98 Ways Women Can Sin Against their Husbands–Without Knowing It

by | Jun 4, 2019 | Uncategorized | 96 comments

A Horrible List of Ways Women Can Sin Against Their Husbands
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Sometimes marriage counselling goes very, very badly–especially if it’s focused on making sure women don’t sin against their husbands, rather than focused on building oneness and intimacy.

Allow me to tell a story that unfolded last week and took a ton of my emotional energy.

An anonymous person shared on Twitter screen shots of a handout that she had received when seeking marriage counseling at one of the main campuses at Harvest Bible Chapel in Chicago very recently. That document listed 98 ways–yes, 98–that a woman could sin against her husband, along with a scorecard where she could rate herself, and ask her husband to rate her. The husband was not given anything equivalent.

To say it mildly, these documents are highly offensive and off-putting, as well as rather worthy of ridicule (and many Twitter users partook of that entertainment). But in the course of the day, other documents were shared from other churches which were quite similar.

Last week we recorded a podcast about these lists, and I encourage you to listen in! But for today, I wanted to make sure that there was a thorough post written looking at the lists. So I’m sorry if I’m repeating some of the podcast, but this is important enough that it needs to be written out!

Where did these lists come from?

They were originally compiled by Faith Bible Counseling in Lafayette, and put in the approved Homework Bank for the Soul Care ministry at Harvest Bible Chapel. The source of them is Wayne Mack’s 1980 book A Homework Manual for Biblical Living Vol. 2 Family and Marital Problems. You can find iterations of the lists online, many updated, used by different churches. The Biblical Counseling Center has produced updated versions of these lists, including the new LOG List of 100 sins for Wives/Mothers. While there is an equivalent list for men, it hasn’t been formatted and I can’t find it anywhere, while the LOG List is up on the homework page at Living Hope Church, for instance, without the husband’s list accompanying it.

Picture the scenario here. A couple is having marriage problems.

So they seek out marriage counseling–which then accuses the wife of committing these 100 sins. How would you feel if you went to marriage counseling like that? Especially when so much abuse is present in the church, can you see why this is problematic (and why I wrote those series of posts explaining my concerns with biblical counseling)?

Incidentally, it wouldn’t even be okay if they DID hand out an equivalent list for husbands, because reading a list of 100 sins is overwhelming and counterproductive. Expressing what you need from each other and how the other can meet those needs is much more helpful.

But let’s look at some of these sins she may commit in greater detail. To make this easier, I’m going to refer to the documents like this (the first three are in the same download). You can download them below, but it’s not necessary unless you want to fret and get angry and make your blood pressure worse. And I’ll be referring to them in this post, so you’ll get a gist of them regardless.

Now, here are 10 themes of the ways that women can sin against their husbands that I managed to pull out of these documents:

1. She shouldn’t get her feelings hurt.

One of the 98 sins is this one (C):

  • I get my feelings hurt very easily. (I am sensitive because of my pride).

Let’s remember that, when seeking marriage counseling, chances are that the reason that you’re going is because your feelings are hurt. By saying that this is a sin, then it’s saying that it’s not about what he’s doing; the real problem is what she’s feeling. If she would just stop being hurt (which is, of course, because she’s prideful) then they wouldn’t need counseling at all.

2. She had better walk a very, very fine line–or she’s in sin! But we won’t tell you where that line is.

  • Do you keep yourself attractive (though not offensively so) in appearance in order that your husband may be glad to have everyone know you are his wife? (A4)

Got it. So I’m to be attractive–but not offensively so. What, exactly, is offensively attractive? Is it if you have too large a bust? Is it if you’re too beautiful? If you have a nose ring? If you have cleavage showing? It doesn’t say, so women have to figure this out for themselves And it’s important, remember, because we’ll be scored on our ability to walk that line!

Here’s another example (C):

  • I’m a perfectionist about my housekeeping.
  • I’m a poor housekeeper, and do not take proper care in the appearance of our home.

So the house should be attractive, but I guess not offensively so, either. (By the way, I agree that both extremes are wrong. I just have a big problem with a document like this laying blame on a woman where she’s damned if she does and damned if she doesn’t, without helping her sort it out at all).

And here’s yet another one (A6&7):

  • Are you willing to let your husband have his own way and the last word when you disagree?
  • Do you avoid making a fuss over trifles and solve minor problems that you should handle alone?

So she has to let him make the decisions, but she shouldn’t bother him with minor things. So who decides which is which? What if they disagree? It’s quite a pickle, isn’t it?

Could you be SINNING against your HUSBAND in one of these 98 ways?!? A crazy scorecard for wives that biblical counseling ministries are using

3. She had better satisfy him sexually and not expect to be satisfied sexually herself.

You might be in sin if:

  • I often refuse to have sexual relations and rarely initiate them. Most of the time I am only interested in my own sexual needs. (C)

You show love to your husband by:

  • Remembering that the purpose of the sexual relationship is to meet the needs of your husband. (B)

And then add to both of this sin:

  • I sometimes feel depressed and unsatisfied with our sexual relations. (D37)

So she isn’t supposed to think of her own needs, she’s supposed to see sex as only for him, BUT it’s also suspect if she’s unsatisfied. As I’ve written recently, the most sexually deprived people in church on a Sunday morning are not men; they’re women. The rate of orgasm among married women is quite low. In my book, The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, only 18% report always having an orgasm during a sexual encounter. On the other hand, men nearly always do. So even if women don’t make love as often as men would like, men are still receiving orgasm far more than women are.

Perhaps the reason that women don’t want sex is because we’ve been taught our whole lives that sex is about his physical release; that if we don’t have sex, he’ll have an affair (which makes us feel used and kills our libidos); that we don’t have sexual needs ourselves; and that sex consists of intercourse until he climaxes. Seriously, the way we think of sex, her sexual satisfaction is an afterthought. That’s why I believe that we need to change how we talk about sex so that it’s not about them achieving intercourse, but rather about them feeling close and feeling aroused. BOTH of them.

