Scholarship Alert… a look at what Paul really said

Marriage Minute # 144 From my book, Marriage Minutes, available from

An Egalitarian looks at I Timothy 2:12

This will be about marriage by the time I am through with it. It is already about marriage since it is about the nature of women and men in the eyes of God. And, it is a needed discussion in this book since it is one of the most misinterpreted verses in the entire Bible. It is used to keep women out of church leadership, and as an intentional by-product, to keep women out of equality in homes and marriages. This scripture is misused in bolstering what is called Masculine Protest, a belief that men have certain unearned privileges, simply by virtue of being born male, privileges generally denied to women. Here is the verse, in the New American Standard Version…
But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.

I will give what I consider a better translation at the end of the article. I prefer the New American Standard in most cases, but like most other translations the NASB has missed the mark. Here is why I say this…
The troublesome word in this verse is the one usually translated “to exercise authority”. It is the Greek word, αὐθεντεῖν, authentein, an infinitive form of a quite rare Greek word. In fact, in all of scripture, it only appears here in this verse. When Paul and all the other writers refer to authority in any other verse, they use some other word, and all the other words for authority are well known, well used, and well defined. So, if we want to know the meaning of the word we must go to other Greek documents of the time period. Even in doing this, the search is difficult.
I am very grateful for the scholarship of several people, especially in this verse. A few years ago several scholars compiled a computerized databank of Greek words, the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae, found at the University of California-Irvine. Words were catalogued from practically all the extant sources that could be found. Books, letters, poetry, signs, legal documents, and other sorts of Greek writings were sorted in this databank in order to give us a look at how the words were used in each context. This lexicon records such usages from the 8th century B.C. all the way through A.D. 1453, around 2200 years of the history of the Greek language.
I am also indebted to Leland Wilshire and his excellent book, Insight Into Two Biblical Passages.
A thorough look at this history reveals that the word “authentein” was a word that originally meant “one who with his own hand kills either others or himself”. Fragment 645 by the Greek writer Euripides uses the word to mean “murderous ruling desires”. Another reference points to “Saturn as the Ruler of the soul…”. Still another reference is found in the worship of an Archangel, proclaimed as “the Ruling Sun”. Flavius Josephus (A.D. 37-95) employs the word in only two places in Jewish Wars to describe the perpetrator of a crime. It is not until the end of the second century, A.D., that the word appears as a signifier of “authority”, in the writings of Clement of Alexandria, and Clement uses the word in most occasions to signify criminal behavior and abuse of power. His majority usage is “to take it upon one’s self to commit murder with impunity”. His additional usage of the word to simply mean “authority” does not, in my opinion of the context, suggest any particular legitimacy to the authority. The full bifurcation of the word into tracts of legitimate as well as illegitimate authority does not appear until the fourth century. Furthermore, it is not translated into an English form, Author, any sooner that the 13th century.
So, why does Paul deviate from his usual collection of words for authority and, in this one verse, use this obscure word for “murderous rule”? I suggest that the answer is found in Paul’s original premise for writing this letter to Timothy. See I Timothy 1: 3 “As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines,…” (NASB). Paul and Timothy were contending with teachers of false doctrine, chiefly the forms of Legalism, and Gnosticism found in Ephesus. While written chronicles of Gnostic doctrine do not proliferate until many years later, Paul’s frequent use of certain phrases found in Gnosticism, which he employs in his effort to disapprove of them, suggests that Gnosticism, at least in oral tradition, was flowering in the first century. I will refer to some of these terms below, and I suggest that this word, authentein= murderous rule, is one of those terms.
A particular strain of Gnostics, now known as Ophitic Gnostics, taught a number of heretical beliefs, among them that,
• The god who created the mind was superior to the god who created the body,
• The god who created Woman acted prior to the creation of Adam, and some Ophitic Gnostics taught that different gods created the two people, Adam and Eve,
• That, according to a group within Gnosticism, the god who created the material Earth including the human and animal body, was a female deity thereby giving the power to “rule” to females of each species,
• That a superior god was the savior of the mind and soul, while a lesser god was the savior of the body,
• That Adam was deceived into thinking that he was created first, and further deceived into thinking that he was superior to Eve,
• That the sin of Adam was different from the lesser sin of Eve, and
• That Eve was actually the one who was to have power over the human race by virtue of being female, and that she could enforce this power by any means necessary,
• But that she was to refuse childbearing, except in highly controlled situations , because childbearing would mean that she was taking part in creating evil and fallen flesh and losing her control (and her salvation),

Let’s revisit the text now. I Timothy 2:12 But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority….. [murderous rule]….. over a man, but to remain quiet. 13 For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. …..[this is Paul refuting the idea that Eve was created first, and that she was created separately by a different god] …..14 And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, …..[refuting the idea that Adam was deceived]…..fell into transgression. …..[the same transgression] 15 But (women) will be preserved through the bearing of children …..[refuting the idea that childbearing meant the loss of salvation]…..if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint.

