Scarred Vows

There are many unfortunate consequences of complementarian theology.  One of these consequences is disparity within a marriage.  I’ve shared before about instances where the indoctrination of this way of thinking impacts even minor things, but my husband is only recently beginning to understand that this inequality existed between us.  Previously, he saw the issues of complementarianism influencing me only at church.  As a man raised in the same religious thinking as me, it’s understandable that he would erroneously deduce this.  Since he didn’t view me as unequal to him, he assumed that I believed he saw me as the equal he felt I was.  More accurately, he assumed that I didn’t feel I was beneath him or that his opinion would take more weight in an argument.  I think this is an example of how truly dangerous this type of teaching is.  We’ve spent years of our marriage with one of us feeling inferior and the other having no clue of the power he wielded, so far as to believe he didn’t wield any.  As a male, he heard the phrase “head of household” as much as I did, but it meant very different things to him, whether he realized it or not.  My husband never grew up with the understanding that he would be the subordinate spouse.  Because as teens we were often separated by gender, he didn’t hear just how subordinate his female counterparts were taught they were to be.  Consequently, when he heard me as an adult professing how awful this theology was, he reasoned I wasn’t impacted by it within our own home.  Needless to say, this hasn’t been easy on either of us.  We both now understand that our relationship isn’t what we thought it was and it feels a bit like something sacred was stolen from us.  He believed we were equal, that I knew I was, and that I saw him as viewing me as such.  Though I knew he did view me as a partner, I always knew he could pull rank if he wanted.  He thought I knew that he didn’t believe there was any rank to pull.  Our entire marriage has been enveloped by a foundational misunderstanding of how we see each other.  As a male, he had authority to dismiss complementarian teaching.  Whether he agreed it was right or wrong, no one would see him differently because his life wouldn’t really change.  As a woman, as a wife, I could not dismiss the teaching, because I was the one the church believed should be less.  When you have the luxury of choice, your perception looks very different.  Though there is choice as a woman in a complementarian church, all those choices are still secondary to the choices of the men around her.  There is never a fair fight, because someone is always above you.  My husband believed we were sparring from the same level, and I always felt he had an unfair reach advantage.  He never had a friend tell him he would be the tiebreaker, but I had a friend tell me he would be, and that this was God’s will for our marriage.  There’s no way that kind of wedding advice doesn’t scar.  We said the same vows, but they didn’t mean the same things.

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