Why Do We Ask Women to Choose Between Being a Good Wife or a Good Mom?

by | Jan 26, 2024 | Men's Corner, Parenting Young Kids | 44 comments

We shouldn't ask women to choose between being a good wife and a good mom

Why are we asking women to choose between being a wife and being a mom?

One of the themes that pops up often in evangelical marriage literature is warnings to women not to be a mom first and a wife second. It’s in almost all of Gary Thomas’ books. I used to teach it! It’s pretty much everywhere.

So we’re pitting motherhood against wifehood.

What that’s doing is taking a woman who, we know from research, is carrying the majority of the childcare load and the mental load, and telling her that she has to dedicate JUST AS MUCH to her husband.

The problem is that she can’t drop anything. What, exactly, could she drop? Her kids need her. By asking her to prioritize the marriage, all we’re doing is loading so much to her already full plate, and making her feel guilty.

There’s a way around this, and it’s a simple one:

Asking men to be involved dads.

As Rebecca and Connor were talking about on the podcast this week, parenthood is something they do together, and because of that, it enhances their marriage, it doesn’t detract from it.

Motherhood is only a risk to your marriage if parenthood is something separate from your marriage that he doesn’t really participate in. As soon as he participates fully, then parenthood is something that brings you closer.

Take the quote that I shared from Gary Thomas on yesterday’s podcast:

If the baby cries, the husband stops existing. They could be in the middle of making love, but that doesn’t matter–the baby comes first. The power has shifted back to the wife.

Gary Thomas

A Lifelong Love

In Gary’s book, he explains that the power in marriage resides with the one who is the least emotionally invested in the marriage at the time–similar to how in a dating relationship, the power lies with the one the least committed. They determine how much you text and how often you see each other.

In this “power shift” in marriage, then, the wife is less invested in the marriage because of the baby. So what’s his solution? She needs to be LESS invested in the baby, and MORE invested in the marriage. And I guess she has sex even if the baby is crying?

But there is another obvious solution here. Just ask the dad to be committed to the baby too!

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Men can be equally involved dads.

What would happen instead if we told men: “Remember that in this season of life, being a dad is your primary responsibility. Get engaged with your kids. Get up in the middle of the night with your toddlers. Do lots of the the daily care for your kids.”

We posted this question to our followers on social media a few months ago, and the responses started flowing in immediately. 

We heard from women who were exhausted of the emotional and mental burdens placed upon them to keep their marriages afloat and their households running. 

We heard from women who were desperate for their husbands to fully show up in their marriages as an equal partner in life and in raising their children. 

We even heard from a few men who were acknowledging that there is a massive cultural problem in placing too much on the shoulders of women and not expecting enough of their husbands.

So let’s see what people think about this.

It would result in husbands being better partners and more empathetic with their wives

What if we told men that their wives need them to show up in their marriages and stood alongside their wives to shoulder their share of housework, childcare, and marital responsibilities? It seems like that would lead to stronger and more equal partnerships and marriages. 

Our readers agreed with this thought:

“oh my gosh yes!!! This would have made SUCH a difference in my marriage, rather than adding to the idea he had that I wasn’t appropriately meeting his needs. I had a baby that cried 24×7 for 6 months if she wasn’t nursing or asleep (on me!). But that didn’t “excuse me” from anything.”

“Can’t count the number of times I’ve said “you don’t get a break from being a parent!” When he was tired, sick, wanted a break, on vacation, etc. but I’ve had to shoulder everything regardless of what I was going through. (And it included 21 years of trauma that induced autoimmune symptoms)”

“I know in my life it has also required examining my own expectations, which were influenced by a complementarian upbringing but also a wide streak of people pleasing. Once I believed that I was *allowed to* insist on a more equal workload, a lot of other things improved ;)”

It would result in husbands taking responsibility for themselves as the adults they are

So much of cultural expectations within the church mean that not very much is expected of husbands. Women aren’t just expected to raise the children and care for the home, she’s also often expected to clean up after her husband, make him feel adored (as we showed in the Bare Marriage Podcast Ep. 220), and always be available for sex. 

