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A Young Housewife in a Feminist World

 

LAURA D. writes:

I am a 23-year-old woman and newly married. I was raised by a mother and father who are still together, and my mother was a housewife. However, growing up under her influence and in this culture, I absorbed the lesson that being a housewife was an extremely degrading lot in life.

I observed the happy marriage between my father and my mother and thought that I wanted to grow up to have that, despite my mother’s protestations and insistence that I work on my own for many years before marrying and delay marriage and children, and also that marriage itself was not at all important compared to career and worldly achievements.

I grew up fairly obsessed with love, marriage, and religion, becoming the most staunchly religious member of my family, even though our church was extremely liberal and most of the members were divorced (even the children’s minister had an affair with a married member of the congregation!). Even going to an all-girls’ Catholic school, I was ridiculed for voicing my desire to be chaste until marriage in 7th grade, and even my theology teacher told me that that was ridiculous and unrealistic, in front of the whole class.

I was humiliated and continued to hear this message until, inevitably, in college, I decided that I wanted to be like the other girls and stop being so strange and obsessed with marriage, and just go after all the fun they seemed to be having. I went to an extremely feminist, liberal school, an Ivy League one in fact, and did very well, which made my family proud. I was showered with awards and praise, and I say that not to gloat, but because it made me profoundly unhappy.

A sense of total meaninglessness and emptiness began to pervade my every thought. What was the point, I thought? What was the point? I wanted marriage and babies and a farm and a nice home! That’s all, that’s all! I started sobbing every night, and my family and friends would call me crazy, marriage-obsessed, and doomed to live a life as a “bored, fat housewife” instead of “reaching my potential.”

So I continued on that path and got an excellent job immediately out of school. I also got engaged at 20, but to the entirely wrong person, because I was so afraid of what my lot in life would be if I followed this path that everyone was guiding me on: loneliness and seemingly inevitable divorce. People who didn’t grow up in very liberal environments, or who aren’t part of my generation, need to understand that promiscuity is everywhere, that it is lauded, that it is expected; I went to what is supposedly one of the finest universities in the world, and the same girls who received all A’s and scholarships left and right, and who claimed to not be “owned” or degraded by men because they were such feminists, were the same ones crying every single weekend because the random stranger(s) they met that weekend didn’t want to love them the next week.

The deepest desires of my heart would not have been so strange and foreign even a few decades ago. But now they made me backward and strange and silly. The whole thing filled me with such anxiety that I sobbed every night, praying for my husband, who seemed so far out of reach.

Then something happened: I met a man and fell in love, and we married less than a year later.

The problem was, after all my years of depression and anxiety, and with no training at all for actually having any kind of real relationship or anything lasting, I had no idea how to treat a husband, and still really don’t.

I don’t have any married friends my age; the youngest people I know who are married are 15 years older or more, and not close friends or mentors to whom I could go to for advice, and even they have told us we are far too young and it’s strange that we are married so early (as have both of our sets of parents). My husband, too, wants a traditional marriage, but has no idea how to make it actually  happen, because we are both so trapped in the ideas we grew up with, and brainwashed about who is “allowed” to have authority, how disagreements should be handled, etc.

I was truly terrible to him for the first months of our marriage; I will spare the details, because I am too ashamed and it’s not really relevant, but I said truly awful things to him. I was still afraid, terrified, that this, too, was not permanent; that it would just be something heartbreaking.

I was carrying all the weight of my past burdens around, my upbringing, the depression from years of loneliness and looking towards a life alone, with no morals to stand by and no guidance and no community, that I snapped and took out all my anxieties on him, the one person who I could build a life with.

After being very wounded by my lack of respect and my anger, he is extremely sad and often distant, but says he still loves me the same amount and wants to make it work at any cost and that he is committed to this being a lifelong marriage. How can two people patch things up when this has happened? I know that my actions are my responsibility, but at the same time, I cannot help pointing to the pain of being told for years that my desperate, natural feminine longings were stupid and foolish and unattainable, and my frustration at my own lack of preparedness when this blessing actually came my way. The political agenda that prevails nowadays is truly harmful and destructive, and the social atmosphere literally kills souls.

Laura writes:

You can’t expect yourself to get this right from the very beginning. You are ashamed at what you have done and that is good. Look forward to the time when you can reciprocate and forgive your husband when he has hurt or disappointed you in some way. It will take time for your husband to trust you fully again, you cannot force his trust, but if you are good and have repeatedly asked for his forgiveness, he almost certainly will trust you again.

