CTBHHM: What “Companionship” Means in Pearl World

Created To Be His Help Meet, pp. 279-80

This passage is an interesting one—or at least, I found it so. Part of me wanted to like it, because Debi is talking about the importance of spouses being soul mates. But it seems our definition of “soul mates” differs, because what she describes is profoundly one-sided.

She begins with a letter:

When Two Become One

Dear Friends in Christ,

I am a minister. I recently listened to a tape a pastor recorded about a woman learning to honor and respect her husband. It was a message to women, but I thought I needed to learn how to better help married couples, so I listened carefully.

I noticed myself strangely moved by the message. I have a great wife and kids who love and respect me. Yet, I realized that I long to be respected and honored by them in ways that are not happening. Although it was difficult (I am not given to emotionalism much, but could not deny the intensity of my longings and feelings), I shared with my wife my need to be respected by her and our children. I also shared my desire to have the companionship with her that the tape described as something very much needed by men from their wives. I know I could never have told her that before I heard the tape. My wife was responsive to this and said she did not realize how important this was to me. She was pleased and even blessed to know how important her involvement in “my “ministry was.

I realize now how much I need her. I really need her! Not just to cook my meals and warm my bed, but to be the encourager of my soul. Without her there, ever present with me, I know I would feel empty. Now we both realize how precious it is for us to finally understand how it feels to be one.

Pastor Ben

We are left to assume that the tape Pastor Ben listened to was by Michael Pearl, I suppose.

Now I want you to note just how little this letter says about what it was Pastor Ben wanted from his wife. He uses words like “companionship” and “encourager of my soul” without ever explaining what he means by them—or what was preventing his wife from meeting these needs before. I point this out because Debi is about to read a whole lot into this letter—or else, if she composed this letter herself, she’s assuming you read more into it than I did.

A wise woman seeks to be part of her husband’s life. His interests become her interests. She looks for ways to help him in all his endeavors. When he needs a helping hand, it is her hand that is there first.

Here’s the thing—this isn’t all bad. It’s just that it should be gender neutral. Any spouse should seek to be part of their spouse’s life. Any spouse should show at least some interest in the things that interest their spouse. Any spouse should look for ways to help their spouse in their endeavors. When one spouse needs a helping hand, they should be able to turn first to the other spouse. You see what I’m saying? Debi is making this profoundly one-sided. She is telling women to give up their own interests (just wait, we’re getting there) and to adopt their husband’s interests instead. In Debi’s world, a woman should have no endeavors outside of helping her husband with his endeavors. You see what I’m saying?

Heirs Together of the Grace of Life

Pastor Ben was hungering for his wife to be an heir together with him. His unfulfilled need to be the king of his kingdom, and his failure to receive the deference and reverence that comes with that position, caused him to feel alone. He had a need for his queen to support him. No doubt, she was so busy being a GOOD wife and mother that she forgot her most important purpose for existing. “Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers may not be hindered” (I Peter 3:7)

I’m very uncomfortable with the way Debi is conflating a woman displaying “deference and reverence” for her husband with a couple experiencing “companionship” and (later) being “soul mates.” These are not the same thing. In fact, I would suggest that words like “companionship” and “soul mates” suggest equality, and that you can’t truly have those things without scrapping what Debi’s peddling.

In our modern culture, we women push to accomplish so much outside the home. Most of these things are not of God. They are just pursuits of vanity to crowd our minds and cause us to forget that we were created for the man to whom we are married. We need to lay aside activities outside the home that push us and the kids to the edge of exhaustion and confusion. Homeschooling is not the problem. It is the ambitious goals you set. God’s will for all married couples is that they walk life’s path hand in hand. Many husbands and wives are running circles around each other, seldom meeting in the middle. We are so busy driving the kids to this class or that event that we lose sight of being heirs together. Even church activities rob us from God’s plans for us as a couple.

Get off the phone, put down the romance novels, turn off the TV, stay off the web, reduce outside outside visits or women’s classes, and focus on putting your time into what your husband is doing and what your children need. This is how you can better meet his needs, and it is the beginning of learning to be an heir together with him of the grace of life.

Do you see what I was saying about telling women to give up their own interests and endeavors? I agree that it is easy to get involved in too many activities and to have too many commitments. But every adult should have their own interests and endeavors, and be encouraged in those things. It is not wrong to talk on the phone, read romance novels, watch TV, surf the internet, or visit friends. Yes, there is a problem with doing any of those things in excess, but that’s how life is—you have to learn to balance and prioritize.

