Another More Cow Bell Metaphor

The Rainey wisdom, again. From another email:

I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.
Psalm 51:3

I remember listening one night to a woman who told Barbara and me that she had finally had enough. She was right–her husband had pretty much given her zero in the relationship department. Years of being taken for granted had finally reached a breaking point. She was angry–really angry. And she needed a place to vent.

As I sat there, I couldn’t help hearing in her diatribe some of the same mistakes I’ve made in my own marriage. As I told Barbara in a note the next day:

It made me realize how hard I’ve been on you from time to time. Pressuring. Not appreciating your load and all that you’ve done for me. Not understanding your feelings.

To sit there and listen to a woman express her need for a husband to care for her, to dream with her, to think with her about her future and her soul, was like watching the last bit of light go out in her heart. It was more than just her anger. It was her whole countenance, her lack of radiance, her feeling of being “tired” of him. To think that a man could look into his wife’s eyes and not find a companion, a friend, a person who wants to be there with him, is a scary feeling.

But I know I’ve been self-centered at points, too, just like this man. And it wasn’t easy to hear again the hurt it can cause. I am sorry. Really.

When was the last time you came face to face with your own shortcomings? When you realized that in the pressure and practice of daily living, you’d forgotten the value of some very important things? If that’s where you happen to be today–especially in your relationship with one another–it’s time to own up. Say you’re sorry. And maybe write your own letter.

I know there are readers who see me writing about these little tidbits of advice and ask, “What’s wrong about that?”. As is usually the case with churchian scripture cliche based advice, there is nothing superficially wrong with it. But we must consider the mix to which this advice is added. That means we have to consider the totality of messaging that we hear from the church, the things that churchians share with one another, whether or not people hold each other accountable to truth or to superficial cliches that afford them the ability to pretty much go around what were intended to be God given roadblocks or at the very least to stop, think, earnestly pray, and seek REAL counsel.

The way this is worded, it seems the women is expressing her intention to divorce over what she perceives as her husbands lack of attentiveness. The commonality of this situation has numbed our minds to what is really happening, and programed us with reflexive safe responses.

What is always a safe response?

Take whats stated about a man’s relational performance at face value. Do not challenge the expectations of the women. And….never ever ever suggest that the woman’s intent to explode the marriage is plain morally wrong. Never. The recommended action individually and collectively is to use these as yet another teaching moment for men.

And what is really being said to the man? Two things. One, she wants to feel the same physical and emotional tingles she felt at the beginning. And two, she wants the man to learn to be a woman with male genitalia, so he can meet a need that, if left unadjusted in her, he is not really designed to meet completely.

I’ve written a lot about the desire for new relational freshness and how impossible that is. That new feeling was based on discovery, new information exchanged, unpredictable and exciting new changing behaviors daily keep things interesting as a matter of course. Twenty years hence, there are great relationships easily had, they just do not involve getting back to some remembered infatuation from the genesis of the couple.

The church holds nothing back in its effort to make men into women relationally. All teaching on communication is unidirectional; HE must listen, not fix. HE must be sensitive and supporting. HE must affirm. Ideally HE must read her mind, anticipate what plane of her multifaceted blob of emotion will be pointed in his direction daily, and he must reflect back correctly. Any mention of a man’s mode of communication is with tongue in cheek and gaggles of giggling erupting. “Us guys are just clueless, bafoons, bwaaa haaa haaa heee haaa, give us a break ladies you know we are not half the communicators you are, just ask my wife, why just last week I ………….” Laughs all around.

Comes this woman who, since a little girl, has sat under that teaching at church. She has likely watched her father jump through these hoops, watched her mother reject her father not necessarily knowing what was happening but sensing something off in the dynamic, and seen her father cry and try and beg and have short periods where her mother treated him like the lap dog who’d finally scratched at the door to go out back to do the business. Good dog. Daddy likely glowed in the praise. Mommy told her friends that day that daddy was coming along nicely.

As she grew into her teen years this stuff started to actually inform her motives and expectations. This girl has been taught all of this for years since a very young age. She gets married and how do you expect her to behave? I do not relieve her of responsibility for this, but I absolutely blame the churchains such as Family Life Ministry for so perverting what marriage is supposed to be as to be a major causal factor for marital discontent and divorce. And all the while they, like the old SNL routine, keep insisting that all that’s needed is More Cow Bell.

I don’t just trow mud at ministries that intend to help. There are a couple of them out there that get it mostly right. Under a few layers we will still find the male leadership of these ministries motivated by a fear of women, usually their own wives, but they manage to get some balance in their messages.

The best is Marriage Savers.

An example of another, which I admit waxes and wanes, swerving into churchianity far too often, is Marriage Today. I receive emails from them as well, and as you can see, I do not find blog fodder there frequently.

A sad side effect of this is the jading we men can experience. When I started watching the video I link here, and heard the woman describing her dream of endless romance and fairy tales, I immediately thought here we go again. But this short video, while not long on specifics, actually manages to not hang the man.

Marriage Today Testimony




5 thoughts on “Another More Cow Bell Metaphor

  1. I also feel that side effect. Watching the video, I felt not the slightest lick of inspiration. what I actually thought was “good for them” the way you feel about say people winning a vacation to Hawaii or something.
    The one thing that stands out in the video is the idea that both parties in a marriage can have selfish attitudes.

    Again though, the issue with the email (from my perspective at least) is not so much that the feelings and concerns are expressed–so much as that it is constantly proposed that it will help things. I don’t see that they will be guaranteed to do so. It just creates a deeper pit of emotional need, from what I have seen and experienced.

  2. I like this, Empath. It saddens me the way we have come to view ordinary, wonderful marriage as something to escape from because the exhilaration felt at the beginning wanes. Worse, the way this normal dynamic is seen as a disaster to be blamed on the husband.

    That said, I can honestly say that it is possible to experience freshness in a marriage relationship, even after many years. It doesn’t happen every day, or even every month, but it can happen. However, it can’t happen if you;re not grateful for the little things your husband adds to your life, and most women do not.

  3. Can I take back part of my preceding comment? I realize that I misunderstood what you meant about relational freshness. You were referring to newness. You are right that it can never be as it was in the beginning.

  4. Of course marriage can be fun, and fresh in that sense, glad you realized I wasn’t saying that. Its a massive rush early on, that rush is not repeatable constantly or consistently. The fresh stuff later is lets say richer, like comfort food vs. a slab of intense cream cheese based dessert.

  5. It was not inspiring at all, I didnt mean to imply that if I did. I was balanced, and like you said, like “thats nice”. But why?
    Because there should never have been those expectations, and they are not doing something special, they are doing what they SHOULD do.

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