CTBHHM: Talk to Your Husband About How You Feel? Ha!

by Libby Anne cross posted from her blog Love Joy Feminism

Created To Be His Help Meet, pp. 147-148

This chapter starts out fairly tame by Debi’s standards . . . and then turns into a train reck before you have a chance to so much as blink. As a reminder, Debi is now going through the various character traits that Titus 2 instructs the older women to teach to the younger women. This installment begins Debi’s chapter titled “To Be Sober.”

A sober wife is one who faces the fact that she is no longer a freewheeling individual, with time to do as she pleases. She knows that marriage is a joyous, but also a grave responsibility. She cannot be flighty and frivolous. She makes a commitment to be the best wife, mother, and manager of the home that anyone could be. She becomes the acting CEO of a great enterprise of which her husband is the owner.

Yes . . . and no. Being married is indeed a serious endeavor, but it doesn’t mean you have to become all serious and matronly. One thing I’ve learned since being married is that in many ways marriage is what you want to make it. I think of the married couples I know, and each one is different. Some are carefree and “flighty” and unwilling to “settle down.” Others are much more serious and circumspect. Marriage is about forging a life with a partner, and just as each individual is different even so each married couple will have its own eccentricities. But then, communication and partnership aren’t things Debi is big on.

I also find Debi’s analogy here odd. It’s not something I haven’t heard before, but I’m still turning it over in my brain. I think the idea is that the CEO makes the day-to-day decisions while the owner sets the direction of the company. Even so, the wife runs the day-to-day workings of the household while the husband sets the vision and direction for the family. What I’m not sure is how the authority bit works in the corporate structure. Does the owner have the authority to micromanage the CEO? Does the CEO have to do whatever the owner says, on any company matter? I guess what I’m saying is that I think the spheres of the owner and the CEO are more carefully demarcated and that the CEO has more genuine authority than does the wife in Debi’s prescribed world. If anyone wants to shed light on how this works, do!

Her most basic responsibility is to make her husband’s home run smoothly.

Since when is it her husband’s home and not their home as a couple and a family?

She assumes the role of coordinator of all affairs. If the home doesn’t run in an orderly fashion, the marriage will not be joyous and fulfilling, and neither will child training. When a woman considers the needs, time schedule, and resources of her home, then she will be a more efficient help meet. This planning will eliminate tension and helps et a peaceful mood. It is the simple things in life that can break down a marriage and bring about a bitter divorce. But on the positive side, it is the simple planning of life’s activities that can bring health, prosperity, peace, and happiness to a sound marriage and produce gratifying family relationships. Men (and children) appreciate good meals, a clean house, and an atmosphere of peace—a refuge from the stress of life.

I’m not completely sure that the connection between an orderly home and a fulfilling marriage is quite as universal as Debi thinks it (if it was, no one on the show Hoarders would ever be married), but in general, I agree that having a schedule, keeping track of things, and planning ahead are good things—for husbands as well as for wives. Honestly, I agree with this section more than I do with just about anything else Debi has written. Do notice, of course, how gendered it is—it is the wife’s job, and not the husband’s job, to cook, clean, and keep track of daily household affairs. Still, this is what we’ve come to expect from Debi.

And now for the train wreck. It starts with a letter. Yay!

Dear Debi,

I was totally exhausted yesterday when my husband came home from work. The children were sick. I have a new baby, and she was coming down with a fever. He came in and never inquired how I felt or how my day was. He started off by asking why the place was such a wreck and “when will dinner be ready,” because it was the night for choir practice, and he wanted to get there early. He was rude, insensitive, and indifferent to my exhaustion, the kids’ sickness, and everything else. He was so selfish, and it hurt so badly. What was I supposed to do? Reward this selfish jerk with loving service?

Jill

I know how I would respond to this letter!

Dear Jill,

Your feelings are completely understandable! I’ve spent many a day caring for sick children myself, and it can be quite time consuming and emotionally exhausting. You are right—your husband’s behavior was insensitive. Have you thought of telling him how you feel? It’s possible that he doesn’t understand just how much work being a stay at home mother can be, especially when children are sick. Let him know how you feel and what you would like him to do differently in the future—and listen to his feelings and perspective too, of course. This way you and he will be on the same wavelength and the two of you will be able to sync your expectations.

Libby

But of course, that’s not how Debi replied.

Dear Jill,

It is your duty, your job, and in your best interest to serve your husband.

Debi

Ow. Harsh much? It gets worse, because Debi goes on to use Jill as a negative example.

No one would dispute that Jill’s husband is insensitive, but two wrongs do not make a good marriage. One “right” can make a BIG difference in a marriage and change that selfish old guy.

No.

