Warn men: Beware Christian marriage doublespeak and hair trigger for wife initiated divorce.

08 Nov

by Dalrock; reprinted from the original here, by kind permission of the author.

This issue is so important I’m asking my readers and other bloggers to do whatever they can to help spread the word and protect men and their future children. Any blogger who wishes to is free to repost this entry in part or its entirety on their own blog with a link back to this page. Literally millions of men are at risk here, and we can help them understand the reality they face.

One of the more dangerous assumptions I see men making is that if they marry a Christian woman they will be somehow shielded from the epidemic of divorce. I’ve stated in the past that most churches talk like Christ but act like Oprah on the issue of divorce. I’ve also shown how Christians like Glenn Stanton from Focus on the Family are actually proud that devout Christians only divorce 38% of the time. More recently I’ve shown that the movie Christians cherish for representing their values on marriage is actually barely dressed up divorce porn for women.

Yet with all of this even I was stunned by comments left on my blog yesterday by a respected Christian author and speaker on the topic of marriage. In my post Promiscuity is good, so long as it is done on the woman’s terms I pointed out that there is no backing for the popular belief that the female preferred form of promiscuity (serial monogamy/ serial polyandry) is more moral than the male preferred form of promiscuity. I used the example of Christians arguing that the wife in Fireproof was justified in her attempt to swing from marriage to marriage:

This is similar to the argument by the Christian women that the wife in Fireproof wasn’t being whorish because she planned on divorcing her husband and marrying the other man she was after before having sex with him.

Sheila Gregoire is one of the Christian women I had in mind when I made that statement, and she noticed the post and defended her position:

But I just want to clarify: I do believe that she had grounds for divorce because of his pornography addiction. I think that’s where the fundamental disagreement comes in. I don’t think she SHOULD have divorced him, anymore than I think a woman should leave a guy because of a one-night stand. Jesus never said that we SHOULD divorce. He only said that in cases of affairs, divorce is permitted.

And so in the movie Fireproof, she was in a relationship where divorce was permitted, and she was planning on divorcing, and planning on remarrying. Thus, I wouldn’t say that’s whorish. He’s the one who cheated.

I’m just uncomfortable with you saying that Christians are allowing people to “whore” around because we’re permitting divorce, when I don’t think that’s the case. I believe there are very narrow grounds for divorce: abuse, affairs, and in some cases, addictions. In many of those cases, I’d argue that they should separate and not remarry, such as the case of addictions.

Note that she states that there should be only a few very defined reasons for divorce, and then proceeds to expand the definition to the point where nearly every wife initiated divorce is justified. Adultery is expanded to the point where a man watching porn qualifies: He’s the one who cheated.

While Sheila uses the term pornography addiction in her comment, this is outside her primary justification (porn as adultery) for the wife’s plan to line up husband number two while still married to the first one. She states that addiction would be grounds for separation without remarriage, not to divorce and find another man. Based on her own standard even if the husband had indeed been shown as a porn addict, the wife’s actions would not have been justified on those grounds. Her justification is that watching pornography is adultery. This may be why the creators of the movie Fireproof were so murky on exactly what the husband’s transgression regarding porn really was. They didn’t feel the need to make a solid case for porn addiction before they showed the wife shutting off entirely towards her husband and actively pursuing another man. As I pointed out in my review the wife didn’t even accuse the husband of being a porn addict, and while the term was used later in the movie there was nothing which showed the husband as being an addict. Here is the exchange from the movie where we are told the husband is viewing porn:

Catherine: If looking at that trash is how you get fulfilled, then that is fine. But I will not compete with it.

Caleb: Well, I sure don’t get it from you!

Catherine: And you won’t. Because you care more about saving for your stupid boat and pleasing yourself than you ever did about me.

The fundamental problem is that Christian women are being given get out of marriage free cards while Christian men are being told man up and marry these Christian women. This selective moral softness from Christians combines with our legal system which rewards women who commit divorce theft and creates millions of fatherless children. Your husband looked at porn? Dump him and find another man! Keep in mind this isn’t some corner case example I’ve made up. This is from the movie Christians profess shows their views on marriage. Moreover, Sheila isn’t just another commenter on the internet, she is a respected author and speaker on the topic of marriage for Christian women. All men need to understand this; if your wife decides to divorce you for another man, there will be well respected Christians lining up to justify her decision and place all of the blame on you. If that means conflating viewing pornography with actual adultery, so be it. This is true even in cases where the wife was withholding sex in an effort to control the husband. She even excuses the wife lining up the other man while still married.

