Watch the Wife and You Can Often See When There is Trouble in Paradise
I have now encountered the same pattern often enough as I am speaking with Christian married couples that I can conclude I am not imagining it. I think it is important enough to share with you and I suspect you are going to read this and say, “Oh yeah, I’ve seen that for sure!” What I am talking about is indicators in the wife that reveal a marriage is not the paradise it represents itself as. And in this article I am not talking about classic abuse. I have in mind a Christian marriage where there is an undercurrent of unresolved tension.
Ok, let’s see if I can describe it. I am talking to a Christian husband and wife together. Not counseling, just visiting. Might be a pastor and his wife or visitors to our church or, whoever. So myself and the husband start talking about some point of theology and what our church believes about it or how we have had this or that problem and how we handled it and so on. At some point obviously I am going to bring up our ministry to abuse victims. I describe the problems they face in our churches and how deceptive abusers are and how they dupe entire churches. I talk about the evils of patriarchy and about how we can spot abusers. All the stuff we deal with here on the blog.
And then one of the two says something. Usually it is the husband, but sometimes it is the wife and then her husband responds to what she said. He says something like, “Well, as the breadwinner in our home I believe I have the right to have the final say on money.” Or “you have to be careful because women can cry ‘abuse’ for all kinds of things.” Or “I am not condoning abuse, but the Bible does say that none of us have authority over our own bodies in marriage.” The husband may not be an abuser at all. But perhaps without realizing it, he is using phrases that abusers use to minimize their evil and to shift blame to the victim.
Now, watch the wife. As this husband makes these kinds of statements with great assurance and confidence in their veracity, you don’t see that same confidence in the wife. Oh, sometimes you might if she has been sufficiently brain-washed and has become a preacher of patriarchy herself (and there are a few women like that, some have written those infamous harmful books we list on our bad resources page), but in most cases what you will see is that the wife does not evidence the confidence in what her husband just said that he does. In fact, you see a bit of fidgeting. And often she will speak up with a, “but on the other hand…” response, to which he will counter with some attempt at humor: “Haha, and you make it a point to remind me of that pretty often!” Chuckle, chuckle. But her chuckling isn’t quite as enthusiastic as his.
What I am trying to say is that this kind of a scenario tells me that this Christian marriage is not the complete paradise that it is portrayed to be. There is tension in it. The husband’s husbanding style has some real problems, and the wife knows it. They have had some “discussions” about it in the privacy of their home, but he hasn’t really got the message yet. There are ways that he is lording it over her that are not right, and she knows it, but he has not ‘fessed up yet.
I have found that married couples who have to keep talking about head and submit issues do not have a healthy marriage. In a healthy marriage, you really don’t have to keep talking about “who is in charge.” You just love one another, serve one another, and just “do it.” If a wife keeps saying that her husband needs to step up and lead, then there is a problem — it may well be that he is passive and irresponsible. Or if a husband feels he needs to keep talking about how his wife needs to obey him and submit to him, there is a problem. The mere fact that it has to be a regular topic of discussion tells me that the paradise they try to put forward gets hit by monsoons pretty often.
So watch the wife in those conversations. You just might find that many of the “perfect Christian marriages” you have envied are not so perfect after all.