CTBHHM: Don’t Take Your Mr. Steady for Granted

by Libby Anne cross posted from her blog Love Joy Feminism

Created To Be His Help Meet, pp. 86-92

God is as steady as an eternal rock, caring, providing, and faithful, like a priest—like Jesus Christ.

Debi says Mr. Command Man is like God the Father, Mr. Visionary is like the Holy Spirit, and Mr. Steady is like Jesus. She does not cite any Bible verses as proof, or discuss how she formulated this idea. She just asserts it.

I wrote last week that my husband Sean fits Debi’s definition of a Visionary Man perfectly. Well, I recognized Debi’s Mr. Steady, too. My father is a Mr. Steady. So, what is a Mr. Steady like? Well, he’s a bit like his name—steady. A Mr. Steady doesn’t expect his wife and children to wait on him hand and foot, and he won’t uproot his family to chase his latest dream. A Mr. Steady plugs away faithfully at the same job year after year, has few demands, and is the last one still there tirelessly cleaning up after church functions. A Mr. Steady is quiet and may sometimes seem slow to make decisions, but he generally gives wise advice and is internally contemplative. Reading about the Visionary Man was a bit uncanny because I saw Sean in almost every paragraph—and reading about Mr. Steady was similarly uncanny, because I saw my father in almost every paragraph.

So, let’s get started.

The Steady Man does not make snap decisions or spend his last dime on a new idea, and he doesn’t tell other people what to do. He avoids controversy. He doesn’t invent the light bulb like Mr. Visionary, but he will be the one to build the factory and manage the assembly line that produces the light bulb an the airplane. He does not jump to the front of the plane to take a razor knife away from a terrorist, unless he is encourage to do so by Mr. Command. He would never lead a revolution against the government or the church. He will quietly ignore the hypocrisy in others. He will selflessly fight the wars that Mr. Visionary starts and Mr. Command leads. He builds the oil tankers, farms the soil, and quietly raises his family.

And just what is it like being married to a Mr. Steady?

As a general rule, he will be faithful till the day he dies in the same bed he has slept in for the last 40 or 50 years. Older women who are divorced and have learned by their mistakes know the value of peace and safety, and they will long for a nice steady man of his stature, but such a man is rarely available—unless his foolish wife has left him. This man is content with the wife of his youth.

And then later on there is also this:

Your husband never puts undue pressure on you to perform miracles. He doesn’t expect you to be his servant. You do not spend your days putting out emotional fires, because he doesn’t create tension in the family. You rarely feel hurried, pushed, pressured, or forced. The women married to Visionary Men look at you in wonder that your husband seems so balanced and stable. The wife of Command Man marvels at the free time you seem to have.

Remember that a Command Man expects his wife to wait on him hand and foot and jump when he says jump  and a Visionary needs a prudent wife because his dedication to doctrinal purity can cause tension and and his forever coming up with grand new ideas and dreams can threaten to bankrupt the family. A Steady Man is different. He doesn’t demand to be waited on and he doesn’t uproot the family at a moment’s notice. Instead, he plugs along faithfully, can take care of himself, and isn’t afraid to selflessly serve others.

Coming from Debi, this all sounds too good to be true. Surely there must be more to the story, right? What does Debi say are the potential pitfalls of being the wife of a Mr. Steady?

When you are married to a man who is steady and cautious, and you have a bit of the impatient romantic in you, you may not see his worth and readily honor him.

You may be discontent because he is slow and cautions to take authority or make decisions. A bossy woman sees her husband’s lack of hasty judgement and calls her Steady husband “wishy-washy.” His steadiness makes him the last to change, so he seems to be a follower because he is seldom out front forming up the troops. There is no exciting rush in him, just a slow, steady climb with no bells or whistles. You wish he would just make up his mind, an that he would take a stand in the church. He seems to just let people use him. There are times you wish he would boldly tell you what to do so you would not have to carry all the burden of decision-making.

Some women equate their husband’s wise caution and lack of open passion with being spirituality  His lack of spontaneity and open boldness may look like indifference to spiritual things. However, he is like deep, deep water. The very depth makes the movement almost imperceptible, but it is, nevertheless, very strong.

In other words, the wife of a Mr. Steady may not appreciate his steadiness and may instead wish he had more “spontaneity” or “open boldness”—she may wish that he was a Visionary or a Command Man. And if she doesn’t appreciate him? What will happen then?

He will be confused with your unhappiness and try to serve you more, which may further diminish your respect for his masculinity.

