My Failed Christian Marriage

***this post kicks off An Unladylike Week in the Blogosphere with blogger and author Rachel Held Evans leading the charge. For my first blog post, I am offering something I have rarely done on this blog and that is give readers a peek into my marriage. I wrote much of this post last year during the writing of my book. It ended up on the editing scrap heap and has now found glorious resurrection in being published today. I hope it will demonstrate how what we believe very much matters, especially in the most intimate of our relationships. And please be sure to follow Rachel’s blog this week. She’s also posted the hashtag #mutuality2012 on Twitter to help folks find one another’s posts. Be sure to check it daily. I know I intend to! Together we are building momentum that will carry us forward into forms of church where women are honored in our full personhood!!!

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A few weeks before I got married, a friend asked me what kind of partnership we were going to have. “What do you mean?” I asked. Her question puzzled me.

“Well, do you believe in submission or in partnership?”

“Submission, of course. That’s what the Bible says.” It was so clear to me that Christian women were to submit to the headship of their husbands that I had not given any thought to it whatsoever. It would have been like asking, “Are you going to sleep in separate bedrooms?” “The Bible teaches mutual submission,” she quietly replied. “My mom and dad have a partnership and they’re Christian.” I didn’t want to debate my friend about whether or not her parents had a biblical marriage, especially with prenuptial bliss filling my nearly wedded heart. I brushed her off with a dismissive quip. “Glad that works for them.”

I had high expectations that in our marriage, Jerry would be the leader and I would be his helper. He would provide headship in our relationship and I would respect his authority as the leader of the home.

To be an obedient, true Christian woman who honors the Bible meant I took verses like this to heart:

Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman. (1 Cor 11:3)

We never talked about this, but since we both were Christians why did we need to? It would just come natural since this was God’s created order for men and women. I relished the thought of being Jerry’s submissive, respectful wife.

I’d been studying Christian couples since I became a believer at age 18. I was more than ready to be Jerry’s helpmate and have my Jesus-sanctioned happily ever after. Having a husband meant someone else could call the shots about my life. I welcomed the prospect of having a personal manager, coach, and spiritual advisor all wrapped up into one hunky husband who’d take care of me for life. All I had to do was cook, clean and make babies. We’d be just fine.

But… it didn’t quite work out that way.

It’s not that I didn’t try, because let me tell you, I tried. And Jerry tried, too. He tried to fill the role of being my sugar daddy, but he wasn’t very good at it and frankly, I found that I really didn’t want to give up control of my life to another human being, even one whose name I had taken as my own. The head/helpmate model of marriage was not working for us.

Pam & Jerry Wedding Day, 7/23/88

But here’s the thing: I could not have defined this for you at that time had I tried. My perceptions were dulled from a veil of fogginess that hung over my eyes like dirty lace curtains. I just couldn’t see right. All I knew was what I felt, and I felt crappy. I felt like my Christian marriage was not very Christian. Did this mean we were headed for dysfunction and divorce?

I had heard inferences of marriages going rogue when the roles of husband and wife were out of God’s created order. One woman at a Bible study once described how women who lead force their husbands to be quiet and become passive. She said, “It’s like emasculating a man when a wife takes over and insists on calling the shots. She needs to let him be the leader of the home.”

I heard variations on this from the pulpit, too. When biblical examples of women leaders were called into question, for example, it was determined that they were only in a more public position than the men around them because the men had failed. Wayne Grudem and John Piper note this in their book, where they interpret Deborah’s leadership described in the book of Judges as an “indictment of the weakness of Barak, and other men in Israel who should have been more courageous leaders.” (Restoring Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, page 72)

It was in this kind of evangelical, patriarchal sub-society that I measured and judged my marriage, myself and especially my husband. From this point of view, Jerry looked weak and I came across as a rebellious wife who wouldn’t submit to her husband’s authority. These tensions swelled inside of me, coloring the atmosphere of my marriage and perception of my husband as well as myself.

I thought our roles would be clear, that he would take the lead in most things like the reins of our spiritual development as a couple and lead our marriage in devotions and prayer times while I would fill the role of a domestic diva, cook and clean and manage the hospitality of our home.

