Hold Your Fire

In the past, I’ve had trouble convincing my wife to get more exercise. We’d have talks, and I’d help schedule activities. There was just a lot of resistance; though I was the dutiful and suffering leader. Recently something’s changed. Now she’s getting up early and taking all the kids with her. I have the sneaking suspicion that she enjoys working out. Her clothes are starting to fit better, and the shrew will probably be better in the sack, thanks to her program.

All this time I’ve been the one motivating her, and now she’s all “Oh, look how much better I look; see how much better I feel; life’s so awesome; blah blah blah.” 

And get this: After all my complaints and recriminations that she needs to be sweet and obedient, then last week she decided–on her own–to start doing what I ask and being kind because she’s concerned about her own holiness; as if working out and being submissive was her own idea.

The nerve. Well, I’ll tell you I’m going to put a stop to that nonsense

 

[Editor’s Note: Some of you may have seen an unfinished version. I accidentally hit “Publish” instead of “Save Draft”.]

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55 thoughts on “Hold Your Fire

  1. Snark is hard to read right so I’m going to assume that the wife so pictured is doing good regardless. And if so I’ll agree. We all bristle, and it is wrong to do so, but when we do good we’re doing good.

  2. This reminds me of my brother’s old girlfriend. He had dated a couple of rather unpleasant girls and then he started dating a new girl who was unusually friendly to my mother. After she came over for dinner, my sister and I pronounced her fake. She was so nicey-nicey. She was just being nice to suck up, my sister and I proclaimed.

    My mother told my sister and me that she would rather my brother date a fake sweetie than a real bitch. I suppose men would rather be married to a woman who does the right thing, even if she’s just doing what she wants to do and not consciously choosing to do the right thing.

  3. @GKC

    You have read it right: Doing good is doing good. The fact that we might enjoy it doesn’t negate the good, and it is a great thing when we are able to enjoy doing good. Everyone, I think, sometimes falls for the canard that an act done for another is negated if we benefit from it in any way; including good feelings.

  4. @SM

    I suppose men would rather be married to a woman who does the right thing, even if she’s just doing what she wants to do and not consciously choosing to do the right thing.

    But the woman in your story is doing the right thing; if by being nice you mean being kind. Being kind is right. She may have had some issues boiling under the surface, but those issues don’t detract from the kindness acted out. If there is manipulation going on (Say, a plan to be kind in the beginning, and then later yank it away like a rug; like for a marriage proposal.) then the bad part of the plan is the yanking. A change of heart might have led to a continuation of kindness.

  5. Oh, indeed I agree. It’s always right to be polite and nice to the family of the man you are dating, regardless of whether you really like them or are just faking liking them. My sister and I didn’t see that, though, until our mother pointed it out to us.

  6. @SM

    My sister and I didn’t see that, though

    Who does at the beginning? Everything around us is telling us to be “real”; to let our feelings dictate our actions and everything will be okay. As if we even knew our real selves–how we were intended to be–and could act on that of our own power.

    Cue Don Draper

  7. I think it’s pretty natural for people to wait until you’ve finished arguing with them to change their tune. It happens often. Not sure it even has much to do with women specifically. Also, realistically, I think exercising for someone else’s joy is an extremely difficult task. It’s better if you can find your own benefits.

  8. @Drew

    Welcome.

    The post isn’t about the wife, but about the man’s negative response to the wife’s improvement. That response is common, but crazy.

    For the record: I’m not the guy in the post, and my wife is not the wife in the post.

  9. A sense of pride sometimes stops us. We get angry it was not us who motivated the action, or done the good deed so it angers us. We would rather other people stop doing good if it wasn’t in our name.

    Mark 9

    38 “Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”

    39 “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, 40 for whoever is not against us is for us. 41 Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward.

    Similarly when Peter and John were brought before the high priests in Acts 4 after healing the lame beggar, the priest and teachers of the law tell them not to teach in the name of Jesus or mention his name. Not to stop the works they were doing. But to stop mentioning Jesus. They didn’t mind miracles, they minded that the miracles came from a place that was not from the approved institution ruled by the teachers of the law in that time.

