Coming out of “Complementarianism” and Becoming Equal

In my marriage, I believed that my husband held “final decision making authority” and that I was obligated to “submit to him in everything” Eph 5:24.  Mark Driscoll provides a good picture of what my marriage looked like (minute 13:03):

My husband ruled. My life involved supporting his dreams and taking care of our 8 children.  We moved around the world following his dreams, living in 25 places in 6 states and two foreign countries by the time we had been married for 20 years.  In many ways, I disappeared, lost my individuality and my voice.  I “laid down my life” and “died to myself” in a rather unhealthy manner thinking this was God’s will for a married Christian woman.

Oddly enough, a common thread between my marriage and the Driscoll marriage was the control over my hairstyle:

… my pregnant wife came home from a hair appointment with her previously long hair (that I loved) chopped off and replaced with a short mommish haircut. She asked what I thought, and could tell from the look on my face. She had put a mom’s need for convenience before being a wife. She wept. -Mark Driscoll (“Real Marriage”, page 11) source

One day around 2004, I talked to God telling Him “I am so weary and heavy laden!  This is not working for me.  WHY?  YOU promised that your yoke is easy and your burden is light and you will give me rest for my soul…”  This was the beginning of my journey out of complementarianism.

My husband hated me reading anything which he thought would undermine his “headship” (control).  To avoid altercations, I used to hide books and read them on the sly.  For anyone attempting to make this transition, I highly recommend Lundy Bancroft’s “Why Does he DO That?:  Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men” .

May seem trivial if you haven’t lived under the cloud of husband rule, but think about hairstyle choice as you read this excerpt (SOURCE):

Mark Driscoll criticizes egalitarian marriage using this illustration (minute 11:36):

But what if Mark Driscoll is wrong?  What if the above is really a much healthier marriage?  Tim Keller (another complementarian author) has a marriage book in which the marriage is pictured as an a-frame building- see Scot McKnight “Marriage as Covenant”.  At least in the “A-Frame” metaphor, the sides are equal.

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4 Responses to Coming out of “Complementarianism” and Becoming Equal

  1. krwordgazer says:

    I love this. I think the egalitarian diagram at the bottom works well, if you put the word “God” at the top, above both overlapping circles. This shows how in egalitarianism, wife, husband and children all have equal access to God. I think the very first diagram shows patriarchy– but many soft complementarians would disagree that the husband comes between the wife and God, and the wife and husband between the children and God. I think they’d see it more like this: both the wife’s and children’s circles touch the outside edge of the husband’s circle (in other words, they’re not in the center, but touching the edge), so that they also have direct access to God.

  2. iseetheglory says:


    As someone who holds to the complimentarian position, I would chart my marriage something like you describe the chart of a ‘soft complimentarian’. I definitely have access to God without going through my husband. In face, I don’t know if I ever go THROUGH my husband.

    Mark Driscoll’s chart, without listening to the explanation, which I probably wont cause it might make me angry before work – looks sick. If children only have access to God through their parents, what would be the point in Bible in Schools ministries? MD is against those ministries? Those ministries sow seeds in children’s lives in spite of their unbelieving parents. Or how could the wife of any unbeliever ever be born again if her husband is her only access to God? There would be no point telling her the good news! Sick and wrong – a distortion.

    I would catergorise this work (MD’s) as of the spirit of patriarchy which drips, drip, drips those little drops of demeaning, belittling, controlling, over bearing, patriarchal acid onto the skin of the church and women. I’m not trying to tear down his ministry as I don’t know much about it and what good he actually does but this chart drips of patriarchy.

    Plus he’s playing God if presupposes he knows what motivated his wife’s choice of hairstyle. The arrogance. 1 Samuel 16.7 tells me that he doesn’t have a clue what is going on in his wife’s world, but is looking at what effects him.

  3. razorbackmama says:

    I could have written much of this post. We have had very similar thoughts/experiences. I am a former comp who is married to one (at least in function). I started climbing out of the comp pit about 10 years ago, and my marriage still is suffering the effects. I also still don’t know who I am as a person since I gave up who I am to follow my husband’s dreams for so long.

  4. Charis says:

    Thank you for commenting. I needed to hear your voice today (come back Thursday and see why). May the Lord minister to you as you continue in the journey of healing and recovery!
    Love, Charis

    PS. See You may identify…

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