As I explained in my last post, the book Every Man’s Marriage is founded in fear. Fred Stoeker explains in Chapter 1 that when his wife Brenda announced she didn’t have feelings for him any more he went into a crippling panic that lasted for days. Not only did it trigger unresolved feelings of childhood trauma from when his own parents had divorced, but he had built his wife up to absurd levels from the moment she first sat next to him in church:
Brenda Hulett stepped into our row, and I stood up to shake her hand. As our eyes met, my heavenly Father seemed to lean down and whisper, This is the girl you’re going to marry. I really felt that I would become her husband! This thought, premonition–whatever you want to call it–struck me as funny, which caused me to giggle throughout the service whenever I glanced at her.
You can see the depth of this trauma from the organization of the book. The first three chapters are under the heading When Love Grows Cold. The next four chapters are under the heading Starting To Breathe Again. Stoeker says he was in such a state of panic when his wife lost feelings for him that he vowed to do whatever it took to get them back.
What follows is Stoeker and Arterburn’s rationalization for a new religion, one which clearly is heavily influenced by the new age mysticism of the 1970s. Stoeker tells us that before he became a Christian this is what he turned to in search of knowledge:
…I turned to Eastern religion, a fad that swept the Stanford campus in the late 1970s. I even accepted a flower and an invitation from the Moonies, who “love bombed” me bu failed to convince me to join their ranks. Meanwhile, I meandered up and down the West Coast, spending seminar weekends with enlightened gurus as they “merged” with the universe.
The new religion that Stoeker and Arterburn have created is a barely concealed vagina worship loosely wrapped in the trappings of Christianity. In this new religion, the goal of marriage is to achieve marital oneness. More accurately, it is the husband’s responsibility to achieve this marital oneness by obeying his wife’s soul essence, which sets the terms for marital oneness. Closely tied up in all of this is the wife’s sexuality and sexual desire*. In Chapter 3 they write about a wife who was repulsed by the idea of french kissing her husband, including during sex. After explaining that french kissing isn’t a sin in itself, they explain that french kissing is a sin for this particular husband because he isn’t obeying her sexuality/soul essence (emphasis mine):
But for Richard, French kissing has become sin within the context of his relationship with Megan because it tramples her sexuality, a precious essence of her soul. Nothing breaks oneness like trampling your wife’s soul essence–the mysterious, God-created combination of her innermost qualities.
In Chapter 5 they explain that a wife’s feelings of sexual desire (or the lack thereof) are determined by the husband’s righteousness:
Oneness has terms. Comply with the terms and emotional closeness follows. If you don’t comply, the emotions will die. We need to act right, or more precisely, act righteously. If we do, the feelings will follow.
Brenda’s “feelings” for me had died. The feelings she spoke about were not of oneness, but of the intimate feelings that flow from oneness.
They go on to explain that God sets the terms for our “oneness” in our relationship with Him:
Who sets the terms? Christ. More accurately, Christ’s essence. What is Christ’s essence? Holiness.
But while God sets the terms for oneness with Him, it is your wife’s essence that sets the terms for oneness in marriage:
Who sets the terms for oneness in marriage? Your wife. More accurately, your wife’s essence.
In Chapter 7 they explain that your wife is your “master”. They say that master is in scare quotes because she isn’t really your master, but since God commands you to submit to her soul essence to achieve oneness with her, you should think of her as your master:
But Fred, my wife is not my master! True, but becoming-one-with-her-essence is your master. That’s your highest call, and that call owns you, my friend. As leader of your home, you must submit your rights in whatever way necessary to attain oneness, not because she has authority over you…
In Chapter 8 they clarify further:
What I’m trying to say is that the “master” defines your rights (and remember again that though we refer to your wife as your “master,” it’s our shorthand for the fact that becoming one with her essence is actually your God-given master). Why? Because you’re called to oneness and her essence sets the terms.
The whole book is shot through with this kind of crackpot new age theology. The truly disturbing part of this is not that two Christian men were so terrified of rejection from their wives that they created this new religion, but that this crackpot theology would be enthusiastically accepted by the Christian book buying public.
*The original title of the book was Every Woman’s Desire.