CTBHHM: Men Can’t Take Criticism (Ever)

cryingmanby Libby Anne cross posted from her blog Love, Joy, Feminism

Created To Be His Help Meet, pp. 194—195

This intro matter confuses me a bit.

The Skinny Swine

Lack of Judgement

“Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands” (Proverbs 14:1). 

“A wise woman doesn’t attempt to instruct her husband through feigned questions. Her questions will be sincere inquiries concerning his will.” 

The skinny woman who inspired this next list of questions doubtless saw herself as a kind person, wonderful mother, and first-rate wife, yet she was tearing down her house one question at a time.

I do not get the swine bit, or the skinny bit. Debi is about to launch into a list of 12 questions a woman should never ask her husband. I find her point about women not asking “feigned” questions interesting, because she has never allowed for women to ask actual questions either. Besides, her list of questions that a woman should not ask are not all “feigned” questions. And note the rhetoric—a woman’s question should be “sincere inquiries concerning his will.” Master/servant relationship much?

Anyway, let’s move on. We’re going to take these questions one by one, but we’re actually going to take two weeks to do it—six questions today, six questions next week.

Twelve Questions a Wife Can Ask That Will Tear Down Her House

1. Do you feel comfortable spending that much money buying that ____?

He begins to doubt his ability to make wise decisions.

Normal people are able to hear their partner ask if they’re comfortable spending that much money and actually respond, not suddenly determine that any such question is a stain on their ability to make decisions. Actually though, this sounds very familiar. Let me quote from earlier in Debi’s book:

I remember the night Michael and I married. My new husband decided we needed to go shopping and cook a meal before we went to bed. I had no idea how much money he made, or how much he had for our honeymoon. Yet, here we were in the grocery store at 10 P.M. on a Sunday night, having been married for less than an hour, when I first felt the critical spirit rise within me. He was picking out ground beef and was about to pay a very high price. I tried to reason with him. “Don’t you think that is priced too high, and wouldn’t it be better to buy a cheaper priced meat?” He was twenty-five years old and had never had a woman question him about how he was spending his money, and I will never forget the bewildered look on his face. It was as if he were trying to remember who I was and why he had put himself in a position to be criticized.

I must have sounded as though I was patronizing him, speaking to him as if he were a stupid kid, because that is how I felt about what he was doing. I was suddenly shocked at my attitude. What right did I have to treat him like a stupid jerk? How did I know how much money he had? I wasn’t his wife yet, in the biblical sense, yet here I was thinking, “You stupid nincompoop. I wouldn’t spend MY money like that!”

Satan didn’t even give me a chance to get properly bedded before he introduced himself to me, just as he did to Eve, and I, like my big sister Eve, fell for his line. I was amazed at my critical spirit. There, standing at that meat counter, I made up my mind that I would not allow this to be the story of my life. I would learn to be a woman of God, regardless of what my husband bought or how dumb he seemed to be in the way he spent money.

In Debi’s view, a wife’s input or suggestions regarding how money is spent is just too much for a man to handle, but apparently this may stem from the fact that that was her experience with Michael. Which of course does not reflect positively on Michael.

2. Are you sure God wants you to work at that job and be away from us all the time?

He wonders about his reasons for working there, even though it is a good job. He remembers he has had opportunity to witness. Yet? He grows unsure of his own leading.

Is a man incapable of saying to his wife either “you’re right, I’m working too many hours, let’s brainstorm about ways to fix that” or “I’m making good money right now, I really think this is where I need to be, let’s do what we can to make the time I do spent at home as rich as possible”? And does a wife seriously get no opinion on this?

Sean can make good money by working evenings, in addition to during the day. About a year ago he got to where he was working three or four evenings a week, and I told him that was just being a bit much and I wanted him at home with the kids and I. So we talked, and we decided that he would work two evenings a week—Monday and Wednesday. It was a very productive conversation and it worked well for us. But if Debi had her way, I wouldn’t have said a word and my marriage would have suffered for it. No thank you.

3. Honey, I need to ask you something very important that really tears me up inside. Doesn’t this activity you are engaging in grieve your spirit?