But a prayer life between us did not develop. Jerry is so private when it comes to prayer that he has never been comfortable praying out loud with others. Through the lens of the headship/submission model that insists God calls men to be the head of the home and women to live under their spiritual covering, I could only see that Jerry failed. That I had failed. My marriage was tainted with a sense of anxiety that we were an unhealthy, unbiblical effed-up couple who would be lucky if our marriage survived another five years.

I didn’t speak of these things. It was too ambiguous, too murky. I didn’t divulge it to other women either. I was intent on protecting Jerry. I didn’t want people to see him as weak and less of a man just because he didn’t pray with his wife or speak up in public more than I did. It was confusing. There was a social order, an unspoken code that men are to be more expressive in public with their wives supporting their husband’s sphere of influence in demure domesticity. I just wasn’t cut out for that. Jerry wasn’t cut out to be the family spokesman. I’ve always been the wordy one in the family, but instead of recognizing each others gifting I internalized an image of Jerry and of myself as being flawed. We were messed up. Our marriage was messed up. This was the ghost that haunted my marriage for more than a decade.

I tried to find a way to adjust our marriage course, fearing the worst was up ahead for us. We seemed to be doing ok today, but according to the Christian relationship experts,, we were not. I’d read a few Christian marriage books hoping for encouragement in either how to make things better or that we were actually ok, but instead each book simply regurgitated the message that to have a healthy Christian marriage the woman must submit to the headship of her husband. It made me want to scream.

One night, I was reading yet another marriage book in hopes of finding a map that would make sense of my relationship with Jerry. When the author insisted that a man who won’t lead his family in prayer is a man without convictions, I froze in my reading tracks. I was lying in bed, next to my sleeping husband. In the room across the hall slept our two young children. The quiet night seemed to shift as I wondered about my marriage once again and the Christian mold of headship/subservience.

I had struggled with trying to fit the role that my religious culture insisted upon, but to no avail. It was like trying to squeeze my size 16 body into a size 12…worse; it was like trying to fit my husband into a three-piece suit when he is a t-shirt and Levis kind of man. It was ill-fitting.

But this night, something clicked. Or maybe snapped. I suppose it depends on your point of view. I laid there in my bed next to my husband, the man who was committed to living life in partnership with me, and who gave me the space to be the woman I had been created to be. I thought of this author indicting him as a man without conviction because he did not fit the Christianized version of the he-man-priest husband.

With a flare of fury in my gut, I threw the book across the bedroom. Thud! It hit the wall before hitting the floor. Jerry didn’t even flinch, oblivious to the internal battle raging in bed next to him. Flinging that book across the room was like throwing off the strait jacket of patriarchy that I had attempted to stuff my marriage into all those years. My marriage would no longer be subjected to the demanding code of traditionalistic Christianity. Nor would my identity.

Jerry and I had a solid marriage. Why I hadn’t I seen it before? I was a faithful wife, he a faithful husband. We were committed to one another and to our children. I was finished trying to emulate the ideal Christian couple, whatever that meant. It might work for some, but Jerry and Pam had our own, customized version of what works in a marriage. God, I was beginning to realize, must not be as rigid about male/female relationshipsthan we suppose him to be.

A fresh wind of liberty blew into my home and marriage that night. I had crossed a threshold into a new era of married life. From that moment on, I began to enjoy the strength of my marriage to Jerry rather than fretting over its lack of patriarchal propriety.

I had a dream a few years ago of Jerry and I showing up to a banquet. When we signed in, we were directed to different dining halls, one for men and a separate one for women. Not only that, but Jerry was given a shirt to wear that matched all the other men and I was given a pair of shoes that matched the other women.

We went to our different dining rooms, but soon after I sat down my feet began to hurt. The shoes didn’t fit right. Nothing felt right. I finally left in search of Jerry only to find him in search of me. We peeled off the shoes and shirt we’d been given and dropped them in the garbage on our way out of the banquet hall. Once outside the building, we began laughing like high schoolers who had just played hooky.

Jerry and Pam at the Oregon Coast, 2011

Getting out from under the submission/headship teaching brought joyful liberty for me in my marriage. I no longer hold up my marriage against an ideal that it can never live up to. It’s not who Jerry and I are.

