Monday, September 30, 2013

CTNAHM-Chapter 5: In His Image (You are Responsible for Your Spouse's Temperament)

Apologies for the tardiness of this post. We had our first temporary foster kid placement, and it was all a  bit much.

p 63-64
Today we're starting the sections about the 3 types of men.  If you recall, "Created to Be His Help Meet" introduced this topic.  It'll be interesting to see how Michael interprets this for his masculine audience.  Text is in purple.

Not All Husbands are Created Equal
   Upon examination  we find that not all husbands are created equal.  They range from hen-pecked pushovers to monarchical slave drivers, from comfortable, laid-back, couch-crouching family men to radical, read-to-revamp-everything-from-government-to-the-garage go-getters.   All make different demands of their help meets.  
   My first response was to say "Duh. Not all husbands are created equal.  Not all wives are, either. Or people, for that matter."  And I am a bit alarmed already at the extremism in his ideas of what men are.  Hopefully it's a beginning chapter attention getter.
   Likewise wives are different in their strengths and weaknesses.  Therefore, there is no single answer suitable to all.  One man's cure is another man's curse.  Water is great for a brush fire but terrible when applied to gasoline.  A domineering husband needs to mellow, and a mellow husband needs to command.  One wife needs her husband to encourage her to seek outside interests, and another wife needs her husband to tell her to stay at home.  Imbalance is the bane of marital bliss.
   I am relieved to see that he allows wives can be different than each other.  Debi's book said that women are like water, and can change to fit their husband's needs.  I'm also surprised that Michael suggests there is no single answer for everyone, as he spends a good chunk of his book (and Debi her's) saying this is the only way for a Biblical marriage to work.
   I think he's funny that he mentions a domineering husband, and I would LOVE to hear is reaction if he was told to mellow.  And I would like to interject that a mellow husband doesn't have to command.  My husband, for example, is very mellow. It would change our entire dynamic (and not for the better) if he were to suddenly decide he needed to command.  Also, I'm a bit perplexed how it's OK for one wife to seek outside interests, but not for another. He does make a good point about imbalance, so there's that.
   In rare cases, husbands and wives are paired in a combination that is complementary.  For example, a girl who lacks confidence and decision-making ability marries a man who is by nature decisive but lacks a measure of confidence.  He would not do well married to a highly confident and aggressive woman; it could diminish his confidence even further.  On the other hand, being married to a woman who depends upon him will cause him to rise to the occasion and grow as a person; and under his patient guidance, she will gain confidence and learn to be more independent without intimidating him in his leadership capacity.
   While it's true that it's very unlikely to meet your total complimentary partner, I hardly think it's a catastrophe.  After all, if you disagree about everything, then marriage becomes a lot more difficult.  I would suggest the key to any of these disagreements or uncomplimentary pieces would be...surprise...communication.
   This example seems a bit silly to me.  First, Debi promotes this type of woman (lacking confidence and decision making) as the preferred.  Second, two unconfident people together can be awkward. Trust me on this one.  Third, if this decisive but unconfident man were to marry a confident and aggressive woman, it doesn't automatically spell disaster.  She can help him see the good in himself, model confident and successful behaviour, and encourage him when he's down.  Just because she's aggressive and confident doesn't mean that her very existence is a threat to his manliness.
   A natural balance is rare.  As positive and negative poles have a magnetism that forms a strong bond, in contrast most marriages are composed of two poles that repel one another, competing for the same space.  Starting a marriage with a natural balance is either a freak of nature or a miracle.  Most of us learn to yield and respond in some ways that aren't natural to us.
   I'm finding it hard to believe that most marriages are made up of opposing poles.  It makes it sound like marriage is a warzone.  Which, given a few of his analogies and other posts, I'm starting to think he believes it is. Man vs woman!  Who will get control? Who will yield? Tune in at 7 and find out!
   I also find it telling that he says "Most of us learn to yield and respond in some ways that aren't natural to us."  I'm wondering if he's one of the exceptions.  I would like to add how it's OK for marriages and the people in them to change.  Just because I was brought up to take care of myself doesn't mean I will freak out when my husband wants to put gas in my car.  Not everything is a battle.
   The faults of husbands are great and varied, on opposite extremes and all in between.  But a near-faultless single man, when married, may discover faults he never imagined, for in marriage one becomes responsible for another's temperament, weaknesses, and strengths.  A natural human trait, not bad in itself, may be harmful in one marriage while it is a strength in another.
   Yes, people (not just husbands) have lots of faults, and in a lot of different areas. No one is disagreeing with that.  But saying marriage makes one responsible for the temperament, weaknesses, and strengths of your spouse? I'm calling bananas on that.  I've seen a lot of shrinks in my day, and every single one of them has told me that only I am in control of my emotions and actions.  People can grate on my nerves, but I choose how I respond to them.
   I may be alone on this, but I really think he means to say "Wives are responsible for their husbands temperaments".  It just seems like that's what he's going for here. And I don't know what he means by strengths and weaknesses.  Yes, I 'm aware of what my husband's are, but that doesn't make them my responsibility! For example, one of my weaknesses is self-doubt. I will play devil's advocate with myself, no matter what the issue and tear myself down.  It's nice when my husband says "You made the right choice", but it's not his chore to chose for me, or spare me the consequences of my choice.
   Frankly, my opinion is, if you're old enough to be married, then you are old enough to manage your emotions and actions.  If you want to be considered a man or a woman, act like an adult, not a bratty child.
   Therefore, a call back to center to one errant husband will be interpreted by another as affirmation of his folly.  One man's answer is another man's license.  Medicine for one can be another man's narcotic.  Some men are addicted to dictatorial rule while others cowardly submit to a brass-willed woman.  The dictator needs to become servant-husband while the servant-husband needs to dictate his will to his willful wife.  What are you strengths and weaknesses and how do they affect your relationship with your wife? Have you placed your otherwise positive strengths under the tempering restraints of wisdom?
   It's a good point; that something that works for somebody won't work for everybody.  I don't think it's cowardly to submit to a woman. Granted, I'm anti-submission and pro-communication, so I'm not sure how that all plays out.  And maybe it's bias.  I'm a very "brass-willed" woman, and my husband is much milder.  It's not at all uncommon for me to say "This is what I want, and this is how things will be."  Unless he feels very strongly against it, he'll agree (after so genuine back-and-forth discussion, not the pretending Michael calls for).
   While he asserts that the dictator needs to become a servant-husband, he doesn't explain what that is, or how it happens. Hopefully he will later in the chapter.  I really don't like the line about the servant-husband dictating his will to his willful wife. I'm imagination how that would work out. "Honey, stay home and wash the clothes and cook. I'm the man and you will do as I say!"  The wife either backs down and says "Of course, dear." or she says "Are you talking to me?!" I don't think in any relationship it's OK to "dictate one's will" to the other.  Try communication, empathy, and genuine caring.
   I do think it's important to be self-aware and know your weaknesses and strengths.  Especially so if you're in a relationship.  It's also important to make sure your strengths don't turn into weaknesses.  Honest self-examination is something that is always good.  Try it today!
   Observing men, it is readily apparent that they come in basically three different natures.  A few men are very commanding by nature. Others are visionary and creative, expressing themselves as artists, inventors  religious leaders, and social reformers.  But the majority of men are steady, wanting neither to take a commanding lead nor to shake up the status quo.  We call these three types: Command Man, Visionary, and Steady Man.  The way you relate to life and to your wife will reflect one of these three natures.  We are going to look at those differences in men and women and explore the best approaches to developing marital harmony and maturity.
   I don't think that men (people) can be summed up into one of three tidy little boxes. I think people are nuanced and complicated, and often change.  Some situations require a different aspect of a person's personality.  Lumping people together in small categories is harmful and disingenuous.  It also takes away accountability. "It's not my fault-my personality type means I have to be a dictator!"  Or it causes blame "Well, if you weren't such a Command woman, I wouldn't have to yell so much!".
   I also don't think most men are content with the status quo. In fact, I would venture that people in general would be more willing to challenge the system (whatever system), if they felt their actions would really affect change.  Sometimes old fashioned realism can look like complacency.
   I am intrigued that Michael admits that women can have these personality boxes too. I'm strangely looking forward to reading how he explores these types!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Pulling Out My Hair

Sorry that I didn't post a review yesterday.  We got our first respite foster kids. They are supposed to stay for the weekend. A brother and sister, and the girl is autism spectrum.
   I had always heard growing up that women were naturally nurturers, and far better suited to raise kids. In Mormondom, that's like the 11th commandment: Thous shalt have thy women be housewives.  Well, I don't know if it's because the first kids we've ever had are special needs, or there's something wrong with me.  But all I want is for these kids to go away so I can have my life back.  I feel selfish for wanting to do things when I want, on my time. I'm a bit jealous because my husband enjoys spending time with the kids, and I'm holed up in the bedroom.
   I'm discouraged because all my life I was taught that this is the apex of happiness for me.  Being a housewife and having kids around.  And I hate it so much. I've always hated staying at home, anyway, but add in these kids (and I'm not bagging on the kids, I swear), and I'm pulling out my hair in frustration.
   Perhaps it's because the kids are young-10 and 7.  But they just need constant attention, supervision-needs all over the place.  I realize for those of you with kids, that this is no revelation.  It was for me, though. Before, when I had babysat, you park kids in front of the TV and they are good for a few hours.  (I understand that's not great parenting techniques, but respite care is like a weekend vacation for the kiddos).
   I have never been nurturing, or anything like that.  Honestly, part of the reason I was OK with doing foster kid classes is because my husband wants kids so much.  I wish I could find a job that pays reasonably well, and he can stay home.  That would work best for both of us.
   So the plan right now is to try one more weekend with different kids, preferably teenagers.  I've always gotten on well with teenagers. I'm not patient enough to deal with the neediness of small children. I accept that, and yet it still hurts. But if having teenagers doesn't work out, either, then we will stop fostering, and I work for a few years to find a career that will support the family, and my husband will stay home.
 But there's this voice in the back of my head telling me I'm a failure.  Chiding me because I want more than what should be my station.  Disparaging me because I'm not warm or maternal. And as much as I try to tell myself that people are individuals, not gender roles, it still hurts.  Mostly because I feel like I'm disappointing my husband.   Sometimes there's just no winning.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

LDS Baby Steps?

