Good Intentions Do NOT Success Make

Not Joshua and Laura but in love and supremely happy

by Joe Sands cross posted from his blog Incongruous Circumspection

Vaughn Ohlman, the patriarch of the Ohlman family – literally, loves to tell the world how we have it all wrong.  How marriage in the hands of “young people” is the reason why marriage doesn’t work.  That, if only we followed the ancient Jewish story of ole’ Abe and his son, Isaac, all marriages would either be brilliantly perfect, or mostly work.

Though, to be fair to Mr. Ohlman, his intentions are, though foolish and admittedly arrogant, expressly designed to stay in the good graces of the god he fears.  He believes in simple cause and effect solutions to life, ignoring the fact that so many of the “do this and I will give you” promises in the Bible are nothing more than hogwash – a mind trick to get you to do something. Then, when the effect doesn’t happen, to fill your head so full of clauses where that god gets to back out of his promises, that you spin around in the world of cognitive dissonance, and believe that you are as evil as everyone says you are.

Recently, Ohlman got together with another gentleman and “betrothed” his son to that man’s daughter.  During the next few days and weeks, it was discovered that, among other things, the two kids, Joshua and Laura, had only met each other for two hours before they were betrothed.

You keep using that word, I. C.!  What does “betrothed” mean?!Betrothal is the “biblical” idea where two fathers get together and decide to choose their respective son and daughter to be married to each other, in the future.  They begin to “court” in some cases.  In other cases, the parents treat them as a fully married couple with all the, shall I say, “benefits”.  ;)  And yes, as in the case of Vaughn Ohlman’s little boy and his future daughter-in-law, they hadn’t met or more aptly put, been introduced to each other.

According to Ohlman, this betrothal to an unknown serves a very specific purpose:

The point of the betrothal process was that they would be able to treat each other as brothers and sisters, all unknowing, until the day when they were bound in covenant.

“Bound in covenant” is marriage.  In fact, knowing Ohlman’s penchant for wanting to follow biblical stories as close to the vest as possible, he more than likely expects the woman veiled at this ceremony, and then consummate their marriage with awkward sex in a tent later, with all the family sitting around, waiting for the bloodied sheets.

Ohlman thinks that his critics care so much about the “two hours” of knowing each other before the betrothal, that he dedicates a full blog post to the rebuttal.  But, in this post, he reveals the real reason why most sane individuals look at his arrogance and say, “WTF!”

[The two hours] was just a logistics time while Andrew (the future daughter-in-law’s dad) and I figured out how we would arrange things, what we would say, etc… Joshua and Laura had, years before, already ‘decided’. Or, rather, they had left the decision up to us, to their fathers. Together with the various counselors we sought we did all of the ‘checking out’ while our children waited, anxiously and eagerly, for us to find someone. While I’m sure they had their anxieties, from what they tell me neither one were particularly worried that we would pick a ‘bad’ spouse for them… they were just worried it was taking so long!

That, Sir Vaughn Ohlman, is what everyone cares about.  That you treat your children like property.  Something to be handled – given away.  You say you care for them.  But you discount their feelings in all your other literature.  Life, for your children, and your wife, for that matter, has nothing to do with what they desire or need, but simply what you allow them to have.  Full control by daddy, all wrapped up in a pretty “god” bow.

Sure, Joshua and Laura might have a happy marriage, as much as it can be happy.  They may even have good sex, as they learn each other’s bodies, and so long as they can foray into fields of sexual freedom, such that you would frown upon.  They may even write a blog about how happy they are and how they did everything right, according to god, concluding that that is the reason for their joy.

But that’s Joshua and Laura.  That isn’t every other boy and girl that follows your impassioned words.  You compare every other marriage, not done like you say to do, to Bill Clinton screwing Monica in the Oval Office.  You forget about the happy couples who had sex before marriage.  You forget about the miserable couples who had no sex before marriage.  You forget that this world is filled with nuances and differences, all beautifully mashed together in this epic ball of individuality and how that individuality creates unique relationships – some good, some horrid.  But all different and revealing to true humanity.

No.  I’ll stick with real life.

Comments open below<

Read everything by Incongruous Circumspection!

I am a 30 something husband of one and father of 6 dynamic and loud children. My wife and I are still madly in love – at least in my view. My world is exciting, tense, and full of life. I love to write and hope to one day, do it full time. – Incongruous Circumspection

The Spiritual Abuse Survivor Blogs Network

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
  • Madame

    “That you treat your children like property. Something to be handled –
    given away. You say you care for them. But you discount their feelings
    in all your other literature. Life, for your children, and your wife,
    for that matter, has nothing to do with what they desire or need, but
    simply what you allow them to have. Full control by daddy, all wrapped
    up in a pretty “god” bow.”

    I think Von’s problem is that he’s too lost in trying to copy ancient patriarchal ways to be able to see that this amount of control is unhealthy.

    Sure, his son gave the decision over to him. What else was he to do? Dad told him that’s the only way to please God.

    Von’s future daughter-in-law handed the decision over to her dad, probably for the same reasons.

    Both may have felt some relief. After all, they were told that this would please God. But what will happen when they wake up and realize it didn’t have to be this way?

    Marriage doesn’t seem to be about partnership either, in these circles. Love is not something you feel and build upon, but something you choose to “do”, so it doesn’t really matter if you are attracted to your spouse or not. You choose to do your duty, to act out love, and it will all be wonderful! – unless it isn’t.

    I’m sure this works and worked for many in the past. It “helps” to know that leaving would leave you alone, with no means to care for yourself (in the case of the woman), and no family to return to. In shame-based societies, people will stay in the worst of conditions to avoid shame.

    Anyway… I wish Josh and Laura the best. I hope there was an immediate chemistry between them on that day. It feels so good! No, it won’t carry a marriage through the years, but IMO, it’s a good starting point.

    I also hope Von lets go of them. If you are reading this, Von, marriage is defined as “leaving father and mother, cleaving to wife, and becoming one flesh”. You, as the father of the groom, should enable that leaving and support it, for the sake of your relationship with him and his wife. If they choose to live life differently than you would have them do, close your mouth and walk away. Let them be. That was the best gift my parents gave me, and the only one I’ve wanted from my in-laws since I married their son nearly 11 years ago.

  • gimpi1

    I, personally, regard Mr. Ohlman’s attempt to strip-mine bronze-age cultural norms to build a template for contemporary living as way beyond goofy. I believe him when he says he doesn’t want to compel others to live as he and his family do, but he doesn’t seem to understand the compulsion he has put on his son. It would be almost impossible for the young man to walk away from his father’s manner of living, or even think about wanting to.

    Also, Joe, your points about Mr. Ohlman apparently regarding his kids as his property to be disposed of at his will and his inability to see the nuances of relationships are well made. There is no magic formula for a good marriage or a happy life. However, forced young marriage seems like a pretty good way to get both a bad marriage and unhappy life. I wonder, does he care?

    As I understand it, however, happiness is considered unimportant. It’s worldly to expect any kind of happiness. Wanting to be happily married is selfish. Wanting to not live in poverty (on one income) is selfish. Wanting to control your fertility and preserve your health (if female) is selfish. Wanting to pick your own spouse, according to your own desires is selfish. Wanting to remain unmarried is selfish. In fact, the only thing that isn’t selfish is for the patriarch to control the lives of everyone else in the family. Being a despot is, apparently, an unselfish act.