How to Fix a Marriage, Patriarchy Style

How to Fix a Marriage, Patriarchy Style January 23, 2020

Lori Alexander’s husband Ken wrote a recent post on her blog titled “An Epidemic of Christian Wives Divorcing.” In it, he wrote about one situation in particular.

Bob has become a good friend of mine who sought help a few years ago with his difficult wife. He loved her dearly even through her struggles, but he wrote TTW seeking help. As is the custom, Lori received the email and I responded with a familiar theme:

“Let’s first make sure that you are not the problem, Bob. How are you doing with loving your wife and living with her in an affectionate and understanding way? Let’s have you make a list of the things you can be doing differently and see if showing more grace and trying to meet her at her needs will produce the results you are looking for.”

And there’s more of this. Ken quoted Bible verses urging Bob to be kind to his wife. He even added that when he gives men this advice—to change their own behavior—they’re often upset with him.

This same advice and theme has played out regularly the past few years and to all of the hurting men who seek my counsel. The initial reaction from a few is: “Hey, I am here for help with my wife, not for me!” But most of the men were truly at their whit’s end seeking help and willing to do almost anything to restore their marriages.

And I thought, huh. That’s way better than I’d thought. Instead of telling men writing to him with complaints about a “difficult wife” how to bring their wives into line, he’s telling them to examine their own behavior and be kinder to their wives.

…step one of solving any issue is to make sure that the men are not the problem.

But as I read, I started to notice that his advice was … weird. Notice the framing: Make sure the men are not the problem. What about making sure that the men are part of the solution? What’s that? No takers?

And it gets weirder.

As these men tried out this advice they had to learn how to say “No” and, “That is unacceptable” without getting angry or upset.

Ken does not tell men to listen to their wives. He does not tell them to consider whether their wives might have valid complaints. Instead, he gives them advice on how to absolve themselves of any responsibility for their troubled marriage so that they can instead pile all the blame for it on their wives.

That is the intent—get rid of your own fault, so that you can address her fault without her being able to point to things you’ve done wrong too. Gotcha!

After all, what Satan desires is to get both spouses wallowing in the mud of sin together. When one spouse no longer will climb into sin as a reaction to the other, it places the other spouse in an awkward position of having their sin exposed clearly.

That is not a good way to go about fixing relationships!

Of course you should fix your side of what’s going wrong. However, you should also communicate, listen, etc. If it’s all about a blame game—all about exposing her sin—you’re doing it wrong. Suddenly, Ken’s advice to these men to be kinder to their wives looks devious and manipulative. It’s all about a long game to make them look like the good guys, so that they can paint their wives as the bad guy.

And then, as I read, things took a further turn—a very dark turn. Because it turns out that was only step one. What is step two?

The second phase of trying to restore a marriage comes with asking one’s spouse to do things God’s way in the marriage.

Notice that there’s still nothing about listening.

Bob set about holding his wife accountable for her temper and angry words spewed at him and the children by simply calling her out on it each time she did it. When she overspent regularly and put the family in a lot of credit card debt, he took the family finances away from her and gave her a generous $1,000 a month allowance as she regularly complained about how “controlling he was.”

That actually is controlling. So controlling that it’s on literally everyone’s checklist for identifying spousal abuse. Whatever happened to sitting down with her and talking through the family finances together? Whatever happened to working out a system that works for everyone, together? If you are asserting that you and you alone have charge of the family finances, that is a problem. And yes, it’s controlling.

It’s also abusive.

“You can’t tell me to stop yelling at the you and the kids, or make me be submissive!”

“Yes, honey, I can point out to you when you are sinning in our home and I can ask you to be submissive, but you are right in that I cannot make you submit. All I can do is ask you to talk to God about that.”

Uh … what.

Run, Bob’s wife, for god’s sake, run.

Surprisingly for many of the men I have counseled, just doing these things helped restore their marriages, and some are having a wonderful time together. But for the majority of these men nothing seems to work.

Oh I wonder why.

Notice that there’s no reflection here. No, oh, hey, maybe I should be telling them to listen to their wives’ grievances. Maybe I should be telling them to include their wives in their decision making. Maybe I should be telling them not to be controlling, dictatorial assholes.

But then, the entire point of Ken’s wive’s blog is that women are supposed to be submissive and obedient, which, yes, frees their husbands up to be controlling, dictatorial assholes—and normalizes that as the exact correct and godly way for them to be. So it’s not surprising he has zero self awareness about this.

But! There is good news!

Bob, Joe, Fred, Dave, Paul, and John were all divorced by their wife last year.

Yay! You go, Bob’s wife! You are well rid of that asshole. I hope you have a wonderful, amazing life.

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