I met a couple not too long ago. The wife is a strong leader of a thriving ministry. She is vivacious and instantly charms the room with her presence. Her husband is much different. He has a mild personality and is soft spoken. He does not play an integral role in her ministry, but instead helps hold the fort down at home. He also works full-time, but when it comes to leadership, his wife is a natural.

She is often swarmed at church by many who want to connect to her, while he takes care of picking up the kids from their Sunday school classes. In a headship/submission model, it looks like they both are failing in building a biblical marriage. And I feel for them, for I know that they are part of a faith community that tells its men to man up and its women to get out of the way. I hope they both know the joy of accepting one another and celebrating the unique union each marriage is. There is no cookie-cutter biblical model.

I read a quote somewhere about every marriage being a remarriage since the relationship changes and shifts over the years. This is certainly true of mine. I had been a young bride willing and wanting my knight in shining armor to save me from myself. I wanted a man to lead in managing my life for me.

Instead, I have a partner, an equal who is free to be who he is and who honors the woman I am and the unique giftings I possess. It is good to be Pam and Jerry. It is good that our Christian marriage failed.

 

****Here’s a link to a short interview I did with Jerry asking him about the unique pressures of being a Christian husband. I think you’ll enjoy hearing what he has to say!

 

 


Comments

My Failed Christian Marriage — 62 Comments

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  2. Ive always thought that the most important and biblical thing was to love each other and not the symantics of the “gender roles” in a marriage. The scripture says for the man to love his wife as He loved the church in giving up his life. This kinda sounds like self sacrifice to me and when i tried this in my marriage it didnt work because my wife was not able to do the same to me. it does have to be mutual, its sad but most marriages dont work out because of this fact. You all were blessed. Maybe Il find someone someday that will fit this mold with me,

    • Hi Anon, Thanks for taking time to add a comment here. You are right that sacrifice of self is important for both people in a marriage….selfishness corrodes the marital bond. I am sorry to hear that your marriage did not last. Take heart! Perhaps you will find love again and for keeps. I know many couples with failed first marriages and thriving second ones.

      Many blessings to you………!

  3. I love this. I am so like you and Jerry. I am outspoken and fiery yet private with my relationship to God. My insecurity about finding a relationship and possibly getting married stems from the patriarchal expectations of what my marriage should look like. I am not a woman who wants to cook and raise kids. I want to be a partner and have fun. I’m not domestic and I don’t want to be. I feel free to be all of who I am and trust God to bring me a man who will love every bit of it and won’t mind doing the cooking. ;)

    • @Bridget, thx for reading what is a rate glimpse into my marriage. I was taken aback how wide reaching it ha resonated with women. Glad to know I am not alone in failing at being a Christian wife!

      We are meant to be human! I celebrate your commitment to Being You and not trying to fit into a cultural role imposed upon by our Christian tribe. I cannot imagine the Creator insisting on such rigid gender roles. We are created in the Creator’s image : not the ideal woman (or man!). Let us revel in our unique character and personhood!!!!

  4. Pam,
    Loved to see the photograph from your wedding. I was honored to share in that day, and photograph the event.
    I love your story. I am delighted to find you after all these years. Your voice is strong and true. I have felt the same way about my marriage. Thank you for giving voice to my thoughts and feelings about marriage.
    xoxo Pamela

    • @Pamela, so good to hear from you!!! I just sent you an email. I look forward to reconnecting to you! Everyone, Pamela, is a Canadian who was passing through Hong Kong when we met right before my wedding. She came and brought her camera and gifted us with some amazing wedding day photos. That was 25 years ago, and though we have mostly lost touch, we seem to emerge in each others lives about every ten years or so.

      I look forward to catching up!! And btw, this has always been my FAVE wedding photo. You were such a gift to us!

  5. LOL! I’m so glad you didn’t get a divorce. This story resonates A LOT with me. I can go you one better though, let me tell you part of my story. When my husband and I met, we were very much like you and Jerry. I am the loud achiever, he is the quiet contemplative one. I was in music ministry in the Catholic Church, he was not really a churchgoer. EVERYBODY told us that we were not right for each other and that we would never make it. Here we are 20 years later, and pretty much the only couple we know that has sailed past the difficulties.

