The Only Way to Change a Marriage–Plus You Don’t Have to Obey Your Dad When You’re 24

by | Aug 22, 2019 | Marriage | 45 comments

Podcast: How to change a marriage, the stay at home daughter movement, and more!

There’s only one way to grow a marriage.

Do you know what it is?

It’s time for a new episode of the Bare Marriage podcast!

I hope you all will listen, but if you don’t have time, I’ll have some links and rabbit trails below so you can read all you want as well!

And consider this podcast “extras”. If you want to go deeper into what I talked about in the podcast, here are some more things to help you.

But first, here’s the podcast:

Main Segment: The Only Way to Grow a Marriage

Learning about how marriage works is so important. Learning principles about building a great marriage is essential.

And, as I talked about in the podcast, our beliefs about marriage do influence our actions. I did a bit of a detour on the idea of a husband needing to make the final decisions. When we believe that, it influences our assumptions about the amount of conflict that is natural in marriage, and how easy it is to resolve that conflict. We do need to get this right!

But the main point I was making was this:

If you want a marriage to change, you have to actually DO something!

I gave the example of my post 4 Things You Must Do If Your Husband Uses Porn. Often I get comments on that where women tell their very sad stories, and then say, “so what should I do?” But the post listed 4 things to do. Yet often we don’t want to do those things because they’re hard, and we want something easier.

Stuff doesn’t change until you start changing the dynamic!

So I gave a bunch of examples of small things I’ve changed in my marriage that made a big difference.

But ultimately, what this segment was really about was this: I love teaching about marriage, but I want to make sure it makes an impact. And so I’m going to start having weekly challenges on the blog, where I try to help you implement one new small thing. This week it was about cleaning out your lingerie drawer! And then we’ll have contests on Facebook where I’ll draw a random person doing the challenge to win an ebook collection, or contests on my Friday email. (Are you signed up yet?)

Are you TIRED of always being too tired for sex?

Do you yearn to actually WANT to make love–and figure out what all the fuss is about?

There is a way! And in this 10-module course I take you through what libido is (it may surprise you!), what affects libido, and how we can reclaim the excitement that God made us for.

Why Do We Struggle if our Husbands Think Someone Else is Pretty?

I had Rebecca on to talk about a comment we received last week where the woman was really struggling. She said:


I’m married to an incredible, godly man who is so diligent in protecting our marriage and honoring me with his eyes. I realize that noticing a woman isn’t wrong, but I’m still struggling with feeling inadequate/less pretty if my husband DOES think someone is “cute” or notice them. I think my insecurities are hurting our marriage, though, because he is constantly “on guard” so he won’t unintentionally hurt me, but I don’t want him to feel stressed out all the time as though seeing a woman who is dressed inappropriately is wrong. I guess I’m fighting against myself because I want him to have the freedom to just enjoy life and not be scared of “hurting me,” but I have to be honest with him in that it does still hurt. I tell him it’s an issue with me that I need to get over, but he cares about me so much that he’s afraid to even think a woman is pretty. That’s not how I want our marriage to be. I know he thinks I’m the most beautiful woman in the world, (he tells and shows me all the time) but I still wrestle with deep insecurities. Any advice?

I talked about how we have far too physical a view of sex, but then Rebecca talked about how in our culture we view our worth too much in our looks. I thought her take was infinitely more awesome than mine, and you really should hear it. It’s powerful.

Reader Question: My Long-Distance Girlfriend’s Father Won’t Give Permission for Us to Date

Okay, here’s a thorny one:


My girlfriend and I are 24 years old and are strong believers. We met one year ago and have been dating for 6 months, almost entirely long-distance. She lives with her parents [across the world] and I live by myself in the U.S. She’s a strong
Christian, a hard worker, and has amazing character. Our plan is for me to move to where she is soon, once I find a job down there. Both of her parents and both of my parents are also strong Christians. My mum, dad, and her mother are happy for us and think we’re a good match.

However, her father doesn’t want us to officially start dating until I first move there and he has a few years to assess my character. He believes his responsibility as a father involves testing my character and knowledge of the Bible and love for God over the course of several years before giving his blessing for us to officially start dating. The last time I visited my girlfriend’s family, her father wouldn’t even talk with me about the possibility of me and her officially dating. Nearly everyone in her community and mine think that it’s unrealistic for me to move across the world for a woman who isn’t allowed to date me, but her father will not change her mind. He uses verses such as Ephesians 6:1 and the story of Isaac and Rebekah to defend his position.

