Patriarchy is a model which says the man (husband) is the head of the household to the exclusion of all other family members. It takes the Biblical concept of “headship” and expands on it to Old Testament levels, saying that the husband is worthy of being called “lord” and that his wife and children exist to serve him. Not that the family unit is designed to work together for love and commitment and to serve God, but that they are to serve him. It’s Selfishness 101, justified with an Old Testament framework that refuses to consider Philippians 2 as the model of serving each other in love.
Additionally, VF theology demands that women not have any spiritual authority – they are permitted to teach each other and young children, but even as their boys “age out” and become young men, the mothers aren’t considered “worthy” to teach spiritual principles or correct their growing sons. I cannot imagine being so constrained that I didn’t have authority to teach my son as he grew – and yet, this is common.
Within this framework, women are definitely second-class citizens, and the lack of interest in educating girls/women takes on a whole new significance.
No one gets married with the idea that it’s going to be a limited-time engagement. No one actively lobbies for divorce or harbours the idea that divorce is easy, fun, or emotionally-edifying. I firmly believe that the divorce rate is what it is today because the majority of us are woefully under-educated in how to keep a marriage together through the tough times. In the good times, it’s hard to maintain real-life relationships that can steady us through rough waters; without those relationships in place, it’s particularly tough to find strength or anchor in the choppy seas of marital conflict. Life isn’t meant to be lived alone – in a community, we can support each other and learn from each other on how to make our marriages work.
However, as a future marriage-therapist, I will say that no one worth his or her salt in marriage & family therapy would EVER suggest that marital problems are entirely the fault of one party.
And yet, VF/IBLP (like the FLDS) say that it’s always the fault of the wife. Always.
This rankles me more than I can rightly express. Pieces of my life have come back in to focus as I’ve studied and talked about this group. There was a point in my past when I did an online study with a woman who purported to be my “mentor,” and we worked throughThe Excellent Wife by Martha Peace. The book had many of these principles in it – every problem in my marriage was my fault, despite the fact that most of the things we were dealing with were issues LONG before I even met my husband. One friend asked me why I was continuing the study if it bothered me so much, and my only answer was, “I’m not a quitter. Maybe the book gets better…?” It didn’t and I should’ve had the guts to quit the program and move on long before it was over.
Was I completely faultless in our marriage? No, but my reactions were to things that were far beyond the scope of “just be a submissive wife and let your husband do what he wants.” I don’t really believe than any marriage is ever fixed with those words – it just sweeps the issues under the rug and the couple then gets to dance on the edge of rug as the nameless lump in the middle gets larger through the years.
According to this theology, it doesn’t matter if the husband in the patriarchal marriage comes with tons of baggage, a history of abuse (sexual, emotional, verbal, or physical), it’s ALWAYS the wife’s fault for tension in the relationship. It doesn’t matter if the husband demands that his wife be pregnant and raise 12 children and then doesn’t lift a finger to help with the family’s needs or chores around the house – it’s her fault for not being able to maintain the household, absorb the stress, and then be a willing and coy sexual partner.