A few posts ago, I blogged about the Ordain Women movement.  More specifically, how some women in the movement were attempting to try and obtain tickets to the priesthood session of General Conference. They were also going to stand in the ticket line and make the leaders choose either yes or no to let them in.  I thought this was an important step, because Mormon leaders, like political people everywhere, are masters at saying nothing in 5 or 6 paragraphs worth of words.
   Recently, though, the church decided and publicized their decision about letting women into the priesthood session.  This is taken from the Deseret News, Sept 24, 2013.
          The women, who last week formally requested tickets to the Oct. 5 priesthood session, will not be admitted.
“It is the hope of the church that the priesthood session will strengthen the men and young men including fathers and sons, and give them the opportunity to gather and receive instruction related to priesthood duties and responsibilities,” church spokeswoman Ruth Todd said Tuesday in a letter to the group, "much the same way parallel meetings are held for sisters, such as the general Relief Society meeting.
"It’s for these reasons that tickets for the priesthood session are reserved for men and young men and we are unable to honor your request for tickets or admission."
Todd also invited the women to “view the live priesthood session broadcast, as well as the other general conference sessions, on lds.org, The Mormon Channel or BYUtv.”
   The priesthood session has never been broadcast live (at least in America; my husband went on a mission to Portugal, and said that women often went to the Priesthood session, simply because a lot of people traveled pretty far to get to a meetinghouse with satellite).  I honestly don't know why it hasn't been.  Perhaps to keep Mormon women from the topics of priesthood?  But that doesn't make sense, because all of the talks are published in the church's magazine "The Ensign".  I've always thought it was because those who spoke at the Priesthood session (Mormon high-high ups), would say super secret things for only Priesthood holder's ears.  Or at least scathing sermons on being a decent guy.
   I went to lds.org, the church's official website, and browsed some of the recent priesthood session conference talks.  Their titles are: "Stand Strong in Holy Places" "The Power of the Priesthood in the Boy" "Your Sacred Duty to Minister" "Come All Ye Sons of God".  I skimmed most of these, and didn't really read anything different than I'd heard in various classes or talks before.  So I guess it's not men only because of some super-secret doctrine. I have to admit, I'm a bit disappointed.
   My husband suggested that perhaps one reason women aren't allowed is because it's like man-bonding time. There's usually cookies or treats before/after, and the men can socialize.  I told him if socialization was a concern, then Priesthood should have an activity every month like the women's organisation does.
   Anyway, the church has shown what their opinion is on women at the session.  A founder of OW said that she wanted to attend, because she believes women are also potential priesthood holders, and should be allowed the same instruction as non-member men or little boys.  
  The church's opinion, though, has divided women in the OW movement.  Some are angry because the church has blatantly said "NO".  Others are satisfied with the compromise of viewing the session via satellite.  I, personally, am of two minds.  Let me explain.
   I understand, logically, why the church is choosing to attempt a baby-step approach.  (Assuming this is a baby step towards women having the priesthood and not just a head-pat)  The church depends on people's tithes to make money, and if half of the church were to leave, it would be catastrophic.  And about half is what estimators think would leave if women were suddenly allowed full priesthood responsibilities.  Another reason it makes sense to take small steps is because allowing women to hold the priesthood would be a major upheaval in the way the church does things.  So many callings, or opportunities, are only available to men.  Undoing that would take a lot of time, organisation, and suspending of stereotypes.  It would be a massive undertaking.
   On the other hand, I think pointing out that women get their own special meeting and saying "It's just the same!" is a pile of bananas.  First, women aren't allowed to meet without at least 2 members of the priesthood there.  Second, priesthood does not equal motherhood.  Third, the instructions to men and women are way different.  Look, for example, at the list of talks from the most recent General Relief Society Meeting: "Is the Faith in the Atonement of Jesus Christ Written in our Hearts?" "Wide Awake to our Duties" "The Lord Has Not Forgotten You" and "The Caregiver". Fourth, I fail to see how handing American women something every LDS woman in the world already has (watching Priesthood session via satellite), is considered a compromise.  Fifth, the tones of Priesthood vs Relief Society meetings are much, much different.
   Where the men's meeting is basically a call to action, women's meetings are about serving, and passive obedience, with a smidgen of doctrine support for the weary.  I think that's fascinating.  Men are taught that Priesthood is a power, and a scared duty.  Women are taught to care for others, to have faith, and fulfill their callings.  Priesthood sessions start with food. Women's sessions start with a service project.
  I fail to see how a church that claims to be the only true church, and has a prophet that has a hotline to God, can sustain such blatant sexism in this day and age.  I think pretty soon there will be a tipping point, and the church will no longer be able to take teeny, tiny baby steps and claim "We listen, see? Progress!"  I think the issue of ordaining women will only get bigger and bigger, until the church has no choice but to issue a directive.  Then we will see how things really are.
   I wouldn't want to be in their shoes, honestly.  If the options are lose people because women want rights, or lose people because they don't want women to have rights, what really is the best option for them?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

CTNAHM-How Do I Need Thee- Part 14 (Your Wife Was Created to Fill Your Sexual Needs!)

pages 59-61

Last post, we talked about foreplay and, as Michael calls it, the "2 minute pop".  We also re-touched on how premarital sex hurts the woman because she is the sensitive, weaker vessel.  Today we get to talk more about premarital sex, and women climaxing. Get ready.
Text is in purple

Cleaning Up My Act
The cure for any of the [2 previous posts] is pretty much the same, with some additional spiritual actions that need to be taken by those who come into marriage with a whoremonger's mind.  The man of corrupt mind and heart must repent before God and his wife.  If they fornicated before marriage they must both repent and confess their sins to each other and to God.
   According to Michael, a "whoremonger's mind" is someone who viewed pornography.  I think it's interesting that that is the only criteria for having that type of mind.  Apparently looking at women as objects to  be taken, desired, or won isn't being a whoremonger.  Just looking at dirty pics or movies.  I suppose in PearlWorld women are little more than objects.
   About the whole repentance thing? If you feel the need to confess to your spouse, partner, whomever, then do it.  You shouldn't be forced into a confession just because someone else thinks you should.
   We talked about the power of associations.  When a girl sneaks around and has sex with her boyfriend before marriage, lying to parents and concealing it from her friends, the girl in particular comes to view her husband as a man with no self-discipline and capable of dishonesty in the pursuit of pleasure.  She knows he is not a man of honor or integrity.  He is not ruled by principle but by passion.  Her view is that he will say anything or do anything to get what he wants.
   Why is the girl the only one sneaking around here?  And it's not always true that the "girl views her husband as a man with no self-discipline".  Maybe they were horny, and mutually wanted sex.  Oh wait...I forgot. Women have no sex drives; they are merely willing when a man grunts.  Yes, some guys are cads that encourage women to have sex, simply to fulfill his need.  But not all men! In fact, I would argue very few men think of women as blow up dolls.  (Though perhaps not many inside this type of culture)  A man can have premarital sex and still have honour and integrity.  Honour and integrity are a bi-product of virginity.  They are characteristics inherent in some people, learned in others, and forsaken all together in a few.  If a woman's view of her husband is that he will say or do anything to get what he wants, she should seriously consider either leaving or counseling, because that isn't healthy at all.
   When they have a little falling out and his pleasure is deferred for a few days, and he stops knocking on her door, she gets suspicious, wondering where he is depositing his semen.  Suspicion and distrust can spiral downward into an abyss of anger and resentment.
   O.o  If a man doesn't get sex from his woman everyday, then the logical conclusion is he's "knowing" someone else?  Really? Because that's not how most sexual relationships are.  Most people realize there are sexual highs and lows, and that's normal and OK.  Though he does make a good point that suspicion and distrust can causes anger and resentment.  The way to combat that is communication.
   The man whose heart and mind are corrupted with pornography and former immorality must develop a pure mind.  A wife will know when you are pure in heart and she will respond with her body.  Reclaiming your virtue is not easy but I have seen it done a thousand times. I spoke a series of nine messages called "SIN NO MORE".  It reveals God's method of walking after the spirit and ceasing to sin.  If your flesh is still tangled in the snares of the devil, you should get the series and listen to it carefully.  Many have been set free.  You can be as well.
   Ah, yes.  A wife will magically know you are pure in heart.  My question is: how will she know?  Will you treat her differently? If a wife listens to Debi, and believes she has to submit sexually whenever he wants, and act like she's enjoying it, how would she respond differently "with her body"? Also, I would like to add, again, that pornography does not necessarily equal EVIL LUST MONSTER.  In fact, some couples enjoy watching porn together.  Whatever works for a couple.
   Oh, and the cure for a whoremonger's mind?  Simple.  Buy more of Michael's products.  It works! Thousands of people can attest! Michael can free you from the snares of the devil! (I'm half tempted to look at these talks, just to see how miraculous it really is...)

