(In this post, I use abbreviations for common terms; see sidebar.)
In Bad Teaching: “As Christ Loved The Church”, I wrote about how the Church has screwed up Paul’s teaching on LYWLCLTC™, and I think I demonstrated that what passes for marital advice today based Eph. 5:25-31 is just so much codswallop.
Yes, husbands are enjoined to love their wives “as Christ loved the Church,” but this biblical statement has been heated in the fervid minds of teachers and shaped into a cudgel with which to browbeat husbands into a meek submission to wife and children in the name of Christ. Husbands are enjoined to be more Christian than Christ ever was.
And recently, I have come across a couple of statements by husbands who tell of this same teaching appearing in yet another guise in their lives.
“If You Loved Me”
Last year, when a commenter told how his wife said this to him during a conversation, I had flashbacks to high school. Breathes there a teen-aged boy in this land who hasn’t tried the line, “If you loved me, you would ……”? (I’ll leave you to fill in the blank.)
I’m truly surprised that the spouse who pleads “If you loved me…..” actually believes what they are saying. It’s such a juvenile statement, a manifestly blatant attempt at emotional manipulation, and would be laughable if it weren’t said in earnest. Wife and I raised four kids, and there isn’t one of them who didn’t try the “If you love me, you’ll give me a cookie” ploy.
Do they think that attaining one’s majority somehow turns childish attempts at manipulation into mature reasoning? And why, if by some miracle of growth “If you love me…” becomes a valid line of appeal, why doesn’t this cut two ways? After all, there are two people in the marriage, both with needs, both of whom can appeal to Love. As in:
“If you loved me, you wouldn’t keep asking me for sex.”
“If you loved me, you would have sex with me.”
Maybe I missed the meeting where it was determined that the first “If…” was valid but the second “If…” was a bridge too far. All I know is I didn’t get the memo on that one.
“Accept Me As I Am”
Then there is the classic, “Why can’t you accept me for who I am?” Usually, this is accompanied with a pleading that runs along of lines of “This is just who I am, I can’t change. Why can’t you accept this?” There are different ways of saying this, such as:
“That’s just who I am.”
“That’s not me”
“I can’t change”
No matter the manner in which the thought is expressed, the message is still the same. “Tough. You’re stuck with me.”
My reaction? “Really? Are you saying that you are who you were when you got married, that you’ve never changed?” Forget that old saw that says when a man marries, he hopes his wife never changes, but when a woman marries, she hopes her busband will change. We know that it’s just a joke, and we know the truth that marriage changes a person as s/he learns to integrate into a shared life. So, yes, she CAN change; she did it before and she can do it again.
The ugly truth isn’t that she can’t change; instead, it’s just that she doesn’t want to change. Interestingly enough, though, you are expected to change.
“Love On My Terms”
While not articulated, this statement encapsulates just what the “accept me as I am” statements intend. Saying “Accept me” is short-hand for “Love me with Unconditional Love like God tells you to.” And you know who gets to say when the meter pegs out at “Unconditional Love,” don’t you? Yup, you guessed it; the one who is demanding that unconditional love.
Recently, a commenter on TMB (see links, sidebar) observed that when GCHs™ are told that they need to LYWACLTC™, the wife is the one who gets to be the arbiter and decide if the Hubs has loved enough. And guess what? In many marriages the counter is reset every day at the crack of dawn and you have to begin it all over again.
And here we come to the crux of the matter, don’t we? One person in the marriage assumes the right to define the relationship: what is love, what love looks like and what acceptance looks like. Based on one spouse’s definition/expectation, the other is informed that their actions are not “loving.” that s/he is not doing marriage right. It’s a one-sided judgment, from which there is usually no appeal.
Last year, a commenter on one of my posts addressed the problem of the “You don’t love me/accept me as I am” statements. Sharing that his wife used these accusations on him, he noted,
“…the problem with both of those weapons is that ther are based on an if/then premise: if one thing is true it MUST imply another truth. And here we have the problem. The spouse using this statement has a clear idea of what the resulting TRUTH looks like….if you loved me you would respect my sexuality as it is, you don’t accept me because you do X. The problem is that truth can be distorted by the spouse’s experiences.”
Squeak Up,… er Speak Up!
There it is, in a nutshell. Yes, the accusatory spouse may truly believe that s/he isn’t being loved or accepted, but as I am wont to say, their say-so doesn’t make it so. Past experiences, bad teaching, etc., distort love and acceptance, and even reality, so that their beliefs don’t conform to any semblance of the truth. Hubs/Wife may be told that their actions aren’t loving or accepting, when by any measure or observation, they actually are loving, they actually are accepting.
I am an old coot, and as you know, I’m not one for tea and sympathy. If your marriage is sputtering along like Jack Benny’s Maxwell because your spouse is operating from a lie and not the truth, then I’m all in favor of throwing some truth into the mix and countering the balderdash fueling your misery.
“You don’t accept me as I am” – “Neither do you.”
“If you loved me, you wouldn’t….” – “If you loved me, you would….”
One of my mantras is “It’s not his marriage, it’s not her marriage; it’s y’all’s marriage.” That means you have to learn to live in peace as a husband with her and she has to learn to live in peace as a wife with you. Both of you need to learn to love each other, and learn to do the things that communicate love. And one way to communicate love is to speak the truth.