So where does that leave men? Without any real responsibilities to their wives or children, it would seem. 

“I’ve always found it infuriating that we expect the children to act more like adults than the fathers. 

Children having needs is biological. Adults have the capability to care for themselves and even at times put off their wants/desires and even needs for the sake of the children that can’t. 

C’mon Church. Jesus didn’t put off the kids for the adults. Why are we?”

“Not to mention how many of us wives have ALWAYS prioritized our marriage also, but the husband was withholding affection, conversation, encouragement and sex for years….on top of not helping with his own kids…

Remember everyone that it’s usually the wife who is reading all the marriage and parenting books or asking to go to counseling….and the man refusing to…”

“Truth! Oh and while we are at it let’s teach them that household chores and childcare are equally the responsibility of men and women so they don’t do the things but then resent their wife because he had to do “her chores”!”

“I really believe this label “men” is overused and misapplied in these contexts. Men, Christ following men, don’t have a self/centered, entitled mentality that offloads any of their responsibilities onto their wife.

“These are subpar men, regardless of their superficial Christ confessions. Subpar men are man-boys. These man-boys are proof positive that arrested development is real. These spiritual infants are who the Apostle Paul called “babes in Christ.” But these are not a representative sample of men, by no stretch of the biblical imagination:

“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me” 

If the toxic, unbiblical and harmful mentality isn’t called out for what it is, both man-boys and the women who marry them, will think it’s normal behavior for men. It’s not, not by men or by men who raise their sons to be men. It’s a mentality that should not be married, tolerated or given the ability to take up residence in a marriage relationship. Period.”

Patrick Weaver

“Our kids are grown now, but when they were little, we took it on as a team. We’ve got 26 years in and we still live by the exact same motto…

Team Us!

One person was never intended to bare the load. That’s simply selfish and idiotic. 

In my opinion…”

It would result in feelings of connection, intimacy, and arousal

The biggest problem with women’s libidos (other than orgasm) is exhaustion, and the biggest cause for exhaustion is uneven mental load/housework. If we can focus on what the real problem actually is, we can solve a lot of marriages. And that means that marriage teachers have to start teaching about the stuff that is really hurting couples.

Having an engaged partner who shows up as a committed parent often means that sex would be more likely to flow naturally–as a result of the partnership they feel, and the fact that she’s not exhausted. Instead, we tell women who feel overwhelmed, “add this to your plate, and be happy and excited about it, and forget about the fact that you’re tired.”

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Again, our readers agree with this take:

“Preach! Not to mention what a turn on it is to see my honey unloading the dishwasher (my least favorite chore) and wrestling or reading with our son. Makes me wanna send that kid outside to play for a few we’re partners on this adventure together. I’m thankful for the Great Sex Rescue and the breath of fresh air it shot through our marriage.”

“here’s my take. Men want more sex. Men won’t step up to give the wife needed rest so she isn’t exhausted so she can focus on sex. Men don’t want to put their wife first but want their wife to treat them like a child and do everything frequently including a job outside the home. Not sexy. If men want more sex their wives and women are who men would be listening to to get more sex. Not men who spiritually beat exhausted abused women over the head with scripture to get more sex. Mutually. Honesty. Integrity. Faithfulness including not lusting, loving their wives as Christ loves the church, etc is the way! Not acting like a child while treating their wife as a maid, mother or child.”

“If childcare is so tiring that a man cannot possibly help do it during his time at home, how does he expect his wife to have energy for sex when she does childcare all day every day?”

Marriage is supposed to be about equal partnership

Yes, sometimes we all need the message that we need to prioritize our marriages when busy-ness creeps in. But I’m not sure that’s the real problem. If one spouse is so exhausted that sex is off the table, and the other spouse isn’t that exhausted? Perhaps evening out the load would do a whole lot more good than lecturing the exhausted partner to do more.

When the burden falls on one spouse to be in charge of everything from housekeeping to childcare and even to keeping fires burning in the bedroom, there is no actual partnership. It’s become a one-sided relationship in which it becomes optional for the other spouse to show up. 