    We were doing great in our marriage, except that I was seeking God’s face more clearly, since I dropped out of music ministry and moved when we got married. I was home with my newborn daughter, and trying out churches, including new faiths. We started going to a complementarian church and that’s when people started to say our marriage was not biblical. We tried in vain to squeeze into that mold, twelve years worth. Of course, our daughter escaped all of the problems of the children of the comp parents, due to our terrible permissive parenting. We know firsthand the problems of promoting image over substance, hierarchy over mutuality, rules over spirit.

    I’m downloading your book to my Kindle today. Although I really have to be careful I don’t look like a fire-breathing angry feminist. People call me that every time I open my mouth!

    • Hi Susan
      I was reviewing this post and comments and am AGHAST that I somehow missed yours!

      A long overdue thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences about your marriage with us. I bet you and I could talk a night away should we ever have the chance to meet up…lol

      Thanks so much for downloading Unladylike. i hope you liked it and that it encouraged you. i like to think that the book’s tone is not one of an angry feminist but one of a woman championing for the equality of women in the tribe known as the Christian Church. It is long, long overdue.

      Hope you are well as this is coming a year later….OMG! Email me sometime!

  6. Pam,
    I just love wandering around your website. I really thought you were going to talk about a divorce you went through. You surprised me! Great words…again! I’ve always hated men telling me, “You are the spiritual head! You need to be the leader in every area of your marriage.”…and when I would see this “principle” applied in the pastor’s life, I would see him treating his wife like crap. She would be the submissive one and she would work quietly in the background or with the children. This always disgusted me because my spirit was always in conflict with how they interpreted the scriptures. In my own marriage, my wife does the bills, fixes broken things around the home (I break them :) ), she gets us to pray more often. I cook, do the wash, mow the yard, sew my own socks, etc. My wife is better at talking to debt collectors on the phone. I used to hate talking to strangers but since my wife talks to anybody, I learned how to do that. Anyways, we compliment one another. I never listened to the christian status quo on what a man was supposed to do and what a woman was supposed to do. It never worked. She leads the worship at the rehab that we minister at. That’s her baby. I don’t interfere with what she does good; and then I teach. Our gifts compliment one another. THanks for your honesty about your marriage. You are such a HERetic!

    • thx for wandering around my website today and for “getting me!”

      next time i’m in vegas to visit my mom, i am totally gonna get together with you. we have much to talk about!!! glad our lives connected through Kathy and Phyllis!

  7. Dear God, what a relief! I thought there may be something wrong(ish) with my happy, loving, warm, mutually respecting marriage… I told my husband last week that I submitted to him. He laughed in my face! And because he is who he is, I was so puzzled by the whole idea of submission. The truth is that I *do* submit to him, but so does he submit to me, and we have a stable, loving marriage. Unbreakable. We genuinely never argue (we bicker sometimes, or get snappy – sometimes – but we don’t argue). Match made in heaven. I adore him. It’s mutual.

    I also spent a decade previously married to a man who insisted I ‘obey’, and I believed that because he was my husband I was obliged to submit to his awful behaviour. I also believed that as a Christian I must forgive and forgive, and constantly ‘turn the other cheek’. I lived this life with as pure a heart as possible. I would get up every day before dawn to read my bible and pray for my husband. Eventually I realised the abuse and violence were having a negative effect on my children, and determined to leave if his behaviour had not improved within six months. WHY? I ask myself now. WHY did I believe these things?! Yes, forgiveness is part of the Christian story, as wifely submission is part of the Christian story, but it’s not the *whole* story. It misses the point and instead encourages the perpetuation of sin and misery. So very sad. How many other women put up with abuse for the same reasons? :-(

    • Zoe! Thanks for reading this! So many women are like you and me. That’s why I think it’s important we tell our stories. We help each other out when we tell our “secrets!”

      Keep telling yours. You are helping the sisterhood out when you do!

  8. Pam, thanks for sharing your story! I am so glad your “christian” marriage failed & the marriage that God wanted was able to blossom out of that “death”. Praise Him! I had a similar marriage journey. I can relate. And I have seen these struggles around me, too.
    Bless you & Jerry!