  10. Not sure whether you are mocking me or not, but for clarification, Mr. Caldo.

    I was parsing what was offered as the possible justification for the mutual submission doctrine of JPII as presented in the comment thread there. The idea that one can be lead by her husband without knowing it, making it more palatable for her to accept it.

    I absolutely believe that doing the right thing when you don’t feel like it is the more excellent way. It is the right way.

    With that out of the way, this was an entertaining little snippet.

  11. @ SSM:

    When my husband showed up with me his SIL’s had a reaction similar to the one you describe from you and the women in your family. I wasn’t “real enough” or something. The SIL with seniority gives most women the long-handled spoon treatment anyway.

    I was married to my husband 2 years before she and I became close. The other two SIL are SILs no more, but she and I are close friends now. She later said there was a lot of *stuff* that contributed to their whole wait and see approach, and my reserved manner wasn’t helpful.

    When he took me up to meet his grandmother, his aunts and aunts-in-law were better, but just. There was one who was open and kind but for the most part, nothing but minimal cordial behavior.

    I wasn’t even extra bubbly or anything like that. Just nice enough. In both cases, the men were nice and welcoming. I’ve seen the same thing with other women that are introduced to the family by various men. Most of the women are initially standoffish, and most of the men are kind and welcoming.

    It may just be a gender thing.

  12. @Elspeth

    Not sure whether you are mocking me or not

    A teeny bit; not mocking really. I just used your comment as a jump-off point.

    Atheists make essentially the same argument: “Religious people just worship God to make themselves feel better.”

    Christians who try to be holier than God do it, too: “He just wants to get out of Hell.” Duh. His will be done, but yes I want to live forever! I am supposed to want to. That’s how God made us, and Hell was not made for us.

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  14. But that wasn’t my argument, although I can see how in my haste that it appeared that way.

    I was responding to two different things. The first was something that one of you CC’s said over there about women being submissive to get the man to commit.

    The second was the question of whether or not being a willing subject without conscious acknowledgment of being so is even possible.

    Since I know that I often present weedy, poorly expressed arguments, I’ll concede that your interpretation of what I said is understandable.

  15. @Elspeth

    But that wasn’t my argument

    Be cool, woman! I wasn’t trying to argue with you, or even make fun of you. (That’s why the post is a man talking about his wife. I purposefully changed the sex and context.) It’s something people do that they shouldn’t. There was another example today from Brad Andrews. He was fretting back and forth about how our motivations matter. Nowhere in the Bible is anyone recriminated or rebuked for doing well because it made themselves happy to do well. We shouldn’t feel guilty for our own happiness at a good deed, or withhold praise (or denigrate, as the man in my post) from others because they enjoyed good work.

    Doing something to be seen by others–so that they think we’re awesome–is a different matter. That’s pride. That’s not the same thing as being happy about a good job done well.

    The first was something that one of you CC’s said over there about women being submissive to get the man to commit.

    They do, and we totally fall for it. We should be looking for how submissive she is to her father. The point remains that women instinctively know how to get a man by serving him, and then they pull a fast one after they have it. Also, an instinctive move; if fraudulent.

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  17. My point is that the woman probably was, in actuality, responding to the husband — just not as directly as he first anticipated.

  18. We should be looking for how submissive she is to her father.

    As you have pointed out before Cane, we can learn an awful lot about a woman based on how she interacts with her father. The “best” women I have met have almost always had strong, positive relationships with their father. And the best among them were those who admired and adored their fathers.

  19. I should check here more often if I am going to be talked about.

    I will try to dig out the Scriptures when I have time, but I know our attitude is vitally important. Obedience is of course most important, but the heart attitude ultimately drives out actions. I don’t back off from that, unless someone shows me in the Scriptures that I am wrong.

    The only one that pops to mind was the one confronting Saul:

    [1Sa 15:22 KJV] 22 And Samuel said, Hath the LORD [as great] delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey [is] better than sacrifice, [and] to hearken than the fat of rams.