Innocent Ignorance
   I have a friend who came to marriage in a state of integrity. Both he and his wife were virgins in good standing with God.  After they had been married for about two years, the man sought counsel on his wife's lack of fulfillment.  She was willing but did not enjoy it and had never reached climax.  He was mystified.  All his friends testified of hot wives.  Some of them may have done some "Christian" lying, but it didn't make the man feel any better.  My daughter and son-in-law plied him with questions, discovering that he was not aware of his wife's needs.
   First, congrats to that guy for caring about his wife's sexual needs.  Not sarcastic at all. It's so...refreshing to read that there are people in this culture who actually care about their wife's happiness.  It's slightly alarming, though, that it took him 2 years to realize his wife wasn't satisfied.  I also think it's sad that she was "willing, but didn't enjoy it".  It makes sex sound like a trip to the dentist.  "Oh, I have to..."  It sounds like he has bad friends.  "Hey guys, my wife and I are having a little trouble in the bedroom. She's never reached orgasm."  "Sucks to be you! My wife puts out 3 times a day and LOVES it!"
   Second, what is "Christian" lying? Are those little white lies?  Are they sanctified lies?  I wish he would define his terms!
   Third, how much of his family does Michael include in his ministry? He gives cold logical advice, his wife is sensitive, and his daughter gives sex advice?  That just seems...odd to me.
   Fourth, the only way you can be married for 2 years and not be aware of your spouse's needs is: if you don't ask, and/or they don't feel safe telling you.  The fix is, of course, communication!
   They encouraged him to take time throughout the day to woo her with romantic gestures and to spend time blessing her with back scratches, leg rubs, massages, or anything that made her feel cherished.  Then they suggested a few techniques for slowly stimulating her in a romantic way.  I won't get into details on that subject.  It took about sex months to transition into full passionate erotic sex that now he says must be the best on earth.  She chases him down if he doesn't show any interest for a couple of days.  Whatever her hang-ups might have been, his patience and perseverance on her behalf brought her out of the frigid waters of indifference and into the warm sunshine of summer love.
   I'm glad this story had a happy ending. It's commendable that the husband was willing to be patient and gentle for 6 months before seeing full results.  Honestly, that's awesome. Sounds like she snagged a winner, and now they're both enjoying a great sex life.  And making your wife (or spouse) feel cherished is a great way for them to lower their defenses and let you in.  But I have a huge problem with Michael's phrase "whatever her hangups were".  Hello?? We know what they were!  The guy was too fast, and too insensitive.  It wasn't a problem with the wife, it was a problem with the husband!  I'm sure, though, that violates the terms in PearlWorld.  Men can't ever be responsible.
  Your wife was created to fill your sexual needs, and one of your sexual needs is for her to need you.  A man is never satisfied with sex until he is a master at pleasing his wife.  There is more to copulation than getting relief.  It is a restoring and healing emotional experience that brings two souls into a union that is a perfect type of our spiritual union with God.  We will discuss that point later.
   Oh yes.  Your wife was created to fill your needs. She has no needs herself, but if you treat her right, your sex life will get TONS better.  "A man is never satisfied with sex until he is a master at pleasing his wife".  Um...in the above example, for 2 years, the wife wasn't pleased. The guy never reported any problem with him not being satisfied.  Though perhaps he is talking emotionally satisfied?  In that case, yeah, that line works.  And I don't know about you, but I cannot wait to find out how sex is like a spiritual union with God.
   If your wife is not fulfilling you, know that you aren't fulfilling her either.  If you think of yourself as the man of the house, then man up and take the steps necessary to bring her to a place of erotic excellence.
   See? There it is again! Treat her better to make her treat you bestest!  I do agree that both partners should take steps necessary to make their partners happy.  But "bring her to place of erotic excellence"? That just sounds awkward.  Why couldn't he just say "When both parties are sexually fulfilled, the sex is better"?  Why is he always saying "bring the woman" "mold the woman" "make the woman"? Ugh.

She Needs You to Need Her
   Just as you were created to NEED a help meet, your wife was created to BE a help meet.  It is all by divine design.  Have you forgotten to take her along with you as you fulfill your divine purpose?  Most men, even husbands, think that they can make it alone, that they can be successful in their life purpose without having to drag their wife along with them.  They are wrong.  She was created to be your right hand man-wo-man! She needs the key position in your life.
   Um...if you need to be reminded to take your wife with you, something is really wrong in your marriage.  I don't know how many husbands think they can make it alone.  In Mormondom, almost every talk given by people who have just been called to high positions make sure to thank their wife.  I think there's a reason for the phrase "behind every great man is an even greater woman".  But clearly people in PearlWorld just don't view their wives as integral in anything other than sex, cooking, cleaning, and babymaking.
   Anything less will leave her defeated or rebellious.  She will either get sickly or go out into the world seeking to discover personal fulfillment. Both are nasty options.
   Yes, how terrible! Your wife wants personal fulfillment? Egads!
   Until you arrange your life in a way that convinces her she is indispensable to your success, your relationship will remain less than fulfilling.  You need her and she is waiting for you to show her the way.  It is her nature to be your helper. Don't think she will be fulfilled doing other things.
   Well, I agree that a spouse needs to know they are important to the other one.  I don't like the word "convince" because I associate it with "manipulate into getting my way"; but that could just be me.  I think it's terrible that Michael has to tell his readers that they need their wives. Throughout this book so far, I've often wondered what kind of men Michael writes for, and they don't sound at all like men I want to know.
   A question I have is: how are men supposed to show women the way? Why is it the responsibility of the man? Wasn't the point of Debi's book how an "aged woman" tells young wives how to be?  And wouldn't you think that a book geared towards men would be a lot more of meeting the wife's needs, and not so much acknowledging the needs of the husband?  My thinking is that if the book to wives is about being a good wife, then the book for the husbands should be about being a good husband.  Putting her needs first, taking care of her, showing that you love her (in her love language).  But no.  Michael thinks that the book for husbands should be about "bringing the woman" to the point where the man is satisfied with her.  How messed up is that??
   Also, I hate to break it to Michael, but there are plenty of women who find fulfillment in life outside of the home.  And plenty of women whose nature isn't OK with being merely the helper.
   You did not marry a trained, ready-for-the-job helper. Her nature is suited to your needs, but she comes to you untrained.  She is a prodigy waiting for instruction.  If you feel she is unequipped to help you, then take the time and exercise the patience necessary to equip her.  The goal is not the efficiency of producing a product; it is the union of two souls in the work of life.
   I'm certain he could have used this paragraph as the summary of his book. But if, from birth, a woman is taught that her place is the home, and she is trained in the arts of cooking, childrearing, budgeting, gardening, etc-then what does Michael mean by untrained?  Perhaps the woman is untrained in the specifics of pleasing THIS man?  And why does Michael assume women are prodigies? No matter how much my husband attempts to "equip" me with a desire for cleaning, I will never be a maestro.  I hate cleaning and always have.  It seems to me that Michael's book is all about changing women into what the man wants.  Which is funny, because that's what Debi advocates, too.
   I just don't understand how people can believe that 1+1=1.  It doesn't! Not in mathematics or in life!  2 individuals come into a marriage.  2 individuals have needs that must be filled. 2 individuals that are...individual.  It's not 1 primary and 1 secondary (meant to support and help the primary).  That's not a healthy relationship at all-especially not a healthy marriage!
.
Alright. I have good news and bad news now.  The good news is that we are FINALLY out of chapter 4.  The bad news is the next several chapters talk about the 3 types of men.  I would suggest you read Libby Anne's review of "Created to Be a Help Meet" of that section, just for a refresher.
 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Where do I go from here?

