One Christmas morning years ago my husband gave me a book called The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands, by Dr. Laura Schlessinger. I looked at him, laughed and distinctly remember asking, “Is this is a joke?” The mere receipt of this gift was so impactful that, to this day, I actually remember where I was sitting in my family room when I opened it and that’s saying a lot since I can’t remember what I did yesterday. When I saw the look on his face, I knew it wasn’t a joke. I guess he felt like I needed some help. I set it aside, but as is my way, my curiosity got the better of me and weeks later I picked it up, prepared to read it and complain about everything written within its pages. Much to my surprise, Dr. Laura was right on … example after example she took on the whiny, overbearing wife, the wife who struggled for the upper hand in the marriage, and put her in her place, which I soon discovered, was not the head of the household. Even more surprising was that I found myself in more of the examples than I wanted to.
So began some self-reflection for me. For someone who has trouble admitting failure or someone who can defend a point of view to the death even when it their own mind they know it’s completely wrong, is not as easy task. It was more important that I “think” I’m right; whether I was or not didn’t even enter into the equation.
When I first started coming to the church I currently attend, I had just read this book. This topic fascinated me to the point where I thought it would be interesting to have a Women’s Bible Study on this very subject; find out if there are other wives out there who felt like me and struggled with this. When I approached the then Associate Pastor’s wife about it, she chuckled and referred me to the Senior Pastor’s wife, whom she fondly referred to as the “Right Reverend Mother.” Nine years later, I am still pulling for a small group on this topic because I consider the “Right Reverend Mother” one of my mentors. I go to her often when I need advice on tweens, teens, college kids and yes, submission! She is my fellow melancholy but as an outsider, who knows my family, she gives unbiased feedback and has the wisdom to redirect me when she sees I might be wandering. She has been on both sides of this sticky thicket of a topic, so I keep trying to “encourage” her that this would be an awesome small group!
It’s really not hard for me to see fairly quickly and with pretty good accuracy who “rules the roost” in a husband-wife relationship; my mentor says I may have a gift of discernment. Unfortunately, it’s also easy to see what happens when the wife dictates the course of the family. We live in a culture that demeans men and their role in order to put the woman in a higher place. Remove any marital aspect out of that statement, and it still never ends well; it’s just tearing others down to build oneself up. It’s amazing when you actually pay attention to how men are portrayed on television. It’s quite blatant and it’s no wonder our culture is a mess. Our young men and women are getting their direction on how to treat one another and what their roles should be from television shows or even from what they see in the home.
My own mother cooked and cleaned, worked a part-time job, and as is usually the case, was the primary care giver of us four girls while my father worked to support his family. So what broke down between her generation and mine? Why, when I was first married, was I so hell bent on making sure I was the complete opposite? Did I grow up seeing what she did and think that I was going to be different? I would cook when I felt like it, clean when I felt like it, iron what?, etc. If it didn’t get done, then oh well! For those of you who know my mother, she is a feisty, opinionated, food-bearing, w/a tad OCD Polish lady who took good care of my sisters and I and my dad; and still does. I’m sure she may see her role as mundane some days, like many of us see those same roles in our own lives, but it works and has worked and I know that my dad would do absolutely anything for her.
Years later, I would come to watch these roles exhibited in my in-laws 50+ years of marriage. They live out Ephesians 5:21-33. Their devotion to one another is rare. I have no doubt that my mother-in-law has a say, but I also believe she knows that my father-in-law’s place is as the leader of the family. There is a reason God put this order and it’s not a bad thing. Our husbands are our covering. We may come across as “I can take care of this myself”, but if we’re honest and get out of our own arrogant way, I think we want to be taken care of. It’s our nature and while it took me years to figure this out, it’s okay!
I look at the different areas outside of our families where this authoritative structure should also be in place, school, church, government, etc. and is not. The dysfunction is rampant. There seems to be little to no respect for authority and that starts in the family. I am convinced now more than ever that feminism has played a significant role in the demise of the American family. I worked outside the home from age 17 to age 34, took a break to stay home when children 3 and 4 arrived, and went back at age 40. I am not a feminist, I do not hate men, I do not think men oppress women, I know I can do whatever I put my mind to and I like to work, go figure.
Recently Candace Cameron-Bure (DJ Tanner from Full House) was getting a lot of flack from feminists about a small comment she wrote in her new book about being submissive to her husband of 17 years. One video clip I saw was of a panel discussing this issue, consisting of feminists and non-feminists. The non-feminist panel member could not even complete her statement (which ironically was Biblically based) because the head of the panel cut her off, stuttering and stammering her anger that there are actually women out there who think this is okay (like we’re living in the dark ages). The venom with which she spoke with was so disturbing that I had to “Google” her to find out what could possibly have caused her to be so angry. If feminism is supposed to be a good thing, why did this woman seem so unhappy? I was not surprised to find that dysfunction wove it’s way though this woman’s childhood and adult years.
Does being under my husband’s covering mean I don’t get a say? Have you met me? I have a say and I always have an opinion! Just ask my husband, my parents, my sisters and my friends. But admittedly, the best and most peaceful times in our 24 (soon to be 25) years of marriage are the times when I have submitted to my husband’s leadership. Those early years were pretty rough. It was my way or no way and when I look back, it was not a good thing. We could have saved ourselves a lot of aggravation. Those lessons I learned are important to me to pass on to my daughters.
So I still find myself occasionally reverting back to my old ways of trying to get the upper hand, but the difference is that now I can see it when it’s happening and at least try to stop my stubborn self. All it really takes is that I just have my say, leaving those big decisions to be made to my husband, remembering how much calmer and happier I am. And he can vouch for just wanting me to “be happy”.
Years ago, I loaned that original copy of The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands book that began my period of self-reflection out to a woman at our church and is usually the case, it was never to be seen again. My hope is that it’s circulating. In the meantime, a replacement copy went on my Amazon Wish List a few years ago and I’m happy to report that it’s back in the house again.