Caught in the undertow of the more spiritual wife

I grabbed an old mp3 player from the kitchen junk drawer; cheap, Creative brand, very small and better suited for running than my big Samsung Note telephone, and headed out for my little 3 mile run. It is small capacity and full of music I would have listened to while running in, say, 2003-2004. I was not really thinking about the sphere so much as the drizzle I was going to be in for the next half hour. But the red pill proved its efficacy again when some simple pop lyrics got my attention:

I’m tired of being what you want me to be
Feeling so faithless, lost under the surface
Don’t know what you’re expecting of me
Put under the pressure of walking in your shoes
(Caught in the undertow, just caught in the undertow)
Every step that I take is another mistake to you

I’ve become so numb, I can’t feel you there
Become so tired, so much more aware
I’m becoming this, all I want to do
Is be more like me and be less like you

Can’t you see that you’re smothering me,
Holding too tightly, afraid to lose control?
‘Cause everything that you thought I would be
Has fallen apart right in front of you.
(Caught in the undertow, just caught in the undertow)

I’ve become so numb, I can’t feel you there,
Become so tired, so much more aware
I’m becoming this, all I want to do
Is be more like me and be less like you.

Those who recognize them know I truncated a bit. These lyrics were written about teen angst….what else…but they struck me in a different way.

Early Saturday morning, up alone as I usually am for a couple of hours, I had been reading Peaceful Wife’s blog, specifically her post called We Can Put Our Husbands in a Lose/Lose Situation. In it she points out how Christian women can talk of submission, but when confronted with a decision the husband makes that doesn’t align with the one she’d make, lose sight of how respect goes hand in hand with it. That woman will then disrespectfully clamor for control and place the husband in a lose/lose situation. He can point out her disrespect or he can shut up. She describes the scenario like this:

This is the crux of why so many husbands go passive. [ ] You are in a lose/lose situation.

  • If you tell her the truth – she was acting disrespectfully – she will likely punish you, or get really upset and might turn things on you and attack your own character and generally verbally torture you. For many men, it is hard to work up the courage to go before the firing squad like that.

  • But if you don’t tell her the truth – you are not being honest, and she doesn’t know her faults and will continue on in her sin.

That’s an accurate but incomplete description of the situation.

Peaceful Wife’s husband, Respected Husband, weighs in with his observations.

Men are not as verbal typically to start with, especially about relationship issues and emotions. We may struggle to get the right words out as it is. We know that we are not armed very well to go into a war of the words with our wife. [ ]

A wife, more apparent in a dominant wife, tends to look at issues totally in black and white with no room for gray. A husband typically functions as everything being a shade of gray and tries to make the best decisions for everyone to turn the gray to black and white.

I disagree with this almost entirely as I do not see the issue as one of being more or less  verbally equipped. Anyone willing to jettison reason can win a war of words on style and feeling, but the problem is the reasoning and ideas behind the words. Regarding black and white thinking, my take would be the converse of his. But I will allow that his intended meaning and my understanding of it may be where the difference of opinion comes from.

Then he lands on something that fills in one of the blanks left empty by Peaceful Wife:

It may be out of not feeling loved. [ ] It may be that they feel “more” spiritual than us and therefore do not trust our decisions.

This still omits the most important thing. The wife has the threat of divorce, and the entire family law/church/counseling/ relational advice complex (Be a true man and think “military industrial”) at her beck and call; spoken or unspoken it looms large in a man’s mind. If it doesn’t, he lacks basic situational awareness to his peril.

What do you think happens to a man controlled thus? He may be successful at work, he may have the respect of other men professionally, and as a friend, he may excel at some skill, a sport or a vocational ability, he may have even accumulated accolades as evidence of his accomplishments, he may be a respected leader in his church, know his Bible and teach it, yet when he encounters his wife as described, he must submit. Or. Else.

In the song, when the singer reaches the chorus he begins to scream.

A man faced with a self perceived spiritually superior wife, one who has her image reinforced to her by all she hears in the way of Christian relational guidance, and who sets out to micromanage the man into a version of herself, which she is told would be an improvement in the guy (after all the guy has potential the preacher said), that man may have the urge to scream.

If he did that, it would assuredly be verbal abuse.

Better he take up jogging and let Linkin Park do the screaming. When he gets home from a long tiring run, passivity comes easy.

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11 thoughts on “Caught in the undertow of the more spiritual wife

  1. LOL, My husband has no qualms about telling me to shut it. It doesn’t happen very often anymore because I have done the hard work of learning to submit in heart and not just give lip service to the notion.

