Toxic Marriage Advice From Doug Wilson

Toxic Marriage Advice From Doug Wilson March 3, 2019

It’s always amusing when people with no real ideas on how to conduct personal relationships decide they know how to give out marriage advice. Doug Wilson, of Blog and Mablog, thinks he knows it all on making marriage work. But keep in mine that this is also a guy that thinks men conquer and subdue and women lay back to be conquered. He also thought it was a dandy idea in his romance novel to have a man set a building on fire to earn the attention of a woman.

Life, and marriage, just does not work that way. Unless maybe you are a sociopath.

Doug has written a long piece that is supposedly an open letter to another of his imaginary parishioners outlining what he thinks the real problem is. He reduces it down to the simple lie that keeps rolling through Quiverfull and Evangelicalism –  Men crave respect and women need love.

Seems to me that if both partners were showing equal measures of respect and love to one another these problems would be eased. We all know that one  of the biggest problems in many Quiverfull marriages is a lack of honesty about feelings and emotions stemming from inadequate communication.

Companionship? Nope, not the problem here.

Does offering a solution anger you? I can honestly say that someone offering a legitimate solution to a problem generally does not provoke someone else into a fit of rage. Unless they’re pretty petty and immature to start with.

It seems that so many of the problems among the religious crowd boil down to immaturity, lack of reasonable communications and unrealistic expectations. Don’t keep score, don’t hold grudges. Do not expect your husband/wife to magically read your mind and do what you want! Just freaking talk to one another and stop taking offense at every little thing! It really is that simple, unlike all of this talk of women need love and men need respect. Everyone needs love and respect.

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NLQ Recommended Reading …

Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement by Kathryn Joyce

I Fired God by Jocelyn Zichtermann

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About Suzanne Titkemeyer
Suzanne Titkemeyer went from a childhood in Louisiana to a life lived in the shadow of Washington D.C. For many years she worked in the field of social work, from national licensure to working hands on in a children's residential treatment center. Suzanne has been involved with helping the plights of women and children' in religious bondage. She is a ordained Stephen's Minister with many years of counseling experience. Now she's retired to be a full time beach bum in Tamarindo, Costa Rica with the monkeys and iguanas. She is also a thalassophile. She also left behind years in a Quiverfull church and loves to chronicle the worst abuses of that particular theology. She has been happily married to her best friend for the last 32 years You can read more about the author here.

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  • A. Noyd

    I think most people are looking for sympathy when they share a trouble. They don’t necessarily want or need troubleshooting. Or they might appreciate that kind of help, but they want the sympathy first because, by the time they’re sharing it, the emotional frustration is more immediate than the trouble itself. Starting off with troubleshooting can seem really dismissive and even critical.

    I’ve had to learn this the hard way because I tend to jump straight to the “have you tried…?” thing even though I’m a woman. It’s takes work to remember to offer sympathy by default and let the other person (usually a friend) indicate whether they want more. The whole ritual feels weirdly performative, but most people seem to prefer it, whether they’re women or men.

  • Tawreos

    I think the main problem between this couple is that he cut her off. “When she gets the difficulty out (or almost out)…”. It sounds like the husband was waiting for a chance to speak rather than listening. Sometimes people know what they need to do to solve a problem, but just want to commiserate with someone else. Sometimes they have a couple options on what they feel they should do and want input on which they should select. Listening to the whole story might have given him a clue as to what his wife was looking for. Of course the whole situation is ridiculous. Doug makes it sound like the whole marriage was destroyed by this one little problem. A truly omniscient god could have saved people from a whole lot of problems if he swapped out one of his self-serving commandments for “Thou shalt talk to and listen to each other, dammit.”

  • Friend

    It sounds like the husband was waiting for a chance to speak rather than listening.

    Excellent distinction. Of course, the hypothetical guy might have interrupted her.

    Either way, Doug is writing as if he has just made this amazing discovery that nobody in history ever encountered, say around dinner time, every night, year after year, when somebody asked, “How was your day?”

  • Friend

    Our cultural enforcers have so many bad ideas, I just want to ask: “Have you tried…”

    It’s GREAT that people here are offering their own ideas about how to talk with a spouse or partner. I hope one more idea is welcome.