    • Hi Erin,
      Thanks for reading and for commenting! Freedom in marriage to be our unique selves is GOOD! I would love to see more and more couples–Christian or otherwise, discover this grand truth. Sure makes the hard work of marriage a lot easier!

  9. Thank you so much for sharing this. I came really close to destroying my marriage by trying to force both of us into the headship/submission type box. My husband wasn’t a Christian so I didn’t expect him to lead spiritually, and he didn’t share my beliefs on marriage or faith, but I kept reading books and getting advice from other women that told me I needed to just be more submissive and totally obedient to him and that would help “lead” him to Christ.

    Instead, we grew further apart, he didn’t know what to make of it but missed the independent woman he married, and I began to resent the role I thought I had to take and wonder why he didn’t appreciate all the new changes. He later came out to me as bisexual and I thought it was going to destroy our marriage but, instead, it lead to a lot of reevaluating things and a long search for both of us to discover who were were and how we were going to make our relationship work. I still tried to hold onto an overall “complementarian” view, but I’m letting go of that as well as I find that it’s not really compatible with real life and that the Bible allows for much more freedom for women in marriage and within the church and ministry.

    • Hi Raine,
      Thanks for taking time to share some of your story. I have heard from more than one woman that their husbands became bewildered wondering what happened to the woman they married.

      I hope your marriage continues to flourish and thrive as you discover the unique partnership only you two can forge with one another. Many blessings to you!!

  10. Love this blog post. It resonates with my experience of marriage – my husband and I have a partnership that works beautifully but doesn’t fit the traditional headship mould. great to read your thoughts on it and to be reassured that the way we are is just fine!

    • Hi Sharon, thanks for reading and for adding your voice to the conversation. So good that your marriage is flourishing in what works for you. I hope that many women will read this and be encouraged that they don’t have to emulate the submissive Christian wife to build a healthy partnership.

      Stop by again! I intend to blog more frequently on this topic!

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  12. Pam,
    Thank you for sharing your story. I imagine it will be very liberating to so many women who feel trapped by the expectations placed on them by the church.

    Growing up, I was told all the same things…women are to submit, to have a quite spirit, to be busy about the house…. But, even from an early age, I have been none of those. Actually, I am quite the opposite! In an ‘ironic’ turn of events, in high school I started dating a man (who I ended up married to) that has always dreamed of being a stay at home dad, likes to cook, and is much more ‘domestic’ than I am!

    This was fantastic and we have never questioned our rhythm that we naturally fell into….until I entered formal ministry. Suddenly the men over me in the church were calling us out and telling us how ungodly our marriage was….that we were setting a bad example and that we needed to watch how we spoke and presented ourselves…..enter the first conflicts of our relationship… (btw- we did not change our relationship to meet their expectations)

    Post that chapter of my life, I have wrestled…not because someone else putting expectations on us…but because post ‘another chapter’ of my life, I am taking a breather from formal ministry and staying at home more while my husband completes his desire to get his MBA (now…this may sound all submissive to my husband, but it is a mutual respect….he supported me while I went to college years ago!). Its amazing how hard it is for me to take this time! I feel restless, sometimes angry (at other things, not my family) and like I’m placing too much financial responsibility on my husband. I know that all is not true, because we make every decision together…but it is interesting how not having a full time job for the first time since I could work has really wore me down on days….as if I am breaking my own expectations for myself, or somehow letting my husband down (although, he may like this little phase in life where he isn’t being pulled through a bunch of murky ministry issues! ;) ).

    We are excited to what is next for us, but whatever it is, we will navigate it together!

    • Hi Tiffany, I appreciate you taking time to share some of your story. Cultural and religious expectations on marriage roles can be daunting! So good to hear that you and your husband ate flexible to move into different roles through the changing seasons of life. I think all marriages experience this and we all have to sort out what works best
      for our unique partnerships. So good to hear that you and your husband are building a marriage that works for YOU! I wish someone has explained this to me twenty years ago!!!

      Thanks again for commenting!