I am very concerned about moving [across the world] to pursue this woman while her father is adamantly against us dating. What do you think we should do?

This was a great one to answer, and I hope you listen to my take. But basically–the problem here is not the father. It’s the girlfriend.

Listen in to see why I’m saying that (and all about the stay-at-home daughter movement), but then chime in with your advice, too!

That’s it for the podcast this week. I hope you all will listen in! You know, the podcast is doing really well. I’ve got a LOT of listens every week, and my subscribers keep growing. But from the survey I recently did, over 70% of you haven’t listened yet. So I just want to encourage you to. They’re funny. You learn more of my personality. And we can get into things in greater detail than we often can on the blog!

So let me know in the comments: why are we so nervous around pretty women? What do you think of a 24-year-old woman thinking that her father can dictate her marriage? Let’s talk!


Written by

Sheila Wray Gregoire


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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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  1. Jane Eyre

    I haven’t listened to the podcast, but I have Opinions on the father.

    That is about control. This all but guarantees that Father runs the daughter’s life. No, you do not get “years” to assess character. Learn better character judgement. Teach your daughter about good character judgement and help her if she sees red flags.

    (The “years” comment really bothers me. Life doesn’t last forever, and fertility is even shorter. If she wants kids, she can’t have a year-long pre-courtship. I am exceedingly lucky to have been able to conceive so readily, so close to 40, but “winning the lottery” is not a life plan.)

    But the daughter needs to move out and tell her father that he can pound sand. Parents should not be running their grown children’s marriages. If he is exerting this much control over her dating life, he will not relinquish it at the altar. He will make courtship miserable. He will deny permission to propose. He will exert demands on how the children are raised, how money is spent, and how they spend their free time.

    I mean, my advice is “there are literally another hundred million single Christian women; find one who either puts the lid on her crazy family or doesn’t have a crazy family,” but I’m old and have seen these things end poorly.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      “But the daughter needs to move out and tell her father that he can pound sand.” YEP! And I agree about all the other Christian women, too. This young woman needs to take control of her life. I’m not minimizing how hard that will be. But if she doesn’t, he should move on. And she should realize that by NOT taking control of her life, she’s pushing good potential spouses away.

      • Jane Eyre

        I might have mentioned my family dysfunction before, but it was meeting my husband that finally forced me to establish boundaries (and at this point, we don’t even speak). It just… became clear that I could grit my teeth through the crazy and manipulation, or I could have a good marriage, but not both.

        It’s painful and frankly a bit scary (because they do not want to give up control), but it only highlights how correct that decision is.

        It’s just not possible to deal with this level of lies and control, and have a good marriage. Everything that one does to adapt to the crazy is deeply problematic in a healthy relationship. I can’t just switch it on and off.

      • Blessed Wife

        He says this girl lives on the other side of the world from the US. Did he say where?

        Could this be a matter of local or cultural custom? There is a trend here in the States of men disenchanted by feminism seeking brides from cultures where women are trained to submission much more stringently than we are here in the West. Some of the brides I’ve talked to describe cultures where the father’s authority is absolute, where they saw their mothers and grandmothers ritually beaten to ensure the father’s control in the family. One told me that when her father died, her uncle inherited “responsibility” for the family and started marrying the girls off as children to reduce his expenses.

        I definitely agree that the father’s expectations are crazy and unrealistic. But I think we may be judging this whole situation through a very Western set of eyes as far as the daughter is concerned. It is only in westernized cultures that a girl can tell her father to “pound sand” without dire physical consequences.

        I think moving across the world to her country would be his first step down a disastrous slippery slope, and he should insist on her coming here, or call the whole thing off. Jane Eyre is right, this father is not going to give up control. This whole story sounds like Laban in the Bible, and this young man should bear in mind that none of Laban’s conditions for his daughters’ marriages were predicated on anyone’s interests but his own.

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          It actually is a thoroughly western country. Just didn’t want to identify it for their privacy. But totally western.

  2. Nathan

    I’m also a bit iffy on the father saying that. She’s already 24, so should be able to decide on her own who she will or will not date. And the “years to assess” is very open ended. How long until he gives the green light to start dating? When she’s 30? 40? 50?

