CTBHHM: Why Was Marian’s Husband So Loving?

Created To Be His Help Meet, pp. 286-86

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Pearl,

I thought you might be interested to hear of my husband’s passing, and what a blessing it is to have been married to a husband who lived what you teach. He went out to do yard work in the afternoon of September 24 and as he went out the door, he turned and said to me, “It has been a wonderful life with you.” Those were the last words I ever heard him say. He came in a few minutes later, went into a back room, and dropped dead of a heart attack. he was always telling me how he loved me and would always thank me for meals and all the things I did for him. He was a wonderful, godly husband, and it is so lovely to have those words to remember.

We were married for 56 years.

Keep reminding people that marriage is the most precious relationship we have on this earth, and it is ONLY FOR THIS EARTH, so make the most of it, and don’t waste the time. The Lord is sufficient for all things, and I am receiving from Him all I need, but oh, how I miss the half of me that is gone!

Love in our Savior,

Marian

Now I have no idea whether this letter was an actual letter Debi received, or whether she invented it to make a point. But either way, she is using it to remind her readers that their husbands will die someday, so they better make sure they are being properly submissive and pouring their lives into their husbands as Debi orders.

Now, a few points.

First, it’s great that Marian’s husband was always telling her he loved her and thanking her for the things she would do for him (given that he was doing yard work, I’m going to assume they shared the labor around the house, though obviously broken down along traditional gender lines). The thing is, Debi tells women throughout her book that the way to get kind and loving husbands like Marian’s is to follow her advice. Marian doesn’t say how her husband got to be the way he was, but Debi’s obvious implication is that if you follow her rules, you will get a husband like Marian’s. This is a problem.

It is a good idea to be kind and loving and encouraging toward your partner, whatever your gender. If that were all Debi were suggesting, I wouldn’t have a problem with it. But it’s not. Debi doesn’t simply tell women to treat their husbands with the respect due to other human beings and invest in a life together with them, she tells women to submit to and obey their husbands, to give up their own interests and adopt their husbands’ interests, to be at their husbands’ every beck and call, to avoid having close friends as that might get in the way of their marriage, to never speak a word of criticism, and to avoid saying anything negative about their husbands to anyone else, including close friends and relatives.

Will doing the things Debi teaches get the results she promises? It depends. As I pointed out, most people like being treated kindly, being loved, and being encouraged, and if women do these things they may get results. I can imagine a woman who is stuck in a rut and constantly being negative to those around her reading Debi’s book and attempting to give up that negativity and embrace a more positive attitude, and seeing positive changes in her husband as a result. But again, this is not all Debi teaches. Debi also teaches women to surrender their will completely, and even their very self, seeking to be malleable clay for their husband to kneed as he will. This is a problem.

For one thing, women who follow Debi’s advice will be sitting ducks for abusers. Abusers work hard to gain complete control over their victims, and Debi urges women to offer that control up on a silver platter, no questions asked, no struggle and fuss. But Debi’s teachings also create problems in otherwise functional relationships. It is not healthy for one person in a marriage to give up their own interests so entirely, nor is it healthy for one partner to seek to be completely malleable to the other’s every whim. Not only is this pouring out of self likely to lead to unhealthy enmeshment, but also a husband who married his wife for who she was may feel like a bait and switch has occurred if she makes it her object to simply be whoever he wants her to be. I know that Sean would not be happy in our marriage at all if I were to take Created To Be His Help Meet as my Bible and follow Debi’s instructions.

But let’s get back to Marian for a moment. Nowhere does Marian say that her husband was the kind, loving man he was because of anything she did to make him so. I’ve known plenty of older couples where both partners are devoted to each other and deeply, deeply in love, not because the wife submits to her husband’s every whim and fancy but rather as a result of a long, full life lived together, as partners. Following Debi’s instructions is not necessary to get this result, and there is no way to know that following Debi’s instructions will get this result.

Is marriage the “most precious relationship we have on this earth,” as Marian suggests? Frankly, I don’t think life is that simple. Yes, there is something I find beautiful about the idea of a partnership, two individuals holding hands and walking through life side by side, but there are many stories of incredibly deep friendships, and different people may find different sorts of relationships more or less precious or beautiful.

Some of you may be wondering why Marian emphasizes that marriage is “ONLY FOR THIS EARTH.” The reason has to do with a Bible passage stating that there will be no marriage in heaven. I remember being taught this as a child, growing up in an evangelical family, and I remember being really upset by it. I figured that if I found a soulmate and lived my life together with him, I would still want to maintain a special connection to him in heaven. And yet, I was told I couldn’t. How would that even work, I wondered? Would I forget about him? Would I be separated from him? Would someone be checking to make sure I didn’t spend more time with him than with anyone else? In case you haven’t noticed, I was actually really bothered by this.

One last note. Each chapter of Created To Be His Help Meet ends with a worksheet titled “Reflecting on the Things we have Learned.” I have been skipping these for the most part, but do want to draw attention to one thing in the one at the end of this chapter here:

Eight things that women must do or be to avoid blaspheming the written Word of God.

Titus 2:3-5

[1] sober, [2] love their husbands, [3] love their children, [4] be discreet, [5] chaste, [6] keepers at home, [7] good, [8] obedient to their own husbands.

I note this simply to remind readers of how serious Debi is being about all of this. Debi is basically telling her readers that they risk eternal damnation if they don’t do the eight things on this list—including being obedient to their husbands. It’s not just that wives should obey their husbands because that is the order God has created and where they will be most fulfilled. No, it is that if they are not obedient to their husbands, they are blaspheming the written Word of God, and that is damn scary.

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