Discussion on Wife Training

The Geftakys Assembly was authoritarian on all levels. Virginia Fugate's book, "On the Other Side of the Garden", was recommended along with the Fugate's child training program. In 1989 things escalated to a harsher level when 'wife training' was introduced. After the Assembly imploded in 2003 there was discussion about it on the Assemblyboard.

A post on the TH in SoC blog by a former Assembly member, You Don't Bring Me Flowers (It's against Your Religion), gives an overall picture of the position of wives in the Assembly.

"Here's an example of wife training that I remember from my Assembly days: Sister J. invites me to stay for dinner after I spent the afternoon helping her with her chores. Leading Brother R. comes home, and is miffed that I was invited to dinner without his permission. We sit down for the meal, and R. immediately lights into J. "Did you mail that package I left for you?" he asks. J. replies, "No, love, I wasn't able to because..." He interrupts her before she can finish her sentence. "I said mail that package. I want you to mail it tomorrow morning. Is that understood?" "Yes, Amour". She begins to cough a little. R. goes berserk on her again. "Cover your mouth right now!" "Yes, love." (She covers her mouth, her eyes fixed on her husband). "Don't forget again!" Thankfully, the meal is over. I put on my coat to go home. R. goes into his bedroom, completely ignoring me (as he has during the entire meal!). J. looks at me apologetically, thanking me for my help. I walk home, thinking about the way R. treated his wife."

"What is this 'breaking your wife’s will' deal? I don’t know about other Assemblies, and tell me where this demented idea came from? The Bible clearly states that the marriage is a reflection of the godhead and its harmony. Three different identities, functions, equal in importance yet still existing as one. I’ve heard recent examples of a husband taught to 'cross his wife’s will' by switching up or changing situations so the wife can be accustomed to 'first time obedience'. Men were encouraged to 'be the man'. I’m all for men to be men, and not milk-sops, but Jack Nicolsons running around treating their wives like servants?? She’s a helper, not slave."

"Brothers in the Assembly were taught to exercise tyrannical control over their wives to the point of being literally abusive. I remember being in California at the home of a couple, I think the names were B. and V., and was flabbergasted at the way her ordered her to quit what she was doing and go get something he needed.

"It was unspeakably vulgar and disrespectful the way he said it. They were recently married and I could tell his poor wife was totally humiliated. She nevertheless obediently complied. It was evident that his sole purpose was to demonstrate to all present that he was large and in charge."

"I was single during my years in the Assembly. I never saw abuse, but I did see totally ridiculous things between married couples, things I even recognized at the time as weird.

"A couple pulls up in their car. The wife opens the door and says, "Honey, can I get out of the car?" Mmmm -- I don't know, can you? ***sarcasm***

"Another married woman explains this "funny" story about how she was in bed with her husband one night freezing because her husband wanted the window open. A normal woman would have either overriden her husband and closed the window or, if she didn't want to do that, gotten an extra blanket so she wouldn't be so cold. This woman did neither. She just lay there, freezing, and "trusted the Lord" that all this was somehow His will. Ha ha.

"I heard a lot, a lot of married sisters talking about "trusting the Lord" for their husbands. What they really meant is, he's an idiot and I am bravely putting up with him. Me, I talk to my husband and we tend to make decisions together. Novel idea.

"I remember a Couples' Meeting based on a talk by Danny and Kimber. They were set up as a model of how to give consequences to your wife when she doesn't perform the way you want her to.

"I remember driving on our second anniversary with my wife to go to breakfast. I was trying to hedge her into the standard (which was given to her by one of those helpful "training mothers") of telling our infant son to "come" ten times a day. For me, this would be a simple matter because I am very much a linear/checklist thinker. But I couldn't pin her down to doing this, and the conversation got tense. She felt I was badgering her, and I felt she was being rebellious by "muddying the waters" of the conversation. It accelerated to some sharp words, until L. got out of the car in anger and I found myself driving around the Knott's Berry Farm parking lot with Nathan in his car seat thinking to myself, "This technique isn't working well."

"I learned over the years that the issue was not her rebellion against the standard, but her feeling of being threatened and overwhelmed with people coming into our home and imposing their methods of child-rearing. L. and I both have our baggage and issues, but these things are better faced in an atmosphere of patience, example, forgiveness and encouragement. Years later, we have become more of a team and we know how to discuss and implement strategies for our kids in a way where neither mom or dad feel threatened. Both of us changed and grew in areas of weakness but the change never came about due to heavy-handed techniques."

