What I Would Tell My Younger Complementarian Self (by Dianne Tant)

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My parents and grandparents had a complementarian marriage, as most did in the beginning of the 20th century.

I got married in 1968. We had a lovely Catholic ceremony. We met on a “blind date;” needless to say, we did not know each other well at all. We were both in college. He was studying to be an environmental (civil) engineer; me, drama and art. Could we be a little bit “different?” YES – but in love!

I was a little bit “hippy” and he was “conservative”. No conflict there, right?

All we had ever had “modeled” for us was complementarian marriage. Everybody I knew had this style of marriage. I was taught in church (in the south) that this is the “only biblical way.” I worked really hard at trying to be the “perfect” wife. 

Being a good wife was to stay at home, raise great kids, clean the house, cook well, go to church, etc. (I dropped out of college to get a job to help hubby finish school -he was going to earn the most money anyway). Well, I did not come to know Christ personally until I already had 3 kids! So, that began my education into what a conservative, biblical wife was to be. Prior to that I was a good catholic wife and mother.

Looking back, I see some of the feelings I had over the years that kind of held me back from things I would have liked to pursue.

Let me say here that being a Mom of 4 was wonderful and I wanted that very much; I just kind of lost “me” in the process. Motherhood is a sacrifice that I was happy to make. I enjoyed being a mom and I was a good Mom.

We left the Catholic Church for the Presbyterian Church (started in PCUS and then moved to the PCA)

As the years went by, I began to feel suppressed, oppressed, ashamed, guilty, and uneducated when I would consider my personal value and my personal accomplishments.

Of course my husband never knew this, because our “communication” was not very strong. I was taught to just take care of his every need and leave him alone to do his thing. It was all about the man/husband.

I think if I had expressed these feelings, he would have been sympathetic; but up to a point, he was raised the same as me. As you can see my “self worth” was low at that point.

As my children grew older, I thought more and more about why I could not have a “career” or a “passion” in my life. What have I accomplished? What do I want to accomplish? At this point along the way we decided to home-school our children.

I loved it, but it was a big sacrifice and you should “count the cost” because it takes a lot of YOU. Hubby had to go to work of course (somebody had to earn a living), so I did school with the 4 kids. By the way, they all turned out great! I now have 12 wonderful grandchildren.

Truthfully, the Church did not help me much. When I was a new Christian in my 30’s, I was mentored by a friend who taught me all about “submission.” I really did NOT like this term, but hey, I’d already been doing it for years!

The part about men being submissive to Christ as much as women being submissive to men was down played and I never understood it. But I “went along to get along.”

I was “submissive,” but resentful all the time, and the resentment just built up more and more over the years.

When I see young couples today “sharing the load” of life and parenting, I am amazed and jealous. Why did I not work to get that? Because I never saw it modeled for me, even after coming into the church.

So, now I would tell my younger self to “speak up!” Take care of yourself, work on improvement in your own way. Expect more communication and don’t give up (I also highly recommend “counselling” even if it is only you who go).

I would tell my younger self to try to have a “back up plan” if you ever have to take care of yourself alone. Many women in my generation become widows (or divorced) and do not know how to take care of themselves financially or otherwise.

I would also tell myself to teach younger women to value themselves and their abilities.

And I might just push back a little on that way my churches taught that “submission” thing (actually I am now pushing back A LOT, and the men/pastors do not like it).

I do not and never will regret having raised and educated and loved my children as I did. I just think I would have been a better mother/wife if I had valued myself more.

So, I am trying to do that now. I am an Artist (late blooming) and I am trying to do meaningful things in the latter part of my life. I am still in church, but I do not take “everything the men do” as gospel…ha.

I am also still happily married (47 years) to my sweet, kind, engineer husband….but I still struggle with these same feelings.

I think I am, however, on the road to a new “me” – a better me! Better for me and my husband.

“I do not wish women to have power over men; but over themselves” -Mary Shelley

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Dianne Tant is a good ole “Southern” Christian woman (but not a “belle”…more of a crazy, hippie “redneck woman”). She is an artist, mother, wife, and grandmother of 12. Dianne came to know Jesus at 30 years old and is active in the Presbyterian (PCA) Church. Dianne has been married to her sweetheart for 47 years and they are still in love. 

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5 Comments

  • Wow, very powerful account of this woman’s life story. I can relate on so many levels, especially when she talked about caring for her children as I also felt a strong sense of obligation to do the same. The last quote really hit home for me, because I was taught to believe that my purpose in life was to serve men, and something inside me always told me that there was more to life than deferring to our men like idols, yet not doing so implicated that I would want to have power over them, when my focus really should’ve been to have power over myself. This belief system of “submission” was widespread in my community, and I saw that it only led to abuse, so I, too, grew to detest that word. It seemed like every church group I joined made it their mission to ensure that I had a clear understanding of where I stood in the hierarchy of things without making the man accountable for his role in Christ’s submission, so I severed ties with the Catholic church, then broke away from a cultish religion. I’ve been wandering in the wilderness for a long time, but I felt that I found a relationship with God, alone by myself, without men legislating my place in the world. And that’s exactly where I choose to be. Very good post. I really enjoyed it.

  • Thank you Dianne for sharing your story. When I deeply think about it, complementarianism is just plain MEAN to women. When I was growing up it was taught as the only way as well, but I felt in my spirit that something was not right. The men at my church were so arrogant and proud. The women seemed self righteous but really sad, lost, and deflated. I’m in my early/mid 30s now, and I am thankful that God has shown me a better way. I pray that you don’t live in regret. May your later be greater than your past. May you be all that you are meant to be. May the seeds of your visions come to full bloom. Blessings to you in Jesus’ name!

  • I can relate to every word in this article. I was (or the church was I should say) placing an undue burden on my husband who was not complementarian by nature, but wanted me to join him not be under him or over him.

    • thank you all for listening to me. I am on a new “journey” even at 68 yrs old. and my sweet hubby may not understand it all, but he is all for me…loves me….just wish I had known a lot of this 40 yrs ago.

      • Great article. Keep pushing, learning and sharing. The younger gen need more of this willingness to be transparent and let them know that WE were wrong while trying to navigate in our most important relationship. As I learn differently my children. Tare the first to hear my new insight. and truth from me. Your article reminded it is better to wake up late than not at all.” Fear less and Love more…..

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