CTBHHM: Obey Your Husband so He Will Have Nothing to Beat Down

Created To Be His Help Meet, pp. 236—237

I’ll tell you right off that this section is a doozy. There is a lot to unpack here, and there are a lot of things that help explain where Debi is coming from when she writes what she does. This section may be triggering for survivors of abusive relationships.

Dignity Befitting a Queen

My friend responded to her husband with dignity befitting a queen. He was proud of her beauty. He was proud of her dignity and poise. He was honored that such a woman would treat him with such reverence.

This, of course, is a reference to last week’s post, when Debi’s nameless friend submitted willingly to her vile and rude husband and through that ultimately won his salvation. Debi seems to have a little fantasy going on here that if a woman treats her husband with proper “reverence” he will recognize her as the jewel she is and treat her with kindness and love. I do not think this is how real life works.

A man will resist with all his might those who come against him. Most women spend their whole married lives in conflict with their husbands, trying to change them. It is a battle of the wills that no woman has ever rightly won, for even if she gets his compliance, she loses his heart, and he loses his self-respect.

And . . . this explains so much.

A man who will respond to any criticism or suggestion for change by de facto rejecting and resisting it is a very immature man indeed. This is not healthy. It’s also not how most people actually operate. Most people, men included, are capable of responding to criticism or suggestions by evaluating them honestly and, if it is merited, incorporating them into their behavior.

Debi appears to see marriage as a war between a man and a woman. The idea that the two could work together as equals rather than fighting until one or the other is dominant and the other is cowed is apparently foreign to her. This is probably because it is not how her husband, Michael, operates. I get the feeling that Michael is the one who responds to criticism or suggestions by doubling down rather than listening. And Debi then assumes that other men behave the same way. (I can tell you right now that my husband Sean most certainly does not).

While we women tend to reduce everything to the issues of “who is right and what is just,” God authoritatively points us to the real issue—”Whom did I place in charge, and whom did I create to be a help meet?”

This is so incredibly toxic. What matters, Debi is saying, is not justice, or good family decision-making. What matters is only that the man is in charge and the woman is to be his subordinate. What’s right or just? Pshaw!

When a woman resists or tries to change a man, she makes him more stubborn, and her own heart will be filled with bitterness.

This is I said before, this idea that giving a man criticism or suggestions for change de facto makes him double down in opposition.

If a woman obeys God, a man does not have anything to come against, to resist, to dominate, to conquer, or to beat down.

I. What.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe Debi is saying that if a woman submits herself to a man as his willing subordinate, he does not have to dominate and conquer her. If this was what marriage looked like—if this was what husbands were like—I would pack up the kids and leave this minute. Is this how Debi has learned to survive her own marriage—that if she simply bows to Michael and accepts his will her life will be easier, because he will no longer actively work to dominate her and beat her down?

Actually, Debi’s statement is one of the hallmarks of an abusive relationship.

A woman’s greatest power is in obeying God through obeying and honoring her husband.

What power is this? The power of submission, of giving up, of being obedient? This is not power. This is erasure.

When she departs from God’s order, she is setting herself up to create a life in turmoil, bitterness, and defeat—for both of them.

According to Debi, then, I am living a life of turmoil, bitterness, and defeat. Funny, because it doesn’t feel like that. Sean and I adore each other, and we have a relationship founded on things like communication, empathy, and cooperation. When needed we each give the other criticism or suggestions, and we grow through that. When there are decisions to be made, we discuss them together and come to an agreement. I try to go to bed when he does rather than staying up later because I love cuddling with him as we go to sleep. He brings me wildflowers he found on his way home and surprises me by cleaning the kitchen. Yes, there have been rough patches here and there, but we have always worked through them—together. What we have together is beautiful. It actually makes me a bit angry that Debi would call what I have “a life in turmoil, bitterness, and defeat.”

I have received many letters from women saying, “By the way you write, you would think all men are like your husband.” No, and my husband wasn’t always like he is now. He is now a work of art, and I don’t mean his body. God has changed him over the years, and if some of you were married to him, even now, you would be writing me letters asking for advice on how to find the grace to endure. I have come to like the bear in him—sometimes teddy bear and sometimes real bear, but he is always my bear!

Is it just me or is Debi admitting to being in an abusive relationship? Marriage should not be something you have to “find the grace to endure,” and this whole “sometimes teddy bear and sometimes real bear” thing is setting off alarm bells.

Also, I think Debi missed the point of the “by the way you write, you would think all men are like your husband” comment. The point was not “if my husband was as awesome as yours, I wouldn’t have any problem obeying either,” which is what she seems to assume is meant. The point was rather “your description of male behavior and male motivations does not actually line up with how my husband behaves, so I think you’re assuming when you write that all men are like your husband when they’re not.” Debi does not actually respond to that point, which I pretty obviously think is a very good one.

I have seen women come through some rough times to arrive at a heavenly marriage. They did not start out with a righteous man, but God is a master at making heavenly marriages. I know one young woman who had a husband so violent, vile, and unrepentant that she asked the church to pray, “Lord save him or kill him as soon as possible.” In two weeks he was dead.

Oh dear god. If a woman is in such straights that she asks her church to pray for her husband to either be saved or die as soon as possible, the correct response on the part of the church is to do whatever is needed to get that woman out of that situation.

I don’t recommend that kind of prayer meeting, for if God killed all the husbands who deserved to die, we ladies would be fighting over the few who remained. Furthermore, if God decided to be fair and took to killing all the ladies who deserve it, well . . . you can see we would be better off pleading for grace and mercy for our husbands.

I suppose that when you believe that you are so evil that you deserve to be struck dead, it’s easy to believe that you do not deserve happiness or autonomy. If you’re just shit anyway, and your only value comes from obeying God, why rebel against your fate rather than buckling under and accepting it?

If nothing else I feel like I understand Debi better after reading this section. And that makes me very, very sad. I’m not sure that I feel bad for the person Debi has become—her writing indicates that she has become an unkind and hateful person—but I do feel sorry for Debi as a young wife, a young wife in what was fairly clearly an abusive marriage. I only wish she had found a way to break free before Michael turned her into the woman she is today.

By the way, I hope you’re on the edge of your seat for the next section. It’s titled “How to Minister to a MAD Husband.” I can tell you right now it’ll be bad.

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.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X