“I’d Leave My Wife Sitting There”: Michael Pearl’s “Pearls of Wisdom”

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HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Libby Anne’s blog Love Joy Feminism. It was originally published on Patheos on July 12, 2014.

So I recently came upon this video:

I transcribed it for you so you don’t have to watch it.

Debi: Hi, I’m Debi Pearl

Mike: And I’m the big boss Mike.

Debi: We’re here to day to read a question that came in in our mail and to answer it.

Oh goody, a letter! Are you ready?

Hi Mike,

I love my wife, but I find it hard to like her sometimes. Over the years she has gotten more and more competitive or at least I think of it as competitive. But this is an example of what she does. We’ll be in a restaurant and she sort of punishes the waitresses by not tipping them, if they do anything wrong at all. This embarrasses me. If the food is not exactly the way she wants it, she calls the manager out and complains and wants the meal free. She’s a good wife to me, but she is over assertive in many other areas. What should I do?

Talk to your wife. No really, talk to your wife about this.

Seriously, there is nothing in that letter to indicate that the guy has even tried telling his wife how her actions are making him feel. If I were in this situation—and who isn’t in a similar situation at some point?—I would let my wife know that the way she was acting in restaurants was embarrassing me. And then we could talk, and she could explain how she feels, and I could explain how I feel, and we could talk it out.

For instance, Sean used to do this self-deprecating thing about the state of our home. You know, this whole “it’s a bit of a mess, it usually is, sorry about that,” and such. Now first of all, he made our house out to be worse than it usually was. But more than that, because of the cultural idea that women are more responsible for the house cleaning, I knew that his deprecation in this area came back more on me than on him. It made me really uncomfortable and, yes, embarrassed. So guess what I did? I told him how I felt! And guess what? He stopped doing it! He hadn’t even realized how uncomfortable he was making me.

Now obviously, the situation in the letter isn’t completely identical. But still, if one spouse’s behavior is embarrassing the other, the two should talk it over. I mean, that’s kind of the first step. Now if this man’s wife continues to act this way in restaurants, he could tip the waitress on the sly, or he could stop eating out and just say he doesn’t want to go. And if one party doesn’t care about the other’s needs, or if they are fundamentally incompatible, it might be best to part ways. Or goodness, go to couple’s counseling if talking it out doesn’t work!

So now let’s turn to Michael’s advice.

Mike: I tell you what I’d do, I’d get up and walk out of the restaurant and leave my wife sitting there if she was asking in an embarrassing way, or when she treated the waiter or the manager unkindly I’d tip them twenty dollars and apologize in front of her for her actions. Sometimes people, you know, the way we all learn to be socially responsible is by being in social context and bouncing our actions off of other people. if we act in ways that are inappropriate and other people respond to it negatively, then we learn what the boundaries are socially. So I would become boundaries.

In other words I wouldn’t just sit there silently, I would speak my mind about it and try to curb that kind of action. It’s selfish, it’s not considerate of other people, it’s not loving, it’s not kind, it’s not generous, it’s not merciful, it’s not forgiving, it’s not the kind of things we as Christians are toward other people. It’s haughty, it’s arrogant, it’s elitist, it’s acting as if you are the one that matters and the establishment doesn’t, these are just human, these are just people. If you don’t like the cooking, just eat at home.

Shorter Michael Pearl: If your wife embarrasses you in a restaurant, embarrass her back.

But what I really can’t get over is that he goes on and on about how unkind and unloving the man’s wife is being by not tipping and by complaining to the manager, but he can’t see that apologizing for your wife’s actions to the manager, in front of your wife, might also be unkind and unloving.

And notice what he does not even think to suggest? Oh, I don’t know, talking it out privately. Is it really that hard for the man to go to his wife and tell her how embarrassed her actions make him feel?

Well, once Michael finished Debi weighed in as well:

Well I read all the letters the man wrote, some of the examples were on the line, I can see why the woman would think some of these things, but it wasn’t merciful. And how can a man curb his wife if he hasn’t got the kind of personality Mike has, if he’s a gentle, loving husband? You know, I don’t know how a man could do that that wouldn’t be aggressive like Mike except sit his wife down and say is this merciful, or maybe just have a bible study with his wife on mercy, and kindness, and gentleness. But a woman is supposed to be gentle first. And anyway, this is a hard thing for a man to go through.

Is it just me or did Debi just let it spill that Mike is not a gentle and loving husband? I mean I know she’s said things along these lines before, but this is so blatant!

Debi gets closer to saying that the two should talk it out than Michael does. Of course, she’s still seeing it in a dictating-type way, but that’s to be expected. I suppose, then, that in the Pearls’ world “aggressive” husbands are to publicly embarrass their wayward wives while “gentle, loving” husbands are to sit their wayward wives down and chide them.

It’s a pity the Pearls have to make things so complicated when a good, solid egalitarian marriage built on communication and compromise makes these things so simple.

2 comments

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    Shorter Michael Pearl: If your wife embarrasses you in a restaurant, embarrass her back.

    Sounds more like a tit-for-tat blood feud than a marriage.

  • This makes me so sad. When you type out the words that they say, it’s SO CLEAR how horribly insane this type of thinking is. Then I watched the video (painfully). I think it’s the emotional content (?) of the words, but somehow they do come off more well-intentioned in the video. Maybe their big followers who have seen their videos and see them speak get cult-brainwashed partly because of this factor? I don’t know. It’s so hard for me to understand how any woman would buy into this.

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