Well okay then. Because a woman who tries to make her husband happy by serving him makes herself desirable, but a man who tries to make his wife happy by serving her causes his wife to lose her “respect for his masculinity.” A woman serving her spouse is natural and attractive, but a man serving is spouse is unnatural and unattractive. This may be Debi’s world, but it’s sure not mine. I don’t lose my respect for Sean when he does things for me—in fact, my love language is acts of service, so that kind of stuff is the way to my heart. Indeed, there’s nothing sweeter than when he does all sorts of little things to try to help me feel better when he knows I’m stressed out. Diminishing my respect for his masculinity? Um, no. See, I generally file “refuses to lift a finger for loved ones” under “jerk,” not under “masculine.” But then, Debi seems to be working from another definition here. And under Debi’s definition, serving others is a threat to your masculinity.

Just what happens to the discontented wife of a Mr. Steady, the wife who loses respect for her husband’s masculinity and wishes he were more like those Command Men and Visionaries?

Disappointment and unthankfulness can make you wearier than any amount of duties. His very steadiness keeps him on his middle-of-the-road course, and it will drive a controlling woman crazy. This is why many disgruntled ladies married to Mr. Steadys fall victim to hormonal imbalance, physical illness, or emotional problems.

I am actually beginning to think that throwing out threats of what will happen to you if you don’t serve your husband right is something so natural to Debi that she doesn’t even realize she’s doing it. It’s hard to go more than a page or two, after all, without another threat. In this case, if you are upset with your husband’s steadiness you may well end up with a hormonal imbalance. Because apparently that’s how biology works. Or not. But just so you’re, you know, warned.

Next comes a passage that I think is very illuminating, as it compares the lots of women married to Debi’s three different kinds of men:

When a woman is married to a bossy, dominant man, people marvel that she is willing to serve him without complaint, so she comes out looking like a wonderful woman of great patience and sacrifice. A woman married to the impulsive Visionary Man, who puts the family through hardships, will stir amazement in everyone. “How can she tolerate his weird ideas with such peace and joy?” She comes out being a real saint, maybe even a martyr. But if you are married to a wonderful, kind, loving, serving man, and you are just a little bit selfish, then you are likely to end up looking like an unthankful shrew. He helps you, adores you, protects you, and is careful to provide for you, and you are still not satisfied. Shame on you!

Debi says that the wife of a Command Man ends up looking like a woman of great sacrifice, the wife of a Visionary ends up looking like a martyr, and the wife of a Mr. Steady risks ending up looking like an unthankful shrew next to her loving, serving, ever kind husband. Thus the wife of the Mr. Steady may have image problems because she, well, doesn’t have enough ways to suffer. Because, you know, your status as a good wife is cemented by what you have to endure and put up with—at least, that’s how it is in Debi’s world. And that’s just five hundred kinds of messed up.

But the biggest problem I have with this paragraph is that it’s unreasonable to think that a person should automatically be satisfied with their life just because they have a kind and loving spouse. There are a myriad of reasons a person might be unhappy with their lot in life, and plenty of them are outside of the control of their spouses. And beyond even that, it would be possible to have a husband who adores you and serves you but with whom you don’t have a deep, internal relationship, and for that is a plenty fair reason to be dissatisfied.

Debi next describes the Steady Man as a “foot-washer” and states that Jesus, after whom Mr. Steady was fashioned, taught his disciples that, in effect, “If you want to be my disciple, then plan on spending your life cleaning up after folks, fixing the old lady’s sink, and driving out of your way to give someone a ride to church.” And that—and more—is what Debi says Mr. Steadys do. “The Steady Man, the quiet man, the man who does not take control, is not a man of little worth, for Jesus exalted the common chores that are so often performed by the Steady Man.” The Mr. Steady, she says, is the man who stays after to clean up after church, volunteers to help out whenever someone has a need, and puts everyone else’s needs in front of his own.

According to Debi, the wife of a Command Man is to wait on her husband hand and foot and the wife of a Visionary is to affirm her husband’s dreams but keep his feet from flying off the ground. So what is the wife of a Mr. Steady to do? What is her role?

If this describes your man, you need to learn how to stand still and listen; then let God move your husband in his own good time. As God for wisdom and patience. Seek always to have a gentle spirit. Look up “shamefacedness” in the Bible, and learn what it means. Pray for your husband to have wisdom. Stop expecting him to perform for you, to pray with the family, to speak out in witnessing, or to take a bold stand in church. Stop trying to stir him up to anger toward the children in order to get him to feel as though he understands how badly you are being treated. Let him be the one God made him to be: a still, quiet, thoughtful presence—for you! Command and Visionary Men understand and appreciate him, and they, too, lean on this type of man for stability. Learn to seek your husband’s advice on what to do, and then give him time to answer, even if it means days or weeks.