It should be becoming clear by now that Paul was fighting Gnostics, and not fighting women. May I suggest the following expanded translation based upon the information I have presented.
I Timothy 2:12
“But I do not allow a woman to teach murderous rule, or to exercise murderous rule over a man, but to remain in a teachable spirit . Because it was Adam who was created first and then Eve right along with him, and by the same (and only) God. Furthermore, Adam was not deceived but the woman being deceived fell into the same transgression even as did Adam. But, she is preserved through the bearing of children (the call to have families did not become the enemy with Eve), if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint.”

Here, we come to that great theological question, “What does this have to do with anything?”
If Paul is arguing against Ophitic Gnosticism, and not against women, does the verse have any usage in the life of the 21st century believer. It does have a use, but it is not the usage that many people make of it. It is commonly used 1) to keep women out of ministry, and 2) to keep women in other inferior positions in life. Both of these usages have no justification if we look at this passage in the light of the full evidence about authentein and the evidence about the culture of Gnosticism. Paul had no intention to say what many people think he said, and I believe that he would be shocked and utterly dismayed to find out how so many people have misinterpreted him.
Legitimate usage of this verse is found in at least four admonitions:
• That God did not intend any battle between the sexes, especially one that involves “murderous rule”
• That men and women were created by the same God, created in His Image, to live in healthy relationships,
• That both men and women are to conduct themselves in love, without wrath, dissension, or a clamorous spirit,
• That we are not to fear the normal life of the healthy family, marrying and having children, and that this family should not be seen as an arena for power struggles about salvation, or about personal power (especially abusive power)

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To my dear marriage counseling client…

To my dear marriage counseling client…

You seem to be intent on telling me several indicting things about your spouse (the person sitting next to you on my couch), and perhaps you are trying to convince me of these things. You may also be trying to hurt them in some way. You are succeeding at the latter, but not at the former. Do you believe, if you convince me of how awful they are, that they will be declared guilty, and as though by magic, they will be returned to you, thoroughly scolded, and transformed back into the dutiful and compliant spouse you thought you were getting so long ago? That’s not how this whole thing works.

As you vent, I think you may have some valid points about your spouse, but I wonder at the same time. How much of what you are saying are you hearing for the first time, and how much is your spouse hearing for the first time? More so, I wonder how much of it is true. What truth are you not telling me? Do you tell each other the truth?

It also matters what you are trying to do with the truth. The truth can sometimes hurt, but wanting to hurt someone, and using the truth to do it is another. Thelonious Monk said, “There are no wrong notes on the piano, but it matters when and how you use them.”

The truth is… your spouse wants to feel significant, and so do you. But, how people get to significance is often thwarted by mistaken and misapplied theology. Men are offered the idea that they can and must be leaders in the home. Leading is one way of finding significance, and after all, there are a lot of decisions to be made in a home, and a lot of problems to be solved. Yet, that is not the real issue. The real issue is whether the husband will be in that leadership position alone. Does he really need to feel threatened by a strong woman wanting to share leadership? Is he really in danger from her? Does he believe the world’s message of shame? If he is threatened by the prospect of an open and intimate life with an equal, then he is probably not seeking significance, but is instead seeking superiority… an appeal to human pride and avarice. Do you tell the truth about what you are wanting from your spouse? Are all your wants O.K.?

The truth is… your spouse wants to feel significant, and so do you. Women hear the “inferiority” message and in many ways feel a great sense of shame. People who feel shame often inflict shame. She was often taught to use Spite Talk, as her husband was taught to use Fight Talk. Sadly, significance is still elusive. No one wins. She becomes angry over this “one-down” position, many of us understand the anger, but none of this brings significance. The truth is, neither superiority nor inferiority really fit anyone. Neither of them were really God’s original plan. Only the Significance Plan works, and true intimacy doesn’t need someone in charge.