Passion 4 Dancing

4. She had better not struggle with depression, or ever feel any emotion other than happiness.

  • I give in to depression or X rather than trying to fight it. (C)

Here’s another one:

  • I usually don’t attend church with a joyful spirit. (C)

So having spiritual doubts or troubles is now a sin against your husband (wonder how that reflects on the Psalms?)

In my posts about biblical counseling, I was talking about how the movement’s approach to mental illness is a huge red flag. They tend to hold that all mental illness and anxiety is due to lack of faith and lack of spiritual understanding rather than a biological problem or the result of trauma (such as abuse). If you are struggling with depression, then, and you see a biblical counselor like this, you’re told that it is your fault because your faith is not strong enough, and this is a sin. So now not only are you depressed; you feel guilt and shame, too!

5. She must only ever focus on keeping the home and the kids (ie not work outside the house), oh, and she should use cloth napkins.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the dad-breadwinner-stay-at-home-mom arrangement (I did this for years, though I always earned some income from home as well), but not everyone does it or can do it. I know many physicians’ families where the wife works and the husband takes care of the kids. I know other families where they have a family business together (including my daughter Rebecca and her husband Connor). But these materials assume that the correct way of doing things is for the husband to work outside the home and earn all the money.

And what should the wife do?

Here are a few things:

Homemaking Sins and Biblical Counseling

So meals should be attractive (I wonder if they could be offensively attractive as well?)

Homemaking Sins Women Should Be Wary Of

And you should make sure that you use tablecloths and paper napkins and serve your husband first.

And the husband’s responsibility?

  • Helping wash and dry dishes at least twice a week (E6)

So the dishes are her responsibility, but he’s being loving if he helps her and now and then.

And then there’s the garbage (which she shouldn’t grumble about):

  • I grumble about gathering up the trash so he can carry it out. (D35)

He’s carrying it from the garage to the sidewalk, after all!

By the way–we use cloth napkins. I don’t like the waste of paper ones. And sometimes I do get the tablecloth out. But this shouldn’t be the prerequisites for a happy marriage! And what the heck is this doing in a handout for marriage counseling?

6. The house is his castle–and don’t you forget it!

Biblical Counseling Sins of Women

Does anyone find that a weird way to talk about the family home? Let’s remember, too, that if this is a castle, he is the king. But you’re not the queen, because queens don’t look after the castle. You’re merely a servant, which actually goes well with this concept:

7. The family money is his, too, since he earned it.

The way these documents talk about money is really creepy. Even in the updated Scorecard for Husbands from Faith Biblical Counseling, the husband is asked:

  • Do I handle the finances responsibly?
  • Do I give her money to spend as she wishes?

So HE has to give HER money–it’s not THEIR money where she’s assumed to have equal access.

8. He can choose to help her with the kids, but she had better not expect it of him.

In fact, it’s a sin if she finds parenting tiring.

  • I allow the baby’s crying to make me irritable (D34)

If she’s tired, she has to look after the kids. But if he’s tired, he gets a pass:

  • I expect him to spend a lot of times in the evening with the children, even if he is very, very tired (D32).

My biggest problem with this: CHILDREN ARE NOT A CHORE. They are people–people who need both of their parents. While it’s okay if housework is done by one person, it should always be the expectation that BOTH parents will be actively involved with the kids whenever they can be.

Parenting is exhausting, especially for mothers who tend to do the middle of the night work more. Just because you’re tired doesn’t mean you get out of reading the kids a bedtime story.

9. He needs to make the decisions, and she needs to honour that.

This is likely the most common theme that crops up, over and over again, in all the documents. We read it’s a sin if:

  • I make decisions without first asking you for guidance. (C)

And on the scorecard for wives:

  • Are you willing to let your husband make the decisions and have the last word when you disagree?

I demolished the argument that biblical submission means that husbands win in the case of ties here.

10. She should make sure he’s the centre of attention.

Finally, the home, and even the dinner conversations, should reflect the husband and his wishes.

Husband is King Dinner Conversations

This one is so important they’ve even underlined it: family conversation should be about HIM.

In fact, that’s what all of these instructions and questions lead up to: the husband should have an easy, convenient life, while the wife ensures she follows him, caters to his every whim, and does not upset him.

I have a better idea. Let’s all just love Jesus and love each other.

Every relationship will look different, because we are all unique. We have unique personalities, unique giftings, unique circumstances. We don’t have to look like one another. What we do need to do is love God, listen to Him, and then love our spouse–which involves both loving mercy and acting justly.

Seriously, if we focus on those things–love, by showing mercy and also pointing them to Jesus by standing up for what’s right–we’ll all be fine. And you can do that whether you’re a man or a woman or a girl or a boy or a HUMAN.

If you go for marriage counseling, and your church tries to get you to examine 98 ways that you may be in sin, while your husband does not have to do the equivalent, and if your ways of sinning are simply not accurate or right, then understand: this marriage counseling is not safe.

And chances are the church that promotes it is not safe, either. 

Walk away. Find a real body of Christ that promotes everyone’s dignity and worth as being made in the image of God.

And if you’re struggling with understanding all of this, my book 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage will show you how many of these things we’re taught in church don’t contribute to intimacy at all, and aren’t even biblical. Let’s look for the better way!

Are you GOOD or are you NICE?

Because the difference matters!

God calls us to be GOOD, yet too often we’re busy being nice. And sometimes, in marriage, that can actually cause problems to be even more entrenched.

What if there’s a better way?

Again, if you want to hear us talking about these lists, please listen in to the podcast from last week. I’m sorry to cover the same ground twice, but I wanted to create a central database for this information where it was written out, so that people could link to it.

But in the meantime, What do you think? Anything jump out at you? Let’s talk in the comments!

98 Ways Women Can Sin Against their Husbands

PS: Just a few creepy things in the documents to notice, too.

Several of the lists for husbands that I found said that he can show love to his wife by giving a wolf whistle or patting her “on the fanny”. It makes me wonder if women vetted any of this.