The Spirit of God had been prompting him concerning this, but he was trying not to hear; he almost brought the subject up himself last evening, but now she is disappointed in him. He suspects he is not spiritual, but somehow the whole thing makes him angry. He feels pushed. Now he resists her just to maintain control.

Debi is fairly transparently talking about pornography, by the way. The thing is, while I understand the psychology Debi is talking about, what she is talking about is also a very immature response on a man’s part. If he feels she’s nagging him, he can say “I understand your concerns and am myself conflicted. I’m working on it. Can you give me some space on this issue?” To be honest, Debi’s list of questions is making men sound like they spend their days mute. Can a man not actually communicate his feelings to his wife? I mean, Debi’s already saying women shouldn’t tell their husbands their feelings. But are men not even capable of doing so?

4. Why don’t you ever want to go with me to ___?

He doesn’t feel comfortable around these people; they seem so artificial, and their kids are whiny. The man talks in a quite, humble way, which grates on his nerves; it just seems so “put on,” but his wife doesn’t see it that way. He guesses he must be carnal. Somehow, eh just doesn’t care anymore.

Starting a question with “why don’t you ever” is often passive aggressive, but that doesn’t appear to be what concerns Debi here. She appears to find it a problem for a wife to ask her husband to go with her to another family’s home or to ask her husband why he doesn’t like going to another family’s home. Sometimes Sean does things with his friends and I don’t want to come along, and sometimes I do things with my friends and I prefer to stay home. But contrary to every piece of advice Debi ever offers, we communicate about this. You know, like what is done in normal, healthy relationships. We also see each having our own things (including our own friends) in addition to having couple or family things as something that is normaland okay.

5. Before we were married, you read your Bible or at least you said you did. Why don’t you ever read and teach me and the children?

He has a vague memory of enjoying and reading and relating to how scared Moses was of a job God gave him, but somewhere he just lost interest. He supposes he is backslidden—at least his wife seems to think so.

See, once again this is phrased in a passive aggressive way, but it needn’t be. It could go something like this: “You used to read your Bible frequently but I’ve noticed that you don’t anymore. I’m curious, did something change?” But see, Debi doesn’t appear to have a problem with the tone of the question. Debi appears to have a problem with communication in general. In Debi’s world, a man isn’t capable of answering simple questions about his beliefs or habits. I’m not saying spouses should tell each other everything and never have parts of their life that are private or personal, but again, that in itself is something that should be communicated about.

6. Why don’t you spend more time with our sons?

The thrill of having boys has faded. The few times he has disciplined them, his wife later talked with him for being harsh. Maybe he was. He likes being with the men better; anyway, they are mama’s boys. Not that they are sissies, they just have this close, talky, relationship with mama. He feels separated from them. He’s just not that type. He can see the accusation in the boys’ eyes; it is reflected from their mothers. He sees the same questioning looks, which provokes in him the same feelings of condemnation he gets from being around her. He thinks, “I am a real loser. I wonder if I’m even saved.”

Okay, I think I’m starting to catch on. I think what’s really going on here is that in Debi’s world men can’t take criticism, and to Debi’s mind every one of these questions is not a question but actually criticism. That in and of itself—assuming that it’s impossible to ask these questions in a way that isn’t unkind or critical—shows how far from actual communication between the spouses Debi has placed herself.

Communication is perhaps the most important thing about having a good and healthy relationship of any kind. And yet, not only has Debi never told women they should communicate with their husbands, she actually appears to take every chance she can get to tell them not to. Indeed, in Debi’s world men are so fragile that they cannot be expected to listen to and respond to simple questions from their wives. Men are so fragile that they are crushed by even a wisp of criticism. The odd thing is that, if I am remembering correctly, in Michael’s companion book for men he tells his readers that their wives should be early alert systems helping them know when there is a problem. But how is a wife to be that when Debi is telling her she shouldn’t ask simple questions of their husbands for fear they question their husbands with perceived criticism?

Next week we’ll get to the remaining six questions.

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

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