The truth is… your spouse wants to feel significant, and so do you. God wants us to repent, with all the mind change and emotional shift that goes with it. But, many in theological circles preach scorn and shame. Scorn and shame are not the same as repentance. We don’t get the ability to repent from other people, we can only get it from God. Check sometime the words of Paul in II Corinthians 7, in which he compares the sorrow of the world (scorn and shame) with the sorrow he calls Godly Sorrow.

So,… there you are on my couch, recognizing pain (and I understand that) but not the whole truth. You can’t make somebody do better by making them feel worse. (Jane Nelsen) It is not “worse” that your spouse needs to feel… it is responsible that they need to feel, and repentant if there has been some wrong done. They need to feel zealousness for change. If you only see your spouse as someone to be controlled, or punished, or avoided, or used… then you don’t know all the truth about them. Humiliation is about shame, and humility is about the truth… and they are not the same thing. The truth is that your spouse is someone for whom Christ died, and so are you. If they can’t see you and themselves in that perspective, then you aren’t dealing with all the truth, and hope will be slim, but if they can… they are more likely to be changed. If we turn in the names we call ourselves, and the names we call each other, and we receive from Christ the names, and the characters he has for us, then in Him, we have significance, and we can validate it in others.

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Dreams Can Come True

By the way… my next Couple Communication Workshop is September 18-19. Give us a call at 281-277-8811 to find out more.

This is from Emily Dickinson. I share this with concurrent thoughts about the shared dreams and other life-goals of individuals in a marriage. Will it matter what we were? …can I be a part of my spouse’s quest to fulfill dreams?

“Each life converges to some centre
Expressed or still:
Exists in every human nature
A goal

Admitted scarcely to itself, it may be,
Too fair
For credibility’s temerity
To dare.

Adored with caution, as a brittle heaven,
To reach
Were hopeless as the rainbow’s raiment
To touch

Yet persevered toward, surer for the distance;
How high
Unto the saints’ slow diligence
The sky!

Ungained, it may be, by a life’s low venture,
But then,
Eternity enables the endeavoring

All of a person’s behavior is aimed at the same set of personal goals, what Dickinson refers to as “some centre expressed or still.” Our marriages and all of our relationships will fare better if we attend to the purposes we have behind them, energizing them. They also work best when both people have the same motives. “Surer for the distance”, the highest motives for marriage will produce the best marriages.
But, it is this same set of goals that says so much about us in all of our life. A person with poor goals in one area of life will have this same quality of goals in other areas.
The writer, Pat Gundry, said it well. “It is not the perfection of the original match that will make or break your marriage. Rather, it is the kind of person you decide to be, every morning, for the rest of your life.”
It is likely that if your goal in one part of life is to just get by with the least possible effort, your marriage will be drawn by that same goal. If your goal is to only do what you “feel like”, your marriage will have the same disastrous results as you will see in your other areas of life. The good news is that excellent goals for responsible living will contribute to a good marriage, provided both partners have these goals within themselves.

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Marriage Minute # 95 Heathcliff and Catherine
from my book, Marriage Minutes, available from

I won’t spoil the story for you if you haven’t read it. Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte, has much to say about the strangeness of relationships, misplaced values, prejudice, and the madness of trying to control other people’s lives.
Heathcliff and Catherine love each other, and they are actually much like each other. They are well suited for each other, and they both go to great sacrifice to be with each other. They seem made for each other, except for one tragic difference, and that is, all the other things they love. Catherine is too much in love with good breeding and social position. Heathcliff becomes too much in love with revenge.
Catherine has another problem. She believes Heathcliff should be able to bring her the moon, or do other amazing things to make her happy. She is like those people today who believe that if they are unhappy, it must be because they are not effectively loved. Expectations of mind-reading, of always being understood, and always being served by others, become the plague of relationship misery. The woman who is sad because she has little of no relationship has a valid complaint. Yet, the woman who is sad because her relationship doesn’t do everything for her that her soul will ever need, will have only sadness because relationships will never replace the healthy and growing personal self. “Become successful and I will be happy”, she might say to her husband, but it will not be so.
Heathcliff had another problem. He believed that he could steer the rest of the world by his fervor for Catherine. If he only knew how little he controls in this life, he might have made some different choices, and would have had more real control, of himself. Letting himself be judged “unworthy” by unworthy judges, he tried every plan he could think of, but his plans didn’t have the cooperation of all those around him. Imagine that. Yet, today men are still are still trying to “prove” themselves by proving more than will ever be true, especially without the good relationships we need in this life.
Bronte does much in her book (of wonderful prose, by the way) to warn against the false images of men and women that still plague the world of love. Each generation seems to have to re-invent the process with the same mistakes. It’s a shame that good experience doesn’t always get passed down. Bronte called Wuthering Heights a “misanthrope’s heaven.” Can you imagine heaven for people who hate people? Most of us would call it something else.
Charlotte Bronte, Emily’s sister, described well the missing element in the lives at Wuthering Heights. In spite of the passion, the supposed love, and all the human effort at creating the world in their own image, the missing element was “kindness.”
Charlotte said, concerning Emily, “… nothing moved her more than any insinuation that the faithfulness and clemency, the long-suffering and loving-kindness which are esteemed virtues in the daughters of Eve, become foibles in the sons of Adam. She held that great mercy and forgiveness are the most divine attributes of the great being who made both man and woman, and that what clothes the Godhead in glory, can disgrace no form of feeble humanity.”

