Subverting the headship of other women’s husbands

Several blogs I read have lately had posts on female Christian bloggers essentially meddling in other people’s marriages by advising what the wives ought to do or what the husbands ought to do about this or that situation. The gist of those posts has been that it is not the place of the female blogger to advise what other people’s husbands ought to be doing to lead their families.

I wasn’t too sure what to make of those posts. I have read a handful of Christian female bloggers over the years, and I haven’t seen too many situations – actually I couldn’t think of any off the top of my head – where the woman was writing anything that fit the description of trying to lead someone else’s marriage. I mean, there is a difference between explaining what the Bible says about the marital hierarchy to other women and actually advising a man how to lead his family or telling a woman what following her husband’s leadership specifically should look like beyond asking him what to do.  I almost wondered if they were perhaps making a mountain out of a mole hill.

But I just read a post that exactly fits the description of a female Christian blogger inadvertently subverting the headship of another woman’s husband and accidentally sowing discontent and strife in their marriage.

In response to a female reader who wrote her an email asking if the grief she is feeling about wanting more children when her husband says no more is normal, the Thinking Housewife (Mrs. Wood) writes:

You are meant to be a mother. You are meant to say yes.

You and your husband are complicating this issue. Stop trying to make decisions that you are not meant to make […]

Please remind your husband that it is not his obligation to provide a college education to his children or anything else but basics. It is his obligation, however, to have as many children as possible. Try to explain this patiently to him. In 30 or 40 years, when he is old and weak, he will not say, “Why did I have so many children? Gee, I wish they would stop visiting me and taking care of me.” When we meet a person and marvel at his individuality or good qualities, does it ever occur to us to think, “Oh, well thank God, his parents wanted him?” No, we know that whether that person was wanted prior to his conception doesn’t much matter.

For the rest of your marriage, let God decide how many children you will have. Anything else is sinful. Put away the contraception for good. If either of you doesn’t want more children or is afraid of having more, then turn to God.

This is not helpful advice; the woman already knows she wants more children and doesn’t need persuading.  In a general conversation, one that isn’t offering specific advice to a specific woman and her husband, it certainly would be reasonable for Mrs. Wood to discuss what the Bible says about children and what the purpose of marriage is and to review what church teaching says about contraception.   But in this case, what she has inadvertently done is completely subvert the husband in her reader’s marriage. She has taken on the role of leading her female reader,  but that is not her proper role at all.

Perhaps the woman’s husband is in sin in the area of contraception, but the correct response to this woman’s email would have been to tell her that feeling grief about being denied children is a normal response and then offering to pray for her to find peace in God. She might also have advised the woman to go to God in prayer about the situation but to commit to obeying her husband. Certainly the woman in question should feel free to talk with her husband about why she desires more children, but in the end she has to abide by her husband’s decision, not by Mrs. Wood’s.

My post shouldn’t be read as me “calling out” Mrs Wood; she probably didn’t mean to do any harm.  Nevertheless, she has set herself up as the authority over her reader’s husband’s decisions and has reduced the likelihood that the female reader will be able to contentedly follow his leadership even in an area where she may disagree with him and feel real sorrow at his decision.  This is something we (all women) must guard against accidentally doing.

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14 thoughts on “Subverting the headship of other women’s husbands

  1. As a general comment, I should clarify that I believe artificial birth control is wrong for Christians. It’s just that a woman shouldn’t lecture another woman about how wrong her husband is. And in any case, the woman who wrote the email did not say her husband was forcing her to use artificial birth control.

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  2. Sunshine, I agree with your assessment regarding contraception—and moreover share your concern about swapping one sin for another. Insisting on one principle at the expense of another still results in sin. Disobeying a husband in pursuit of other priorities is a rampant problem.

    There is much to be sorted out in prayer and obedience to established authority, and a husband is such an authority, even when it doesn’t sit well with his wife.

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  3. This goes to a larger principle. It is hard enough for the boy to win over the girl. The boy has to win over her peers too. That is what happens when the girl seeks the advice of her peers or seeks their approval. I have been advised that that this is so powerful that if everything is going great and the relationship fizzles, there is a good chance that it is due to peer pressure. There is room in the marriage for the boy and girl but, not her friends.

    Also, the advice is very close to “Get pregnant anyway. What will he do?” Steamrolling over the express wishes of your partner is not a good thing to do.
    This is a rich subject for a post and comment thread.

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  4. The woman in question only relates her desires of wanting more children and seeks affirmation of moral and spiritual superiority in being right. In doing so she is undermining the husbands authority to sate her own feelings.

    We never hear more about the husbands opinions and nor should we have to. His decision should be respected and he is not required to justify it to anyone.

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  5. It is a man”s obligation to set his children up for success and to leave an inheritance behind not only for his kids, but his kids’ kids

    does that lady really think its a good idea to have 10 kids living in a single wide, needing govt assistance and food banks to keep the kids feed?

    If so she can move into one of my rent homes and see how poor people live

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  6. To me she just sounds like she (The Thinking Wife) strictly adheres to a doctrine that demands their believers to never use birth control, so she feels like the husband is sinning against the authority of God and the Church. I’ve seen cases like this even recently, but not from bloggers, more from women who comment on what someone should do. I think it may be hard for people in extremely strict religions to “allow” for husbands to lead their families differently when it comes to something like that.

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  7. You know though… Lori has written something very close to this post on The Thinking Housewife’s blog. She wrote about mourning/grieving not being able to stay at home with your children, versus working outside the home because your husband wants you to. I think I’ve seen her call out husbands for sinning or being “disobedient,” – basically confirming to the wife that the husband is wrong in leading his family in the way he desires, but I thought she was right and agreed with her. You’d have to go to Lori herself about this issue, but from what I gathered from it, it’s ok to grieve if you’re having to miss out on God’s promises because your husband doesn’t agree with what is written in the Bible. Her confirming this for those women was actually a beautiful post, and it would have been callous or dismissive for her to not allow them to grieve.

