During my lunch break today I read the following Dear Abby letter:
DEAR ABBY: My husband and I were going along in life, doing it our way, until we decided we wanted to return to the church, so we stopped drinking and smoking pot. We hit a rough patch in that journey and divorced, but we didn’t stop going to church. It’s crazy, I know. After we divorced, I knew I messed up and deep down I knew I loved him.
So, now that we have remarried, it seems like he’s taking the role of Christian husband back to biblical times. This means he is the head of the house (which I get), but to the point where I am almost like a fixture. I would say I’m here for my looks, but I am overweight. I would say it’s for the sex, but it isn’t happening morning, noon and night, if you know what I mean. I would say it is the money, but now, after his last raise, he makes more than I do.
He cooks most of the time because he gets home before me. The house is always clean, and we share the household bills and expenses. So, I’m kinda lost and confused. Do I have a purpose here? Or am I only here to help pay the bills? — STARTING TO WONDER
Here was “Abby’s” advice:
DEAR STARTING TO WONDER: Only your husband can answer that question. However, part of a husband’s duties to his wife is to make her feel “honored and cherished,” and if that isn’t happening, your remarriage is in trouble.
Marriage counseling (possibly within the church) might help you to reconnect with each other, and I strongly recommend it. Unless you find out why you’re unhappy and fix it, this marriage will not last.
One’s initial reaction might be to mock the wife, but when you actually stop and think about it for a moment, her feelings of being lost and confused are also rather poignant and touching. She instinctively senses that something is wrong here – that a husband being “head of household” shouldn’t really be synonymous with “doing everything himself”.
This couple is confused because they are trying to “do” marriage under several sets of different, competing rules all while getting no helpful teaching but plenty of bad advice. Previously they obviously had an egalitarian marriage in which they split the earning and household management evenly. Since becoming Christians, her husband is trying to figure out what the biblical role of “husband” is supposed to entail, and he’s obviously figured out that he is supposed to be the head of the marriage. But he has no practical understanding of what that looks like, so he is simply taking it to mean, “I am the head, therefore it must be my responsibility to do everything myself and require nothing of those of whom I am the head.”
The wife sees that things have changed, but she has no concept that her husband being the head requires her to be “under” his headship. She also doesn’t seem to understand that she has duties that, as a Christian wife, she is supposed to be fulfilling. But don’t mock her; how would she know what those roles are? She may have read a few verses in the Bible about women submitting to their husbands (or not), but it’s unlikely that she has had any helpful teaching about this from other Christians.
Now, common sense also seems to be lacking here. Obviously a wife with a clue would say to herself, “Gee, my husband is working hard. What could I do to please him?” She seems to have a sneaking suspicion about some of the things she could do: take care of her health and appearance by losing some weight, making sure that physical intimacy is happening somewhat regularly, and perhaps taking on some additional responsibilities around the home since her husband now out-earns her. But my suspicion is that she doesn’t really want to do these things very much as they may be difficult, and she’d rather coast along and is looking for moral cover to do so. This is probably why she went to someone like “Dear Abby” with her question instead of taking it to God or another mature Christian.
Still, we can forgive this couple for their confusion. It would be really helpful if pastors could step up and deliver some practical sermons on biblical marriage roles.
But the one we can truly be disgusted with here is “Dear Abby”. Now, clearly Abby is not a Christian, so we can assume she gives lip service to egalitarian marriage. But here is where the rubber meets the road; here we have a man who is doing nearly everything and a woman who is not pulling her fair share, but instead of telling the wife to step up her game, Abby blames the husband! Not only is he supposed to do everything, he’s also supposed to make his wife feel honored and cherished while he does it! Not only is that not biblical, it’s not even egalitarian.
Since they are Christians, we can pray for this couple to find wisdom from God about what the biblical marriage roles of headship and submission look like in a practical context. However, it is no wonder men and women are lost and confused. Pastors are often too cowardly to teach accurately on biblical marriage for fear of offending their congregants, and the secular advice-givers actively promote a fake egalitarian model.