The WORST Reason Not to Divorce Your Wife

by | Jan 29, 2024 | Parenting Young Kids | 40 comments

Why does Gary Thomas think evangelical men can't be good dads?

Sheila here!

Every Friday, our email goes out to about 45,000 people, and Rebecca writes it, not me. And it’s usually just awesome.

Last week’s email was special, coming at the end of a big week where we had lots of engagement around our podcast on the pathetic way that evangelical resources paint men when it comes to their ability to be good dads. We’ve had some amazing conversations on Facebook over the last few days too.

Rebecca’s email was so good that people were posting screenshots of parts of it on Instagram, and the Orthodox Barbie social media account even used a quote from it!

I thought that this one was worth running as a post, so more people could see it (and comment on it!)

But remember–you can sign up for those emails too, so you don’t miss Rebecca’s great takes!

Sheila Wray Gregoire

My husband has gotten to know all of the older women who work at our local grocery store.

We go grocery shopping twice a week on average, and he particularly enjoys going because it gives him a good hour and a half outing with the kids (which means an hour and a half where they aren’t making a mess at home), they find it really fun to “help” him get what we need, and there is a group women who work at the check outs and one who works in the bakery who have gotten to know our kiddos over the four years we’ve lived here now. They have watched Alexander grow up, celebrated when Vivian made an arrival, and each have little “jokes” with the kids that make them laugh every time they’re at the store.

It adds a lovely sense of community, and it makes grocery shopping really fun for the kids.

And I (Rebecca) love it when he comes back and chats about how the kids did, who fawned over them, how the lady at the bakery was thrilled when Vivian told her “thank you” for the first time, and the kids chatter away about how many bananas they got to put in the cart.

Connor and I reviewed a blog post on the podcast this week that was written to address the resentment husbands can feel towards their wives when children come into the mix. And as we said in the podcast, it’s very normal to experience feelings of loneliness or mixed feelings and confusing emotions when you become a parent. Absolutely. It’s exhausting and all-encompassing.

But what is not normal is the rest of the article.

The whole piece is telling men whose wives are exhausted by taking care of the house and the kids and juggling it all to—drumroll please—be patient and understanding with their wives.

Not to jump in and help, not to lighten the load, not to become more involved so she’s not as exhausted.

Nope, it’s just “wait it out, bud, because then the kids will be gone and you’ll get to be the only person she takes care of.”

The issue of being so busy with kids the wife can’t wait on her husband is called “her situation,” and the husband is framed as being a victim of necessary neglect during the early years, so he should just be understanding and thank her for all she does.

The crux of the point the author is making is summed up in this paragraph:

If your wife really cares for your kids, she’s a caring person. When the kids are gone, all that care will be poured out on you. If you leave her now, she’s likely to end up with someone else and then her care will be poured out on that person. You’ll have endured the years in which she was stretched the most, only to miss the years when she could focus on you and love you the most.

Gary Thomas

Young Husband: It Might Not be Her; It Might be Her Situation

This just baffled me. Let’s break that down a bit:

If you want to divorce your wife because she’s overwhelmed by taking care of your kids, the reason not to do that is because SOME OTHER GUY WILL REAP THE “REWARDS”?!

 The reason isn’t that you’d be a selfish weasel that would rather put your wife through a divorce than just meet her where she’s at and pick up the pace?

The reason isn’t that you haven’t been abandoned and need to just be her partner instead of adding more to her to-do list?

The reason isn’t that you made these kids, too, and you are a grown up who does not need to be coddled like a child, so it’s ridiculous that you’re feeling this level of jealousy about it?

No, the reason is:

“some other guy will get to be waited on by her if you leave her now so just stick this out, you patient warrior you, and someday you’ll be the only child she has.”

After Connor and I recorded the podcast this week, he took the kids to the grocery store. The lady behind the counter at the bakery cooed over Vivian’s curls. The attendant commiserated with Alex as our son explained that we needed beans even though he doesn’t like to eat them. And the lady at check-out held back laughter while praising Alex for being “such a big helper” as he wildly threw groceries onto the conveyor belt far taller than he can see.

And Connor was there for it.

Connor isn’t sitting around frustrated that I don’t spend as much time one-on-one with him anymore, because he loves those kids just as much as I do.