Speaking of prioritizing, Debi makes it clear that women are to put their husband and children’s needs above their own. That is a problem for the same reason airline personnel tell passengers to put on their own gas masks before helping others—if your own needs aren’t being met, you will have a hard time meeting those of others.

Pastor Ben’s soul hungered for a real soul-made. He did not want his wife to be a performer for the church, the homeschool committee leader, or to win the best housekeeping award; he wanted a woman to tell him he was wonderful. He needed a woman to meet him at the door with a smile. He longed to be the most important activity in her life. He needed her with him. ” . . . And the wife see that she reverence her husband” (Ephesians 5:33). He needed to be HER king.

I’m really uncomfortable with how codependent and enmeshed Debi makes Pastor Ben sound. While spouses absolutely should bond and be able to depend on each other, they should also be able to function healthily without each other. If one spouse expects the other spouse to fulfill on their needs, that is a problem. Healthy relationships require healthy individuals. But even beyond that, Debi’s examples sound like something out of a 1950s marriage advice manual. Pastor Ben needs his wife to tell him he’s wonderful and constantly beam at him, and more than that, he needs to be “the most important activity in her life”—these are not signs of a healthy relationship.

Many couples live their whole lives together and never really bond. They are just two people sharing the same house and dividing up responsibilities. They live together, never fuss or fight, raise their children, yet never function as a team. He does his thing, and she does hers. She doesn’t really know his business or care. He is bored with her “many ” daily activities. There is little in their lives that couldn’t be done just as well apart. When he drives to the store, it never occurs to him to have her ride along. When she goes out for a few minutes, it feels as though it would be a nuisance to have to tell him where she is going and when she will be back. They are married, sleeping together, raising children, sharing duties and cores, but they are two separate people going about life.

This is half very true and half very wrong. It is indeed the case that couples can become distant from each other, and live their life together as ships passing in the night. However, it is not the case that a husband and wife having their own things separate from each other is a problem—instead, that’s actually a good thing.

The wife gets busy with her children and church and bonds with one of her best friends at church. She shares more emotionally with another woman than she does with her own husband. Women bonding with other women? Instead of the perfect picture of Christ and the Church, to day we have a perverted expression of woman satisfying woman. What a disgusting mess!

Yes, this again.

Debi has a serious problem with deep friendships between two women. She somehow sees them as automatically lesbian. This is sad, because deep friendships are important for every individual, married or not.

The husband works and finds fulfillment in his success, yet in his heart he is just like Adam was before Eve was created—incomplete—and, like Adam, he is alone, and it is “not good.” Life passes him by, leaving him unfulfilled. Children grow up, and somewhere around 40 or 50 years old, when the husband has built his personal empire, hubby’s long-lost need for a real soul-mate is revived. Suddenly, his goals and accomplishments don’t seem so important. That man, who has sexually resisted other women all his life, is suddenly vulnerable to women who show interest in him as a human being and as a man. He can now enjoy the “alien” company of some lady who shows him deference through her interest in his dreams, hopes, and joys.

While Debi is right that feeling unfulfilled by a spouse can lead someone to look elsewhere for fulfillment, there is a serious problem within evangelicalism with blaming the jilted wife for a husband’s extramarital affair. Unfortunately, paragraphs like this will be read in that context and play into that trope.

Your husband needs you to be his help meet, his lover, his best friend. You need to lay down your own agenda and become his Queen.

I’ve been thinking about the term friend—and also the term lover, actually. Do these words imply some level of equality? I’m not sure. But I do know there’s a huge difference between two kids at school being friends and a child being friends with an adult. There’s a difference because the first two are equals, and the second two are not—one is in a position of authority and has a greater level of autonomy. If a man wants his wife to be his best friend, the best way to get that is probably to treat her as his equal. Asking her to give up all of her own interests and become his groupie—that’s not how that whole “best friends” works.

I’m glad Debi calls for a strong bond between husband and wife, and a sharing of life together, but the relationship model she promotes—in which the wife gives up her own interests and endeavors to focus only on those of her husband, praising and reverencing him constantly—is not a healthy one. In fact, it is by definition an unhealthy relationship.

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