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How things are Not supposed to be.

Marriage Minute # 94 Macbeth  (a hard lesson)  from my book, Marriage Minutes, available at

Let’s take a minute and visit that great marriage and family therapist of many years ago. I speak of none other than William Shakespeare, himself. He told us about Macbeth and his wife, and how things are Not supposed to be.

Act one, scene seven, opens with Macbeth struggling within himself about the thoughts of murdering the king. His conscience is about to win out, when the struggle gets harder. He considers this royal friend of his, Duncan, one who has a reputation for kindness, but where has the kindness gotten him. He is about to be executed. Will Macbeth keep his own kindness? Will he give up on what doesn’t seem to be working for others? But, he cannot possibly murder the king. Enter Lady Macbeth. Finding that Macbeth is feeling virtuous, again, she attacks him with accusations of cowardliness; this Macbeth who is an honored and valiant warrior. Yet, this one person’s opinion seems to affect Macbeth beyond measure. It is then that Macbeth makes one of his greatest statements…

“I dare do all that may become a man; who does do more is none.”

Sadly, this may have been the last time he would say such a fine truth. Lady Macbeth begins to excoriate him with words meant to bring about shame. Isn’t he a “real man”, after all? Doesn’t he “love” her? These thoughts will seem familiar to the modern mind since coercion and emotional bribery are still part of the perverted views of marriage that some “modern” people still hold.

Yes, Macbeth will stab Duncan when he is unguarded and he will smear the blood upon the innocent chamberlains. Macbeth becomes someone he has never been, and hides his true self, saying, “false face must hide what false heart doth know.”

Every time Macbeth begins to waver, Lady Macbeth gives him a speech about, of all things, manhood. She appears mild and gentle to the world, but behind the scenes she is vicious. “Now, be a good boy, and go out there and kill the king!” (No, that wasn’t Shakespeare, but it could have been how she said it.)

This kind of interchange can sound painfully like some modern discussions. They happen when a man believes that true manhood must be discovered in the eyes and estimates of one or more other persons, rather than discovered in the true meanings of goodness, They happen when a woman believes that true womanhood must be discovered and played out in secret games, rather than discovered in the true meanings of goodness.

This same Macbethian crime occurs when a man or a woman uses love to coerce and bribe another person. When they use shame as a weapon they ignore the fact that true love need never be more important than conscience, since true love doesn’t tempt one to do evil.

Among other things, this story also shows that true manhood and true womanhood cannot be defined by appearances. Macbeth and the Lady looked like such a fine and noble couple. She seemed so nice and he seemed so good. But, appearances don’t tell the whole story. When kindness doesn’t seem “manly”, and when honesty doesn’t seem “womanly”, perhaps we have gone beyond what “becomes” a man or woman.

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The Curse of Creative Listening

Marriage Minute # 93 Psych—ed (From my book, Marriage Minutes, available at

Around 1910 an interesting play, “Psych—ed”, was written by Hughes Mearns, containing this odd line of dialog.
“As I was climbing up the stair,
I met a man who wasn’t there.
He wasn’t there again today,
I wish, I wish he’d stay away.”

