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BD #6 – Making Sure The Wife Feels Loved.

February 18, 2013

This continues a series I’ve called “Blogging Dobson” –(1)(2)(3)(4)(5) – 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”.

(warning, this talks about suicide because Dobson went there in his text, so you might pass on this post if that is a touchy subject for you) In continuing on this text describing Dobson’s attempts to undermine the authority of husbands, I encounter something that is so almost nonsensical on the face of it that I didn’t even know what to do with it originally when I read the book and copied text – to the point that I’m winging this post as I read the text. It’s also one of those things of the feminist movement (and specifically the traditional feminist movement) that angers me immensely. It’s the idea that somehow the man is completely responsible for the woman’s emotions, mental state, well being, and actions. Consequently the woman has no moral responsibility, duty, or actions required of herself to maintain her own spiritual, mental, and physical state. This is part of the new Marriage 2.0 responsibility for husbands, not that husbands love their wives sacrificially, but that their husbands make their wives feel loved.

Dobson seeks the acceptance of this false doctrine by equating the job satisfaction of men with the satisfaction of marriage in women. Statistically and logically, we should be able to see that this is an apples and oranges comparison. That Dobson would dare make this comparison also brings to mind the typical feminist rant about women not being valued as homemakers because they are not being paid for what they do. He then summarizes his view with a graph which is included in this post.

Dobson's graph: Straight Talk To Men and Their Wives page 99.

Dobson’s graph: (2).

While the comparison might have made more sense in a world where women didn’t work at all, Dobson makes it clear that he sees the two identical (1):

The chart on page 99 will illustrate this contrasting job satisfaction by men and women. Obviously the point of greatest danger occurs in the late thirties and forties, when the wife is most dissatisfied with her assignment and the husband is most enthralled with his. That combination is built for trouble, especially if the man feels no responsibility to help meet his wife’s needs and longings.

As was talked about before, Dobson feels the husband is wholly responsible for “listening” (submitting) to the wife and deal with all the wife’s emotions, wants, desires, and so on. By submitting to his wife faithfully, the husband is supposed to make his wife feel loved. This is not inconsistent with what others have expressed about Marriage 2.0. Evidently, satisfying every desire of his wife is what “stepping up and leading your family” means to Dobson.

Dobson then proceeds to tell us how women will cope in the “absence of strong and loving support from husbands” (1). To summarize those, which Dobson deems as non-exclusive, meaning a woman can take any or all of these actions (2, 3):

1. Go to work outside the home.
2. Be angry at men and society (e.g. hatred of men), adopting feminism.
3. Depression.
4. Have an affair.
5. Take up alcohol and drugs. (this was/is common enough for the Youtube song I linked to get written, I suppose?)
6. Attempt suicide. This is Dobson’s subsequent (repugnant and disgusting) example (3, 4) to drive the point home. Dobson painted the husband at fault for his wife’s attempted suicide because he didn’t make her feel loved enough.
7. Abdicate her responsibilities or run away.
8. Get a divorce. As Dobson writes (3): “Today, more than ever, this final alternative looms as the accepted method of coping with marital frustration.”

Instead of addressing the hardwired sin nature of women, like her rebellion before God in refusing to submit to her husband, the husband passing her fitness tests, dealing with his wife for her purposeful discontentment and creation of drama, admonishing women to find contentment in their own lives before God as well as admonishing them that men aren’t mind-readers, and so on, Dobson fails to see any contributing behavior of these women in doing what they have done, and places the blame of all of these things squarely at the feet of the husbands. “Step up and lead your family by submitting to your wife and making her feel loved.” is instead the order of the day with Marriage 2.0.

Dobson also does everything short of screaming “Do it! Do it!” when it comes to the topic of frivolous divorce for the wife’s “marital frustration”. The culture might not have allowed the free avocation of frivolous divorce in 1980, he definitely is paving the way for the common acceptance of divorce within the church.

dobson_book

Seeing this line of thinking expressed in this book explains a whole lot, now that I’ve worked my way through it in the deeper way that is required of blog posts. It’s not anything that I haven’t already picked up on reading countless manosphere sites, but to see it expressed in print (and back in 1980 no less!) in this way is almost incredible since it depicts a number of the more far out-there things that would almost be absurdity if there wasn’t numerous proofs floating about that people actually think this way. While Dobson has plenty of adversarial words for the feminists (or “women’s liberation movement” as he puts it), it’s especially interesting to see Dobson’s own feminism depicted in black and white. It is almost a perfect illustration of the blindness that the traditional feminists have to the fact that they ARE feminists. Especially to see the dynamic of Marriage 2.0 expressed repeatedly in this chapter, outside of manosphere posts was particularly interesting.