You are pointing to a real phenomenon. Women become so filled with schizophrenic conflict, living in a world where they are told to be all things at once and where aggression is glorified, that they become shrews to their husbands, who are mystified and stung. When you are mean and angry, probe the source of that anger. It may stem from trying to please other people, not him. Distance yourself as best you can from these other people and look long and hard for friends who do not leave you with these feelings of conflict. It’s better to befriend sweet old women than young women your age who only exacerbate your sense of conflict. Choose your friends. Find activities and projects that keep you busy and away from people who leave you with any dissatisfaction over the life you have chosen. There is so much to do. You have great adventures ahead of you.

Perhaps to make up further for your cruelty to your husband, you could be even more courageous in the years ahead and speak out against all the negative influences you encountered. You could admit to your friends how cruel you were to him and how wrong it was. You could be the positive force that you yourself have lacked. Your husband will also have to learn to reject any kind of hostility from you right away, to be firm and authoritative with you. This is very important.

I wish you great things in the years ahead.

 —- Comments —-

Lydia Sherman writes:

Written in the early 1970′s, Fascinating Womanhood is a good marriage book to help women save their marriages. Helen Andelin was alarmed at the progress that feminism was making and wrote a book based on a set of booklets published in the 1920′s (or earlier) called “The Secrets of Fascinating Women.” She updated it and revised it to be understood by modern women who were caught up in the lies of feminism. The young housewife can read the old, original publication online free here, and order the newer version (which I think is much better and more applicable to today’s marriage problems) here at Amazon. This book was vilified strongly by feminists, and even today, many people deliberately give it terrible reviews and falsely blame its teaching for their problems. Mrs. Andelin did an excellent job of revising the old set of books into a manual for women. There were classes taught in the 1970′s, complete with workbooks and extra classroom materials.

I might add that since the publication of FW there have been many imitations, but none as good as the original. Some of the newer marriage books today, particularly the religious ones do not contain as much soundness or common sense as Fascinating Womanhood.

 Mrs. H. writes:

I suggest your reader read As for Me and My House by Walter Wangerin, Jr. He argues that Christian marriages should be built on forgiveness, since every one of us is married to a sinner. Forgiveness and trust built over years will save a marriage when tragedy or disaster occurs (and they will, to varying degrees).

Remember that a shrewish or domineering wife is not a modern problem, but a problem since sin entered the world. The difference is, we’ve institutionalized and blessed it as the ideal.

I have been married almost seven years now, and Wangerin’s wisdom has helped us immensely. Going to confession regularly, hearing that your sins are forgiven in Jesus Christ, is also a good idea.

Kind and loving words in public go a long way in letting your husband know you love and respect him.

Laura D., I am 29 now, and remember the loneliness of being married at 23 and a mother at 24. In a few years age, perhaps sooner, age will matter less and commonality of goals and interests will draw you to women 5, 10, 40 years older than yourself. Having children helps–I have many friends now in their 30s and 40s and 50s who are homeschooling like I am.

Laura writes:

I second Mrs. H. on the importance of confession. When we are unkind to our spouses, we offend God, and obtaining his forgiveness is a great relief.

Sibyl writes:

In reading Laura D.’s letter, my heart was filled with sadness for her former pain and loneliness. She has struggled a great deal to find the right man, only to find that her current ability to love is pretty weak still. I went through a comparable struggle, though not as severe. I too had to work on learning to live the vocation I had wanted so much. Two words of advice.

First, Laura D., you say you have strong religious faith. One of the *very best things* you can do to begin anew is to start thanking God very specifically for each blessing He has given you, especially for your husband, his faith, his parents, his good qualities, as well as for your own faith, your parents, your good qualities. Begin right away to focus on the great goodness of our Lord. He could have left you lonely in your sin, but He didn’t. And remember the refrain from a Veggie Tales song: A thankful heart is a happy heart. It’s really true. Make your first and last prayers of the day be prayers of joyful thanks. And begin to thank your husband — not in a cloying sappy way, but authentically, for the things he does and for who he is. Thank him for working hard, for his talents, for his goodness. Let him hear from you one real, heartfelt compliment each day.

Second, realize that, other than perhaps Amish and ultra-Orthodox Jews, no young woman of today’s society has a great deal of training on how to be a good wife and mother. The culture has gone crazy, and you will have to give yourself a break for not being above it. You will learn. Keep seeking for young wives and for other friends who can build you up, but if you can’t find them, realize that God will Himself be your support. Read books, seek out positive websites like Thinking Housewife, and pick perhaps one practical skill to work on: sewing, gardening, budgeting, baking, first aid, whatever. When you have a skill to learn, it really improves your attitude and gets the focus off your troubles.