He loves Vivian, so he tries out different curly hair products and finger-coils her ringlets so that they look nice and they can have daddy-daughter-hair-time. He loves Alex, so he googles how to get four year olds to eat carrots when they’re pretty sure they’re poison. He loves being around our kids, so he doesn’t just sit around on his phone while he watches the kids “for me,” he has fun little games they play together and songs they sing as they walk the 25 minutes to the grocery store.

I love seeing Connor love our kids.

Millennial dad being a good dad

 Articles like Gary Thomas’ seem to not believe that dads are even capable of being as invested in their children as moms are by default.

That, to me, is a great tragedy.

 Connor and I don’t have nearly as much “me time” as we did before we had kids.

We also don’t have a ton of one-on-one time. But we connect constantly, because we just like being with our kids together. We enjoy parenting together. We enjoy putting on the clean-up song after dinner and watching our 2-year-old try to figure out which buckets the blocks go into (hint: it’s the one with the other blocks, not the one with the dinosaurs).

We don’t have as much time to ourselves, no. But we laugh so much more together. We rely on each other so much more. We have learned to trust each other more than we ever did before we had our kids.

But that only happened because he was there to laugh with me.

He was there to rely on. He proved himself to be trustworthy.

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Men do not need to be “taken care of” in a way that is in competition with children.

Wives do not exist to care for everyone but themselves.

And when husbands and wives see each other as partners, rather than a care-giver and care-receiver, ironically you end up having so much more space to care for each other than you did before.

I’m sad that the younger version of that author didn’t see that. I’m hopeful that he did, and that the article isn’t actually true to his experience. 

And I’m grateful that things are changing.

Why does author Gary Thomas paint evangelical men as bad dads?

Do you think millennials and Gen Z will change the way the church sees parenting? Do you think this is a generational thing and we’ll see progress? Let’s talk in the comments!

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Rebecca Lindenbach

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Rebecca Lindenbach

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Rebecca Lindenbach is a psychology graduate, Sheila’s daughter, co-author of The Great Sex Rescue, and the author of Why I Didn’t Rebel. Working alongside her husband Connor, she develops websites focusing on building Jesus-centered marriages and families. Living the work-from-home dream, they take turns bouncing their toddler son and baby daughter, and appeasing their curmudgeonly blind rescue Yorkshire terrier, Winston. ENTJ, 9w8

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40 Comments

  1. CMT

    This is, if not the worst reason, a terrible one. The implications are so bad I wonder if it was intended ironically??

    That said, the premise seems to be that women, if they don’t exactly exist specifically to take care of other people, at least *function* primarily as caregivers and not care recipients. I doubt Gary Thomas realizes it, but that assumption is not benign. See this insightful substack post (https://laurarbnsn.substack.com/p/misogyny-the-sbc-and-beth-moore) where Laura Robinson discusses patriarchy/misogyny as a system that mandates women’s care and attention always be directed towards others (ie men). That definition isn’t hers originally, but she uses it well to explain why so many “good Christian people” who “love women” expect women to carry the weight of the world, then blame and punish them when they can’t.

    Even if you don’t agree that this view of women/marriage is misogynistic, it’s still shortsighted. You don’t know, young married guy, that your kids will all leave the nest (as a mom of a special needs adult said on a recent post). You don’t know that your wife won’t develop serious health issues and need YOU to care for HER. What are you going to do then, if you’ve spent a decade or two waiting patiently for her to finish raising your children so she can devote herself to you again?

    Reply
    • Lisa Johns

      The answer to that is probably, he will leave her. Of couples who divorce in the face of a major illness, I believe the statistic is that 80% of the spouses who instigate the divorce are men. God help the woman who literally wears herself trying to please these guys.

      Reply
      • CMT

        I’m sure there’s a lot of reasons for that trend but I can’t see how the expectation of female caregiving wouldn’t be a factor.

        This study looked at 515 people diagnosed with a life-altering illness (cancer or MS) and found that the divorce rate after diagnosis was under 3% for males patients, where that for females was about 20%.
        https://acsjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/cncr.24577

        I don’t think they looked at who initiated the divorce, or why. But I doubt a woman who is navigating oncology visits, chemo, and who knows what else, is the one running off to the divorce attorney.