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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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96 Comments

  1. John Brandon

    Wait – you mean a 2,000-yr-old religion founded by superstitious people who thought the earth was flat and germs were demons could result in followers with backward thinking? Say it isn’t so!!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Actually, 2000 years ago EVERYBODY thought that the earth was flat. And the people who first realized it wasn’t were strong Christians as well. The Bible was not meant to be a science textbook; it was meant to teach people how to relate to God. And nobody lifted up women more than Jesus did.

      Reply
    • Arwen

      Are you talking about pagan Europeans John? You know the ones who believed, in wizards, fairies, trolls, ogres, vampires, draculas, half man half animal gods, etc. You mean those type of people? Because none of the lies you just spouted is even found in the Bible, in fact the Bible says the earth is sphere in Isaiah, while Europeans believed all types of nonsense about the earth. So if you’re going to accuse God of evil you better provide a chapter and verse from HIS word (scripture) otherwise you end up looking like a fool. God will not be mocked, and professing to be wise they became fools.

      Reply
      • Carly

        Arwen, there may be some truth to all of these “mythological” figures after all the Lionlike men of Moab is a curious statement. Genesis 6 sheds some light on how the giants got here and in the New Testament they are spoken of as devils, disembodied spirts. I know that some people think that the sons of God in Genesis 6 are not fallen angels but who are we to say what a fallen angel isn’t capable of doing? I believe that all of this was done to thwart the coming of the Messiah.

        Reply
    • Ashley

      Sheila,

      I had a dental appointment this morning. I don’t have any cavities, but I found out I have a problem with clenching my teeth. After reading this post and all the comments, I’m sure I’ll be clenching tonight for sure! Haha

      I was super creeped out about the financial portion of the list. Seriously? No wonder there is so much abuse in Christianity with lists like this.

      Reply
      • Nathan

        Note: This post assumes a traditional household (Husband works, Wife stays home and keeps the house and cares for the kids). Not all households are like this, and there’s nothing wrong with this way or other ways. Just making an example…

        The idea of “I’m the man. I go out and work, I earn the paycheck, so it’s all mine” is a very shortsighted belief. The husband isn’t working for himself. He works for the FAMILY. Just as the wife keeps the house for the FAMILY. By keeping the house, the wife creates an environment whereby the husband CAN leave home and work and earn money. The money that the husband earns belongs to the husband and wife equally, just as the house that the wife keeps belongs to the husband and wife equally. Both are working to create a good life for each other, and they should equally participate in finances, etc. Same is true if both work, or if the traditional gender roles are reversed.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Very true! That’s always how we’ve seen our money, too. We have totally joint accounts. We each can spend according to our budget, making our own decisions. It’s not his, it’s not mine. At some points in our marriage he’s earned more (A LOT more), and at some points I’ve earned more. And it’s never been about that.

          Reply
        • Lisa Johns

          Well said, and thank you for it!

          Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Yeah, the finances was brutal. A lot of stuff on how he should give her an allowance. The proper wording would be, “In our budget, we freely assign each other spending money, which is then theirs to spend as they wish. We do not question each other on how they spent this money.”

        Reply
      • Sarah O

        Honestly I am just feeling worn out and depressed on this topic. I’m working through a chronological reading of the Bible and then following SBC and metoo and churchtoo and Jeff Epstein and R Kelly and etc. etc. etc.

        I read about Abram prostituting his wife out to Pharoah and making bank out of it but then God maintains a special covenant with him. I’m seeing Jacob criticize his sons for killing the man who raped their sister rather than negotiate her marriage to him, by God is faithful to him. I’m reading in the law about how a man can make an oath and that’s that but a woman’s oath can be overturned by her husband or father.

        I believe that God is good and that He continues to reveal and deepen our understanding of His goodness with each generation. I see Jesus treating women with ground breaking dignity. I see women of Faith accomplishing amazing things. I am loved by a good man and a kind husband who prays with me, blesses our children, and yet exercises mutuality.

        And yet I read stuff like this, over and over and over, and it makes me wonder whether God loves women at all. It’s been so much for so long – maybe it really is His design? And yet, there’s not a single woman I know who could find joy in the “conservative” view of a wife’s role. Most would have serious physiological and psychological damage (and some who have tried do).

        The dangerous situation these messages create is this: If God created women to be sexual and domestic servants for men, and then gave us not only no desire but a psychological aversion to that role, then He does not love women. If He does not love us, He is not who He says He is. If He is a liar, we should not serve Him.

        I say this not to encourage disbelief, but to emphasize how harmful these messages are not just to women, but to the witness.

        Reply
        • Jen

          Remember that patriarchy is a result of the fall and the backdrop of the Bible, not the point of the Bible. Have you read Bruce Fleming? He’s a scholar who talks about this stuff. Also, let’s not forget that the first person to give God a name was a woman (Hagar), the first to know about the coming Messiah was a woman (Mary, Jesus’ mom), the first person Jesus told He was the Messiah was a woman (the woman at the well), and the first evangelists were women (the women at the grave). Keep seeking God. He will show you His true heart.

          Reply
    • Colleen

      Hmmm. My husband complains every time I put out a tablecloth, so I guess THAT is my sin. Sigh. A girl can’t win.

      Reply
      • Holly

        My husband complains about the tablecloth too. 😂

        Reply
    • Chelsea

      I feel like these arguments could be summed up with “How to make sure your husband has 0 respect for you.” Seriously, if your husband has ANY narcissistic tendencies AT ALL, this kind of attitude is going to make your marriage go off the rails and make him the little-g god of your home. The main problem with patriarchy is that it is WORSHIP OF MAN. If my life revolves around my husband, I am not serving God.

      Reply
  2. Becky

    Everything about this makes me roll my eyes, though I have to laugh more about the housekeeping related ones. Like dinner with candles? We have young boys, with a toddler who’s constantly attempting to climb on top of the table to get to my or my husband’s food (even when he has the exact same food!) I would think that putting our son in a situation where he could get burned and/ or set the house on fire would be worse than failing to set an attractive table. (Besides, my husband is a minimalist, and would likely be more upset at having to store the candles than not having them in the first place!)