Let’s be clear: the only reason to frame a wife’s devotion to the kids as a threat to the marriage is because the husband isn’t equally devoted to the kids.

Quite frankly, that’s a him problem, not a her problem.

(And, yes, I know in extreme cases she can be overly preoccupied with the kids, but this isn’t the normal state of things).

I’ll just leave you with a few more comments from our followers:

“Truth. It does no good to lecture the one who is tired because they honestly have nothing left to give because they are exhausted. It is like beating a dead horse.”

“It’s almost as if husband and wife work best when they operate as a team…go figure.”

“What if having a perpetually tired wife was seen as something to feel ashamed of, a sign that you’re not being a very good husband? If a complaint that,”she’s always too tired,” was automatically understood for what it probably is?”

Are you a good wife or a good mom controversy

What do you think? How can we normalize men stepping up to the plate? Let’s talk in the comments!

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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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44 Comments

  1. Jo R

    Women are being forced to choose between being a wife and being a mother because men are choosing to be neither a husband nor a father.

    If someone stopping in the middle of sex to take care of a crying baby gives that person the power in a marriage, how might a man usurp that power to himself? 🤔

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      OH MY GOSH that’s such a good quote, Jo R! That’s it exactly.

      (And to clarify, many, many men are amazing fathers. But the “men” that are depicted in evangelical books, like A Lifelong Love, are not).

      Reply
      • Nessie

        Seriously spot on! 👏👏👏

        Reply
      • Jo R

        Thanks! 😊

        And to forestall the #notallmen brigade, please see zawnv on FB or substack. I’ll even give a link to minimize the effort required to get to her post.

        https://zawn.substack.com/p/hello-youve-reached-the-not-all-men

        Some choice quotes:

        “Men do not deserve thanks and gratitude for not beating / cheating on their partners. Helping to raise the children you created should not earn one the acclaim of the entire Internet.”

        “The real hatred of men is in the belief that men can’t do better, and that the bad behavior of men is inevitable. If you think speaking against bad male behavior is an attack on men, then you think bad behavior is an inevitable part of manhood.
        If you think a woman hates men because she hates rapists/abusers/a$$holes, then you think that all men are rapists/abusers/a$$holes, and the real person who hates men is you.” [my substitution of $; she pulls zero punches there]

        Reply
        • Sue R

          I simply don’t understand GT’s description of marriage as having power shifts. Marriage is supposed to be a partnership in which both parties are treated equally. “Power plays” should not exist. If they do, that would indicate a problem in the relationship.

          Reply
          • Lisa Johns

            Healthy family relationships are not based on nor driven by power dynamics! This is true between husbands & wives, parents & children, and siblings! Can we just drop the talk of “power” in relationships?!?!

          • JG

            Lisa Johns, I agree 100%. Power plays are very damaging to family (or any other) relationships.

        • Carla

          Zawn is excellent! I have learned a lot from reading her.

          Reply
  2. Nessie

    GT seems hyper-focused on “power” within a marriage… and when they are in the middle of “making love,” she stops that so she can go BE love to their baby! I just don’t understand why these men do not have eyes to see truth.

    Gosh, I heard the message to be a good wife first so much! I was told by church staff that it was vitally important for my child to see us model a close, loving relationship. To not model that would be bad for children’s development. When I said my husband would not engage in conversation with me, they said it must be because I wasn’t having enough, or interesting enough, sex with him. Do it more! Surprise him! Don’t be boring!

    I don’t have any real ideas on how to normalize good behavior for dads, but we can at least stop normalizing bad behavior. Until I moved out of our bedroom and threatened divorce (with knowledge that showed I had researched it well) he never listened. I had to show him I was completely serious.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s a great point–“stop normalizing bad behavior!”

      Reply
  3. Laura

    Even though my ex and I did not have children, I was always too tired for sex. I worked full time, sometimes overtime, went to school in the evenings, took care of a puppy, did housework, managed the finances, and exercised so I could try to keep a nice figure for him. I also discovered I had a thyroid problem toward the end of our marriage. I was in my 20s. He was also verbally abusive and demanded sex a lot. No wonder I felt spent. So of course women who handle the parenting and almost all of the household labor even if they work outside the home are not going to want sex because their man-child husbands who don’t lift a finger after they get home from work treat them like dirt. When you’re being treated badly outside the bedroom, you aren’t going to want sex.