  13. Okay, so while I want to love love love what you are saying. I can’t help but think but ok, if it were indeed just a “CHURCH” thing I could see it. However, it is a “BIBLE” thing. I have searched for years this being my 25th year of marriage for a way to make our marriage a good and wonderful thing. The thing is, I do love my husband, he is faithful and he works steadily at a job to help to provide for our family but,………that’s pretty much it. i unfortunately have lost respect for him because he is not the man that I think he should be, and I am exhausted because I feel that I have to handle everything. Then if we have the conversation of why this isn’t a good thing, he says it is because I have never allowed him to be the head of our house.????? I want him to be the head of our house I really do. However, if I set back and do nothing that is exactly what gets accomplished. I am very outgoing and social and I love doing different types of ministry. I am truly miserable at home and I worry if we will have any relationship at all once our children have left home. I know the Bible says that fornication is the only cause for divorce. However, I must say while I am not a divorce advocate I do feel that God intends for his people to love and respect their spouse and to have an enjoyable life together. So??? Anyway I did enjoy your blog. So thank you and I would appreciate your prayers.

    • Thanks for coming by the blog and commenting. I am sorry to hear of your marital struggles. I hope you have a circle of friends to lean into for support and insight.

      I hope you find your way in your marriage. I know I have found counseling and guidance from trusted older couples helpful when my marriage needs a tune-up.

      If you are interested in a recommendation of a helpful, practical marriage book, I highly recommend any book by John Gottman. His voice helped me find my way. Maybe he can be helpful for you, too.
      It’s so hard….I know it’s hard and I feel for you. I hope you find what works for you and your spouse,whatever that may be.

  14. Pingback: What is Courage? | Figuring It Out

  15. It is such a relief to know that I’m not wrong to have struggled with this type of relationship dynamic. It is a relief to know I’m not alone, but at the same time frustrating that so many of us have been shoehorned into something that was never God’s plan for our unique lives to begin with! Thank you so much for sharing so deeply and beautifully about your amazing marriage. This gives me new resolve to let go of false expectations and embrace the truth of how my husband and I were created without hiding in shame that we don’t fit the mold.

    • Thank you Gloria for adding your voice to this important conversation. And yes, letting go of false expectations is so freeing and will bring a fresh wind into any marriage!!!

  16. My husband and I have been married for more than twenty years. He came from a family that believed in God but did not go to church, so he had no “God made me the boss of you” mentality. I came from a long tradition of churchgoers, but though they didn’t buy into hard patriarchy, there was always the undercurrent that boys could do anything but girls had to be restricted. That always galled me, and I became a student of the scriptures to find out what God really said, about a lot of things.

    With neither of us insisting on gender roles, my husband and I have had a true partnership with almost no fights at all. Our children have grown up watching us defer to each other in each one’s areas of strength. They’ve seen how we reason things out, and we always explain to them why we believe as we do. And for all this we have a healthy, happy, strong family. We used to go to church but have been out for over seven years now, and our faith is as strong as ever. Those who would teach that we are defective as Christians will stand before God at the judgment and give an account for their slander.

    • Hi Paula,
      Thanks so much for reading and for commenting. You and your husband sound so centered despite the traditionalistic upbringing you both had….which I am not slamming tradition and I am aware that for many couples it is what works for them….it was just so suffocating for me and Jerry. Yay for freedom!

  17. love love love this article (and you :) you have articulated well the anatomy of an inner struggle many of us find ourselves in but either can’t understand or are afraid to because…’we don’t fit the mold’. A very real space many visit and even live in..your story reveals the heart of God in a way that we all hope(d) to experience and still can. Perhaps this is an example of repentance with legs…revelation without all our preconceived expectations and instead filled with Jesus’ very real presence. Rock on you two!!
    PS THANKS for being the true you :)

    • My brother Ron! Thanks so much for stopping by the blog and adding your voice. Though we only met once we connected and I appreciate that Facebook has kept us in touch.

      I love that you point out the repentance factor here which I did not even touch in on. You are so right! Repentance= changed my way of thinking….this definitely affected my marriage in so many positive ways!!!

      Stop by the blog again. I love it when you speak up!

