Answering ‘Preparing To Be A Help Meet’ – Is There A Line Between Submitting And Being Yourself?

Answering ‘Preparing To Be A Help Meet’ – Is There A Line Between Submitting And Being Yourself? May 17, 2015

AnsweringAnother installment of giving better answers to the questions asked at Debi Pearl’s site message board for the book ‘Preparing To Be A Help Meet’. Many young ladies ask questions on all sorts of different subjects brought up by the book. There was just one big problem, many of the answers stray into either the outright bad and emotionally unhealthy to dangerous. Yes, typical Debi Pearl borderline abusive. Here’s what we’re going to be doing here at NLQ. Every week, once or twice a week, I’ll be posting up one of the questions from the message board and ask you, our readers, to answer that poor soul’s question in a way that is logical, rational and the best possible solution, in other words 180 degree turn from Debi and friends answers. As always  all spelling and grammar in the posting is unchanged from the original author.

Okay, on to today’s question:

Is there a line between submitting and being yourself?

My husband and I have been married for 8 years. He is definitely a visionary with some steady. Though we have a good marriage, I have felt like ever since we got married, he’s been trying to change me. When we first married I had looong hair and only wore skirts/dresses. Six months later he asked me to cut my hair to my shoulders and start wearing pants. He was into bicycle racing and felt I would “fit in” better if I made these changes, so I did. Two weeks later he decided he wanted my hair long again, but still wanted me to wear pants. Later he didn’t want me to wear brown for a while….then a few years later, after we became friends with some Mennonites, he decided I should only wear skirts/dresses again and not wear makeup, jewelry or nail polish. Now that we’re moved away from them, he is fine with me wearing some makeup and pants around the farm or woodcutting and stuff like that. I don’t know how many times he has had me go thru my clothes and get rid of things just because he didn’t like the color/pattern even if it was modest. Also he used to buy me jewelry and he even painted my toenails when I was super pregnant (before all these changes), and would always compliment me on the way I looked when I dressed up for him. Now he never compliments  me and he says he’s always hated nail polish and jewelry.

OK so now that our oldest daughter is 5, she’s been asking to paint her nails, so my husband told me that if it’s something I like, then we can do it, but he doesn’t care for it. So what do I do? Is it ok to do things that I enjoy even if he doesn’t care for it? I want to submit, but I feel so confused and unsure of myself. I’ve always loved dressing up for him and now I feel like he doesn’t even see/notice me unless I’m naked (which we have great intimacy). I have brought this up to him but he gets upset and offended and treats me like I’m being unreasonable or something. Anyway, I would just like advice on this and how to encourage my husband to just be stable in our beliefs and stop changing the rules whenever we’re around different people. Thank you for any advice!

Sweetheart, no man should have that much say or power over how you dress or wear your hair! But typically Shalom tells her to learn to please her husband. Is this really good advice or just doubling down on the control and possible abuse?

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  • SAO

    This is a classic example of micromanaging. Micromanagers offer an opinion about everything. Many of which are things that they haven’t really thought through, because they weren’t very important. Thus, the micromanager forgets his last spur-of-the-moment opinion and offers a new one. People at the mercy of micromanagers get really annoyed, when this happens, as the micromanager rarely blames himself for offering a binding opinion without much thought or care.

    This is why you should please yourself instead of trying to please someone who doesn’t bother to think about what is important to him.

  • My thoughts are very simple, sit your hubby down and explain that while you love him dearly and respect him, there are just some thing in you life that he does not get a say in. Like clothes and hair. You need to dress in clothes that are comfortable, attractive and (most important) fit WHO and WHAT you are. If you’re worried about what he thinks, IME, he’ll be relieved not to have to deal with that issue. Aside from the bedroom, most men don’t really notice, or care about our clothes. (I speak from experience as a married woman with 20 years under my belt.)

  • Gypsy Rose B

    I sure hope he’s got a good enough job to support all of these wardrobe changes. It costs to constantly get makeovers.