    Reply
  4. Jan Ptáček

    I disagree with “EQUAL PARTNERSHIP” in way that they both should participate in same level. I don’t see this is biblical. Eph 5:23 “For the husband is the head of the wife”. Equality is robbing husband position of head. It means that HE is the one who should die for HER. There is no mention that SHE should go that far for HIM. So it is not equal, because demands are much higher for HIM. We are different. HER prayers will be fine no matter honoring or not. HE will run into troubles wihtout it (1P3:7).

    If we want to straighten that teachings we need to do it way to the end. And the end is not just wash half of the dishes. Actually we can wash even less if we died before half 🙂 But we need aim higher from start.

    But wife can’t claim this. You propably need ask Spock to write that article 🙂

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Are you aware of what the word for “head” means in the Greek?

      And please show me a verse where husbands are commanded to lead their wives, and that this means that they should do fewer dishes and not have to do as much housework.

      Reply
    • Meredith

      I don’t want my husband to die for me, thank you very much. I want him to die to his own selfishness by being an equal partner with me in the home and family we have created together (and most of the time, he does!) It is absurd the way men use the hypothetical “but I would die for my wife” situation. as a get-out-of-jail-free card that means he doesn’t have to be a real partner to her in real, everyday life. And if you’re so selfish that you can’t do dishes or housework, why on earth should I believe that you would suddenly become selfless enough to sacrifice your life should the occasion call for it? It’s not in imaginary heroic scenarios but in the small every-day situations that a man’s character is proved.

      Reply
    • Lisa Johns

      Gotta love the people who troll onto this site just to “correct” what we silly women are dealing with in our lived experience… we are talking about emotional and physical exhaustion due to severe spousal neglect and unreasonable demands (this is abuse, by the way), and you’re making it about washing the DISHES?
      I have never cussed directly at someone either aloud or in writing, but if you dare try to answer this I may start.

      Reply
      • JG

        Thanks for saying that. “I have never cussed directly at someone either aloud or in writing, but if you dare try to answer this I may start.” Had a good laugh over that one.

        Reply
    • Jo R

      Thanks for taking the husband-centered, wife-as-property, emperor-worshiping, polytheistic, first-century Roman Empire culture and stating that it’s in fact God’s own perfect design for flourishing human relationships.

      Reply
    • Marie

      Jan, to be sure that I understand your meaning, do you mean that you disagree with “equal partnership” because the husband should be sacrificing so much more than the wife? If that’s what you meant, I can see your point there, although I still do disagree. Some husbands who follow this closely often try to sacrifice so much for their wives that they forget their own wants and needs as human beings. I think these men tend to be very quiet, so they are less visible on the internet, but they do exist. However, if we believe in a God who loves these men as well as women, then He must want them to be taken care of too, so that they are healthy and happy. There is a different way to translate the “head” verse that you referenced. This different translation places the responsibilty of love and care on both spouses equally. Of course a wife doesn’t want her husband to die for her because she does love him even if she is not instructed to! In a marriage, it makes more sense that we should “love one another” just as Christ said, because why would Christ not instruct both Christians (instead of just one) to love and sacrifice for each other, even in marriage?

      Reply
    • Marie

      Also, please forgive my question, but is English a second language for you? I am an English teacher, and I just noticed that your sentence structure is similar to how my European friends usually speak)

      Reply
    • TN

      “It means that HE is the one who should die for HER…demands are much higher for HIM.”

      This is just like men wanting credit for being the “protector.” It’s a job that never actually requires any action from the vast majority of men throughout their entire lives. Instead it’s typically solely based on what men think they’d do (be a heroic protector) IF bad guys tried to hurt their family.

      It’s even rarer that men ever actually die “for HER.” What do women rarely/never have to do for men, but men still have to give them credit for it? I can’t think of even one! Jobs/roles expected of women have to be done through action every day. Funny how conveniently that works for men!