        Reply
        • elf

          This systematic review published in 2022 has very different findings: “According to this systematic review, cancer is associated with a tendency to a slightly decreased divorce rate. However, most of the included studies have methodologic weaknesses and an increased risk of bias. Further studies are needed.”
          https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2022.828656/full

          Reply
          • CMT

            Interesting. The study I found was older than this so maybe the research has moved on. I don’t know if this review was actually asking the same question, though. On a quick read I notice no mention of gender-specific data for any condition that affects both men and women.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            The studies are of different populations. The original one was of people with life-threatening or debilitating illnesses, and only had one form of cancer I believe, but also multiple sclerosis and some other things. This one is of all kinds of cancer. And the original one actually followed individuals, whereas the newer one was a review of charts which wouldn’t really pick it up (from my quick perusal).

    • Mindy

      I’m a young GenXer and my husband and I are putting in a Lot of work together to shift the way we were taught things about marriage and parenting. We’re older parents of (older) and young kids…mid 40s with our youngest being 4. Parenting is looking different in the churches with current young parents…generally. I see a hangup with the parenting “roles” with men seeking leadership. Which is unfortunate. The male leaders I see and trust the most don’t have the perfect family with everyone sitting and walking perfectly in church…they’re the ones who love their family, show grace within the crazy of little kids and can accept just as much family work as their wife. But…we are still within a lot of “traditional” gender role supporting church people. Seeing some change…sometimes.

      Reply
  2. Boone

    I am glad that y’all are raising your children this way. Enjoy every minute of it because it will be over before you know it.
    My three loved going to the courthouse with me to file papers. We’d go later in the afternoon when not much was happening. They knew every deputy, every judge and every clerk in three counties.
    One of our judges that seemed always to be a bit grumpy would melt when my children would come in. He especially liked my middle son who is now a lawyer. He would let them all crawl up in to his seat and bang the gavel on the bench. Johnny would make everything dramatic. At four years old he would bang the gavel and yell, “Ordah in de court! You goin to jail.”
    The judge would laugh so hard that he’d bend double. When it came time to swear Johnny in to the bar I surprised him by calling this now long retired judge and having him administer the oath. As soon as they saw each other they both burst out laughing.
    Fathers, spend every minute you can with your children. Do what you can to ease your wife’s burden. Everybody benefits when you do that.

    Reply
    • S

      I loved all of this except the “Do what you can to ease your wife’s burden”. Your children belong to both of you, your children are not “your wife’s” burden.

      Reply
      • Rebecca Lindenbach

        I will say, that as someone who is in an equal marriage, we BOTH ease each OTHER’S burden. Parenting is simply burdensome at times, and when you’re able to both see it as helping each other it can be such a gift.

        I totally agree with your point, but I just don’t think that the original commenter here was implying that his children were not also his responsibility–I think he was saying to actively work to ease your partner’s burden instead of just assuming that they *should* be shouldering it all because of their sex.

        Reply
        • S

          Rebecca I am also in an equal marriage, happily married almost 17 years with a 15 year old and a 12 year old, to a healthy and secular guy who was raised without toxic beliefs about gender roles and leadership and submission. We have to change the narrative about who is expected because of their gender to be the default parent, and what I said addresses that. Boone may be a great guy who is an active participant in raising their kid, but calling it easing his wife’s burden, implies he is doing a job that is hers and not theirs. Its not any different than saying step it up and do the dishes for her, or scrub the toilets for her.

          Reply
      • Boone

        I use the term burden to refer to life’s responsibilities. We have always helped each other out whenever possible. I have always considered my children my responsibility and considered it an honor to share in their raising.

        Reply
    • Lisa Johns

      I love the picture of a four year old yelling, “Ordah in de court! You goin to jail!” And then that judge being the one to swear him in… so funny, and so joyous! Life is good!

      Reply
  3. Nathan

    > > I loved all of this except the “Do what you can to ease your wife’s burden”. Your children belong to both of you, your children are not “your wife’s” burden.

    This is one of those things that sounds noble and good, but has a very bad idea underneath. This is similar to that comment of “Marcia and Donny are married. Marcia has three kids, and Donny helps out sometimes”.

