When people are flabbergasted and frustrated, they often say, “I have no words!”
I experience the opposite… swirling, conflicting emotions provide me with LOTS of words.
I’ll attempt to catch some of them here.
When I had postpartum depression in 2013, I barely functioned. I sought biblical counseling, to explore ways I could bring glory to God, despite feeling completely out of control.
My grandma also recounts a time she worked with a biblical counselor, as she was struggling with questions related to God and truth.
In both of those cases, it was personal.
Our problems were spiritual.
And both of us found the counselor’s perspective helpful.
But I can’t say the same about my experiences with the Marriage Counseling System, which seems to be lob-sided.
I’m afraid The System has cultivated a very popular brand of “counseling,” which is wife-centric and exists mainly to help women recruit allies as we nag our husbands…even when our husband’s biggest failure is something like leaving dishes in the sink. (No, seriously, click that underlined link to read later. It outlines the emotional abuse being perpetuated against husbands, with full consent of our culture. I call the phenomenon “Battered Man Syndrome.”)
Anyway, I’ve read books, aimed at women because we’re the ones who spend the $$$$.
I’ve read blogs written by the “experts,” which are also aimed at women because we’re the ones sharing those articles passive-aggressively on social media.
I’ve watched the video lectures (*cough* Joel and Kathy Davisson *cough*)–aimed at telling husbands they’re responsible for their wives’ sinful behavior.
And all of these resources made my marriage worse.
In fact, the first few years of marriage I worried something was actually, physically wrong with me, because the more I followed the “biblical” advice I was given, the more intensely I despised my husband… for no discernable reason.
Let me be clear: my goals were noble. I wanted to have a strong, stable marriage. And, since I had grown up in church and was attending a Christian college, I had the Marriage Counseling System engrained in my head.
“Seek wise counsel” was Step #1.
Unfortunately, as a young wife, I simply didn’t realize how much UN-wise counsel is available in the Christian Counseling System.
So I started reading everything a good wife should.
I read “Wild at Heart” and “Captivating” (by the Eldredge’s). I read “For Men Only” and “For Women Only” (by the Feldhans). I read “When God Writes your Love Story” by Eric and Leslie Ludy.
Seriously, I can’t even remember all the names of all the Christian Couples who were trying to help me lead my husband toward better leadership.
And my inexplicable dissatisfaction grew more and more…
I thought it was because Luke didn’t digest all of this relationship material with me. After all, the more I learned, the less Luke was interested in learning with me. He literally wouldn’t read any of those books! He wouldn’t come and attend Chapel with me, three days a week, like I had humbly requested. He wouldn’t listen to my stream-of-conscious worrying about our marriage for hours.
I got more and more frustrated, because I felt like I was carrying all the weight, and he wasn’t doing anything. He always had more important things to do!
Of course, I understood when he needed to work or study for school. But, sometimes, he played video games or watched football! (Can you believe it?!) He watched football even though I told him to show me he cared more.
So, after thinking and praying for a while, I would insist that Luke and I have “conversations” (because the Christian Marriage Counselors who were part of the Christian Marriage System told me that’s what I was supposed to do). But those “conversations” quickly became arguments, and I would yell or cry or storm out of the house and drive away dramatically. Often I did all of the above.
And then Luke would go to sleep, and I would be even sadder and angrier, because he didn’t even care about our marriage enough to stay up with me! (What a jerk!)
Most of the time, he would be completely over it the next morning, which was just more proof that I was the spiritual one.
So, in my hurt and frustration, I would spend the next few days dropping hints that he still had a problem to solve. You know? Like slamming things around and making dinner for myself without offering him any. And if he didn’t respond, then I would have to escalate to making short, snippy remarks, because he was still failing to acknowledge how wrong he was…for….something…
I kept up this pattern for about two years, until both of us were miserable.
I wanted him to talk with me, but not out of obligation. I wanted him to WANT to have conversations with me, and I would keep him up late at night begging him to want me more. But, weirdly, Luke didn’t want to share space when I was behaving that way. He didn’t seem to enjoy being told to fix vauge stuff that was outside of his control anyway.
He didn’t like being responsible for my emotions.
If I had kept reading the same advice from the Marriage Counseling System, who knows where we would be?
But luckily, in 2010, a friend gave me something to read that actually helped. It started with a blog post in which the author wrote this:
“Modern Christians have radically reframed marriage from the way the Bible does. Where the Bible shows the husband in headship and the wife as submissive, modern Christians have turned this upside down. The re-framing is so pervasive that most Christians have no idea that it has even occurred…
Husbands loving their wives has been transformed into a command that he make his wife feel loved. This subtle transformation turns a straightforward biblical command into an impossible task. After all, the wife herself is the only one who can pronounce whether she feels sufficiently loved. Only she can define the very meaning of the word love, in this context. As a result, Christian husbands are now held hostage. For example, if he watches a football game instead of doing what she wants him to do he isn’t making her feel sufficiently loved and is in violation of the biblical command.”
It hit me like a ton of bricks because I was unintentionally doing that! (Also, because football was one of the things that used to trigger me.)
I had great intentions, and I was only trying to tell Luke what the Christian Counseling System had told me. But, it turned out I was expecting Luke to get behind me, whenever I FELT something unpleasant, which is not what the Bible says at all.
Thank God he sent a few wise counselors my direction, to calmly explain there’s a difference between loving me and jumping through my hoops until I FEEL loved.
If “leadership” means being kept awake all night until I allow him to sleep–then Luke is no longer leading.
Or, more specifically, my shifting emotions are leading.
We understand the problem more clearly when we relate it to parenting. I can recognize my children’s emotions, but I cannot let them control me.
Why? Because it destroys the entire family when those little balls-of-passion take over.
Can you imagine the damage we would be doing to children, if we started giving their parents the same terrible counseling given by Dr. Richard L. Strauss?
“The God who created these tremendous emotional needs in women intends that husbands should meet them…Headship is not some masculine doctrine cleverly designed to bolster the husband’s sagging ego. Headship involves the husband’s solemn obligation to establish an atmosphere of love in which the basic needs of his wife are fulfilled—an environment in which she is free to grow and develop into all that God wants her to be. Her submission will then be the voluntary response to his loving leadership.”
Parents, do you determine whether you’re loving and leading your children properly by watching to see if they volunteer to follow you?
When a child refuses to submit, is that MOM AND DAD’S fault?
I would answer a firm “no” to both questions… There are much better ways to measure effective leadership than to ask the kids to vote on it.
Therefore, if you’re seeing a counselor who tells you “leadership is when you allow the emotions of your wife and children to lead,” find a different one.
That itty bitty little twist of Scripture made me miserable for years, until I realized the Marriage Counseling System was wrong.
For more “words” about the terrible marriage advice being given in church settings, please click here: your wife’s affair is your fault.