      Reply
  5. Nathan

    >> Men do not deserve thanks and gratitude for not beating / cheating on their partners.

    I once wrote a similar thing here a long time ago. Here it is again, with our favorite fictional couple Marcia and Donny.

    Marcia and Donny are married with three kids (two girls and one boy). Marcia cares for the kids and the house, washes clothes, does dishes, cooks, cleans up after the kids (and Donny) and does everything she can to keep a good house and to be a good wife to Donny. Donny for the most part ignores his two daughters, but does make time every Saturday to play catch for five minutes with his son in the backyard.

    Nobody gives Marcia any praise for working 18 hours a day caring for everybody else. After all, she’s a wife, mother and woman. Serving others exclusively is the one and only reason God put her on this Earth. However, the entire community praises Donny no end for being such an involved father (never mind that he barely acknowledges the existence of his daughters).

    The original statement. People shouldn’t be praised for NOT doing horrible things.

    Reply
    • Healing

      I had to say this to my husband after I read TGSR and we began working on healing our sex life. He would say something like, “I haven’t been pressuring you for sex and you aren’t thanking me. One of my love languages is words of affirmation and you’re not acknowledging my change.” I’m like- SO I AM SUPPOSED TO PRAISE YOU FOR NOT COERCING ME?? THANK YOU FOR NOT FORCING ME TO DO SOMETHING I DON’T WANT TO DO??? He realizes now how stupid he sounded. It’s like thanking a rapist for not raping you. Again, people shouldn’t be praised for not doing bad things to you.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Oh, wow! I’m glad he got it when you put it that way.

        Reply
  6. Jen

    Can we talk about the anger, frustration, and grief that men not showing up brings? That’s thrown back on women, too. “Don’t be bitter. Don’t be resentful. Anger is a sin. Your heart is wicked. You’re not loving well.” Insert Bible verses about nagging wives.
    Just reading the Gary Thomas quote makes me want to scream.

    How can you not be bitter when your husband acts like a child, refuses to go to therapy, dumps the emotional load on you, and is untrustworthy in a multitude of ways?

    Yes, humans get angry at being used and abused. God designed us to react so that we would know we were being ill treated. But the Christian authors kept telling me I was wrong for “finding fault” (aka making my needs known and pointing out sin) AND wrong for being angry about his behavior. So I kept trying harder.

    Honestly, it’s classic gaslighting. We are blaming women for their reaction to misuse instead of holding the one not pulling their weight responsible.

    Early in my marriage I tried to describe what was happening to my pastor (neglect, immaturity, etc.) and he told me I need a teflon coating on my heart – basically that I need to be better at being mistreated. Thirty years later, after my husband had confessed to being a life long sex addict, the same pastor told ME that I needed to stop “looking under the rocks of the past” and move on. All grace and mercy for him – another to-do list for me on how to carry yet another burden courtesy of my husband.

    Thankfully, I have a real therapist who said, “Of course you’re angry. Who wouldn’t be?”

    I can’t believe anyone would expect his wife to WANT to be with him after the kids leave. Decades of servant/sex slave mode and raising the kids alone is NOT a relationship. I can’t believe anyone could be so clueless.

    Reply
    • Rayna

      Jen, please tell us the end to your story. Are you divorced? I want to know what happened! Of course you should be angry at this sin-God is angry at his sin, too. I trust you are in a good, safe place now. Take care of yourself!