    And don’t even get me started on the sex thing, especially coming from a vaginismus background. I’ve wrestled with enough guilt over my condition, and being handed a paper being told that I’m sinning because I avoid initiating when I know not having the time to mentally prepare means it’s going to hurt would have shattered me. Also, I’m supposed to be satisfied with this, and not work with my husband/doctors to improve the situation? I don’t think so. For me, that just leads to bitterness, and that actually IS a sin.

    It seems to come down to the idea that women are second class in the kingdom of God. I wouldn’t classify myself as a feminist by the usual American standard, but shouldn’t we all agree that dehumanizing half (or more) of the church based on gender is a problem?

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I would definitely agree that dehumanizing half the church is a problem!

      I don’t want women to be treated better than men. I simply want all of us to be treated with the equal dignity that we have in Christ. And you can’t tell someone they’re of equal value if you simultaneously say that someone else has power over them and the ability to make all the decisions. It’s crazy.

      Reply
    • Jeannie Miller

      As someone who also struggles with Vaginismus, screw those people. I’ve never seen such a legalistic piece of literature in all my life. Is it even a wonder why some women question if God loves women??

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        I am sorry that this drivel is given out as such churches. If you ever find yourself in a place like this, run! (And I am sorry about the vaginismus. I know. I’ve been there, too. I hope that you can get some help!)

        Reply
  3. Melissa

    I’m sputtering over here. I have no words. Well maybe I have a few. I have a friend who was in a bad marriage counseling situation. She confided in me and I told her to get the heck OUT and find a new counselor. I think I may have been the first person to say anything like that to her. Poor, poor woman. All the responsibility for her husband’s actions was being heaped upon her head. Unacceptable.

    Okay I have to go do some deep breathing to calm down now.

    Reply
  4. Arwen

    You know Sheila, if you were to tell some of these Churches that they are no different than Muslims, they will deny it to the highest of heavens. But the only difference is they haven’t required Burqas on women. I’m sure they would if they knew they could get away with it. Thank God i didn’t grow up in this type of Christian environment.

    And i’ll never understand how men can even live joyfully in a household where his equal is terrified of him. How can they get sexually exited by a woman who is scared and moves about the house with her head hung low? Any man who gets aroused by this type of family dynamic is either a pervert or has some sick fetish. Yuck!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s what we were talking about yesterday, too, Arwen. Katie and I were saying, “why would a guy want to be married to a woman who wasn’t allowed to express her own thoughts or make decisions? Would that be BORING?” We concluded that men like this aren’t interested in marriage; they’re interested in control, likely because they are very stunted emotionally. It’s so sad when this dysfunction goes church-wide.

      Reply
  5. Emily

    Reading a post like this makes me thankful for two things – that I split with my university boyfriend (who was totally trying to teach me all those “sins” were real) and that I met the man I married (who was appalled at what the first guy was teaching me, and set me straight!).

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      These lists make me SO grateful for my husband, too! (And my sons-in-law).

      Reply
    • Anon

      Thanks for addressing this, Sheila! It’s so frustrating to see these so called Christian organizations promoting this kind of misogyny and unhealthy behavior. Shane Claiborne has an idea I keep coming back to – he says the problem with Christianity is not that it is too counter cultural but that it is not counter cultural enough. The people who wrote this checklist were more interested in reinforcing their patriarchal values than promoting the kind of sacrificing love that God calls married couples to have for one another

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Completely agree! The claim that patriarchy is counter-cultural is nonsense (I actually was in a Twitter conversation about this this weekend). Those who want men to have power in marriage claim that Christianity is counter-cultural, and they’re being counter-cultural. But you can’t claim something is counter-cultural when it is exactly the same culture that has been there for all time in all places EXCEPT for the modern West. What they’re arguing for is the Roman view of marriage, which Paul actually tried to dismantle! It’s quite a silly argument.

        Reply
  6. Jane Eyre

    This is amazing, Sheila! Thank you for your ministry!

    On the money front: I am incredibly proud of my husband, a professor who got tenure before the age of 35. I moved 900 miles so he could keep his job (we had a long-distance courtship). Despite taking a large paycut in the new city, I outearn him… by a lot. (Professors in humanities and social sciences, especially at state schools, often don’t make much more than grade school teachers.)

    But it doesn’t matter. My career is a skill that benefits our family, not something that gives me leverage. He has a flexible schedule, which benefits the family immensely. His job gives him access to a model elementary school, which will benefit our family if/when we have kids. His job stability benefits our family.

    It seems like this business of parsing out the relative values of certain work, or determining whose money it is, is not a very pro-marriage way to look at things.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Totally agree. You’re a team. You work together for the good of the family. The whole point of the marriage vows is that you’re in this together. Who cares who does what, as long as you’re both working towards the same goal?

      Reply
  7. Toni

    I read through both scorecards & the “sinning” handout. It all makes sense now. All my marital problems. I’m striving to be far too independent & separate from the list that “defines” my role & still wish he would “live up to” his list. I believe hubs even lives as if I should stick to this. Which I protest “this isn’t the 50’s!”
    I see different parts of this handout modeled in both my Protestant grandparents relationships & also in my Catholic parent-in-laws

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’m so sorry that this mindset was EVER present. I’m even more sorry that some people still cling to it. They’re missing out on real intimacy!

      Reply
  8. Cheryl

    1st. The only I can “sin against” is God. As he is only one that can judge me. I don’t worship my husband.
    2nd. In Genesis it says when we’re married that 2 become 1. 2 halves that make a whole.
    3rd. A man is the head of the household. To understand that statement is to understand Jesus, the center of Christianity. He had a sergeants heart. A husband first has to bow down and give to the will of God. He also has to put his wants and desires aside to do what’s best for wife and kids. If they disagree then they take it to the Lord, because whatever is his will he will make known to both.
    It’s a partnership. No one above or below the other.

    Reply
    • Lindsey

      I don’t disagree with your premise, but Matthew 18:15 starts out with Christ saying “If your brother sins against you…” so I don’t think that the wording “sin against your husband” isn’t wrong. Certainly if a spouse committed adultery or abused the other spouse they have “sin against” them.