(There are 2 or 3 more of these left, which may or may not have anything to do with marriage. Be sure to check the comments here, as a lot of those are good for this text too.)

(1)“Straight Talk to Men and Their Wives” by Dr. James C. Dobson p 98. (2) ibid page 99. (3) ibid page 100. (4) ibid page 101.

24 Comments
  1. Looking Glass permalink

    I would also like to point out the incredible fallacy of the chart for a man’s satisfaction with a job. It always gets better? In what alternate universe is that true?

  2. Looking Glass, its not a stretch. It reflects the same aspect of men that is shown in our long suffering attitude with a marriage that lacks sexual fulfillment and a pleasant wife. The recent pop psych studies that show that the more women get what they want the less happy they are explains the female line on the graph, which I have no doubt, if updated to reflect working moms with power careers would still have the big dip, leading to my always same conclusion that women are most content when unsettled, when having drama, and when garnering an empathetic reaction from others. If asked if they are happy, women will report no reflexively because in a dialog, or even a questionnaire, answering yes is BORING.

  3. BradA permalink

    I will be the curmudgeon and as if you are really asserting that Dobson is saying divorce is a good outcome? Acknowledging the list of things he does is not an inherent approval of the things he notes. He also notes depression and having an affair and I doubt those are desirable outcomes in his eyes. You say

    > Dobson also does everything short of screaming “Do it! Do it!” when it comes to the topic of frivolous divorce for the wife’s “marital frustration”.

    What is the quote that says that? Noting that it is an outcome in this is far from advocating it. I would expect it to be a likely (even if wrong) outcome for an unsatisfied wife WHEREVER that dissatisfaction comes from.

    Note that the title of the book is also includes “to men”. “and to their wives” is secondary, not primary. It does seem more appropriate for a book of that title to aim more at men. The aim may be off, but chastising it for not correcting women is questionable.

    I am not sure if this is the post you were referring to in the comments on the last one, but I still don’t see anything about a husband’s role. Clearly he cannot be driven by his wife’s whims, but does he have no role at all in the marriage? That does not seem like a full picture either.

    The parts of MMSL I have read indicate the need for some beta techniques for a well-functioning marriage. Are you arguing that it should all focus on the alpha? I am sure the posters here will tell me I am overlooking things, but please point out the exact words if that is the case.

  4. jsr permalink

    I think a post on a woman’s “don’t judge me” vs. Christ’s “do not judge lest ye be judged” would be good. How to handle this annoying womanly reframe would be good for many to get a better grasp on.

    http://tolovehonorandvacuum.com/2013/02/praying-the-right-thing-for-your-husband/#comment-30822

  5. I don’t Ballista, if I’d go so far as to say that Dobson is promoting divorce. Seems a stretch to me. I agree that he gives women a pass far too often, and that his remarks seem to demonize men. That’s par for the course these days.

    My husband (39) is at a point in his career where he likes what he does, but he still rarely works late when he doesn’t have to, and clearly makes every effort to get home to me when he can. He even comes home for lunch a couple of days a week.

    Until very recently, 5 years or so ago, I thought all men were like him, but he talks to a lot of men who find that marriage isn’t all they hoped it would be. BUT…and this is a huge but, the things they express to him as issues are quite reasonable and sane. In other words, it won’t take much for their wives to satisfy them. This made me sad as it indicates that our culture has deceived women and made it nigh impossible for us to be content* in marriage or to satisfy* their mates.

    *I took great pains to avoid the word “happy”, as I find the quest for perpetual happiness in marriage extremely problematic. Also, as more and more men have been infected by the culture, they are also succumbing to perpetual discontent, though not nearly to the same degree as women.

  6. BradA permalink

    I would agree with you Elspeth. Men are generally much easier to satisfy than many women think. Several female writers have commented on this.

    Though I also think some men really are wrong and we sometimes fight the prevailing emphasis that blames men with effectively giving them a free pass. We shouldn’t push the pendulum so far in the other directions we create other problems that are just as serious.

    It would be nice to see some writings on how we should be more than just what is wrong. That could be compared against what is being written, but it seems like much of what is written is more focused on what is wrong rather than on what is right. This is a common human trait though, so it is not surprising.

  7. Morticia permalink

    You are treating female depression like a character flaw, and if that is the case (which I don’t totally agree with) I fail to see how that invalidates the suggestion that husband try to help her out of it. It might be the case that he shouldn’t “have to” because that isn’t the job of the husband, but isn’t it a kindness if he does?

    I might agree that Dobsons strategy is poor, but I don’t agree that trying to help her avoid depression is a worthless endeavor.

    Ignoring depression is’t likely to make it go away, so isn’t doing something generally better than nothing?

  8. @Elspeth

    I don’t Ballista, if I’d go so far as to say that Dobson is promoting divorce.

