Family Life (fount of Christian familism) writer Mary May Larmoyeux tells the story of Scott and his disrespectful wife Suzette. Scott was beaten down for years. Not surprisingly reality crashed down on him suddenly.
After 18 years of marriage, Scott Garmon woke up one morning, looked at his sleeping wife and thought, Who is this woman lying next to me? He began to weep. He felt something inside of him was missing.
Whatever threads of feeling Scott once had for Suzette had long disappeared. Isolated … lonely, Scott had felt disrespected by Suzette throughout their entire marriage. But Suzette was oblivious to her husband’s despair.
At the twenty year mark Scott realized that he felt nothing for his wife, and that his marriage was doomed. So he went a weekend men’s retreat and prayed that his feelings for his wife would be restored. He came home feeling a bit better. He was prayed up and keyed up in his faith. This manifested not only in optimism for the marriage but in Scott sensing he should go on a short mission trip to Africa.
Suzette had other ideas about Africa,
“No you’re not!” she said.
From the expression on his face, Suzette was jerked into reality. She realized she didn’t really know her husband. In her mind she was Scott’s wife and he was supposed to make her happy.
They both realized that their marriage was in a steep nosedive, klaxons were sounding, crash was inevitable.
Enter friend Dana. Dana recommends that Scott and Suzette go to a FL Weekend to Remember conference. Handy, that. Dana’s husband paid their fees so they went out of obligation. It was in a nick of time.
At the time Scott had no desire to live the rest of his life with Suzette. He was secretly making plans to divorce her.
When they were asked to write love letters to their spouse, Suzette had no clue what to say. She confessed, in prayer, that she had no idea how to love her husband. But as these things go,
She sensed God saying, Your marriage will make it, but it’s going to be hard.
Suzette is so excited that she TELLS Scott they are going to make it. And (now that that is settled) she is going to volunteer for the next years Weekend to remember conference. Yeah! Scott wanted no part of that.
Suzette, undeterred, reads Love and Respect. She realizes that she had not been respectful to Scott and she was committed to do so unconditionally.
Scott was past the point of an easy fix. Twenty years of controlling, manipulating, passive aggressive behavior, and narcissism. Recall, she admitted her belief that he was there to make her happy. So, the harder she tried the harsher he became. He’d tell her he didn’t love her, that she needed a new husband, or to go get a rich divorced dad from the school where she worked.
After a few months of this respect from Suzette and rejection of same by Scott, Suzette got some unwanted clarification. She found some emails that Scott had sent to an old high school sweetheart. The article says she was so overcome with emotion that “she shoved the computer screen to the floor”.
Suzette called her old friend Dana again and told her she was giving up. Dana said no, she had to stay in there. So on Christmas Eve after he assembled some bicycles she initiated sex. More important are her thoughts as to why.
Suzette explains that she sensed God telling her to love her husband no matter what he had done. [my emphasis]
Get that? Huge frame swap by the wife.
Nevertheless, after a couple of months Scott was growing more convinced that his wife really had changed. He gave her a Valentine Card, but said it was not because he felt differently, it was about the memories of better days in the past. Still she felt hope anew.
A few months hence Scott again said he wanted to travel for missions, this time to East Asia. The new and improved Suzette said she wanted him to go. So, he did. And while there he did a prayer walk. During the walk the author says he sensed something from God.
Scott realized that he had been wrong to want to do missions work when he was abandoning his first mission field, his family. God reminded him not to throw away His gifts of Suzette and their children.
Catch that? Subtle re-frame by the author.
After getting back from the trip Scott and family were in church sitting with the kids in between them. Scott suddenly thought about how love is an action not a feeling. So, he moved over next to Suzette.
Scott faced his wife, “I love you again! It’s all coming back. I love you more than I ever have.”
The story ends well in terms of the marriage lasting. They worked out the issues and he even agreed to volunteer for the conference the next year. Endings that do not include divorce are almost always better.
Lets look at the facts. A woman openly disrespects her husband for TWENTY YEARS. She was controlling (You cannot go on that mission trip) and treated him as if his only purpose was her happiness. I’m going to guess that she was raised in a Christian home where the mother called the shots and the father was subservient. I will also guess that she has sat under evangelical teaching (like this) since she was a little girl and that the totality of that experience informed her happy-happy view of married life. The evidence for this is scattered throughout the piece.
I am going to make another assumption. I assume that sex was infrequent based on the fact that her initiating it on Christmas Eve was suggestive of that being a major departure from normal. So the man had stayed twenty years in an environment where the two things he needs the most were absent. The writer said nothing to Scott’s credit about that.
Contrast what Scott did with how women rationalize frivolous divorce. Now lets see how this article, though about a man considering divorce, actually supports female primacy and female rationale for divorcing.
The situation was stated as unilateral for the most part. Scott was the victim. Suzette was the perpetrator. But that could not carry through to the conclusion because its outside the mold from which Family Life operates. The story actually lays out what is a very common occurrence in Christian marriages. A woman is controlling and/or frigid for decades. They as a worst case can somehow “meet in the middle” and fix that. BUT, let there be any infraction, any single slip up, a mistake made by the husband and the entire twenty years pivot around that one event to re-frame circumstances. It may be glossed over as a sort of we-both-messed-up, however, know this, when men give women leverage it puts the power balance back to where she wants it. Do not believe for a minute that after his email was discovered it was a seamless thing where she truly meant “no matter what”. Those three words mean “lets focus on my martyrdom amidst his newly discovered behavior. Imagine if, instead of an email, it had been porn. imagine Dana’s reaction. Doubtful she would have said to hang in there.
Suzette also had an anger problem that was painted over. The article says she shoved the PC monitor to the floor. had Scott done that would it not have been “Scott was so angry he smashed the PC monitor”?
Finally, Scott’s men’s retreat and his mission trip. What did Scott hear at that men’s retreat? Encouragement or correction. he heard some version of Step-Up. he heard that if he would fix himself his wife could finally respect him. And to an extent he believed it for awhile. But his spiritual inspiration to take a mission trip was squashed by his wife’s selfishness. Scott experiences a spiritual relational whiplash.
Then, later when she is trying….no matter what….and she agrees he should go to Asia on a mission trip, Scott on a prayer walk alone must have been thinking about the step-up message he had heard at his earlier retreat. Because how can someone credibly say that going on a two week mission trip is a form of abandoning the family at home? The concept is ridiculous and overstated. But its another thing poor Suzette had to put up with because that woman was changed. That woman was committed.
Finally, as normal relational problems go, which is more common by gender? Is it more common that men cheat on their wives, or is it more common that women disrespect their husbands and go sexually frigid? Who initiates divorce more often? Rhetorical questions all, for the purpose of illustrating how subtly and shamelessly the re-framing of the root issue was done by the wife and the female writer. The wife clung to his indiscretion by email, and the writer grossly exaggerated the notion of taking a mission trip as if that was somehow an abandonment of his mission field at home.
After reading the article, does a reader come away thinking about a woman who was a shrew finally changing and saving her marriage? Or, does a reader come away thinking “see, both parties did wrong and both changed and that’s like its supposed to be because its about balance”. I say female readers clearly take away the latter.