Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Created to Be His Help Meet: Part 1 (Understanding your husband)

I'm just going to say up front that all of chapter 8 is something of a headscratcher. From a purely pragmatic point of view I see value in her advice. Men who demand to be waited on hand and foot aren't likely to brook much opposition. Guys on a personal crusade to restore the Stuart Monarchy aren't likely going to care so much about living in a nice bungalow within reasonable distance of his wife's family. Laid back guys who just grind out their days probably won't move to Alaska because some dude with bushy eyebrows found a few ounces of gold. As a wife you pretty much have to roll with it - guys don't typically marry a woman hoping that they've finally found someone who'll give their whole personality a brisk going over. On that front I'd say read this chapter and grab any bits that look likely and see where they take you. In the broadest terms (ie stop nagging and deal) Mrs. Pearl is saying something valuable. On the other hand, she's also pulling some things straight out of her braid. For instance, Mrs. Pearl opens by saying that she understands men to be expressing in their dominant traits different sides of God's Triune nature and then says that Jesus is the only man who contained all three of these traits in perfect balance but then moves on without any explication. Maybe it's a deep insight. Maybe it's not. Without more context it's hard to tell.

Oh, and here are my odd statements for this chapter.
Most young girls are married only a short time when they make the awful discovery that they may have gotten a lemon (76).


Wives are very much flesh and blood, and as young women we don't come to marriage with all the skills needed to make it start out good, let alone be perfect (89).

A. I really hope not.
B. Generalize much?

And so far that's Mrs. Pearl in a nutshell - some larger good principles to apply and then some completely odd statements that make me think she's really writing this book to her younger, headstrong self who jumped into marriage with an autocratic man and (almost) lived to regret it before finally learning to just roll with the punches. Nice work if you can get it, but then again if one of my daughters ever tried out her "I want to have your babies" line I'd yank her lily butt back home before the fella'd had time to stop blushing. Call me old fashioned, but I like the men to do the chasing.

Before moving on I'd like to comment on her bike trip honeymoon story. I agree with Mrs. Pearl in part. In the interest of peace this wife really did need to understand that her husband was not going to listen regardless of how well suited she was to advise. Better for her to have as much fun as she could than to become bitter. I would even add that she needed to diligently search her own heart to see if she'd been advising him with an open and loving spirit or whether it had grown from superiority and discontent. In either case she has some work to do. If the latter she needs to work on her heart and focus on keeping her mouth closed until she can speak to her husband with love and respect. In the former case she might also need to keep her mouth closed, but she should also realize that she might have married a fool and need to pray (and prepare) accordingly. This might mean stashing part of her mad money (or butter and egg money) in the freezer so they have something to fall back on when he dumps their last penny into a busted enterprise. It might mean quietly signing up for AAA and changing the oil yourself when he steadfastly ignores car maintenance. This is a trajectory that Mrs. Pearl doesn't consider but seems implicit in the man's character as described.

Chapters 9 and 10 really go together and therefore will be treated as one block. She opens with a letter from a woman whose husband has, after long years working as a CPA, decided he wants to be a dairy farmer. She's upset, overwhelmed, and really not into it. While Mrs. Pearl's response is a little over the top it's still on point in that she basically tells the wife to deal with it and enjoy being a dairy farmer's wife. Better to follow her husband's lead than to make them all miserable, and (although Mrs. Pearl doesn't suggest this) it's barely possible that if this wife made a gung-ho effort that after a year or so her husband might decide for himself that they really aren't country people and propose a move back towards their old life.

Transitioning from chapter 9 to chapter 10 Mrs. Pearl explains how revising our thoughts can change the way we feel (and therefore change our reactions) and stop the cycles of harmful reactions. She illustrates (and here I find Mrs. Pearl refreshingly realistic) how the dairyman's wife can spend days and weeks thinking about her own frustrations and grievances until she literally bursts the second her husband walks in the door. By refocusing her thoughts on how diligent her husband is and how grateful she is for his provision she can break the cycle that is wearing down her and her husband. Mrs. Pearl concludes with something that's worth quoting and remembering: "No woman will ever have peace and joy in her marriage until her mind is filled with goodwill towards her husband (103)." Amen. Over all I'm finding CTBHHM both better and worse than I remembered.

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