Broken Daughters

Picking up the shattered glass of fundamentalism

How to find a spouse?! – Part 2


I love my commentors! hehe Yesterday’s post received a comment and I wanted to add some more along the lines.

Comment by Latebloomer: “In my family’s church, the spin was a little bit different because compatibility was downplayed. The pastor taught that marriage was about sanctification, not happiness, so really any godly person could marry any other godly person. Your personality didn’t matter. In my opinion, this is a really irresponsible teaching to direct at singles, and I’m glad I found someone that I had a deep connection with because we are very compatible. I actually just wrote about this on my blog yesterday, haha. It must be spring :) .”

I didn’t even think about happiness and emotion when I wrote my post, but it’s such a huge deal!

Now, even when you’re believing that there is “the one”, emotion, happiness and love aren’t what you’re looking for. To quote countless sites and people talking about this issue: “Love is not an emotion, it’s an action. Love is not an adjective, it’s a verb. It’s something you do, not something you feel.”

I think this pretty much sums up what the movement preachers think about marriage. You don’t marry someone you love, you (as a woman) marry someone whom you can support and help achieve life goals, such as missioning. And as a man, you look for a woman who has all the abilities you need as support. Emotion is generally something that is not needed to start a courtship or get engaged. Love (emotion) isn’t even something you need to feel once you’re married!

For them, as love isn’t an emotion, all you need to do to “love” someone is.. well… let’s make a list!

Men loving a woman: Providing for her, listening to her, giving her gifts, respecting her mood swings, protecting her, being her spiritual leader, correcting her, training her.

Woman loving a man: Submit to him, respect him, fulfill his sexual needs whenever he needs it, follow him, share his vision, be a good mother and home maker, don’t talk back, don’t correct him even when he’s clearly wrong.

These are just the most common ones I could name off the top of my head. Depending on the author/church you’re looking at, there might be much more things to do to “love” someone. And some of the points I mentioned do sound very weird! For example the giving gifts part. They might not express it the way I did, but they certainly all mean it: A man should buy flowers/candies/give her massages every once in a while. The core of this idea is a very nice one, but it’s turned into an obligation here, and in that it means nothing if you ask me. Gifts are only worth something if they come from the heart, if they show thought, and as obligation they are nothing more than a meaningless duty.

One point that has bothered me to great extend, even more than the “submit” talk, is the “fulfill his sexual needs” part. Believe me, during my courtship I was given plenty of books to prepare to be a good wife and all of them stressed this issue. What you’ll typically read is something like this: “even if you don’t feel like it, do it anyway. Get pretty and do it. Offer it even if you’re tired and not in the mood. Be cheerful and happy during, show him that you enjoy it, even if you don’t.”

Can you imagine that? Out of the seven days the week has, would you feel good having sex with your husband every day if you don’t feel like it at all on 5 of the 7 days? As a man, would you enjoy it if you knew that there is no enjoyment for the woman? That she does it only and purely out of obligation? I think that’s a terrible thought. I know I wouldn’t enjoy something the other person is forced to do. Just like the gifts, it means nothing when it isn’t done out of love and honest joy.

So where does all that talk leave christian couples?

All of those fundamentalist speakers, authors and churches talk about the fact that there are so many divorces among the non-believers. They blame it on the fact that people marry out of emotion-love, not action-love. Besides the fact that this is untrue, because with emotion-love action-love usually comes naturally, of course christian couples don’t get divorces because they don’t love each other anymore! They didn’t love each other to begin with. Sure there are couples who are in love. Sure most couples have at least a crush on each other when they’re courting. But that doesn’t mean that emotional love will actually come – and stay. And because this part of a relationship is so unimportant, it’s easy to say you’re still loving each other when by love you mean actions out of obligation. None of the partners in a fundamentalist christian marriage want to break biblical law, hence they will keep up all the actions needed to qualify as “love”.