    Reply
    • Boone

      Well Nathan, seeing as how we’ve never met and you really don’t have a clue as to as to my involvement with my children as they were growing up or my relationship with my wife I’m not sure you’re qualified to determine what ideas I might have or not have.
      Children are very precious in my family and in my culture. That’s because over the years we’ve lost so many. If you walk through any of the older cemeteries around her you’ll notice that most of the occupants are children under ten.
      I’ll just go back a 100 years in my own family. My great aunt lost all five of her children a day apart in the flu pandemic of 1918. Her younger brother was killed in the Argonne Forrest in WWI. My grandmother’s oldest child, well she died in her arms at age two of pneumonia in my kitchen as my grandfather desperately desperately tried boil as much water on the wood cook stove to create steam. Their middle child died at 19 in the early hours of 6 June 1944 as he jumped into France with the 82nd Airborne. My father made it back with three Purple Hearts after flying 37 missions as B-17 pilot. My older brother was born in 1948. There were two miscarriages in the ten years between us. He died in a place called Hue during the Tet Offensive in 68.
      Don’t judge our motives or reasons for spending every minute possible with our children. They are very precious to us. We understand that they can be here one minute and taken the next.

      Reply
  4. Jo R

    So IIRC, three out of four people who read marriage and relationship books and other materials are women.

    Why are women seeking help? Because their husbands don’t pull their fair share around the house and with the kids. Because sex sucks for the women. Because he brought a usually undisclosed porn habit to the marriage and she finally found out. Because he’s abusive in some way, and not just physically.

    So a woman reads this book, looking desperately for help so she can be a good little obedient Christian wife, and THIS is the advice she gets? That she can look forward to being mommy to a grown-ass man after she raises her biological children essentially as a single but technically married mother.

    Awww, hell no.

    (And people continue to be surprised that women initiate 70 percent of divorces. Well, duh!)

    Reply
    • Nathan

      And, of course, don’t forget that even though he needs to be coddled and mommied and can’t be expected to do ANY work regarding the house or kids, he still gets to make ALL the decisions!

      Reply
    • Greta

      Is bitterness against and blaming/generalizing one gender intentionally being conveyed in this comment and this post, or does it just come across organically?

      If feedback is accepted here (in lieu of desiring an echo chamber), I would gently suggest that posts and comments like these are likely why some people associate this site with sexism against men.

      Reply
      • Jo R

        Yeah, I’m generalizing, because it’s statistically accurate.

        And how do we NICELY say that men have been taught this same … stuff … that makes them the center of their own little universe, rather than encouraging them to, oh, as they’re theoretically Christians, Christlike behavior of self-sacrifice and serving others instead of looking to be served?

        It must be great to live in a world where nice, gentle, stay-sweet discussion actually results in permanent change, but that has not been my, and many others’, experience.

        And sometimes, jarring language is the only thing that cuts through the miasma of “biblical” teaching that serves to keep half the population oppressed for the benefit of the half presenting said teaching.

        Reply
      • Jo R

        The sad, or hilarious, thing is that most of the women here had the same viewpoint you seem to be espousing, that the husband is the boss, that the wife must defer to him if they’re ever in disagreement, and that the wife must be the one doing the bulk of the sacrifice.

        What we (or most of us) have all seen is that certain verses have been, first, mistranslated and, second, completely ripped from their first-century Roman Empire context. If two cultures are virtually opposite, then when the same advice is given to both cultures, one (or both) will woefully misunderstand the intent of the advice.

        Paul was trying to keep Christianity within basic bounds of acceptability in a culture that absolutely centered men, such that husbands could, in almost all cases, kill their wives with complete legal impunity. So when Paul tells husbands to treat their wives as the husbands treat their own bodies, THAT is an absolute cultural revolution. It’s hard to imagine something as monumental In today’s society. Maybe if we suddenly declared men should uniformly be the stay-at-home parent while wives were the breadwinner? Something that drastic, anyway.

        So we are trying to wake up people, men and women, to what the words meant to the people who originally heard them, then use the principles behind the literal words in an actual historical context in a society that exists two thousand years later. What we simply can’t do is take the literal words and apply them as is.

        We’ve got centuries, well, millennia of inertia we’re fighting against, as well as the obvious benefits that accrue to the side that both plays the game and gets to act as referees. Men have set things up for themselves very nicely, and they’re not going to relinquish those benefits anytime soon, or without a fight.

        Then when you add the spiritual force of “Thus saith the Lord,” well, that just adds a whole ‘nother dimension to the entrenched. I know most men, and many women, believe they’re being as obedient to God as possible by perpetrating this teaching, but it bears terrible fruit. And terrible fruit cannot be God’s way.

        Reply
        • Greta

          I think you are offering your opinion/experience that intentional obedience to the scriptures as written in the commonly published texts “bears terrible fruit”.

          It’s fair to say that this can bear terrible fruit and has for some, but to say it always bears terrible fruit for everyone is simply not true.

          My spouse and I have chosen to live in a complimentarian marriage and raise our now adult children in this type of environment that we feel ties to scripture. And we have many friends and families that have made this choice.

          We all have trials and tribulations just like everyone else but none of us have felt like our choices have produced “bad fruit”. So to say one particular teaching always produces bad fruit in every situation would not be true.

          Just like it would not be accurate to say that another form of teaching (egalitarianism as an example) always produces bad fruit either. Just depends on the couples involved and how they choose to live.

          Reply
          • Jo R

            “intentional obedience to the scriptures as written in the commonly published texts”

            So I guess the men in your church are all scrupulously obeying the NT rule about kissing each other when they meet? I mean, it’s pretty clear what those words mean too.

            https://margmowczko.com/wifely-submission-and-holy-kisses/

          • Bernadette

            Smoking doesn’t always cause lung cancer, but that doesn’t mean it should be recommended.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            No, Greta, she’s just saying that your interpretation of Scripture isn’t equal to Scripture itself.

            Please be careful. This blog is very Scriptural–we just disagree about interpretations.

            And, yes, we can say that living out hierarchy in marriage bears bad fruit. It doesn’t mean every marriage will be bad; it does mean that when you compare the marriages on average, those that practice hierarchy do much worse. This is just fact. Multiple studies have shown it, not just ours.

            No one is saying a teaching is always bad. Please understand what statistics are before making claims like this.

          • Taylor

            Greta, regarding obeying Scripture. It’s not always as straightforward as it looks.

            It’s like when we say “don’t drink and drive.” (I believe it David Inestone-Brewer who came up with this illustration that I’m paraphrasing.) We immediately know that this means don’t drink beer, wine, hard liquor, and start driving a vehicle. But someone from a completely different language and culture thousands of years from now, looking at our literature, without knowing context, could conclude that we meant don’t drink anything (water, a milk shake, coffee) and drive anything (car, dog cart, tractor, etc.) If this culture used our statement “don’t drink and drive” as authorative for their culture, they could come up with all kinds of rules that we never intended.

            This isn’t to undermine Scriptural authority at all. It’s saying that context matters hugely in getting to the author’s original intent. Many “Christian” marriage books are written by people who haven’t done thorough background work. And some (like Love and Respect) blatantly take Scripture out of context and than use those out of context Scriptures to back up very ungodly directions.

            Under these circumstances, obeying Scripture brings bad fruit. Not because there’s anything wrong with Scripture, but because people are following damaging misinterpretations.

      • C

        People have seen how their parents marriages operated and want something else. It isn’t generalizing. It is the lived experience of many. Young women today are thinking twice about marriage after seeing how their parents’ marriages operated.
        And when you think the guy giving the advice is a pastor that travels often for his job–yeah the advice seems out of touch considering he fancies himself a marriage expert.

        Reply
  5. Laura

    GT does not take many dynamics into consideration when giving ill-informed advice. Yes, the kids grow up and leave home, but what about when aging parents come to live with them? Or, as one commenter mentioned, adult children with special needs? Then, there are many people who raise their grandchildren. There’s also more adults moving back home because cost of housing and rent is outrageously high in the U.S.

    In biblical times, the nuclear family (parents and dependent children) did not exist. Several generations lived under one roof. So, to me, it sounds like GT lives in a fantasy world and wants to replicate the 1950’s ideal life that never really existed except on television.

    BTW: I’m one of those adults who moved back home at 30 so I could save money while pursuing my education and also be there for my parents. After Mom became a widow almost 11 years ago, I remained at the home. My fiancee and his teenage son live with his grandfather (whom he’s caring for), mother, and stepfather. Plus, there are three large dogs so it’s a full house.

