A friend of mine recently received a vacuum for her birthday.
It was a gift from her husband. She wasn’t quite as happy as this gal looks.
He’s not stupid. He noticed her lack of enthusiasm.
“I told him I was FINE,” my friend added, rolling her eyes.
“But you weren’t fine,” I said.
“No, but I didn’t know what else to do, and so I just thought, ‘whatever’ and left it at that,” she replied.
“So you lied,” I said.
“What?! How can you say that? I was being respectful – YOU of all people ought to get that,” she said.
“Respectful to whom? Certainly not you. And not him, either. Cuz you let him believe something that wasn’t true. You’ll probably get another vacuum for your birthday in five years, or worse, a major appliance for Christmas or your anniversary. I’m not suggesting you should have put him in the dog house* – you have been wanting a new one for a while and he knows that – but to tell him you are “fine” when both of you know you are not just leaves him confused.” Unsure if she actually rolled her eyes at her husband when she spoke to him, I didn’t add that the “eyeroll” is a common and frequent way we wives communicate disrespect to a man.
“So what should I have done instead?” she asked. “I mean, what’s the point in telling the truth when it just hurts someone’s feelings?”
She was asking a legitimate question, one I frequently receive from women who have been disappointed by their husbands, being hurt by things he says or does, or are in disagreement with him, and don’t know what to say, or do. The difficulty lies in the struggle created between a genuine desire to be respectful, and a conflicting feeling that emotionally resembles lying down on the tracks in front of an oncoming train. And yes, I’ve done it too. We’re conflicted because we’re doing a wrong thing while trying to do a right thing. We’re lying.
We sacrifice what we want/need/desire, which IS Biblical (Philippians 2:3-5 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,) but there’s nothing in any of those verses that condones lying.
So what DO we do? Acting upset but saying we’re not isn’t an option (Matthew 5:37 But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil). Wandering around filled with resentment because we didn’t get what we want and because we did the wrong thing isn’t right, either. Then we’re frustrated with not just our circumstances, and our husband, but also ourselves.
So tell the truth. But do it before there’s a problem.
One day, when I was 39, I told my husband, “I’ll be 40 next year. I want a big surprise party.” Okay, so that didn’t make it much of a surprise, but he did do something I didn’t expect, and with a bunch of my friends. And it beat the alternative. He might have done it on his own, but I didn’t know that, so I made sure I was clear about what I wanted.
I’m going to suggest that there is wisdom in being proactive instead of reactive. Your husband is probably going to get you something for your birthday anyway, right? Why not make it easy for him? Why not tell him what you want?
Now hold on – before sending me a flaming email that goes something like, “How dare you suggest I should have to spell everything out for him?! Shouldn’t he contribute something to this marriage? Shouldn’t he be responsible for his actions?” or, “You must think men are just stupid and incapable dolts!” Please try to hear me out. Know that at some point, these smart people we married get better at relationships, but they aren’t wired to be great at them naturally – at least 85% of them are not, even though most of them want to be. And, while I have friends whose husbands are marvelous at buying gifts, because it’s the hub’s love language, others have husbands who hit and miss, and still more whose husbands buy for their wives the things they, as men, want.
But I’m not talking only about gift giving. If you want the car filled up with gas when he returns from driving it over the weekend, then ask him to do it. It’s typically not that he’s mean spirited, or inconsiderate. It’s more likely that just doesn’t occur to him, or he’s just being human, like we all are daily, as well. He’s going to sin, just like we do. But there’s no need to emotionally vomit all over the guy, taking it personally if it’s not done if you haven’t said anything. I would hate it if my husband exploded all over me every time I messed up. Give and receive grace. Recognize that contrary to what the culture wants you to think, men are different than women. They don’t think about things like we do – and that doesn’t make them evil. Your sisters, girlfriends, and mother can read your mind, but the men in your life? Probably not going to happen, and it’s detrimental to your relationships to expect them to.
Bottom line: Solve relationship issues before they occur by being clear about what you do and don’t want. It’s not selfish, because our husbands typically want to please us and are going to do something anyway. It becomes selfish when we think we are divas to be served constantly by those with whom we live. To expect them to read our minds and get it right just sets them up for failure. To communicate clearly sets them up for success. Why play mind games with anyone in your life? Until they learn (usually after years of experience) what delights you, give them the opportunity to learn it.
As a friend of mine’s husband so frequently says about multitudes of things, “Say what you mean, mean what you say, and keep your commitments.”
Love to you,
*If you got this far – enjoy: