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July 30, 2010

Comments

Janna

Actually, this is something my (new!) husband and I have talked about in the past. There is definitely a trend in society today that seems to be pushing toward emasculating men, deriding them, making them less than they are - less than they ought to be.

We have a more traditional relationship, where I stay at home and he works (he's a computer engineer). I bring in some cash with a few things, but he is the major breadwinner. These roles suit us.

I can honestly say that his love and care for me deserves nothing less than my honour and respect.

Cheryn

No hammering from me! I too have read Help Meet, and although it's an extremely challenging read, I have been so blessed in my marriage through this book. When I first read it my husband was in Basic Military Training for the Air Force which made it a lot easier to digest and accept - I'm fairly sure I would have thrown my copy at the wall a few times if he had been around and I hadn't missed him and felt so twitterpated at the time!
Thanks for an excellent post!

Jean

It's good to be nice to your husband and to appreciate him. I'm all for it.

However, the Pearls are famous for some very scary things. If you read their other book, To Train up a Child, you will see what I mean. Their ideas about child discipline are frightening in the extreme, and a little girl in my own area was recently killed by her parents, who followed Pearl teachings. She was not the first child victim of their philosophy. (Don't just dismiss the Schatz family as 'child abusers who took it too far.' They were pretty ordinary loving parents like you and me. But they followed the book exactly and it doesn't give you a stopping point.)

I'm not as familiar with the Helpmeet book, but I have been studying the Patriarchy/Quiverfull movement for the past few months. "Helpmeet" is a popular text in that movement, which treats men as kings, no matter what they do, and women as chattel. (Check out the book "Quiverfull" for an overview, and the website "No Longer Quivering" for accounts from women who have left.)

I think there are probably other books that ask us to treat our husbands well, without also enjoining us to practice wifely submission and child 'discipline' that is really abuse. And I can't think of anyone who deserves my money less than the Pearls.

Google "Lydia Schatz" for more information. You can add "Paradise Post" for the local news accounts. The 1st listed review on Amazon of TTUAC gives a rundown of some of the problems in the book--check it out.

Shanna

What rubs me the wrong way about this, is well the idea of femininity stepping in for being a nice person. If a man is generally crabby and complaining, we don't say he's un-masculine. We say he's a jerk, or a whiner. If a women generally crabby or complaining, she's lost her feminine side? Many of the examples described here are seen in both genders, and there are some very feminine women who make very unpleasant people.

But hey, I'm all for encouraging people in general to be nicer and more agreeable, I just don't agree with making said characteristics strictly feminine. I think the overall message of "be respectful, have good communication, and compromise" as feminine. These are traits that should be cultivated and developed in all people. Framing it as "feminine traits" makes a very non-controversial stance, controversial and excludes men from the discussion.

Also..........sex is very important to a marriage, usually a more, personal discussed within the parameters of the relationship arrangement towards frequency of sex is better then the general lay back and think of England approach. But I do appreciate that you framed it in a, accepting way in regards to not worrying about ones own body image hang ups.

And yeah, the dumb/fat husband smart/hot wife schtick in the media is annoying. It helps no one.

Koni

Word! (I realize thats a bit Vanillia Ice but it sums up my feelings pretty well).

I don't know anything more about this topic or the authors or anything then what i read in this post and comments but I think its swell.

Cady Driver

Lol, Koni....

Shanna,thanks for commenting on this article. While I agree that in general people need to be nicer to their spouses, I think that there is a lot of evidence that shows that women are not only the fairer sex, but have that softer temperament. Women can be more forgiving, we are naturally more patient given that we are with our children more, we know how to comfort, listen and be compassionate better than our male counterparts and I just want to encourage women to get back to those wonderful traits that make us unique and that can really make a marriage thrive when we choose to allow those traits to shine.

I promise that I would never write about principles that I haven't personally lived. Four years ago, my marriage was on the rocks and after applying a lot of these changes to my life, it has transformed my marriage and our relationship now has never been better.

It's amazing that when one person in the marriage decides to treat the other with love, kindness and respect, the marriage falls back into alignment. So many times, though, we wait for the other one to make the first move and it doesn't work.

Yes, it takes some serious self examination and a ton of biting your tongue, but it is well worth it in the end. You can make or break your man.


Angie

No hammering here....God created men and women differently (not one better than the other), to complement each other, and we need different things. Men definitely thrive on respect and "cheerleading" while women want to be loved and cherished. A man doesn't want to be married to his mother (someone telling him what to do) but a partner.

I believe that's why woman was created out of Adam's rib - his side - to be by him as the helpmeet. God could have created us out of his feet, but he didn't intend for us to be "under" the man in a way that we lose our confidence or become bitter. Nor were we created out of Adam's head, to be "over" men so that we should nag, manipulate or try to control.

God did, though, create a natural "pecking order" so to speak, where man is authority over women. Sounds archaic and old fashioned, but only because society has decided that their way is better than God's way. But because of sin, men misuse that authority, and women rebel from it, causing disharmony, divorce, women usurping men's roles, men abusing their authority, or not having any authority at all. It's a vicious cycle, and I think it breaks God's heart.

My own mother was a wonderful example of a helpmeet - submissive, but not a doormat - and I'm glad the principles were instilled in me before marriage was ever thought about in my life. My dad traveled alot for work, and I heard my mother tell someone once that when he was home, she would CHOOSE to make it a happy time and not fight or nag, since he had to be gone alot. That statement always stuck with me.

I married a man who travels, so God meant for that to be planted in my brain! When he's home, I guard that time very carefully. It would be very easy to unload on him the moment he walks in the door, but I CHOOSE to greet him with a kiss (and food!). The honey-do list can wait. He's out of town so he can provide us a nice home and allow me to stay home with our children. I miss him, but don't want to go back to work, so I CHOOSE to be thankful for his job. (Seeing a theme here? We have choices!)

God had a purpose and a plan for the way he created us. When we follow that plan and embrace who God made us to be as women, everyone is happier. It's just the way it's supposed to be!

Laura

Wow. This article really hit home for me (and I'm not even married yet). I can see how much our culture belittles and puts down men, and it really saddens me. Women are being taught that it is okay for them to use their tongues like sledgehammers and to openly disrespect the men around them. It's not okay. It's unattractive and it's rude.

Anne

Submission is so important as a wife. Our culture doesn't teach this. One captain, one first mate. And the more junior usually has more hands-on involvement with the sailors (in the case of marriage, that would be the children) and the captain requires the respect and cooperation of all. If the first mate is trying to be the captain, that's usually bad news and can upset the workings of the whole ship. Respect for a husband's authority is so important. We can waste time talking about the abuses of authority everyone knows about, but those are the minority. I realized a few years into my marriage that I sometimes spoke very disrespectfully to my husband and that when he honestly pointed this out I became more resentful. I realized that I gave a more respectful response to a police officer (authority figure) who was a stranger to me and giving me a ticket whether or not I deserved it, than to my loving husband when he was reasonably asking my help or cooperation with things I just didn't feel like doing. I find it ironic that wifely submission is not so controversial in say, Indian culture, where most marriages are arranged, but it is so scorned in our culture where we are nearly always the ones choosing our partner.
Also an interesting point I have read (not from the Pearls) is that it is usually more effective in helping a marriage for the woman to become a better wife than vice versa because men are simple creatures whereas women are more likely to hold onto old hurts. Men, when treated better, respond to the present and don't brood over the past so much whereas a woman, whose husband begins to be a better husband, is slower to respond and more skeptical etc.

Robin Goodfellow

Laura,

The idea that women use their words like "sledgehammers" is an interesting one.

Transduce the feeling into physical form, and the words become not unlike the physical abuse men give in response to such misandry.

Basically, misogyny, while contemptuous, is the very response men give for their being abused. It is the fuel behind the iconic slapping in the face we each give another when someone acts in an unkind/shameful manner-it's felt that this is because something needed to "sink in", that their pain might otherwise be ignored by a woman. Wouldn't it be better if there was no such action to motivate this kind of response?

(By the way, I am NOT justifying violence towards women, but rather illustrating one cause.)

I'm not saying we need to be treated as "kings", as one poster suggested, but rather, no lower than [you].

Cady Driver

Laura, it's so interesting that you said that. I agree that violence towards women is always wrong...that being said, women need to realize that we can dance circles around our men verbally to the point of making them crazy mad at us. I admit it, I've done it! My husband just can't come up with a comeback as quickly as I can when I'm mad. We can cut our husbands down with a look or a word...is it any wonder that men with no self control end of resorting to violence? No, it's not right, but.......think about it. When we cut our husbands down it's just as if we've hit them or beaten them....verbally.

I look at it in this way....I think it's an amazing privilege to be able to hold my man in high esteem. To love him, treat him right and see him thrive. He is a better man, is more successful at his job, is more patient with our kids, etc...b/c I make him feel like he's a great guy. And he is!

It's cause and effect, really.

Shanna

"Women can be more forgiving, we are naturally more patient given that we are with our children more, we know how to comfort, listen and be compassionate better than our male counterparts and I just want to encourage women to get back to those wonderful traits that make us unique and that can really make a marriage thrive when we choose to allow those traits to shine."

But those aren't traits just for women, those are traits for people. When you set up a standard that women need to be all these things, you set up a standard by which men, are not these things.

These aren't feminine traits. These are good people traits. I agree there is a narrative in our culture that encourages the nagging wife stereotype, but this is what's truly problematic.

"You know you've seen it. Bitter older women, raising children through the difficult teen years...alone...working the night shift at the grocery checkout....Don't be that woman."

You presume much about these women. You presume more about their (possible, if they were there in the first place) husbands. Assuming that women "nagging, complaining, etc" is the cause of their marriages (if they were ever married) failing practically absolves men from wrongdoing. I doubt this is your intention, but it certainly reads that way.

Cady Driver

Shanna, if I may respectfully say that I see your point. I also disagree to a certain point. Yes, these are "nice people" traits, but they are also more feminine traits overall. Even the job market divides men and women (in many cases) due to our personality differences and strengths and weaknesses.

The example of the grocery store woman wasn't meant to be literal b/c I'm sure that there are many ladies who work at the grocery store who are perfectly fine....it was more of an example of women who have cut down their spouses to the point that they find themselves alone later on in life. This post wasn't intended to address men's problems and I fully recognize that it takes two to tango. All I wanted to point out is that we women are responsible for ourselves, our actions and our tongue. We can build up our husband regardless of his imperfections.

Somebody's got to make the first move, right? :)

Shanna

I agree that when it comes to fixing something, someone has to start. We must be the change we want to see in the world, etc. This post has good points, but my own further research of the Pearls has me extremely wary of their teachings. Their advice on intimacy in a marriage especially seems flawed.

Also, not too seriously, but "help meet"? Is it an obscure biblical term? Because all I'm getting is two words that don't really make sense together.

Stacy

I don't know why people waste time bringing up the "but men should do this too" thing every time there is discussion about improving women. First of all, yes, there are "good people traits" but men and women manifest these same traits in different ways, in the masculine and feminine making these traits deeper and more beautiful in their respective ways.
Next, haven't we ALL heard about how men need to do this do that do more. It is off topic. Men for example (Catholic men in this case) have sites like this http://www.e5men.org/ on being good husbands. Women should also be able to calmly discuss their common shortcomings and how to better themselves as wives in service to their husbands and children without constantly being interrupted with "what about the men?"

Mary

Anne,

I don't see how you can call men and women equal (different, but equal), but at the same time claim that one has authority over the other. Authority is power, is it not?

In any case, I realize this is a religious conviction so I don't intend to start a discussion there. I simply wonder if you believe that submission is a necessary consequence of respecting your man more. To me, respect means seeing the other as you would yourself.

Mary

My apologies, that was addressed to Angie but it could apply to Anne...

Cady Driver

Lol....look, I know that we all feel the burn when we exercise our "looking inward" muscle, but there are some really amazing concepts that you can glean from these writings. Granted, I don't agree with everything that the Pearls teach and there are some things that they believe that are extreme. That being said, I know that the structure and order being talked about really works on all levels.

It's like letting go and in letting go, you gain so much more.

Shanna

Stacy, to me when these sort of discussion comes up, the idea that being respectful, deferring, etc, as "feminine" qualities makes it sound as if these qualities are not "masculine" and in traditional relationships, not as important for men to cultivate and employ. I also don't quite believe this is the intention, but that is how it reads, especially to those who don't fit easily into traditional gender roles. I don't think these qualities are more important from one gender to the other, and think they are necessary in both genders for a marriage to work.

I've also always sort of felt that both husband and wife submit to each other, both compromising and doing what they can for the best of the relationship/family rather then their own individual selves. Perhaps this is in practice similar to the concept of the husband submitting to the lord as the wife submits to him. But to an outside perspective, it's not always easy to see the husbands submission to the lord, and subsequently it can be seen as, a bit, icky.

In fact, I think the biggest issue here is respect. Even things er, criticized, like criticism can be good when done in a respectful way. To use Anne's metaphor, it's not good for order when a first mate tries to upstage the captain. But a first mate who never questions the captain can be just as harmful. If the captain makes a questionable decision, the first mate is there to question, talk it out and make sure its the best course of action. When done respectfully, criticism allows for additional perspectives to be heard, which can strengthen both the relationship and the person who receives it.

Stacy

I just see the same old criticisms over and over again. Everyone should respect everyone, this applies to both etc. etc. and speak as if these are already presumed to be known (anyone out there not know them? lol). Mary, authority is separate from dignity. My children and I are both equal in dignity as human beings, but I have authority over them. A teacher and his student are equal in dignity. The teacher has the authority to teach. Authority doesn't mean respect goes only one direction. We all know that a good captain/a good husband defers to his first mate (who has the hands-on knowledge with the crew)/wife (who is the center of the family) in his authority (once again, show of hands, anyone NOT know that?). My point is that maybe some day there will be a discussion on wifely submission where no one gets ants in their pants and has to hedge, be politically correct, and pretty much change the topic.
I am not a man, so my interest lies more in learning to be a better wife to my husband. I couldn't do much with information on how to be a good husband and by being submissive to the will of my husband I give him the opportunity to serve our family from his own position and in his own dignity.

Darla Gaylor

Laura Schlessenger made similar points in her "Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands." The comment was made, "You put your children's interests first, why not your husband's?" and I think that believing that women are taught/ socialized to even put their children's needs first these days is incorrect. We are too often taught "Me first, them last" that even in from a Conservative belief system the "Me first" message leaks in, and we struggle, even while embracing certain gender roles, and understanding the biology of gender, to be that help meet.

Mary

Well then, I understand your position now (but I cannot agree, as I have no reason to believe that men deserve an authority position in the first place.)

Stacy

The modern world tends to have a little kids'/teenager's perspective on authority. As if it is anonymous with dictatorship. Being a Catholic, I see sacrifice with authority. The priest has the authority in the community but he gives up his life for The Church. Poverty, chastity, and obedience. The Pope is the highest authority in the Church but the Church prays for him because he is the servant of servants. In matrimony the husband, integrated with his authority, dies to himself for his wife, for his children. He is to love his wife as Christ loved the Church and gave himself over for her. I couldn't think of any other position more deserving of authority. I could not imagine looking at my husband, who I respect so deeply as a human being, with such thoughts as "who are you to deserve 'authority'?" Yikes.

Stacy

Also, it just works. Ever ballroom danced? Man leads. Woman follows. If the woman is a mule with a tendency to try to lead that doesn't work out so well. The man leads the dance, but where is the eye drawn to? The woman. A good male dancer knows how to show off the woman he is dancing with and leads with a knowledge of strength and ability she brings to the floor. It's a beautiful art and good visual display of the biology and roles of gender.

Mary

Yes, clearly we have a different religious opinions. I'd rather submit myself directly to God than through a husband, or through a priest, and so forth. I don't think it's an immature perspective to see potential corruption in authority to anyone/anything but God (take a look at a history textbook.)

I have objections to the ballroom dance idea, but alas! the point underneath all this is that I believe I can respect someone without submission. Which brings me to a question: I have recently stumbled upon this blog, and it seems to me I may have interpreted it wrong. Is this blog about modesty, or does it also advocate traditional gender norms? (In the latter case, I feel unwelcome here.)

Cady Driver

Mary,

I'm so glad that you stumbled upon this blog. I think that this blog is mainly about modestly and issues that affect women today. Maybe Wendy Shalit could answer your question better. I think that modestly, marriage, femininity and motherhood all go hand in hand and that's why I felt like writing about marriage and respect.

Not everyone agrees with everyone's opinion here, but I think that this blog really makes people think about the issues that affect us today and it's a wonderful forum for us to discuss these issues. I hope that you'll keep reading and not feel unwelcome here. I apologize if I've written anything that has made you feel unwelcome in any way.

I hope you have a lovely day today and I hope that you'll continue to give us your thoughts on these issues.

Cady

brilliantvapor

I also read Debi Pearl's book early in my marriage (well, I guess earlier, as it's still rather early). Looking back a year later I think I can say that some of what she says has been very helpful, some of it has been temporarily helpful, and some of it (in the wrong hands/minds) could be downright hurtful. I especially recommend what she has to say about different types of men and the responses that they desire from their wives. As for the Pearls more generally... um, check them out before you swallow everything they have to say. Glean some ideas, but use your common sense.

Stacy

I just found this blog, too, but so far mostly I've seen discussions on various types of modesty. Just to clarify, submitting to my husband doesn't mean not submitting directly to God. In the Bible it's usually encouraged (unless it is in stark contrast to God) to follow the laws of the land in which you live, to submit to your husband if you are a wife, to submit to your parents if you are a child and so on and this does not deviate or distract from obedience to and a relationship with the One True God.
There is always the "under the mission" interpretation? sub - mission. sub - prefix meaning under. Under the mission of your husband. What's his mission? To be a man of God and love and serve his wife and family.
This is an interesting blog. Like I said, I'm pretty new to it. Sorry if I've done something wrong. Mostly I just keep trying to explain what I mean and I'm not very educated so it takes a lot of head scratching to try and convey what is in my heart and head. Hope I haven't offended you, Mary.

Gina

What Jean said. The Pearls are dangerous people. Read Megan Dunham's article about them in "WORLD" magazine (I don't know if we're allowed to leave links here, but Google will bring it right up), and be very, VERY wary of anything they have to say.

Nurit Weizman

Wow, so many comments! Nice job Cady :)
As the personal is political, I believe that my friends, young girls and many other women I've spoken with, and I need to break the silence around our pain in the pressure to eradicate "traditional role" marriage and be both "equal" and casual about dating and sex. To speak up and ask, why is this new "liberated" age about celebrating and conforming to the male gender role? I know some are very frustrated with the idea of helpmeet, but many women are having a very hard time trying to cover up the "feminine sides" that keep scaring off their boyfriends and male "hook-up buddies" in order to prove that we are all equal to men. Women now have to conform to the role of sexual playmate via the idea that sex is no biggie if they want to be with a man at all or not be picked on by anybody for being so "naive". Have we ever asked, why doesn't today's society believe more in "embracing your feminine side" instead? Well, that's the modesty movement. (Wendy Shalit explains this all best in her book, A Return to Modesty!!) The modesty movement celebrates emotion and sensitivity, rather than shaming it and giving men the authority. Talk about giving men the authority! Modesty protects women, making men more sensitive. Currently, we protect/excuse men for abandoning when faced with "desperate women" who are not yet sexually liberated. Feminist theory and women studies programs should no longer ignore this pain and silence as my program did.

Cady Driver

Awesome, Nurit! You pinpointed it exactly. Modesty, marriage roles, gender roles....they are all inextricably intertwined. When you lose one, you lose them all.

You made it so clear!

Nurit Weizman

I'm afraid I'm not the first to put it all together! But I can say that after realizing that I'm not alone and after reading the book, I finally saw my own painful experiences as legitimate and worth speaking up about. Thank you Cady for adding more and more to my supportive community!

Mary

Thank you for your respective explanations, I am not offended at all. So long as this blog has no "official" position on traditional gender roles, I feel our differences should not divide us women, as they do too often. Modesty empowers women, and this point we can agree on. Whether a woman can be the breadwinner and still be modest...perhaps another matter! (If you ask me, the corporate and political world NEEDS a dose of "feminine" qualities--
co-operation, compassion, and understanding!)

Boyd

I haven't read any of these books, but I am familiar with the biblical term "helpmeet". As I understand it, the term means "equal partner". This implies to me that there really isn't a place for dominance or submission of either sex over the other.

Somehow when the bible or other religious elements are at play, many automatically assume the support of a male dominated outlook on marriage lifestyle without looking deeper into what the bible really says.

When did showing genuine love, care and respect for someone equate to being submissive or subservient? When did women forget how powerful they really are in relationships with men? I think it may have something to do with whether they give away that power through immodest and other indiscriminate means.

And yes... principles of modesty and virtue apply to men too.

Janna

I wanted to say something about submission to God and submission to one's husband, as an Anglican rather than a Catholic. :) (Full disclosure: my father is an Archdeacon, my uncle is a Bishop, my brother is a parish priest, and my grandfather was, at one point, Dean of a cathedral. I usually just say that my family is rife with clergy.)

The Anglican church teaches that we are able to approach God ourselves, no mediary necessary (save Christ).

As I understand it, when we are told to submit to our husbands as we submit to Christ, that is not putting our husbands in the place of Christ, nor even as a mediary between us and Christ. The husband is told to love his wife as Christ loves the church (i.e., sacrifice, care, and wisdom must characterize his behaviour). In my mind, all of this means simply that if the husband is not treating the wife appropriately (e.g., he is abusing her in some way), the wife is certainly not required to submit to his wishes. If we are to submit to our husbands as we submit to Christ, it stands to reason that they must treat us as if they are Christ, else they forfeit their right to our obedience.

Of course, as we are all human, respect is key! My parents' marriage, which is now 37 years old, is the model on which I base my own marriage. They hold a Biblical marriage, and each respects the other. When there is a decision to be made, they talk things over in-depth and my father has the responsibility for making the final decision. (It actually drives my mother crazy when he tells her to do whatever she wants!) They talk about their preferences and discuss the possibilities, and my father takes all of these things into account. But (especially when the decision has to do with changing parishes) he sometimes has to make a choice that my mother doesn't like. That doesn't mean he doesn't love her, and it doesn't mean he didn't consider her feelings about it, it simply means that sometimes, God needs him someplace Mom doesn't want to go. And she goes with him, because she loves him and knows that he always makes the choice that is the best one he can make.

Um. This may be getting off-topic now (I can't always tell) so I will sign off.

Shanna

Thanks Boyd. I appreciate that definition.

Sometimes I have to wonder how many biblical disagreements are not due to the message itself but to how the evolution of language may have changed it. (Does that make sense? It's a bit off topic though)

I'm glad everyone seems to have found what works best for themselves and their marriages. ^-^ I may not agree with how you do it, and I don't believe similar methods would not work for me, but if it works for you, rock on.

Wendy

Mary: this blog is for both liberal and conservative readers, anyone who wants to discuss issues relating to modesty and more specifically, what we value in women and in men. Each of the writers comes from a different perspective and that's why the discussions are so interesting--at least to me. If you're looking for the blog to reflect your perspective exactly, then you should sign up as a blogger! Or comment more often. In general, when you read this group blog, you should expect each person to come to the table with a different perspective (and, usually, religion) than you.

Some commentators correctly ask what men's obligations are, and I think they are right to bring this up. I can only speak for Judaism since that is my religion and background. There is some overlap in Judaism with the concepts Cady discusses--certainly, the concept of not 'practicing' negative speech--but both spouses are to give 100% in a Jewish marriage. There is no concept of, "So what if he wants sex when you don't" as formulated above.. To the contrary, for thousands of years, as codified in Jewish law, men are prohibited to have relations with their wives if the wife is not interested, if he is even thinking of another woman, if he is contemplating divorce, or if he is drunk. (Just to give some examples of a woman's sexual rights in marriage under Jewish law.)

The goal of a Jewish marriage is intimacy and peace--and that is what is thought to bring the Divine Presence into the home, not submission per se.

Indeed, the phrase "helpmeet" is a very inexact translation of the original Biblical Hebrew which is that a woman is to be an "ezer kinegdo," a helper opposite him, or against him. This is a difficult concept to explain in a short space, but suffice it to say that "helpmeet" does not begin to do it justice.

In Jewish tradition, this is understood to mean that when the man is doing the right thing, his wife is to support him; and when he is doing the wrong thing, she is supposed to be against him and actually oppose him--just as Rebecca opposed Isaac when he did not see that Esau did not merit the blessing of the firstborn.

These are just some of the differences between my perspective and the perspective of someone like Ms. Pearl. However, it doesn't bother me in the least to hear people coming from different perspectives than my own, and I enjoyed reading Cady's blog, especially the piano metaphor; and liked the reminder not to 'practice negativity.'

There are people who have written to me privately that they are upset by this particular blog's existence, which I don't get. I don't think we have to agree with a blog completely to get something out of it.

For anyone who is is Jewish or interested in reading more about the Jewish perspective on marriage, a great book is THE RIVER, THE KETTLE AND THE BIRD, by Rabbi Feldman; or in more detail, Rabbi Shalom Arush wrote separate books about man and woman's separate obligations in marriage: the one for men is called THE GARDEN OF PEACE and the one for women is called WOMEN'S WISDOM. I think it is very significant that he wrote the book for men first. You can be as feminine as you want, but you have got to have a partner who appreciates your efforts and more specifically, is willing to work to make a marriage great.

Cady Driver

Wow, I totally didn't expect for this post to cause so much controversy. It's also really interesting to hear the Judaic laws concerning marriage. Many of them are intertwined with Biblical teachings.

I do want to clarify the whole sex issue that I wrote about. I guess I just wanted to encourage women to stop using sex as a leverage tool in the marriage. I completely agree that it needs to be both spouses giving 100%.

There is a beautiful balance that God calls us to in our marriages. A balance that honors God. There are portions of Scripture that encourage wives to continue on in their marriage even in hard times.

1Peter 3:1-7 encourages us in this way:

"In the same way, you wives, be submissive (or give honor) to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. Your adornment must not be merely external-braiding the hair and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.....

You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered"

And as some other bloggers have talked about the analogy of husbands loving and sacrificing themselves for their wives as Christ did for the church...that is super important.

Anyhow, I didn't really intend to address husband's issues, but I wanted to take a deep look at our society, how we respect our men and how we can improve in those areas. I probably came on strong, but that tends to be my writing style.

Maybe my next post will be about something less threatening...like bunny rabbits...lol :)

Stacy

Thanks Nurit. That's a good distinction between types of "authority". Kind of reminds me of the paradox of modesty where modesty is supposed to be a virtue opposite to the sin of pride, yet is also a type of pride in itself.
I love my husband's authority because it is a beautiful and loving thing that brings out my own femininity and also fulfills a mature and loving masculinity in himself.
Also like men and women are equal in dignity I think authority and submission are also equal in value. Even in sexual intimacy it is just as active to receive as it is to give (if it weren't that would qualify as rape). And going back to our gender biology, generally speaking most women prefer to look up at their husbands, literally. Statistically speaking the vast majority of women prefer a male partner taller/larger than they are. I think that is interesting.
I like your explanation, Janna. That's exactly it, the husband does not replace God. Just because one loves their husband does not mean that they do not love God or love God less and submission to ones husband also does not mean submitting to someone in place of God.

A Man

There's some good advice in what you said. And it doesn't really have anything to do with submission or authority, I don't think. One of the surest ways for a woman to drive a wedge between her and her husband is negativity, criticism and nagging. I do agree with whomever said that the Pearls are a bit off the reservation and that any advice from them should be taken with a grain of salt, maybe two. Everyone is different and every two people are going to have to find that point of balance in their relationships. And to be fair, as a man I love a bit of the feminism described in the post, but I also love "being sexy, mouthy, provocative and risque" or if you read the Megan Fox post "how not to act", No one thing is going to work for every relationship. But you should be yourself, because if you're just putting on an act, who you really are will always show through.

YK

I haven't read the book and don't think I will, but as a husband I have a few comments on the post:

1. I think the Rx for being a good wife is the same as being a good husband: Being a good person. It's wrong to nag at a person because it contributes nothing, just irritates. It's wrong to give a person the freeze when you're upset with her, same reason. My wife does the first, I do the second. Both are pure damage.

2. So that's the reason to "be nice" to me . . . so you won't wind up alone, fixing the drain yourself? I think calling a plumber is less of a drain on one's dignity. For both sides.

3. Besides which, my wife runs a biology lab at a university with lots of sophisticated electronic equipment, and she's better with her hands than I am.

4. Seriously though. I DON'T WANT the kind of "respect" described in the post. I DON'T WANT to have another person feel or act subordinate to me, least of all(!) my wife whom I love with my heart's blood. I can't imagine anything more revolting than being the master or superior of an inferior. To want that is to be less than human.

5. I've always been amused by my wife's concern about her stretch marks or her veins or the fact that neither of us are getting any thinner. I love her and think she's beautiful, and I make no bones about saying so. (Convincing her to see herself as I see her--that's tougher).

6. The discrepancy in physical desire is the most bewildering thing. If one's wife is generous upon occasion, at least one shouldn't be a jerk and should acknowledge the generosity.

Alyson Turley

A very nice post, Cady! I'm continually surprised that we should have to expect to be "hammered" for suggesting that people should treat each other kindly.

Headless Unicorn Guy

As a guy, hearing about this sort of thing is a major reason I'm afraid to get to know women again. (My past is full of disrespect and negativity, and no way am I going to volunteer for more.) And after a secondhand diet of "women's negativity" plus the sexual free-for-all you get here in SoCal, where can a guy be safe? (Outside of The Handmaid's Tale or an Islamic Republic, that is. I feel the pull of that sort of male-supremacist society almost every day, as a form of self-defense against what women are becoming. What pulls me back from that brink is the accompanying fact that I could never have any respect for the "animate property with benefits" instead of a helpmeet/companion you get for a wife in such a society, and in the absence of respect, I KNOW I'd start throwing my weight around, Hard.)

