Good: The Joy of Christian Manhood and Womanhood–Chapter 3

A ha. This is the chapter that I knew would piss me off. The title of this chapter is The Happy Call to Holistic Provision.

First of all, I am the primary “breadwinner” in our family. I have a full time job at a print shop and am now in school to become an elementary teacher. My husband is on disability and works part time as a tow truck driver. He would love to work more, but is physically unable to return to his preferred profession (OTR truck driving; he cannot pass the DOT physical with a defibrillator in his chest) and is physically unable to drive a tow truck full time (he gets easily overheated especially in summer months and between the vertigo and nerve damage on his left side, standing upright for long periods of time is nearly impossible). When we crunch the numbers for him pushing himself beyond his limits in order to work more, he’d have the choice between paying bills or paying for his health insurance. At least with disability, the health insurance is paid for, even if the bills are usually more than he can afford.

He fully supports me working because it is something that I enjoy. He fully supports me being considered the breadwinner because I am the one with the 8-5 job even though between the disability check and his part time work, we make about the same amount. Being the one with the regular work hours means that he has to take my schedule into consideration and he understands that he needs to pick up more of the slack around the house just because he’s home and I’m not.

We have an egalitarian marriage. He is not the head of me and I’m not the head of him. We make decisions together. Why these Christian men (and unfortunately women) cannot seem to understand that partners can work together without someone having to be in charge is beyond me, especially when I’ve read numerous blog posts by Christian women who seem perfectly willing to explain that their husbands are more or less clueless about the duties that are in the wife’s domain!

I guess that’s what gets to me. In our egalitarian marriage, we do have different roles and duties. I work all day and am in charge of most meals. He works when he gets called and is in charge of dishes, trash disposal, lawn mowing, and he’s supposed to wash clothes. I fold clothes, put dishes away, and run the weed wacker, because of the nerve damage in his left hand that makes these tasks uncomfortable. He’s also in charge of most of the major house cleaning because a) he’s great at it when he gets the ambition and b) because it’s mostly his mess.

All egalitarian marriages have some version of this compromise. But it depends on what the individuals in the couple enjoy doing chores-wise and what they’re good at.

In a Christian complementary marriage, it’s not so about what an individual is good at, but what they were born with between their legs that determines what their chores are. I’ve read at least one woman’s blog posts about how amazed she is by her husbands ability and willingness to cook! Like, it took a few years of marriage for her to feel comfortable with him doing such “women’s work” especially after he’s been at work all day. I can only assume that she had kept her boy children out of the kitchen because it’s pointless for them to be there since boys aren’t capable of cooking or would even enjoy cooking, but once her husband finally got into the kitchen, maybe she’ll realize that boys can be interested in cooking without damaging their masculinity.

What truly baffles me is how willingly these complementary wives are to give their husbands all the credit for the work that they are obviously expert at. I mean, since he’s the head of the household, obviously he must have been the ringleader that got all the kid’s schoolwork done (because more often than not the kids are homeschooled), got the housework done, and all the errands completed. While I realize that this “headship” isn’t supposed to take credit and is supposed to graciously praise his wife for all the work that she does, in a “marriage” where the head is an asshole, he can all to easily come home and disrupt every aspect of the wife’s hard work (send the kids outside when they’re supposed to be doing their school work; decide to go out for dinner even as supper is on the table; tell her that he’s spent the grocery money on a new boat) and she’s supposed to smile and say “Thank You, Dear”.

If my husband did any of these things, I’d be a single woman so fast he’d get whiplash. Especially the last one since I take our finances very seriously.

The United States was founded on the principles of “checks and balances”; that’s why we have 3 branches of government. This complementary marriage has no checks or balances. A wife is supposed to just accept whatever her husband does as law and can’t voice any opinions which question his authority.

This chapter talks a big game about how a husband is supposed to “serve and give his life for another” (i.e. his wife), but with a wife who isn’t supposed to question his judgement, how can he know that he’s really serving her when she feels like he’s undermining everything that she’s trying to do. To go back to those three examples from earlier:

  • He comes home and sends the kids outside and feels so proud of himself for giving her some free time with her husband. She’s upset because she had finally gotten them all to work after fighting all day.
  • He decides to take everyone out for dinner so she doesn’t have to cook. Except, she’s already cooked the meal and suddenly has 4 kids who are begging for pizza instead of being happy to eat the rice and beans she made. To keep the peace, she consents to save the meal she cooked for the next night. She can’t lecture him on the importance of calling when there’s a change of plans.
  • He thinks he’s buying a memory creating object when he buys a boat. Depending on the family’s finances and who controls the checkbook (I think these women are more often than not in charge of paying bills to save their husband’s the headache), that money might have been earmarked for any number of things. Because he made a unilateral decision without consulting her, there’s no telling what sacrifices she may have to make in order to make up the difference. She’s forbidden from questioning his judgment and lecturing him on frivolous spending.

