Wednesday, September 11, 2013

What Mormon Men Want in a Wife

Because of the reviews I've been doing on the Pearl's book, I've been thinking a lot about my marriage, who I am, and what I expected life to be.
   I never thought I would get married. I was always a fat, weird child.  Too outspoken, too different. I was never content to sit quietly with the other girls. I remember when I was 14.  We had just moved to the town I would graduate High School from.  The LDS church in the town was very small. Like 30 people on a good day, small.  It was my first time at that branch, so I was shy, quiet, and more or less polite.  About 3 weeks later, once I had gotten used to everything, I became more like myself.  The Branch President's (akin to pastor) wife remarked at how much I'd changed. "I thought you were different."  She told me. "You seemed so much better a few weeks ago. You'll never get married with an attitude like that!"
   I thought about that for years.  What was my "attitude" exactly?  Well, for one thing, I have problems with male authority.  I grew up in a single-parent house.  For all intents and purposes, I was the man of the house. Until my mom got remarried.  (Nightmare. I'm not even going to get into that) But I've always had issues with men saying "I'm the man. Do this..."
   Which creates problems for a Mormon girl, because that is your whole life.  We are taught from a very young age to "honor and obey" the priesthood.  In Young Women's, we are given lessons on how obedience is a virtue we should cultivate all our lives.  Obey your father, Bishop, Stake President, Prophet.  On one hand, they say "We don't want blind followers-think for yourself."  On the other, those who do -and have the audacity to publicly question-are isolated or shamed.
   But I'm digressing.  Suffice it to say, the more I thought about marriage (good, Mormon marriage), the more I realised that I would never get it.  I would never be the size 4 Molly who wants nothing more than to be a homemaker and raise tons of children.  I always wanted to change the world.  I didn't know how I would do it, but that was always my goal.  I thought staying at home taking care of kids would be a nightmare.  And when I tried to discuss my feelings with my leaders, I was either told: "there's a place in this church for everyone" or "Well, let's work on XYZ so you'll be ready to be a wife."
   In college, when I found enough confidence to ask someone out, I realized that a lot of my preconceived ideas were right. I wasn't what Mormon guys wanted.  At least the LDS guys in my area.
  So what do Mormon guys want?  Well, according to this study:
1. Being a good parent: 9.46
2. Being temple worthy: 9.43
3. Being a great spouse: 9.13
4. Being compassionate: 9.03
5. Being a good listener: 8.60
6. Having a sense of humor: 8.57
7. Being intelligent: 8.13
8. Being healthy and physically fit: 7.61
9. Being physically attractive: 7.13
10. Being the spiritual leader in their home: 7.11
11. Protecting their family physically: 6.64
12. Making a difference in the world: 6.4
13. Being able to be the final decision maker in big matters: 5.87
14. Being successful financially: 5.04
15. Having a successful career: 4.36

This seems to say that what Mormon men want is a pretty, temple-worthy spouse who will be a good wife and mom. Things like decision making, careers, and protecting the family are waaaay down at the bottom of the list.  Oh. And look. There's changing the world. Right at #12.
   I also think it's interesting that intelligence is in the middle. As an intelligent woman, I can tell you that LDS men don't want a smart wife.  At least smart in the way where she would catch your logical fallacies, have differing opinions (and not be afraid to share them), and want to make her own choices.  They want a wife that is smart, but agreeable.
   The interesting thing is the more I read the Pearl's books, the more triggers I am coming across.  All these things that Michael says a wife should be, Mormonism agrees with.  Sometimes less radically, but the undertones are the same.  The more I read, the more afraid I get that my poor husband got a bad deal.
   He says I'm exactly what he wants (and to be fair, his words and actions match up), but I am always afraid.  I'm scared because the ghost of Molly Mormon has followed me around for the past 10 years telling me I'm will never be a good wife.  If I'm not a housewife, if I want a career, if I don't loving prepare meals for my adoring family, if I don't go to the temple as often as I can, if I don't pay tithing, serve in my calling, visit teach, do genealogy.  If I don't do the hundreds of things women are supposed to do, cheerfully and full-heartedly, I will never be happy.  I will never be the type of wife my husband needs, or wants.
   This type of thinking is toxic. It also explains why Utah women have the highest rate of anti-depressant use.  Because there is no competing with perfect.  And all anyone ever shows or talks about is perfection.  I'm far from perfect, and have accepted that. What I can't always accept is that my husband wants more from me than to be an airhead.
   So I asked my him what the top 10 things he likes about me are.
   He says:
        1. You're smart
        2. You're pretty
        3. You are a good cook
        4. You are nice to me
        5. You comfort me when I'm sad
        6. We have fun together
        7. I love you...wait...should that be first?
        8. You take care of me
        9. You love kitties and PillowPets and lots of things
        10. You tell me what you want (sometimes it's confusing, but that's OK)
It's interesting  how much his list of traits differs from what an average Mormon guy wants. I don't know if it's because this list is specific to me, or because he didn't grow up LDS.  Maybe that's the rub.  He didn't grow up LDS, so he wasn't cultured to want a specific type.  Which makes me think.  If we're going to raise children, I would rather them make choices based on their likes/dislikes/experiences/needs rather than to be told they should strive for an LDS checklist of traits.
   Some days are harder than others to shake the Mormon out of my psyche.

