CTNAHM: You are Responsible for Your Spouse’s Temperament

A Guest Post by Aletha

Originally posted on Yllom Mormon

Created To Need A Help Meet, pp. 63—64

Today we’re starting the sections about the 3 types of men.  If you recall, “Created to Be His Help Meet” introduced this topic.  It’ll be interesting to see how Michael interprets this for his masculine audience.  

Not All Husbands are Created Equal

Upon examination  we find that not all husbands are created equal.  They range from hen-pecked pushovers to monarchical slave drivers, from comfortable, laid-back, couch-crouching family men to radical, read-to-revamp-everything-from-government-to-the-garage go-getters.   All make different demands of their help meets.
My first response was to say “Duh. Not all husbands are created equal.  Not all wives are, either. Or people, for that matter.”  And I am a bit alarmed already at the extremism in his ideas of what men are.  Hopefully it’s a beginning chapter attention getter.

Likewise wives are different in their strengths and weaknesses.  Therefore, there is no single answer suitable to all.  One man’s cure is another man’s curse.  Water is great for a brush fire but terrible when applied to gasoline.  A domineering husband needs to mellow, and a mellow husband needs to command.  One wife needs her husband to encourage her to seek outside interests, and another wife needs her husband to tell her to stay at home.  Imbalance is the bane of marital bliss.

I am relieved to see that he allows wives can be different than each other.  Debi’s book said that women are like water, and can change to fit their husband’s needs.  I’m also surprised that Michael suggests there is no single answer for everyone, as he spends a good chunk of his book (and Debi her’s) saying this is the only way for a Biblical marriage to work.

I think he’s funny that he mentions a domineering husband, and I would LOVE to hear is reaction if he was told to mellow.  And I would like to interject that a mellow husband doesn’t have to command.  My husband, for example, is very mellow. It would change our entire dynamic (and not for the better) if he were to suddenly decide he needed to command.  Also, I’m a bit perplexed how it’s OK for one wife to seek outside interests, but not for another. He does make a good point about imbalance, so there’s that.

In rare cases, husbands and wives are paired in a combination that is complementary.  For example, a girl who lacks confidence and decision-making ability marries a man who is by nature decisive but lacks a measure of confidence.  He would not do well married to a highly confident and aggressive woman; it could diminish his confidence even further.  On the other hand, being married to a woman who depends upon him will cause him to rise to the occasion and grow as a person; and under his patient guidance, she will gain confidence and learn to be more independent without intimidating him in his leadership capacity.

While it’s true that it’s very unlikely to meet your total complimentary partner, I hardly think it’s a catastrophe.  After all, if you disagree about everything, then marriage becomes a lot more difficult.  I would suggest the key to any of these disagreements or uncomplimentary pieces would be…surprise…communication.

This example seems a bit silly to me.  First, Debi promotes this type of woman (lacking confidence and decision making) as the preferred.  Second, two unconfident people together can be awkward. Trust me on this one.  Third, if this decisive but unconfident man were to marry a confident and aggressive woman, it doesn’t automatically spell disaster.  She can help him see the good in himself, model confident and successful behaviour, and encourage him when he’s down.  Just because she’s aggressive and confident doesn’t mean that her very existence is a threat to his manliness.

A natural balance is rare.  As positive and negative poles have a magnetism that forms a strong bond, in contrast most marriages are composed of two poles that repel one another, competing for the same space.  Starting a marriage with a natural balance is either a freak of nature or a miracle.  Most of us learn to yield and respond in some ways that aren’t natural to us.

I’m finding it hard to believe that most marriages are made up of opposing poles.  It makes it sound like marriage is a warzone.  Which, given a few of his analogies and other posts, I’m starting to think he believes it is. Man vs woman!  Who will get control? Who will yield? Tune in at 7 and find out!

I also find it telling that he says “Most of us learn to yield and respond in some ways that aren’t natural to us.”  I’m wondering if he’s one of the exceptions.  I would like to add how it’s OK for marriages and the people in them to change.  Just because I was brought up to take care of myself doesn’t mean I will freak out when my husband wants to put gas in my car.  Not everything is a battle.