It isn’t just men viewing porn which gives women a get out of marriage free card though. Sheila also listed abuse as the other fundamental justification for divorce. In one of Sheila’s video blogs she reminded women that they shouldn’t assume husbands are the only ones with obligations. This brought her a chorus of emails from angry Christian women complaining that she was telling them not to be true to themselves. That Christian women would feel comfortable spouting such nonsense to her should be proof enough of what is so terribly broken in Christian culture. To Sheila’s credit, she did a follow on video blog post where she gently reminded these women that being true to yourself is not actually a biblical value. One of the youtube commenters on the original video countered with the following:

Your advice is nice, in thought, but unrealistic in practice. I did that exact thing for 7 years, as a married Christian woman. It got rough after the first year. I doubted my marriage. But I stuck it out. I convinced myself it was ME who needed to change. So I did. I completely revamped my entire being. And I did it several times over the next 6 years.

I will say, I was extremely emotionally abused. What do you suggest in those circumstances? I got out. And my life is happier than ever.

What exactly is emotional abuse? I’m not sure, but ladies you will be excited to learn it also counts as a get out of marriage free card! Sheila responded with the following:

Of course, if there is abuse going on, that is a totally different story. But changing yourself doesn’t mean that you change who you fundamentally are. It just means that you change your expectations and go to God to help you be the person He wants you to be. That’s a good kind of change. Changing so that you tolerate abuse is something else entirely. But abuse was not the issue in this woman’s letter; she just felt like she didn’t love him.

So now we know emotional abuse fits in her definition of abuse. Again, she states that only two very specific reasons justify divorce and then proceeds to expand the terms to the point where nearly every wife initiated divorce is justified.

Sheila also had the following criticism for my approach in this blog:

I find that you talk a lot on this blog about how people should never divorce (which I more or less agree with), and that women shouldn’t expect so much from their husbands (which I also agree with), and that women are asking their husbands to be both betas and alphas at the same time (which I also agree with), and that women leave their husbands too much (again, in agreement). But what I don’t find is you dealing honestly with genuine problems that couples have with communication, with distance, with betrayal of trust, with porn, etc. I agree with everything you’re saying, but I don’t think marriages can be fixed with a simple “suck it up and put on your big girl panties”. That might make someone STAY in the marriage, but it won’t make the marriage thrive, and what I’d like to see is couples who are genuinely attached and intimate.

Sheila misunderstands me. I don’t believe people should never divorce. My concern is that the definition of justified divorce has been so expanded as to make a mockery of the concept of marriage. She is also missing a fundamental point; putting on your big girl panties really does lead to happy marriages, at least in the majority of cases. Moreover, if Christians were serious about holding men and women to their vows they would then have the moral authority to try to assist these couples in good faith. While religious leaders may disagree, secular scientists have studied the issue and found that brute force willpower to stay married actually solves surprisingly difficult marital problems. It’s almost as if God designed marriage that way. I’ve covered this in detail here, but here is one of the key quotes from one paper which studied this:

Many currently happily married spouses have had extended periods of marital unhappiness, often for quite serious reasons, including alcoholism, infidelity, verbal abuse, emotional neglect, depression, illness, and work reversals. Why did these marriages survive where other marriages did not? The marital endurance ethic appears to play a big role. Many spouses said that their marriages got happier, not because they and their partner resolved problems but because they stubbornly outlasted them. With time, they told us, many sources of conflict and distress eased.

One factor which undoubtedly plays a role here is the widespread adoption of feminism by Christian and secular women alike. The knee jerk blame the husband tendency which I have described above shows how immersed modern Christianity is in modern feminism. Fellow blogger Laura Grace Robbins captured my own thoughts when she wrote:

I’m starting to think the feminism in Christianity cuts much, much deeper than I originally thought.

This is relevant both because a general sense of unhappiness is the philosophical foundation for modern feminism, and because we know that women who try to be the leaders in their marriage are very likely to be unhappy as a result. As I mentioned earlier, Christian women hold some truly outrageous beliefs when it comes to marriage and being “true to themselves”. It is no wonder that millions of these women are unhappy. Like the wife in Fireproof, many have decided that their husbands should submit to their leadership. Christians could of course address this if they weren’t deeply mired in the very feminism at the source of the problem.

I’ll close with a brief defense of both Sheila Gregoire and Christian women in general. Sheila is actually one of the stronger pro marriage voices in modern Christian culture. This is what makes her fundamental weakness on the issue so deeply troubling. She isn’t on the pro divorce fringe, she is one of the speakers churches bring in to strengthen marriage. She writes some of the books Christian wives read on the topic of marriage. I have focused on her arguments because she is proof of how incredibly soft on marriage Christians in general have become. If this weren’t the case, she wouldn’t be seen as pro marriage by mainstream Christians. As for defending Christian women, there are many women who comment on this blog who do not believe that a woman is justified in divorcing one man and marrying another because the first husband viewed pornography. Single men looking to marry shouldn’t write off all Christian women. Just like there are atheist women who truly believe in marriage there still are Christian women who feel the same, and the statistics bear this out. What a man looking to marry needs to do is test for this trait in the woman herself, and not assume it comes with regular church attendance or even a seeming deep devotion to Christianity. More difficult is the question of church attendance itself. Studies have shown that divorce tends to spread like disease. Attending a church which is soft on divorce puts a man’s marriage (and therefore his children) at risk. Unfortunately no one has yet been able to identify a congregation for me which isn’t soft on marriage. I have seen one so I do know they exist. Christianity doesn’t have to be soft on marriage, the vast majority of Christians have merely chosen to be.