    And as to the other thing, I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating.
    > > I did a bit of a detour on the idea of a husband needing to make the final decisions
    As do I. A marriage is supposed to be a coming together of equals. It’s not like Sheldon and Leonard on The Big Bang Theory, where the two of them vote on all apartment decisions, but Sheldon breaks all ties.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s hilarious about Sheldon. I’d forgotten that! (I actually liked season 1 of The Big Bang Theory best).

  3. Kristen

    Hi, Sheila. As a 24-year-old woman who still lives with her parents (although hopefully not for too much longer), I was especially intrigued by your headline for this week’s podcast. 🙂

    Growing up, I was taught that my parents were my authority until I was married; they used the verse about a man leaving his father and mother to become one flesh with his wife in order to back this up. That was all well and good until I advanced from early to mid twenties without marrying, and started really wanting to make my own decisions—big decisions, like college and career. It’s a direction I’ve felt drawn to for several years, but it’s required me to take on a slight bit of debt. My parents were strongly opposed to student loans, which I DO understand to some extent. But I’ve tried to be prudent and pay some while I’m in school and choose a good major; still, in a way I feel like I defied their wishes, and that was hard for me to do.

    Sometimes I think this way of thinking has made dating more of a struggle for me. Not that I haven’t dated or don’t want a relationship, but I value the autonomy I’ve finally begun to establish in recent years.

    I digress. So, for the sake of argument, although not saying I never want to get married—but what if I never get married? What if I stay single my entire life? Am I still supposed to answer to my parents when I’m 40 or 50 years old? Seriously.

    I’ve mentioned my uncle whom I lost unexpectedly a couple years ago. I was already questioning things about my faith before he passed, and he was a safe place for me. I remember during one of our last conversations, he told me that I had just as much ability to hear God’s voice as anyone else. And I know I’m not where I need to be with God, but sometimes I feel like I’m closer to understanding Him now, in the questioning, than I was when I checked off all my Christian checkboxes years ago.

    I’m sorry for rambling, Sheila, but I really wanted to share my thoughts with you.

    • Jess

      Hey Kristen,

      The reason biblical women were expected to remain under their parents rules/home/leadership/authority…however you want to phrase it…was because in that time period and culture 1.) Women usually married very very young and 2.) Women had literally no other way to make an honest living. These standards were put in place to protect women from being without a way to support themselves because financial responsibility fell on the father or the husband.

      Obviously in our culture, this is not the case. Good job for going to college and making decisions you think are best for your adult life. You are a beloved child of God and you are a capable adult woman. You can be loving and respectful of your parents especially because you live in their home, but this does not mean you need their permission to make decisions or that you have to live your life exactly as they wish.

      Trust that God will lead you and ask Him for the strength and discernment to do HIS will, not the will of your parents. Just as Sheila talks about a husband not being the ultimate authority over his wife (as in decision-maker), so is the father not the ultimate authority over his grown adult daughter.

      Of course this will be an easier boundary to draw if and when you decide to move out of their house. Praying for you to hear the Holy Spirit’s prompting and for courage to follow God’s leading. You’re on the right track I think!

      Just remember God created you and loves you and He gave you a brain and a will and an ability to hear and discern His voice through His spirit. The same Spirit that lives in your dad lives in you!

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Amen, Jess! And the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead lives in her, too. It’s the same Spirit. He’s powerful. And the dad does not have more access to the Spirit than the daughter. in fact, I would even argue that if he thinks he does have more access, that’s part of the Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit that Jesus is talking about. It’s denying the work of the Spirit by equating ourselves with God. And it’s wrong and very dangerous.

  4. Lois

    Maybe the reason there’s such a high percentage of your readers who deal with pain in sex is because that automatically causes a much more difficult sex life which would then prompt them to go looking for help……

    • Lois Eagles

      Posted by accident before I finished my thought! So “out there” in the general population the numbers might be different but perhaps the ones who come to your blog are looking for help.
      Speaking from experience here 😏

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I think that’s certainly part of it! I think it’s also that I’m one of the few people who talks about it, so a lot of them end up here. But it did surprise me!