    He didn’t. He goes on and speaks generically against divorce as an option. I didn’t write that he was promoting divorce. I stated “Dobson also does everything short of screaming “Do it! Do it!” when it comes to the topic of frivolous divorce for the wife’s “marital frustration”.

    However, he doesn’t come out and say to wives to not resort to that answer. Like I stated, Dobson isn’t going to come out like Joel and Kathy or Sheila Gregoire or most others will today with the divorce option within the Church because this is 1980 he is writing it in, but he’s never disavows the option for women, either. Again it’s in how it’s being framed. It’s not that the wife is choosing it of her own free will. It’s that “the monster that she married is pushing the poor dear into it”. At some point, women have to be held to account for their own choices within the marriage.

    @BradA

    Note that the title of the book is also includes “to men”. “and to their wives” is secondary, not primary. It does seem more appropriate for a book of that title to aim more at men. The aim may be off, but chastising it for not correcting women is questionable.

    Remember back to post #1 (if you were reading back that far)? The odds of men buying this book directly were next to none for the reasons explained there. Therefore, the primary audience of this book was women not men. Dobson was writing this for an audience of women that were feeling their discontentment and just dying to have someone feed their empathy pump and sock it to their husbands. If this book made it into the hands of their husbands, it was because their wives pushed the book on them and pushed them into reading it.

    I am not sure if this is the post you were referring to in the comments on the last one, but I still don’t see anything about a husband’s role. Clearly he cannot be driven by his wife’s whims, but does he have no role at all in the marriage?

    If I were to do something like this on every post – in other words to try and explain everything, each post would be 4000-5000 words (as if they aren’t long enough now) and would float into tl;dr territory. This is why I usually make the effort to hyperlink everything I remember I’ve addressed before in more depth, especially since the intent of each post is to focus on one single issue/topic. This post was directly linked and this post also sheds some light on this in a Biblical standpoint.

    Though I also think some men really are wrong and we sometimes fight the prevailing emphasis that blames men with effectively giving them a free pass. We shouldn’t push the pendulum so far in the other directions we create other problems that are just as serious.

    Agreed. The problem isn’t that men aren’t being held to account for what is rightfully on them. The problem is that women aren’t being held to account for what is rightfully their responsibility, and the men are being blamed for things that are well beyond their control, and in effect shouldn’t be blamed for. Would you blame the husband for the wife going out to have an affair and hold her blameless? Would you blame the husband for the wife going out to divorce him for “marital dissatisfaction” (i.e. not adultery) and hold her blameless?

    @Morticia

    You are treating female depression like a character flaw, and if that is the case (which I don’t totally agree with) I fail to see how that invalidates the suggestion that husband try to help her out of it. It might be the case that he shouldn’t “have to” because that isn’t the job of the husband, but isn’t it a kindness if he does?

    I’m simply saying the husband shouldn’t be held to blame for his wife’s depression because she didn’t feel loved enough. Would you blame the husband for the wife’s depression? Be there and be supportive sure, but blame him, no. With that list, Dobson is saying that the cause of all these things is her husband because he didn’t make her feel loved enough and she has no agency in any of it. “It’s bad, but he pushed her into it.” seems to be the common theme behind all of these things. (I sincerely hope my writing isn’t that unclear)

  9. I would agree with you Elspeth. Men are generally much easier to satisfy than many women think. Several female writers have commented on this.

    Huh?

    For the rest, this question Elspeth raises saying Dobson did not directly endorse divorce is like lots of the stuff the church says by not saying it. And Morticia is falling for that same subtle omission in asking what she asked.
    I often wonder why men see these things so consistently the way we do, and women generally do not, seemingly willing to extend benefit of doubt, or better intentions assumed etc. Thats why I wrote that long prattling post I called a letter to Dr Moore explaining my own analysis of the corpus of lifes experience for the life long churched woman. Looking at any one of these things its easy to dismiss that people would not assume pro divorce, or assume mans blame for her depression, but as a full comprehensive repeated weekly for years immersion in the whole systematic program, I will say this….if men were on the receiving end of such easy outs for responsibility for nearly anything….we’d darn well fall into taking that route too.

  10. For the rest, this question Elspeth raises saying Dobson did not directly endorse divorce is like lots of the stuff the church says by not saying it. And Morticia is falling for that same subtle omission in asking what she asked.