I’m not saying that none of the points I mentioned before are bad or not a sign of true love. If you bring your woman flowers because you thought of her that day, want to apologize, or simply want to see her happy smile, perfect! Go for it! If you give up your dream to help your husband fulfill his dream because you love him, good for you (and him)! Do it before you end up wondering for the rest of your life! Everything you do out of true, emotional love is worth doing in my opinion. Everything you do out of pure obligation, something you despise or would not do unless forced by some sort of law, give it some honest thought if your actions are really worth the price.

What good is it for the partners if nothing is done out of true love, but only because they have to? Of course we all have to do things we don’t like doing sometimes. That’s life. But if life is nothing but obligation, and your only joy the freedom of guilt, not the joy of seeing the other person’s smile when you did something for them… Yeah… That’s not the life us fundamentalist girls dream of when we wait for Prince Charming.

12 thoughts on “How to find a spouse?! – Part 2

  1. II was talking to a Christian patriarchy blogger about this a little while ago (she later deleted our entire conversation, so there you have it). In her post, she talked about how she “respects” her husband by doing X, Y, and Z, including not having male friends. Her reasoning was that her having male friends might make her husband feel jealous, so she respects him by not doing it.

    To which I replied that this isn’t actually respect. How can you respect someone if you think of them as a little child who needs to be protected from his emotions? So I hit on the distinction between acting respectful (walking on egg shells around a man-child) and actually respecting your spouse (treating them as a full human, which includes expecting him to be mature enough to respect you and your relationships in return).

    I think it’s the same thing with love. In the Christian patriarchy movement, I’ve noticed that they focus a great deal on the superficial, as though a good marriage were a scripted play and everything will go well as long as both actors memorize their parts diligently. But they always neglect the underlying attitudes. And perhaps the most damaging thing is that these scripts leave absolutely no room for the individuals. What if the woman hates flowers (as I do)? What if the man loves to cook?

    It almost seems as though the Christian patriarchy movement is populated by people who just don’t want to grow up. Bearing the responsibility of navigating a big and complex world without an instruction manual is just too much for them, so they’ve shut down and created this little world where everything is black and white, uncomplicated, where you don’t have to actually get to know individuals – even friends and spouses – because your pastor has provided you with the playbook that tells you exactly how to act and exactly how to respond and exactly how to feel.

  2. Regarding divorce rates, where do the stats come from? I read somewhere (but can’t find the link!) that feminist couples have the lowest divorce rates, and that “red states” tend to have higher divorce rates than “blue states.”

  3. Hmm—creepily, I have heard the same “Love is something you do, not something you feel” line, in a completely secular context, and loved it. Because that warm, fluttery feeling I get when I look at my husband isn’t what actually makes the relationship work. What makes it work is mutual respect, negotiation, taking care of each other, and very importantly finding time and ways to just have fun together—all things we need to *do* to maintain that warm flutter (At almost thirteen years in, I think we’re doing not to badly at it, too 😉 ).

    I do actually think “fulfilling your partner’s sexual needs” is fairly high on the list of to-dos as well—but it belongs in the column for both partners. If he wants to have sex daily and you only want it twice a week (or vice-versa), you’re going to have issues. Maybe not unsurmountable ones, but definitely requiring some of that negotiation. But then, as far as I’m concerned that’s a *really good* reason to figure out your sexual compatibility *before* making a serious commitment… 😉

    Would our relationship be worth having without that warm flutter? Probably not (with a possible exception for “sticking it out for the kids” if it’s a low-conflict relationship), but that warm flutter, or even the wild blaze of infatuation, is not what makes it work. Though it may be what makes the work worth it. Hmm. Lots to think about here…

    • I think that the linchpin here is respect. Respect is an emotion that can’t be faked. You can’t “do” respect if you don’t feel it. But if you have respect, keeping the fuzzy feelings alive long term is pretty easy.

      Beyond that, I totally agree that a relationship takes effort. It’s easy to become lazy and to stop doing sweet things for each other, or to become so comfortable around each other that you end up “blowing steam” when you’re home and making your household a toxic environment. There’s also a certain amount of effort involved in growing together rather than apart – this has been particularly true in my relationship because my husband and I married very young and our personalities were still going through a lot of changes. So it’s important to set time aside to talk, to share, to stay on the same page.

