On Being Your Husband’s “Playmate”

by Libby Anne

Created To Be His Help Meet, pp. 42-44

This section follows Debi’s story about the time Mike tried to show off, ended up spilling a sack of garbage, and then marched off in embarrassment leaving her to clean it up. The moral of Debi’s story was the last part, where she attempts to show that if wives just humor their husbands’ juvenile tendencies and approach life with humor their marriages will be full of fun, joy, and laughter. In this passage she moves from her specific anecdote to speaking more generally.

Mike is my playmate. He needs someone to play with every day. I am his help meet. That is, I am his helper, suited to his needs. I meet his need for conversation, companionship, and a playmate.

Once again Debi makes clear the subordinate position of women. Women exist to fulfill men. You know what’s interesting? Debi has never once talked about the ways a man might fulfill needs a woman has. Not once. Why? Because she believes women were created to fulfill men, and not vice versa.

It’s also interesting that Debi chooses the word “playmate.” That’s the word Hugh Hefner used for the models for Playboy magazine. It seems to me that there is some similarity in how Hefner and Debi view women, except that Debi believes each man should have his own, personal “playmate,” sealed with a marriage contract, of course, while Hefner would rather be able to collect scads of them.

Our delight in each other did not happen because he is the perfect man. … It happened and continues to happen because of the choices I make every day. I never have a chip on my shoulder, no matter how offended I have a right to be – and I do have reasons to be offended regularly. Every day, I remember to view myself as the woman God gave this man. This mind set helps me to be just that: a gift, a playmate, his helper.

In other words, Debi says that she and Mike have the relationship they do because she lets him walk all over her. No matter what he does, she always just lets it roll off her back. Rather than trying to address things that annoy her, she ignores them. Why? Because she was created to fulfill him – to be his “gift,” “playmate,” and “helper” – and not vice versa. How fulfilled she is depends on how adept she becomes at ignoring the things about her husband that bother her and remembering that she exists to be her husband’s helper.

Early in our marriage, we each made a commitment (independently) to please and forgive the other no matter how hurtful the actions or words that were spoken. Somewhere over the years, having goodwill and a merry heart to each other has become as natural as breathing. We have learned that all of life is fun and needs to be shared with our best friend, playmate, and lover.

Pledging to always please and forgive your spouse no matter what is a terrible idea! What if your spouse is abusive, either physically or emotionally? You just keep trying to please your spouse, and simply forgive your spouse no matter how bad it gets? What about healthy things like talking about problems, or working to change bad patterns, or going to marital counseling if you need it? I understand pledging to always do the best you can to work through tough times in your marriage together, but making an independent pledge to simply ignore problems and focus on pleasing your spouse – to the extent of ignoring your own self – sets you up for a lot of trouble.

But what’s most interesting about this passage is that, unlike most everything in this book, it’s two-sided. She says that both she and Mike made the same pledge. She speaks of them learning together to share life as best friends, playmates, and lovers. (Quick nitpick: Not all of life is fun, and saying it all is minimizes how painful life can be sometimes, and that it’s okay to hurt sometimes rather than being continuously joyful.) That part – being mutual friends, playmates, and lovers sharing life together – actually sounds like something I would say. But it sticks out as odd in a book that continually reveals how insensitive Mike is to his wife’s feelings and needs and how quick Debi is to step in and clean up after him because she was created to be his “helper.” In the end, I suspect that a husband pleasing and forgiving his wife has different requirements than does a wife pleasing and forgiving her husband.

And then, of course, Debi follows this up by once again likening her relationship with Mike to her relationship with God.

Because I have known such love and closeness with a man, subsequently my understanding of God and my appreciation for him are much deeper. A relationship based on law, rules, willful humility, and formality is death. I have learned to approach God just as I approach my husband with love, joy, and delight.

Debi rejects the idea of basing a relationship on things like laws or rules, but she spends her entire book telling women that they need to submit to, obey, and serve their husbands. Her characterization of her relationship with Mike as being full of love, joy, and delight erases the fact that her relationship is based on a hierarchy of man and helper, master and servant. What she is saying here is that she has found a way to have joy and delight in living a marriage relationship based on obedience and service, and that our relationship with God should be the same.

Debi finishes this section by attempting to speak to women whose pasts and marriages are less than perfect:

Now, I know what some of you are thinking. You think it is too late for you. You are struggling on your second or third marriage to an unbelieving porn addict, or are suffering through emotional scars from your godless youth.

She goes on to explain that Jesus always gives people second changes and that it’s never too late to start again. This is really standard evangelical fare, the argument that you’re never too far gone to turn your life over to Jesus and get a new start.

But what I want to point out here, briefly, is what these sentences reveal about how she categorizes people. Namely, women who don’t think they can have the joyful and cheery relationship (she thinks) she describes must be either married to sinful and unbelieving men, i.e. porn addicts, or suffering emotional scars that a godless youth must leave. But this also reveals something about the women she is targeting with her book, namely those who are married to non-Christian men who are not responsive to their wives’ needs or wants (anyone who would describe their husband as a “porn addict” clearly feels something is broken or troubled in the relationship) and women who, for whatever reason, now regret things they did in their “godless” past.