      • Andrea

        Sheila, I am surprised that you are surprised at this number, since you provided that link to an article a few months ago that said 30% of women experienced pain during intercourse (and almost none of them told their partners!). It was called something along the lines of “Female Cost of Male Pleasure.”
        Vaginismus is different, it affects 1-2% of the population (though numbers are higher for those raised in the purity subculture) and is so painful that it actually causes women to cry, but many more women experience milder pain and just grit their teeth and bear it. It just makes me shudder (not the pain itself, I’ve been there, but not telling your partner…)

  5. Lizzie Carter

    I will have to listen to this podcast, especially the part about the 24 year old daughter obeying her father. One of the reasons why things fell apart in my relationship with my parents was that my mom insisted I still obey them, despite being a married 25 year old, and having been out of the house and completely financially independent for several years at the time. My parents believe that unmarried daughters are still under their dad’s ultimate authority, but married ones are to their husband’s authority. So in their eyes I should have been under my husband’s authority, and yet they still demanded I obey them, even when I know it would’ve gone against what my husband and I had decided together on as what was right for us and our marriage. I’m really glad that in the end, my husband and I stood up for ourselves and said ‘no’ to them.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, I’m glad you did, too, Lizzie! This idea that Christianity is all about hierarchy and authority is so wrong. Christianity is about living through the Spirit, and having a relationship with Jesus. Anything that tries to take the place of the Holy Spirit in a believer’s life is not of God.

    • Sheep

      Lizzie Carter,
      It’s interesting that it was your mother insisting that you obey them. Technically speaking, those that believe in the patriarchy theology should have your father being the one that would tell you that because it would not be the mothers place to lay down the law for the “child”

      Having been around a LOT of the patriarchy families, and having been drug into the fringes of it myself, and being a somewhat astute observer, I have found that in an awful lot of those families it is actually the mother that is in very firm control of everything. The father “leads” his family by doing what his wife tells him to do or more accurately, manipulates him into doing. In some situations I see the patriarchy movement as being a perfect place for a narcissistic and manipulative woman to be able to run and control her family and marriage but when something goes wrong she can point at her husband and say “he is in charge, we are all following his lead”

      Obviously this does not speak to the whole patriarchy crowd, but it is interesting how often I have seen it.

      • Lizzie Carter

        Yes! I absolutely agree with your comment, and I have observed this so often as well. I always thought it was somewhat ironic that it was my mother who was the most controlling and abusive, despite all of her claims that she was following my father’s leading, and that he was the head of the family. Maybe in her eyes he was…. until it came to important things like education, child-raising, diets, etc. Then it was full steam ahead with my mother’s program and anyone who disagreed was decidedly less spiritual or just plain wrong/sinning.

  6. Nathan


    Some cultures (Christian and others) believe that, as a woman, you are COMPLETELY under the authority of your father (or nearest male relative) until such a time, if ever, that you marry, when total authority is then transferred to your husband.

    My guess is that, on the Christian side, this is a misinterpretation old Old Testament scripture. There’s also an old (not biblical) saying “a son is a son til he takes a wife, but a daughter’s a daughter the rest of her life”.

    And don’t apologize for rambling! Getting our thoughts out there on this stuff is good.

  7. Linda

    I appreciated your answer to the wife who feels threatened by the beauty of other women, that’s a struggle for me as well. I find that I can be perfectly comfortable with the way I look and appreciative of my body and secure in my marriage, then I hear yet another one of those messages about how I can never conceive of just how much of a struggle young beautiful women are for my husband. Those messages cement for me that looks are the main thing that a man, even a godly loving husband, is drawn to. It makes me feel a bit silly thinking that my 40-something self is pretty hot stuff when these younger, shinier girls cause such an incredibly strong physical reaction in my husband, “Trust me ladies, you can just never understand how visually tempted a man is every day.” “What your husband wishes you knew about his visual struggle.” “Men are visual and wired for variety” etc…Why is it so important to men to try to let us know this?

  8. Heidi

    Our extended family went thru this last year. Drawing from that experience I would give the following advice.

    1. While your relationship is still long distance, encourage the girl to move out and become self sufficient. Try to make this a smooth transition between her and her parents and not directly related to the relationship between you and her. This step will allow you to see two things. Is her father willing to let her make her own choices in other areas? Is she the same girl you love when she steps away from her father’s influence? This will also help her parent feel less used if you end up deciding later to go against their wishes.
    2. Be an open book to her family, both about your relationship and yourself. In families structures like this the dad usually feels a great deal of pressure to make sure he helps find a perfect man for his little girl. He may see himself as solely responsible for her happiness and security even in her choice of a mate. Give him as much assurance as you can without yielding your autonomy to him. Although it feels easier to conceal your relationship in the face of parental opposition, you will have more respect and trust down the road if you are up front about it from the start.
    3. Don’t rush the relationship. Strive to become a friend of the family. Be present at family events. This is hard in a long distance setting but it will be especially valuable if you move forward with the relationship against her fathers wishes. You will be tempted to move even faster in your relationship then you otherwise might because there is such strong opposition to it. Take your time and build a strong case for yourselves as a couple.
    4. Take particular care to connect on multiple levels as a couple when you’re together. When family drama is involved in a relationship it is easy for that to become your big picture/bonding point. But good marriages are built on agreeing on much more then just that you should be allowed to be together.
    5. In keeping with Shelia’s advice I would not move your life to her location until you were assured that your relationship with her had reached that level of commitment with or without her family being on board.
    6. Give your best effort to not burning any bridges unnecessarily. Treat her family with love and respect through each potential confrontation. Refuse to allow bitterness and resentment to burn in your hearts.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Wonderful thoughts, Heidi! Really good.