      Reply
  7. Lisa Johns

    I LOVE that last comment! “What if having a perpetually tired wife was seen as something to be ashamed of?” THIS!!
    When my children were little I was EXHAUSTED, and so committed to the complementarian mentality that I didn’t really even know how to ask for help. (Not that he even did anything that I did ask.) When I made the remark that I was tired and would like some respite, he bought me a card that said “You are tired because of all you do and would like a break?” Then on the inside there were several pictures of someone rolling all over the floor laughing about me asking for a break… it was funny/not funny and makes me want to cry even to this day, 22 years later. It was all the more not funny because he had been reacting angrily to my requests for some kind of help for several years at that point, and the situation only got worse after that. Yet he was so good at putting on a concerned demeanor in public that he was “a great husband who really loves you” and I was just someone with such deep ungrateful issues that I couldn’t even appreciate how much my “good” husband was doing for me.
    Meantime he was withholding encouragement, affection, companionship, intimacy — anything he could think of that I might want, and all in a way that was invisible to those outside the marriage and even for the most part to our own children. (To this day they mostly think that the problems were generated by my issues. He is an expert gaslighter.)
    My divorce became final yesterday, and I am eagerly anticipating the healing that comes the longer I am free of all the lies, manipulation, and lack of care/neglect.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, Lisa, I’m glad you’re safe and whole now, but I’m so sorry for what you endured, and especially that your ex-husband has deceived your kids. That’s so tough.

      Reply
      • Lisa Johns

        I’m holding out hope that they will see in time.

        Reply
    • Jo R

      “My divorce became final yesterday”

      Congratulations! 🥳 🎉 🪅 🎊 🍺 🍻

      (And for those who are new or otherwise unfamiliar with Lisa’s story, congratulations absolutely are in order.)

      Reply
      • Lisa Johns

        Thank you! This means so much! ❤️

        Reply
    • Nessie

      Congratulations on the finalized divorce!! And I’m stopping to pray now that your kids will one day see truth through the lies and deception. Gaslighting is a special kind of evil lying imo.

      Reply
      • Lisa Johns

        Thank you for your prayers. It means a lot to know they are going up!

        Reply
  8. Angharad

    If we want to normalise men being involved partners in raising kids, we need a shift in language.

    I know a number of men who graciously correct anyone who congratulates them for ‘helping’ with the children or the housework by pointing out that they are not ‘helping’ because the kids are their kids and the house is their house and so they have equal responsibility with their spouse to care for both. It would be great if this could become widespread. Also, if men could stop referring to their kids as ‘her’ kids!

    Reply
    • Rebecca Lindenbach

      I think the language shift just has to be equal–I actually have no problem with “helping” language as long as SHE is also “helping.”

      Connor and I both say that we help each other with housework. The problem is when she DOES housework and he HELPS with it.

      Reply
      • Angharad

        Totally. I was thinking more of the mindset which views the kids as 100% mother’s responsibility, so that the dad is amazing for doing ANYTHING with them. E.g. situations where people praise a father for taking the kid to the park for 15 minutes. “Wow! You are such an amazing dad to help look after your children.” And don’t think of praising the mother for looking after the kids for the other 23.45 hours of the day because that’s ‘her job’. Or they refer to the father ‘babysitting’ while the mother is out.

        Reply
  9. Anonymouse

    Thinking that caring less gives 1 person power over the other seems so wrong but I can’t explain why. My husband said something like this to me recently and I felt so hurt but I couldnt even figure out how to tell him why. I have a lower libido than him that doesn’t mean me not being the mood sometimes is a power thing or that I don’t care about him or the relationship. He does everything he can to make sure it’s good for me just sometimes I don’t have the energy or I just don’t want to. Usually he is understanding but letely he has been feeling like when I do say no it’s like I have all the control and he does t have any. I don’t know what to say though does anyone have a way to explain this.

    Reply
    • Bernadette

      There’s a saying that the low-libido spouse is the gate-keeper of sex. Total BS. Sex requires the consent of two people, so there are two gate-keepers.

      High-libido spouse is the gate-keeper of his or her consent.

      Low-libido spouse is the gate-keeper of her or his consent.

      Also, having a lower libido does not, necessarily, mean she cares less about sex.

      Imagine this, if you would;

      Woman is too exhausted for sex, but still spends hours a week trying to figure out how to make herself want it, for the sake of her husband.

      Still, people tell her she doesn’t care about sex.

      Meanwhile, life makes it easy for her husband to want sex. He gets to dump onto her shoulder’s his share of the childcare and housework. And the emotional labor that keeps the marriage afloat is also not his responsibility.

      This does not even factor in certain “Christian” teachings about marriage and sex, which paint wives as the property of husbands.