I suspect it's because for whatever reason (over-the-top Feminism and male backlash), Male-Female interactions have been reduced to Power Struggle. And when something is reduced to Power Struggle, there are only two possible end states: Her boot stamping on my face or my boot stamping on hers, and the only way to avoid the former is to make sure of the latter. Male Supremacy or Female Supremacy, nothing in between. A Zero-Sum Game of survival -- for Me to Win, You must Lose.

P.S. Has anybody heard that the Greek word translated "Submit" in the infamous Bible quote "Wives, submit to your husbands" could also be translated as "Respect"? Plugged into St Paul's famous two-liner beloved of male supremacists, it reads more like "Wives, Respect your husbands; Husbands, Love your wives."

Hannah van Hattem

I've met the Pearls, and they're not "dangerous people" in regards to child training. They simply take the Bible literally and it has worked in their own lives so they've shared it with others. Obviously their book is not meant to be used as a resource instead of the Bible, and everything you read should be compared to the Word of God. If it does not line up, then toss it. People who treat their literature like a cult and follow everything to the T might have a problem with idolatry... if you know what I mean. That's wrong in itself.

I've read "To Train Up a Child" and found nothing majorly wrong with it, although I will say that every child will need to be trained differently because of their different personalities.

In regards to Created to Be His Helpmeet, I know that it has saved many marriages from divorce, and I have enjoyed it, (though I'm not married yet) and believe it has many helpful insights. Again, everything you read must be lined up with the Bible. But yeah, that's my opinion.

Cady Driver

Bravo, Hannah! Thank you for your balanced and thoughtful post. I think that internet rumors can sometimes be believed especially in regards to people who speak the truth in love. I've personally seen marriages brought back from the brink when wives have read that book.

Elizabeth

Thank you Hannah for your post. Feminists and even conservative people infected with liberal ideology tend to recoil and see submission as ''Ah! OPPRESSION!''. Gosh. Sure there are like 1 % or less examples of extremism from these books yet it's all people towards to.

Mary

I'd appreciate it if you didn't say people are "infected," at least when dealing with non-extremist liberals. I could utter a million demeaning words for conservative non-extremists too, but I won't...

Elizabeth

Sorry for the last post. I meant ''Sure there are like 1 % or less examples of extremism from these books yet it's all some people tend to see or interpret from traditional marriage''.

Mary it's just that some liberals (particulary feminists) will never like the marriage model (and the patriarchy) no matter how much somebody says ''The wife respects and submits to the husband and the husband loves the wife''.

Some of them will forever think ''She's a doormat'' or ''What about the men?''. Why? Because men are suppose to have authority (and God even bigger authority than men) and well they just don't agree with this model. They want autonomy.

Autonomy --- http://ozconservative.blogspot.com/2007/08/is-family-valid-feminist-choice.html

(Please note that autonomy and personal responsibility isn't the same thing. Autonomy is a liberal concept and Personal responsibility a conservative concept)

It doesn't matter how much you or I say ''Well husbands are suppose to love their wives'' too (which is true). They don't accept male authority (or spiritual authority as in God). They also believe in autonomy.

Mary I know that liberals aren't evil people. I think they have good intentions but good intentions isn't always enough (http://nzconservative.wordpress.com/2010/08/02/%e2%80%9cthe-road-to-hell-is-paved-with-good-intentions%e2%80%9d/). That's why I said ''Liberal ideology'' instead.

Mary

I don't want to stray too far from the original blog article, so I'd just like to note that you seem to be calling the kettle black here. You talk about liberals pointing out extremists in traditional marriages, while I see you doing likewise for liberals (saying they are Godless, saying they do not accept women who choose to stay at home, etc.) There are many different types of feminists, many of whom don't fit the profile you have given them.

Also, a lot of people don't have a reason to believe in patriarchy. Most reasons for it are scriptural or biological, which, believe it or not, doesn't necessarily trump all in rational discussion.

I think that's enough comments on this blog article...

Elizabeth

''There are many different types of feminists, many of whom don't fit the profile you have given them.''

I know that there are equity feminists and gender feminists but until now only gender feminists have had a voice in many discussions.

''Also, a lot of people don't have a reason to believe in patriarchy.''

I know.

''Most reasons for it are scriptural or biological, which, believe it or not, doesn't necessarily trump all in rational discussion.''

Who said anything about trumping?

Katy-Anne

Created to be His Door Mat caused more problems in our marriage so far than anything else. My husband doesn't want a wife like that, just like any decent man doesn't. And to think this book is good, you have to ignore all the stuff where she thinks abuse of women is acceptable, and even blames the woman for it.

Ranee @ Arabian Knits

I think the problem many people have with submission is that they see it as equivalent to subservience. It is not. It is these same people who think that outspoken traditional women are somehow not submissive, because they come from a mistaken understanding of what submission is. Christianity mandates mutual submission; it is a choice, much like Christ's laying His rights aside to become man. It is not thinking that one has no rights, it is the deliberate choosing of putting the other's rights first. The wife is also told to be particularly submissive to her husband, to win him over as a believer or help him renew his faith if he already is one. It is a work to effect a change in his soul and life.

Christianity also teaches that the husband is the head of the household and has the final authority. Our understanding and teaching on this is more like the vice president's role in congress. He makes the final decision should a mutual decision be unattainable. In our home, this has translated to very rare occasions when my husband makes a decision that we didn't come to together. We also have as a family policy that whoever says "no" gets his/her way until another decision is made. It is much easier to change a no to yes, than a yes back to no.

I like the dance analogy, as I was a dancer for many years and still teach occasionally. If a man is leading properly, it is undetectable. The woman's role as the follow is to get out of his way before he has even moved, however.