    I think it’s because of the current gynocentrism that Churchianity affords the women in allowing them to skirt responsibility for their own actions. The gynocentrism also affords an undue emphasis on feelings as important, but that discussion is for another day (post #8). Why this seems so clear to some of us and not others is a mystery. It’s not one without an answer, but the thought process seems very clear (just to use divorce as an example):

    1. Divorce is really really really bad. (stating this gives people like Dobson or Gregoire a clear out that they aren’t indeed advocating divorce – they can just point to that and say so)
    2. If the husband divorces, he’s doing a wrong thing and he’s a monster.
    3. BUT: If that monster of a husband isn’t submitting to her and making her feel loved, and pushes her into a divorce…then poor thing…that’s okay. It’s not HER that’s divorcing, it’s HIM pushing her to divorce.

    This line of illogic is followed through on every action of men as it relates to women. Women are always the poor victims and the men are always monsters. But, it wouldn’t be a good deception if everyone could see through it, now would it?

  11. Interesting interpretation of our comments, Ballista and Empath. What exactly in my comments (or Morticia’s for that matter) indicated that we subscribe to the notion that women should skirt responsibility for our actions? Or did I misunderstand your comment?

    If you wanted me to elaborate, you should’ve asked me. I gave Dobson the benefit of the doubt because he has a long reputation of being a proponent of Christian marriage. No more, no less.

    It is only recently that I have begun to realize how damaging most of the teachings of these family ministries can be, but I am inclined to give most everyone the benefit of the doubt rather than assuming the worst.

    Sometimes this is an error, yes. I know that.

  12. Morticia permalink

    I don’t really understand what you think I am saying. I am saying that it is important that feelings be considered as relevant to the health of the marriage and that one should be careful to avoid swinging the pendulum of personal responsibility too far so as to suggest (intentionally or not) that the spouses should ignore the spouses feelings.

    That is the way I have read some of what you have written. Perhaps my reading is faulty. I don’t know.

  13. @Elspeth

    Interesting interpretation of our comments, Ballista and Empath. What exactly in my comments (or Morticia’s for that matter) indicated that we subscribe to the notion that women should skirt responsibility for our actions? Or did I misunderstand your comment?

    Empath will have to answer on what he thinks of what is being written. What I’m noticing is a constant reframing or proclamation that I wrote something I really didn’t. I dealt with your first comment here, and Morticia’s comment here.

    Hence my “(I sincerely hope my writing isn’t that unclear)” comment. The key statement in the main post for what Morticia brought up was “Dobson fails to see any contributing behavior of these women in doing what they have done, and places the blame of all of these things squarely at the feet of the husbands.”. I wrote nothing about the husband not helping his wife through depression. What I wrote was about the husband not being responsible for it. Big difference. Case in point: what I found so disgusting and repugnant about Dobson’s suicide example is that he directly blamed the husband for it because he didn’t make her feel loved enough. I’m sure he was there and helpful for the wife to get through it, but it’s disgusting that the husband got blamed for it.

    Placing blame on the husband for things out of his control, therefore holding him to an impossible standard is the issue I’m concerned with in this post. This is behind the changed standard to “make the wife feel loved”. I’m not sure why this isn’t coming out clearly either in the post or the comments (if that is indeed the issue).

  14. Morticia permalink

    Perhaps it is an intellectual deficiency or a personality deficiency, but I often see you say X and then wonder if you mean Y…not that you mean X and only X. I don’t think I am the only one who has read you that way, but I might be in the small minority. So take that for what it is worth.

  15. Anono-man permalink

    You have to have a balance on this one. One the one hand, you can’t MAKE your wife feel a certain way. You can do your best to help her feel loved. But at some point, your responsibility ends. You can’t control how she feels. If chooses to let the hamster of discontent and negativity go wild, you can point it out when it’s happening, but you can’t make the choice to shut the hamster down.

    My wife has tried to blame her feelings on me sometimes when she has PMS. I don’t accept that. But I can do my best to try to be understanding. I can be kind to her and help her with her feelings.

    I just get this antagonistic vibe from this post, kind of sarcastic against women’s feelings. Women do have feelings. They are more emotional than us men in some ways, and we do need to be sensitive to their feelings. I haven’t read Dobson’s book. He should have put something in there about men not being responsible for their wife’s feelings. We need to be understanding, thoughtful and kind, and try to make our wives feel loved, but we don’t have control over their feelings or the thoughts they choose to think that effect their feelings.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. BD #7 – The Basic Concept Behind The Man-Up Rant. | The Society of Phineas
  2. Commentary on Christians on Marriage | Thinking 8
  3. BD #8 – Ruled By Feelings And Emotions. | The Society of Phineas
  4. “Don’t Judge Me!” and Other Musings | The Society of Phineas
  5. The Positive Action is the Negative | The Society of Phineas
  6. Middle Ground Is Deadly Ground | The Society of Phineas
  7. Vito Corleone’s Forbidden Man Up Rant | The Society of Phineas
  8. Romancing The Personal Jesus | The Society of Phineas
  9. Sharing Satan’s Plan For Marriage | The Society of Phineas

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