One of patriarchal blogger Lori Alenxander’s most recent posts is titled Dealing with a Messy Husband. So naturally I had to read it.
Yes, there are women who are married to messy husbands. These husbands come home from a long day at work and have no interest in doing any housework or even cleaning up after themselves. After all, they married a help meet for a reason! I know, many women don’t look at it this way and their messy husbands drive them crazy. What are they to do?
Jesus, it’s like Lori saw the words “help meet” and instead read “the help.”
Lori quotes several facebook comments in which women insisted that Lori was wrong about this, and argued that men should clean up after themselves. Here’s the last one Lori includes:
“The Transformed Wife, if a husband refuses to love his wife by being courteous and picking up after himself, and she has lovingly addressed the situation with him, then the husband is in unrepentant sin, and a woman should seek the advice of church elders who are in authority over her husband. It’s quite simple. The sin needs to be addressed and repented of, regardless of gender. Unrepentant sin is what leads to marital breakdown.”
Lori, of course, disagrees with this. She disagrees with this a lot. But before we get to that, I want to note that I am uncomfortable with the idea of bringing church elders into one’s marriage. Marriage counseling can be needed and do a lot of good, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about one party trying to get the church elders to make the other party change some part of their behavior. If you can’t get through to your partner, it seems like there’s a decent chance that trying to get the elders at your church to do so would only make things worse.
Besides, how would you know that the elders would side with you? When I was a girl, my siblings and I used to quarrel and then go running to mom to resolve our argument, and she would say: “Are you sure you want to bring this to me? If you bring this to me, my decision is final, and you may not like it. Are you sure you don’t want to just work this out between yourselves?” That generally sent us on our way with a renewed interest in working things out ourselves.
Lori’s disagrees with the comment not because bringing elders into your marriage sounds dangerous and unpredictable but instead because she doesn’t think it’s a sin issue for a man to refuse to clean up after himself. (Neither do I, but I also don’t believe in the concept of sin.)
With that, back to Lori:
I can tell you that the godly women from the chat room had entirely different views about this issue. (Oh, how I love the wisdom from godly women.)
Lori does this a lot—selectively sharing comments she likes from the chat room she runs.
Here’s the first one:
“I wonder how well those elders can make the husband pick up after himself? Many of the elders may be messy too. There are women struggling with husbands who abuse, fail to provide, husbands with ongoing addictions, and those who commit marital unfaithfulness. Although messiness and inconsideration is annoying, most ‘picking up’ can be done in a few minutes. This verse comes to mind: ‘If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men’ (Romans 12:18).” (Judy)
I’d call this is the “it could be worse, so deal with it” response.
“She’s basically saying that if the husband won’t do women’s work by cleaning up the house after himself, he’s sinning. Where exactly in the Bible is it written ‘Thou shalt pick up your own mess?’ I can’t seem to find it.” (Lindsay)
Where exactly its it written in the Bible that cleaning up after men is “women’s work”? I can’t seem to find it. /sarcasm
“She needs to humble herself and submit to her husband. #jezabelspirit” (Jessica)
“When a husband refuses to clean up messes, even after his wife has brought it to his attention, then he has made the executive decision, as head of his household, that his wife should be the one to do that cleaning up. The wife should honor this and do it herself, without complaining.
This is a very, very bad idea. I am married to a wonderful, caring man who is very laid back and can be disorganized and forgetful. If I started assuming that any time he doesn’t do something around the house that I’ve asked him to do he’s making an “executive decision, as head of his household” that it’s my job, I’d be flat wrong. Usually when he doesn’t do something around the house that I’ve asked him to do, it’s because he’s forgotten.
When you start reading into your partner’s behavior things that aren’t specifically stated, you’re heading off to a place you don’t want to be. I know this because I used to do this all the time. I grew up in a family with a lot of indirect communication. My husband did not. Early in our marriage, I assumed that all sorts of things that meant absolutely nothing were him communicating things indirectly. They were not. Our marriage improved when I stopped doing this.
Communication, communication, communication.