And now comes the part where I pull this all together. I would simply finish by explaining why I chose the title I did for this post. Debi’s fleeting attempt at egalitarian language aside, this passage illustrates her belief that, as her husband’s playmate, she exists to meet Mike’s needs and fulfill his wants. Understood against this, background, it becomes clear why she believes she must clean up after him and ignore the things he does that bother her. She exists for him, not him for her. But I would ask, does this sort of wifely pattern actually prove helpful to a husband? After all, the patterns she suggests won’t help a husband grow as a person. Instead, they enable a husband to act like a child without having any consequences for doing so. In fact, I would venture to say that I am a better helper to my husband by being an outspoken and equal partner than a woman following Debi’s instructions will ever be by being a silent and long-suffering servant to her husband.

Comments open below

Spiritual Abuse Survivor Blogs Network member, Libby Anne blogs at Love, Joy, Feminism
The Beautiful Girlhood Doll by Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the religious right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving fundamentalist and evangelical religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the problems with the “purity culture,” the intricacies of conservative and religious right politics, and the importance of feminism. Her blog is Love, Joy, Feminism

NLQ Recommended Reading …

Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment‘ by Janet Heimlich

Quivering Daughters‘ by Hillary McFarland

Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement‘ by Kathryn Joyce

 

About Suzanne Calulu
  • Betty Crux

    As someone with several Playboy models and Playmates for friends/former co-workers, I’ll say that Hugh Hefner and the Playboy enterprise on its worst, most misogynistic day, probably treats women better than a guy like Michael Pearl.

  • http:///krwordgazer.blogspot.com Kristen Rosser

    There is a place in marriage for overlooking little weaknesses and faults, and just accepting your partner for who (s)he is, not demanding that (s)he change– but this is entirely different from overlooking what Debi calls “hurtful ” actions or words. Hurtful actions or words can quickly become abusive if not addressed, and my husband for one would not appreciate it if I just overlooked something he did that actually hurt me– because he might inadvertently do it again if I don’t tell him!

    The answer is not one partner believing that she exists for the benefit of the other. As a Christian myself, I believe both male and female exist to love God and others and to enjoy being loved. Believing that women exist for men is a distortion of Christian thought.

  • Persephone

    Someone posted a Twitter exchange where a guy asked Hefner how he got all those “bitches.” Hefner responded that he never referred to women as bitches.

    Debi developed a crush on Michael Pearl when she was 13. He asked her to marry him when she was 18. Her naiveté, lack of experience, and emotional immaturity come through loud and clear in her writing.

  • Patti

    I have been married almost 30 years. I was in a church that taught women the way Debi speaks. For twenty years I enabled my husband to act like a 16 year old boy. ( Think of what they are like). I overlooked, I encouraged, I loved, I supported, I endured being his wife. I overlooked outbursts and forgave personal attacks. I was also encouraged by others that I was to “overlook” offenses and not keep a record of wrongs. I enabled my husband to abuse me. That meant when he was angry, I was in overdrive. ( I had to try to prevent an oncoming outburst at all costs.) I was raising children at the same time, working and maintaining a household. To continue to overlook the things that I should have been speaking up about was irresponsible on my part. It was not fair to myself or my husband. It was not loving him to ignore patterns of wrongful and hurtful behaviors. Once I began to speak up and set some of my own personal boundaries, our marriage changed. It became responsible, it is now finally, both of us living to help and encourage each other. He has been out of work for a year now and I thank God that I “went against advice” and got a part time job when I did years ago, because I have had to work to maintain the household during this waiting period of endless job searches. Women are naive and in for a surprise, who believe in this day and age, that their husbands will always be able to “take care of them.” When women do not speak out about what hurts them, and what they can not live with, It is actually doing harm to them both. (There is a huge difference between nagging, complaining, bitching, and having an open honest conversation about what you will not put up with.) If you are not honest with yourself, you are not being honest with your husband or anyone. Women must help their husbands yes. But help them to become men who respect women, love them like they love themselves. Care for, protect, honor, adore. I must say, I wish I had come out and stopped the nonsense of “serving” and being his “help meet” the way Debi speaks about – years ago.

  • Independent Thinker

    I am totally with you on the lack of experience and emotionally immaturity. The couple seems to have a poor grasp of what being compassionate toward another person means. I am not sure if that is because of her lack of life experience or age at the time she got married but either way she definitely missed a critical piece of the puzzle somewhere along the way. She always tends to assign blame instead of examine how someone must feel in a particular situation. Not every situation in life needs a label, blame, or judgment call. I don’t think Debi gets that. Her relationship with Michael seems to be codependent at best. I know in one of her You Tube videos she references the fact that she likes to wear bangs. Michael apparently hates them so therefore she does not wear them. When I saw her say that the warning bells really went off. Having a man control your hairstyles seems well beyond the scope of a normal functional marriage and leads me to believe there may be a bit of a parent child dynamic.

  • Nea

    It’s beyond parent/child — Michael has set himself up as a God to his wife and his children – a vengeful, punishing God at that, who must be obeyed and appeased but never, ever asked to do real work or be questioned in the slightest.

  • http://www.switchingclassrooms.com Laura

    I want to read her book bc it seems so bizzare. I’m not giving the Pearls any money though.

  • ssohara

    You are SO RIGHT.

  • ssohara

    It may also be that bangs are not that important to her. My husband likes my hair long, so I tend to keep it that way… but if it were important to me to cut it short, I would. However, there are also things that HE does to make me happy. It’s not a one-way street.


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