It’s been a few years now since I read your book Created to be His Help Meet for the first time.
I am married to a Mr. Command Man, as per your book’s description. My mom gave me your book for Christmas the first year I was married (six years ago now). She told me it was the best book she had read on the subject, and after reading it I was convinced it was too. (I had already read many other Christian books and periodicals on godly womanhood, including those of Mary Pride, Nancy Campbell, and a few from Vision Forum.) As a new wife and soon-to-be mother (I was pregnant within the first month after our wedding) I soaked up all of your stories and advice, expecting wholeheartedly to put these lessons into action and experience the heavenly marriage I was destined for!
May I also note that I had been very careful in choosing a godly, Christian man. Someone who welcomed the idea of children as a “blessing”, that served God wholeheartedly (we were involved in campus ministry together) and who respected my ideas and encouraged me to be a “keeper at home”, as described in Titus 2. I was sure we were destined for something great and unique as a family, and that our lives would be a testimony of faith and God’s greatness in a place that was in dire need of the light of the Gospel (we were living in Europe, not the US).
I quite naturally shared this vision with my husband and shared with him the insights I was reading and discovering through your book. I even wondered if we could get this book translated so I could share its message more easily with those around me, as the church people I knew seemed to be the first to “need” its message. I felt sorry for all the men who had grumpy, pestering wives who never appreciated them. Wives who had obviously bought into the lies of feminism and insisted on pursuing ambitions of their own through career and temporal pursuits.
I am writing to you now because I have had some problems in experiencing the “fruit” promised in your teachings. For an entire year I really tried to apply joyful, unconditional submission. I spent a second year wondering “what am I doing wrong?” and so prayed a lot and read and re-read many parts of your book. By year three I was starting to wear down in my resolve, starting to question the workings of my relationship and by year four I began to turn to other sources for insight. I am now at the beginning of year six and after coming to a point of near break-down (as in “I’m going to go crazy, literally, if something doesn’t change”) I can tell you that there are some problems with some of the assumptions in your book.
I think that given you have a “mature” husband that treats you “well”, you might have a hard time understanding where I am coming from. I too, could never have imagined what this would be like without having lived it myself. I grew up in a stable home with loving parents, who, while maybe didn’t have as “heavenly” of a marriage as you claim to have, did treat each other with love and respect.
My husband does not (love/respect me). Of course he loves me. He wouldn’t have married me otherwise. But let me talk, for a minute, about a subject that you cover at length in your book: anger. You describe two types of anger. Typical “male” anger, where it is predictable and can be avoided if you (as the wife) learn his “triggers” and avoid setting him off. The second kind is “seething anger”. This is the kind of anger that makes him bitter and suspicious of others, and is often fueled by negative comments the wife makes about others.
Let me describe a third type of anger for you, that your book left out: Abusive anger.
This kind of anger has no “reason” other than maintaining an illusion of control. This kind of anger erupts for any and every reason at any time of day or night. This kind of anger is most often hidden from anyone else but the one who is closest and dearest to the abuser. This kind of anger is like a dark cloud that blows in unannounced and does not leave until it has rained down all of its evil torment and has nothing left to “dump” on you. This kind of anger is maddening, because no matter how hard you try you can NEVER find the “trigger” and avoid it. It always “hits” you when you least expect it. Just when you start to trust again, just when you’ve dried your tears, just when you’ve gained enough strength to raise your head up out of your hole and look around “BOOM” it strikes again. This kind of anger cannot be reasoned with. There is no answer that is ever “good enough”. You are required to answer questions to which there is no “right answer” and then commanded to shut up because your answers are making the questioner mad. In this reality EVERYTHING is your fault. In fact you only possess faults. You have never done anything good or useful really. Of course that is, until the cloud lifts. Until the anger has run its course. Then you are FREE!
Free to smile. Free to laugh. Free to forgive. Free to carry-on as if nothing ever happened. In fact you MUST smile. You MUST forgive. You MUST carry-on. Because you don’t have a choice. If you don’t he “might” just get mad at you again. Mad that you cry too much, mad that you didn’t forgive quickly enough. Mad that you don’t trust him the way you ought to. Now according to your book I’m not sure that really crosses any “bright red line” (as your husband describes it, in discussing spheres of authority).