    I’m always torn when it comes to questions like this. I want answer in a way that works within the framework of how they live, but I also want to give advice I’d give any other woman

    Version 1: There are ways to adjust to his ever changing whims (I have a hard time believing this guy is “part steady”) while still maintaining who you are. In stead of dismantling your closet and cutting your hair, try to suggest you buy a few new things to see if there is a way to fit in with his new group, or wear your hair in a new way instead of cutting it. There are ways to adjust (and “submit”) without turning your life upside down whenever he gets a new hobby. If he doesn’t notice you or says he doesn’t care for jewelry and nail polish, why not ask him what he does like? You say you enjoy dressing up for him but as his tastes change it seems like it would be hard to stay on his radar unless you have a talk with him about it.

    Version 2: Good gravy, this guy is way too obsessed with your wardrobe. It sounds almost as though he have a mood disorder that makes him swing from hobby to hobby, rapidly changing his persona and your appearance, and now he claims apathy about all the things he was obsessed with before. Don’t be a doormat and let him change you entirely whenever he thinks things need to be different. Sure, it’s fun to try out new styles, and you may find things you like better, but you don’t have to give up yourself when he’s the one who keeps wanting to change.
    To address some points in your letter: Your daughter wants to paint her fingernails. Let her try it and see how she likes it. Get her kid friendly, less toxic polish. She’s at an age where she’ll be trying out new things and this is a harmless way to do so. His opinion doesn’t really matter (and he doesn’t seem to want to give one.)
    Another thing: you say you have “great intimacy” but emotionally you two seem impossibly distant which means that true intimacy isn’t really possible. Have you tried couples counseling (with a real, licensed counselor) before? Having a third party (who is an expert on these things) might shine some light on what is really going on.
    I really hope this guy has some redeeming qualities because he sounds less like a good husband and more like he’s unstable and micromanaging. He seems to be way too easily swayed by peer pressure (real or assumed) and more image conscious than conscious of how to be a partner to you. Don’t feel like a slave to his whims. You deserve your own style and identity.

    (Edited for content mistakes)

  • Jenny Islander

    Long-suffering wife, it can be exasperating and disturbing to be married to someone who rewrites the past all the time. How deep does this go? If you showed him a picture of your freshly done nails from back when he liked you to have nail polish, would he deny that he’d painted your toes? Did he give you jewelry that you still have? Where does he say it came from now? Does he rewrite the past regarding other, larger issues? In my experience, it is impossible to convince such people that they are saying something that is not true. They have to be worked around. Hopefully your marriage is supportive in other areas.

    Your linking of “great intimacy” with being naked made me sad. Intimacy implies closeness in matters of mutual trust. A lot of people manage to have sex without being intimate at all. You wrote about all the things he has told you to do. Has he ever sat down with you and asked you what you wanted? And refrained from correcting your answer?

    This leads to your overall question. Should you submit to his combination of micromanagement according to his ever-changing whims and refusal to admit that his whims do in fact change?

    Why in the world should you do that? Or expect your daughter to do the same? Is he loving you as Christ loved the church by using you as a dress-up doll for his short attention span–compliments or no? He’s been doing it for years; do you think letting him do it more will convince him to do it less? Submission is not for things like this. The next time he tells you or your daughter how to dress or groom yourselves, tell him no.

    As for the disappearing compliments…how old are you now, long-suffering wife? Have physical changes that he can’t micromanage you out of begun to appear? A husband may feel free to criticize the marks of time in his wife while ignoring that he isn’t getting any younger either. Hopefully yours isn’t so shallow.

  • I think part of the problem is that he has power over you and is misusing it, not understanding how it’s affecting you. I’d recommend talking to him about it, using an analogy that he could identify with, that he would understand. For instance, suppose he worked for a company where the dress code changed without warning every few weeks? Supposing one day he would be praised for wearing a blue tie, and the next week blue ties would be against the policy– and the company said that they didn’t understand his confusion because they’d always had a policy against blue ties? See if explaining it in these terms would help him understand what he’s doing to you.