Having a well functioning marriage depends on both partners being free to not only express opinions, but to put their foot down when someone wants to do something that is not in the best interest of the family unit. For the most part, I let my husband do what he wants with his money, but he’s not good at keeping money in his savings account and as it dwindles, I get more and more say about what he buys, since he’ll become more and more dependent on money that is in my account.

What is troubling about the section of “Taking Cues from Christ’s Self-Sacrifice”, is this emphasis on how a husband must sacrifice his life for that of his wife and children. Looking back at our three examples from earlier, it is way too easy for a husband to believe that he’s making personal sacrifices when he decides to send out the children (he could have gone into his mancave and ignored everyone instead of saving his wife from their constant presence), it’s his money that’s going towards paying for dinner (he could have used that to buy a new…book? probably not a video game), he feels like it’s his personal finances that is taking a hit when he buys a boat (since he’s the one slaving away for “the man” to make the money that pays for it).

Making the male headship’s life all about personal sacrifice gives him the perfect way to guilt trip his wife about anything and everything. He’s the one sacrificing his life in order to give her everything that she wants. He doesn’t want to work at his lame, boring, dead end, whatever job, but he can’t quit and pursue his dreams because he’s supposed to sacrifice his life’s ambitions to taking care of his wife and children. If he’s not sacrificing something, he’s not a very Christlike husband.

This chapter breaks a mans different types of “providing” into 4 types: physical (food, shelter, clothing, etc), emotional (….?), intellectual (education…), and spiritual (church).

Mmm kay….wow. So, apparently husbands and wives are similar in that they both want to ensure that all 4 of these types of provision happen. BUT, it’s specifically a husband who worries more about these things, especially for providing those physical aspects.

Yeah, I know that my husband is depressed because he feels like he can’t provide the physical things that I may want that he once was able to do (with his first wife, she stayed home while he made all the money that she did a great job spending (sarcasm)). However, as a working woman, I am more than capable of paying the bills that we have. In fact, because of our age and health difference, it is imperative that I be capable of keeping a roof over my head and food on the table in the event of his suddenly passing away. Knock on wood! The reason I worry less than he does about our finances is because I have the savings that I need in case of an emergency (he’s really bad at saving money). If I didn’t have these savings, I would be as worried and depressed as he is. The idea that a husband is supposed to worry more about finances that “the little woman” puts undue stress on men while disenfranchising women. Men don’t have more stress because they are born with a penis. They have more stress because society tells us that men are supposed to provide financially for their families.

Both my husband and the rest of the world need to lighten up and relax. We’ve got this!

As for the emotional provision…ummm…wow. This guy admits that his wife is much better at judging the emotions of the household. That she “better monitors and cultivates the emotional wellbeing” of the household. Apparently, he’s supposed to make himself pay more attention to what’s going on in the household, being more “emotionally present” after being “drained from a long day of breadwinning”, and that he’s supposed to resist the urge to come home to a house full of screaming children and a crying wife and want to tell everyone to sit down, shut up, and solve the problem (or as he words it: “resist the urge to manage behavior”).

Well, first of all, if a man needs to pray in order to realize that he shouldn’t give his wife and children the cold shoulder just because his job is “intellectually and emotionally draining”, he’s an asshole with very little (no) empathy.  I usually want to talk about my day at work, whereas my husband usually wants to brood about whatever is bothering him. There are plenty of women who prefer to brood and men who like to talk through their issues. My husband doesn’t have to pray in order to listen to me talk: he just knows what kind of person I am and listens with earnest when he can. And when the vertigo is kicking his ass and his left side is driving him insane and he’s feeling drained and all around miserable, he simply says “Cathy, I don’t feel like talking right now.” And do you know what happens then? I say “okay,” and I do my own thing. I wait for him to be in a chatty mood and talk then. That’s called respecting others. When he’s extra broody, I let it go as long as is normal, and then I try to get him to talk about what’s bothering him because he always feels better once it’s out on the table. He realizes that he’s being unfair when he doesn’t communicate with me and has been working on it.

Intellectual provision. Ooh. I love all the digs about people putting too much (or too little) faith in intelligence. Sarcasm.

Personally, I don’t think anyone can be too intelligent. Of course, people can be condescending when they think they know everything and hurtful when people admit ignorance, but I’ve found that most people who think that their intelligence makes them better than someone else are usually not very intelligent at all. They’re faking it to make themselves seem smarter than they really are (Trump). Intelligent people don’t have to brag about how intelligent they are; intelligent people usually just want to share their knowledge so that everyone else can benefit.

Wow: way to make husband’s seem extremely self-sacrificing dude! “Outside the home, for the wife (my emphasis), there is continuing education and community education and book clubs and friendships with thoughtful individuals–none of which will happen without the provision of the husband to have the kids and cover the home while mom is out engaging and sharpening her mind (again my emphasis). See, ladies! Your husband is completely incapable of pursuing his own intellectual ambitions because he’s too busy taking care of the children and the home so that you can pursue your interests. Sarcasm.

Believe it or not, husbands and wives can pursue whatever interests they want so long as they work together to plan a schedule. Only a husband would make himself seem like such a huge sacrifice to take command of the kids one evening a week so that mom can see her friends or join a book club.