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  20. Thought I’d chime in.. This is a really good synopsis of our marriage. The struggle to conform to the Christian ideal for myself became an indictment accusing me of being less than, of not measuring up. I felt the subtle disapproval of my Christian peers that really extended beyond our “dysfunctional” marriage. Church culture dictates how, when, what to pray, think, and speak. Pam and I have been to many different types of churches, from the cerebral Bible Study know-it-all’s, to the raging schizophrenic Holy Ghost chasing Pentecostals, to the hipster iChrist non-conformist wannabees. Each one had it’s unspoken code of conduct of tyranny that ultimately alienated Pam and I. (Probably more myself than her.) But our marriage has survived the onslaught and predicted collapse.
    I’m ashamed to associate myself a Christian because of the church. But Christ is my personal Hero. He had to wage a war against the traditional ideals too. Just sad to see how far off the church has strayed.

  21. Great story, Pam. Glad you shared it. Over at Paul Coelho’s blog he made a comment that I think many couples fail to address. Paul said, “I have been married to the same person for 33 years, but methaphorically speaking, the same marriage contains several “new marriages” during our relationship. Our bodies and souls changed, and we are still together. If we wanted to keep on as we were in 1979, I don’t think we would have come so far.”
    Have you read Zora Neale Hurston’s book Their Eyes Were Watching God? The main character marries several different times, but each for different reasons. I think Hurston documents the different stages a woman goes through. Perhaps the reason so many marriages fail is because we are unwilling to accept the changes in one another. Too often we set up these false constraints and blame God when things go badly.

    • Hi Karen, thanks much for popping by the blog and chiming in. I am definitely interested in reading about other people’s insights on marriage and faith. I have been so disappointed with every Christian marriage book I’ve read. I did discover the writings of John Gottman whose books on marriage have proven to be so encouraging and helpful for me. And not a single Bible verse! Imagine that !

      Thanks again for stopping by. Hopefully we’ll meet in person some day soon!

  22. Pam, you rule. And blessings to you for finally seeing the gift that your marriage is. My prayer is that every woman can see this. We are not cookie cut people. We are creatively made by a creative God with a delightful sense of humor. What a great read. You bless me, Pam. Best to you.

  23. Hmmm. Interesting post! Wasn’t expecting this (you suckered me in!). My wife and I have been married 34 years, and if there’s one thing we’ve learned it’s this: don’t let others tell you what Scripture means or how to live your life. You’ll never succeed spiritually by playing someone else’s game. An authentic, biblical spirituality demands that you discover it for yourself, which is what you did. Congratulations! It wasn’t your “Christian Marriage” that failed. What failed was the “Pseudo-Christian Marriage” that was forced upon you as a “one-size fits all” template. Hope you celebrated by burning that book you were reading. Blessings on your journey, and may you find many years of fulfillment.

    • HI Maurice, thanks so much for stopping by and for reading. Glad I hooked you with that title!

      And yes, you are so correct in that it was more accurately a failed “pseudo-Christian marriage.”

      Love your words of wisdom on marriage:

      don’t let oth­ers tell you what Scrip­ture means or how to live your life. You’ll never suc­ceed spir­i­tu­ally by play­ing some­one else’s game. An authen­tic, bib­li­cal spir­i­tu­al­ity demands that you dis­cover it for your­self

      I hope you’ll stop by again!

  24. I loved this! While I am not married and will never be married in the traditional form this did resonate with me. In a lot of ways it reminds me of how I felt when I was a woman minister. I had a certain role to fill and it wasn’t the one I felt comfortable with. I remember sitting in Bible college and the reverend who was leading the course said make sure you teach all the time from the pulpit the role of women. It is to be silent and submit to the husband. They should have no place in being any kind of leader in the their marriage or in the church. If you do marital counseling and the woman is being strong tell her she is being used of the devil.

    I applaud you for breaking out of the box. I hope it encourages other people to make it out of the same one. By the way I found you via the hash tag you posted.