      Reply
  9. Teresa

    What jumped out for me: all the times I was told to be “sweet”. This is how my ex felt i should be. But i was his 2nd wife and my degree helped earn big money. So i had the privilege of failing to meet the king’s desires and earn and manage all the money. Then i got brain injury. Couldn’t work. Now we’re separated and he will be divorcing me.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’m so sorry, Teresa! That’s so sad.

      And God does not call us to be sweet. He calls us to be GOOD. Goodness is a fruit of the Spirit. And goodness means working towards someone’s good, not enabling selfishness!

      Reply
    • Nathan

      For me, what jumped out was an interpretation of Sheila’s item 5…
      > > She must only ever focus on keeping the home and the kids (ie not work outside the house)

      This implies two things. First, the the husband works and wife stays home. Nothing wrong with this, but it is not and should be a requirement. Second, it implies that not only does the wife stay and home and manage the home and kids, she should have no other interests AT ALL. Her entire life, it seems, should be serving the husband, serving the house and serving the kids. Period, end of story. That’s a bad place to go.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        It is indeed! I know I started writing and blogging while my kids were napping. And it grew into this.

        Reply
      • Anonymous

        I’ve also seen wreckage from this years later, when the kids were grown and gone. (In one case, even someone with special needs that kept the mother occupied for decades…no longer being able to do it was very, very hard. ) Regardless of the situation, we should all be preparing our kids, if possible, and preparing OURSELVES for the day when this *won’t* be our calling anymore. Either we will pass away, or we will simply not be able to do it.

        **Also, while I know it’s not the main point of the post, there can be unhealthy dynamics EVEN IF neither spouse is abusive. Something is not always healthy just because both agree to it (think: enabling).

        Reply
      • Mary

        I read this mostly laughing as I remembered how much I tried to do these things and it was never enough to save my marriage or win him back. The one about the purpose of a sexual relationship being to meet the needs of the husband, though? I had to read that one a few times to make sure I had read it correctly. Because did someone seriously put that proudly on paper? It’s often seemed like an unspoken rule, one that should never be spoken out loud because of the ridiculousness of it, but to put it out there in all its childish, selfish glory is shockingly bold. Don’t get me wrong, I am happy to meet my husband’s needs in that area. Doing so brings me great pleasure, but if that isn’t mutual I have to seriously question the nature of our relationship, his love for me, and his overall well-being. Because sex should reflect and be an opportunity to increase the open emotional intimacy between us, not just be a physical act which is essentially nothing more than a chore that has to get done whether you want to or not.

        So does their view also put this in the category of things we owe husbands, like being attractive and keeping the house clean, which we can do offensively too well? Should we just do it pretty well, but not go overboard? I would hate to offend my husband by being too good at it because then certainly that means I’ve learned how to do that with someone else. Someone make it make sense

        Reply
  10. Nathan

    The bible does say that the husband is the “spiritual” leader of the household, kind of like the family pastor. In all other things, though, we are two halves of a whole.

    The belief that man is the master and woman is the eternal second banana servant is an old one and, despite some comments from above, is a belief that has permeated most of history all over the world and across many faiths and beliefs (or at least certain interpretations of them). Hopefully, we’re starting to get over that hump.

    For me personally, while Mrs. Nathan is a stay at home mom, she has other interests outside of cleaning the house and feeding our kids, and in no way is either one of us the King or sole decision maker.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That sounds like a very healthy marriage! And wouldn’t you hate it if she really didn’t have a brain?

      Reply
      • Nathan

        It is. Not perfect, of course, only God is, and we had an “adjustment” period at first, but our relationship is pretty strong. And my guess is also yes, a brainless subservient wife would NOT be fulfilling in the long term.

        Reply
  11. Nathan

    And just for the record, I didn’t grow up in a church. My dad wasn’t all that religious. My mother’s grandfather had a falling out with his minister and walked out, and ever since then my family was never churchgoing. I came to Christ myself when I was 12.

    So unlike some, I never got the conditioning of man being the master. Same goes for Mrs. Nathan. Her parents never went to church either, but when we got married and had a little girl, we decided to find a good church and go there. Mrs. Nathan looked into a few and picked a good one.

    They lean a bit towards catering to men, since they cite studies that show if the dad goes to church, the family will nearly always follow, and they take the biblical lead of the man being the spiritual leader. However, they’re very big into the concept of the husband and wife submitting to each other equally. Also, on Mother’s day Sunday, the wife of one of the pastors gives the weekly talk.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Sounds like a great church! I think it’s very, very sad (and a big indictment of modern Christianity) that many people who didn’t grow up in the church but became Christians later have an easier time doing marriage well. I’ve found that again and again, and it shows just how toxic so much of our teaching is. I’m doing what I can to right things!

      Reply
  12. EM

    What’s really sad about this whole
    mindset is that it tries to give religious credence to men’s emotional immaturity. My husband does his best to love and support me, and he would never agree with any of the things on this list. However, he does have a tendency to react badly if I am emotional, especially if I am upset with something he has done. We just talked this morning about how wrongly I used to interpret that, because I was seeing it through the “submissive wife” lens. If I criticized him and he reacted in anger, what I heard was, “how dare you criticize me, woman!” So I allowed it to silence me. But as he is opening up more, I understand what he is really saying is, “I am trying my best and it hurts when you criticize me, and I don’t know how to handle that.” Since we are growing in unity, we both see this as an area that he needs to work on – hearing criticism without getting defensive. I have seen huge growth in that when it happens now, I am not crushed because I understand where he’s coming from, and he is apologizing quickly.

    Having your spouse be disappointed in you is hard. It hurts. But if you tell wives they are sinning for expressing their hurts, you guarantee that her husband will not mature. And if you tell him that he is being godly for acting that way, it is practically hopeless. He may not become abusive, but you have stunted his personal growth. It’s like this whole movement was created to shield men’s fragile egos.

    And yeah, the cloth napkin thing is just insane. I used to use cloth napkins, and I still do for special occasions. I also used to cook from scratch every night of the week. But with 4 kids with busy schedules, it just isn’t feasible. In fact my husband Shaw encouraged me to keep it simple and easy during this season, because he’d rather spend time with me than have me constantly slaving away in the kitchen and the laundry.