I'm hurt and confused and conflicted and angry.  On the trip to Spokane, when my stepdad and I would fight, my mom wouldn't stick up for me, wouldn't defend me, and would blame me for starting things. (That last part was true about half the time, I'll be honest).
   Her love language is gifts; she was always spending money on my sister and I.  Buying us nice clothes, toys, etc when we were little.  She worked a lot and wasn't often around (I was a 1st grade latchkey kid), so she tried to make up for it with money.  When we got older, she never said no to things.  Even going into extreme credit card debt because she would spend more on us than she made.  To this day, I have a hard time managing money because I was never taught anything but instant gratification.  I'm 27, and she still pays my student loan, buys us groceries, and goes crazy overboard at Christmas.
   Since we got back on Friday, I haven't talked to her because my feelings were hurt.  She's tried to call and email a few times, but I was sorting through my feelings.  On the drive back Friday, I went back and forth with just being done with her.  Because I need more than just money, if that makes sense.  I want to be treated like an adult. I want her to respect me and take me seriously. I want her to spend time with me doing fun things, like she did with my sister.  I want...to matter to her, and to know it.
   So today, she texted me and said she loved me and was thinking about me.  I responded with: "if you love me, then please try showing it in a way that doesn't involve you throwing money at me and thinking your job as a parent is done. perhaps by sticking up for me with [stepdad].  or not treating me like an inconvenience. especially as i gave up a week of my time, and my van to support you through the stephanie mess."
   She replied with "I thank you for your assist, and time."
I don't know where to go from here. I wanted so much more than what she gave. I wanted an apology, an explanation, a...something. I don't know. In so many other places in my life, I've said "If they are bringing me down, then F them."  I have no long term relationships because I drop people like hot potatoes.  And this is something I've considered time and again with my mom.  But now I am really leaning towards being done with her, as horrible as that sounds.
   I can't have a conversation with her that is anything more than slightly superficial.  I can't talk about my feelings, I can't talk about the hurts I have and the pain I'm going through.  I couldn't talk to her when I was a kid; I suffered through an abusive teacher for years before she wondered my grades in those classes were so low. I can't talk to her about my bipolar, or recovering from abuse.  I can't talk to her about how I felt cheated out of a childhood.  I can talk about how irritated I am about the foster kid situation.  If I need money, she'll give it, or buy us groceries or something.  But I think I deserve more.
   On the other hand, part of me feels like I should go easy on her because she won't change.  I know that she's still trying to recover from an extremely abusive childhood, an abusive first marriage, and a difficult marriage with my stepdad.  I logically understand she can't give me what I need, but emotionally, I can't stop myself from resenting her for it.
   I just don't know what to do.

Monday, September 23, 2013

CTNAHM-How Do I Need Thee-Part 13 (Foreplay and Minute Men)

pages 57-59

Last post, we learned about premarital sex.  Or rather, how, if a couple has premarital sex, than the sensitive, vulnerable woman bears the guilt of it and becomes a cold fish.  Today's sections are..well, I'll just let you read them.  If you're not into terrible sexual innuendos and cringe-worthy euphemisms, then I'd suggest skipping this section.

Text is in purple

(Still in the section I Need Her to Fulfill My Erotic Desires)
Romance
   There is another cause for a woman's lack of enthusiasm for sex.  The "weaker vessel" is more sensitive by nature and cannot easily separate erotic pleasure from romantic feelings.  A man needs no association to become aroused and seek fulfillment   But most women view sex as the fulfillment of deep feelings of love, protection, and commitment.  You may marry a virgin and she freezes up on you like dry ice if you fail to draw her close to you emotionally.
   Michael has a point.  Sometimes women (or people in general) want to make love, not just sex.  Though the fact that he genders it is, unsurprising.  I really wish he would stop with this weaker vessel stuff.  Women's bodies -and minds- are not physically, emotionally, spiritually, whateverally weaker than men's.  Biologically speaking, at least. I suppose if you're cultured to think that women are weak, then it becomes kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy.  The fix? Stop teaching that! It hurts everyone-women, men, and children.
   Also in this paragraph, we see Michael assumes all men are the same.  This is one of his favourite tactics.  Some men need "association" to become aroused.  Not every man is 100% horny all the time.  Not every woman is a cold fish.  And both are extremes; there is plenty of gray area in between.  In a physical relationship, there are naturally peaks and valleys for both parties.  A good relationship will be able to whether these without...well, freaking out.
   I don't like how Michael consistently compares women to inanimate objects.  Freezing up like dry ice?  Why can't he just say "Failure to draw your wife close, emotionally, will make her feel like you don't care.  Why would she want to share her body with someone she feels doesn't care about her?"  (I tried to phrase it like Michael should-if I had been giving the advice, I would have made it gender-neutral)
   Or you may marry a girl pure in body and mind, but you have a history of being a pervert, either through pornography or former immorality.  The innocent-of-heart girl comes to marriage expecting gentle love, but she immediately encounters the raw and twisted passion of a man who sees his wife as an extension of his masturbation or as a whore to give him pleasure.  
   This is actually a valid point.  My ex had a sexual addiction (porn, call girls, Craigslist girls), and my first sexual experiene was very much an extension of masturbation.  However, I don't believe that simply viewing pornography will turn one -male or female- into a pervert.  Neither will "former immorality".  It is my belief that perversion is in a person's nature, not so much in what they view.  Also, I find it very ironic that "3 times on my wedding night" Michael is calling out men who treat their women as "whores to give pleasure".  I seem to recall Michael's honeymoon, where his half-asleep new bride was "willing, but not very active".  It's almost like Michael is not self-aware at all.
She is shocked and feels soiled.  Her first experience of sex, though in marriage, are nonetheless dirty, soiled, an sordid.  She calls you an animal and crawls into a fetal position emotionally, disillusioned with the frightening world of salacious lust.  You didn't come to marriage caring about her; you just cared about legitimatizing your own erotic self-stimulation.
   One thing that confuses me is how in purity culture, sex is: bad, evil, painful, shameful outside of marriage.  Once the ring is on, it's glorious.  So if a girl has never had any sexual experience, how would she really know the difference between "salacious lust" and gentle lovemaking?  It's kind of like needing glasses.  Until you get an eye exam, you naturally assume that the world is fuzzy for everyone.  I might be wrong here, but unless a person has an outside frame of reference for sexual behaviour, wouldn't they just think however it happened was how it was supposed to?
   Another point.  In Debi's book, she says even if it hurts, you should take it.  Take it and act like you like it-you don't want to hurt your poor husband's fragile ego, after all.  Oh, and that bit about not coming into marriage caring about her? Let's quote Michael's own words, shall we?
                My immediate goal in marriage was to make up for all those sexually frustrated years-the sooner the better.  A friend of mine that married two years before I did had bragged that he was able to "know" his bride five times on their wedding night.  He was a puny fellow, so I had no doubt I would best his brag, but the truth is, three times was all I could muster, and just barely.
   Call me jaded, but this doesn't really sound like he cares about anything other than sex.
   When two inexperienced people come together in marriage, they slowly discover the variety of eroticism at a pace that keeps their relationship expanding and advancing into something more complex and richer in experience.  The Bible calls copulation "knowing."  "Adam knew his wife Eve and she brought forth a son."  The innocent couple comes to know more and more of each other at a pace that is not jarringly shocking.  When the sexually experienced man brings his highly tuned passions into the bedroom of a naive virgin, he looks like a nasty old man and can scare her into withdrawal.
   This might be just me, but when two inexperienced people (who haven't had proper sex-ed) come together, it's awkward.  Nobody knows how to put what where, or how what makes them happy.  Plus, if a wife is told that she has to "fake it" so that her husband won't feel put down, why would the husband have any motivation to "advance" the relationship into something richer?  And I'm failing to see how an experienced man (as long as he's gentle) would scare a woman into withdrawal.  Just because you've had sex doesn't make you a pervert!  I would think an experienced spouse could make things easier for the non-experienced one.  If nothing else, knowing what turns you on, and being able to tell your partner that, makes sex a heck of a lot better.  If you know next to nothing about your body, it will take a heck of a long time for your spouse to magically figure it out.

The Two-Minute Pop
  One final situation of which I am familiar that causes marriages to fizzle is a husband who is just hasty and insensitive to his wife's needs.  He is too quick on the trigger and doesn't take aim.  He takes the first shot and the hunting trip is over before she knows it has started, and is left sitting like a kid who missed her ride to the party.  I know many innocent and naive young men who came to marriage with no expectations except that which nature suggests, and they have no idea that women are not emotionally and physically furnished like them.  Take time to court your wife, to woo her, to give her relaxed pleasure, and she will climb the mountain with you, maybe beat you to the top and want to go again, and again!
   I don't know about you, but I am feeling really...awkward and icky after reading this.  Why not just say "If you don't last very long in the bedroom, make sure to help your partner orgasm first."  After re-reading the first sentence, and looking back at the honeymoon post, I honestly believe Michael has first hand knowledge of the hasty and insensitive man.  Also, if a man is consistently "too quick on the trigger and doesn't take aim", perhaps he should see a doctor.  He could have a genuine medical problem.  Have him learn some Kegel exercises.
   Hey, Michael, how are boys from purity culture -especially one where something like holding hands is considered too physical- supposed to have other expectations for sex except what nature suggests? I grew up Mormon, and sex was a dirty word. Masturbation was a sin, so was lustful thoughts.  Church leaders would literally send people with masturbation problems to the LDS 12-Step program to help them end their "addiction".  I imagine it's somewhat similar in evangelical Christiandom.   If you're not taught anything, how can your expectations be anything but basica biology?!  How are guys who know very little about sex, supposed to understand what it takes for female orgasms?

