Being Obedient in a Traditional Marriage – the Downside
You’ve agreed that he should and will lead your family, and you’ve agreed that you will follow. No matter what. So what happens when you find yourself following him where you don’t want to go? Disagreements happen. Differences of opinion happen. But you’ve given him the final say, the final word. So now what? Being obedient in a traditional marriage — the downside.
Of all the things I hear the most from ladies who disagree with the idea of an old-fashioned, traditional marriage, this is the thing I hear the most. “What about when you don’t want what he wants? What then?” It’s a great question. In order to answer it I first have to point out that there are degrees of separation here. Let’s talk first about those every day occurrences that don’t really amount to much.
For example, when he says it’s time to leave a party and you want to stay. It’s not a life altering decision, and on first glance it might even appear that he is being a bit of a bully by telling you to get your coat and say your goodbyes. Those watching can clearly see the look of defiance in your eyes as you struggle between compliance and the urge to argue. What do you do?
You get your coat. And say goodbye.
Easy? No. But you agreed long ago that he is responsible for keeping your family safe and on track, and even when you don’t feel like it you have to let him do that. Maybe he thinks you (or he) is bordering on having too much to drink and needs to get out of there. Maybe he thinks he will be too tired to drive safely if you wait much longer. Maybe he has been sensing the undertones of a brawl about to break out in the room and he needs to remove his family from the environment. Maybe someone ticked him off and he doesn’t want to stay and make a scene. Maybe the shrimp he ate an hour ago didn’t sit well. Who knows what’s going on. You just need to trust that there is something and he’s doing his job. Period.
Not always pleasant. I know. I hate to leave a good party. (Mr. C will attest to that.)
Those every day occurrences are annoying but relatively easy to navigate with a little practice. But what about the bigger picture decisions that you disagree with? What if he announces that you are moving cross country? That he is quitting his job to open his own business? That his mother is moving in? (Dear Lawd, not that!) What about then?
I love when I get this question from horrified feminist-leaning friends because I get to tell them that we have a contract for that. They gasp. Yeah. Most of that type of thing will have already been worked out ahead of time in our Marriage Agreement. You can’t agree to follow someone wherever they decide it’s best to take you without at least first agreeing to some kind of generalized road map charting the territory in which you are willing to go. It’s key. If you do not already have a marriage agreement in place, you should. I highly recommend you do one asap. A short simple one will do. You can be as thorough or as generalized as you want. Just do one.
When completed, you would have already figured out a plan for all of the contingencies associated with all major life decisions, and if he is suddenly diverting from the plan you simply need to remind him that if he has changed his mind then you both need to discuss and negotiate changes to your prior agreement before he can simply uproot the family or dramatically change anything. You do not have to blindly follow. You get input.
Can he negotiate changes? Yes. But it requires a nice sit down discussion. You both get to lay out the reasons for wanting to make a change or keep things as they are. You both get to state your case. He must listen to you. He must agree to take the entire family’s care and happiness into consideration before making any final decision. And then, you must put it in his hands. If you agreed to trust him to lead, you must let him lead.
Impossibly difficult to do sometimes. Yes. But not often, and almost never. Most often he will decide something that is palatable for all parties. He’s not a villain. He’s not your enemy. Presumably he loves you and his family and wants you all to be happy? Yes? That’s what you have to keep reminding yourself as he is making his decision. If he comes back with something that you find hard to swallow, you will at least know that he had all the information and struggled with it and he knows he is taking the full responsibility for it on his shoulders. He knows you disagree with him and that if it fails, it fails entirely on his conscience. He carries the weight of that already. Therefore, you need not remind him of it.
Try not to sulk. For long. Resist the urge to give the cold shoulder. For long. Pouting is allowed. For a while. It’s even permissible to say “Okay?” in a somewhat doubtful tone, once you can speak without saying bad words. It’s okay for him to know you aren’t thrilled. As long as he can see that despite that, you will follow. You will support him in the journey. You will have his back.
Are there exceptions to this rule? Of course. Safety of your children. Your safety. Drug or alcohol addictions. Physical abuse. If any of those things come into play (or anything like them), this whole plan goes out the window, of course. We are not brainless wives. We are committed wives. Use your head. But if you are simply in disagreement because you are scared, find your brave girl pants and put them on. You’re about to go on an adventure.
Mr. C has brought me on a few of those that were, admittedly, a bit terrifying. They all worked out very well. He followed his instincts, and they were right.
I have brought him on a few that were terrifying as well, actually, with a less stellar track record for turning out well. It’s called living. Don’t be afraid to try it. Remember, like a muscle, your marriage can only grow stronger when pressure is applied.