We’ve all probably heard it before.
You’re sitting around casually with friends, maybe a delicious beverage in your hand and something savory to eat – this is how these things tend to go. Just laughing and gabbing the evening away.
The topic might turn to your husbands. One of you might lament about how he forgets to take out the trash, or another about how he doesn’t remember write down the phone messages properly. Maybe the conversation turns to topics even more serious than that. Deep-seeded issues, long-neglected and unresolved. But instead of these conversations becoming uplifting or staying light-hearted, they turn into a massacre. The victim? Usually our husband’s character.
If you find yourself around a lot of other ladies who are married, some for a lot longer than you, you may begin to hear the following statements:
“Just give it time, he’ll learn.”
“You just need to train him better.”
“Tell him what you need and what you want so that he can do it.”
“Make YOUR expectations clear.”
Most of that advice is not inherently bad advice. Expressing your needs and desires in a relationship isn’t wrong necessarily, on the contrary it’s actually necessary at times.The attitude and state of the heart attached to the person or people dispensing that advice, however, is what is telling.
I believe that marital advice should be challenging. Very rarely is one party completely wrong and the other completely right during a disagreement. In fact, I’ll venture out on a limb and say that’s hardly ever the case, barring extreme circumstances. Yes, sometimes you vent because it really is just about the can opener (an Everybody Loves Raymond reference, if you’re interested.) There is nothing wrong with finding trustworthy confidants to talk about how you’re feeling. Community really can, and does, serve to make us stronger.
But, if you’re genuinely seeking advice about your union, it should be from a friend whom you can trust be to “salty.” She’ll be honest, understanding, genuine and truthful. She may even tell you things you don’t want to hear. You may want to smack her when you’re done talking (please, don’t.) What you really ought to do is give her a hug because perhaps she’s showed you how to spare yourself some heart ache in the long run.
If only we as wives could see the unique position that we find ourselves in when it comes to how we counsel our friends. Far too often, the advice that I am given or that I hear given to other wives sounds more like we should view our husbands as pet projects instead of the leaders in our households. The conversation gets mired in the trenches when the subject turns to how a wife can bend their husband to their will with some simple “training.”
Talk of training your husband is downright wrong. Here, I’ll show you why.
Imagine your husband at work, cup of coffee in his hand, lamenting to his coworkers about how his wife just can’t seem to keep the house organized and caught up on the laundry. Maybe he talks about his own needs and desires that aren’t being met. And then, picture his male coworkers giving your husband advice that sounds like this.
“Just give her time. You’ll get her trained. Then she’ll give you just what you want.”
First of all, creeper alert. Men advising other men on how to train and ultimately be emotionally manipulative toward their wives? Super big ick factor. Yet, how many times do you think this conversation happens amongst women? We miss instances in marriage that could be used towards bettering ones self and relationship and ultimately simplify into, “He just needs to do what you need him to do.”
I don’t know about most women, but first of all, can I tell you how un-simple that task would be for me? Just molding my husband so that I can fit him into whatever parameters I need him to fit like it ain’t nothing but a thang? Yea, right. Because I’m dealing with a grown up. A breathing, living, thoughtful and distinct person. So the idea of chicken-pecking him into a corner? Yea, right.
And why would I want to? Some of the things I love most about my husband is his sense of independence and his maturity. I admire all of those qualities in him, his ability to follow his heart and his incredible sense of wisdom. I can’t say that I love all of those things about him while seeking to undermine him at every turn.
(It may make you uncomfortable for me to refer to my husband as my leader. That’s a post for another time. But if you’ve been reading my blog long enough, you’ll see that any delusion you may have of me as brow beaten or demeaned because I referred to him as our home’s leader is wrong. Anybody who personally knows me, or him, knows that’s wrong. And, believe it or not, there are many functioning families who are happily living this way. But, I understand that that’s being completely counter cultural with the times we live in. Like I said, a post for another time.)
Regardless, perhaps your union functions differently. Maybe it’s a 50/50 type deal. That’s totally fine. However, even you can admit that the efforts of one spouse to mold the other spouse into exactly what they want them to be is rooted in selfish desires rather than any motivation to actually improve the relationship.
