On Sunday night, I met my couch with excitement. I had a glass of wine in hand, and I was looking forward to unwinding from a long weekend. Unfortunately, that plan didn’t work out very well, because 10 minutes later, I found myself screaming at the TV — or, more specifically, screaming at new show on TLC called Submissive Wives’ Guide to Marriage, a reality TV show disguising abusive relationships.
The show portrays three couples who practice male domination in their marriages — domination meaning that the men come first, and the women come second. As one husband said, and I quote, “I believe it’s disrespectful for the woman to try and be the head of the household.”
Oh, HELL NO.
I only needed to listen to one of the wives, Tara Furman, talk for two minutes before I was taking off my earrings and getting ready to have a throwdown with my plasma TV.
Tara claims, “Before I became a submissive wife, I was selfish. I thought it was about me, but now I realize that it’s about him. If he’s happy, then I’m happy.”
But oh wait, there’s more.
Throughout the show, we watch Tara counsel another wife, Kristin Haywood, who is struggling to be happy in her marriage and with her husband. Tara’s take on the situation is that the Kristin needs to sexually please her man more, because if he’s happy, then she will be happy.
When Kristin is taken aback, saying that she is willing to do a lot for her husband, but she isn’t sure she can sleep with him right now, Tara, in wide-eyed shock, adamantly states that “she [Kristin] is not to deprive her husband physically. It doesn’t matter how she feels; she needs to do it anyway. She needs to suck it up and do it anyway.”
Kristin, if you’re reading this, I wish I could give you a hug right now, because if I was struggling to find myself in a marriage, the last thing I would need is someone telling me to suck it up, open my legs and give away my identity.
There’s a fine line between submission and abuse, and telling a wife that her job is to have sex — even if she doesn’t want to — is telling her that it is her duty to be raped.
The entire show made me sick.
When you add strange terms the show used such as “re-entry” — the time when the husband comes home from work, and in an effort to make him happy, the wife and children all stand by the window to greet him with “hot appetizers and a cold beverage” — I kept thinking that TLC had to be playing a joke on me, right?
Add to that the overwhelmingly nauseating insistence that women sleep with their husbands no matter how much they don’t want to, and the repeated phrase uttered by the wives, “It’s not about me, it’s about him,” I’m calling bullsh*t on not only this show, but on submission completely.
As an abuse survivor and the founder of a nonprofit for abused woman, I’m disgusted knowing that women are being told that submission is the way to marital bliss.
I mean, sure, I guess in theory if a wife agrees to abide by every rule set for her — becoming an indentured servant, never being allowed to have an opinion and spending her days as an available sex toy — I guess I can see how that might eliminate conflict, but at what cost? At the cost of being abused?
This show is portraying a happy-go-lucky version of abuse. Yes, abuse.
The definition of submission is simple. It is “the action or fact of accepting or yielding to a superior force or to the will or authority of another person,” and in the real world, that is intricately tied into domestic abuse.
Submission is the name that many husbands give to the punches they dole out to their wives, and submission is the excuse that those same wives naively use to believe that they aren’t being abused.
But the saddest part, as evidenced on the show, is that they don’t even realize it. Just like so many abuse victims out there, these submissive wives have no idea that they are in fact, being abused.
I mean, look at Tara. She claims that her marriage was falling apart and that she wasn’t sure if she and her husband were going to make it.
She said that she was losing him, so what was her plan to fix it? Give him everything he wants.
Wake up early to make his morning smooth, calm and “blast him off” with love, because he deserves it.
Spend her entire day making things perfect for his “re-entry.”
Never question him, never doubt him, just “stay quiet if he appears to be in a bad mood.”
And above all, “make him feel attractive by sleeping with him as much as I can. Because that is my job as his wife.”
This poor woman is one black eye away from being the poster child of an abuse victim. She gave up herself in an effort to keep her husband.
I can’t speak to the actions of her husband but what I can speak for are the hundreds of women I’ve worked with. The hundreds of women who so desperately live under the burden of submission, some having been physically beaten into it and others simply so worn down that they gave up themselves in an effort to appease someone else.
I’m calling bullsh*t on a “healthy” marriage that can’t survive unless one person has to die inside.
A real marriage, a healthy marriage, is built on good communication. It’s built on mutual respect and equal love — and that cannot possibly be there in a submissive marriage, a marriage where one person has been permanently deemed as less valuable.
I’m also calling bullsh*t on the entire idea of “voluntary” submission because sorry, it’s is not a real thing.
Voluntary submission tends to stem from one of three places:
- A misguided attempt at following a religious belief. I’m a Christian; I know what submission is but I also know that a healthy biblical marriage is based on mutual respect and adoration.
- Some women voluntarily enter submissive marriages, because they have been brainwashed — I mean “raised” in a household where children are taught that men are dominant and woman are submissive (Tara’s poor daughter!). They were simply never taught that they have the right to an opinion.
- Other women choose to submit when their marriage has reached a crisis point, and she decides that the only way to “salvage” it is to give up herself to please her husband. It isn’t something that’s typically born out of confident and independent women who are filled with their own hopes and dreams; submission erases all those qualities. It’s typically born out of a hail Mary plea.
And even though it may appear voluntary, it’s not. It’s a major red flag in a cry for help, and when a husband chooses to ignore repairing the relationship in a mutually beneficial way, and instead accepts being made king, that’s manipulation at best and abuse at worst.
I was abused. I used to be the victim; I know what it’s like.
I now work with victims, so I’m calling it like I see it.