    While this is talking about the primacy of obedience, I think it implies a heart attitude as well.

    [2Co 10:5 KJV] 5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
    This also indicates that our thoughts must be taken captive. Just doing the right thing is not sufficient, we must take our thoughts (motivations) captive as well.

  20. I would add something I found on another site:

    “Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it (the heart) are found the issues of life. For as a man thinketh in his heart so is he.” Proverbs 4:23, Proverbs 23:7

    Your attitudes do matter. Read whatever into that you wish.

  21. @Drew

    My point is that the woman probably was, in actuality, responding to the husband — just not as directly as he first anticipated.

    I agree, and I understood that from your first sentence in your first comment. My first response to you was to the rest of the sentences.

    @Brad

    I should check here more often if I am going to be talked about.

    I had put in a phone call to your office for a comment, but heard no reply…

    Seriously, public comments are fair game. And I was involved in that discussion at Dalrock’s. And beyond that: Public comments made in a post about my post are way fair game.

    Obedience is of course most important, but the heart attitude ultimately drives ou[r] actions. I don’t back off from that, unless someone shows me in the Scriptures that I am wrong.

    It’s not that you have a bad argument, it’s that you haven’t thought it through. I don’t disagree with what I just quoted from you.

    Consider this: Obedience is an action. That means that ultimately their heart has produced obedience. We know this because we know that the heart drives our actions. Whatever other sin (envy, unkindness, etc.) is lurking in that persons heart, at least they have taken the importance of authority captive.

    Secondly: Any leader who makes pleasant feelings the measure of the performance of those under him is going to be a much less effective leader.

    Third: “Forgive us our transgressions, as we forgive those who transgress against us.” God save me from holding the inadequate feelings of those under me against them. How much greater is my inadequacy of feelings towards God, if feelings are the measure?

  22. Yes, but I also know that forcing compliance only works for so long, where as getting compliance because of the right heart attitude is much more effective.

    I forced the compliance of our adopted children until they were adults. They all lacked the heart attitude though and they have all returned to the very messed up birth family. The one that has some contact still doesn’t recognize me as his father, though he has kept my last name.

    None followed the obedient pattern we set and I would hold the lack of a heart commitment to be more important there.

    That only illustrates on part of it, but the other would be how I have always considered my own compliance with what I see God requiring of me. I may not always do what I should, but I have never had a “I am sitting down on the outside, but standing up on the inside” issue of obedience with Him. I do what I should because I should. (Though I have questioned Him more lately why things went the way they did in our lives, but He hasn’t given me any more answers than He gave Job.)

    Some of my position here may be because the idea of outward compliance without an inward commitment is so foreign to my way of thinking. I will follow rules I must, but I do whatever I believe is right for the most part, which fortunately has been greatly colored by God’s early hand in my own life.

    A bit too much rambling here, but hopefully the point comes across.

  23. 2.75-7 years old.

    Attachment was a huge issue, far bigger than we thought. This is clearly a very tough area I am still figuring out how to walk through now, but my point of posting it here is not to rehash that, but note that outward compliance without a proper heart ultimately leads to disobedience. At least that would be my theory now.

    I do suspect Cane has at least an element of truth however, in that a grudging, but firm, commitment to do what God wants can last. It still all depends on the internal commitment and that would be present if God really is God in an individual’s eyes, as opposed to merely being someone/something they have to comply with for the present.

  24. My wife and I are thinking about adopting, but we have have some reservations. I was disturbed to read about your situation (I first read about it a while back on another blog). Not only did I feel bad for you and your family, but I was concerned what would happen if my wife and I adopted.

    At first I wondered if problems were introduced due to pier pressure or some other external source as my impression is that you have raised them with a sound biblical foundation. Then I wondered if maybe you just got them at a late age after their formative years.

    Perplexed with this conundrum I spoke with my pastor earlier today about problems related to adoption and discovered that there is strong evidence indicating that when children know who their adopted parents are they have more coping problems than when they don’t. Much like children of divorced parents have more difficulty than children of deceased parents.