But I can assure you it crosses many lines. It DESTROYS your soul. It destroys your confidence. It steals your peace of mind. It physically drains your energy and makes you sick. (I have a cold nearly every-other month despite eating healthy organic food.) It takes away any hope of a happy home, the one place on earth that is to be your HAVEN!! It destroys your children as well. They develop nervous habits, nightmares, and anger issues themselves (and mine are still all under the age of 5!) Now granted, he has never actually “hit” me…so I guess I can’t really “prove” he has done anything “too” bad. At least not bad enough to call the police. I mean I definitely didn’t want to involve anyone else in our problems because your book made me keenly aware of how fragile men’s egos truly are, and how important it is to ONLY speak good of them to others. So actually your book has encouraged me to become a pretty good liar. Yes everyone always asks “How are you? How are things going?” and of course I can’t say “terrible” because that would require an explanation, which would reveal “bad things about my husband”, a man everyone thinks so highly of. And so I am stuck. Stuck in silence, in heartache, with unanswered prayers.
I don’t really hold you responsible as we are all responsible for what we do with the information we are given (and plus your book only re-iterated what the Bible says, so my problem is probably more directly with the Bible) I wish you could see the dilemma your teachings create for women in my situation (and there are many, as I have come to learn!) You see the more I shared with my husband on your teachings of a wife’s duty and the workings of a Christian family, the more my husband came to expect all of that from me. The more he rubbed it in my face when I fell short of his expectations (which are “perfection”, by the way) and the more he felt “entitled” to be waited on hand and foot. It didn’t matter that I had just given birth and that he had 2 wks vacation from work…since the house was my “domain” he was not touching it! He would gripe and complain about what I was not doing and then go play basketball with friends or read a book and then chew me out for being “lazy” and yell at me at night for “keeping him up” while I was up trying to nurse the baby. You see with men like this there is no “winning”. When you “submit” to a man like this you only “feed” the monster inside. It is like giving-in to a 2-year-old who is throwing a temper tantrum. He uses anger to intimidate everyone into doing things in a way that “suits” him (and sometimes even HE doesn’t know what that means!) and the more you cooperate the more he uses it. You have understood this principle quite well in your child-rearing books so I’m kind of wondering why you don’t see that it works the same way with adults too.
Now there is also the part of your book where you cover sex. For this part, my husband has not been abusive, as in forceful. And for the fact that I prefer not to talk about my sex life with strangers I will be as vague as possible. But I would just like to say that you should not assume that EVERY man functions like your man. It seems he has a HUGE appetite for sex and likes you to dress up for him, etc. Good for you! But this is not true for everyone and if you send all girls into marriage assuming the ONLY thing their husband cares about is “getting some” you might be setting them up for disappointment. If the only motivation a wife has in “putting out” is to keep her husband from straying?? Well, I don’t think that guarantees anything, and I think it is a pretty lousy assessment of what men, (honorable, thinking men) are capable of. I think actually, in many ways your book degrades men. You seem to think that stroking their ego and giving good sex is all that’s required for a happy man. I don’t think all men are this shallow. And if a woman “saves” her marriage in this way, I don’t see how she ever can truly respect the man she is married to. I think you even use the word “manipulate” once in describing the wife’s way of handling a situation. Manipulation doesn’t seem very Christian to me, come to think of it.
I know you are very busy so I do not want you to “lose” too much time on this letter, I know it is getting long. But I want you to be aware that your teachings can indeed create some dangerous situations for those of us out there that are gullible enough to try applying them to our own situations.
What has helped me the most is reading through some good (non-Christian) books on verbal abuse. One my husband is currently working through (yes, because he does recognize the destructiveness of his behavior, though he hasn’t been able to break his own destructive cycle) is “Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men” by Lundy Bancroft. Telling him that he doesn’t actually have the right to control me and that he needs to view me as an “equal” is one of the most-needed sermons he could have heard. (Unfortunately the church doesn’t really agree with that message, nor does your book.) But for the first time (in six years) I have the spark of hope that our marriage could indeed be something worth “saving”. Had I continued down the path your book laid out for me, I would most certainly be emotionally dead, slaving away from morning till night for an ever-increasingly ungrateful, dissatisfied husband.
As I write this letter I have still not found “peace” in my marriage but I am convinced that if it is possible it is far away from the path I once was following.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. I hope it will help someone, and that maybe you and your husband will choose to take a much more official and militant stance against (all forms of) abuse, especially in “Christian” homes. Your book pretty much puts the happiness of the whole marriage on the shoulders of the woman, and this I do not think is a healthy burden (happily married or not) for any woman to bear.
Note from NLQ: The Lundy Bancroft book referenced in this article is a fantastic resource for women in abusive relationships seeking to understand their partner’s behavior however NLQ does not recommend it as a resource for the men in such relationships.
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