Once again (like pretty much every other section), all these issues can be fixed by TALKING TO YOUR SPOUSE. If you're not happy in the bedroom, for whatever reason, talk to your spouse.  If you feel used and soiled, talk to your spouse.  If your partner isn't meeting your needs, whatever they may be, talk to your spouse.  If that doesn't work, talk to a professional.  The point, which Michael consistently misses, is marriage or any partnership requires honest communication.  Not just one party trying to change the other.  Not trying to manipulate your spouse into being what you want them to be.  Talk about your needs, wants, and goals.  Let your partner speak.  Don't get defensive, or upset.  Have a mature, adult conversation and work together to find solutions that work.  But I guess in PearlWorld, that just isn't an option.  How sad.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Death and Mormon Guilt

My sister died last week.  My mom, stepdad, and I traveled (by car) to Spokane from Kansas.  The trip was terrible for lots of reasons, but the one I want to talk about is the amount of Mormon guilt.
   As followers of this blog know, I have recently de-converted from Mormonism.  My mom took it surprisingly well, but my stepdad did not.  We have never been close; he told me when I was 13 that no one would ever love me because I was fat.  This from the "priesthood holder" in the house.  I don't do well with  male authority anyway, but especially not those that demand respect based only on their genitalia. I guess what I'm trying to say is my stepdad and I have pretty much hated each other since my mom married him 15 years ago.
   Anyway, we're on the road, and mom wonders where my sister is at that moment, cosmically speaking.  I pipe up "Well, according to your Mormon doctrine, she is in spirit prison to atone for her sins." (Basically Mormons believe that everyone but temple-recommend holding Mormons have a time to atone for their sins and accept the gospel before Judgement)
   Mom didn't like that answer.  She felt that my sister had suffered enough hell on Earth that she shouldn't have to suffer more in the afterlife.  I pointed out that the very doctrine she believes doesn't make exceptions-and everything my sister did started as a choice.  My mom responded that she hoped God would see how rough poor Stef had things, and go easy on her.  Once again, me and my big mouth reminded her of her beliefs.  "You believe God is fair. Why would he make an exception for her, but not for, say, a murder?"
   By this point, my stepdad was upset. "God is fair! God is always fair! And God knows how much pain she was in here!"  I said that the God I want to believe in doesn't hold people to a standard of perfection, knowing that they won't reach it.  Now my mom starts crying, because she "won't ever see either of her kids in eternity, because [they] have chosen to live contrary to [their] beliefs."  Then they started playing hymns.

   The next day, mom was musing how Stef ended up where she was: eating disorders, alcoholic, etc.  I said she'd been sneaking out to drink and party since High School.  (Mom worked 70 miles away 4 days a week, so she wasn't around, and Stepdad never cared-he just did his own thing).  Mom didn't believe me, so I told her that when she was gone, my sister would sneak out and not come home until 2-3 in the morning; and I'd know, because I stayed up waiting until she got home.  I told her that Stef experimented with pot in High School, and other things she didn't want to know.
   Then my stepdad looked at my mom and said "You know, I bet this is why the Church teaches that one parents should stay at home.  We should have lived off my salary."  ?!?!
   First, how can you say that to someone that just lost their kid?  It sounded to me like he was saying "If we were a good Mormon family, she would never have been rebellious."  There are plenty of "good" Mormon families with kids that rebel.  Rebelling is a part of being a teenager and thinking for yourself.
   Second, in the past 15 years, he's made an average of 20K a year. Versus my mom's nursing salary.  In his mind, poverty and following the prophet is preferable to...I don't know...being able to afford a house and not be on food stamps.
   Third, anyone who has ever lost someone close can tell you that there is a tremendous amount of guilt.  Survivor's guilt, guilt for things done in the past, guilt for things never done; the list goes on.  How can someone throw more guilt onto that?  How self-righteous can you be, to insinuate that your child's problems and subsequent death could have been prevented if only you'd lived in poverty and done things "the right way"?

   It made me physically sick.  The amount of guilt and shame Mormons heap on each other without even realising it is ridiculous.  Even people responding on my mom's Facebook made comments similar to stepdad's.  It's like people think that if they follow the good Mormon list, their kids will magically turn out to be perfect.  It's blatantly not true.  And it's so, so harmful to those that ingest these beliefs and judge themselves by it. I wish my mom could open her eyes and realise there is more to life than the to-do list of Mormondom.  I wish she could find peace in both of her daughter's choices.  I wish...

Friday, September 20, 2013

CTNAHM-How Do I Need Thee Part 12 (How Michael Turns Debi On)

Hello, everyone! I apologise for my sporadic posting, but I've been traveling to and from Spokane this past week.  I'm back home now though, so things should be back on schedule.

p55-57
Text is in purple

Alrighty!  We are finally at the section we have all been waiting for.  I hope you guys are ready for this.

I Need My Wife to Meet My Erotic Desires
  I am not a sex therapist and don't want to be. So I'm not going to say all that needs to be said, not here and not in response to any letters you write.  But we are going to view the subject through a window of light and hope.  Read the scriptures below very carefully.
   Interesting. Michael claims that he's not a sex therapist, yet he wrote a book about sex.  It's called "Holy Sex-The Song of Songs".  And later on in the book, Michael talks more about sex.  Then again, I guess sex therapists concentrate more on helping people overcome sexual dysfunctions, rather than bragging about their sex life.  So perhaps it's a good thing that Michael isn't one.
   Hebrews 13:4-Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whormongers and adulterers God will judge.
   
  Proverbs 5:19-Let her be as the loving hind and pleasant roe; let her breasts satisfy thee at all times; and be thou ravished always with her love.

Song of Solomon 2:4-6-He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love.  Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples: for I am sick of love.  His left hand is under my head, and his right hand doth embrace me.

1 Corinthians 7:3-5-Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband.  The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband has not power of his own body, but the wife.  Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.

Interesting how all of these talk about what the woman can do for the man.  There is some reciprocity, but mostly just "women are for a-sexing".  Also, I would like to point out how the last verse- often touted by Christians to "prove" that the wife's body isn't her own-says that the man's body isn't his own, either.  For all the maintaining that men deserve sex-on-demand, there's not much about men waiting for a time that works for their wife.  I think that if each spouse's body belongs to the other, then having a time when both are "in the mood", would work a lot better than guilt or forced coercion.

Associations
   Through the years, in the process of hearing testimonies and counseling with many families, it has become clear that the reason most wives are frigid in sex is because of the guilt and shame they brought into the marriage.  Our first experiences of anything stupendous, and especially sex, create and association that remains with us the rest of our lives.  When the first sexual experiences occur in a context of shame and guilt, thereafter sex is associated with shame.  The sensitive nature of women leaves them more subject to the restrains of guilt.  If you, Sir, had sex with your wife before you were married, her present coldness is probably related to the residue of guilt.
   So Michael's not a sex therapist, but he's fine with dispensing sex advice.  I suppose having the mandate of God to preach gives you carte blanche to tap into mystical knowledge.  Though he makes a good point when he says that frigidity in sex can be caused by guilt and shame.  It can also be caused by physical pain, psychological issues, or just plain not liking being treated like a piece of meat.  There are tons of other reasons, other than guilt and shame, that cause frigidity.  Also, it's perfectly normal for men to be "frigid".  Just because someone has a penis does not mean he walks around 100% horny all the time.
   I think it's interesting how Michael completely ignores the woman's first time.  While sex is stupendous for men the first time, for women, it is often painful or awkward.  Especially when the woman has grown up in a culture that teaches "SEX IS BAD...until marriage, then it's awesomely amazing."  It's very difficult to flip the switch from "Sex is bad" to "Sex is wonderful".  Often, in these cultures, even sanctified, marriage sex can cause guilt or shame.  Not to mention, when coupled with the "women's bodies aren't their own" mentality, the woman is expected to put out whenever the man wants.  Which might not be when the woman wants, but she is cultured into thinking she has to.  That can lead to resentment, and, if the woman's mind is not into it, lack of lubrication can cause physical pain. And there is such a thing as marital rape; it is a very real problem and needs to be addressed.  Perhaps in another post.
   Finally, if a couple has pre-marital sex, the wife has to bear the burden of the guilt.  Because, apparently, she is so sensitive.  But what about the guilt the man should have?  Didn't he grow up in the same purity culture?  Oh wait.  Boys will be boys...silly me.
   Speaking of sneaking around to have sex, Solomon mused, "Stolen waters are sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant (Proverbs 9:17)".  A woman may be hot before marriage, eating stolen bread in secret and finding it quite stimulating, but once sexual desires are satiated in marriage, the guilt and shame that was shouted down by youth and passion begins to assert itself.  Eroticism is overridden by shame and the wife does what she should have done before marriage; she freezes up sexually and crosses her arms in front of her body, shutting out the source of her guilt.
   Interesting.  I'm still waiting for the part where the man has to share the guilt for being sexually active before marriage.  But it doesn't look like it.  Clearly, the woman deserves the guilt and shame because she wanted sex.  Is that what everyone else is getting from this paragraph?  "She was hot...eroticism is overridden by shame...the wife should have [...]freezes up sexually."  So if I'm reading this correctly, a woman wants sex, then eventually realizes how wrong it is outside of marriage, then does what she should have done at the beginning, and keeps her knees together.
   Years ago, I heard from a man that his wife couldn't get sexually aroused unless he took her parking.  That was a term used for driving to some out-of-the-way-place and "necking, smooching" or having sex.  Her experiences before marriage had defined the terms of arousal and she couldn't shake them.
    I don't really see what's wrong with doing things the way your partner likes. That's called marriage.  Or compromise.  Take your pick.  I'm irritated with how he assumes her experiences before marriage mean "defines the terms" of the arousal.  First off, I've read lots of stories of sexual abuse victims, and many of them can only experience sexual arousal in situations that remind them of the abuse.  It sounds twisted, but it's fairly common.  Second, how does Michael know about the woman's experiences before marriage?  Finally, how is a woman's (or person's) sexual needs dictating the terms of arousal, a problem?  Are things supposed to be only the man's way?  Where does it say that in the Bible?
   Most recently, a woman wrote and said that she met her husband online and they communicated through the digital media, finally meeting in person and eventually getting married.  After several weeks of glorious sex, they cooled down, he especially.  But they made a discovery one day when they were texting between home and work.  Now he goes into one room and she in another and they text back and forth until they both get aroused. I am laughing again.  I don't think I can stop.  The world gets crazier every day!
   So people sext, Michael.  It's called the digital age for a reason.  I would think it's a good thing that this couple knows what works for them and both parties are OK with doing it.  Frankly, it's nothing to laugh out.  And I certainly don't like the judgmental tone.  It seems to me Michael is saying "That's not the way I do it!  It must be absurd. Chuckle chuckle."
   I get my wife aroused by walking in the room and uttering a couple grunts.  She gets me aroused by...well I don't know; I've been perpetually aroused for the past 40 years and one week.  We have been married 40 years today as I write this.  The additional week occurred just before marriage. 
   Wow. Just wow. I'd really be impressed if grunting is all it took to turn on anyone.  Apparently it works like magic for Michael.  He walks in "Urg...Grog...Grmm" and Debi swoons.  I guess foreplay isn't really an issue since Michael's manly grunts is all that's necessary to get things started.  I think it's odd that Michael doesn't know what it is about his wife that turns him on.  Most people have kind of a list.  It sounds a bit like just the idea of accessible sex is what matters to Michael, not the wife.  Also, I think it's interesting that he only mentions being aroused for as long as he's been engaged/married, yet in the introduction, he describes in loving detail beautiful girls that he loved in the past.  Oh, and btw, Michael, permanent arousal is not a good thing.  Viagra bottles specify that an erection more than 4 hours is a medical condition.  40 years seems just...painful.
   When Deb and I were married we were both virgins and the only association either of us have with sex is the memories we have made together.  I thank God for that.  But I know some of you are not so blessed.  Yet there is a way to undo the screwy associations that suffocate your sex life.
   I'm not a huge proponent of the virgins-at-marriage thing.  Well, more particularly, I'm not a fan of no sexual experience before signing up to only have one partner.  You've got to know what works for you, what turns you on, and what you don't like.  Yes, a good partner will help you explore those preferences, but there's no guarantees you'll get a good partner.  I've known a lot of Mormon girls who get married, perfectly pure and virtuous, and after marriage, not enjoy sex (even though they were promised it would be fantastic).  Turns out, these women, and their husbands, didn't know that women were different, arousally.  So the man thought that he would enjoy sex the way he did, because he did.  And the woman thought there was somethign wrong with her because she didn't.  I've known 70 year old women that have never had an orgasm.  All because they don't know how they work.
   Moral of this story: male/female/trans/whatever-know what turns you on. Know what makes you uncomfortable.  Know what you don't like.  If you don't have a partner willing to help you with that, then take some time for yourself and figure it out.