    The other thing is that both spouses, not just one, should seek to make the other happy. Loving you as Christ does the church includes this. Paul even said in 1 Cor. 7 that being married involves seeking to please your spouse, and that goes not just for women, but for men. That said, it’s not necessary to please your spouse in everything, even the things he’s neutral about. If he doesn’t care whether you and your daughter wear nail polish, and you both want to wear it, have a nail party! Just be yourself, and have some independent ideas and preferences from him. This will actually increase his interest in you– it can get really boring being with someone who’s trying to just be an extension of yourself! Let him know what you like and want. Ask him to do little things for you, and thank him when he does. Make him work a little bit to please you– make him pursue you a little bit again!

  • ConcepcionImmaculadaPantalones

    In all the years I’ve been diagnosed bipolar and known others with bipolar disorder, going through endless changes in hobbies while claiming apathy over the hobbies from earlier phases has not been part of the symptoms – even when treatment with medications wasn’t taking place. Mood disorders such as bipolar can co-occur in some individuals with personality disorders and many more conditions, but given the widespread stigma which in part stems from a lack of accurate information, I felt I needed to say something about my feelings after reading your comment. It’s difficult for people with bipolar to even consider ‘coming out’ to family and friends let alone near strangers who are more likely to make snap judgments.

  • Gypsy Rose B

    I apologize for making an incredibly amateur comment. I did not mean to make generalizations regarding all people with mood disorders and I appreciate your response.

    My reasoning behind that hypothesis (not tested enough to be a theory) is that the two people I know most closely with bipolar tend to get very strongly into ideas and hobbies and then abandon them when they shift into another part of their mood cycle. One in particular gets heavily into religions, dragging the majority of his family with him.

    Anecdotal evidence is not evidence enough to build a theory, and I’m pretty sure the people to whom refer have quite a variety of conditions that affect how they act, but that was the one thread that connected them. I have enough personality and mood disorders of my own to know better than to attempt armchair diagnosis of anyone outside of my close family or best friends. (I advise them to seek out counseling as well when they come to me with issues.)

    Whatever is going on in this marriage and with this husband I believe counseling (psychological, not religious) would shed light on what the real issues are.

    (ETA: I hope you don’t think this is one of those bs internet nonpologies, I am actually really sorry and upset that I screwed up…that is my anxiety…time to get back in to see my counselor.)

  • ConcepcionImmaculadaPantalones

    Shalom saying that she needs to learn how to please her husband, isn’t helpful whatsoever – how can anyone learn to please someone when what pleases that person is ALWAYS DIFFERENT! Shalom must have the power to read minds. or at least her husband’s mind, it’s as if implying even without saying outright that she has perfected the art of knowing what will please her husband in all ways at all times.

    Non-mind reading-wife:

    Your husband is an indecisive jerk who has been yanking you around by the invisible chain he’s got you on. I’d bet money that his spontaneous proclamations, decisions and changes to his rules that apply only to his subordinates (that would be you and any child(ren), to clarify) are actually being caused by his lack of control elsewhere. It’s still wrong of him to do, and the fact that you will jump to change in any way he demands but would never even think to ask him to change things about himself for your benefit is why he continues to treat you this way. Tell him that your hair, clothing, and any other matter regarding your physical appearance is now entirely under your control – but he is allowed to make a request regarding such things if he wishes, though it’s up to you whether or not you choose to grant any request. If he can’t comprehend why you’re upset, and is unwilling to give up such a small aspect of control, you might want to try counseling with a real mental health professional that you attend as a couple – and a divorce lawyer as your backup option.

  • ConcepcionImmaculadaPantalones

    Thank you, apology accepted.

    I do think that there is some basis for the theory that individuals with bipolar are prone to seeking out new things that interest them with a greater enthusiasm than other people might display. It’s the all-in focused passion for whatever catches their interest – mostly noticeable in the unmedicated.

    I agree about this couple (and any others who are struggling in their relationship) needing to seek counseling overseen by an actual mental-health professional. I don’t know if counseling in this specific instance will ultimately keep the marriage together – they both have to want to do the work, to change, and hear what the other is telling them. I had a counselor that decided seeing my parents and also continue seeing me wasn’t a conflict of interest – so I struggle with some bias on whether counselors are truly successful being impartial when trying to mediate things between sides. There have to be some who can do so, but my personal experience says different.

