already in a fighting mood, she shouldn’t appear to be taking the side of the enemy. Diplomacy is called for and a carefully crafted question is in order.

    My husband doesn’t handle anger very well. He doesn’t get angry very often, but when he does he finds it very difficult to control himself and calm down. Due to family dynamics in my childhood, I tend to shut down when there is conflict or yelling. So when he is yelling at me, my reaction is to move away or look away and tell him calmly that he needs to calm down or I can’t talk to him (my instinctive reaction is to run away, but I’ve gotten better at that). The problem is, when I’m not engaging with him he feels like I don’t care. So he’s actually told me that he would prefer I yell back, even if all I’m saying is “Stop yelling and calm down!” He already has a problem with getting defensive if he feels patronized, so I think the worst thing in the world I could do would be if I tried to say, “Honey, don’t you think X would be easier if you weren’t angry and yelling?”

    • Lunch Meat

      I should note that when he’s that angry, it’s almost never at me, it’s at someone else and he’s just venting.

      • Alix

        FWIW, I have the exact same reaction to anger as your husband. :/ About the worst thing someone can say to me when I’m actually angry is that I need to calm down, thanks to that being the functional equivalent of “you’re irrational (and therefore whatever you’re angry over is stupid), shut up, and never be angry again” when I was growing up. I especially can’t stomach the “calm down” routine from folks close to me, who ought to actually know better and who ought to know that my temper blows over quickly.

      • Lizzie

        Me too! “Calm down” seems dismissive to me (as it was when I was a child) whenever I hear it and it instantly multiplies my anger.

      • Alix

        Yes. Dismissive, and silencing (since the instant I did calm down no one would talk about whatever had made me angry, because “you’re calm now, so why does it matter?”), and often condescending.

        And if I wasn’t actually angry before, telling me to “calm down” is a damn good way to see that I get angry. I … honestly, I don’t think there’s anything that sets me off quite so badly.

    • Jenesis

      Out of curiosity…what does he say when you tell him that the thought of engaging in a pointless screaming match makes YOU angry and upset?

      Since the root of the problem isn’t actually you, it sounds like he might be better off enlisting sympathetic friends, family members, or a therapist to help him deal with his anger.

      • Alix

        …Please tell me I misread you, and you aren’t honestly saying that anyone who doesn’t swallow their anger and express themselves with perfect calmness needs therapy…

      • Jenesis

        “Therapist” was the wrong word — perhaps “counselor” would be more appropriate? I didn’t mean to connote mental illness, but rather “a person who is specially trained to listen to you talk about your problems (however you choose to express them),” especially when part of the anger relates to the perception that the angry person’s loved ones are not being supportive.

      • Alix

        Ah, okay. Sorry for the misunderstanding, and thank you for clarifying. I fully agree with you. I do think that people like me, who need to vent, need to make sure we’re venting to people who can put up with that venting.

  • AngieGW

    I would prefer to slog through it all, just because one of the retorts people say about reviews of their books is that reviewers only select edited highlights, and don’t cover the whole book. I’m sure it must be tedious to cover the same ground again, but it would be useful to avoid criticisms like that.

  • Kathleen

    I totally want to hear what outrageous thing he said about the erotic desires. Sorry, I’m twisted.

  • Kate Monster

    PLEASE do the “erotic desires” section!!!!!! I need my full daily dose of WTF!? and I can’t image that it’s anything less that WTFantastic.


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