It snowed yesterday. A lot. And my husband came home early from work, just to run the snow blower in the driveway. I happily let him. Not because I am too stupid to run a machine (I frequently use power tools), nor because I’m too fragile to be out in the cold (I’m from Montana, enough said), nor because I’m incapable of “taking care of things” by myself (he travels for work and always has, and I’m quite self-sufficient). Rather, because it gave him great joy to do so (probably because he LOVES running machines and “taking care of things” for his family), and I found great pleasure in choosing to receive love in his act of service.
Not certain when he did it, but he also made sure that his truck was full of gas and ready to drive, so I could take our son to school with the 4-wheel drive. I chose to accept this also as a loving act on his part.
What really makes my heart soar, however, is when he SAYS things to me, especially in front of others, about my strengths. One time, he hi-jacked my audience when I was speaking and gave a ten minute speech about how neat he thought I was, and presented me with a bracelet. In front of about 80 people. I’m still floating from that one!
There was a time, however, when all I felt was disappointment, sadness, discouragement, and taken advantage of, all of which manifested as ANGER. And I’m sure all he felt was frustration, confusion, and discouragement, which coincidently, also showed up as ANGER.
On the surface, it seemed we warred with each other, but the truth is we were at war with the lies we believed that this culture sells every day (and these were just a few):
- marriage will make us happy
- he should “just know” how to love me
- I will always feel loved
- he will always feel respected
- he will be sensitive to my feelings naturally
- I will always “be in the mood,” but he is perverse and disgusting if he “wants it too often,” but “manly men” are desired and pursued (doesn’t the culture do tons with conflicting lies here?)
- he’ll always look the way he does the day I married him, and so will I (because that’s how the moms and dads on TV look…svelt, in shape, made-up, hair done, etc.)
- working while having a family is easy – for both husband and wife
- houses are easy to keep organized, life balance is easy, children are always delightful (and easy to raise) and family relationships are easy to create and maintain
We’ve now overcome most of these lies, with tons of prayer, work, and hand-holding by the Father, but that’s another story. Today I’m talking about being ANGRY.
In the last week, three of my friends shared their grief over friends or relatives of theirs, all Christian women, who were filing for divorce.
The durations of these marriages ranged from 5 to 35 years.
What was interesting, was that when I asked each of my friends why these divorces were occuring, they all said the same thing: “The wife says she’s had enough.”
Enough of what? Enough being the “only one” working on the relationship? Enough of him being unloving? Enough of feeling alone, when one of the big lies is that a husband and wife will be closer than any other sister, friend or mother? Enough waiting on him to “show her some love” so she can “show him some respect?”
Based on what we’ve seen, there are two myths that are keeping marriages from staying together. The first is, “Respect is to be earned and I’ll give that to him when he shows me love.” The second is one that pervades Christian marriages, one that prevents Christian women from creating what God intended: the myth that it takes BOTH people in the marriage, performing tons of hard work, to make the marriage something that glorifies God, and oh, by the way, the wife has to martyr herself in the process, becoming a demeaned being, to be tread upon like a doormat.
A husband who submits to Christ, loving his wife and laying down his life for her, and a wife who freely gives her husband authority and treats him with respect (Ephesians 5:22-33) will only be attained if BOTH members of the couple are consistently working on the marriage. That IS true, however, in working with many women over a number of years, we’ve discovered that there is a reason women are encouraged in Titus 2 to help the younger women become friends with their husbands.
Women have to start the process…and the process begins with respecting their husbands.
I want to suggest this to you: As a woman, you are the relationship architect in your marriage.
First, I will concede that obviously the ideal would be easier to achieve if simultaneously, BOTH husband and wife were working at the marriage. Reality (and current research), however, shows us that men are NOT the ones who 1) know there is even a problem in their relationship, nor 2) seek counseling to actually do something about it.
But women are doing both of those things.
There are a few things we know about marriage relationships and gender. It is interesting that one of the most common complaints of wives is, “I don’t feel loved,” and one of the most common complaints of men is, “She doesn’t respect me.” Isn’t it interesting that in the few sentences in the Bible in which God does addresses marriage, He specifically commands husbands to love their wives and He tells the wife to submit to and respect her husband?
