First, it requires the very person who is prone to keep himself detached from others to make decisions for them as if he was up-to-date about the details he needs to know in order to make a wise decision.
Second, is the assumption, by both the husband and his peers, that the decisions the husband makes truly ARE best for his family.
Third, is the reasoning that in those “rare occasions” that the husband makes poor decisions, it is enough for the husband to bear 100% of the responsibility (meaning blame) for his decision, neither blaming his wife for her input, nor blaming her for his decision. This focus exposes a belief that the husband's poor decision(s) will harm no one but himself and/or his finances/concerns, that somehow his wife and children are insulated from his poor judgment and will not be effected.
Fourth, is the assumption if the husband isn't harmed by his decision, it was likely a good one, therefore if the wife doesn't like it, she should just submit and get over it.
Fifth, all of this is decreed by God, Himself, and anyone who argues against it is a feminist who is rebelling against God.
With these beliefs, instead of building their marriages on Christ and His principle of the Golden Rule and not taking authority over others, complementarians build their marriages on a foundation of male-promoting gravel that lacks the cement necessary to hold marriages together. Instead of being able to point to a notably low divorce rate, which one should expect from the Christian community, conservative Christians have a higher divorce rate than atheists do. Making matters worse, they blame feminism and female rebellion for their failure and refuse to look at the real cause.
By pressuring husbands to take authority over their wives, complementarians urge husbands (whether or not they realize they are urging them) to distance themselves from their wives in order to rule them. Husbands tend to discredit and devalue their wives and their input, and tell themselves that they are making objective decisions because they know things that women are too ignorant and too emotional to know or decide. Husbands often pat themselves on the back because they “listened” to their wives, even if they already had their minds made up and would be unlikely to value any input from their wives.
The belief in husband wisdom and near-infallibility, blinds Christian men to the multitude of important information that they do not know and have no interest in knowing or considering. Because they think only male-interest information is worth taking into account, they deny the experiences, make-up, and development processes of both wives and children. When they believe that other experiences, perceptions, feelings, etc don't exist in their wives and children, or when they perceive they do exist but must be discounted, and when concrete facts are the only basis for decision-making, husbands limit themselves from pertinent information to such a degree they are LIKELY to make poor decisions. This denial both makes them believe they made the best decision, blinds them to other decisions they could have made, and blinds them to the devastating effects their decisions are making on their wives and children.
Husbands who claim to prayerfully consider the best interests of their wives, defend the right of other husbands to wield authority over their wives and expect them to submit to the decisions of their husbands. They justify this by saying the husband will then be the one to take responsibility and the blame for the decision.
I had a discussion about this with a man recently and pointed out that it was immaterial whose fault it was; the problem was that so often a husband's decision ended up causing major pain, distress, and even damage to his wife and children. He looked startled, as if he had never considered that. He seemed to think that taking the blame somehow justified the harm a husband brought on his famiy through the use of a doctrine that required his wife to lay down what she thought was best and accept her husband's decree as a law she must embrace--even against her will.
The notion of justifying the insistance that the wife must yield herself to her husband's decisions by saying the husband would then take responsibility for his decisions and absolve the wife of all blame totally ignores the effect of the decison on wife and children. They assume the husband alone bears the distress of his disasterous decisions. I have yet to hear any preacher talk about the wife and children harmed and hurting because the husband over-rode his wife's decision and brushed off her advice. They fail to mention that her husband's financial failure forces her to go without and to work extra hard to make up for it. Her husband does NOT carry the blame alone. The community, and especially the IRS, holds her just as accountable, and often more accountable than her husband. But in the case of decisions her husband makes refusing needed medical care or education for the children, his wife and children suffer and work for years to overcome the handicap the husband ordered upon them. This is an uncomfortable truth the complementarians refuse to deal with.
Further, if wives protest the decisions their husbands make, their husbands, pastors, other husbands and even other wives, claim the wives are rebellious. They deny that the reason for the protest is the distress and suffering they and their children are enduring because of the high-handed decisions of their husbands. Again and again, it isn't simply that wives don't like the decisions. It is that they and their children are harmed and even damaged by the decisions. Decisions that range from, 'No, we will not participate in the family gathering on YOUR side,' to 'You and the children will attend a church of MY choice,' to 'I will choose where we eat out every time unless it doesn't matter to me,' to 'No, Junior does not need tutoring, and I certainly will not pay for it,' to 'We will NOT use birth control, and you will satisfy my sex urge anytime I want you to, and you will bear and care for as many children as are conceived by our union, without outside help even if it ruins your health,' and etc, DO harm his wife and children and stunt their growth and cause them unnecessary hardship. Yet, the husband often is not aware of the harm he has caused. Instead, he believes he is a loving and wonderful husband and father, who does what is best for his wife and children. He believes his wife needs to repent of her spirit of rebellion and submit joyfully to her husband's decisions, and often his pastor and church will agree with him.
Finally, the belief that God has decreed that husbands are to take authority over their wives brings us full circle back through the whole fallacy. If God decreed it, it doesn't matter if the decisions the husbands make are wise or if they damage their families. All that matters is that the wives “submit” (meaning obey to the point of agreeing with their husbands and laying aside their own will and beliefs) and that children obey, too (although they are allowed to have their own thoughts as long as they keep them private). If the ill-equipped wife must tutor Junior, she and Junior must devote much more time to the process than it would take for a trained tutor to do the job. The result is that Junior may never learn what he needs to succeed at life, and many chores will be left undone and other children left unattended. She, her children, and her family of origin will be harmed by the family split her husband created, and because she is never allowed to decide anything for herself, she will atrophy in this area, getting slower and less decisive in decisions she must make on her own. The house may get messy, for example, because she cannot decide what to do with things.
The bottom line is that although the Bible not only never tells husbands to take authority over their wives, and also tells them to NOT take authority over others, males teach that it does command husbands to take authority over their wives. They discard valuable knowledge from their wives, including the intimate knowledge that wives have about themselves and their children, and claim their own knowledge is superior. The damage and oppression they inflict is what is driving wives to reluctantly choose divorce. Yet, these husband-authorities refuse to look at the destructive elephant which is so obvious in complementarian marriages. In the words of Caleb in "Fireproof," complementarian husbands are "trampling all over their wives."
Complementarians have what they deserve: a high divorce rate. They can insist that marriage is for keeps and that wives must not divorce, but until they teach that husbands share power, authority, and decision-making with their wives, the divorce rate will remain high and is likely to increase.
Husbands are never commanded to rule or control their wives. Whatever head means, the application is to submit one to another, and for husbands to love their wives, caring for them tenderly as they care for their own bodies, and to love them, giving themselves up as Christ gave himself up for the church. When husbands do marriage the Jesus way, by treating their wives as they want to be treated, which includes not over-ruling them or taking authority over them, wives will be inclined to stay married to their husbands.
Waneta Dawn is the author of "Behind the Hedge, A novel" See www.wanetadawn.com A Mennonite woman fights to save her family yet keep her faith.