  • KarenOfRocks

    I don’t have much patience for submission, no longer being a Christian and having a very happy egalitarian marriage. But I would think that a gentle “dear, clothing, hair and nail polish are a part of my personal expression of myself, and a creative outlet for me. I’d really like a reason beyond your personal preference if you want me to change” would not be out of order. This happens AFTER the writer decides to NEVER AGAIN ASK HER HUSBAND HOW SHE LOOKS, unless the question is something like “do I need to plan to get dirty on this outing and wear grungies?”, “do I need hiking boots, or will sneakers do for that trail?”, or “is your boss taking us out to a fancy restaurant or a café?” You get the idea.

    In my experience, if clothes catch a husband’s eye, he’ll say something. Otherwise, let him carry on in happy oblivion, and enjoy your clothes for yourself. I can’t imagine that Paul, when speaking about submission, meant “be a doormat”.

  • KarenOfRocks

    I worked for a guy like this once, and often felt the desire to strangle him. I knew his wife slightly; she was an independent sort of person, and I can’t imagine her tolerating micromanaging. Why she didn’t end up strangling him is beyond me.

    (I was not the only one being micromanaged, and his bosses caught on to the problem pretty quickly. He was moved from line management to project management, where he had to ask for tasks to be done instead of ordering them done his way.)

  • Gypsy Rose B

    Yikes, that is definitely a conflict of interest. Some are certainly better that others.

    Agreed that counseling might not save that marriage (assuming she is able to get out of it.) This guy, whatever his deal is, seems to not be doing her any favors by being married to her.

  • Kitty

    You are being emotionally abused. Your husband loves that you have submitted to him, so he’s going to yell, “jump” all the time just to make you ask, “how high?”. He invalidates your feelings and is petty with his demands. You have children. GET OUT. You need to protect those children from this tyranny, lest they grow up with no self-worth, much like yourself. If you stay, you are not only a self-hating moron, but a child abuser. Your children – especially your daughters – will learn that women are to be cowed, obedient and serve as playthings.

  • Nea

    Remember, Shalom was taught all her life to joyfully and instantly carry out her father’s every whim at the moment he uttered it Or Else.

  • Plain English

    What Paul meant was that big boy is the boss and you aren’t big boy so be good and let big boy take his business into the big boy room where you don’t go.
    Submission, the very idea of it is sick and borders on abuse. When two people are together, they are equal in all things. One might be a better baker or candlestick maker but the biblical woo-woo about women submitting is cow-plop. Brain slaves become estranged from their own heart of hearts….
    I find it sad and disheartening that a woman can be so beaten down that she does not even maintain the freedom to be who she is without worrying about whether she has submitted to some man… sheesh, religion sure is toxic.
    And Paul can hit the road for more visions, for all I care… Leave women alone, you twit. What did you ever know about women….

  • Plain English

    Kitty, I completely and utterly con-purr with you… well said.

  • Plain English

    But this is not American comedy, Lolly…. it is American tragedy.

  • Jenny Islander

    But what about the rest of that passage? “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loves the Church.” This amounts to:

    *Willingly taking on the most demeaning jobs in the house, such as washing the feet of guests (a must in a culture where people walked around on dirt roads in sandals all day), while explaining to his shocked disciples that anybody who wants to be “first” should do the same.

    *Approving of women “sitting at his feet” (=learning from the teacher), like men, instead of remaining apart in the kitchen. (Yes, this contradicts Paul. Paul was fallible.)

    *Accepting women as companions in his missionary work instead of demanding that they go home and keep house.

    *Not throwing a fit when a woman dares to argue with him–even when she out-argues him.

    Hanging an entire argument on one verse is bad exegesis no matter how many self-serving preachers have done it.

  • You have a point– but in my opinion, laying more guilt upon this woman and calling her names is only going to make things worse.

  • Religion certainly can be toxic when an ancient book is read as if it were written in today’s culture. I think what Paul meant was, “yes,we both know that our society and culture have made your husband the boss, and trying to fight that would only be harmful to you, so I’m asking you to just go along with him while I tell him to lay down his social and cultural power over you in order to raise you up to stand beside him.”