    Just some thoughts 🙂

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  8. Submission must be a difficult topic for women in the current culture. It seems as if workarounds keep popping up.

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    • While it may be considered off topic, I think it may be fundamental to this discourse. Boys are at a natural disadvantage because they are sweeter on girls than girls are o boys.

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  9. @SSM: “In a general conversation, … it certainly would be reasonable for Mrs. Wood to discuss what the Bible says about children and what the purpose of marriage is and to review what church teaching says about contraception.”

    Nicely said. Women teaching women.

    In the summer between my 10th and 11th grade of high school, I went on a choir tour of the western United States with a group of kids from our church denomination. We travelled by bus overnight from time to time. One particular night, the daughter of one of the tour directors ask if she could sit in the empty seat beside me. Her best friend was seated behind us. I knew both of them casually from years of various youth group meetings held by our denomination. I was awakened at some point during the night by the best friend’s voice from behind us: “get him to hold your hand” she was loudly whispering to her friend sitting beside me.

    Young girls have a biological imperative to hook up with a baby daddy *, and they seem keen to help each other out in this process. And the “helping” process has to start somewhere (“get him to hold your hand”). Helping each other out by sharing what the other should do with a boy starts at a young age. And once the process of “helping” each other out gets started, it seems to never stop. My experience has been that grown women have no problem at all sharing with another women what that other woman should do with her husband (or get him to do for her). That seems to be part of what it means to be female. If that is true, then it seems that it won’t ever be stopped, except in the case of a rare woman. Makes me think of the sentiment expressed in this song:

    “It all comes out exactly the way she thought
    Uncertain, he tags along behind
    Uncertain, till she makes up his mind”

    http://www.oldielyrics.com/lyrics/irving_berlin/a_man_chases_a_girl_until_she_catches_him.html

    For the girls raised to believe this, it must be quite a shock if they ever run across a young man who is not the least bit uncertain, who know his own mind and what he wants. Those women who have been raised to think their job is to tell their man what he thinks must feel particularly at loose ends and without purpose in the presence of such a man.

    * The polite word to use here is “husband”. But, realistically, baby hunger is a real drive. The girl may get a “husband”, but what she was really after was someone who would help her satisfy her baby hunger. Girls who get married under these circumstances seem to not really understand what it means to have a husband, since what they were really after was a baby daddy. Witness the recent blog posts by a wife (wives?) testifying to the transformation that occured in their life when they learned what it meant to have an actual (biblical) husband, not just a baby daddy.

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  10. Sunshine, there is some appalling stuff that goes on and I absolutely hate it. If it is not some alleged Christian woman calling me out and telling me I’m doing marriage all wrong, it’s some lunkhead trying to point fingers at my husband. I am not alone, I have watched so many men and women get completely slammed by these alleged Christian bloggers and it really makes me angry. A man, 40 years married, and they were trying to shame him the other day, calling him a beta and claiming he was a bad husband, not leading, sinning against God.

    I don’t know what this is, but it isn’t Christian and it isn’t teaching. Shall I talk about all the married women posting endless selfies of themselves and seeking the favor of all these red pill men? It’s just not right.

    I’ve been married 30 years, happily, we have children, grandchildren and yet it takes two minutes to find out what they all think of me. What’s wrong with that picture? Why are the young, the divorced, the recently remarried, suddenly the new Titus 2 wives of the world? I have no use for any of them. I think they’re all tools who do more harm than good and they do meddle and gossip and treat people like crap. In Christ’s name! It’s just wrong.

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  11. In Laura Woods’ defense, contraception is an absolute moral prohibition, and a Catholic wife would be obligated to disobey her husband if it meant her actively cooperating in contraception. E.g., using a diaphragm, IUD, taking hormonal pills. There are contraceptive acts that the husband could deploy (condoms, etc.) which would impute no guilt to the wife. (I’ll let the reader use his imagination.) In that case, it is his sin to commit, and the wife should not interfere once that decision is made. (Obviously she could remind him that it is a sin, but there’s a good chance he knows that and is going to do it anyway, whereupon more reminding quickly devolves into nagging, which is sinful usurpation of authority.)

    It is not the wife’s place to lecture her husband about college costs, etc. But then a wife could again remind her husband that having a child does not obligate them to cover college costs. So too, she might enlighten him as to the rapidly diminishing returns on the value of a college education. It’s probably not a good idea even if you could afford it.

    Ultimately, however, if the wife hopes to “save” her husband, it must be in the feminine way, i.e., via submission. If he wants no more children, then that’s his decision (right or wrong) to make. If he wants to sin to make that decision a reality, that too is his to make, so long as he does not induce his wife to sin.

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    • I understand what you are saying about birth control, but the writer of the email did not state whether or not they were using any form of contraception. She wrote in asking if it was normal that she still desired more children. She was looking for comfort, but Mrs. Wood used the opportunity to lecture her about the importance of never using contraception and telling her husband that they should have as many children as possible. Mrs. Wood had no basis from which to offer such advice because we don’t know any information about whether they are using birth control, why he doesn’t want any more children beyond the financial aspects, or anything. And it’s his decision to make, not Mrs. Wood’s. Better advice would have been to offer comfort and then advise the woman to pray unceasingly to God for his will to be done, either to change her husband’s mind if that is God’s will or to make her heart excepting of her husband’s decision. Mrs. Woods advice simply sows confusion and bitterness in the heart of the wife in my opinion.

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