The wife of a Mr. Steady, then, is to learn to be patient and modest. I think the biggest idea here is that the wife of a Mr. Steady isn’t supposed to take control. Remember earlier how Debi said that being married to a Mr. Steady will drive a “controlling woman” crazy? Well, Debi is saying here that the wife of a Mr. Steady must be modest and make herself small rather than allowing her personality to dominate over her more mild-mannered husband. Here is where Debi is, again, arguing that women should fit themselves to their husbands. A woman’s personality here, whether it is quiet or bold, spontaneous or steady, doesn’t matter. Rather than finding a way to form a cooperative partnership with her husband that involves making use of each’s strengths and weaknesses, she is to ignore what strengths and weaknesses she might have and instead be a blank slate.

But here is where things get interesting.

Show respect by asking him in what areas he would like you to do some decision making. Many of these “nice” men prefer their wives to show some initiative. A Command Man tells you what to do and how to serve him, and a Visionary Man wants you to do what he is doing.

A Steady Man likes a woman to walk beside him, yet grow in her own right before God and him.

If you are married to a Mr. Steady, you need to get familiar with Proverbs 31 to know how to be an active help meet to your man. Your husband will enjoy and share your triumphs in business. He will be proud of your accomplishments  He will want you to use your natural skills, abilities,and drives. Your achievements will be an honor to him, but lazy slothfulness will greatly discourage him. Your wasting of time and spending money foolishly will weigh heavily on him, robbing him of his pride and pleasure in you. He needs a resourceful, hardworking woman with dignity and honor. It is important to Mr. Steady that his wife be self-sufficient in all the mundane tasks of daily living. You must learn how to pay bills, make appointments, and entertain guests with a competence that brings him satisfaction. Your hobbies should be creative and useful, involving your children so that all of you are busy and productive every day. Your home should be clean and orderly so that his friends and business contacts will be impressed and at ease. Your skills and achievements are your husband’s resume. If you are wise and competent, then he must be even more so, the onlooker will think. At the end of the day, Mr. Steady will enjoy weighing what he has accomplished with what you have accomplished and will rejoice int he value of having a worthy partner in the grace of life.

So close . . . and yet so far. Debi finally admits that some men might actually want their wives to make their own decisions, have their own accomplishments, and use their natural skills, abilities, and drives. And yet she still manages to make allowing the wife to have her own achievements and self-sufficiency simply about what it can do for her husband. “Your skills and achievements are your husband’s resume.” It’s not about allowing a wife autonomy and achievements as her own person but rather merely as the ambassador of her husband. And given that Debi literally thinks women exist solely to serve as helpers to their husbands, this makes sense.

Their children will grow up to highly respect their gentle-speaking dad. If mother has been negative toward Dad, the adult children will strongly resent her to the point of disliking her.

Um . . . speaking as the daughter of a Mr. Steady father and a mother who didn’t always follow Debi’s advice in this section, I’m going to have to disagree. But also—I’m going to take this opportunity to point out how natural making threats is for Debi. It’s almost like they just fall out, or spontaneously generate.

Debi goes on to say that Mr. Steadys are not loud or demanding, they don’t stand out and they’re not irritating. They’re often taken for granted and don’t brag on themselves or their skills. They become pillars in the church not because they step out or  seek to aggrandize themselves but rather because they’re the ones who are always there, doing what needs to be done without demanding anything in return.

And then she says this:

The vast majority of my letters are from women criticizing their laid-back, quiet, slow, unassuming, undemanding, hardworking husbands for their “carnal” habits. These wives have forgotten to have a life of their own, so they spend their time trying to remake their husbands into dominant types because they admire leadership, authority, and clout. They don’t have a clue about the demands that come from being married to a dominant, bossy man.

Now this is really interesting. And it kind of makes sense. In the fundamentalist Christian churches where ideas like Debi’s spread and take hold, women generally gain clout primarily through their husbands’ status—and secondarily through the bearing of children. If a woman has a husband who is not saved, or a husband who does not step out and take leadership in the local church, her own status will always be limited. But then there is Debi’s statement that “these wives have forgotten to have a life of their own.” I mean, Debi has basically spent the entire book telling women not to have lives of their own, and now this, and with no explanation. It’s just hanging there. And then there is the last bit—the part about “the demands that come from being married to a dominant, bossy man.” After Debi’s description of the Command Man, and her identification of her husband Michael as a Command Man, it’s obvious that she’s speaking from personal experience here.

Next, Debi directly addresses what will happen if the wife of a Command Man does take control.

