Hurtful phrases often begin with two words: “You never…” or “You always…” or “You are…”. Hearing those declarations made about you long enough, one begins to believe… “I always” and “I am”. When you find yourself defeated, you give up — on yourself, each other, and your marriage.
Maybe we think our spouse should be the one to show us some attention, or they should be putting us first. While that is a valid point, we can only control our own actions. So a better approach might be for us to focus on what we can do for our spouse instead of what they are not doing for us.
We need listen to what the Bible tells us about love: It is not self-seeking.
You love your spouse. Put aside yourself and show him.
I’d watch him walk out the door (to provide for our family … or whatever) and crave that separation, that solitude, that freedom for just one day.
And to some extent, that feeling is natural, okay even.
But when missing my freedom turned into resenting my husband for his, when I began begrudging him for a choice I had made, when envy began to cast shadows on my joy, that’s when this verse jerked me into the light: Love Does Not Envy.
Attend any wedding and you’ll likely hear 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. It is a beautiful litany of verses that describe the nature of love, unconditional love. Sadly, like Psalm 23 being read at funerals or even reciting the Pledge of Allegiance daily in elementary school, you become numb to its rich meaning.
And now I know, the moment you believe your marriage is immune to big problems is the exact moment it becomes vulnerable to big problems.
I was convinced we would never struggle.
Then all of a sudden, there we were, two-freaking-years into this thing and practically underwater.
Several years ago, the diamond fell out of my mom’s wedding ring and was lost forever. Being a family of educators, my parents weren’t really in the position to run down to the jewelry store and pick up a diamond. The obvious fix was to replace it with a CZ and wait it out until a diamond became a more feasible option.
Eventually, that day came.
I went down to the jeweler with my mom to decide between an oval or round cut (oval… looked bigger, duh), before heading to McDonald’s, your typical post-diamond-purchase restaurant. While I sat in the car in the parking lot and nursed the baby, my mom and I mulled over our guilt: why do we care? WHY does it matter? Why do rings and diamonds and presents and flowers and material things matter? Why do we even want them?
Clark and I had just wrapped up our fourth Christmas as a married couple, the third in which we hadn’t bought gifts for each other. I’d always felt a little sad about that but had never wanted to admit it.
I don’t need anything. So why do I want him to get me something? Aren’t I being materialistic, selfish, greedy?
This thought continued to nag me. Why do I care? Because he doesn’t care. He finds it completely wasteful. He doesn’t need anything, and neither do I. So why do I want one?? Am I really that worldly?
But maybe it’s not about the gift,. Maybe it’s more about what the gift represents.
1. She wants to know you know her.
She wants to know that you know what she likes, what she doesn’t like, what she wears, what she reads, what she craves, what she pines after. She wants to know that she’s not just a forgotten appendage, something you need and like but sometimes forget about. She wants to know you pay attention, even now.
2. She wants to know she’s worth it.
Not the money. It’s not about the money. Really. She wants to know she’s worth the time and energy. It seems like all of that is given to the kids these days. This is your chance to prove to each other that you’re willing to go out of your way and spend time you don’t have to bless one another.
3. She wants to know you sacrificed… for her.
She wants to know you gave up a night of SportsCenter to go to the mall, a place you detest. Or even just ten minutes of SportsCenter to order something online. We’ll take that.
4. She doesn’t want y’all to forget about “us”.
When you get married, romance can wane. When you have kids, romance gets pooped on, spit up on, and then forgets to take a shower. Romance tends to wear pajamas all day and doesn’t have time for makeup. It takes concerted, purposeful effort now to remind each other that you really do love and appreciate one another. A lot. Christmas tends to be all about the kids, which is mostly our fault, but let’s not forget about us. At some point, even if it’s just for thirty seconds in between tantrums and feedings, let’s just focus on you and me.
5. She wants your kids to see it.
She wants your kids to see that passion and romance and desire don’t die when you get married. Can you do this a million other different ways throughout the year? Yes. And I hope you do. But she wants your children to know that y’all aren’t just parents, you’re also lovers (Gross. I can’t believe I just used that word). You love to shower each other with affection, and sometimes that comes in the form of a gift.
