Come closer; I have a confession.
(whispering) I like pre-Cana.
There, I said it. Essentially for two hours a week, my fiancé and I hang out in a room with a bunch of other really nice couples and listen to a priest talk for 45 minutes about something affecting marriage and then we listen to a couple talk about how they’ve handled related issues. To close things out, we chat with our partner about things like our family backgrounds and how that influences our approach to conflict, or about how we might divvy up household duties. There are snacks and juice and fill-in-the-blank worksheets. Add naptime and cubbies and take away the sex talk and it’s kindergarten all over again! When we’re done, my fiancé and I adjourn to nearby Cactus Cantina, where over lunchtime salsa and chips we actually have productive conversations that I think will put us in better shape before we get married. I’m not kidding.
What I do detest though is the Marriage is for Keeps book that we’re required to read three chapters of each week. (Even that has its saving grace though: we don’t ever discuss them in class. We’re on the honor system.) It’s important to note at this point that the book is not written specifically for Catholics. Rather, it generically targets Christians, published by a group called The Foundation for the Family. Early on, my loathing for this book focused on its jackhammering about the evils of contraception. That was until I got to Chapter 6.
Chapter 6 is titled: In Marriage, Who’s the Boss? And to that question, they give an answer. It’s the husband. Specifically, the husband is “the divinely established authority within marriage.” How divine?
Future wives, in verse 22, St. Paul gives what may be one of your greatest challenges as a modern wife—the command to be subject to your husband.
I’ll give you a minute and let you mull that one. Ladies, I’ll give you an extra minute to allow you to peel yourselves off of the ceiling. Whoopsiedaisy, you’ve got a little foam at the corner of your mouth.
Let’s read on and see what author and Foundation for the Family creator John F. Kippley has to say next about this concept dubbed “husband headship.”
I suspect that some young women will have trouble with this. It goes against the grain of a certain feminism (as contrasted with femininity) that pervades the late 20th Century and which disregards the real differences between men and women. To such women I offer this counsel: out of love for your husband, accept and respect the biblical, spiritual principle of husband headship.
At dinner in Annapolis with my parents this past weekend, I couldn’t resist reading that exact portion to my mother. That would be my mother the product of the women’s lib movement who earned her undergraduate and master’s degrees and was a working professional for my entire childhood—all of which made me admire her even more while growing up. (Confounding critics who claim children of such mothers are really left to huddle glumly in the corner of daycare centers while yearning for a cookie-baking domestic feminine presence in their lives, and in the absence of which they grow up to become very, very gay.) Eyeballing the copy of Marriage is for Keeps in my hand as if I’d just pulled a ferret out of my handbag, she inquired tersely, “What decade is this exactly?”
In case you don’t get a chance to read Marriage is for Keeps, the alleged purpose of “husband headship” is that it keeps order in the household and allows the husband to feel that he is the protector and leader and the woman to be the nurturer. Because we’re just happier that way. In our natural roles, that is. I’ll let Kippley close us out with this final thought that ends the chapter:
Perhaps Scripture is revealing to us that a husband has a very real psychological need for headship, a real need for respect within the confines of his own family…Perhaps Scripture is revealing to us that wives have a real psychological need to be submissive to the one to whom they have pledged their lifelong love and fidelity.