  • Olivia

    I can’t help but wonder if she had butt length hair and only wore skirts when she met him, and his opinions change with whoever they are hanging out with, and if he said he doesn’t care for nail polish but she can decide whether or not to paint their daughter’s nails, if perhaps she is from a culture of submitting and he isn’t necessarily and if because of this she over analyzes his every preference and comment because she wants so badly to be in his favor even in areas he isn’t necessarily as worried about as she is.

    I only say this because stuff like “I couldn’t wear brown” and “he wanted my hair long a week later” or whatever, make me think she is too deeply interpreting off hand comments. Like, “I don’t know, I just never think you look that great in brown” or “You know I actually miss your long hair now that you’ve cut it” even the fact that he insists he has never liked nail polish sounds to me more like a conversation where he mentioned he isn’t into nail polish and she decided to call him out on it rather than a conversation where he said “no more nail polish, whore of babylon!” Maybe I am wrong, but I have a feeling the best solution would be for her to simply start doing her own thing and if it bothers him that she is no longer living a life revolving around his whims, she should just tell him she is trying to make him happy, but she is the woman he chose to marry after all and to make him happy she should only need to be herself.

  • Plain English

    That interests me about him…. Do you think that is his issue, that he wants another woman? I would have guessed more that he has issues of control and dissatisfaction that he carries with him and dumps on his wife. That she cowtows to his whims speaks to a character weakness that is supported by the cult, the defaulting to submission as if that was somehow a good thing. Relationships need to have a balance of give/take and people need to be free to set limits and simply be who they are as a foundation for relationship and intimacy. The cult teachings so supported by biblical readings are templates for abuse.
    I have bit of trouble looking at the couple we are speaking of in comedic terms but I see what you mean with AITF.

  • Plain English

    Wow, that is lovely… he’s a good mate to you….
    I’m 63 tomorrow and my wife still makes me marvel too, but not stretching in sweatpants, yawning and scratching!!!
    You ask too much! 😉

  • BridgetD

    Just wanted to chime in, and also show gratitude for the apology (I am also diagnosed as having bipolar disorder).

    I feel that there is a basis for the theory about changing interests, and I might have a bit of insight for an explanation. Bipolar disorder specifically is a cycling between episodes of mania and depression. In mania or hypomania, motivation and energy increases, and so does apparent interest in new activities. In depression, the same things decrease, and so apathy towards previously enjoyed activities and styles tends to set in. A personal example to me is writing. I enjoy writing short stories and have even attempted a few light novels in my time. However, particularly before I found a medication that worked well for me, I would begin writing with enthusiasm before a depressive episode hit. Then, I would set it aside for months at a time, completely apathetic to the story that I had been so excited about before.

    Mental illnesses and mood disorders do express themselves differently in different people, which is always important to note. The couple in this article has some serious problems to work out; whether the husband has bipolar disorder or another mood disorder remains to be seen. It’s suggestive perhaps, but not conclusive as you know. He most definitely has a problem with control if he needs to micromanage everything about his wife’s appearance. Sad to say, he also sounds narcissistic to the extreme if he’s throwing out her clothes because he doesn’t like the color or pattern. Of course, I’m not a psychologist, nor is there really enough detail in the post to tell what exactly is going on.

  • Plain English

    meaning I trust that Shalom was brainwashed from a very early age…

  • Nea

    She’s the daughter of someone who recommends literally whipping infants for every “infraction” from squirming during diaper change to exploratory curiosity to saying “no” to not being *cheerfully* obedient *the very first time* she’s asked to do something.

    Her life is one long threat of “do this or else you get the hose” and I’m not quoting Silence of the Lambs.

  • Plain English

    Parentals who were sociopaths, then, who enjoyed harming innocence and jumped at every opportunity to gleefully serve their Lord and Savior. Fucking criminal assholes. Poor children…

  • Plain English

    Kirsten, Kitty is telling as it is, not guilting. When she goes into the section, “If you stay,…) it becomes close but sometimes strong words are called for… one of the annoying things about denial in church people is how they always want ‘gentle’ speech…. menaing really, Shut up! to anybody who wants to feel something out loud.