      The only thing I would add is that while you are trying not to burn bridges unnecessarily, sometimes it may be necessary (you implied that, but I’m just making it explicit). It’s essential that she exercises her own autonomy before she’s married. They can certainly be kind to her parents in this, and patient with her parents, but it must still happen. And if that causes her father to crack down, then bridges may indeed be burned. But the responsibility for that lies at the father’s feet, not at her feet.

      What an awful situation! I do hope that your extended family came out okay on the other side!

      • Heidi

        Thanks Sheila. In our family restoration is in progress but both sides sustained some heavy damage.

        Couples in love can be hasty, glossing over advice and mature admonitions from the people who know them best because they are so “in love” and after all they are “adults” now. So please please listen to and honor any reasonable request your parents may be making. Asking for measurable goals for gaining permission and a limited timetable on how long the parents can deliberate before you move forward…These are also some things people can try to find middle ground before they light the torches and sever family relationships.

        • Jane Eyre

          Heidi, your condescension is dripping from the screen. Adults are adults. Treat them like adults – who sometimes have terrible judgement themselves – and these things don’t happen.

          • Heidi

            Oh dear. Perhaps I didn’t communicate my thought as well as I meant to. I do believe that adults should be allowed and even encouraged to make their own choices. What I was trying to say in my comment above. Is that I would encourage trying everything one can to keep peace and find a solution before cutting ties. Also they should listen to the advice the people who love them and know them best (which hopefully are their parents and family) and give it careful consideration before they dismiss it.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Jane, I don’t think her comment was condescending. I appreciate both of you, but this comment was a little harsh, okay? 🙂 I agree with you about adults being adults, for sure!

  9. Nathan

    Sheila writes
    > > I would even argue that if he thinks he does have more access, that’s part of the Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit that Jesus is talking about.

    The idea that some people are inherently more spiritual than others can be seen in many areas of the history of the church (all faiths, not just Christians). Things like only ordained ministers/priests can talk to God, men are closer to God than women, only men can lead in the church, and so on.

    Maybe some of us are more “good” than others, but in the eyes of God, we’re all His equally beloved children.

    Just because he’s the dad and you’re the daughter does NOT AT ALL mean that he has some “gold star member connection” to God that you don’t.

  10. Natalie

    To the segment about looks and beauty:

    I didn’t go through a “quarter life crisis” when I hit 25, but now that I’m turning 30 this year (& having a 2 year old and a 3 month old on top of that and very little time to myself or reason to make myself look pretty with nice clothes and makeup every day), I’ve been thinking a lot about my appearance. I got carded just yesterday and the teller thought I was in my early 20s, but I still feel like I’m looking older. I definitely feel older simply from lack of sleep (infants will do that to you). While I know my husband thinks I’m beautiful and he tells me that frequently and he also doesn’t innately look at beautiful women, I feel like my desire to be the hottest woman in the room is more something that comes from my internally. I’m not sure what causes that. I’m confident in my body and actually have the best relationship with it than at any other time in my life to date. But I am a highly competitive person & have always been one of the more attractive ones in the room throughout my life. I guess I feel like I’m starting to slip. I didn’t realise just how much I value my own looks (how vain of me!) till this mini life crisis came about recent. I think we women, even if we have good husbands who verbally reinforce their positive thoughts on our looks frequently, are far harder on ourselves than anyone else. And I think that’s largely our culture with some regions of the country (US specifically) being more hyper-beauty-focused than others. I’m in the process of re-rooting my sense of self and value in Jesus.