    • Hi Jen and welcome to my blog. Thanks do much for following Rachel’s #mutuality2012 Twitter tag. I love what she is stirring up. Women need to be agitated since we tend to be do nice and ladylike even when we’re being mistreated. It is so interesting to me that the scenario you described us actually “normal” in many faith communities yet if the same women were similarly treated in their workplace there would be an outcry. Imagine a boss telling a waitress, for example, that because she is a woman she can never be shift supervisor ? Yet in the church, women are effectively told this in blunt as well as covert language. And we endure, for that is what women do. However, it seems to me that the holy winds of change are blowing across the faith scape and I am so glad for it!!!

      I hope you’ll stop by again. I would love to hear more of your story!

  25. Love this! This is just one terrible aspect of the habit Christianity has of trying to cram people into reasonable-sized boxes. It just doesn’t work for everyone, but if it doesn’t work for *you*, then there must be something wrong with your faith. It nearly wrecked my marriage; fortunately we “threw the book across the room” just in time.

    Thanks for speaking out about this!

    • Hi Erin! I am so glad you chimed in here. You and I have spent hours talking about how constricted our identities were in trying to emulate the good Christian wife in order to build solid Christian marriages. So glad I had you to help process things with me!! And let me know when school is done so we can get together. We are way overdue!!!

  26. Such a moving story, Pam. Thank you so much for sharing it!

    Though my marriage has been one of partnership and mutuality from the beginning, I resonate with your story because there are so many ways in which churches and Christian communities have tried to shame my husband and me into changing our marriage into a “good Christian” one instead. We constantly feel like we go against the grain in these communities because we value mutuality. It is so tiring! It’s also one of the reasons why we don’t attend a typical church right now.

    I look forward to the day when Christians and churches will embrace the liberation of mutuality as the norm — not the exception.

    • I love the partnership you and Dan emulate.
      And I love that you have determined to patch together a faith community where you can be fully accepted and open with like-minded folks. I hope for change too!

  27. What a great story, Pam! I felt the confusion and turmoil in every word…until you chucked the book! Ha! Thank you for your support and encouragement! Let’s do coffee soon. :)

      • Yep! We’ve been married 7 years. It just never fit into the complementarian box like we “should”. There have been times in our story when he has been weak, and I have had to lead, and times I have been weak, and he has led. We have always worked this way. Also, depending on the issue, we defer to one another…like if it is something dealing with his parents, he has more say.
        We talked about this last night, and we have always been functionally egalitarian. We talked about the way complementarians (at least in our experience) beat women over the head with the respect thing. You cannot force respect. I shared with him that I respect him more now, as I have realized he has been “leading” me to embrace my own personhood and throw off the shackles of religion for years, without ever declaring anything. He has “allowed” me my own struggle, in my own time, to come to the realization that I was not truly free in Christ. He could not have convinced me of that by pointing it out. I would have thought he was nuts.
        Your description of your relationship with Jerry is very similar to ours.

  28. It helps greatly to hear personal stories of people who have grappled with this issue. This is a fantastic contribution to the conversation.

    Thank you.

    Jonathan

    • Thanks so much for taking time to read, Jonathan. I am a huge believer in storytelling, for in listening to the stories of others we often discover our own. Be sure to tell your story, too!

  29. My new friend Harriet Congdon is also posting on mutuality. I just read her post for today and if My Failed Christian Marriage resonated with you than you have got to read her post. It’s lengthy, personal and also chockfull of biblical scholarship. Harriet is a theologian and a seasoned veteran of the faith. Hers is a voice to listen to. Here’s an excerpt:

    I do not believe Paul is exhorting the husband to step into a role of spiritual leader (note: “lead” or “leader” is never used in this passage), but to step with his wife in a partnership of unity by connecting to his wife like a head needs to connect with its body. Disconnection from his wife hurts her, even “kills” her as it would if a person was beheaded. It will also “kill” him.
    This is what it felt like for me during a very rough time in our marriage. Our dance had stopped. Jon was overwhelmed with fulltime teaching and parttime management of a program for the school district. He was hardly home.
    And I kept myself busy as well, first with homeschooling and later with seminary and church ministry. We quit spending time together just for fun and for romance. Jon was focused on juggling his work and his students and he was happy to have me take care of everything else. We were managers living as housemates in a disconnected dance.

    Click HERE to go to her post…and then come back and comment!)

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