In a recent interview I was asked about the most difficult type of marriage counseling that I encounter, and I thought of this verse by Mearns. One of the most difficult marital problems we deal with, is the problem that doesn’t really exist. The person just isn’t happy, and they think it is the marriage that makes them that way, but it is not because of the marriage, at all.
Their spouse hears accusations of failure and, if they are mature, they look honestly to see if the accusations are valid. But, then they see that the accusations are just the thrashing around of an unhappy soul; one who dares not take responsibility for their own happiness.
Real happiness has a lot to do with living up to our own standards, and living out our purpose, rather than having someone else “make” us happy. It is magical thinking to believe that the core of our happiness has its foundation in someone else, or that the décor of our life is dependent upon someone else’s artistry. It’s the problem that isn’t there, not on the stair, at least, and it is the problem that won’t go away due to someone else’s effort, because this nebulous unhappiness is self-inflicted.
Please understand, there are many problems that are created by someone else, and many marriages fail because of the behaviors of the other person. But, this is a different creature. Let’s be careful not to make our spouse the person they become. Day after day of demanding that they “make the world go away”, can make any spouse consider going away.
Thinking back, we may find that the person who seems to blame their marriage for all the problems of life had blamed someone else before the marriage. Perhaps the single adult should watch out for the person who seems unhappy with a lot of people. They may not be looking for a rescue; they may be looking for the next person to blame.
Have you heard the joke about the man who was speaking to his wife on his cell phone when she told him to drive carefully, because she heard on the radio that someone was driving on the wrong side of the freeway. He replied, “It’s worse than that. Everyone out here, but me, is on the wrong side of the road.” The first thing to do with a problem on the stair may be to make sure it isn’t ourselves we are meeting.

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What Do You Mean, “Love”?

Marriage Minute # 91 What Do You Mean, “Love”?
(From my book, Marriage Minutes, available on
You go out for a walk in the woods because a friend told you that these woods are full of beautiful songbirds. Because of the unpaved trail, the weather outdoors, the bugs, and other attitudes you walk into the woods while yelling about how awful things are. When the birds don’t show up, you get confused and you get demanding. You scream, “Sing to me.” You soon storm out of the woods, calling your friend some new names. Why did your gentle friend hear the birds, while you do not? This walk in the woods just wasn’t what it was cracked up to be.
Maybe you should hire a birdwatcher.
You go into a marriage because you have always heard how wonderful it is. But soon, you start to wonder why this other person is not cooperating with you, and why they haven’t made you deliriously happy. You decide that marriage doesn’t feel the same as going out with your friends most nights of the week. Maybe you want to be left alone more than you are, or maybe you are left alone, too much. You don’t hear what you want to hear, and you scream, “Sing to me.” Or, maybe it’s the other way around- maybe your spouse talks, and you had not considered this possibility.
Maybe you should interview the fellow who scared the birds away. This is the story of the man or woman who is called, ”not the marrying kind.”
Or, consider Christelle Demichel, a French woman whose fiancé died seventeen months prior to the wedding. Apparently, this is no great problem for the French, in whose country it is legal to marry someone who is deceased. The law went into effect in 1959 so that a fiancé would still be able to inherit from the deceased.
Demichel appeared wearing black, carrying yellow roses, and stood alone. She said the wedding was loads of fun, just like a wedding is supposed to be. (Was it really how she thought it should be?) Most of us want a wedding to have more to it.
I’m not a birdwatcher, but I have been a people-watcher for a long time. It does seem to me that something gets lost in the translation from wedding to marriage, and from expectation to understanding and participation.
Harriet Lerner said it well in her book, The Dance of Connection. She said, “Falling in love tells us absolutely nothing about whether a particular relationship is healthy or good for us.” She points out that it doesn’t matter if we call it “love or sauerkraut”, The main question is not about the intensity of love, but whether or not the relationship is about what is good, and about whether or not we are navigating “our part of it in a solid way.” Does this love increase or inhibit our ability to be authentic and self-disclosing? Are we committed to these two things? If the answer is No, then perhaps several answers should be No.

