by Libby Anne cross posted from her blog Love Joy Feminism
Created To Be His Help Meet, p. 92
Here we come to the end of Debi’s discussion of the three types of men she lays out—Command Man, Mr. Visionary, Mr. Steady. In this summary section, Debi compares the actions that the “Ruination Wife” can take to destroy a marriage to each of the three types with the actions the “Successful Wife” can take to heal a marriage to each of the three types. Let’s take a look:
The Command Man
The wife of Mr. Command Man can ruin her marriage by failing to honor, obey, an reverence her husband’s authority and rule.
The wife of Mr. Command Man can heal her marriage by becoming his adoring Queen, honoring and obeying his every (reasonable and unreasonable) word. She will dress, act, and speak so as to bring him honor everywhere she goes.
Here we have a restating of what Debi said in her section on the Command Man: A woman married to a Command Man is to make herself the slave of her husband, obeying him in every word, whether reasonable or unreasonable. This is to be her lot in life, forever. And given that Debi thinks women exist simply to be a helpers to their husbands, she sees no problem with this. This is totally insane.
Notice, too, that Debi says the wife of such a man will ruin her marriage if she fails to obey her husband’s “authority and rule”—in other words, if a wife doesn’t obey her husband and that makes him upset and their marriage deteriorates, it was the woman who ruined the marriage.
The Visionary Man
The wife of Mr. Visionary can ruin her marriage by failing to follow, believe, and participate an enthusiast in her husband’s dreams and visions.
The wife of Mr. Visionary can heal her marriage by laying aside her own dreams and aspirations and embracing her role as help meet to her man, believing in him and being willing to follow him with joyful participation in the path he has chosen.
Debi here lays down the problem with her treatment of the Visionary type, which was in some ways actually quite good: She argues that women need to lay aside their own dreams and aspirations and instead support (unconditionally) the dreams and aspirations of their Visionary husbands. Saying that those married to Visionary types shouldn’t just always pour cold water on their ideas is one thing; suggesting that only the husband gets to have dreams and ambitions is another. What about the many women who commented on that post identifying themselves as Visionary types?
And also, again with the wife blaming. While it is true that being continually and only critical of the ideas and dreams of a Visionary partner will be destructive to a relationship, Debi has a very unnecessarily gendered and all or nothing view here. The options in Debi’s world are either each person having their own completely separate dreams and aspirations independently, or else the woman just giving up her dreams and aspirations and simply embracing those of her husbands. The idea that couples might make dreams and visions together, cooperatively, seems to evade her.
The Steady Man
The wife of Mr. Steady can ruin her marriage by failing to appreciate, wait on, and be thankful for her husband’s pleasant qualities.
The wife of Mr. Steady can heal her marriage by joyfully realizing what a friend, lover, and companion she has been given and living that gratitude verbally and actively. When she stops trying to change him, he will grow. She can, then, willingly take up tasks that will fill her time and give her husband joy and satisfaction when he sees her productiveness.
Honestly, my only real qualm with Debi’s treatment of Mr. Steady is that she’s not okay with a woman married to a Mr. Steady having grand dreams and bringing him along, or having a more leadership personality, or what have you. It seems to me that a Mr. Steady could benefit from a more take-charge sort of wife—something Debi comes close to admitting, but doesn’t quite get to. A concern for the male being the “leader” overpowers Debi’s ability to realize that every relationship is as different as the two people in it—and that it only makes sense for people to capitalize on their strengths and distribute the duties and obligations in a given relationship or household accordingly.
Oh, and when it comes to wife blaming, can I take a moment to emphasize how very different the way Debi says the wife of a Mr. Steady ruins her relationship is from the way a wife of a Command Man does so? I mean, Debi’s actually correct here—failing to appreciate and be thankful for a partner’s good qualities is indeed a sure fire way to ruin a relationship. What she misses is that this is true regardless of who is what gender.
Debi argues that men are fixed types and that women’s role is to fit themselves to the types of their husbands. Men are like rock, and women are like water (Debi does admit that most men have one dominant type but also some aspects of one or both of the other two types). In fact, Debi has even said that, before they marry, women shape themselves into complements of their ideal of what a husband ought to be like. In other words, even women who are not married still fit themselves as complements of male types.
In Debi’s parlance, “complement” does not seem to mean “balance out” or “offer a skill set currently lacking” but rather “reinforce.” In other words, the wife of a Command Man is to reinforce and serve his need for dominance instead of functioning as a good strong counterbalance to his potential for being dictatorial, or possessing the organizational or practical skills he may lack. Debi does tell the wives of the Visionary Man and Steady Man to do a bit more of balancing and offering missing skill sets—in keeping the first’s feet on the ground and being ready to do more of the day-to-day decision making in the case of the second—but I still feel that there’s huge room to debate just what it means to “complement” another person’s type. Even accepting this framing, being the complement to another person’s personality, skills, and interests is not so simple as Debi might think.
There’s something else I want to bring out, though. I feel like there’s a sliding scale of abuse in these three types, as Debi portrays them. Her portrayal of the Command Man is textbook abusive, but her portrayal of Mr. Steady has hardly any abuse to be found—I mean my goodness, she even says the Mr. Steady will likely want to bestow some of the decision making on his wife, and elevate her to equal partner beside him! Mr. Visionary appears to be in between, at least if you consider Debi’s demand that women give up their own dreams and throw themselves into the dreams of their Visionary husbands.
What does this say about Debi’s conception of the world? For one thing, I think it says that Debi’s ability to see abuse when it stares her in the face is broken. After all, she sets the Command Man alongside the Steady Man as though they’re just two types, completely unable to see that the first description is abusive beyond description while the second is almost egalitarian in framing. We saw this also in the sliding scale of the ways women can “ruin” their marriages—from not being an obedient slave in the case of the Command Man to not appreciating your husband’s pleasant qualities in the case of Mr. Steady. And this, to me, is what is perhaps most gobsmacking about this entire section.
One last note—Debi’s use of scripture continues to baffle me. She finishes this section with this verse:
Romans 12:1—I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
Is Debi not aware that Paul was writing this to men as well as to women? I mean, one would think that the use of the word “brethren” might be a tip. Still, you do see Debi’s constant focus on sacrifice emphasized here.
Next week we move on to more stories of women who failed to follow Debi’s advice, and the male victims these women left in their wakes.
Comments open below
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