As for sexuality, Christianity teaches that one's body belongs to one's spouse. That means that my husband will give himself to me when he isn't interested all that much, if I am. Likewise I will for him. In the end, we both are quite interested enough. However, it is the willingness that makes the difference. I know he will never say no to me, barring physical limitations, and he knows I will never say no to him, barring physical limitations as well. This has reduced any overtures or attempts or requests when the other is clearly not interested. We don't want to engage in the marital act with someone who isn't interested and we know that any other time that person will be available, so it doesn't become a contention between us. It has caused us to read the other person much more closely than if we thought we had to wheedle our way into it or somehow grab our chance while we have it.

Cady Driver

Beautifully articulated, Ranee...thank you! BTW, I love your "Arabian Knits" idea...that's really clever...

ARH

I also have read CTBHHM and I have to say that the best part for me was the fact that she asks us women to focus on growing our relationship with the Lord instead of trying to fix our husbands. My attempts at "fixing" my husband never worked out well, they actually shut him down and , well didn't I marry him for who he was? When I finished the book I had to write my hubby a letter asking his forgiveness for derailing everything he was responsible for in our family. Anytime he tried to discipline the kids I corrected him, he never tried again. If he tried to help, I told him he did it wrong, he never tried again. Got me a gift, it wasn't what I wanted, he didn't try again. Basically I had shut off his every attempt at being loving or helpful to me, and it wasn't until I asked his forgiveness and stopped focusing on his shortcomings, that we grew back together again. It also wasn't until I really grew MY relationship with the Lord, that I was able to truly love him freely. And now after 20 years of marriage, we feel like newlyweds again!
Thank you Cady for speaking up on the benefits of building a heavenly marriage! God bless you!

Lisa

This is a very interesting post, and I applaud your bravery for posting it, but I want to add a perspective that is not necessarily in opposition to yours, but rather might just expand on some of these ideas through a thought experiment.

I grew up in a household with a mother who continually put others first. Always. kids, husband, neighbor, random person from church, everyone came first. It might have worked well when we kids were infants, and it might have sometimes made Dad happy, but what it resulted in was a woman so stifled and bitter that she and I can't have a conversation without her placing the burden of all of her unhappiness and lack of fulfillment on me, my sister (never my brother), or our father, or her boss, the list goes on. She was trying to do the right thing in stretching herself out like a piece of carpet beneath our feet. But instead, now she is just mad that she is covered in footprints.

Because of this experience, in my own marriage now I tread a very very thin line between honoring only my husband and honoring only myself. If you ignore yourself (and I cringe at your exhortation for women to forget about the fact that they don't want to have sex on a particular night, to forget about their own feelings and desires), you will end up taking it out of those around you in the end, anyway. Better to affirm your own dignity in purposeful ways -- taking an afternoon "off" once a week, having that box of chocolate that is just for you, having a hobby that you do with adults outside the home -- than to end up sixty years old and desperately angry at every living creature around you, for the fact that they are not as miserable as you.

I realize that my position is an extreme one, but it is important to think about our own needs, even if we compromise and negotiate. Just forgetting about our own point of view might work in the short run but I am convinced it leads right down the dark path to ruin.

Cady Driver

Thank you, Lisa, for your perspective. I agree with you that wives should not be doormats. As we've said before, if the husband if fulfilling his duties in loving his wife and the wife is fulfilling hers, then it is a mutually beautiful and satisfying relationship that will work in the long haul.

I guess I was just encouraging wives to not use the withholding of sex as such a weapon in their marriages. There is a basic principle here that I've discovered. Sometimes, if you're not in the mood, and you choose to give yourself to your husband out of love and not b/c you're in the perfect mood, then wonderful things happen. I've never regretted that b/c sometimes when you say to yourself, "my husband needs me right now, in this way" it changes your perspective. It's not that he's trying to use me, but he loves me and needs me and I want to meet his needs.

It's not a bad thing nor should it make women cringe b/c it's a choice. I can honestly say that 100% of the time, I'm glad afterwords! :)

Lisa

Cady, I hear you, and the underlying idea -- that we should not be so quick to abandon the old ways of honoring our husbands, taking care of the house, being joyful in our motherly duties, etc. -- is one that I agree with in a general sense. I suppose where I run into trouble with it is when I sense that someone (in this case, the book you are referencing, not you yourself) is telling me to ignore or deny certain feelings that I have. In other words, to me it's the difference between saying to yourself, "I don't particularly feel all that sexy tonight, but I love being intimate with my husband, so what the heck, let's go for it!" versus saying to yourself, "I am so exhausted from everything I have to do, and I don't feel like I can give anymore. I really need a break and some nurturing. But oh well, I'll ignore it and have sex anyway because I want to be a good wife." In the first example, you acknowledge your feelings but decide to transcend them. In the second example, you label them "bad" and stuff them. In my experience, anything that is stuffed in this way will come back out at some point, even if it is years later.

I also used to feel much more the way you describe in this post -- I felt a zeal for traditional wifedom, a warm fuzzy reward of orthodoxy, a joy in performing those little duties that make life pleasant, like fixing my husband's coffee, polishing his shoes without him asking, laundry, dishes, cooking, etc. And then I woke up with two kids, a house, and a night job, totally overworked, starting to get a little resentful, and with a husband who had grown accustomed to having everything he wanted appear in front of him with no effort. I had to change my approach or risk the same fate as mom.

It still makes me sad that I can't live up to that ideal -- the Old Testament "good wife," the mother of twelve children who honor their parents, the woman who keeps house and keeps everyone happy. I tried, and I started to rattle apart into tiny pieces. So now I am suspicious of glowing reports of how great it is to put everyone else first -- because I have seen that approach from both sides, and I know it doesn't work for me, and I have to work to figure out how to be a good, holy wife and an effective loving mom, and to prioritize myself as an individual on even footing with the other people I take care of all day. It's easier said than done, and sometimes these older texts can place a burden of guilt on someone like me who is just trying to stay healthy and be the best person she can be, which in turn helps her family because she is happy and healthy. Do you see what I am saying here?

Cady Driver

I do understand what you are saying, Lisa. I've been there, too. I guess the longer I've been married, the more I've realized that I don't have to do it all and I don't think that that is what God expects of us. Please don't feel sad that you're not living up to the OT "good wife".