The faults of husbands are great and varied, on opposite extremes and all in between.  But a near-faultless single man, when married, may discover faults he never imagined, for in marriage one becomes responsible for another’s temperament, weaknesses, and strengths.  A natural human trait, not bad in itself, may be harmful in one marriage while it is a strength in another.

Yes, people (not just husbands) have lots of faults, and in a lot of different areas. No one is disagreeing with that.  But saying marriage makes one responsible for the temperament, weaknesses, and strengths of your spouse? I’m calling bananas on that.  I’ve seen a lot of shrinks in my day, and every single one of them has told me that only I am in control of my emotions and actions.  People can grate on my nerves, but I choose how I respond to them.

I may be alone on this, but I really think he means to say “Wives are responsible for their husbands temperaments”.  It just seems like that’s what he’s going for here. And I don’t know what he means by strengths and weaknesses.  Yes, I ‘m aware of what my husband’s are, but that doesn’t make them my responsibility! For example, one of my weaknesses is self-doubt. I will play devil’s advocate with myself, no matter what the issue and tear myself down.  It’s nice when my husband says “You made the right choice”, but it’s not his chore to chose for me, or spare me the consequences of my choice.

Frankly, my opinion is, if you’re old enough to be married, then you are old enough to manage your emotions and actions.  If you want to be considered a man or a woman, act like an adult, not a bratty child.

Therefore, a call back to center to one errant husband will be interpreted by another as affirmation of his folly.  One man’s answer is another man’s license.  Medicine for one can be another man’s narcotic.  Some men are addicted to dictatorial rule while others cowardly submit to a brass-willed woman.  The dictator needs to become servant-husband while the servant-husband needs to dictate his will to his willful wife.  What are you strengths and weaknesses and how do they affect your relationship with your wife? Have you placed your otherwise positive strengths under the tempering restraints of wisdom?

It’s a good point; that something that works for somebody won’t work for everybody.  I don’t think it’s cowardly to submit to a woman. Granted, I’m anti-submission and pro-communication, so I’m not sure how that all plays out.  And maybe it’s bias.  I’m a very “brass-willed” woman, and my husband is much milder.  It’s not at all uncommon for me to say “This is what I want, and this is how things will be.”  Unless he feels very strongly against it, he’ll agree (after so genuine back-and-forth discussion, not the pretending Michael calls for).

While he asserts that the dictator needs to become a servant-husband, he doesn’t explain what that is, or how it happens. Hopefully he will later in the chapter.  I really don’t like the line about the servant-husband dictating his will to his willful wife. I’m imagination how that would work out. “Honey, stay home and wash the clothes and cook. I’m the man and you will do as I say!”  The wife either backs down and says “Of course, dear.” or she says “Are you talking to me?!” I don’t think in any relationship it’s OK to “dictate one’s will” to the other.  Try communication, empathy, and genuine caring.

I do think it’s important to be self-aware and know your weaknesses and strengths.  Especially so if you’re in a relationship.  It’s also important to make sure your strengths don’t turn into weaknesses.  Honest self-examination is something that is always good.  Try it today!

Observing men, it is readily apparent that they come in basically three different natures.  A few men are very commanding by nature. Others are visionary and creative, expressing themselves as artists, inventors  religious leaders, and social reformers.  But the majority of men are steady, wanting neither to take a commanding lead nor to shake up the status quo.  We call these three types: Command Man, Visionary, and Steady Man.  The way you relate to life and to your wife will reflect one of these three natures.  We are going to look at those differences in men and women and explore the best approaches to developing marital harmony and maturity.

I don’t think that men (people) can be summed up into one of three tidy little boxes. I think people are nuanced and complicated, and often change.  Some situations require a different aspect of a person’s personality.  Lumping people together in small categories is harmful and disingenuous.  It also takes away accountability. “It’s not my fault-my personality type means I have to be a dictator!”  Or it causes blame “Well, if you weren’t such a Command woman, I wouldn’t have to yell so much!”.

I also don’t think most men are content with the status quo. In fact, I would venture that people in general would be more willing to challenge the system (whatever system), if they felt their actions would really affect change.  Sometimes old fashioned realism can look like complacency.

I am intrigued that Michael admits that women can have these personality boxes too. I’m strangely looking forward to reading how he explores these types!

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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