  So Michael is basically saying in this section that premarital sex is bad, because the poor, sensitive woman will latch on to that guilt/shame and not give the deserving man his nookie.  Apparently guys can have pre-marital sex guilt free.  I love me some marriage equality!
 
 
 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

CTNAHM-How Do I Need Thee Part 11 (Treat Your Wife Like the Weaker Vessel She Is)

(I'm driving from Washington to Kansas the next few days...that's why all the posts are crammed in today)
p 54-54
Text in purple

I hope y'all are ready for a whole lot of Bible. Because even though this section is 4 paragraphs long, it packs in a LOT of scripture.

I Need Her to Cover Me In Prayer
It is essential that "husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together in the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered. (1 Peter 3:7) [emphasis Michael's].
Oh. I had wondered why in the honeymoon story, Debi referred to herself as a "weaker vessel".  What I don't understand is why the Pearl's take this analogy-because that's what it is-so literally.  My interpretation of this scripture is "treat your wife well because, as a person, she's fragile".   Not OMG WOMENZ ARE TEH WEAKZORZ!  And I'm not meaning fragile in a demeaning way.  People in general shouldn't be tossed about, harassed, abused, or be yelled at.
   Life requires a great deal of grace from God, but a particular grace for one unique purpose, and it is accessed only by means of two keys.  The wife gets one key and the husband gets the other.  They must go into heaven's bank together and insert the two keys at the same time if either of them is going to acesss the grace of life.
   Yes, life is hard.  I can see how some people believe that praying makes a difference. But thinking that both parties need to pray (apparently at the same time) is a bit confusing.  What about marriages where one spouse isn't Christian?  Or don't those count?  Also, could someone please explain to me what the "Grace of Life" is.  This is the fourth or fifth time Michael has used it, and I have no clue what it means.
   If, according to the passage, a husband fails to "give honour" unto his wife, "the weaker vessel," then their prayers are hindered.  Husbands who are ignorant of their wife's needs and fail to relate to them as weaker vessels, not dwelling "with them according to knowledge" will fail to "obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need" (Hebrews 4:16).
   One thing I've noticed about Michael (and I've found the same problem in Mormonism) is that there is a lot of telling what to do, without saying how to do it.  For example, how should a man honour his wife?  Michael doesn't really say.  He just says "Do it or else!"  I'm really starting to hate this "weaker vessel" thing. It sounds like a reason to treat women like lesser beings.  If you believe that God created one gender weaker, then you will, naturally have less respect for them.  And despite being on page 55 by now, I have yet to read about a wife's needs, except for "she needs to be needed".  Is that truly all he thinks women want?  If so, it's disturbing.
   I don't know what Michael means by relating to wives as the weaker vessel, but I don't think it'd be complimentary.  I'm thinking of how I relate to people I think aren't as [insert adjective here] as I am.  I tend to be a bit snotty and condescending, because THEY won't understand anyway.  Oooh!  We have a threat! Considering how often Debi used threats against women, I have to say, I'm a bit disappointed at the way Michael threatens men.  I guess I'm still hoping Michael will be as forthright and blunt as his introduction promised.
   Mister, this may be the most important warning in this book.  By not relating to your wife with knowledge of her status as the weaker vessel-the vessel being her body-your prayer line to heaven is cut, as is hers.  That means the person closest to you in the world will not be able to pray for you, and as such, you will not be a recipient of the grace you will need to deal with the issues of life.
   OK. I have a question.  If it's the woman's body that's the weaker vessel (and where does it specify that in scripture?), then what about her mind?  If women's bodies really were the weaker vessel-and really, all you need to do is watch the women's gymnastics team to prove that theory wrong-then why would an all-knowing God give childbearing to them? It's interesting that while Michael stresses women are weaker in body, he hints that they are also weaker in mind. And as such, can't handle big decisions, responsibilities, and problems (that's why they need a MAN).
   The weaker vessel nonsene aside, I'm really steamed about this prayer line part.  As a Mormon, I was taught everyone has agency (which means ability to make choices), and people have to bear consequence for their own choices.  But Michael is preaching if men don't treat their wives like a weaker vessel, her prayers won't matter to God.  Apparently women can't have a relationship with God without their husband.  Which makes Debi's idea that a praying, God-fearing wife's actions can transform her heathen husband into a Christian, a bit confusing.  Why would a loving God be OK with the wife's communication line being cut because the husband is a jerk? It just doesn't make sense.  And yet again, no where does it talk about men reciprocating and praying for their wives.

   Alright. Here comes the scriptures.  Weirdly enough, apparently Michael thinks they make enough of a point without bothering to interpret or explain.

   1 Timothy 2:8 I will therefore that men pray ever where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath or doubting.
   
   James 5:16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed.  The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.
  
    Colossians 1:9 For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.

Interesting.  The title of this section is "I Need Her to Cover Me in Prayer", yet none of these scriptures talks about women at all.  They are all telling men to pray, to confess, and pray more. In fact, besides the fact these verses talk about prayer, there's not really much in them that helps flesh out this section.  It's a bit odd, actually.

So overall, men need their wives to cover them in prayer.  How this happens is, apparently, men treat women like the weaker vessels they are, and then husbands and wives use their special praying keys together, and God listens to their prayer and gives them mercy and grace.  Or something like that.
 