22 responses to “Warn men: Beware Christian marriage doublespeak and hair trigger for wife initiated divorce.

  1. CL

    November 8, 2011 at 8:11 pm

    Over at Dalrock’s they are still referring to a pornography habit as an addiction. It’s just not the same thing, but some don’t seem to care much about the difference.

  2. Will S.

    November 8, 2011 at 8:16 pm

    Yeah. That’s unfortunate; it seems so obvious to me, the difference between a habit and an addiction; only drugs generate addiction, i.e. physiological dependency. A habit is a psychological dependency, not a physiological dependency; no-one will suffer physical withdrawal symptoms from quitting a bad habit. Therefore it is not the same thing as an addiction; quitting heroin cold turkey without replacing it with methadone can be physically harmful, even deadly… So, no comparison. Sins committed regularly are bad habits, not addictions. End of story.

  3. Svar

    November 8, 2011 at 9:33 pm

    Laura Grace Robbins is probably the only sane female Christian writer I’ve ever read.

  4. Will S.

    November 9, 2011 at 6:20 am

    LGR is great at uncovering how deep the roots of societal misandry lie; she’s done excellent research.

  5. Will S.

    November 9, 2011 at 6:35 am

    Keoni made a great point in the comments at Dalrock’s, which he repeated at his own blogpost about Dalrock’s piece; regarding Sheila Wray Gregoire:

    Sheila is a feminist….the worst kind. A wolf in sheep’s clothing.

    She appears to be “pro-marriage” but she’s spreading marriage and family destroying memes amongst the very people who are supposed to be the last vanguard of the bedrock of Christian-based civilization.

    Think I’m making an overblown charge?

    Let’s take the title of her blog – To Love, Honor & Vacuum.

    On the surface it appears to be a call for Christian women to be better housewives. But exactly what is that title really imply? It’s a distortion of the common Christian marriage vow a wife makes at the altar – Love, Honor and OBEY.

    Whether it was deliberate or subconscious, I still think it’s a subversive meme that aims at one of the Bible’s direct, unambiguous tenets regarding the institution of marriage…wives, submit to your husbands.

    Just as the newly married, “modern” Princess of England had the word’s OBEY taken out of her Anglican Church vows — just like her adulterous, scandalous, deceased mother-in-law did — this “pro-marriage” Christian has replaced the vow of wifely obedience to her husband with a trivial domestic household chore using a modern appliance.

    The problem is not Pro-marriage Christian women. It’s pro-Divorce justifications couched in the veneer of pro-Marriage Christianity.

  6. Ulysses

    November 9, 2011 at 8:38 am

    Keoni’s comments get to part of what I was thinking about with the ethos/script question. Both sexes can get hung up on these checklists instead of approaching life with a moral and philosophical framework, a strong one, that allows for solid decision making. Life isn’t a series of “if A, then B.”

  7. Steve Nicoloso

    November 9, 2011 at 8:48 am

    it seems so obvious to me, the difference between a habit and an addiction; only drugs generate addiction, i.e. physiological dependency. A habit is a psychological dependency, not a physiological dependency; no-one will suffer physical withdrawal symptoms from quitting a bad habit. Therefore it is not the same thing as an addiction; quitting heroin cold turkey without replacing it with methadone can be physically harmful, even deadly… So, no comparison. Sins committed regularly are bad habits, not addictions. End of story.

    But exposure to porn causes a chemical, i.e., physical, reaction in the brain. Studies have shown that it changes sperm count and quality as well. The distinction between physiological and psychological seems here a bit too facile. Surely most things we could agree to identify as bad habits and addictions have both physiological and psychological components, and would, if we lined them up, form a spectrum between two easily identified extremes. And it is probably difficult, and completely unnecessary, to draw some thick black line somewhere in the middle of that continuum, i.e., between “Bad Habits” and “Addictions”. Sins committed regularly are still sins, no matter what psychological jargon we use to describe them. End of story.

    • Matthew

      November 9, 2011 at 12:48 pm

      I’m so glad someone knows how the story ends.

  8. Will S.

    November 9, 2011 at 8:49 am

    Indeed, Ulysses.