Christina writes:

After reading Laura D.’s story, I noticed some stark similarities between myself and this young woman. Her bravery has compelled me to write that she is in no way alone.

I was in a very similar situation, having been born a child of the 1980s, and growing up mostly in the 90s. ( I graduated high school in the early 2000s.) I also was a product of a culture that chides any who choose a path that is not considered Politically Correct.

My household was probably more liberal than what the people who post on here seem to have experienced. We never attended church, watched alot of televison (espcially MTV) and pretty much lived like most other people do. But my mother was a stay-at-home mom. She took excellent care of her children, her home and her husband. However, after she and my father divorced, she always would tell me that having a job and being independent was the most important thing. That we would not be poor had it not been for her staying home all those years and not working. I never believed this though, because while we maybe would have been less poor, I still knew that I, as a child, perferred it when my mother stayed home. However, I grew up vocally shunning marriage. The divorce was, and still is, hard on me. But amazingly, I did find a wonderful man to marry. We met when I was 21 and by the age of 25 I was married. The first couple of years of marriage were, to say the least, confusing, and believe me, a lot of mistakes were made. I am still learning to cook something other than pasta and sauce. I don’t really do my housework as I ought, and yes, I do tend to be harsh with my husband. All of these are very bad things. But, I tell them all to you to let you know that there is hope.

Forgiveness is a wonderful human virtue, and though marriage is tough, it’s also well worth it. Ladies like us, who have chosen to be housewives, we should keep doing what we’re doing, and that emphatically includes you!

The work you do at home for your husband, and when you have the, your children, will be good, honourable work. Don’t let anyone tell you any different. Housewives are the backbone of any good, healthy society. We bear the future generations of our people. We nurture them, we teach them, and ultimately shape the face of what our future will look like. That’s a big job. There’s no shame in being a wife and mother, and there is no shame in allowing your husband to do what he was born to do. Money, or the earning of it, doesn’t give one worth. Money is necessary, yes, but it’s not the only thing one needs in life. A good, balanced home will see the father as its head, the mother as his helper (a big job), and the children as their charge.

I wish you and your husband well, and I hope that you will take comfort in knowing that there are other women out there like yourself who are struggling to do what is right, in a culture that encourages us to do what is wrong.

Laura writes:

Christina points to another familiar phenomenon: women, like Christina’s mother, who insist that their daughters or other young women never depend on men. This kind of mother can be a great hardship for a young woman trying to establish her identity as wife.

Jeanette V. writes:

I’m really am a big fan of Fascinating Womanhood.  The books are still out there and they really are good.

Alan writes:

This advice to Laura D. is a bit ironic because I’m recommending Dr. Laura Schlesinger’s books to her (three Laura’s in a post). My wife and I have found her books invaluable as an entree to the traditional life. Just as I consider Rush Limbaugh as an entree to the traditional world with The Thinking Housewife and View From the Right as graduate level material. I don’t think I would have appreciated your site as much if I had not gone through some of Dr. Laura’s writings. Her advice is practical and actionable. We still fall far short of the ideal but I can vouch for the change in our relationship as a result of a change in my wife from reading and following Dr. Laura’s recommendations. I’m still working on my part in the marriage. Laura’s husband is blessed to have her and I pray for them and their marriage.

Mary writes:

Laura D., if you could only know the seasons long marriages eventually go through. We had kind of a rough start, too; after nearly 20 years it is long forgotten. Always remember that marriage is a vocation: draw from it’s deep well of God’s beautiful grace to help you now and throughout your marriage. You will weather this storm with prayer and simple devotion, shown in your kindness to and tender care of your husband. It is in your unique power as a woman to do this. You will be rewarded with that very profound, singular union that forms between a man and a woman bound in holy matrimony. It is very beautiful and you will know it one day if you are patient with yourself and with your husband.

Jill Farris writes:

To add to the excellent advice already shared with Laura D.: like Laura D. and Sibyl I grew up with a mother who was a wonderful housewife, then she divorced and insisted that I have a career, education etc. The only difference between our stories is that I was born in 1960. So you all can see that feminism has effected all of us for a long time.

Many of us have begun where you are, Laura D. Now you have an opportunity to seek wisdom, to begin to learn (for a lifetime) what it means to be a Christian wife and helpmate to your husband. There are many excellent books out there but be sure that you study your husband and prayerfully ask God to help you understand him. God promises to give us wisdom and since marriage was His idea we know that He will help you in this endeavor.

