I never explicitly told my husband that I was submitting to him. I thought we were on the same page, that he believed that was the natural order of things for Christians attempting to follow God. I didn’t enjoy my duty to submit, I didn’t enjoy the life my husband was choosing for us, he didn’t listen to my objections, and ultimately I didn’t want to talk about it. What would be the point?
He was raised a conservative evangelical Christian, too. His experience was very diluted compared to mine, though. He went to public school. His mom had a job. His dad was mainly just religious for the sake of his mom. Living an ordinary married life with children was a neutral thing, not an act of obedience to a divine being.
Of course, he was raised in a sexist society that prioritized men’s needs and wants over women’s needs and wants. He was confident in himself and in his choices. If his choices didn’t work out he could roll with the punches. There was no reason to wait when he wanted something, as long as that something wasn’t immoral – he might as well just go for it. My objections to his proposed major decisions were always raised calmly, because I believed that was how people should talk to each other, no matter how important something was to them. He could always come up with a counter to my arguments. He wanted what he wanted and there was no reason not to try to get what he wanted.
I didn’t get in his face and raise my voice or cry. So when I told him about things that were making me unhappy, or that I didn’t like his planned actions, or thought we should wait and be better prepared, he dismissed these things as ‘just conversation’ no matter how many times I brought certain topics to his attention over the years. I haven’t been happy, relaxed or content with my life since we got married and started having children and centered my existence around childcare and domestic chores. When asked, he said he was content with the way our life was.
His experience was nothing like mine, though. He got what he wanted when he wanted it, more or less. He did not have to give up the things I gave up. He did things he would have done even if he was single. In addition to the things he would already have been doing, he got a home, sex, the companionship of a wife, and children that he adored. It wasn’t perfect, of course, and we had plenty of rocky circumstances to work our way over – but he was content.
He could see that I was unhappy, now and then, but couldn’t figure out why. If I told him directly that I was unhappy about something, or that I wanted something to change, or preferred a thing be my way versus his way because the impact on me was greater, this was ‘just conversation.’ The cause of my unhappiness remained a mystery to him. Maybe it was our sex life. Maybe I was secretly gay and didn’t know it. Maybe I didn’t love him anymore. Maybe it was because I hadn’t finished college and didn’t have a job and felt like he didn’t want me to have these things. He wasn’t going to hold me back from those things. If I had dreams or ambitions he would encourage me to go after them.
Dreams and ambitions offered no prospect of fulfillment for me now, though. They would just be extra work. I didn’t even have the mental or emotional energy to maintain a stable domestic existence. I knew what happened to women that went to work full time while they had children – they continued to carry the bulk of domestic duties on their shoulders. They still did the chores and handled the childcare. I knew it would be this way with my husband, too. If I asked him to do something minor, like take out the trash, he would agree to handle it. It would sit there for several days and then I would carry it out myself.
He would buy me gifts I hadn’t asked for, sometimes expensive gifts that worried me because I’d grown up poor and our financial circumstances had been so unstable during our marriage. He’d encourage me to go spend money on clothes and shoes if that’s what I wanted, even though I said shopping had become a chore and I didn’t like spending the extra money. He’d talk about options for starting college again or getting back into the workplace. I was afraid that meant he saw me as a freeloader and that I should be contributing to our finances and not just saving us the cost of childcare.
He wouldn’t listen to what I actually asked, though, or what I said bothered me, or choose my way over his way. When he wanted something major, he didn’t want to wait, but when I asked for something minor, he had no problem making me wait. He just did not believe that the minutiae of my daily existence was important and did not see that it was crushing me.
He wasn’t a bad person, though – not as men went. He never raised a hand to me, and he practiced a lot of self-control in the way he behaved and handled himself when it came to in person interaction. He didn’t scream at me or denigrate me. He wanted me to be happy. He didn’t want to have sex if I wasn’t into it, too.
I knew a lot of Christian women had to submit to assholes. Men that were abusive, physically, mentally, emotionally – men that didn’t care whether or not their wife enjoyed sex and that believed marriage equaled consent for the rest of the woman’s life. At least my husband wasn’t an asshole.