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Skills Aren’t Enough

Marriage Minute # 83 Skills Aren’t Enough

From my book, Marriage Minutes, available on

I recently heard a friend mention one those wry bits of wisdom that we all ought to know. He pointed out that when it comes to marriage, or parenting, or work, we certainly do need skills, but good skills are never enough by themselves. “After all”, my friend said, “Thelma and Louise were both good drivers.” As you likely remember, Thelma and Louise end it all with a giant but insufficient leap into the canyon.
If you liked the movie, but want a different and satisfying ending, try the movie “Leaving Normal” with Christine Lahti and Meg Tilly. I think both the movie and the ending are better.
Back to my topic, my friend has a point about the many skills available to a couple that often go unused, even though people know about them. I remember an ald joke about the farmer who was asked why he wasn’t going to the Grange Hall to see the new film about how to be a better farmer. He replied that he already knew how to be a better farmer and wasn’t using what he knew. There has to be some “want-to” in most everything we do, or all the skills in the world won’t help.
Good marriage also requires that we want the right things. While there can be many optional preferences that not ever couple needs, there are some things that we all need. (In fact, we need them if we are single.) Qualities of honesty, genuine respect of others, commitment, and certain other “must-haves” are at the core of good relationships. Yet, many marital problems, and many books about improving marriage are more about moral and ethical issues than they are about mental health or skills. One of the troubling things that we deal with after observing marriages for a while is that many troubled, even violent marriages, are in the mess they are in because of “skills”. By this, I mean skills for manipulating, for confusing their partner, for abusing in cunning ways. A “smarter devil” is a devil just the same.
I’m not recommending any of the imposed sets of rules, or phony role lists that many people place on marriage. Bertrand Russell, in his classic article about Morals and Marriage, warned that moralism and legalism in marriage is used to control other people, rather than build good lives together. And, if you study ethics, you find that few things are really written in stone. What I’m recommending is a love that is both objective and passionate; a love that is dedicated to controlling itself and guiding itself in building a nurturing relationship.
So, let’s don’t put Thelma and Louise in the driver’s seat.

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Bird in a Gilded Cage

Marriage Minute # 82 Bird in a Gilded Cage …from my book, Marriage Minutes, available on

Let’s lighten up a bit in this article, with a story from history. My wife, who is a historian, always shares stories from her research and writing, and she is a great story teller, but some of the most interesting stories come from her own family history. Meet Haslem Marshall, who was a young Sea Captain when he came ashore at Galveston in the 1840’s to build a house, near Morgan’s Point. He had decided he wanted to leave the isolation of the sea, marry, and settle down, so his search for the ideal wife began. He designed and built a wonderful house. Thinking of the ideal wife, he built a home-place that all the neighbors could admire. He had it all planned out, except for the obvious. His search for the ideal wife came to an end when the one he had chosen, turned him down. (i.e. dropped him, kicked him to the curb, cancelled his passport, quenched his ardor, gave him the “no, John” letter) He had described the elegance of his house, over the months of building it, as the gilded cage, but he lamented that he could find no canary. Devastated over this rejection, he set fire to the place, burned it to the ground, and returned to the sea. (“Good as I’ve been to you.”)
Life went on for a while and a somewhat older and much wiser Haslem Marshall came ashore, again. This time he had no elaborate expectations and he met a real person, Melinda Millsaps, a daughter of Isaac Millsaps who died at the Alamo. Her brother, Ephraim, is my wife’s ancestor. This time Haslem started with the relationship, and made the plans with her, rather than for her. They lived happily ever after, raised a family, and a farm, together. (Key word)
Now, what are the lessons of Haslem and Melinda? 1) Smart women, and smart men, don’t want to be squeezed into someone’s mold. And, it’s actually a good thing, since a person without their own personality can get really boring over time. 2) You are better off starting marriage with real people, not projects. Ever see the movie, Citizen Kane? At the end of the movie, Kane has all the characters in his life just where he wants them, but sadly, they are all statues, not people. 3) You build the home to suit the family, not the other way around. Maybe your spouse, or your child, doesn’t want to be a trophy-person. 4) It’s all right to dream, but honor each other’s dreams, share them, and dream together.

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Humanity as a Partnership

Here are two more articles about Assertiveness in the Collaborative Relationship… from my book, Marriage Minutes, available at

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Marriage Minute # 28 Humanity is a Partnership

