This continues a series I’ve called “Blogging Dobson” – (1) – (2) – (3) – (4) – on some comments in the Dobson book “Straight Talk to Men and Their Wives”. I pull out some “interesting statements” which illustrate the fallacy that these kinds of ministries perpetrate of being “godly” or “family-affirming”.
In the course of the series, which describes some of the “interesting” parts of Dr. Dobson’s book, it was discussed about how husbands are called to step up and lead their families. However, the husbands are disenfranchised of their authority. The wife is then set up as the authority holder (head) of the marriage. The rest of the book involves examples of means used to accomplish this goal. Those who follow the religious feminist sphere regularly will recognize these as global trends in the church today (establishing Marriage 2.0), because Dobson has been a leader in this respect.
Dobson begins (in this chapter called “A Man And His Wife”) with a statement on divorce, which hardly is interesting: (1)
Perhaps you know that the divorce rate in America is now higher than in any other civilized nation in the world, and it is steadily increasing. That is tragic. Even more distressing to me is the knowledge that the divorce rate for Christians is only slightly lower than the population at large. How could that possibly be true? Jesus taught his followers to be loving, giving, moral, responsible, self-disciplined, honest, and respectful. He also explicitly prohibited divorce except for radical circumstances of infidelity. With these instructions, He provided an unshakable foundation for a stable and loving relationship between husband and wife. How can it be, then, that those who claim to have accepted Jesus’ teaching and devoted their lives to Christian principles are hardly more successful in maintaining harmonious families than those who profess nothing? There’s an enormous contradiction tucked within those words.
The part that becomes interesting is that it reminds me of a quote by Focus On The Family representative Glenn Stanton, who performs the same role in the group today that Dr. Dobson is doing with this book. In that quote, instead of lamenting it like Dr. Dobson, he has celebrated it (H/T Dalrock):
The divorce rates of Christian believers are not identical to the general population — not even close. Being a committed, faithful believer makes a measurable difference in marriage.
Dalrock provides good commentary on this, so I’ll refer you to there, since this isn’t the primary interest of this post. Suffice it to say, it’s not good to lament the results of their Marriage 2.0 experiment, especially today. Dobson continues to write, telling us the reason that all these marriages are being blown up in divorce (1):
The truth is, the same circumstances that destroy non-Christian marriages can also be deadly in the homes of believers. I’m not referring to alcoholism or infidelity or compulsive gambling. The most common marriage killer is much more subtle and insidious. Let me explain.
Suppose I have a counseling appointment at four o’clock tomorrow afternoon with a person whom I’ve never met. Who is that person and what will be the complaint that brings them to me? First, the patient will probably be Mrs. Jones, not her husband. A man is seldom the first to seek marriage counseling, and when he does, it is for a different motive than his wife seeks it. She comes because her marriage is driving her crazy. He comes because his wife is driving him crazy.
I’m not aware enough of marriage counseling (even Christian) or how it works specifically beyond what I’ve read on Gregoire’s site and this post (which is the only one that came up describing the results of it after an exhaustive search), but I notice the pattern is as Dobson writes:
It’s always the man’s fault, because he won’t submit to her and be like a woman.
It could be argued that the whole purpose of marriage counseling is to strong-arm the man into submitting to his wife and later give her justification for the inevitable frivolous divorce that is to come. Dobson goes on to give three “letters” as examples to this point in bold and neglects to explain his points any further. He probably meant something by them, but they are nonsense logically, and one of the handful of statements in the book I really can’t do anything with because it’s so nonsensical. To break up the statements:
1. She comes to counseling because her marriage is driving her crazy.
2. He comes to counseling because his wife is driving him crazy.
We logically know that the wife asks for marriage counseling because she has some problem with her husband that is driving her crazy (same as the husband’s reasons). The only conclusion I can make out of this given the rest of the text is that Dobson is making this subtle reframe in order to push the point that the husband isn’t submitting to her desires in the marriage, which makes the marriage drive the wife crazy. Meanwhile the husband’s views on how the marriage is driving him crazy are dismissed as out-of-hand because they are about his wife and do not focus on the marriage, i.e. fulfilling her thoughts, wishes, desires, etc. Dobson gives us his conclusion about “Mrs. Jones” (2):
Mrs. Jones speaks as though she were the only woman in the world who has ever experienced this pattern of needs. But she is not alone. It is my guess that 90 percent of the divorces that occur each year involve at least some of the elements she described–an extremely busy husband who is in love with his work and who tends to be somewhat insensitive, unromantic, and noncommunicative, married to a lonely, vulnerable, romantic woman who has severe doubts about her worth as a human being. They become a matched team: he works like a horse and she nags.
Note the nature of these qualities – Dobson is in effect making a call to men to be more feminized in their marriages, and put aside the work of providing for his family via his job. Dobson is saying if men would just listen to their wives and submit to their wishes, these marriages wouldn’t be blowing up. Hence, we have the common teaching that supplicating to the wife is the answer if the marriage is on the rocks. But when job security becomes an issue if the husband isn’t “dependable” (as Dr. Dobson should well have known as a professor at the USC School of Medicine and a practicing pediatrician), and isn’t working the load his bosses demand of him for being at his wife’s beck and call, the wife won’t be thankful. Especially if the hours he works less for pleasing his wife enables him to provide less of a standard of living than before.
But this would all be possible if the husbands would just hear (submit to) their wives, as Dobson tells us (3):
I can hear masculine readers saying, “If women want a slower lifestyle, less materialism, and more romantic activities with their husbands, why don’t they just tell them so?” They do tell them so, in fact. But men find it very difficult to “hear” this message for some reason.
(Dobson then tells the story of his preacher father stepping on a cat’s tail in an open-air revival while he was preaching and it struggling and crying until he took a step.)
This story typifies many twenty century marriages. The wife is screaming and clawing the air and writhing in pain, but the husband is oblivious to her panic. He is preoccupied with his own thoughts, not realizing that a single step to the right or left could alleviate the crisis. I never cease to be amazed at just how deaf a man can become under these circumstances.
Dobson tells me something I for sure didn’t know. Marriage in the 20th century (and I’m sure the 21st) for a woman is extremely painful and panic ridden, when a man steps up and leads the family and doesn’t submit to his wife. Like a cat whose tail is being stepped on. If he would just only submit to her, that pain of hers would go away and she would have a happy marriage with no complaints from her end and no thoughts of divorce. Such is the dream of Marriage 2.0.
(1)“Straight Talk to Men and Their Wives” by Dr. James C. Dobson p 92. (2) ibid page 94. (3) ibid page 95-96.