Look, I agree that two wrongs don’t make a right. The problem is that Debi sees any alternative to simply smiling sweetly and serving lovingly as a wrong. Whatever happened to communicating about your feelings? How would that be a wrong? I think part of what’s going on here  is that Debi keeps communication off the table entirely. In Debi’s mind, there are only two options: silent loving service or, well, loud hateful harpy. That there might be such a thing as loving and honest communication is simply never even considered. Actually talking with your husband about things? Ha!

I’ve brought this up before, but when Sally was small, Sean would often game in the evenings before she went to bed, leaving me to care for Sally and do some end of the day cleaning alone. This bothered me. A lot. But instead of bottling it up and simply silently caring for Sally and cleaning and doing everything else that needed doing without mentioning how I felt to Sean, I actually talk to him about it. I told him how what he was doing inconvenienced me, and how it made me feel. And Sean listened. He helped explain to me why he enjoys gaming and what he gets out of it, and we came to a compromise—that he would wait to game until Sally went to bed. After that, I was more understandable of his desire to game, but he was more sensitive to my needs at the same time. In other words, my talking to Sean about my frustrations ended up making things better for both of us and strengthening our relationship. But Debi can’t even consider this option.

And it gets worse.

Always keep in mind that your job is to do a good job serving him, so planning ahead is a must. If Jill had done a better job, her husband would not have been such a jerk.

No.

Seriously, victim blaming much?

According to Debi, it is Jill’s fault that her husband was an insensitive jerk. Also, according to Debi, that Jill was so exhausted and all-consumed by caring for her sick children that she couldn’t get supper on the table is a failing on her part, not something that is simply an understandable part of life and parenthood. Jill should have had supper ready. She didn’t (because she was selfishly caring for sick children), and her husband was an insensitive jerk as a result, and because she hadn’t gotten supper on the table like a good wife her husband’s bad reaction was Jill’s fault.

No. Just, no. Jill’s husband’s insensitivity and jerky behavior was his fault and his fault only. I really shouldn’t be having to say this! Gah! Debi! Come on!

Your husband expects you to plan ahead. He plans ahead at his place of work, otherwise he would lose his job. If you plan ahead, conflicts like this can be avoided, and your husband will be proud to know he has a better wife than the other guys at work.

No.

I mean, is this I-have-a-better-wife-than-you thing sort of like the I-have-a-better-car-than-you thing or the I-have-a-better-house-than-you thing? Because to be honest, that’s kind of what it sounds like to me.

I mean, that’s the goal here? Seriously, the goal is for Jill’s husband to be able to boast about what a good little help meet she is? Not, I don’t know, for Jill and her husband to have a strong and fulfilling partnership characterized by honest communication and the bonding of two spirits?

If you pamper your husband, in time he will become sensitive to your burden, but you must soldier and show yourself strong.

No.

This is not how it works. This is like suggesting that if your child doesn’t keep her room clean, you should just clean it yourself and eventually she’ll notice and start cleaning it. It does not work that way. Think about the anecdote about Sean and gaming. Is Debi really suggesting that if I’d just done whatever I could to accommodate Sean’s gaming and care for Sally myself without ever mentioning that it was bothering me, Sean would somehow of realized that it was bothering me, or realized that maybe he shouldn’t be gaming while Sally was still up to be tended? Because I think it far more likely that Sean would have naturally assumed that if I wasn’t mentioning anything there wasn’t a problem. Because in the normal world, people actually communicate about things that are bothering them rather than turning themselves into silent suffering martyrs and waiting around for other people to notice and read their minds.

Also, is Debi not aware that some people will simply take advantage of others around them, most especially of those who make easy targets? Ugh.

I have had many sick babies, and I know sometimes it was not easy, but you can get the house in order and meals cooked and keep everything running smoothly all the same. As mothers, we will often be stressed over a sick child, but that is no reason to neglect our other duties. A sober wife makes herself the match of every circumstance.

No.

Seriously, way to make Jill feel terrible.

Look, I’m in a facebook group for local mothers of young children, and one thing I’ve noticed is that hardly a day goes by without a mother taking to the list to vent about an overwhelming day gone wrong. Being the mother of young children is hard work, and being a stay at home mother of young children can be especially exasperating. Sure, there are lots and lots of good times and meaningful moments, but there is also lots that can be overwhelming, dispiriting, and just plain hard. Debi’s “you just didn’t try hard enough” and “you didn’t plan ahead well enough” crap doesn’t help anything.

Also? Spending time nursing a sick child is about the best excuse for neglecting other duties I can think of. Supper can wait. Cleaning the house can wait. Just snuggle that sick child close and give her some love and attention. Seriously.

Jill: Please, if you’re out there somewhere, just talk to your husband. I’m begging you. Also, don’t listen to Debi. Her advice is absolutely dreadful.

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

 

About Suzanne Calulu

CLOSE | X

HIDE | X