I’m a difficult person to live with.
I’m forgetful, hyperactive, and my moods sometimes change with the wind. Some days I’m so grumpy it’s intolerable. Other days I’m so hyped-up it’s annoying. My habits and hobbies come and go like friends on vacation. I open my mouth before my brain warns me to stop. I am a mess.
But somehow, almost seventeen years ago, I met a woman who was willing and able to put up with all of that mess and love me anyway.
One of my daily habits is to start my wife’s car before I leave for work. Obviously in the winter I turn on the defrost and crank up the heat so the van is good and warm for her when she is ready to leave. Sometimes, though, I rush out without starting her car. Or I turn the engine but forget to turn on the heat. A few days when the weather was warm in the afternoon I forgot that the air conditioner was on and just started the car. I can only imagine how frigid it must have been inside when my wife was ready to leave. My wife called me later, laughing, and told me that our baby had said, “My deet told! My deet told!”
Somehow, almost seventeen years ago, I met a woman who could laugh at my mistakes and love me anyway.
I struggle to be the best husband I can be. I read what the Bible says about marriage and I struggle. But when I read what Jesus says about love, true sacrificial unconditional love… that I can do.
I’m not a marriage counselor. But in light of what the statistics say about marriage and divorce, I’m blessed to say that my wife and I have been married for almost fourteen years. Like any marriage, there have been bumps along the way, some of them bigger and more damaging than others, most of them (nearly all of them) my fault.
And yet somehow I live with a woman who loves me just as I am while empowering me and encouraging me to be a better man.
I don’t know the secret to a happy marriage, if there even is one. But I decided a few years ago that most of the bumps I was causing and mistakes I was making were because I was taking my cue for a successful marriage from the wrong places.
Culture says marriage should be 50/50. For years I bought into this idea. I have my chores. She has hers. If I rub her feet, she should rub mine, too. The problems came when I would do my chores but because she was busy or tired her “share” of the chores would be neglected. So either at her request or because it needed to be done, I would do her share. Or on days when I was tired or busy, I would neglect my chores and she would do them for me. Sometimes marriage felt more like 60/40 or 70/30.
If you expect your marriage to be 50/50, you will be disappointed. [Tweet That!]
After hiding feelings of resentment and frustration, my attitude changed. My grumpiness got worse. I snapped at my wife with snarky comments like, “Why don’t you do it?” I made excuses for not caring for her needs, nasty ones like, “Well, you won’t rub my back so why should I rub your feet?” But, I must confess, if I neglected my “half” of the relationship, she rarely complained and almost never snapped at me in similar ways.
This kind of attitude destroys marriages. I could feel it. We argued almost every day about foolish things, problems that might seem funny on a sitcom like King of Queens but are actually not funny at all in a real household.
I could feel it. Because I knew how much my wife loved me and how much I love her and because I believed in our marriage, I knew something had to change.
That something was me.
You see, almost seventeen years ago I met a woman who somehow loves me just the way I am, while inspiring me to want to be a better person every day. What I wanted at the time was a wife who would carry her “share” of the marriage. 50/50, right?
But I couldn’t shake off what the Bible says about husbands and wives… “the two shall become one flesh.” When a man takes a woman to be his bride, she becomes one with him. And he becomes one with her.
Marriage is not 50/50. That measurement divides the two into halves. They are not two halves of one whole. They are one whole. Together. Same. Equal.
I’m still not perfect (far from it). I raise my voice more often than I should. I get distracted and neglect important things. But after recognizing that I was the problem, I made some changes. Keep in mind that this is an evolving list and as our relationship grows deeper, so does this list:
- Do chores when they need done, especially when I know she’s exhausted.
- Give frequent foot and back rubs, especially when I know she’s had a rough day.
- Leave little notes that remind her how much I love her.
- Tell her every day, in different and specific ways, how beautiful she is.
- Make her laugh as often as I can, because her smile is so much more beautiful than her frown.
- Ask her about her day, even if she doesn’t ask about mine.
- Cook for her.
- Run errands for her.
- Hug her and kiss her before I leave the house.
- Take her side and defend her, even if she may be wrong (which isn’t often).
- Don’t yell at her (this one is my weakness).
- Never insult her.
This is not about changing my wife, not about making her love me more, and not about expecting her to do some of these things for me, although those things may happen. This is about honoring my wife because she deserves it and because she is my wife.
And because of this:
“Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Ephesians 5:25
“Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.” Colossians 3:19
“In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.” Ephesians 5:28
What is changing is my own attitude. I have always loved my wife. But looking back I think that at first my love came with conditions, expectations, pressures. But now, with God’s help, I love my wife completely, unconditionally.
And because almost seventeen years ago I met a woman who loves me just the way I am, while inspiring me to be the kind of man God has asked me to be.
Marriage is not 50/50. Real, true marriage is 100% togetherness, oneness, wholeness, unity. [Tweet that!]
I leave you with the famous “Love is…” verses from 1 Corinthians 13. In my next post I’ll share with you my challenge to apply these to every relationship you have, but especially to your marriage.
“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7