The paper doll effect

In her infinite wisdom, my wife has discovered something that destroys relationships. She calls it the paper doll effect. It’s when we try to impose hurts and expectations, from previous relationships on our present relationships. Pretty impressive concept.

She has a friend that is in a dysfunctional relationship. They aren’t married, but constantly argue and fight, like they are. The friend has been through a tragic divorce. Her boyfriend has been through several. He wants to make her his future ex wife.

My wife doesn’t like him at all.

She explained, to him, that his problem is in refusing to accept any level of responsibility for those failed marriages. She pointed out, to him, that the common denominator to all the previous divorces was him. He doesn’t agree. He says he keeps connecting with crazy women and the problems were all with them.

Sure. Right. Ok. Makes perfect sense to me.

During these arguments, he constantly compares her to his mother or his ex wives. My wife told him, what he is doing. She said it was like he is treating her like a paper doll. He carries around a collection of cutout doll clothes, leftover disappointments and hurts from previous relationships. He is trying to make those clothes fit this doll. They don’t fit. They aren’t her. They weren’t made for her. She didn’t make them. None of those problems are her fault.

He has unrealistic expectations of relationships. He also has no sense of responsibility.

During our worst days, I did something similar. I began to assume that our problems were my wife’s fault. I began comparing her to my own mother. There seemed to be a lot of similarities. What I didn’t see, was the cause. I didn’t see that my own dad had done the same thing. He didn’t understand marriage. He made mistakes. He didn’t know how to meet her needs. He didn’t know how to be a great husband. They ended up divorced.

That pattern goes as far back in the family as we can track. It’s insane. But, it ends here. My dad understands, and is becoming a great husband. I understand, and I am teaching my own son how to treat women with respect.

Part of becoming a great husband, is in taking responsibility for your marriage. My experiences, with traditional Christian counseling, involved being told that I was the authority. I am the head of the house. My wife was told to submit to whatever goofy ideas I had. She was expected to be supportive of me and respect me, even when I was a jerk. She was expected to run through the proverbs 31 checklist and do everything.

There’s a better way.

I believe headship means becoming the source of life. It means taking that responsibility and helping her to heal from her past. Helping her to have a good life. Taking pressure and stress off of her. Not demanding submission. Not manipulating her into a servant. Not blaming her. Not forcing her into some mold that doesn’t fit. Drawing her to me, not putting her into her place. Love your wife. Be Christlike to her. She gets the good stuff before anyone else.

Joel and Kathy Davisson taught me the better way. They taught me what it means to love her like Christ loved the church. It is the better way. We have survived the impossible and have the marriage most folks dream of having. We went from divorce papers to truly being happy together again.

Guys, stop fitting your wife for things that aren’t hers. Women tend to respond to what we give them. If she isn’t happy, give her something better to respond to. Make the extra effort to prove your love for her. If you continue telling her she is just like someone you don’t like or respect, that’s how you will see her. Tell her she is wonderful and beautiful. Build her up. Encourage her. Just be good to her.

She’s not your mother. She’s not anyone else. She’s your wife. She needs you to be the best part of her life. Get rid of the old doll clothes. Stop looking for things you don’t like about her. Stop comparing her to others. See her as the amazing person you married.

Take the 21 day challenge and do this marriage thing the right way.

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