    My own anecdotal account seems to fit this pattern. I know a couple of families that have adopted. The family with the widest range of age span among the children (8 kids grade school to college) have had mixed results. Most of the children were orphans, but not all. Those that are orphans are having less difficulty than the those that are not.

    Our country used to have a closed adoption policy, but that is no longer the case I am told. At this point I am thinking that if we do adopt the children will have to be orphans.

  25. You can look at my adoption blog for some comments on our struggles, but I would be VERY cautious in this area. I am not sure if Cane has my email, but I am fine if he gives it to you if so.

    I would not adopt a sibling group, as I think that kept each of them from healing, though I have read enough trouble stories of single adoptions to know that it is not only groups. Look for the books Adopting the Hurt Child and Parenting the Hurt Child. I read them several years back and they go through problems that can and do come up.

    It is very ironic that the fact the birth family, especially the birth father, cared for them probably caused more problems and ultimately reinforced their rejection of us. All are in various stages of messing up their lives. Really hurts as a father, but not much I can do, so I am distancing myself quite a bit.

    And to think I prayed I could understand God’s heart more in the past. I certainly have at least some of a feel for it now, such as we see in Hosea.

    Sorry to OT the thread Cane. Let me know if you wish me to stop replying on this.

    I have thought about talking to others about adoption, but I am not sure I could give a positive message at all on it now, other than the deep conviction that God is good in spite of the fact that things went extremely poorly for us.

  26. Thank you Brad. Could you email Brad’s email to me Cane? Much appreciated.

    [CC: I sent it to you a few hours ago. Maybe it’s in your spam folder.]

  27. @BradA & JDG

    “I would not adopt a sibling group, as I think that kept each of them from healing”

    I disagree. My wife and I adopted a sibling set of five ranging from 20 months old to seven years old. Only one girl had trouble with attachment, and only to my wife, and she has no behavioral issues at all now (14 years old). Of our adopted kids, only the boy has behavioral issues. Frankly, I’m out of ideas on how to help him, other than to pray. A lot. But there is an abundance of parents with biological kids with behavioral problems. That’s life in this fallen world.

    Two couples I’ve known since high school also adopted sibling sets of up to five kids, and they’ve had no problems with either attachment or behavior. That’s life.

    By the way, I’ll check out those books Brad listed. Thanks.

  28. @ BradA & Cane

    “I will try to dig out the Scriptures when I have time, but I know our attitude is vitally important.”

    Matthew 21:28-32 comes to mind.

    28 “What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’

    29 “‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.

    30 “Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.

    31 “Which of the two did what his father wanted?”

    “The first,” they answered.

    Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32 For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.

    What matters most is doing what we’re ordered to do, regardless of how we feel about it. Obeying joyously, however, is far more enjoyable.

  29. @Empath and Elspeth

    It was me. I said that women demonstrate that they know why and how to submit to a man to get his trust and favor because they do it during dating/courtship. So then we can know that if they remove that submission sometime after marriage they’re making a choice to rebel in full knowledge of their actions.

  30. @BradA says:

    “Oscar, how old are the children you mention?”

    My kids were between 20 months and 7 years old when we adopted them. They are now between 8 and 14 years old.

    My friends’ kids were all under 6 when they adopted.

  31. I suspected that. It a work out well for you, but everything seemed fine when our children were that age.

  32. So then we can know that if they remove that submission sometime after marriage they’re making a choice to rebel in full knowledge of their actions.

    You are giving woman far too much credit for being self-aware, Cane.

  33. You are giving woman far too much credit for being self-aware, Cane.

    Good words. I think a great deal of what we discuss has this aspect going on, men assigning male type thinking to women.

    Much is instinct. She seems to be submitting in the early days for the simple reason she is smitten, tingling, whatever, and she is doing that because each day holds newness. Learning a new thing about him, and he still interested in learning new about her. therefore she is less concerned with where they are, where they go, what they do, etc. The experience is good and new regardless. those choices of where/what are about the only things she has the chance to submit about then. She doesnt mind his little annoying habits and she seems ready to serve.