The only OT "good wife" that really stands out in my mind is the Proverbs 31 woman. When you read that chapter, it is quite easy to feel overwhelmed and discouraged. After all, what woman can be all of those things?

I've been married for 12 years. In these 12 years, I have come to realize that there are seasons and times. There are seasons of exhaustion when it's all you can do to make it through the day and that's okay! You're not failing if everything doesn't get done. Then, there are seasons where all is well, your relationship with your hubby is great and you're on top of the world. There are seasons when you don't feel so close to your husband and you make adjustments....and that's okay!

Life is a million course corrections.

We owned a boat growing up and I remember my family taking it to Sabago Lake in Maine in the summer. The lake was HUGE and we would put-put-put across the lake from one end to another on nice days. My dad always used to say, "When you're traveling across a lake, the only way to get to where you want to be on the other side is to find one object on the distant shore. Then you simply make lots of tiny course corrections in pointing the bow of the boat towards that one object".

That always stuck with me. I can't look at Prov 31 or any Biblical example and be instantly there. Nor should I feel guilty for not being there, b/c it's the journey of a million tiny course corrections and enjoying the trip.

I don't wish for any wife and mother to lose herself in the journey. It's meant to be enjoyed.....enjoy that newborn even if the vacuuming isn't done....enjoy that husband, enjoy those kids.....be content and don't fret!

Life is beautiful and hard, challenging and enjoyable....some days are tough and some days you laugh until your stomach hurts, but enjoy every day! We learn and grow from the tough days and we recover on the good days, but it all works together in the end for good.

I'm sure, Lisa, that you are a wonderful wife and mother b/c you care so deeply about your family and yourself. I like that.

abby

As I read this blog post, while I didn't agree with everything, I'd have to agree that women (and men for that matter) should be nicer to each other in marriage. I hate when I catch myself nagging my husband to do things. At the same time, both of us work outside the home and I think because of this he should also help me with some house work.
That being said, it actually disappoints me that almost every comment here is based on religion, the Bible, etc. I also feel like there is a lot of judgement for liberals and feminists. I identify as both of these things but that does not mean that I don't respect a traditional marriage role. Once we decide we are ready for children, I plan on being a stay at home mom. Being a feminist is about having choices as to what you want to do with your life, not being stuck in a traditional marriage if that is not what you want. If a woman wants to work outside the home with her husband, or while her husband stays at home, and that is the marriage role they work out, that should not be judged by anyone. These partners can still help each other, support each other, and love each other.

Ranee @ Arabian Knits

Two things that occurred to me while reading the comments here: One, the Proverbs 31 wife had maidservants. ;-)

Two, my husband is rather accustomed to his laundry being done for him, his meals being made for him, etc. However, he has never assumed that this meant that either nobody was doing them or I was a nobody for doing it. He praises everything about me, including the work I do, and takes over seamlessly when I cannot (like during my recent difficult pregnancy and now after a c-section). On the one hand, he doesn't think he needs to do the work all the time without my asking, on the other hand, he doesn't think it beneath him or somehow outside of his purview. In a way, he does expect me to do these tasks, he, after all works hard all day to financially support us, is a loving husband and active father, and I am at home as a homemaker. It is my job to take care of the home, the children and meals. It is also his family and home, so he has no trouble with doing work here, but I don't expect him to carry the same load I do, because he already carries another load, plus the work he does when he gets home on our farm, garden, house projects with the children and doing just about any task I ask him to do.

Maybe I am just fortunate that he appreciates my work, and lets me know it, but I think that is largely a product of my always appreciating him and his work as well. Both feed on each other. He knows I take care of him because I love and honor him. In turn, he cares for me (and us) because he loves and honors us. He works very hard at his job to support a wife and seven children at home. He knows that we appreciate it, especially me. He also never berates me for not bringing in a pay check, for not helping him with his work or any of that.

Luke

Hi Cady, I saw this in Anita's favorites and decided to read it again. I can't imagine a greater gift to your husband than to understand him and appreciate him for who he is. I couldn't have picked a better sister-in-law. God bless you in the year to come! Luke

Priya

I love reading all the ideas relating to marriage, if you're going to make that commitment it's a good idea to have philosophy about how you intend treating each other.

I do agree with the thought that we should not derride or nag. However hopefully through marriage to another person we grow and evolve, I feel that is the point. The worst influence on any of us would be someone who does not challenge or resist our plans us in times of human weakness and vice and instead aides it. I'm sure that is not what is meant, though, by being a supportive spouse. At it's highest it is encouraging the best, most evolved parts of a person and gently ( hopefully ) helping them overcome their weaknesses/blindspots and vice versa.

I also don't think that a wife is only ever a supporter of a breadwinner( I think Mary mentioned that ) because I am myself in the position of being primary wage earner in my family and before I was always worked anyway. I think there are many ways of living and a few sensible suggestions as how to approach human relationships. After that it's all up to you.

C.B

I love your thoughts. Thank you for sharing this I will read this book. My girlfriends and I have noticed a trend at defeminizing American women and girls and we are striving to embrace our femininity in the form of True Womanhood as God intended - Proverbs 31:10-30.
Thank you for your courage to share your thoughts. I believe I need to work on this. My husband is just the man you describe, works long days as a teacher, comes home with more work, yet takes time to play with the kids, listen to me, wants to be affectionate, takes care of anything I ask him to and yet I still belittle him in the public arena, more out of habit and our culture than a conscious desire to do so. I don't desire to do that to him at all. I look forward to creating this change and hope it will be lasting! thank you thank you thank you!!!

jubilee

I hope that if enough women start to complain on how men are treated in commercials and on sitcoms, etc.(sound off and boycott) that things would change a bit--now im seeing too many men start to reflect some of these behaviors--also, many songs in the culture are straight porn and foul as well---the beat of the music isnt worth it---I watch very little tv, and many lovesongs are female to male instead of the other way around--lovesongs male to female gets me in the mood--the older stuff..

jubilee

I think we tend to belittle because of some of the junk in the media rubs off on us. We shouldnt watch soo much tv---also it shows too many unfeminine shemales as well--women who could be beautiful if they acted more feminine

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