    When your loved one starts talking, listen. Look at the face. The words, tone of voice, and face will usually help you understand why this person is talking to you.

    If in doubt, wait for the person to pause. Then say something like this: I’m here for you. Do you just want me to listen, or would you like a suggestion?

  • SAO

    Nothing is more irritating than a facile answer. Wilson makes it sound like the wife said something like, ‘I’m overwhelmed by my job, my boss piles on more work than I can do, then criticizes me for not getting it done.’ And hubby says something like, ‘have you tried working harder?’

    I have a situation that I’m kind of stuck in and gives me a lot of stress. My husband helped me look at the alternatives (none of them particularly good) and pick the best one. Having made a decision on how I am going to deal with the issue has helped a lot.

  • Iain Lovejoy

    This is scarcely original to Doug: the advice that someone with a problem will sometimes just want to unload rather than hear solutions is often true, and I have heard many variations of it. Doug, in trying to shoehorn it into his “complementarian” BS has it backwards, however. It is telling that it never occurs to him that a wife might make the same mistake with her husband. The problem with an unwelcome (if it is unwelcome) “have you tried…” is a lack of respect, in that it comes across as assuming all the “little woman” needs is for manly man husband to solve her little problems for her. Doug can’t see it going the other way, because how could a mere woman purport to offer solutions to a man?

  • Friend

    Right, and the fact that she’s talking about feelings is a design flaw.

    But men and boys unburden themselves too, in case Doug hasn’t noticed (and women talk to other women). As wife/mother/daughter/sister, I’ve been the one sitting there wondering anxiously what my loved one wanted me to do. That inner question is a reliable clue that I’m too focused on my own anxiety, and not listening well enough.

  • They say that women want love and men want respect. (I will also note the gender binary and the cisheteronormativity here.)

    However, I am male, and, according to a personality test I took (I took it twice, five years apart, I found I prefer to be loved than respected. I found this increased over the five years.) I personally am reluctant to demand respect, because of my experiences, in which demands for respect were abusive and the guy demanding it was a sociopathic narcissist. (He also had ideas similar to Wilson’s.)

    Thus, that refutes that hypothesis!

    To bring it back to Wilson, I wonder to what degree his “respect” means that a wife should take abuse lying down, and that love is only thrown in to look good for the camera. Am I too cynical here?

    It seems that so many of the problems among the religious crowd boil down to immaturity

    And the religious crowd seems to think you need to have somewhat of a relationship with Jesus to be mature. But their system doesn’t seem to work for them…

  • Saraquill

    Not to mention for some people, “have you tried…?” involves advice that’s rather useless. You have a broken leg? “Have you tried yoga?” Having trouble getting a story published? “Have you tried adding boobs?” And so on

  • AFo

    I’m honestly just amazed that Doug imagined the husband offering any help at all instead of telling the wife that it’s her problem and get can’t help, or dictating a solution to her.

  • zizania

    Or it’s advice of the extremely obvious kind, which of course was the first thing you tried. (Or didn’t try, because it was obviously stupid.)

  • Karen the rock whisperer

    I want both love and respect, and it seems that my husband does, too. He’s quick to suggest solutions to my problems, so when I just want to vent, I choose another listener. But he knows to listen respectfully while I describe what solutions I have already considered, and why I think they won’t work.

    Respect implies listening. I suspect Doug Wilson might not know what true listening is.

  • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

    I usually preface it with “You’ve probably thought of this already, but…”

  • Friend

    In the context of Doug Wilson and complementarianism, there is no such thing as good advice.

    And if the speaker can’t figure out how to communicate with the hearer, even the best idea in the world is going nowhere.

    However, but, comma, I have received some astonishingly good advice from odd places. Medical advice from fellow gym-rats. Marriage advice from a real estate agent. Landscaping advice from some random guy walking a dog. Obviously I don’t do everything people recommend, but there are some helpful and kind-hearted folks out there. The speaker’s intention matters.

  • bekabot

    Men crave respect and women need love.