  9. Will S.

    November 9, 2011 at 8:56 am

    @ Steve N: That’s true; I’m aware of the neurochemical reactions triggered by porn. And I agree, that regardless of terminology, and whether something be a bad habit or an addiction, that sin is sin.

  10. CL

    November 9, 2011 at 9:09 am

    The chemical component of a porn habit, it seems to me, is not the same as substance addiction. Of course, pretty well any addiction starts as a bad habit, so one leads to the other, but I am not convinced that a sexually deprived husband in particular has an addiction in the usual sense of the word.

    It appears to be a convenient way to shame men and shift blame onto them, so the wife has justification for her coldness and for divorcing. It’s dishonest and allows her to come out smelling of roses, when in these situations it’s almost always 6 of one, half a dozen of the other.

  11. Steve Nicoloso

    November 9, 2011 at 9:17 am

    But, on the main point, Sheila Gregoire is feminist… or at least unwilling to let go of a few of the “gains” made by feminism, i.e., have the last few drops of the poison neutralized. I view this as making peace with modernity. To be fair, it is natural for a woman to make peace, to negotiate an acceptable, if not perfect, if not permanent, status quo. In homes and small communities and voluntary organizations, this natural instinct is a great strength, a domesticating influence, that makes life tolerable. But that same instinct, blown up and writ large, as a solution to societal, national, and global problems is perfectly suicidal. When I said on some other thread that women worrying about the problems of the world is one of them, I really wasn’t joking.

    She feels the betrayal on behalf of the woman in the movie. She would never (I am convinced) divorce her husband over such a hermeneutically dubious “adultery”, but she just–can’t–bring–herself to condemn the woman for seeking it. For that would add to this Catherine’s pain; add insult to hypothetical injury. And it really isn’t in a woman’s nature to do this. And for this, on the whole, we should be grateful. (Women are nice… and smell good too!) But this is also a primary reason that we shouldn’t allow women to write divorce law, nor determine Church teaching on the subject.

  12. Ulysses

    November 9, 2011 at 9:18 am

    Personally I’m sick of the whole disease/addiction focus we have. It’s become a way to shift the onus from the individual to some external force. I’m not saying addictions do not exist, just that the concept has been mightily abused. In my kingdom, the concept would be reserved for acts that, if not done, will kill you or make you physically ill.

    There was a great episode of South Park in which one of the dads got a DUI and had to attend AA. They told him his alcoholism was a disease and he started riding around in a wheelchair and drinking constantly because “I have a disease!” His son kept arguing with him, “You don’t have a disease, you just need to drink less.”

  13. CL

    November 9, 2011 at 9:26 am

    Women are nice…

    But this kind of “nice” is sickening and useless. It’s also cowardly and weak. There’s a difference between being good and being “nice”/placating.

    Exactly, Ulysses. It’s a spiritual ill, not a physical one, although one often begets the other.

  14. Will S.

    November 9, 2011 at 9:31 am

    @ CL, Ulysses: Yes, I still maintain there exists a difference, and that indeed, addiction being treated as a medical problem can give rise to rationalizations for actions, rather than confronting sins head on.

    @ Steve N: Yes, Ms. Gregoire said she wouldn’t personally make the same choice as the woman in the movie did. But I find it troubling, for my part, that she couldn’t find it in herself to condemn a character which, let us remember, is entirely fictional!

  15. Steve Nicoloso

    November 9, 2011 at 9:49 am

    But this kind of “nice” is sickening and useless. It’s also cowardly and weak. There’s a difference between being good and being “nice”/placating.

    Oh, absolutely! I chose the word (“nice”) carefully. Again, attributes and instincts that are essential for the smooth and happy functioning on a small scale, become monstrous when extended to universal applicability. You can “love” the whole world… literally to death.

  16. 7man

    November 10, 2011 at 10:36 am

    Steve N,

    Your understanding of women seems to parallel mine. I wrote that women are “pliable,” which is a survival trait in women. A woman will not easily challenge the beliefs or feelings of another women. A woman accomodates other women and a woman will accomodate her man, if he is a confident leader. This positive aspect in women becomes negative when it goes unchecked and is not subject to reasonable boundaries in our modern world.

  17. Will S.

    November 10, 2011 at 2:28 pm

    Dalrock has another excellent post, here.

  18. Buepillprofessor

    March 18, 2014 at 10:09 pm

    Dalrock really understands this issue. I wonder if there is a difference between mainstream feminism dominated denominations and evangelical conservative denominations.

  19. Will S.

    March 18, 2014 at 10:12 pm

    Not much; having grown up in the former, and having spent several years in the latter, I can testify to that. To find anything outside of that, within Protestantism, one has to go to confessional, traditionalist Reformational Protestantism.

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