*This article was discussed recently in Episode 11 of the author’s podcast, All Truth is God’s Truth. You can find the episode here (iTunes, Google Play, or Stitcher). Subscribe for more interaction with culture from a consistent Christian worldview.
There has been an article circulating on Facebook recently that came from an economics book from the 1950’s. I’ve seen many Christian women post this article and then make fun of it:
This article from the 1950’s seems crazy to many Christian women today. Yet, I’ve also seen women argue basically the same thing as this article, yet arguing how husbands can better love their wives.
Today, due in part to reacting to male chauvinism masquerading as biblical patriarchy or complementarianism, feminism has become prevalent in the church. Not a good feminism either, not a “women are as valuable as men” feminism. No, an unbiblical matriarchal feminism has over-compensated for the errors on the other side of the aisle. Consider an article I came across recently by Megan Cox. She is the survivor of an abusive marriage. She wrote an article recently titled, “Differences Between an Abusive Marriage and a Healthy One.” I agree with some of her points, but in other points, I see her replacing male patriarchy with female matriarchy. I don’t think she does this intentionally or maliciously; I think she merely has over-corrected in response to the sins committed against her.
In order to help you see her over-correction, I am going to write her principles as if a husband is making an equivalent statement. Today in the church, due to the rise of feminism and veiled matriarchy, if a woman says these things, she will hear amen’s from both men and women, and husbands are expected to fall in line; but if a man says the equivalent, he is viewed as selfish.
I’m arguing instead that these principles, regardless if they are demanded by the husband or wife as “Thus says the Lord…”, are antithetical to the one-flesh marriage relationship described by Christ in the Bible. However, if a wife wants to do the things mentioned in the 1950 article to show love for her husband, she is free to do so (feel free to ask your husband if he would enjoy that); she should not be viewed as “crazy.” And husbands, if you want to please your wife by doing what Cox suggests, you are free to do so (ask your wife if she would like that); he should not be viewed as “crazy.” The purpose of marriage is to become one flesh, to meet our spouse’s needs as if they are our own needs, because they are; we are one flesh with our spouses. Men and women get married because they need their spouses to meet their needs and because they want to meet the needs of their spouses. All selfishness must be rejected in order to have a one-flesh marriage, a biblical marriage.
I. I agree with points 1, 4, and 7 of Cox’s article:
A. Cox writes in point 1, “It is normal for a Christian husband to treat his wife with dignity, as an equal heir to the throne of God and a partner in this life here on earth. She has her own thoughts, ideas and passions. Sometimes these passions join together and other times, they do not. It is NOT normal nor biblical for a wife to simply be an extension of her husband. It is not normal for her to not have her own opinions or ideas or goals.”
B. Cox writes in point 4, “It is normal for a Christian husband and wife to talk about things together and make decisions together. It is not normal for a husband to make decisions without the valuable input of his wife.”
C. Cox writes in point 7, “It is normal to feel like the apple of your Christian husband’s eye. A Christian husband loves his wife like Christ loves the church. She completes him. He readily admits that he needs her and adores her. He is not ashamed of that. It is not normal for a man to act like his wife (and kids) are his afterthought.”
II. I disagree to varying degrees with points 2, 3, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, and 11 of Cox’s article:
A. Cox writes in point 2, “It is normal for a Christian husband to be kind to his wife, to acknowledge her hurts and her tears and to apologize if he harms her. It is not normal for a husband to tell his wife that she is being oversensitive or ridiculous. It is not normal for a woman to wonder if she is crazy or defective because her pain means nothing to her husband.”
The male equivalent: “It is normal for a Christian wife to be kind to her husband, to acknowledge his provision and his effort, to be thankful for all the work he does. It is not normal for a wife to nag her husband about what he doesn’t do. It is not normal for a husband to wonder if he is a horrible husband or father because the good he does means nothing to his wife.“
The biblical response is for husbands and wives to love and respect one another. Also, although we are empathetic towards husbands and wives that are abused and/or neglected by their spouses, we cannot encourage them to blame their devaluing of themselves on their spouses. We must be empathetic while telling the truth. We all must get our value from God. If I devalue myself as a horrible husband and father when the Bible says I am a good husband and father, then I must repent. In other words, it not normal for a biblically faithful husband and father to think that he is a bad husband and father due to the sinful opinion of another, even when that sinful opinion comes from his wife.
B. Cox writes in point 3, “It is normal for a Christian husband to treat his wife as a fragile and beautiful vessel. He gives her extra sleep and cares for and warms her body and soul. He is strong for her and able to handle her deepest struggles. It is not normal for a man to ridicule a woman for her weakness . . . or make her hate herself for being a woman. A Christian man is forever in awe and wonder over his wife because he is captivated by her.”
The male equivalent: “It is normal for a Christian wife to treat her husband’s ego as fragile and his work as praise-worthy. She treats him like a king, having his meal ready when he gets home from work. She lets him sleep since he has worked hard to provide. She brings him the remote as needed, and she keeps the kids quiet so he can sleep. She is forever in awe and wonder over how well he loves his family through provision and leadership because she is captivated by him.”
C. Cox writes in point 5, “It is normal for a Christian husband to encourage his wife in her dreams and desires. He upholds her with his strength — a safety net. It is not normal for a husband to dump all of his problems onto his wife to bring her down. It is not normal for him to vie for her pity and create an atmosphere of insecurity for her in her home.”
