17 December 2017

Complementarian Marriage Wish List: An Egalitarian's Perspective, Part 2

Part 2, continued from yesterday. We're moving on to the wife's wish list now.

How to show love to the wife:

1. Values my opinion. Note that in "How to Show Respect to a Husband", the wife is asked to value her husband's decisions; here, the husband is merely asked to value his wife's opinions. The difference may seem subtle, but it's very telling as to where the balance of power lies: with the husband. The wife is expected to accept and abide by a certain course of action (a decision), whereas a husband is merely expected to consider his wife's feelings (her opinion). He has the option of refusal; she does not.

This shouldn't be the case. Both the husband and the wife should have equal decision-making ability, and both of their opinions should be equally valued.

2. Helps with house chores. If you have not read this gem entitled "I Do Not Help My Wife", I can't urge you strongly enough to do so. It captures extremely well what I want to say here.

Men, when you do house work, you are not "helping" your wife. You're just being a responsible grown-up. Laundry, dishes, cooking, and childcare are not "women's work." They're part of normal adult life and everyone has to do them (except for the childcare part, if you don't have children.) Saying that you are "helping" implies that running the household is your wife's job, and that you're going above and beyond if you deign to lend a hand. Except that that isn't true, because you're in this thing (home management) together -- every part of it. And I'd say the same thing to wives who do yard work or clean the garage or something else that's traditionally judged to be within the man's domain.

Incidentally, it's interesting to me that when a wife works a salaried job, no one says she's "helping" her husband by being a fellow wage-earner. She's just doing part of what it takes to keep the household functioning. Well, guess what. It's the same with housework!

However, all that aside, men... if thinking of doing housework as "helping" will ensure that you actually do it, then go ahead. It's still vastly better than doing nothing.

3. Gives realistic expectations, hopes ,desires, criticism... For some odd reason, the wives seem open to criticism, while the husbands are most decidedly not -- they want no pressure and no pointing out faults. What's up with that? The personal growth, iron-sharpening, provoke-to-love-and-good-works aspect of marriage is something the husbands can expect to opt out of at will? Real life is preparing to jar them with a rude awakening, if it hasn't already. And yes, I would say that "realistic expectations, hopes, desires, and criticisms" are all good and valid things to want, but as always, this should go both ways. And the key word here is realistic!

4. Wants me to grow without candy coating. As for what this means, your guess is as good as mine. (Some of us tend to grow from side to side if we eat too much candy coating -- caramel apples come to mind! -- but somehow that's not the vibe I'm getting here.)

In fact, this one is so incoherent, I think I'm going to skip it. Too many absurd mental pictures are suggesting themselves to me (a coat made of candy canes? a person dipped in chocolate?) that I don't think I could take a serious guess. Or maybe I'm just dense. Feel free to comment with the answer if you know!

5. Shares his heart - trust me with it. Yes. Hopefully you wouldn't marry someone in the first place if you don't feel they are able or willing to do this.

6. Is real with me. This one is a little ambiguous. Does it mean "He doesn't tell lies", or does it mean "He bares his soul"? The first one is a basic necessity, and the second is... well, I wouldn't exactly call it a bonus, but it is something that doesn't come naturally to everybody right away. For some people, this takes some growing into. It's a good goal to strive for, though.

7. Leads me/our family spiritually. I.e bible reading, prayer, washing me through the water of the word. For the love of all that's holy -- and I mean that quite literally -- why would a wife expect her husband to "wash her through the water of the word"? No one but Christ can do that.

This concept is loosely based on Ephesians 5:26, where Paul tells us that Christ cleanses (removes impurities from) the church -- all believers -- with "the washing of water by the word" (salvation). No seminary expertise is needed to see that it doesn't make sense to imagine husbands doing these things:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, in order to make her holy by cleansing her with the washing of water by the word, so as to present the church to himself in splendor, without a spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind—yes, so that she may be holy and without blemish. In the same way, husbands should love their wives as they do their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hates his own body, but he nourishes and tenderly cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, because we are members of his body. 

The point, I think, is pretty clear. The self-sacrificing love of Christ toward the church is the part that husbands are told to emulate. But a husband can't "cleanse" his wife, and he certainly can't make her "holy and without blemish." Think about it: If he could do that, what need would there be for God to do it? And what hope would that leave for women with unsaved husbands, disobedient husbands, or no husbands at all? (And who in the world would be doing this for the men, anyway?)

Through a broken and faulty system, women have been encouraged -- sometimes overtly, sometimes without even realizing it -- to expect their husbands to be God. Not merely to imitate God's character, as we all should, but to be Him -- to stand in for Him; to do things only He was meant to do. (Which includes "leading spiritually", by the way; that's the Holy Spirit's job.) No man can be God to his wife, and no wife has any business expecting him to be.

8. Spends time with me and concentrating on me when he gets home from work when it would be easier (and maybe even more enjoyable :) ) to pop in a movie or read the news online. I don't think this has to be an either/or situation. Most husbands could probably pretty easily make time for both themselves and their wives. (Or they could watch the movie with their wife. That works too.) Regardless, I do think it's important for husbands (and wives) to have time to "decompress", if needed, when they return home from work. I don't know if the woman who wrote this expects her husband to "concentrate on her" every day instead of doing something "enjoyable." I hope not, though, because that's going to breed resentment on his part after awhile.

9. Makes time for his wife even after a long day at work. This one kind of breaks my heart, to be honest. If making time for your spouse isn't something that can go without saying, then you are probably better off not getting married.

Besides, many wives are at work all day, too. Does a wife have to be reminded to make time for her husband after her long day at work? Not usually. Usually she's the one coming home and waiting on everyone else hand and foot. She'll cook dinner and clean up afterward, and make sure everyone has enough clean clothes to wear tomorrow, and help the kids with their homework, and get them ready for bed, too. Pity the husband who wonders, after all of that, why his wife isn't in the mood for... well, you know.

10. Listens well. Yet another necessary activity for both spouses to engage in. This is a good place to be especially careful not to heed the stereotypes telling us that this is a lost cause because "men don't listen" or "women talk too much." And to remember that listening doesn't merely mean being silent while the other person talks. Real listening is active: It involves engaging, interacting, and taking to heart what the other person has to say.

11. Is affectionate through the day - simple things like a text to say, "I love you," etc. My husband does this, and it really brightens my day a lot. It's a good thing for the wife to do, too.

12. Understands the wife's needs and meet those needs through communication and support. This is fair, providing that no wife expects her husband to be a mind reader (although after you've been married for awhile, you should start to become pretty good at anticipating your partner's needs in a variety of situations).

13. Goes out of their way to spend time with their wife. Quality time is a big deal for many of us whether we are men or women. See #9.

14. Is spontaneous with affection. Affection defined as kind words, touch, and attention. Both spouses need this. And it shouldn't always have to lead to "something more", if you know what I mean.

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