    Rant over 🙂

    Reply
    • EM

      Shaw? That should say has.

      Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Loved your rant! In fact I could write a whole post just on this:

      Having your spouse be disappointed in you is hard. It hurts. But if you tell wives they are sinning for expressing their hurts, you guarantee that her husband will not mature. And if you tell him that he is being godly for acting that way, it is practically hopeless. He may not become abusive, but you have stunted his personal growth. It’s like this whole movement was created to shield men’s fragile egos.

      Reply
    • Nathan

      > > he would never agree with any of the things on this list

      Some of the items on the list are valid, IF they’re applied equally. Like item 24, it can be reworded to

      Make YOUR SPOUSE your best friend and confide in EACH OTHER.

      Others, like “adapt to his priorities by being willing to drop what you’re doing and run”, not so much.

      Reply
      • EM

        Obviously I meant the offensive ones.

        Reply
        • Nathan

          True, and there are quite a bit of offensive ones. I just wanted to note that some were naturally offensive while some were offensive only because they pointed in one direction.

          Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Yes, I agree. If we took a lot of those lists and made them just plain mutual, it wouldn’t be a big deal (although offensively attractive is always offensive. 🙂 )

        Reply
    • CS from NY

      Men ARE emotionally immature. We DO have fragile egos. The problem is these lists put it on the wife to cater to that instead of realizing the problem is with us. Our wives, if they aren’t beaten into guilt by something like these lists, are perfectly positioned to point out to us our failings so we can try to mature.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Exactly. That’s what “iron sharpens iron” is supposed to be!

        Reply
  13. nylse

    I’m so glad I was never brainwashed by any of this nonsensical thinking. Black people know oppression and would be hard pressed to now take it in their marriages. That’s solely my opinion though and why I couldn’t buy into this foolishness.
    To be clear, I know that this warped theology affects all races and classes but I’m always curious to know the breakdown by groups.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I always think that some of the most fierce and awesome women are black women. 🙂 When you have endured much, you don’t put up with stupidity when you don’t need to.

      Reply
    • Chelsea

      Wow that is so interesting you say that. I went to a black reformed Baptist church in college (I’m white) but they didn’t seem to emphasize patriarchy. Women did everything in the church except pastor. There were deaconesses, etc.

      Reply
  14. Paul

    I would like to think I should be surprised that this vile list ever made it past a rough draft without all those reading it laughing it to shame–but sadly, it exists, and even its male equivalent seems to have disappeared. Sad state of the so-called “church” today.

    It is like they have ignored the image of Christ and the church in this list. That image is very explicit. Christ takes full responsibility for the care of and nurture of the church, not the church for Christ (though, honestly, if you look at most churches today, you might be forgiving for thinking they think they are responsible). This list puts the full burden on the wife, and seems to be an absolution of any responsibility for the husband. What kind of man makes his marriage vows, and claims to love his wife, and then would allow this to be presented to her? Sorry, but I have no sympathy for such a man, and would find it hard to respect such a person.

    Thanks for this new eye-opener. If Christianity is truly losing ground in the west (and it is), it is for just these sorts of reasons.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s what floored me, too, Paul. That book has been around since 1980. I have seen so many different iterations of these lists–different churches, different formatting, slightly different wording. So many, many different people must have worked through these and thought, “these are good to give out.” How can that be?

      Reply
  15. Lyndall Cave

    Aargh! I want to punch the people who wrote these lists, or rather the spirit behind them. And I’m not a violent person.

    But also when in the history of ever has focusing on sin made sin go away? We overcome sin by focusing on Jesus and who he has made us to be as his redeemed people. Lists like this only breed more frustration, anxiety, heaviness and yes, sin. Let us focus on the riches that we have in Christ instead, and the power that he gives us to live a holy life.

    Reply
    • Nathan

      You’re right that obsessing over sin doesn’t make it go away. We should focus on God and Jesus to achieve forgiveness. However, we can also work to reduce the amount of sin in our lives. It will never go away completely, since we’re not perfect (only God is), but we can lessen its effect.

      And the list is indeed aggravating. If it wasn’t so widely believed, it would be laughable.

      Reply
    • Nathan

      Or another way. My pastor likes to say imagine a scale from 0 to 100. Satan is at 0, God is at 100 and 50 is the halfway point between perfection and ultimate evil. Now, all of us fall somewhere on that line, but none of us are or ever will be at 100. Obsessing over this will accomplish nothing, but in addition to focusing on God and Jesus, we should at least try somewhat to move up the scale.

      If you take an honest assessment of yourself and put yourself at 54, for example, try to move to 55, then 56 and so on. You’ll never get to 100 (Lord knows I never will), but we can and should try to improve ourselves.

      Note: Many of the items on that list are NOT items of improvement!

      Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Exactly! That’s why the issue to me is not only that the list is directed at women. Even if we had a 98-item list for men it would still be a very, very bad idea. That’s not how you fix a marriage! That’s how you weigh a person down under heavy burdens.

      Reply
  16. Donna

    This has been a great discussion today! My prayer is that the women who are actually suffering in this religious bondage will find your web site quickly and that the Holy Spirit will break through the blinders that they have been forced to wear!

    Reply
    • Nathan

      Amen to that, Donna! For myself, I can’t imagine that God would have created humanity so that one half of us would have no purpose in life other than serving and catering to the second half of us with no reciprocation of any kind.

      That attitude has been around for thousands of years, though, and goes far beyond Christians. Hopefully, we’re beginning to get out of our self dug hole of ignorance.

      Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s EXACTLY why I do this! And also so that women may know beforehand that this is crazy stuff. That way if they ever go to counseling later and they’re handed this list, they can say no and move on.

      Reply
  17. CS from NY

    These lists are abhorrent, and I grieve for the women that were so emotionally abused as to be taken in by them. But I’m not surprised men would have come up with this… It’s silly on its face, though. Wives just don’t offend their husbands anywhere near as much as husbands sin against their wives. Don’t get me wrong, of course women aren’t perfect, scripture says no one is; but when it comes to relationships, women just seem to do it right. I think this is something all guys see in relationships/marriage, if they are honest and paying attention. We’re passive, selfish, anxious, manipulative, sometimes lazy, and often love our wives with the wrong motives. (I think this is why scripture admonishes us to love our wives, because it so goes against our nature.)