In a truly equal union, these kinds of changes can happen even organically. I am not the same person my husband married. Hopefully, I am an exponentially better wife and person than I was on the day we said “I Do.” Rob drives me to be better for our marriage, for our children and better even in my own endeavors. Blogging? He tells me to keep going. Photography? He bought me a swanky camera. My gumption to do both has waned at times. He says keep going. This all stems from Rob’s support, love and care for me.
Other times, they are changes that come from an honest dialogue between two people who love each other. Sometimes, that dialogue isn’t pretty. But ultimately, it needs to happen. At least it’s honest and genuine and borne from a desire to improve the relationship rather than control our mate.
I am not saying this as a wife who has gotten it right every time. Rob can tell you differently. Very differently.
Almost equally important, if your husband is so brow beaten because nothing he does is ever right because you’ve raised some arbitrary bar so high, and have personally determined that his goal in life should be to appease you, how will he ever feel an encouragement to change? If he doesn’t think you believe in him, then he’s already lost.
None of this means that I don’t express my needs to my husband. This doesn’t mean that if he leaves his underwear on the floor in the bathroom or if he never puts his dirty dishes in the dishwasher (!!!!) that I’d be better served in never saying anything. This also doesn’t mean that if there are genuine issues in our relationship that I don’t talk about it with him and that we don’t seek ways to compromise, and love each other through it.
If we look at a picture of society today through the lens of pop culture, we will see a message contradictory to all of this. Literally. In most movies and on most television shows, the wife is the poor, put-upon spouse. Sighing, eye rolling, name calling – it’s all justified. Why? Because on the other hand the husband is hapless, sex-driven and shirks any responsibility that he possibly can. He’d rather golf or watch the game. Typically, the wife runs the household. But it isn’t like she often has much choice in the matter – though the control doesn’t seem to be much skin off of her back. The husband is practically helpless, it’s actually amazing that he can even button his pants. And it’s a miracle if the wife makes it through the entire duration of the film or show without yelling. But that’s acceptable, right?
What if the roles were reversed to the extremes with which we see them today? What if the wife were hapless and her husband had to practically spell out everything for her? Feminists would take to the streets and news airwaves with bullhorns and red faces until that show was cancelled. Heck, even I might be a little bit mad.
Because that’s not okay.
So, why is it okay to even remotely do this to our husbands?
The answer is that it’s not, but for some reason, when it comes to how women sometimes tend to treat their husband, they have been given some imaginary free pass that allows them to not have to worry much about being careful with them. And if the men can’t handle it, then it’s a problem with them not being man enough to handle a “strong woman.”
I say this is more of a problem with us women not being humble enough.
I’m married to an incredible man. And sometimes, he is perceptive enough to be swayed even by my actions alone. The Bible tells us that men can be won over without even a word from the woman:
1st Peter 3: 1-4
Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word,
they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives,
2 when they see your respectful and pure conduct. 3 Do not let your adorning be external—
the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—
4 but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit,
which in God’s sight is very precious.
Again, I know that this passage has some no-no words for the modern world and the modern woman. I should have probably included a trigger warning before sharing that, but oh well.
Contrary to what you might gather initially from reading this, it doesn’t mean that we as wives don’t speak up, it simply means that we live out our wedding vows every day in what we do, not always just with what we say, and not always under the terms and conditions that our needs must first be satisfied before we do. It means that if our husbands are lost in their way, that we hold such influence over them that by carrying on with our lives and our daily missions and still loving them, that they can be won back without us even having to compose a dissertation on why they’re missing the mark.
That for me is a big Biblical “whoa” moment.
So, hopefully the next time you are either confronted with poor advice, or the chance to improve your marriage, you will choose to seek wise counsel. Or, if you’re presented with the opportunity, you’ll be that person who can be wise counsel.
Your marriage, and more importantly, your husband is worth it.
This is part one in a two-part post on husbands and wives. Look for a response to the husbands in the next few days.