  11. Lois Eagles

    When I was 20, I broke up with my boyfriend who is now my husband simply because my father was not comfortable with our relationship. Looking back, I regret this so much! Instead of trusting that God could speak directly to me (and He was!) and lead me, I trusted in a broken authority figure who was letting other things cloud his judgment. But at that time, at age 20, I had no idea that there existed a world in which my father did not have complete authority over me. So thank you for adding that little note at the end of your podcast for girls who have grown up like this! I think it is so valuable for them to hear this truth.

    3 months later my father changed his mind and my husband and I were married within a year. But if I had lost him because I listened to my father it would be one of the biggest regrets of my life. Those three months were filled with turmoil and begging God for answers – – “Why did you tell me this was Your will only to have my father stop it?? How can it be Your plan for me if my dad is saying no??” I could have saved us both so much pain if I had just trusted and followed God with confidence where He was clearly leading my husband and I!

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Totally, Lois! I’m glad that things worked out like they did, but even more glad that you’ve realized what an empty theology that is. Why don’t we raise our girls to be strong? Why are people so scared of women who can think and who can listen to God? It’s bizarre, and it says a lot about those who espouse such theologies.

      • Meagan Lawry

        I have to chime in here. As a daughter of a father who believed and taught us about HIS responsibility towards me while unmarried. I did live at home until 24. Then I married– the man I loved (and still do, nearly 9 yrs later) and the man with whom my father invested time and emotional energy in getting to know. He didn’t do this out of an unbalanced need for control, nor an improper belief that he had a greater connection to God. He was my authority figure because he believed he answers to God for how he shepherds his family– until a new family is formed through God’s prescribed means: namely marriage. Practically this works out differently for different families, and different ages. For me, even though I lived under my parent’s roof, I made the decisions about my day to day life. I paid my own way through school, I decided where to work, who my friends were, etc. Very, very seldom did my dad sit down with me and say, “Hey, this makes me uncomfortable…” or, “I don’t feel right about this, and here’s why.” The key is, a culture of mutual love and respect was developed long before I was an adult. It made it easy to then bring this guy home and make him “court” my dad first. I know that my dad trusted me to make great choices. I know that in turn, I could trust my dad to hit the breaks if necessary. In fact, that really happened! I came to a point early in my courtship, where I had some concerns. After praying (and crying a lot), I felt the Lord leading us to take a few months separation to regroup. Amazingly, when I came to my dad, I found that he had been hearing the same thing. It was emotionally difficult, but so worth it now that I look back.

        I’m not arguing that we did everything right, or that we understand the biblical principals correctly all of the time. But I do think we did according to the Spirit’s conviction at the time. It wasn’t one sided, I chose to put myself in my position, and God blessed me, my parents, and my sweet little family now. Still learning as always.

  12. Mara

    Man I’m really glad you gave the little note at the end where you said the father being so controlling is abusive. I was getting really worried because at first it sounded like you were saying it’s the daughter’s problem. That daughter was me, 11 years ago. I was 21, and my parents *let* us get engaged after 6mo of *courtship.* We both knew we were right for each other. HOWEVER… my parents wouldn’t *let* us get married for TWO D*MN YEARS because my fiancé couldn’t come up with a financial plan to support us that didn’t involve me working and, thanks to good ol’ Gothard/Philips’ philosophies, the man is supposed to be the one to provide financially, not the woman, so we were stuck until he finished college. The only thing that kept us from being in a 3yr engagement was the fact that he landed an internship that saved us enough $$ so we could make til he graduated. Those two years were hell. I didn’t know I didn’t have my own agency. I wanted to go to work, I wanted to marry him sooner, but when I was told by every spiritual authority figure in my life that submission to my father was most important and that’s what it means for women to be submissive to God, how did I know any different? Any questions I raised through reading the Scriptures on my own were shot down with murky Gothardisms and condescension that left me feeling stupid, frustrated, and confused. Every “secular” person I knew ridiculed me during that time with “why don’t you make your own decisions?” And I would tell them I was happy to submit to my father because that’s what following Christ was (or so I’d been deceitfully taught). I was miserable but hey, we’re called to live a life of sacrifice, right? I WISH TO GOD someone would have kindly sat me down and taught me what I so desperately suspected but just couldn’t quite see because of all the abusive fog. I NEEDED someone to not ridicule me but take me through scripture and help me see it from the right perspective. It’s just so hard to see things the right way when you’re being held under someone’s heel. I had taught myself for two years to turn myself off to any sexual feelings for my husband -we weren’t even allowed to kiss til our wedding day- so sex was terrifying. When I discovered alcohol I nearly developed a habit of getting tipsy to have sex just so the concrete inhibitions I was forced to create for the two years of engagement (thanks, Purity Culture) would disappear for that moment. We are still married to each other and happier every year we unlearn that bullsh*t. I’m much healthier now that I finally am seeing a counselor, but screw the Gothard/Phillips’ cultish and abusive philosophy that’s caused so much pain.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, Mara, I’m so sorry! What a terrible burden to live under. I hope your siblings (if you have any ) were able to get out, too. I am going to be looking at all of this in a book soon, because I do want to try to break these awful bonds. It’s all about power and control, not Jesus. Just look at all the things that have come out about pervert Gothard! So terrible.

