CTBHHM: A Young Wife Should Be “Bored and Lonely”

Created To Be His Help Meet, pp. 283-84

In this passage Debi explains how marital bonding takes place. I hope you’re ready, because it’s bad.

Early Roots

The seeds of bonding are planted early in the marriage. When a young wife gets bored and lonely being at home by herself, she spends her days preparing for her husband’s return each evening, and she looks forward to their weekends together. She spends the lonely hours planning for him, cooking for him, cleaning for him, and eagerly hungering for him. His spirit flourishes, and his love grows when he sees her need of him. It is this process that makes two people learn to depend on each other.

When a young wife gets on the phone with her friends and leans heavily on her mother, she never develops the need to depend on her husband emotionally. Her husband has spent his youth without her, and so he tends to keep on functioning as an independent man. He doesn’t instinctively sense her needs, and she doesn’t yet know that it is he that she needs. They too often end up as two people living in the same house, raising children, leaders in the church, and are what the world thinks of as the perfect family. Yet both know that something is missing.

So let’s get this straight. It is important during early marriage for the wife to stay home and be lonely—and not spend time talking with her friends or mother—so that the only thing she will have to look forward to in life is her husband coming home from work. Only when she is that emotionally dependent and needy will her husband “flourish” and love her in turn. Somehow this—him sensing her emotional dependence and neediness—leads the two to “learn to depend on each other.” To me that dependence sounds only one way.

I remember my early marriage. I was in graduate school, busy with classes and studying all day. You know what? I still couldn’t wait to see Sean each evening, and to spend time with him on the weekends—and the feeling was mutual. We were newlyweds. We craved time with each other. Oh, and you know what? I had friends, and I talked on the phone with my sister and my mother. It turns out I didn’t have to spend my days being “bored and lonely” at home to look forward to time with Sean, and Sean didn’t need me to be emotionally dependent or needy to want to spend time with me.

Frankly, what Debi describes doesn’t sound like a very healthy start to a relationship. I agree that young married couples need to “leave and cleave,” and I understand that either party going to their parents over every little thing can cause serious problems. But I think that’s more about ensuring that the couple form their own independent unit than it is about making the wife so “bored and lonely” that time with her husband is literally the only thing she has to look forward to. Couples need to cleave, yes, but they shouldn’t be without any emotional support in life beside their spouse. That’s not healthy for anyone.

Bonding, and becoming heirs together, starts with the wife, because she is the weaker vessel and has the greatest need. It is her “visible” need of him that awakens him. If she pours her life into pleasing her husband and serving him, he will develop a protective nurturing instinct toward her. As he gains confidence that his heart is safe with her and that she places his welfare first, he will begin to trust her with his innermost being.

What. No. A husband is capable of bonding with his wife without her having to show “‘visible’ need” to awaken him first. Usually couples marry because they see something in each other that they like. They are already predisposed toward being open to each other, trusting each other, and investing in each other. And in my experience at least, they usually already have a strong bond. But then, Debi married her childhood crush on the spur of the moment, so maybe people marry in very different ways and for very different reasons where she’s from. And it’s true, couples who get to know each other through chaperoned courtships may not have a strong bond and may not even know each other, having never been alone together. If anything, this is a strike against that entire approach.

The Proverbs 31 woman was a major success in many areas of her life, but in laying a foundation for her success, the verses tell us that “The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil. She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life” (Proverbs 31:11-12).

Unless I am completely misreading the passage, the Proverbs 31 woman does not seem to have spent much time “bored and lonely” at home. Rather, it seems as if her husband trusts her the way he does because of her enterprise—she buys fields, for crying out loud. I very much doubt she would have been eulogized as she was had she simply stayed home and been “bored and lonely” waiting for her husband to return home from the city gate.

When a woman bonds with her man, she gains his strength and stability. As a couple, they can accomplish more than they would ever accomplish standing alone. He gives her emotional strength to deal with the issues of life. When he can trust her judgments, it will help him become wiser and more in tune with the needs of others.

Okay, so when the whole “bonding” thing happens, she gets his strength and stability, and then he can trust her judgements. So what, it’s like a cyborg? She just assimilates part of him, and then he’s all happy with his mind-melded wife?