On Grief

So my sister died last week.  She was 26.  She had been battling her demons for along time, and they finally won out.  I'm glad she's not struggling anymore and is at peace.
  Death, though, is a lot more complex now that I'm trying to deconvert from Mormonism.  Before, when someone died, it was easy to say, "Oh, you'll see them again in the Celestial Kingdom" (Mormon Super-Heaven, basically).  But hearing that so many times from a formerMO standpoint, I really understand how empty those words are.
   It's along the lines of "If you live well, God will rewards you".  Maybe it's because I"m a person who enjoys instant gratification, but I feel if I'm going to sacrifice and "be good", then I deserve a reward here and now.  Along the same lines, I have seen how little it means to think that Stef will be waiting on the other side.  Because it doesn't change that she's dead; it doesn't change how she died.  It just feels like an empty promise.
   I've watched how her passing has affected Mom, and I don't think she feels comforted by that thought, either.  Of course, part of it may be because of how my sister lived her life.  She had severe eating disorders, was into pot (and possibly other drugs), and was a severe alcoholic.  She slept around, was unfaithful to her husband (possibly both husbands, we don't know), and didn't believe in God.  So when my mom and step-dad were talking about seeing her in heaven, mom was worried.
   She kept saying things like "Well, Jesus forgave the prostitute."  It tore me apart. Not only did she have to grieve because her baby was gone, but now she's coupled with the uncertainty of whether or not she will see her daughter again.  And I think that's a terrible thing to go through. Not just during Stef's life, but her death as well.
   As for me, I'm unsure what I believe.  But when I stood over her body  at the funeral home, I told her that I hoped in her next life, she had less pain. I would hate to think that this is the only life we get.  Even an eternal life in perfect heaven with perfect people is less preferable to life here and now.  I wasn't super close with my sister, but it makes me sad to think the only "real" life she'll ever know revolves around addiction and self-hatred.  It makes me hope reincarnation is real, and she can learn from her mistakes and try again.  To think that this life is it, then we're judged and spend eternity living the consequences of that is really upsetting.
   I think my sister knew the end was coming.  We have always had an adversarial relationship, but in the last few months had talked things out.  We said what needed to be said, and apologised for what we needed to.  We were almost to the point where we could be friends.  And this sounds terrible, but I'm not sorry she's gone.  Because she had told me that she knew her habits would kill her, and that she was in a lot of pain. She was tired of trying for recovery, tired of letting mom down, and tired of feeling out of control.  I think this was the only way for her to find peace.  It tears me up, because she hated our dad so much, but died just like his side of the family: alone and drunk.
   I wish I had been better to her.  She told me once that it was for the best that I couldn't have kids because I was a terrible mother to her.  We were 13 months apart-how the heck was I supposed to be a good mother?  But it's true-I feel like I raised her. Mom was either at school, or at work, and there was no one else.  Did I screw up?  Of course.  And I keep telling myself that kids can't raise kids.  Especially kids that were damaged themselves.  But I look at the course our lives took, and I feel selfish. Selfish because I have a great marriage, and a relatively stable life, and she didn't.  I feel like I went wrong somewhere.
    Some of her recovery journals talk about how I would call her "fat, stupid, and ugly", and how much that affected her.  On one hand, I feel like I caused her eating disorder.  On the other, I'm angry because she called me names right back (what sibling set doesn't torture the other? especially in a broken, dysfunctional home), and yet I'm the bad guy.
     I'm irritated at mom, because all she remembers is the "bright, caring girl who had a lot of love to give (yes she had some issues, but she was getting better)".  The Stef that I knew was lying, manipulative, sociopathic, and jaded.  Yes, she was capable of good things; she helped others, was supportive at time, and was good to her friends.  But that's not the sister I knew very well.  My sister and I were always in competition for what-we felt-was a very finite amount of Mom's love.
   So do I have survivor's guilt?  I don't think I do, really.  I feel guilty that I wasn't better to her, and then I feel worse for trying to rationalize circumstances.  Overall, I don't know how to feel.  Except maybe relief.  Relief that the roller coaster is over, she is safe now (wherever she is), and that she is free from her chains.

CTNAHM-How Do I Need Thee Part 10-(Only Men Have Dreams)

p 53-54
Text is in purple

I Need Her to Support My Vision
Every man has a vision, and visions are tenuous and iffy by nature.  A man with a vision hopes to surmount difficult circumstances, doing what others think is impossible.  A vision will waver like a mirage, sometimes promising cool water and other times looking like shifting sand.  Most men lose hope of fulfilling their dreams and settle for a TV series.  If you have a vision, you need a helper suited to that vision.  It is not necessary for her to believe in it as you do, but she must believe in you.  A man can keep his own vision alive if his wife runs his supply line and praises his endeavors.
   First thing I noticed is that it's only MEN with visions.  Nowhere does it talk about supporting a wife's visions, or a wife's dream.  Another thing that stuck out to me is how flowery Michael's language can get. I've noticed it before, but never commented.  But he sure uses lots of analogies, idioms, and other comparison tools. I don't know how many men actually give up on their dreams, but perhaps some men just flat out like TV?  Being interested in TV doesn't mean you've given up on a vision.
   I wonder what Michael thinks the criteria for a "suitable" helper is.  Oh wait. There it is.  She will believe in you, praise you, and be your supply line. What the heck is a supply line??  I also don't like the implication that a man without his wife's support can't achieve his own vision.  Yes, support is nice, but it's not necessary.
   Most of us aim for more than we will ever accomplish, but in aiming we accomplish much more than our high school teachers ever dreamed.  It is not the end that makes a man successful; it is all the many joyous days of trying.  A help meet that supports our vision will make life a journey worth the effort, and we will be remembered for our humanity if not our accomplishments.
   Interesting.  While I agree that most people have bigger dreams than reality will allow, I don't think that aiming for far out visions is the best possible solution.  For example, I weigh about 325lbs.  I could set a goal to get down to 150.  But every time I exercise and eat right, if I were to look at the scale, and it still read 315ish, I would get discouraged and say "Screw that! I'll be happy and fat!"  I think that having more realistic, smaller goals would be the better way to accomplish more things. If nothing else, it helps stave off burnout!  I've heard before "it's not the destination, it's the journey", but if the journey is fraught with disappointment and failure, it would be hard to maintain confidence and support in the journeyer.
   Another interesting thing I noticed was the bit about high school teachers.  The demographic this book aims at is Christian Homeschooling families.  So I think it's funny phrasing.  I'm also amused by the mild threat that an unsuitable helper will make life not worth living.  Though I have absolutely no idea what he means when he says "remembered for our humanity".  He is close to the last person I would consider humane.  I just don't get it.
   If your wife denigrates your vision, it indicates she is not being fulfilled as a person   Tend to her needs and she will get so contented she will tell you that you sing well, you are talented, smarter than everyone else, and should be promoted to work at the cash register instead of cooking the french fries.
   Ah. Here we are again.  If your wife doesn't do A, it's because she's not being fulfilled.  And how does the man fulfill his wife's needs? By letting her be his help meet. And once again, Michael points out that if a man will let his wife fulfill her desire to be needed, the man will get the reward.  This is like the 4th or 5th time his advice has been "do this for her and she'll go craaaaazy trying to make you happy."  Nothing about supporting your wife because she deserves it.  Nothing about wanting to make her happy because you love her.  Nope. You want your wife to support you, nag less, and give more. And what's with the little dig about french fries?  Personally, having worked in fast food,  I would prefer to hang out by the fryer. No annoying customers there!  And what is up with what Michael says wives will say to their husbands? It reminds me of how people talk to babies or puppies.  "Who's the smartest? Who's the bestest?  You are, cutesy SnugglyPup".
   You need your woman to support your vision.  If you have no vision, I suspect you are not in good standing with your help meet.  As encouraging woman makes a man think he is taller, stronger, and smarter than he is.  And coupled with her wisdom he will be smarter.  You cannot leave her sitting at the kitchen table griping and be successful at life without her.  You may be manager at work, but that has nothing to do with life more abundant.  If you will devote your energies to building her as a person, you will have more time and energy to pursue your dreams.
   Here we are again. Men deserve women that will do XYZ for them.  Without reciprocation, because we all know silly womenz don't have enough brains for dreamin'.  Maybe it's just me, but I feel like when he says "if you have no vision, I suspect you are not in good standing with your help meet", it seems like he's saying "Change your wife's attitude, because this is who you are without her support".  Does that even make sense? Like saying it's the wife's fault.  I enjoyed that he gave a shout-out to wifely wisdom, but was a bit irritated how the only real point of a wife having that wisdom is to make the husband look better.
   Gack! There we are again!  "Build you wife up as a person".  WTF? Pretty sure she was a person before she even met you, Michael! Her person hood has nothing to do with being a wife.  Especially since Christians are anti-abortion because it kills a person (It's a child, not a choice).  What I really feel he's saying her is the more you make your wife into what you want her to be, the less time you will have to spend figuring out what she wants.  Did anyone else get that?
   Overall, while this section wasn't as toxic as some, it still left a bad taste in my mouth. I've said it before, but I never, ever, ever want to be a wife like what Michael says women should be. I want my husband to encourage me to have dreams, and the support me in them.  I want to feel like my husband tries to make me happy because he loves me and wants me to feel loved, not because he wants me to change more to his liking.  Honestly? I feel terrible for the poor wives and husbands who read the Pearl's books and take them as gospel.  They don't really stand a chance to have a happy marriage following this advice. At best, you get a roommate with benefits relationship. At worst, you have a martyr and a tyrant. Neither of which sound very appealing.

Friday, September 13, 2013

CTNAHM-How Do I Need Thee Part 9 (Michael Made Debi's Book Softer!)

p 51-53
Text is in purple.

I Need Her Counsel and Judgement

Headstrong, independent men sometimes forget that in the "multitude of counselors there is safety (Proverbs 24:6)" "For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. (Romans 14:7)"
Mister, you need counsel.  Having done many stupid things, I don't trust Michael Pearl like I did when I was young and knew everything.  I have gotten dumber over the years.