It is time for you to confess, forgive one another and begin to mature and grow. So, you haven’t had support or encouragement — neither have many of us. When someone does encourage you, you will appreciate it all the more. You will develop a stronger character as you learn to do what is right before God and your husband even when you get no recognition for it.

Fight self-pity and fight blaming and bitterness! This is something we have all learned from the feminists! Don’t shift the blame to the fact that you weren’t taught. God has given you a man who loves you and is committed to you in marriage! It is time to do the hard work of building a marriage and you will find great joy in that.

May God richly bless you!

Laura writes:

Jill makes good points. One in particular I would emphasize and that is, you need to study your husband and grasp the ways in which he is different from you. Books can help, but they cannot fully explain him. You need to reflect on what you see and that takes time and inner silence. I would also advise you to discuss your marriage with friends never or very rarely, perhaps with a wise and understanding confidante if you can find one but never with women who take any pleasure in complaining about their husbands. I know you may think at times that you need to discuss a particular problem ,and it’s true that it may help, but often when we just give ourselves time to let a problem shift and settle in our own minds, a solution appears that no one could have offered.

Perry H. writes:

Letters like Laura D.’s make me realize just why I hate liberalism and feminism. I hear real pain and confusion in her words, and my heart (and prayers) go out to her.

Over time, I have learned a few truths for a happy home: First, pray together often (as a couple). Bring your troubles before the Lord, because He wants to help you succeed in marriage and in life. This is a area where your (Laura D.’s) husband has a vital role to fulfill, as he truly is the spiritual head of the household. Second, both spouses giving 50/50 never works. Instead, you should both be giving 100 percent. [Laura writes: Good point!] It’s not easy, I know, but it gets easier with time. Third, remember that as the Lord extends grace unto us without limit, we should always extend grace to our spouses. The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant is a good story to take to heart.

Of the “social atmosphere” that “literally kills souls,” I would tell you that you must be willing to do radical things to break with that “social atmosphere” if it truly is a matter of life and death (and it is). [Another  great point!] Though this may not be an issue for you, I know that many people would find it impossible to live on a single income where the mother can stay home with the children. Most people would even find it impossible to make little changes like turning off the filth-spewing TV. These are only examples, but I would ask you, what are some ways you can cut out negative, life-destroying influences in your life? What if that meant living simply and doing without? What if it meant real changes to your lifestyle, like moving to an area where your core values are shared? I’m not saying that you should (only God knows your full situation), but they are good questions to ask yourself.

Finally, you will make more mistakes, but the very fact that you are trying counts a great deal. Realize that you don’t have to do this on your own. I mentioned grace before, and I’ll mention it again: God gives grace. Lean upon Him, and he’ll teach you and guide you both. May God bless you and your husband in this exciting journey together.

Jake F. writes:

There are a lot of good things said in the comments to Laura D.

My wife and I are approaching our 20th anniversary. We married pretty much right out of college and started having children fairly quickly. I’m not trying to say that we were in precisely Laura D.’s shoes — for instance, I don’t think we ever had a sense that this wasn’t permanent, and we had excellent role models in our families of origin — but I understand the sense of unwanted solitude when none of your friends are even married, much less having children.

If it helps, one of the things I appreciate most about my wife is her ability to acknowledge that she was wrong. Another, perhaps more important one, is that she can acknowledge that she was right, but didn’t have to be such a jerk about the fact that I was wrong. Sometimes, it’s even that she can believe that she was right and not bother me about it. (That last one isn’t really fair, but it’s a fact that I’m sometimes well past worrying about what the issue is while my wife would really like to point out that I was wrong. The fact that she can let things like that go is very, very helpful to us keeping the peace.)

In other words, the fact that she’s writing to you at all — the fact that she can say “I said truly awful things to him” and be ashamed of it — is a really good sign, in my book. If she has admitted as much to him, that’s a good thing, too. If he has also done bad things and can admit them, so much the better for them both.

I don’t even really know if writing this will help, but if nothing else I’d like Laura to know that people are rooting for her and her husband.

Laura writes:

Early in her marriage, Laura D. has already admitted a serious failing to her husband. Some people never get that far in ten years or more. I agree with Jake that this ability to admit one is wrong — and also not gloat when one is right — is so important.

Paul writes:

Congratulations on the work you do. Your site is comforting traditional women. Laura D. is a very young woman, but her courage is an inspiration to women and to men. Few people could defy such pressure from her family, friends, and culture.

Laura writes:

Thank you.

The conversation continues here.

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