This Thursday will be ten years since one naïve little lady (and a not as naïve young man) walked the aisle and became husband and wife. ~smile~ Ten years brings a lot of change and many life lessons. Below are just a few truths I have discovered since becoming a wife.
- It’s All About R-E-S-P-E-C-T. As a single woman, it used to bug me so much to see women disrespect, emasculate, and disregard their husbands. It especially bugged me when they alluded to being the boss of the family. I hated (and continue to hate) commercials that make women look smart and strong while painting men to be bloomin’ idiots. Still, these “female power” messages affected me more than I realized. Though I hated blatant disrespect of men, I found myself feeling entitled to certain “feminine” perks. I was supposed to be smarter than him. I was supposed to be a better multitasker. I was supposed to be able to manipulate my man. Just let Eric tell me I had to do something or insinuate that he was in charge and see how much respect flowed out of me. It took marriage for me to understand that respect is the correct way to treat a husband, but not always the easy or natural way to behave. However, over the years it has become undeniable that men need respect from their ladies. We can love and hug on them all we want, but if we do not respect them, it destroys relational and emotional intimacy with us at their core. Eric is the type of man who will speak up and say, “That sounded disrespectful” or “I feel disrespected,” but not all men will speak so bluntly. Many will endure it, not fully realizing why they are struggling to love their wives, and the relationship will eventually implode or decay. Respecting an imperfect man isn’t easy. Respecting an imperfect man who is not always loving is especially challenging; but, respecting our husbands is what God calls us to do – and health and growth will not come to your marriage if you choose to show respect only when it is earned (just as little health and growth would come to your marriage if he only chose to love you when you were behaving in a purely loveable manner).
- My Attitude Matters. For women who think they yield no power in the relationship if they unconditionally respect their husbands, I am here to tell you: you have great power. If you greet your man in the evening after his/your day of work with a pleasant demeanor and choose to be gentle, you will bring peace to your household. Even if your man seems to be in a grouchy mood all night, your peaceable spirit will create a calming tone. However, if you greet your husband at the end of the day in a grumpy mood, unload a laundry list of complaints, or nag him into the evening, there is no doubt you will affect his mood. Women set the aroma of the home. Think of cookies baking versus cookies burning. One brings comfort and pleasure; the other repels us. Even though I feel comfortable enough with Eric to have a bad attitude, I cannot deny that it creates an emotional stench in our home and clothes Eric in a dark cloud. And my bad mood will pass, but the “burnt cookie fragrance” lingers longer.
- It is an Honor to Help Him. “How exciting it is to think of being someone’s wife. Oh, the many sensational accomplishments we’ll achieve together. The first load of laundry I get to do for my sweet hubby. The children we’ll raise. The comforts I’ll bring to him after a long day of work.” Fast-forward a few years… that excitement often turns to “Seriously, you’re hungry again? Didn’t I just wash your work shirts? You hear the kids screaming, can you not help? You know, I’m not sure I give a rip about your hopes and dreams anymore. I’m exhausted and lonely and you don’t seem to notice or care.” Marriage is relentless giving; and, the marriages that thrive are the ones which continually put the other’s needs first – each being constantly filled. Seasons come when one spouse does more giving than the other – and that is normal; but, the exceptional marriages start with an incredible love for God, and a continual, lifetime devotion to each other. Some days I do not want to give. Many days, I feel emotionally tired and do not want to help Eric accomplish his goals. Still, when I am sober-minded and I consider the role God has given me as Eric’s wife, I realize it is an honor to be a helpmate to him. His life’s work matters; our life’s work matters. He could have chosen someone else to journey through life with him, but he chose me. The giving and helping, even when I’m tired, is a privilege I don’t take lightly.
- Sometimes Submission is No Fun. I do not like to submit, most of the time. Sometimes it can be quite convenient; but, other times, the thought of submitting to his God-given leadership is unattractive to me. This is no surprise considering the fall of man in Genesis. Consider Genesis 3:16: “To the woman he said, ‘I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.’” This is not a sexual desire or a warm, fuzzy desire to cuddle; instead, it is an overpowering desire. Her desire will be for his role and position. She will want and does want to be in charge – it is true. Even the sweetest, gentlest woman, in the core of her sinful self, desires her own way. We see women everywhere go to great lengths to acquire power – flirtation, manipulation, emasculation, and plain ol’ rebellion. Ultimately, it really is a blessing to have the covering of a husband. I am thankful for the protection. Still, submission being difficult (not submission itself) is a part of the curse of the fall of man. It can be a beautiful part of a marriage, but when you are struggling with it somewhere down the road (or currently), remember: you are normal. I do not think God intends submission to always be a hoot. ~smile~ Thankfully, God uses marriage to sanctify us and make us more like Christ. I am so glad our lives hold an eternal purpose which runs deeper than our fleeting, finite, earthly gratification.
- Lack of Goals in a Relationship Leads to Deep Ruts. Stagnant water stinks, diseases grow, and it loses its life-sustaining power. Flowing water remains fresh and healthy. The same is true of relationships. A couple who is constantly looking for ways to grow and better themselves runs little risk of falling into rut. However, those who just live without a plan or desiring to improve will ultimately find themselves struggling. Humans and families are meant to by dynamic – moving and changing. When we fight change and refuse to open up to anything new, frightening, or risky we grow stagnant and bring staleness and sickness to our spirits and relationships. No child of God will be able to stay exactly the same and still grow to be more like Christ. It is a complete impossibility. Creating and completing goals together is an invaluable bonding experience for couples. Having no goals in common, or no goals at all, never leads to a healthy relationship.
- Letting it Go and Sweeping it Under the Rug Can Appear Dangerously Similar. Saying “It’s okay,” but continuing to carry anger about a situation is not letting it go. Eventually, those issues pile up under the rug and trip you. When you say “It’s okay, I forgive you,” you need release him or her from the debt of owing you something for that transgression. If something is not okay, do not just quickly say that it is; instead, take some time to think it over and then discuss it calmly with your sweetie. Sometimes feeling heard is all it takes to let something go. And, sometimes we have to ask God for the grace to forgive an offense (and, perhaps, it really is often that we have to ask Him repeatedly for His grace to fill us).
- I Can’t Love Him – Not On My Own. To love Eric the way God desires me to love him must come from a deeper well. On my own, I only have a puddle. God, by His great love, pours love into me so I can pour it out on Eric and others. When I neglect my relationship with God, all other relationships suffer. We cannot truly love others if we do not first love God. Eventually, my well runs dry; but, if I drink daily from the fount of everlasting water (ref: John 4:14), I will always have love to pour out onto the family with which God has entrusted to me.
I am excited to see what the next ten years will bring us. I am also a little nervous about the lessons which remain to be learned. But, hopefully I will be a more willing student during the next decade of our relationship. This decade flew by like a bullet. I am planning to slow down and savor the next ten years, to find the good in the uncomfortable times, and to make each year count.
What lessons have you already learned that will make your first ten years of marriage less stressful?
How will you be sure to make your first decade of marriage count?
How will you apply these lessons into your future marriage?