    This is a common formulation, but even Sigmund Freud had problems with it: in fact, he characterized the separation — often thought of as a separation which can’t be breached — between ‘respect’ and ‘love’ as the most widespread perversion in civilized life.

  • bekabot

    The old-guys’-tale says women get mad when men interrupt what is called troubles talk with suggestions about what women ought to ‘do’ about their problems because women don’t want their problems solved; women just want sympathy. (Women don’t want solutions; women just want to talk.) But try to tell a man who comes to you for emotional care and feeding what to ‘do’ about his problems and I guarantee you he won’t be happy about it. He’ll think you’re not taking him seriously. He’ll think you’re making fun of him. He’ll think you hold him in slight regard. He’ll think you’re trying to boss him around. He may take it personally and he may take it as an insult. That’s because it’s okay for him to come to you for reassurance, but it’s not okay for you to want the same thing out of him.

  • paganheart

    Methinks Dougie doesn’t listen to anything except the voices in his head.

  • Mimc

    Umm interrupting someone to tell them what to do is not respectful either.

  • Allison the Great

    I think the reason most of these gender-role obsessed religious people have so much trouble communicating as married couples is because they are incapable of empathizing with members of the opposite sex. They don’t see each other as actual people (they may say they do, but they really don’t) instead, they act as though members of the opposite sex are a different species. Instead of seeing their spouse as an individual who has wants and needs, they see their spouse as a gender stereotype, hence Doug’s “men need respect, women need love” bullshit. This lack understanding comes from their unwillingness to befriend and/or intermingle with members of the opposite sex who are not related to them, and thus the opposite sex remains this great mystery even after they get married. I think this is a very immature mindset to have when it comes to marriage.

    I recently saw a blog post on Girl Defined saying that girls should not befriend boys because biblical blah blah blah, those friendships can’t last after marriage, and because other nonsensical reasons. They are unaware that, outside of their little religious bubble, males and females are able to stay friends long after one of them gets married to someone else. The two women at Girl Defined are also unaware there’s been a trend of men having their female friends as “groomsmen” (groom’s attendants) and brides having their male friends as “bridesmaids” (bride’s attendants) when they marry someone else. They also don’t understand that people often incorporate their spouses into their existing groups of friends, or in other cases base the future of a relationship on whether or not a new love interest gets along with their friends.

    Doug’s lack of understanding of spousal communication and the Girl Defined writers’ cluelessness about male-female friendships are only 2 examples of how strict adherence to gender roles and an unwillingness to socialize with members of the opposite sex make life way more complicated than it has to be.

  • Jennifer

    Apparently this is a trend common around patriocentrists.

  • Anri

    It seems to me that a good question, from either partner to either partner, is: “What can I do to help?”
    That way, you’re actually checking to see if your partner wants comfort, or advice, or both, or is currently so turned around by the situation that they don’t know what the hell they want and they need a hug and more talking.

    Nothing whatsoever about this is gender-locked.

  • Astrin Ymris

    I sometimes think that anti-feminist men– whether religious or secular– feel that being asked to pay attention to a woman’s verbal and non-verbal cues is a huge imposition on them. Thus the gnashing of teeth and wailing over such issues as enthusiastic consent and sexual harassment. “How am I supposed to tell if a woman is into what I’m doing to her or not? It’s not fair to let women press charges about date rape or report co-workers to HR, because it might have been a legitimate misunderstanding. Am I supposed to ask before every single intimacy ‘Is it okay if I do X’ and wait for a response?” No, dude, we just want you to pay as much attention to her body language as you would to a male supervisor you want to impress. It’s not that difficult; it just requires seeing women as equals whose feelings are as important as yours.

    Of course, it doesn’t help that a lot of movies and TV shows show the lead actor ignoring the designated love interest’s resistance and being rewarded by her responding enthusiastically after a few seconds. Have you seen Pop Culture Detective’s video on predatory sexuality in Harrison Ford movies?

  • persephone

    Those voices need Thorazine and lithium

  • Jen (*.*)

    Watch out folks—that perceived emotional abandonment is a gateway for letting in evil critical spirits. But only if you’re a woman.