    These lists are not only guilt-/shame-inducing for wives, but they are also unconscionable blame-shifting. God chose husbands to be the leaders in marriage. By what I’ve learned, this means we are responsible for what happens in the relationship, not our wives. If there’s a problem, it’s on us, not them. Trying to make wives feel guilty is just wrong. 🙁

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yep. The guilt and shame approach just doesn’t work. It does, however, make someone easier to control, and I think that’s the real aim here.

      Reply
    • Blessed Wife

      I have to differ with your statement that “wives don’t offend against their husbands near as often as husbands sin against their wives.” I think we can probably all think of at least one marriage where a good, Godly man was done dirty by a cruel, unfaithful, or haughty wife. In our family tree it is much more often the women who cheat, mistreat, belittle, even violently abuse. Sin is mutual in marriage, and I think the balance falls pretty equally among both genders as a whole, though it varies widely in individual marriages. We all owe it to God and each other to take responsibility for our own sin and put it, by God’s grace, out of our marriage tent!

      That said, it sounds like you advocate the above sentence for yourself and other men, which means you are one of the good ones!

      And yeah, this list is a joke!

      Reply
  18. Natalie

    I literally laughed out loud at that last line of this article: “wolf whistle” (I assume that’s like a cat call? Gee, I sure love being cat called, as does every women. s/. ) and “patting her on the fanny”… SURE hope the author of that line is American and not British, cuz I don’t think any wife wants her husband to crotch-grab her especially in front of the children!!!! Hahaha, I don’t know how else to react to those wholly inappropriate and emotionally-tone-deaf suggestions other than to laugh!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I know! I can’t think of any woman who would actually appreciate that, which shows how much the author of these lists really knew about marriage.

      Reply
      • Samantha

        Umm I actually love it when my husband whistles at me and grabs my butt. lol and I do it to him as well. Does that make us weirdos? We actually have a game where we will try to discretely touch each others butts while we are grocery shopping. It is NEVER a full on grab. It is literally a quick touch. And he will whistle at me quietly while we are shopping and out and about as well. I find that kind of stuff very flirtatious and flattering and not at all creepy or demeaning. He often whistles at me when we are getting ready to go somewhere and even when I am still walking around in my pajamas and bed hair. It always makes me smile. Maybe it would depend on the way a man treats his wife overall or the way she personally feels about those actions, but I don’t think it is bad, creepy, or gross behavior. Now, do I think it belongs on a list (Christian or secular) of ways for a man to show love to his wife? No, I don’t, because not all women will feel the same way about it. It all depends on the woman, the man and the relationship as a whole. My husband and I are very goofy and flirtatious with one another so it just feels totally natural to do those things with one another. We were never TOLD that it was a great way to show love or affection, it just developed naturally because of our personalities. And I should point out as well that we don’t grab each other in front of the kids. We are sneaky.

        Reply
        • Rebecca Lindenbach

          Haha!! Love that, Samantha! 🙂 But you hit the nail on the head–it’s about allowing yourselves freedom but not forcing others to fit into the same box. My husband and I are super goofy, too, but we have lots of friends who are not and are flirty in their own more subtle ways. The core message of just be true to yourself individually and also to yourself as a couple is so important when it comes to these little marriage things–we would not be happy in a less goofy relationship, many would not be comfortable being as silly as us. That’s why it’s so great we get to choose who we marry! 🙂

          Reply
          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            I think it’s the WHEN about the wolf whistle, too. Sure, occasionally, if you’re trying to flirt with him, absolutely. But if you’re doing the dishes with kids hanging off of you, or getting ready to go out the door and trying to get everything together, then it can be annoying (“why isn’t he helping”?) To say that she’s always going to like that is just, well, odd.

          • Lindsey

            I second appreciating a good “wolf whistle”. I have always – both in my marriage and before it – thought of being whistled at as the equivalent of being complimented. I never found it offensive. (But then again, it didn’t happen to me much so I always thought of women who were good looking enough to get whistled at a lot and who got mad about it as being silly/overreacting.) I mean, I think a whistle can show appreciation without being lewd like catcalling.

  19. Jo

    Some of those are funny, but others are truly chilling, especially the last one on number 3: “I sometimes feel unsatisfied with our sex life.” So not only do you have to put up and shut up, but you’re sinning by even being unhappy about it. The one about depression is frightening too. My husband has supported me through my mental health struggles, not told me I’m sinning against him because of them.

    Marriage is supposed to be a partnership. How can you have a solid partnership when one person gets everything they want and the other has no voice? That’s horrible for both of them and certainly isn’t going to lead to a happy, healthy relationship. In fact, I’d say this sort of marriage counseling is just going to make the marriage worse.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Totally agree!

      Reply
  20. Lisa

    I read the list to my husband and got to the part about serving a meal complete with tablecloth, cloth napkins, and candles. His response? “Yeah, you can’t do that. We have cats and they’d burn the place down!” There’s so much in this list to get really worked up about, but thank you for the best laugh we’ve shared in awhile!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      🙂

      Reply
  21. Kiwigirl

    Hi, Some churches are not good with the ideas they have about family and relationship problems. In churches like this or in cases where the church could improve in that area. It can be worth speaking to the church leadership about it; sometimes they are open to making changes and improving things.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I would hope so! That’s definitely what I encouraged people to do over Love & Respect. If your church recommends it, studies it, or carries it in the church library, here’s a letter with an information packet you can send.

      Reply
      • Diana

        It is certainly one sided! With a list like that she can never win. Unfortunately I have seen this sort of thing in some of the churches I have been a part of.

        Reply
  22. Nathan

    I just realized that the biggest problem on these lists isn’t just a set of things women are or are not supposed to do, or even the idea that the wife has to center her entire existence around the husband.