    But still, back when he would have to tell me more often to stay in my place, I never considered divorce or offered protestations of emotional/verbal abuse. Now it could just be that since my father wasn’t shy about his position as the head of his home, and my FIL is as much of a chauvinist as you’ll ever meet, that this whole dynamic was never a part of our marriage to begin with.

    Still, I certainly have had my moments of thinking I was relationally and spiritually superior. I was just never as vocal about it as some women tend to be.

    Besides, soft power is more satisfying over the long term anyway. 3..2…1…

  2. As if on cue, LOL. I at least thought that you would ask me to elaborate before you screamed.

    What I was referring to is the very real phenomenon that occurs when your husband knows that you really and truly trust him to lead your family. Suddenly, his trust in his wife increases proportionally, and he asks for her open and unreserved input when making. At least mine does.

    There’s a reason why Proverbs 31 says that the heart of the virtuous wife’s husband safely trusts in her. It’s certainly not because she holds no sway over him at all. The difference between this and cowed husband is that the cowed husband is afraid to overrule his wife, whereas mine won’t hesitate to say, “You’re wrong. We’re going to o this instead.”

  3. I conveniently decided not to ask what we should make of your closing comments:

    Better he take up jogging and let Linkin Park do the screaming. When he gets home from a long tiring run, passivity comes easy.

    LOL. Enjoy the rest of your day, Empathological. As usual, your posts offer much food for thought.

  4. I was not using personal concurrent experience in actuality, only as metaphor.

    Yes, I assumed as much. Couldn’t resist taking that dig, though.

    I won’t see your answer before tomorrow but I have a serious question to ask here: What does it profit a husband to conduct himself in a way that demonstrates his knowledge and fear of his wife’s ability to, as you say:

    ” threaten divorce, and the entire family law/church/counseling/ relational advice complex (Be a true man and think “military industrial”) at her beck and call; spoken or unspoken it looms large in a man’s mind. If it doesn’t, he lacks basic situational awareness to his peril.

    I ask this because I see this line of thought parroted around the sphere a lot. My husband is a very intelligent man. He understands that I could flip a switch at any moment and do all of those things you say. And yet, he doesn’t handle me with kid gloves out of some misguided sense of protecting himself from my ability to lower the boom. He finds the idea laughable: to hand over his manhood? To me? Why on earth would he do that?

    I get my share of ridicule for being a church girl who married an unchurched man. Much of that ridicule is well deserved because I sinned. Still, I can’t help but wonder what our marriage might look like if he had been indoctrinated with the lesson that his wife is sinless and inherently superior. I actually shudder at the thought of it.

  5. Great question in my opinion. Obvious answer it is does not profit a man. Practical answer is a man who can both know this and yet not adjust accordingly is the best scenario. A man who fears it should take steps, whatever that even means, to not fear it. That will come through and mitigate the power it may have.

    The man described in the post, the hypothetical man who goes passive is not necessarily doing so out of fear of her blowing up the marriage, heck he may be ok with that in the long run after harpy harps for decades. But its the unsettled time in between, meaning its not at all about stuff…money, etc. It is indeed about kids, but it is largely about how easy it is for men to be content. By content I do not mean that peaceful happy contentedness we’d strive for, but rather more content in the mess of a spiritually superior controlling wife than he would be in the drama of a divorce, which never really ends.

    I’m thinking out loud, not really answering. I will think some more

  6. My husband is similar to Elspeths. He absolutely refuses to be intimidated by anyone..ever.

    He says “There are fates worse than jail”.

    And lets me fill in the blanks.

  7. My husband is similar to Elspeths. He absolutely refuses to be intimidated by anyone..ever.

    I’ve gathered as much. My husband does agree that there are worst fates than jail but it’s one of those things he’d rather not test, LOL.

    but it is largely about how easy it is for men to be content. By content I do not mean that peaceful happy contentedness we’d strive for, but rather more content in the mess of a spiritually superior controlling wife than he would be in the drama of a divorce, which never really ends.

    Oh, I see. There are those men who are unable to be content in the mess of a spiritually superior controlling wife, even when faced with the drama of a divorce.

    Of course, that entire scenario is an ironic thing to consider. I believe a woman is far more likely to leave that kind of man than one who simply refuses to let her run all over him. She won’t respect him and that’s a marital death knell.

  8. That is very true. Its also very sad that the entire frame of that hypothetical man is discussed from the perspective of what is more likely to see her leave.

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