    Later, notwithstanding the ever present cry from ministries that you can recreate that magic (you cannot, period) he and she are old hat. Then the where/what is what the day is actually about, so she has an opinion….and-how-Buckwheat. His habits, his very presence is annoying. Hence the veneer of submission comes off.

    None of that is the least bit thought through.

  34. Much is instinct. She seems to be submitting in the early days for the simple reason she is smitten, tingling, whatever, and she is doing that because each day holds newness

    Yep. It’s instinct, newness, tingles. Almost no forethought. Almost. There are times when she give a bit of thought to maximizing her chances at holding his attention and keeping his gaze if he has options. At least I did, and I was quite cognizant of it when I did it.

    Same as now. What to do, wear, say, when I want the king to grant me a certain request. The difference is that now the king knows he’s being girl gamed for something and plays along like Xerxes did.

    But the erosion of the veil of submission is not conscious at all. It “just happens” as the newness wears off.

    the ever present cry from ministries that you can recreate that magic (you cannot, period)

    You are so adamant. I agree with you to a large degree but I still LOL’d.

  35. The thing is, you can create something. Something new even, some kind of magic even. But the ayurveda that informs the magic must necessarily be different. The old stuff is spent. Put the vinegar in the backing soda and it fizzes until the reaction is over, kids think that looks magical, especially if you pop a bottle or something with it. You can take the resulting muck and do whatever you want with it but you will not get another fizz. You need new, fresh ingredients. The initial ingredients were two blank pages filling each other in. By middle age, the margins are full, the back of the page is full, so full it looks dipped in ink. It was fun filling it at first. then it gets tedious, you have to hold it at an angle and squeeze little words here and there as you learn new esoterica about the other. There will always be stuff to learn, but writing the first things on the blank page cannot be recreated.

  36. Oscar, that should say “it may work well for you,” and I do pray it does. Our experience hit the wall as everyone started hitting the later teens.

    Early trauma can really mess a kid up, possibly for life. It can also get a firm but loving parent accused of abuse and more.

  37. I would agree with Emp, Elspeth. You can have excitement, but very little comes from learning new things as you are married longer. We will be married 26 years this fall and the newness is definitely not there. It can be interesting and frustrating, often at the same effect time, but the idea of continual courting and such is a bunch of bunk.

    I do believe a husband should push himself to keep leading though. I find it very easy to simply isolate myself, especially because I am an introvert at heart. My wife allows more for that as she trends that way, but I have to watch that it does not occupy me too much.

    That would be a better ficus than n trying to restore the “new car smell” tingles.

  38. One of the new things is the leading, the very nuance of how to do it with THIS woman. Where to by funny, to be wry, to be disappointed, to be expectant, to be dry, to be no-nonsense-not-now-not-about-this on some issue. This is not like, “So how was it going to school in Broken Bow, Oklahoma? ” new, its more trial and error, then less and less error. There are also times to concede I hasten to add. There are times to apologize and ask forgiveness.

    But this nonsense about recreating that old magic is harming marriages. If I had to make an over arching statement about what men and women are taught that harms marriages it would be that so much falls into the category of building her expectations. From the time she sits in the “big church” until she says I Do she is having her expectations built and her image of men lowered with the caveat that they have the potential, but for her help, to grow into real men. More expectations. Add that they then say that its the mans role to lead them into a place where the old magic is there and realize how destructive that is.

    My wife and go out in irregular spurts. We always have a good time, but sometimes it is marvelous, easy laughter and fun, sometimes in the midst of one of those I will pause and watch her walk to the washroom or something and am guilty of getting a touch of emotion in and around the eyes you KWIM. I dont know if she has that experience or not. But when we may some time later try and recreate that evening, by going to the same place for example, it falls short most times.