And let me be clear: she wants to do all these things for you too.
She wants you to see that she knows you.
She wants you to know that you’re totally worth obsessing over the perfect gift for months.
She wants you to open her gift and be floored by her thoughtfulness, to feel like she really pays attention to you.
She wants you to feel LOVED, even if it’s mostly her love language. You can speak a foreign love language, right?
It’s not about spending a lot of money. I don’t expect a red-ribbon adorned Lexus in the driveway. In fact, I might be a little upset. Merry Christmas, here’s some debt. If you wrote a long letter about how thankful you were for your marriage, we might cry those happy tears. And that’s FREE. Husbands like that word.
Let’s just set these expectations out on the table. It simplifies things doesn’t it. We want something. Nothing big. Just something. Something that says you love us. Something that says you went out of your way for us because you cared about making us feel adored.
And maybe in return you’ll get a little som’n som’n too… 😉
Like a necktie. Cufflinks. Boxers. Something.
Being raised in the church, I religiously (pun intended) attended Sunday school, Wednesday night huddles, lock-ins, bible studies, mission trips, church camps, and all the “RE” youth events: “ReIgnite”, “Revive,” Rekindle”, “Recharge” … you get the picture … where people say deep things that include phrases like “this season in your life” and “spiritual high” and “guard your heart.”
Obviously, I attended a lot of those “girls only” talks. You know the ones: loving yourself for you, beauty is on the inside, boys only want one thing, and, of course, what to look for in a Godly husband. These are important conversations that are crucial for the malleable minds and souls of 12-year-old tween girls. During many of these conversations, a catch phrase is tossed around, one that should top the list of what all good little girls hope for in a husband: Spiritual Leader.
Hear me: I believe in the role of a husband as a spiritual leader. I guess I am old-school in thinking that he is the head of the home, in that men value respect and women value their affection. The two are intertwined, each dependent on the other. However, to think that men should not and will not ever go through valleys or falter in faith, never doubt, never go through ruts or times of complacency is complete (and udder… 😉 ) bull.
Here’s the problem with the heavy emphasis of this phrase. Maybe I just got the message skewed, but somewhere between 10 and 28, I breathed out a heavy sigh of relief and decided that I was off the hook. The spiritual leader is husband-only territory. If he’s not leading, it’s certainly (and thankfully) not my job. I’ll just sit and nurse the baby, unload the dishwasher, fold the laundry, and wait for him to step into his God-given role. I won’t suggest we pray together… that’s his job. I won’t suggest a bible study… not my role. I won’t push him to spend time in solitude … he should do that without my prodding. For he is, in fact, dubbed the spiritual leader. I’m exaggerating a little bit… but sadly, not much.
I do believe in the leadership of a husband, but I shouldn’t expect to never have to lead. The problem with this model is that I use it as an excuse. I use it as an excuse to continue in my own rut, to justify my own distance, to feel comfortable sitting at arm’s length. Thank goodness he’s not pushing me right now because I really don’t feel like moving. And thank goodness I don’t have to push him because I’m not really in the mood.
Here’s the thing. As in all marital roles, this one is never going to be permanent. There will inevitably be ebbs and flows in each spouse’s desire to grow toward Christ. But one of us had better start flowing. What might seem to be a minor leak in this area will eventually evolve into a drowning marriage because this is the source from which all rivers run. Every part is affected.
My husband’s passion for seeking after his heavenly father is one of the things that hooked me. I am so thankful for his encouragement, his challenging, and his leading by example. So to return the favor every now and then is the ultimate form of serving him. I can joyfully, humbly fill his shoes, showing him grace and encouragement without emasculating or demeaning him. Nobody lives on a mountain top… and those that claim (or, scarier still, actually believe) they do, are a frightening breed.
Most wives probably already knew this or figured it out year one, so I’m feeling a little anxious about admitting to this. I hope you did already know and I hope you haven’t waited around like me, arms crossed in begrudging silence. I hope you already know to thank him when he leads but are also willing to drag him along, help him up, or even carry him when he falters. After all, we would expect him to do the same for us.