Sunday, November 28, 2010
I feel it is necessary to point out that I am not an expert. I have 19 hours until I finish a Bachelor's degree in psychology. So while I am not an expert, I am a woman who God has blessed richly with a wonderful husband and some very good examples of good marriages and some not so good marriages.
Growing up I have had the wonderful privilege of seeing some examples of good marriages in my family. My aunts and uncles have offered insight into good marriages, some so so marriages, and some friends of my mom's offered insight into so not stellar marriages that are still going on now. Even now I have friends is similar marriages to my own, some are in the middle of some bumps in the road and some are doing pretty well.
Interestingly enough, Chris and I have found that the tougher the circumstances the closer we seem to become to each other. It makes us lean wholly on God and on each other. As time goes on and as I approach 10 yrs of marriage in January, I also find that those who are new to the marriage game, or even some who have similar lengths we tend to talk a lot about what is a good wife and how do you respect your husband even when the choices they make at the time are not so wonderful.
I thought it was important to find out what the Bible had to say about wives and their roles and the different types of wives out there even today. Proverbs had quite a bit to say about a good wife AND a not so good wife. Proverbs 18:22 says, "He who finds a wife find what is good and receives favor from God." However, in Proverbs 19: 13-14 ". . .a quarrelsome wife is like a constant dripping. Houses and wealth are inherited from parents but a prudent wife is from God." The last part of Proverbs in chapter 31 says this though when describing the characteristics of a noble wife: "A noble wife is worth far more than rubies; her husband has full confidence in her; brings him good- not harm and takes good care of him and her family (her family with her husband) often rising before the sun to be sure her family has bread and food to eat; she is prudent and her husband is respected at the city gate and is able to take a seat with the elders; she opens her arms to the needy and the poor; she is clothed in strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come; she speaks with wisdom and faithful instruction on her tongue; she isn't idle - watches over the affairs of her household (she knows what is going on in her house) and she fears the Lord" (paraphrased from the Life Application Study Bible). And we are all familiar with Ephesians 5:22-33 and 1 Peter 3:1-7 which talk about the importance of husband and wives roles in marriage.
Both sections discuss how a wife is to submit to her husband - and while I know there have been many a man who has taken that verse and used it browbeat his wife, I have also seen good examples of men who love their wives as instructed in these verses as well. They are love their wives as Christ loves the church and care for their spiritual health as well as physical and emotional health. So I ask this, if you have a husband who you know only wants the best for you, as God only wants good for you, then how can you not submit to that man? It makes it easy. I think the best summary though for how we should live as husband and wife comes from Jesus and the Golden Rule . . . "treat others the way you want to be treated."
If you are in a marriage where you don't feel you are valued or appreciated, then try valuing and appreciating your partner. If you want your husband to be more loving and affectionate, show him by example: While this might not change things overnight, I have found that if I lead by example after a period of time, Chris begins to show me the same courtesy and respect I ask of him. While Chris is the head of our house, I am the heart. I am also the pragmatist where he is the dreamer. I am the one who allows him the luxury of his dreams, while holding on firmly to his ankle and bringing him gently back to earth and help him see all the different possibilities of what can or cannot be done.
I had a friend who asked me how do you respect your husband when he isn't making good choices? Surely he isn't making all bad choices. I say take it to God in prayer. If need be read The Power of the Praying Wife by Stormie O'Martin. I also ask you to read Ephesians 5:22-33; verse 33 ends with ". . .the wife must respect her husband." Not only is it important for you, but it is also important for him.
In ten years of marriage there are a few things I have learned, some the hard way, some by reading, some from other friends, or Aunt Nina or older women in church and so here are a few things that I think it is important to know about our job as a wife.
1. Be sure you both tell each other you love each other everyday. There are several reasons why this is important. First, it keeps that flame going, even when it is only a small glimmer, because not everyone feels in love every day of every week of every year. We are human and it just doesn't work that way. Second, it reminds you to work on those feelings and on your marriage. Third, It is important to your children to see that you are both working on it. Remember I talked about leading by example, this is often one of those times where you will have to start it and let him slowly follow your lead.
