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Published Date: June 9, 2011

Published Date: June 9, 2011

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Is That Really ‘The Biblical Model’?

“He didn’t protect me,” Nan said of her husband, Blaine (not their real names).  Eyes clouding, Nan related how an “insensitive” male supervisor engaged in “ungracious” behavior and the effect it had on her emotionallyI sipped my raspberry iced tea and listened, asking questions here and there in an attempt to ascertain some salient facts.

“So, did Jerry (pseudonym) come on to you?” I asked.  “Did he make sexually suggestive comments?  Harass you?  Was he abusive?  Did Jerry harm or threaten you physically?  Create a hostile work environment?”

Nan answered negative to all of the above.  “Okay girlfriend,” I set my glass down and leaned back in the wicker chair on Nan’s wrap-around porch.  Twin almond eyes peered at me over Nan’s tea cup.  “Then what exactly did your husband not protect you from?”

It seems that Jerry was “harsh” and “overly critical” and “rude.”

I couldn’t argue.  I know Jerry.  What struck me about Nan’s pronouncement wasn’t the fact that she’d had one too many run-ins with Jerry – and eventually quit – but her assumption that Blaine was somehow not performing his husbandly duties by not “protecting” her.  I wordlessly wondered, “Why is it Blaine’s job to protect you?  Why don’t you learn how to protect yourself?  How can your husband be everywhere, all the time, running to your rescue?  Where does his responsibility end and yours begin?”

I know Blaine. He’s kind, thoughtful, generous and attentive.  But he doesn’t have that omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent thing down quite yet, and I wonder if it’s reasonable for Nan to expect otherwise.  And by the way, who protects Blaine?

Before anyone clucks their tongue too loudly, let me point out that Nan’s “his and her” views of gender roles are based on what she perceives to be the “biblical model for marriage.”  The husband is leader, provider and protector; she’s subordinate, passive and…. helpless?  The picture is that of a damsel in distress, fluttering her hankie at passersby while hoping Prince Charming rides to her rescue on a white charger and sweeps her off into the sunset.

What about popping the hood, checking the oil, or phoning AAA yourself?  What about a marriage based on mutuality, where he watches your back and you watch his?  What about a partnership between equals?  What about Nan developing her own coping mechanisms (and some thicker skin?) instead of expecting Blaine to rush in where angels fear to tread, and then shellacking him when he doesn’t?

A fading sun poured ginger, cinnamon and tangerine over the Olympic foothills as I wondered, “Is Nan’s ‘he didn’t protect me’ a valid complaint, or is it means of manipulating Blaine into fighting her battles for her so she doesn’t have to learn to do so herself?  And is that really The Biblical Model?”