12 comments:

  1. It's worth repeating: be patient with yourself and give yourself time. The first year out of a religion is always the most difficult. I felt a sense of excitement, but also of guilt and shame when I would sit on the couchç watching football, when I "knew" I was supposed to be in church. It will get better and it will get easier.

    I'm glad you and your husband can take this journey together. It will make it easier in numerous ways, but also so much more fulfilling for you. From one fat, weird, loud-mouthed kid to another: you'll find your place, and it will make you so happy you could dance until you collapse from exhaustion and joy. It will be as if you hear the universe playing its symphony and you hear your own notes and understand their value to yourself, if only that. It is as if the great mysteries are unlocked for your appreciation but can only beg more questions than you had before. It is musical, magical and wondrous. But, to get there, you must first trust yourself and believe in yourself. I have no doubt you'll get there. You are on the right path: one of your own choosing. It will all find you progressionally as you become ready for each piece. Keep walking in courage, friend.

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    1. Thank you. Your words always lift my spirit. :)

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  2. The results of this survey are a clear demonstration that the patriarchy (and religions in particular) view women as an accessory, or a catalyst. What I mean is that, religious men want women who will raise good children, make the husband look good, and make the home a comfortable place for the husband and the kids. The woman's personhood is completely irrelevant...this is putting the cart before the horse and defines a woman's worth by her perceived potential to fulfill some future role, rather than by who she is right now.

    Personally, I don't want a wife that will be a good parent, or a good homemaker. I want a wife who is strong, intelligent, independent, compassionate, etc...because these are the traits that make up a good person. All those other things, like parenting, fall into place after that and are a reflection of how we are as people. Is my wife a strong, intelligent, good person? Yes. With that, I know if we decide to have children, she'll be a good mother. With that, I know that I can trust her to make big decisions. And so on...

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    1. Exactly! Wife the idea, not wife the person.
      I like your points!

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  3. I've found that many, many Mormon men claim want women who are smart, faithful, modest, etc and then proceed to date women who don't resemble that at all. At my BYU singles ward there was a dating Q and A panel where some men volunteered to help the RS understand "the male perspective." When asked what they're looking for they all indicated immodesty was a huge turn-off for them. Then when asked, "If that's the case then why do we see all the girls who dress immodestly being asked out time and time again when most of us who do dress modestly are sitting home most nights?" Are you ready for the answer? It's a winner. "Ahem, well personally whenever I see a smart, modest woman I tend to think she's so awesome that she must already be taken. I think a lot of guys tend to go out with those girls because they just assume they're the only ones available."

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    1. Holy cow. What a bunch of bananas. I hope people saw them for the jerk faces they are. It's little deceptions like that that hurt women. Guys say they want one thing, but their eyes are all over everyone else.
      I guess it goes back to a church of words, not actions. Sad.

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  4. That's a really weird set of priorities. I'm very glad you've found a husband who has his head on straight rather than a man looking for a doll willing to follow him.

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    1. Exactly! A doll! A pretty figure that wants nothing more than to fulfill your every desire. It's disgusting.

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  5. I've been reading a few of your posts on this blog and I understand that you have decided to no longer identify yourself as Mormon. That's your personal choice and you need to do what's best for you, but please remember that not all Mormons are Peter Priesthoods or Molly Mormons. I consider myself an active member and I am definitely not a size 4 (more like size 14), I am currently pursuing a career, and am not popping out babies annually. I guess my husband isn't the average Mormon guy because he told me one of the main reasons he married me is because I'm actually smart, unlike a lot of girls he knows.

    I'm not trying to bash your blog or start any drama, I'm not even trying to give you a guilt trip about how you "left" the church (it's your choice, your life). All I'm saying is please don't criticize all Mormons and lump us all into one giant blob of patriarchy. Not everyone fits into the molds that seem to be set by Mormon culture. Good luck to you on figuring out your spirituality, I wish you the best.

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    1. I will be more careful in the future to emphasize that what I write is about the stereotype, not the individuals.

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    2. Actually, in further thinking about it, I would love for you to do a guest post (or 2) about your experiences in the LDS church. From what you've said, you're, also, outside of the stereotype. I would enjoy hearing more about you.
      If you wouldn't mind.

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    3. Thank you, I'll think about it...

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