Mmm… also love the dig about field trips for the kids and how “a curious dad with energy enough to ask and engage [the content of the trip]–or better, lead or join the trip himself.” Why oh why is it way too easy for me to picture the dad who comes on the public school field trip (with a female teacher) and spends most of the trip trying to lead it. How comes there’s no encouragement for mom to join field trips and maybe even try to butt in and lead them.

Oh wait. Most of these kids are homeschooled, so most field trips are mom-led, with a half-dozen kids in tow. This writer is mostly saying that dad’s should take the day off work to join the kids’ field trip and show mom how she could do it better his way!

Oh yay! There’s going to be a chapter on discipline in this book. I’m not sure how that relates to manhood and womanhood, but I guess we’ll see.

As for spiritual provision…make sure the kids and wife go to church, learn the bible, and don’t be too pushy because only God can change people. Mmkay. Well, at least it says that men shouldn’t try to push their wives into a certain belief system, but without knowing how a woman is supposed to react to this kind of disagreement, who knows what actually happens.

Oh shit.

“Though holistic provision for women and children is a greater burden than a man can fully bear, he is not alone. Precisely in the most desperate moments, when having the masculine role feels most unfair, when we’re our most tired, running on fumes, and need to keep providing in all these aspects, this is when the provision of God (my emphasis) tastes the sweetest.”

As a wife, I feel like chopped liver! Apparently, women are such a huge part of the burden of men that they cannot help alleviate that burden. Only God can give that kind of comfort.

Well, I’ll be honest with you folks. If my husband told me that the stress of providing for our household was so much that he had to ask God for help, I’d tell him that then God can be the one who sucks his dick. I am a woman, but that does not make me an incapable mooch. If I’m taking up too much of my husband’s ability to provide financially, emotionally, intellectually, or spiritually to our relationship, and he’s not asking for MY help, he can leave.

The first thing a woman can do when her husband is feeling too much pressure to provide is get a job. This will bring in some income so that he doesn’t have to work so much. This will give him more time to pursue his personal interests, which will in turn relieve the stress that is keeping him from connecting emotionally, intellectually, or spiritually with the rest of the household. If money or the job isn’t the cause of his stress, then he’s an asshole who doesn’t have any ambition to connect emotionally, intellectually, or spiritually. In other words, him working less and playing more wouldn’t change his stress levels.

Now, I realize that my husband seems to be the poster-child for the case of when a working wife doesn’t solve a man’s stresses. This is both true and false. It’s true because there’s nothing I can do as a wife that will make him feel like he’s providing as much as he once did. I can only reassure him that we’re fine financially. He knows this and is fine with this but it doesn’t ease his own feelings on inadequacy. Except, that in some small way it does ease them.

We’ve come a long way from when we first started getting to know each other (as partners during a summer league) when we used to fight over who was going to pay for our bowling. I didn’t even know he liked me at the time, but I didn’t (and still don’t) like the idea of anyone paying my way. At that time, I’d just started working part time after 2 years of unemployment where I’d run through all my savings, so I was extremely emphatic that I was going to pay my way and the fact that I had enough left over that I could pay for him made me feel even better. It got to be a fierce competition between us over who would get there first to pay for bowling and I think by the end of it, I had been one week up. Sigh. I miss those days when he made a real effort to get to the bowling alley before me, haha.

When we first started dating, our argument over who would pay continued. To keep things simple for our waitresses, we’d go “double dutch” (a term I’m inventing here and now). We all know that “going dutch” is when the two parties pay for themselves; well, with us and “double dutch”, we would alternate who paid. If I paid last time, he could pay this time and vice versa. I highly recommend this system if you’re dating exclusively. If it’s a one-off date, go ahead and just pay for yourself.

As we continued dating, I realized just how tight his money was and started insisting on paying more often. He was slow to accept this, but eventually he didn’t see it as a weakness. Since then, he’s actually started asking me to pay for stuff. He just gave me the water bill to pay on a permanent basis! I’m trying to get him to split the bills evenly so that he can rely less on me for bailing him out at the end of the month.

His stress level has definitely decreased with every bill he gives to me to pay. Even as he feels bad about needing to rely on me, at least he doesn’t have to worry about how he’s going to pay back money he has borrowed. They are two different kinds of stress. And no, God isn’t going to miraculously put money into his bank account, but I, as his wife, can.

I can also support him emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually (which doesn’t really apply to us) in a way that God (which is to say, himself) cannot. God rarely (ever?) offers up new ideas to an individual. I’ve often heard men and women say how God works through people. Like, if one person can’t figure something out, they ask God, who apparently in turn, has someone come up and volunteer the answer that the first person needs. As a wife with a husband, I’d much rather cut out the middle man and have my husband directly ask me for help, a shoulder to cry on, an opinion, or for advice instead of him talking to God and hoping that I’m paying enough attention to give him what he needs (in secular circles, we call this kind of behavior passive aggressiveness; where one person has to infer what the other person wants based on the other person’s actions because the person doesn’t want to admit that there’s a problem).

 

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