    • Kristen

      “Every “secular” person I knew ridiculed me during that time with “why don’t you make your own decisions?” And I would tell them I was happy to submit to my father because that’s what following Christ was (or so I’d been deceitfully taught). I was miserable but hey, we’re called to live a life of sacrifice, right?“

      That sounds so much like something I would have said/thought just a couple years ago. When you’re steeped in that kind of thinking, it’s easy to think that the “secular” friends are just encouraging you to rebel or be selfish or whatever. But if were miserable ALL the time, even in the name of sacrifice, I wonder if that really reflects all that well on Christianity. I’m not saying it should be easy—it isn’t. Just saying I can relate to you in this post, Mara.

      • Kristen

        Maybe I should clarify. Christianity isn’t easy, but I don’t think it’s supposed to miserable, either.

  13. Emmy

    Stay-at-home-daughter movement? Could not believe my eyes! I did not even know such a movement existed 10 minutes ago. Just weird…

    • Rebecca Lindenbach

      Agreed, Emmy. I find it ironic, too–if the 24 year old had gotten married at 22 and was widowed early on, she wouldn’t be expected to live under her father’s roof and obey him because she would have been a married woman whose husband died.

      But because she isn’t married, she’s under his thumb.

      Reminds me a lot of cultures where daughters’ virginity is protected at all costs, to be honest. Once she’s married (e.g., not a virgin) she no longer has as much value so she is free to do what she wants. But while she still provides value (e.g., virginity), she needs to be protected and watched so she doesn’t “ruin herself.”

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Oh, I hadn’t drawn that correlation, Rebecca. That’s really ugly, isn’t it?

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yeah, it’s kind of scary to Google it! Lord, help these poor young women.

  14. Emmy

    I was just wondering In which country does this 24yo young woman live. The post said she lives [across the world] and he lives in the US.

    If it had been the other way around I would have bee thought her family is involved in a fringe religious movement of some kind. There are a lot of weird movements in the US. But she lives [across the world], which may mean and European country, but also Asia, Africa, anything. Perhaps she lives somewhere where women never are considered legally as adults, even they are 24 years old.

    I still believe you gave him a good and prudent answer.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      No, it’s a totally western country. Just didn’t want to put that for his privacy,

  15. Blessed

    I grew up on the fringes of the purity culture. It wasn’t at my church, where my dad was the pastor, but it was at my school and teen camps I attended. I got engaged on my 18th birthday and married six months later. People kept asking my dad if he was really going to “let” me get married that young. My dad’s response was that he raised me to be an adult who could make her own decisions. My husband had asked my parents’ permission to marry, (he was raised in the purity culture). My dad said he would not give permission that wasn’t his to give, but he gave his blessing. Two decades later and we have a wonderful, healthy relationship with my parents, who live nearby.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s lovely! That was my husband’s reaction, too. Not permission, but blessing.

  16. Leila

    About the 24 year-old daughter. . . if I were the young man my counter argument to her father would be, “you want this to be like Isaac and Rebekah? Alright. I’ll ask God for a sign and if I get the go ahead that your daughter is the one, you put her on a camel and send her right along!” lol
    Seriously, though, part of the problem in conservative circles is that Dads (and often the singles themselves) tend to waaaayyy over-analyze prospective mates and ignore ACTUAL Biblical principles.
    I’m thankful that my experience as a live-at-home-older-single when a young man came asking was in every way a positive experience! Our testimony is online if anyone wants to read it.

  17. Kathryn

    In regards to the first one she might have faced rejection in the past and might be scared that her husband will leave her if she’s not the most beautiful person even though her husband would never leave her. I’m kinda that way having being rejected as a child. I have a wonderful husband but I still struggle with it.


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