      But what irks me about the Christian patriarchy version of this is that it precludes the individuals themselves. It says that if you are the man, you MUST buy your wife flowers. No one stops to consider whether she actually likes flowers or not, or maybe she’s even allergic. That’s not even “doing” love, that’s just following a script. When you “do” love, you are maintaining and nurturing an emotion, but this patriarchy version bypasses emotion entirely and tries to reduce everyone to automatons who just follow their factory-set programming.

  4. I think MrPopularSentiment has hit the nail exactly on the head. There is no emotion in the Patriarchy/Quiverfull movements. They are all scripted automatonic babies who can’t see beyond the end of their nose. If there are any emotions at all in the movement, it’s anger. They are all angry–angry at their spouse for not being perfect enough, angry at their children for not being perfect enough, angry at their neighbors for not following “the right way,” angry at the world for being worldly, angry at Satan for making their lives miserable and angry at God for not “fixing it” in their time frame. I never hear any love (I guess because there isn’t any) coming out of the movement. They just seem angry all the time. Or superficial–probably to hide their anger.

    By saying that you show love by doing and there is no real love outside of doing, they are espousing the Hindu version of marriage. I had a professor in college from India who had an arranged marriage as they all do. His father negotiated with her father. The only input either of them had was for him to say yes or no. He gave her a choice because he knew her brother so he asked her brother to ask her if she liked him. She said he was okay so he told his father that the marriage was fine with him. He said in Hindu, there is no love, just mutual respect.

    I fail to understand how the movement can say that love is “doing” and not feeling and therefore Christians don’t get divorced. (Christians get divorced all the time, by the way.) If God didn’t “feel” but only “did” for humanity, why would He bother with the cross? What purpose would sacrifice serve for a God who could create or re-create a human population at will? If God doesn’t get “a warm, fuzzy feeling” when He thinks of humanity or humans individually, then why even try? Doing for us certainly gleaned Him nothing. He gave us every tree in the Garden of Eden except one and Adam and Eve took the one too. And that’s just the first example. Look at the Hebrews and the Promised Land. Doing didn’t get Him anything for long. Do we love God because He gives us stuff and does things for us? I don’t think so. 1 John 4:10 “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” I don’t believe God was only doing without some warm, fuzzy feeling going along with it. No one would lay down in front of a train just out of duty, after all. That’s illogical and stupid.

    • I am a long time lurker here who has always enjoyed reading Lisa’s posts. Despite being two days late to the discussion I feel like I have to correct what seems like a misconception in the above post. I am a Hindu and an Indian and I have to say there is nothing Hindu about arranged marriages. Arranged marriages are a social or cultural concept and not a religious one. In India there are arranged marriages in the Muslim and the Christian communities as well. As someone who had an arranged marriage myself I am frequently saddened by the knee jerk reaction I get from many people when they hear that I had one. I completely understand how difficult a concept it is for many to grasp and sometimes I wonder about it myself. But myself and many of my friends are happy. Its definitely not the only way to do things but it works for many of us and we aren’t all swallowing our likes and dislikes and pretending to be happy.I am sorry If I come across as too defensive.

      • My apologies. I don’t mean to misrepresent or offend. My professor was very happy in his marriage. He just didn’t believe that love existed–only mutual respect.

        You don’t come across as defensive at all. Thank you for your insight.

  5. Thanks so much for the quote–I’m flattered! You explained it so well here….people in that frame of mind really do reduce a relationship to a list of duties, and try to call it real love. But just like you said, I hate the thought of my spouse being nice or having sex out of obligation! So disturbing.

  6. Love IS an action, affection is a feeling. Even God wants our relationship with Him to be affectionate. It’s through our affection for our spouses, friends, people we don’t even know that we SHOW genuine love to. Obligatory “love” isn’t genuine at all. Although there are times when we don’t feel like being loving that we find ourselves needed to do it out of sheer will. But that should be the exception, not the rule.

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