    Reply
    • Amy

      The idealization of the 1950s really bothers me. What happened in the 1940s? Oh yeah, a world war. The 1950s advice to young wives was to create this calm environment where you dote on your man. Why is that? Maybe it was because there was an entire generation of young men with undiagnosed and untreated combat related PTSD. So, why exactly are we idealizing a lifestyle that perhaps was just one giant trauma response?

      Reply
      • Terry

        Oh Amy, that is such a good point. It never even occurred to me. See, context is SO relevant and we don’t even get all of it today. Study is essential!

        Reply
      • Angharad

        Yes. Not to mention that many women had spent much of the 1940s raising kids on their own as single parents (because their husbands were away fighting the war) often while doing a totally unfamiliar and unchosen job that had been imposed on them by a government needing to fill the gaps left by all those men going off to fight. And in the UK at least, many people ended up starting married life in one room in someone else’s house because so many houses had been destroyed by bombing. Set against that background, the 1950s dream all makes a lot more sense – people whose lives had been turned upside down and broken apart desperately trying to rebuild some kind of ‘normal’.

        We see something similar in the lives of refugees today – at first, they are so thankful to have food and shelter and freedom from war that they can’t think about anything else – maybe it even feels a bit too scary to look beyond that. But as they recover, they start to seek out a fuller life.

        Reply
      • Marie

        100% this!

        Reply
      • Taylor

        Amy, that’s a huge connection–thank you so much for sharing it.

        Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        This is exactly it. This is also why kids often got shoved outside and ignored, because the women were trying to cater to the men and make things peaceful. So Boomer kids didn’t have a lot of parenting.

        Reply
        • Taylor

          And if they didn’t get much parenting, it stands to reason that when they became parents many of them would have been making up “parenting” almost from scratch. Parenting books and other materials could have looked pretty attractive. Books that sounded good, but whose theories hadn’t been tested over time. People who had a lack of parenting themselves, who felt a lack, and really wanted to be good parents were very vulnerable to bad teaching.

          I wonder how much generational discord has its roots in unhealed, collective, national trauma.

          Reply
          • sunnynorth

            Thank you for such a clarifying comment. This helps me give my parents more grace for where they weren’t able to parent well.

            Parenting from scratch makes total sense for what they had to do – neither of them had much actual parenting from their own parents and while they did an amazing job raising me and my siblings, we can definitely see the gaps. And of course, all the Focus on the Family teachings they still whole heartedly believe, because they didn’t have other parenting resources from the church at the time. At least we didn’t fall into one of the homeschooling cults!

  6. Nessie

    I have a theory. A bad one, but here it is.🙃😉 These “men” who claim to be “leaders” yet demand to be given the attention of little children…

    I think they are trying to take a “plain reading” of Isaiah 11:6 “…and a little child will lead them.” 🤣

    As others have said, we can laugh or we can cry.

    Reply
  7. Chris B

    On behalf of the Christian men that don’t believe women should be walked on or abused, mistreated etc. I want to say sorry if any of you have been done wrong in anyway.
    All Christian men are not following someone else’s twisted teaching / interpretation. Please do not lump all of us together.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Chris, I don’t think anybody is lumping them all together! We have amazing Christian men on our podcast, after all. But what we’d really like is if more Christian men started openly calling out this stuff. It’s hard when it’s mostly women in the comments on social media on stuff like this.

      Reply
    • Nessie

      Hey Chris B, thanks for being one of the guys that thinks women shouldn’t be walked on, abused, or mistreated. 🙂

      I’m going to push back on how you worded this though, “I want to say sorry *if* any of you have been done wrong in any way.” You may not have meant it this way but it can give the many women here who have openly shared struggles as well as the women Sheila, et al, share about, the feeling that you doubt our experiences- not to mention adding to the doubt and disrespect from men who do believe these twisted teachings.

      This site has been pretty open about how bad many of these teachings are, how deeply hurt many women have been by those teachings, and about how amazing many husbands/men are, especially Keith and Connor! So it’s definitely much more than an “if” we have been hurt, and definitely not lumping all men together.

      Reply

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