A man does not have to be a nice, sweet guy who never once forgets a special occasion. He doesn’t even have to be saved, but if he trusts his wife to do him good, he will bond with her. If she opens up to him, he will fill her need, The wife does not need to be cute, hardworking, or smart, but if she honors and loves her man, she will have his strength helping her become more than what she would have ever been without him. He only needs his woman to pour her life into his, for him to pour his soul back into hers. But if she stands apart and complains because he is angry, lazy, not a good daddy, or works too much, he will never pour his soul into that kind of woman.

Okay, so let’s get this straight. If a wife honors and loves her husband, pours her life into his, and doesn’t complain or criticize him, her husband will love and trust her in turn. And if not, he won’t.

I’ll be honest here: I think Debi is describing her own experience with Michael. As you may remember from the couple’s description of their early marriage, Michael was an ass who was incapable of thinking about Debi’s needs (remember the crabbing incident?) or taking the slightest hint of criticism without offense (remember what happened when Debi suggested he buy a cheaper brand of ground beef?). It appears that what ultimately made their relationship bearable, for Debi, was to stop talking to her mother or girlfriends and just sit at home bored, doing nothing but cooking and cleaning. When she was finally broken and completely emotionally dependent on Michael, he began to treat her better. This is how abusers work.

Now I absolutely agree that there is a right way and a wrong way to criticize a spouse. It is possible to be incredibly mean spirited about criticism. But if a man is actually angry, lazy, not a good daddy, or working too much, his wife is completely right to say something. Spouses are supposed to help each other become better people, after all, and enabling is not going to do that. And if a man can’t take criticism or suggestions for improvement, the problem is with him, not with his wife. Rather than a sign of manliness—as I’m sure Debi would term it—inability to take criticism is a sign of weakness.

If she spends her days running from event to event or from person to person, and if she finds emotional solace in her daughters, mother, or friends, he will not pour his strength into her. Someday, her daughters will get married and no longer need a mother. In time, her mother will pass on, her friends will move, and she will find that he has found someone else to be his soul mate, his help meet, because he didn’t find it in her.

It is not a good idea for spouses to find emotional support in each other. This creates and unhealthy degree of dependence. Balance is important. I find find emotional support in Sean, yes, and he and I share our lives together, but if I didn’t have anyone else to turn to for emotional support I might well go crazy. It’s simply not possible for one person to fulfill all of another’s emotional needs. I’m incredibly grateful for my closest sister and for my many friends. These relationships are important—and they don’t take away from my relationship with Sean in any way.

Also, note the threat Debi offers: If you don’t cut off your other emotional ties and become completely emotionally dependent on your husband, he’ll find someone else to be his soul mate and it will be your fault.

Yet, when a plain, ordinary woman, with a dull personality, without many skills, pours herself, her time, joy, thanksgiving, and even her praise, fear, and uncertainty into a plain ordinary man, they both become stronger, more capable, and wiser human beings. People will come to them for help and encouragement.

It is so easy to spend your life lamenting, “Oh, if only my husband were saved or more spiritual or not so angry.” No matter who or what your husband is, your job is to be his help meet. When you approach him with light in your eyes, that light will reflect back to you.

I find this constant mention of husbands being “angry” troubling. I am also trying to figure out how a wife makes her husband a “stronger, more capable, and wiser” person if she’s supposed to enable his faults rather than helping him improve. I’m also troubled by the idea that this must all start with the woman. This makes it only too easy to blame any relationship problem—and any character flaw in the husband—on the wife (which is, of course, exactly what Debi does).

Yes, it is true that spouses can become “stronger, more capable, and wiser” as a couple than they were apart. This tends to be the result of them encouraging each other and helping each other to grow and improve. This process does not start with one spouse being completely emotionally dependent on the other, and it cannot work effectively if it is one-sided. It’s about two human beings coming together, flaws and all, and growing together. This is something Debi does not appear to understand.

Becoming heirs together of the grace of life is God’s highest plan for husband and wife. It is the great mystery, the pattern of Christ and the Church. The inheritance is great passion, stability, wisdom, joy, love, and balance. God’s blessings are so much greater than any tongue or writer can ever tell.

You know, it strikes me that Debi is reading an awful lot into the Bible. Nowhere in the Bible will you find any of what she covered here. The only scripture passage she quotes is the one from Proverbs 31, and the passage as a whole actually contradicts her claims.

Frankly, I found this passage even more troubling than some. No wife should be encouraged to cut off her other means of emotional support and become completely dependent on her husband. Are there some women who spend so much time on other relationships that they have little left over for their partners? Sure. But the solution is more balance, not cutting off all legs but one.

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