2. Be sure you touch (in a non-sexual way) several times a day. Whether it is as simple as holding hands or sitting next to each other on the couch or putting your hand on an arm, this keeps that connection strong. Intimacy isn't just about sex, it is about connecting with your spouse on a heart level as well as a physical level. I have several friends who notice that they are always touching even at night when they sleep. I thought about it and realized Chris and I are always touching even in our sleep as well. Sometimes, it's our tooshies, sometimes it's as simple as falling asleep holding hands, or spooning, sometimes it is our feet that touch (I have cold feet and he is a lovely furnace that I use to keep my feet warm. :D). It helps that connection - even when you are angry with each other, make sure you touch, although please do not touch in an angry or violent way, be sure it is loving. Because even when you may not like your partner, you still love them and it will help you resolve to work towards a solution more often than not.
3. Tell your spouse how proud you are of him. Don't just say it, have reasons to back it up. Chris comes from an abusive childhood and he works exceptionally hard to break that cycle of violence and to not repeat the mistakes of his dad. I am very proud of him for this. I also try at least once a day to tell him how much I love him, but also how proud of him I am for working so hard to create a relationship with our daughters. I am proud of him for realizing the world doesn't revolve around him. These are just a few examples of things I do, but you will need to find what works for you. I found that as I told him how proud I was of him and bragged about him in public to my friends and fellow believers it made him want to meet that bar and so as he met the goals I would raise the bar a bit higher and he has risen to the challenge very well. The good works God has performed on his heart and soul are nothing short of wonderful and amazing and I am so proud of him as a man who is willing to listen to what God wants for his life.
I know there are some of you who are in situations that are not like my marriage. So please let me encourage you - please go borrow, or purchase (there are second hand bookstores) the book The Power of the Praying Wife. It will change you and it will change him. It won't happen overnight, but when you give your husband and family over to God, it's amazing the things He does.
5. Romance your marriage. I read a great book 101 Ways to Romance Your Marriage. It is a small book, and it is written for him and her. It talks about ideas of ways you romance your marriage for men and women. This is truly a good example of putting into your marriage what you want out of it. Romance is important. Let me say that again ROMANCE IS IMPORTANT! I cannot stress that enough. It is doing little things, like cooking our husband's favorite meal, or going the extra mile for him that we show him our love. Ideas in this book range from decorating your bedroom to his likes (if you don't do this often) to fulfilling a secret fantasy (one woman dressed up as a Geisha after researching her husband's love of Japanese culture and surprised him). There are countless ideas and wonderful poems in this book to help you out.
6. As a wife and mother we are the emotional barometer for our house. We've all heard the saying, "When Momma ain't happy, then no body's happy." This is very true. My friends and I have noticed when we have a bad day our families tend to have a bad day either that same day or the day after. We have many roles we play. We are often a cheerleader, a therapist, a support system and many other things for our families. While I have friends who need to work to be better mom's, for me, the most important job I have is to be home and provide a calm, stable environment for our daughters - especially for Sarah whose life was filled with turmoil and upheaval while living with her mom. This is also important for Elizabeth whose Autism Spectrum Disorder requires that I be available if everything goes nuts at school for her. I am not saying a working mom isn't a good mom, I only know what I need for me. My friend, Lisa though - she needs to work so she can be a good mom, she requires a mental challenge of going to work to help her feel satisfied, thus enabling her to be a good mom when she is at home.
7. You need to be supportive and uplifting to your husband. Just as a woman needs a good bra (okay some of us need a good bra), a man needs a woman who is supportive and her lifts him up. When Chris was thinking about going into the Reserves, he had some terrible issues occurring at work for him. It was severely eroding his sense of self-worth. I hated the idea of raising Elizabeth alone (Sarah still lived with her mom at the time), but I also knew the Army saw his leadership skills and knew how valuable he could be to them. So after prayer and thinking it over, I told him I would back him in signing up for the Reserves.