    I don’t know why this tangent, but I really dislike movies as a date. We cannot speak or visit. i always puzzle that my wife and her friends and sisters from out of town when they see each other they rush to watch movies at home or theater. Maybe some woman can explain why that is.

  39. But this nonsense about recreating that old magic is harming marriages. If I had to make an over arching statement about what men and women are taught that harms marriages it would be that so much falls into the category of building her expectations.

    Yes, this. We’re actually having a conversation that touches on this very issue on my blog; over inflated expectations and lack of gratitude. How harmful it is to a woman’s view of marriage.

    We only go out occasionally either, and never to the movies as a date. That’s pointless.

  40. @Elspeth

    You are giving woman far too much credit for being self-aware, Cane.

    &

    @Empath

    Much is instinct. She seems to be submitting in the early days for the simple reason she is smitten, tingling, whatever, and she is doing that because each day holds newness.

    1. Instinct is a shorthand word for “we don’t know how they know what and how to do, but we know they do know”. The point being: Women do know. This requires almost no self-awareness.

    2. On one end of the human spectrum, babies younger than a year learn that if they cry when they are placed in their crib, they will get picked back up. On the other end politicians, leaders, and economists plot their charts and spin their propellers to keep the world “going”. Somewhere in between those extremes: Women know what they are doing even if they are not as self-aware we sometimes presume.

    3. Going on instinct is another way of saying “going by your gut”; which is referencing that weird feeling you get in your center; below where the anatomical heart rests. But that is the heart that is usually spoken of in the Bible.

    So, when I said: “[W]omen demonstrate that they know why and how to submit to a man to get his trust and favor because they do it during dating/courtship. So then we can know that if they remove that submission sometime after marriage they’re making a choice to rebel in full knowledge of their actions.” I was talking about by instinct. They know in their guts that their rebellion is harmful. By “full knowledge” I did not mean they sat through and calculated all the consequences. It is damning enough that they know they are setting out to harm the person they swore to respect; that they are aware they are committing marital treason.

    The fact that they know it by instinct is not an excuse, or cause to overlook it. That’s what makes it so horrible.

  41. Indeed, not an excuse to overlook it. I equivocated because some folks may actually think you were giving credit as Elspeth suggested and as I also thought. In neither case is it excusable. that would be like discussing male sexual proclivities as if we went through some rational internal discourse between seeing the babe and whatever effect we experience. That it is instinct surely does not excuse us.

    Its the word “remove” I think that threw me. It seemed too cognizant.

  42. @BradA

    “that should say ‘it may work well for you,’ and I do pray it does. Our experience hit the wall as everyone started hitting the later teens.

    Early trauma can really mess a kid up, possibly for life. It can also get a firm but loving parent accused of abuse and more.”

    I went back and read the article you posted, and I doubt my kids or my friends’ kids suffered anywhere near that level of abuse at their biological parents’ hands. In that case, I think I see your point. I’ll pray for you and your kids.

  43. It is a tough road to walk Oscar. It is only my firm belief in the goodness of God (in spite of evidence) that keeps me from rejecting Him. He did know this was going to happen, yet He didn’t warn me from it. Life is tough and we must work through it, whatever it brings us.

    I do appreciate prayers. The biggest one would be that I get a restored purpose in life as my goal of being a father and grandfather has pretty much been dashed. Even the one son in town can’t really respect me as a father, so we are currently out of contact.

    I am sure it will seem so clear from a heavenly perspective, but it is rough from an earthly one.

    I can rejoice that my marriage was not destroyed, even though my youngest tried to talk my wife into that as a parting shot. My wife and I have our challenges, but we are committed to each other and my acting true to my nature and being a bit hard nosed is actually helping us work better.

  44. Brad, I can’t even imagine what you and your wife have gone and continue to go through. Like I said, we’re having some challenges with one son, but they don’t really compare to the article you linked or the little I’ve read about your experience. I wish I could offer more encouragement.

  45. I will make it Oscar. God has kept me from plenty in my past already. We don’t have to like everywhere we are, though it sure would be nicer if I did!

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