The male equivalent: “It is normal for a Christian wife to encourage her husband in his dreams and desires. She upholds him with her help, with her support, and her constant encouragement. It is not normal for a wife to dump all her problems on her husband to bring him down when he returns home from working hard. It is not normal for her to seek out his pity and empathy, for her to create an atmosphere of chaos for him in his home. The home should be a place of peace, a fortress of solitude, made by his wife.”
D. Cox writes in point 6, “It is normal for a husband to provide a home that is safe. The one thing I asked my husband before we married is that our home is “always safe”. It is not normal to walk on eggshells or uncertainty around your spouse because you are not sure of what mood he is in. It is not normal to feel unsafe. Furthermore, it is not normal for YOUR NORMAL to be insecurity in your home.”
The male equivalent: “It is normal for a wife to provide a home that is peaceful. It is not normal to walk on eggshells or uncertainty around your wife because you are not sure what type of mood she will be in when you return home. It is not normal to be without peace in your own home. Furthermore, it is not normal for YOUR NORMAL to be chaos in your home.”
E. Cox writes in point 8, “It is normal for a Christian husband to keep his wife aware of where he is and what is happening. They are ONE. Out of respect and honor for each other, a husband and wife keep each other abreast. It is, in fact, joy to do so and to feel that connection. It is not normal for a husband to show up whenever and wherever and not stay connected to his wife. It is not normal for days of silence to ensue and then a great expectation for intimacy in the bedroom. That is not normal.“
The male equivalent: “It is normal for a Christian wife to keep her husband aware of where she is, what she is doing, what she is buying, what the kids are doing, etc. They are ONE. It is not normal for a wife to show up whenever and wherever and not stay connected to her husband. It is not normal for days without intimacy in the bedroom and then great expectation of constant intimacy outside of the bedroom. That is not normal.”
F. Cox writes in point 9, “It is normal for a Christian husband to listen to his wife and understand her point of view. It is not normal for a husband to blow his wife off and make her feel like a nothing. It is not normal for a husband to make her feel crazy.”
The male equivalent: “It is normal for a Christian wife to listen to her husband and understand his point of view. It is not normal for a wife to not respect her husband, his opinion, and to treat him as a common man. It is not normal for a wife to make him feel like a stranger.”
G. Cox writes in point 10, “It is normal for a Christian husband to nurture his wife, to protect her and to cherish her and her body. It is not normal for a husband to work his wife to death, not offering any help with the children or around the house.”
The male equivalent: “It is normal for a Christian wife to support her husband, to protect his ego and meet his sexual needs. It is not normal for a wife to work her husband to death by expecting him to provide for the household financially and then to return home and provide for the household domestically as well.”
H. Cox writes in point 11, “It is normal for a Christian husband to love his wife because she is . . . . not because of what she can do for him. I love my children because they are. They do not have to earn my love. Likewise, a Christian husband simply loves his wife because of her beauty and loveliness. It is not normal for a wife to have to earn her husband’s love by hard-work, extra-biblical “godliness” or anything that involves striving.”
The male equivalent: “It is normal for a wife to love her husband because he is . . . . not because of what he can do for her. I love my children because they are. They do not have to earn my love. Likewise, a Christian wife simply loves her husband because he is her husband. It is not normal for a husband to have to earn his wife’s love by hard-work, intimate talks, dating, extra-biblical godliness or anything that involves striving.”
At the very least, looking at these two very similar articles, 60 years apart, we need to be aware that it is easier for us to recognize selfishness when our spouse is committing this sin. We, however, have a more difficult time seeing our own selfishness. *If you don’t believe me, sit down and write a list of your faults and your spouse’s faults, and see whose list is longer.
In Christianity, it’s amazing that “husbands are kings” has negative connotations attached to it, when “wives are queens” has positive connotations attached to it. Neither husbands nor wives should view serving their spouses as “crazy.” After all, marriage should be a picture of the gospel, a picture of Christ’s love for the church (husbands love your wives,) and the church’s loving submission to her husband (wives submit to your husbands as unto the Lord) (Eph. 5).
But our sinful hearts and our love for the world has so tainted our view of marriage that we expect our spouses to serve us “the way we want” while we continue to serve our spouses “the way we want.” It’s all about “us,” and that cannot lead to a healthy biblical marriage. Neither a “traditional expression of marriage during a ‘better time,'” nor the testimony of a victim of spousal abuse determines our definition of husband and wife responsibilities in marriage; Scripture alone does. And we cannot over-compensate when we see something we believe is “wrong” or when we experience something that is wrong. Therefore, you and I should see both lists as “choosing to please one’s spouse,” instead of seeing both lists as either “Thus says the Lord…” or “crazy.” After all, what’s wrong with a Christian freely trying to selflessly please one’s spouse? That should be a good thing, right?!
In conclusion, readers, if the articles referenced above describe your expectations of your spouse, I want to challenge you to try something new. Instead of asking, “Is my spouse serving me the way I want,” start asking and answering the question, “Am I serving my spouse the way he or she wants.” Let’s shift the focus from ourselves to our spouses, not based on how well our spouses love us, but based on the covenantal fact that we are one flesh with our spouses. Our spouses’ needs are our needs, and we don’t think it’s “crazy” to meet our own needs [our spouse’s needs] (Eph. 5:22-33). Or, do we?