Our culture, however, teaches that respect should be earned, and men should be “in touch with their feminine side,” and this assumes that they have one. Brain and psychological research and basic male/female physiology demonstrates clearly that generally speaking, women are more in touch with their feelings, more relational, and more communicative than men are. God wired men to naturally treat each other with respect, and they do. Men inherently know, as 11 year olds on the ball field or grown ups in the board room, how to help or derail each other, through the language of respect. God tells men to unconditionally love their wives because they don’t naturally do this well. BUT, we women are, generally speaking, more relationship oriented, actually experiencing “bonding” with other humans on a physiological level, through the natural release of the hormone, oxytocin. Women are practically swimming in this stuff, while men, conversely, produce a very small amount – and they have fewer receptors than women do, so even when they DO produce this “relationship hormone” (interestingly enough, primarily during physical intimacy) they STILL wouldn’t be able to do as much with it as we naturally do. And that’s the way God made us.
Where this lands a married couple is simple (not easy, but simple): women need to study respect and implement it, and a wife needs also to teach her husband how she experiences love. That doesn’t sound fair, does it? But yes, I am suggesting that the woman take responsibility for the state of their relationship and then DO something about it. Again, think “relationship architect.” Women are wired by God to be better equipped to deal with relationship things, so why not let the husband do the things he is naturally wired to do (and you can do them, too, if you like that sort of thing, just like he could choose to grow relationship-skill-wise if he is interested, and some men are) but YOU do the things God created you to do best?
The church sort-of teaches this concept, but what “do something about it” typically dissolves into is “become a martyr in your own home and let the guy you married walk all over you because he is the head.”
“Submission” and “Respect” aren’t intended by God to create a bunch of doormat Christian wives. But since we don’t have good role models in the ever-present media from which to learn how to do this, we end up being negatively influenced by the Culture’s REALLY Big Lie Designed to Destroy Families:
- DO it all (corporate ladder rising career AND excell at motherhood AND have an amazing house/social life/friends/whatever – do the math, there just aren’t enough hours in the day),
- HAVE it all (nice cars, vacations, house, brand of purse, shoes, the “right” jewelry, the “right clothes” for you AND your kids, private schools, tutors, music lessons etc.),
- BE it all (glamorous, fit, great skin, amazing hair, great friend, organized, laundry done, care for a family that adores you and never has conflict, all while you help with homework, get the dishes put away from the home-cooked meal you prepared, help your teen with a friend problem, and schedule the dog at the groomer, etc. – again, do the math on the hours)
- AND, while you are at it, never be tired, maintain a size 6, always have it “together,” and by the way, you should be happy all the time.
No wonder these women have “had enough.”
They’ve been believing lies.
The internal pressure of the cognitive dissonance created by believing a lie contrasted daily with reality will dissolution and frustrate anyone enough to be ANGRY.
So, in order:
- Understand WHY you are angry – in other words, what unmet expectations based on lies do you have of marriage versus what God created marriage for in the first place, which is to respresent Christ and the church…
- Choose to DO something about it (something healthy that positively impacts your marriage) and embrace your God-designed relationship gifts and become the relationship architect in your marriage
Later this week, I’ll get specific with what this might look like, based on what we’ve seen other women successfully doing in their marriages. Because women are wired by God to be the more relationship-oriented of the two in a marriage, because women are the ones who are unhappy, because wives file for 2/3rds of the divorces in America, because we are female, that “something to do about it” is how to teach your husband how to love you by speaking his language of respect.
Some of you are going to be a bit ANGRY at me for suggesting this.
Bear in mind, I’m just the messenger – God sent the message. You can check His Word and His creation for the proof of that.
And that other guy would like nothing more than for you to write this off as the rantings of another doormat wife. That’s not true, either.
But first, I’d like your promise to learn to get something really right before you even attempt to start teaching your husband how to love you – and that is learning to communicate unconditional respect to your husband. So much respect that if you were to ask him, “Do you feel respected by me?” without missing a beat or telling a lie, he’d respond with an enthusiastic, “Yes!” Or he’d tell a friend who asked him if he felt respected by you, “Yes!”
What I’d like you to chew on right now is simply this – I don’t believe we have earned the right to teach others things we don’t get right ourselves. So…first learn how to “speak the language of respect” to your husband, then you have the right (and, I also believe, the skills and the obligation) to teach him how best to communicate love to you – in the language he already speaks.
More to come…