    The worst thing is, as Jo pointed out, women aren’t even supposed to have their own thoughts and feelings! It’s one thing to demand that you put yourself into a subservient lifestyle, but another thing entirely to demand that you enjoy it and aren’t even allowed your own internal thoughts on things

    Reply
  23. K

    I read the first three documents to my husband last night. Somewhere in the middle, he inquired, “Who comes up with this stuff???” A little later, he commented, “It sounds like a narcissist wrote these.” At the end, “That’s really depressing.” I’m not sure how I ended up with such a good guy, because I was conditioned to believe that the type of woman described in these documents is the ideal wife, long before we ever married. He has always wanted us to be equals, but I have been too terrified of messing up (by not living up to this impossible standard) to accept that a marriage of equals could be good. (Obviously, the man has to be superior for the marriage to work out well.) For some reason, the posts on this subject have sunk in and actually started the idea that maybe all this stuff I internalized more than a decade and a half ago isn’t really optimal or even good to begin with. It’s kinda mind-blowing…

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      It is mind blowing, isn’t it? It sounds like your husband is awesome, though!

      Reply
  24. Nathan

    My church has something similar, but in a good way. Our pastor suggests that, once a month, husband and wife sit down and each tells the other what they want from the other spouse to make a better marriage. The keys are that each gets a turn, and while one is talking, the other does not interrupt, argue, or criticize (that part is VERY VERY VERY HARD for me, but I try to give Mrs. Nathan a fair hearing). That way, each of you gets to say your say and then (hopefully) take the words of your spouse to heart.

    I can just imagine if the ones who make this list suggested this. It would be “Wives, sit down at least once a month and let your husband tell you all the things that you need to do better, and listen, then go and do them”.

    And K, your husband is correct. It IS depressing. It would be funny, if so many people didn’t believe it.

    Reply
    • EM

      That’s a great idea Nathan. Another variation I just heard is called “two positives and a negative.” Same idea, but you start with telling your spouse two things they are doing well or that you appreciate about them, and then move on to the issue that needs some work.

      Reply
  25. Kelly

    This all me sad because somewhere this is being taught to both men and women.
    And none of this is healthy.

    The saddest part though, is that the part about sex, is still a large voice for women today.

    Reply
  26. Kim

    Thank you for taking time to write this post! Well done!

    I thought as I was reading – wow this sounds more like a king in his castle with a slave maid concubine, and then BAM there it was on the list – his castle! Unbelievable! And your thoughts on kings and queens…. your humor was so on point through the post.

    I could rant a whole day about every point, but I’m just thankful for women like you who are speaking out against this garbage and giving us a picture of the gospel to live out instead.

    See how easy and freeing this sounds – What we do need to do is love God, listen to Him, and then love our spouse–which involves both loving mercy and acting justly.
    Seriously, if we focus on those things–love, by showing mercy and also pointing them to Jesus by standing up for what’s right–we’ll all be fine. And you can do that whether you’re a man or a woman or a girl or a boy or a HUMAN.

    Yes! Jesus said his yoke is easy and his burden light. I took me a long time to believe Him…. Bc I was raised in a checklist kind of reformed culture. I hope we keep these kinds of discussions going. The oppressive legalistic misogynistic patriarchy is alive and “well”.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thank you, Kim! It really is just that simple–and yet we add all of this other stuff to it.

      Reply
  27. Tina

    I’m a fan of Peanuts. When I read this blog entry, I was reminded of a story line where Lucy put all of Charlie Brown’s faults on slides so she could show them to him.

    At the end, he said, “I’ve never gone through anything like that in my life! I never knew I had so many faults!”

    Lucy: “Wait until you get my bill!”

    She charged him $143 dollars: 10 dollars to rent the slide projector, 33 to make up the slides, and 100 dollars for a personal fee.

    Charlie Brown: “And I still have the same faults!”

    When you make a list of 100 sins women may commit against their husbands, I can only quote Charlie Brown in response:

    “Good grief!”

    Reply
  28. Tina

    The list of ways a wife can sin against her husband reminds me of a series of Peanuts strips where Lucy put all of Charlie Brown’s faults on slides, showed them to him, and THEN charged him $143! (Charlie Brown’s comment at the end: “And I still have the same faults!”

    Reply
  29. Lisa

    This is such an important topic and I’m glad you covered it twice. There are churches and pastors and “biblical counselors” who still believe these harmful teachings. People are still being harmed by them, including the husbands. As so many have pointed out, these beliefs keep husbands in a perpetual stage of toddlerhood.

    Thank you for documenting everything so well.

    Reply
  30. R

    Yep. My former pastor took us through these Mack books. He wasn’t doing it maliciously; he simply had no idea how much harm these books caused. And I didn’t yet understand that abusive dynamics are different from other marriage issues, so I couldn’t put my finger on why this stuff wasn’t working. This kind of “counsel” kept me stuck in abusive patterns for about 20 years longer than I should have been. Thank God there are better resources now (like yours) and the church is starting to wake up. I just with the entrenched people would be willing to open their eyes and ears a bit.

    Reply
  31. Grace

    Some of the “sins” women can commit at so specific, it makes me wonder if the author had someone in particular in mind. 😂 😞

    I’ve not been willing to go camping or bowling or __________________ with or to work on our cabin.
    © Biblical Counseling Center

    15. I’ve never liked his parents or his older brother.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Like it’s REALLY weird!

      Reply
  32. JC

    For #10, can we also talk about how Heb 2:1 has nothing to do with marriage or dinner conversation? Yes, the rule is glaringly terrible from simple relationship logic, but let’s not overlook the fact that the Bible is being blatantly twisted here.

    Reply
  33. Mara R

    98 ways a woman can sin is up to 92 comments. Mine makes 93, unless someone(s) slips a comment(s) in before I get this posted.

    Wish I had time to listen to this podcast today. But I simply don’t have time. Tomorrow isn’t looking good either. Darn it.

    Reply
  34. MK

    I can’t even… That massively long list of potential areas of sin has THREE extra checkboxes at the end for your additional areas of failure. Because 98 just *might not* get the job done. So grateful for freedom from legalism and spiritual abuse! And, grateful that God is not anything at ALL like they taught me He was!!

    Reply

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