8. You must love your husband with a 1 Corinthians 13 kind of love. 1 Corinthians 13 is the love chapter - it actually covers several things, but the one it is most known for is its description of what Love is and what it means. "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast; it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always perseveres. Love never fails" (1 Corinthians 13:4-8 The Life Application Study Bible). I know it is difficult, and while I assure you I think men should love their wives the same way I am speaking to wives and women everywhere today. This love is the love that comes from Christ himself. Just as God's love for us comes without conditions, without strings attached - He doesn't promise to love us if we do what he wants us. He loves us even when we make poor choices and sees us through it all.
There are some of you reading this, who did not have a good example of a Father's love. Maybe your dad was abusive or absent. God is not abusive and he is not absent and he knows that you struggle to understand the idea of God as a Loving Father. I also know you struggle with the idea of unconditional love or love that comes with no strings. Love keeps no records of wrongs, it does not rejoice when evil happens. Love and loving someone means you want what is best for the person you love, even if it hurts you at the time. In today's world, I realize that idea is foreign and strange, but true love does not hurt you. It protects you, it wants what is best for you, and it perseveres.
7. Sometimes you just have to dig your heels in and refuse to quit. Every marriage has rough spots. Even my aunts and uncles have had rough patches (Dad died 10 yrs into marriage with my mom, so aunts and uncles are my main examples and older married couples in church). There comes a point in every marriage where you have to decide whether this is something you want to fight for. Several years ago we had something happen in our marriage. A woman we thought was a friend developed feelings for Chris and I naively thought I was imagining it, until I walked into a restaurant to meet Chris and found her making a play for him. It was completely one sided, but it also opened our eyes to how much we needed to safeguard our marriage. It also caused me to wonder if being married was what I wanted. I spent several days in prayer about what to do. I would love to tell you that my choice was completely because I was following God's will for our marriage, but there was a part of me that decided I wouldn't leave because I wasn't about to give this person what they wanted, even though Chris would never have wanted her that way. What can I say, I'm incredibly stubborn at times. However, making that choice also meant we had to sit down and have a talk about the dynamics of our marriages and what I didn't like and would like to see change.
8. Prioritize: You need to realize that when it comes to multitasking, we are better at it than men. There are of course, men who are the exception to this rule, Chris is one of them. He can clean the house AND take excellent care of the girls - honestly, he does it better than I do. I can take awesome care of our children, but the house falls to the side. I had to choose a few years ago, what was more important, happy, healthy, well adjusted children, or a very clean house. I decided I can always clean the house when they go to bed, but I couldn't always enjoy the age my children were at a later time. So unless I have company coming, my girls come first. As they get older, we have a tidy up game we play to teach them how to pick up. I think the major point of number eight is to pick and choose your battles. Some battles are important (making sure you get needed girl time so you can recharge your batteries - this is important but also reciprocate that favor), worrying that your children don't match if Dad dresses them - not so important. In this one I also need to stress that communication is key. Men do not have ESP - so you have to tell them what you want, if you don't, then don't expect them to read your mind and give it to you.
9. This is last, but absolutely the most important part of this blog. Give your family to God! When you give them to God and place them in His hands, the rest just sort of falls into place. As a child who lost her father at a young age I used to constantly worry about Chris and the girls. I still struggle with this one of course, but I also know that God has only loaned them to me. They aren't really mine, they are his and once I give them to Him, I am able to remain calm and cool and leave them where they belong - with God. Trusting God isn't always easy, but when you make him the true Head of your house, then you will find it becomes much easier to let the little things go.
Finally I would like to share with you some books that Chris and I have found helpful as well as a movie and a the marriage work kit that helped us a lot. We found the movie Fireproof very good and helpful as well as the book and work kit that you can buy The Love Dare and Fireproof Your Marriage - it comes with a dvd and books for each of you. We each have a copy of The Power of the Praying Husband/Wife. Each is written by a different author for the gender it represents. We also found 101 Ways to Romance Your Marriage helpful as well. However, if you are in desperate need of help and you don't think any of these will help your marriage, let me encourage you to seek the aid of a Christian counselor. There are usually (note I said usually) several licenses Marriage and Family Therapy counselors in each city or near your small town. I also would like to encourage you to find a good church family and pastor if you do not currently have one. Not all pastors, but quite a few of them are able to offer marriage counseling or can lead you to a colleage who can help you.
I hope you all have a good week.
Love in Christ,