   But I will still admit that early in our marriage, I didn't want my wife's advice.  At the time I felt that she was minimizing me in her criticism, so it angered Boss Hogg when she "got out of place" and took the lead.  At least, that is the way I interpreted her suggestions. I will tell you the truth: I don't know what happened first.  Maybe she gained wisdom in the way she offered input or maybe I became less sensitive to suggestions.  But the end result is that we grew and matured to the point where I trust her judgments and she trusts mine, and we both know we can be wrong and therefore are open to considering other possibilities.  
   Wow.  For once, Michael seems genuinely humbled and almost apologetic.  I reread the honeymoon section.  Yup. It does seem like Michael would get his hackles up when his woman steps out of line.  But I think we all know why that changed. If you read Debi's book, she talks about the wise ways women can "suggest" things without offending their husbands.  So Michael, let me answer that question for you. Your wife learned how to appease your ego to get her way. You didn't change that much. At least from where I'm standing.  Though it's very good for both parties to realize they can be wrong and should consider other possibilities.
   We can challenge one another without feeling put down.  It is a fact of human nature that all of us listen with concern and introspection to those whom we respect, and we dismiss with derision those whom we think are unworthy to challenge us.  Poor wives.
   Wait. What?  Yes, I agree that we listen better to those who we respect, and that we dismiss those we don't. But where does the "poor wives" comment come in?  Is he saying that most men don't respect their wives?  I don't know what he's trying to say here. And it's bugging me!
   The bottom line is that insecurity and fear make us angry with perceived criticism.  The smallest man has the biggest anger.
   Though you, Michael, know nothing about insecurity, right?
   Wives can irritate us more than anyone else because it is so important to a man to look good in his wife's eyes. We are still little kids trying to impress that one girl, and it's disturbing if she thinks we are less than perfect.  We all want to be praised and approved, and we get so little of it from friends or work, so we expect the little wife to provide all the positive affirmation necessary to keep up our self image.
   Um...If you expect one person to provide all the positive affirmation you need, then you are going to be hurt a lot of the time.  Because people are jerks, people screw up, and people get mad.  If your entire life revolves around ALL your needs met by one person, then it's going to be that much more painful if that person dies, leaves, or is just having a bad day and can't see to your needs.  That's why everyone (even the most independent and manly of men) needs approval from many places.
   Am I saying all this? I hope my wife doesn't read it.  I feel vulnerable being this honest.  Now don't expect me to get in a circle, hold hands, say I'm sorry, and sing kum-bah-yah.  A man still has his dignity, you know. I don't mind making changes, but I am not going to admit that I was wrong until five years have passed.  It is much easier to say "I was wrong" than "I AM wrong."  My suggestion is that you hurry and make some changes before you have to admit that you ARE an immature, selfish, and insecure jerk. It worked for me.  Then when you get old, you can be humble too.
   He is just out there sometimes, isn't he?  I don't know how you define dignity, but to me, it's not pretending like you have no faults.  In my mind, dignity is saying "I'm a jerk, and I'm sorry for hurting you."  Not changing things on the sly before you have to apologize.  And excuse me for being snarky, but Michael doesn't seem very humble to me. In fact, many times so far in this book, he makes little remarks about how he's not really humble at all.  Grrr.
   I will set you on the road to recovery with one good suggestion.  Ask your wife for advice and counsel.  Welcome her judgement even if you feel she is attacking you.  Pretend to be humble and thoughtful.  Be patient and ask her to expound further on her concerns. Pause and look enlightened.  Nod in appreciation for her wisdom and then modify your behaviour in some measure based on her suggestions.
   Yes, because pretending to care what your wife thinks is a great way to  make her feel wanted.  Though considering Debi preaches "pretend everything (especially your man) is perfect", it doesn't sound like this conversation will happen often.  But how weird is that?  Instead of encouraging honest communication, both books shout "FAKE IT AND MAYBE YOU'LL MAKE IT! It works! See how happy we are!"
   If unfolding events prove her wrong, be kind and gentle, not gloating or mentioning what is obvious.  On the other hand, if her counsel and judgement prove true, praise her for it and thank her for saving you from error.
   This is good advice.  If you listen to someone, you should either thank them for being right, or be nice about them being wrong.  This is something I need to work on. I have a tendency to say "I told you so!"  But here's the real reason Michael gives for doing things this way:
   You will make a new woman out of her. She will get ten years younger and smile like a kid opening a birthday present.  But I warn you, she will get addicted to being happy.  She will want to have sex more often and initiate contact.  If you are not up to it, you should continue with your "know it all" attitude so she can maintain her coldness as she continues to be your unhappy critic.
   Dango. Do it my way, and you'll have a happy wife that will give you sex.  Don't do it my way and you'll get none while she's still a nag.  See how great pretending can be? Dontcha?
   Instead of wanting to modify your attitude to make living with you easier on your spouse (because you love and care about them), it is so much more manly to want to do it to make your life better.  I've noticed this is quite the theme of his book. It makes me angry.
   When I write an article or a book, I submit it to my wife for editing.  If she thinks there is a part that is not appropriate, or could be said in a different way, or a point that needs a little different slant,we discuss it until I see her point of view.  There are times when she catches a skewed perspective, or bad attitude coming through my writings.  (For my reader, I would like to soften that "bad attitude" thing, for it might lead you to have a lower estimation of me, but today I will admit it just to make a point. Consider it rhetorical)
   It's good that his wife and he have a good professional relationship.  I know that when I'm writing, I like to bounce ideas off  my husband.  For example, I'm writing a murder mystery for a dinner show at a local B&B.  My husband reads my character analysis, plot points, and is hinting that he can't wait for the whole thing.  As someone who enjoys writing, it's gratifying that people care enough to want to make it better. (Thank you to my commentators, btw).
   But what is that whole nonsense about "bad attitude"?  Why even make that point?  I can guarantee, if he hadn't emphasized the bad attitude, I would have snickered, and promptly forgotten about it.  But now? I can make a whole blog post on the level of insecurity it takes to write the words in those parenthesis.  Criminey.
   I have come to trust her goodwill toward me and accept the fact that she likes me when I'm bad-sort of like a mother.  She doesn't expect me to be perfect.  She does like to see me honest and open to her wisdom. I would be stupid not to take advantage of her sanctified perspective.  I would never have developed my ministry to where it is today without my wife.  She is the sheath in which my knife rests and the stone that keeps it sharp.
   I'm beginning to suspect Michael has mommy issues.  A lot of the time when he mentions a wife, he talks about mothers.  And not in a "good wife=good mother" way, either.  I think it's funny that he claims Debi doesn't expect him to be perfect, and her book practically says "Brainwash yourself into thinking he's perfect".  I just can't get over how different their books are.  Also, I would like a definition that Michael thinks sanctified means.  He uses the word often, and in contexts that don't' make sense to me.  I thought Christ sanctified. Not husbands.
   Think about it. One day, maybe soon, I'm going to appear before the Judgement Seat of Christ to be rewarded or to lose reward.  At that day, I am sure I will wish I could go back and have a do-over in regard to many things.  Right now, before I stand before Christ embarrassed  my wife is enabling me to have that do-over, to correct areas where I am ignorant or insensitive to the Holy Spirit.  She is sanctified in some areas that I am not and can see things I cannot see.  She is not just editing my writing, she is editing my life so that the end product is better than I.  I was created to need her counsel and judgement.
   How lovely that, once again, the purpose of a wife is to save a husband from embarrassment.  Personally, I would think that if my job as a wife was to be in charge of my husbands emotions and save him from humiliation, I would ask for a raise.  Because that's a lot of crap that I shouldn't have to deal with.  (Plus everyone gets embarrassed. It's called being human.)  Gah. There's that sanctified word again!  How can people be sanctified in some things, but not others?  Why can't he just say "talented" "strong" "positive characteristic"? What about her needs? Why is this not often an issue? Oh wait. Wives need to be needed and need to be help meets. I forgot.
   In my defense, it works both ways.  I edit her writings and her life as well. Like any woman, she can get her feathers up and claw the blood out of a timid soul that still needs a little understanding.  You should have seen her book "Created to be His Help Meet" before I softened the edges!  She has an occasional blind spot.  Because I trust her judgement and censorship, she trusts mine, and we are heirs together of the grace of life, sanctifying one another so as to reduce our embarrassment at the Judgement Seat of Christ.  Heaven will be much sweeter with my best friend by my side.
   From what I've read about Debi's letters, yes she can tear the heck out of people with legitimate concerns.  I'm in shock that her book could get any...rougher, frankly.  It tears women down, berates them for having sick children, and blames them for their husbands faults.  To think that it used to be worse is really making me sad inside.  It's good when a couple can trust each other's judgement.
  Why does he keep using the word "embarrassed" when talking about the judgement seat? As a former Mormon, we were taught that we will be in agony over our sins.  Not just a little red-faced, squirming embarrassment, but full-on painful shame.  I know there are some things that I've done that, if Judgement is true, I will be in total agony over.  Not just "oh, that was awkward".  I think most people feel that way.  Frankly, if when looking at a book of your sins, the worst you feel is embarrassed, then I'm a little concerned.
   I like that he calls Debi his best friend, and I like that he ended this section with a compliment instead of a "Do this so your woman will do that for you."  But overall, this section made me mad and gave me the creeps.