If a wife dishonors her steady husband and takes control, he will most likely stay with her; they probably will not divorce. But her dishonor will cause him to lack the confidence to further his business opportunities. He will become satisfied with the mediocre, because it involves no risk. He will know that he pulls the load alone, that he has no helper. Yet if that same man is married to a thankful, creative woman who delighted in him and thought he was the smartest, wisest, most important fellow around then he would have risen to the occasion in every area of his life. Many women believe Mr. Steady is mediocre and lacks strength and authority, when in actuality, Mr. Steady is a manly, steady fellow that lacks a good wife.

In other words, if the wife of a Mr. Steady takes control, her husband will withdraw into his shell and become mediocre when he otherwise would have had the motivation to rise to the occasion. It’s funny, I remember hearing my parents talking about another family that we knew, and they described the problem very much like Debi does here. They said that rather than serving as her husband’s helpmeet, the wife had simply taken control of the family’s decision making, and that in response her husband had retreated and stopped really trying, leading to a lopsided and unbiblical relationship that was tension-filled and unpleasant for both of them. Their diagnosis was that if the wife would just step down and stop dominating the family’s decisions, her husband would rise to the occasion and actually lead.

The trouble here is that Debi seems to assume—and my parents assumed as well—that this all happens without discussion or negotiation between the husband and wife. The reality is that if a couple’s temperament is such that it makes sense for the wife to make more of the daily decisions while the husband would prefer to be more laid back and go with the flow, there’s nothing wrong with that—so long as this arrangement is cooperative and was arrived at through communication. But in Debi’s world, that’s never okay. In Debi’s world, the wife of a laid back man must become laid back like her husband in order to avoid overwhelming his personality and becoming the leader in the relationship. The idea that relationships can be truly cooperative or be healthy outside of a male dominance/female submission framework is foreign to Debi.

Oh, but we get the trash once again!

Mr. Steady may take the trash out and keep the area clean, yet his wife will be prone to take his goodness for granted.

You remember when I said that taking out the trash must have been a seminal battle between Debi and Michael? Yeah, I’m sticking to that theory.

I found this next part interesting mostly because of how well it describes my dad:

He will be in quiet contemplation much of the time. It will drive his wife crazy, because she will long for him to share his deepest feelings and thoughts with her so she can “feel” loved. He cannot. He might even cry during times of stress or intimacy. He is very, very slow to come to trust and open up to the woman he loves, because he does not understand her. He will enjoy the company of others and be most comfortable spending time in small talk with whoever is around. Of the three types, he is the one who will be most liked by everyone.

This part too:

Mr. Steady is always in demand. People everywhere need him to fix a car, build a house, set up their computer, figure out what’s wrong with their phone, heal them of cancer, an the list goes on and on. You begin to wonder if you will ever have him all to yourself. The answer is, no. He belongs to people. When it is time or past time for some special time alone, take a vacation, and leave the cell phone at home.

So now to pull some of these strings together. According to Debi, the Command Man is dominant and dictatorial and Mr. Visionary is a dreamer, but Mr. Steady is the hard working every helpful man that everyone loves—and often takes for granted. Debi’s main advice to the wives of Mr. Steadys is to not take them for granted and wish they would be something they aren’t—which is generally good advice—and to avoid doing anything that might overwhelm or dominate their husbands—which is the bad advice part.

Is it just me or is it really that complicated to envision two individuals with their own strengths, skills, and abilities coming together and working out a partnership through communication and based on cooperation rather than trying to force themselves into prescribed gender roles? I mean maybe this is just me, but it just seems like that would be so much simpler than what Debi is so painstakingly describing here.

Next week we’ll look at Debi’s summary of the three types and offer some concluding discussion of this entire section.

Comments open below

Read everything by Libby Anne!

Spiritual Abuse Survivor Blogs Network member, Libby Anne blogs at Love, Joy, Feminism
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

 

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  • ES

    I am noticing a trend that I didn’t notice the first time I read this book – Apparently women are supposed to out martyr each other – and the reason that “Mr. Steadys” are so under-appreciated is because they do not provide opportunity for their wife to be a martyr, so of course their children will make her a martyr. By the way, I am married to a Mr. Steady (who regularly steals my heart with his reliability, and thoughtfulness), and I am kind of insulted by Debi’s description of them as kind of cowardly and complacent. Clearly she thinks that they are not as masculine as the other options, but of course, they are men and you can’t change them, so here is how you do the best with what you have. The concept that they won’t stand up for what they believe is absurd. If my husband puts up a stink about something you know its important to him precisely because he hasn’t “cried wolf” too many times before. Most the time he has a live and let live attitude. If he doesn’t like something, he just does his own thing – regardless of others around him.