      As if that won’t kill a woman’s libido.

      It’s like she started a 50 foot race from 200 feet *behind* the starting line. He did not. He is now at the finish line after running 50 ft. She is currently 30 ft behind the starting line, and still running.

      Who is more invested in the race?

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Wow, that is so good, Bernadette! I love it.

        Reply
  10. Melissa W

    When your underlying belief system is that everything functions in a hierarchy then this is the real life outcome. Your children are seen as a threat to the attention your wife should be giving you. Not only do people have a place in the hierarchy in their function but now we have to assign value to the people we love in our life according to the hierarchy. And of course when life functions on a hierarchy of who has how much power, then power struggles are inevitable. You see this hierarchy and power struggle in everything from marriage, to parenting, to how we do church, to how we navigate the world and it’s absolute nonsense! Not only should there be no hierarchy in function or importance but there should also be no power struggles either. I see none of this in the character, life or behavior of Jesus but see it all over the Bible in lives of sinful people! Why are imitating the sinful people of the Bible instead of Christ?

    When I was in college at a Christian University, I took a class on the “role of women”. It was completely from an egalitarian point of view and went over all of the typical verses that limit women in church and in the family but my favorite article was by S. Scott Bartchy (a professor at the University of California) titled “Issues of Power and a Hierarchy of the Family”. He argued that when we see relationships in terms of power and power as having to equal a certain amount, say 100%, then the power has to be divided up in a way that one person has more and the other person has less. But the Bible doesn’t teach that. It teaches that as Christian that the same power that raised Christ Jesus from the dead lives in us. There should be no power struggles between Christians in relationship to one another regardless if it is in the family, the church, the work place or anywhere. It just doesn’t have to function that way and it is our sin that constantly turns us back to wanting to have power and control over people.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      So good, Melissa! Yes, Jesus told us that we’re not supposed to think in terms of power and hierarchy (matt. 20:25-28), and yet too many authors still do.

      Reply
    • Lisa Johns

      So beautifully expressed! Thank you for this!

      Reply
  11. Taylor

    For Gary Thomas, regarding power shifts and emotional investment: is he then saying power should be shifted to men? And that, in his definition of power, that men SHOULD be LESS emotionally invested in their marriages than their wives, in order to retain the power (im)balance?

    Perhaps functionally, the less invested person has the most power. However, if one person is less invested than the other, and is using this to have “power” over the relationship and the other person, this is like ten red flags waving over an activivated submarine siren. The potential for abuse increases exponentially.

    Also, “power” and “boundaries” are not the same thing.

    Reply
  12. Healing

    I told my story a few years back about when I was pregnant with our 3rd child, my husband convinced me to not nurse the baby so that I get my libido back sooner. This is a prime example of having to be a “good wife” over a “good mom.” Needless to say, my libido didn’t return after baby #3 and we constantly fought about after sex. Then, after reading TGSR, I figured out when my sex drive tanked and I had to have a difficult talk with him. He sat there and listened to ever heart wrenching word. Then he wept. He wept for the fact that he stole nourishment from his newborn son… all for HIS pleasure. (Because at the time, we won’t having loving, connecting, intimate sex, it was all for his pleasure and release.)

    But still, looking back at that sad time, I also remember that with our 2 daughters, I was working outside the home and he would get up in the middle of the night if they would cry. Once we had our son, I stayed home with the children. They were only 3, 18 months and a newborn. Three under three. With our son, NOT ONCE did my husband wake up to tend the baby. His logic was that I was now a stay at home mom and that was my job. I didn’t work out of the home. But holy moly. We had 3 kids three and under: 3 completely dependent children, all in diapers, someone was always crying, etc. I could have used the help more than ever!!! I don’t know how I survived those years but somehow we do!

    Kids are now almost 10, 8 and almost 7. Luckily my husband and I have worked on healing and I would say we have never been stronger. Sometimes I feel like I am triggered back to those old feelings, therefore I am not completely healed but I’m not sure if I’ll ever be 100%. But things are going great.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’m so glad!

      Reply

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