Someone commented to me that they had never heard me talk about co-dependency. They supposed that I didn’t really believe in it. That is not exactly true, because I have recommended Melody Beattie’s book, Codependency No More, many times. Also, I recognize the original meaning of the term as used by people in chemical dependency treatment. The term referred to the people in the life of the alcoholic or drug user who would lie, and excuse, and cover up for them when the usage would otherwise get them in trouble. It has come to mean anyone who puts aside the development of their own life and identity for the sake of keeping a relationship; a relationship that grows ever more one-sided. One of the humorous lines about co-dependency is the one about the co-dependent person who was on a falling elevator- and someone else’s life passed in front of their eyes. It is sort of like being the personal assistant for someone else’s personality.
But, my friend was right about my not using the term, and here is why I don’t. First, from the academic side, I don’t find the term defined very well in the literature. It doesn’t have a good basis in research. Since it can mean too many things I hesitate to talk about it with people. Second, since it can mean so many things, it is too easily placed as a label on almost everything. It is the answer that doesn’t answer anything.
But, here is the main reason. I fear that our popular culture with its popular psychology has done “Too Good” a job at treating this supposed disorder. The sacrifice has been replaced with selfishness. Here’s what I mean.
A person asks their spouse’s opinion, but their spouse refuses to give it, fearing that giving this information will keep their spouse from making their own decision. “But I am only asking for your thoughts as input.”, this person says. Then they hear, “You’re just being co-dependent.” What have we done with our ability to pass ideas back and forth?
Someone says, “Can you help me with this?” They hear something like, “No, I am learning not to be co-dependent.” This is further justified by a remark like, “It is time I looked out for myself.” Why do we have to be doing one or the other? Why not care for others and for ourselves, as well? Why not develop the social skill of being able to say either “yes” or “no” when appropriate, without having to be entrenched in self-protection.
Another person becomes a chronically angry spouse, using rage to gain illegitimate power and control. When their spouse doesn’t take on the same rage, this rational spouse is accused of being co-dependent. Then, if a wise friend tells the raging person that their rage isn’t getting them anywhere, and that they should stop the tantrum, the rage-aholic defends themselves by saying that they don’t want to be co-dependent.
In our self-centered age, kindness and caring for others have been relegated to the categories of “low self-image” and co-dependency. Personally, I want a humanity that is not what author Joyce Milton calls, “a one-man show.” While there is a sense of dependency to be avoided in life, there is also a sense of selfishness that may be even more dangerous.

Marriage Minute # 29 Taking Care of Myself

Ever hear someone in a marriage speak those famous words, “It’s time I took care of myself for a change. . . ”, and wonder what they meant? I have heard it from several clients over the years and when I ask what they mean, I have heard several different answers. This goes to show that you have to ask or you may never know what they mean. Now, before I talk about what they may mean by these words I have to ask another question. Why do we suppose that marriage means that we have to choose one way or another? How do we get to the point of lopsided marriages? Do we start out being lopsided when we believe some of the cultural myths of our day? These cultural myths start us out unbalanced when they say things like, “You have to really take care of your husband/wife and make them happy.” The myths are furthered by such words as, “take care of the male ego”, or “women are funny like that.” These myths reflect the reluctance in our culture to treat ourselves, and others, as individuals. These myths provide ways to avoid the good work of learning about who we really are.
Have you ever read about the top ten intimacy needs? David Ferguson, a great theorist in this field, has said that in his research there are ten needs that keep showing up. And, they show up in all people, male or female. Here is his list. These needs are: Acceptance, Security, Appreciation, Encouragement, Respect, Affection, Attention, Approval, Comfort, and Support. All people have most of these needs They will rank them differently from person to person, but they are the same needs. We won’t know unless we ask, and understand.
When a newly married couple starts out with an understanding of each other’s needs and has the commitment and skills to work toward fulfilling them, the lopsided relationship is avoided. (Of course, balance requires regular maintenance throughout the marriage.) Most marriages start without this preparation and find that adjustments must be made later. It is within this kind of marriage that we most often hear the words regarding “taking care of myself.” But, marriage doesn’t have to be lopsided.
Sometimes when a person says they need to take care of themselves, they are learning that their marriage has been lopsided, and are starting to express their own needs. Some people panic when they hear this because they believe that now someone else is going to be neglected. Some people fear that the family is going to suffer at the hands of a “new sheriff in town.” If the power is going to shift, everyone grabs for a more secure hold. The truth is that none of this power struggle has to happen. When “expression” is valued, and “understanding” is sought, then a loving family can learn a great lesson. With skill and commitment they can see that each person has the right to their legitimate needs, as well as the obligation to the needs of others. They can say, “I will reveal my needs and expect others to respect them, and I will understand your needs and will respect them.” This does not mean we can meet all expectations, especially those that go beyond reason. This does mean I care about me, I care about you, and I care about us.
The bride is not selfish, and neither is the groom, when they want to be in the wedding pictures. In like manner, the wife is not selfish, neither is the husband when they both want to be in the marriage picture.

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