But this particular chat room commenter isn’t done:
“Imagine the impertinence of a child being told to wash the dishes and telling his mother that she needs to wash her own dishes and when the mother does not, he tells the mother that she is in unrepentant sin. No, it’s not sin for the mother to delegate that task to her child. She is in authority over him and he should obey. In the same way, it is not sin for the husband to delegate the task of cleaning up the house to his wife, regardless of who made the mess. He has that authority. It is impertinent and rebellious for the wife to insist that her husband has to do that chore. She doesn’t get to decide which chores he does. She doesn’t have that authority. She’s not the boss. Her husband is.” (Lindsay Harold)
Lori loves to compare the relationship between husband and wife to that between parent and child (and so do the women in her chat room, apparently), and it makes me damned uncomfortable.
When I tell my children that they do have to do what I’ve just told them to do, I typically explain to them that I have more life experience than they do, and that it’s my job as their parent to teach them things, and help prepare them for adulthood. We can learn two things from this: First, there is a reason parents should to be able to make decisions for their children—namely, they have more knowledge than their children, who are still have a lot of things to learn. Second, parents’ ability to tell their children what to do does not last forever, but instead has a natural endpoint—adulthood.
Neither of these circumstances is relevant to a relationship between a husband and a wife. A husband and a wife are both adults. They are equals in terms of life experience and knowledge.
It’s also worth noting that I only rarely pull rank with my children. Ordinarily, if they want to know why they have to do X, Y, or Z, I explain the reasons to them. No, I can’t leave you at home alone while I take your sister to piano lessons, because you are still very young and it is my job as your parent to make sure you are safe, and I can’t do that when I’m on the other side of town.
And there are many cases where I let my kids’ bargain with me and change my mind! If they can think of a better way of doing something, I’m all ears! They’re 20 minutes from a stopping point in the computer game they’re playing and can they please vacuum the living room after they finish? Sure! And if they don’t—if they never show up to do the vacuuming—we’ll have a conversation about following through on your word and about trust, since I’m their parent and as their parent it’s my job to teach them to navigate life someday as adults.
All of this makes comparing a husband-wife relationship to the relationship between parent and child very, very disturbing. Note, too, that when you apply the parent-child relationship to the husband-wife relationship, the wife never gets to grow up. Ever.
Lori, of course, agrees with Lindsay’s comment comparing the relationship between husband and wife to that between parent and child. She agrees very much.
God created wives to be their husbands’ help meets, to be keepers at home, and submit to their husbands in everything. I agree with Lindsay. If he doesn’t want to clean up after himself, so what, women? If he’s a good provider, faithful, and loves you and your children, be thankful and cheerfully clean up after him! Even if he isn’t all of those things, you may win him by choosing to care for him in this way without quarreling.
Or, she may just enable him to be an asshole.
Lori finishes by adding this:
If wives can’t clean up after their husbands because they believe their husbands are being “disrespectful” to them for being “slobs,” they have forgotten what Christ did for them (remember – being crucified on a cross) and what He said: “The greatest of all is the servant of all.” True love bears ALL things.
I cannot emphasize enough that women who follow this advice are enabling bad behavior in their husbands. Yes, bad behavior—because being inconsiderate of your partner and your partner’s needs is bad behavior.
Notice that not a single one of these commenters says anything positive about communication. Not a one of them encourages women to talk to their husbands about their needs, or to talk through the issue and try to find a solution that works for both parties. When you approach marriage as a relationship between two partners and center communication, combined with genuine caring, it isn’t hard to work out disagreements and frustrations like the ones discussed here.
It may be that a man who returns from a demanding jobs needs some space to unwind before supper, and may not want to jump straight into sweeping the floor or some other chore. But it’s equally the case that a man who has returned from a long day at work can put his boots and coat away where they go, and, perhaps, be responsible for overseeing kitchen cleanup after dinner to give his partner a much needed break in return. This is why both partners need to discuss their needs and listen to each other.
I’ve shared this story before and I likely will again, but it used to bother me to no end that my husband didn’t help with the dishes. He was supposed to! We were supposed to take turns! At long last I set aside being pointlessly frustrated and talked to him. He said he kept thinking he would help with the dishes but he has realized over time that he really, really hates doing dishes, and that’s why he avoids them. He suggested that he take over the laundry instead. And you know what? That has worked beautifully! It’s amazing what honest, open communication can achieve!
Lori makes marriage sound extremely unattractive. I’ve actually known of cases where women raised in this culture decide they will never marry because of how terrible all the teachings they get make marriage sound, only to later learn about egalitarian marriages and realize that it doesn’t have to be like that. That marriage can be something wonderful, supportive, and caring.
You would never know any of that from reading Lori’s posts.
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