"Josh" gave his wife obedience and submission exercises like telling her to walk down to the corner for no reason at all. "Jerry" demanded a month of daily sex as a training exercise for his wife. Another husband repeatedly threw his keys on the floor and told his wife to pick them up.

John Steinke, formerly from the Norfolk Assembly, had this reply to Tom's questions: 

"Mike Zach told me of a discussion he had with a husband about how to handle a wife who was not being submissive. Mike indicated that he would physically force his wife to do what she was refusing to do. The husband replied rather humorously, "What one should do if the wife is bigger than the husband?"

"In retrospect I find it rather interesting that Mike was giving this type of counsel. As I remember Mike’s testimony, he and Cheryl were on the verge of divorce at the time, with Mike searching for verses in the Bible to show Cheryl that she needed to be submissive to him. Some wise individual redirected Mike's efforts into searching what his own relationship was with God and led him to the Lord."

"My wife and I often have commented that very little was ever discussed about how men are to treat their wives. The man’s command to “love his wife as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it” is a tall command. This is a far cry from the “wife training” espoused by the Assembly.

A single woman observed how the Assembly teaching on marriage affected a friend. "One of the Huntington Beach brothers who I greatly admired had a walk with the Lord that was very vibrant. It was genuine, not the phoniness of the Assembly. After he got married, he and his bride lived in a Leading Brother's house. The wife told me that when they first got married, he treated her kindly and in a relaxed manner. After a year or so of indoctrination he became convinced that she was totally inferior to him. He was totally brainwashed. He had embraced the Assembly ideas as completely as he had once accepted Jesus. I thought it was very sad."

Flora recounts how the teaching on marriage in the Ottawa Bible study changed when, after almost ten years, it came under the direct influence of Mike Zach and George.

During all the years that I was in the Ottawa Assembly, I was a single sister. In 1985, the Ottawa Assembly came under the direct Geftakys/Zach influence. Prior to that time, I had never heard of “wife training”. In ministry the husband’s need to love his wife as Christ loved the church was greatly emphasized. The wife’s need to submit was mentioned, but not emphasized. The greater emphasis was definitely on the husband demonstrating self sacrificial love to his wife, loving her to the extent that he would be willing to die for her.

However, after the Ottawa Assembly came under the direct Geftakys/Zach influence in 1985, this became reversed. The husband’s need to demonstrate self-sacrificial love was mentioned, but no longer emphasized. Now the greater emphasis became the wife’s need to “obey” her husband. They made the words “submit” and “obey” interchangeable. Although these two words mean different things, in reference to the wife’s response to her husband, the words were presented as meaning the same thing.

To understand the meaning of “wife-training”, you need to understand how the consequence system works in the Assembly. Whether it is child training, the training of brothers or sisters in special training houses, or wife training, the consequence system works the same. A consequence is given to correct an unacceptable attitude or behaviour. The thinking went like this: “I love you too much to let this attitude or behaviour continue. In love, I am going to stand for God’s interests in your life. Since both of us want what is best for your eternal good, I am going to work with you to help you change your attitude or behaviour. So every time I notice that attitude or behaviour, I am going to give you a consequence. Remember, I am doing this because I love you.”

The consequence is repeated each and every time the unacceptable attitude or behaviour is noticed. If the given consequence is not producing the desired results of correcting or changing the unacceptable attitude or behaviour, then the consequence is escalated. The consequence will continue to escalate until the desired results of a changed attitude or behaviour are achieved. In wife training, if the husband deeply loves his wife, the consequence is often tempered with compassion and understanding. However, it is obvious to see how an abusive person could use the consequence system to increasingly become more abusive.

Wives that I talked to didn’t view consequences as an act of demonstration of her husband’s love. Although, a few weeks after the fact, the wives usually had the attitude that it was done for their eternal good, so it was tough love in action.

As a spectator, I viewed “wife training” as demeaning, as I recognized that this reduced the wife’s status to that of an older child. The wife was no longer viewed as an equal partner with her husband. I challenged the teaching of “wife training” and stated that if a wife was to be given consequences for not “obeying” then the husband should also be given consequences for not doing things, as well. I was told that that was for each couple to decide. My challenging attitude was viewed as rebellious, as an unwillingness to be trained in God’s ways, and as not wanting God’s best for my life.

I decided that I would probably never marry; because the one thing worse than being single, was being in an abusive, controlling marriage. I knew myself well enough to know that if I married under these conditions, my marriage would end in divorce.

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