I’ll start this post with a plea: If you are not in a God-centered marriage, please seek out godly counsel. Your pastor may be able to recommend for a Christian counselor. (Some churches, like the one my husband and I attend, will even pay for the first few sessions, if you can’t.) If you are uncomfortable asking your pastor, Focus on the Family has a list of Christian counselors across the United States. Obviously, they can’t guarantee the quality of each one, but having a vetted list to start with is a good first step.
And please: Seek out a woman who is in a joyful, God-centered marriage. Talk to her. Ask her questions. Ask for advice. If this woman is truly in a God-centered marriage, she isn’t going to judge you for struggling. She knows how hard marriage can be. And she’ll be thrilled to know that the example her marriage is setting is making a difference. (But be careful who you turn to for this type of discussion and advice. Read about potential problems here: (becoming) a godly wife: how to welcome Satan into your marriage.)
That said, the rest of this post is aimed at those of you who are in joyful, God-centered marriages — or hope to be soon (either because you’re engaged or because you’re planning to get counseling to move toward such a marriage).
If you do have a joyful, God-centered marriage, you’ve probably encountered this scenario: Someone who observes your marriage thinks it’s too good to be true. Thinks surely your husband must be oppressing and brainwashing you into submission. Thinks surely there’s a problem that you’re just good at hiding.
The first time I encountered a situation like this, I was devastated. I wanted our marriage to be a beacon of light for people. I wanted people to notice our marriage was different and be drawn to God because of it. I was upset that instead she saw our marriage as something negative. What I didn’t realize then was that the reason this woman thought my husband must be forcing me into submission — that he was somehow treating me like a second-class citizen — was that she had likely never seen a God-centered marriage. Our relationship seemed so foreign to her that she assumed something must be very wrong. I tried to explain our relationship to her, but I don’t think she believed me. She probably still doesn’t.
The next time I encountered this, I was more ready for it. I wasn’t devastated. I didn’t see it as a failure on my part to give an example of a God-centered marriage to someone. I saw it for what it was: This dear friend really didn’t believe that a marriage could be that joyful. I tried to explain things as best I could, but I also realized that this was a long-term mission. She might not believe me now, but she would (hopefully) be in my life long enough to see that it was true: God is a God of joyful marriages. (And keep in mind the difference between joy and happiness: Happiness comes and goes with circumstances. Joy does not. Joy stays. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit of Christ (Galatians 5:22), and Christ’s joy remains in all circumstances, so long as we remain in Him (John 15:10-12).)
So here is my encouragement to those of you in joyful, Christ-centered marriages: Keep showing your love – God’s love – for one another. Keep being a shining example that many people find baffling. Keep giving an answer for the hope that you have (1 Peter 3:15) and encouraging other women in their own marriages with a positive example and a living testimony to the faithfulness of God.
And please, please, try to reach out to this next generation. You don’t have to lecture them — trust me, they aren’t big fans of that, in the classroom or in “real” life. Just be open to conversations. Ask them questions about themselves (they usually love this topic) and watch where God might take the conversation. (Remember, of course, to always be praying during these conversations. I often ask God to help me say all and only what He wants me to. This prayer tends to keep me out of trouble.)
I am often amazed by what students will reveal to me before they even know me. On the first day of class, I ask them to spend 10 minutes or so writing about who they are. A lot of them write about their families. Most of them tell me if their parents are married or divorced. Many of them will reveal a great deal of anger at one or both parents for abandoning them. Many will tell me about how devastated they were when their parents got divorced. Others will tell me about their girlfriends or boyfriends. Or financial problems. And I don’t even know these kids. This is the first day of class. These are the things that they think describe who they are. My point is simply this: Talk to the kids in your life. You might be surprised how much they’re willing share – and how desperate they are for someone to listen. Especially someone whose life offers them some hope.
Read part one of this series: (becoming) a role model, part one
Read part two of this series: (becoming) a role model, part two
Want to read more?
Start of the wife series: (becoming) a godly wife
Start the fully submitted series: (becoming) fully submitted
Have trouble saying no? Try: (becoming) a good volunteer: the necessity of “no”
Struggle with worry? Try: (becoming) less of a worrier
Start of the stewardship series: (becoming) a good steward
Start of the wisdom series: (becoming) wise, part one
Start of the Proverbs 6 series: (becoming) closer to God through Proverbs 6
Start of the Christmas series: (becoming) peaceful
We all see it over and over, not just in Christian marriages, but actually happening in church! How can a woman be nodding along to a sermon and singing praises to God one minute, and then scold her husband for having another cup of coffee the next minute – in front of strangers? As we discussed in the last post, this shouldn’t be.
But this raises a related question: As Christian women trying to be godly wives, when we see other women – even Christian women – doing this, what should we do? Even if we don’t talk negatively about our husbands, does staying quiet when others do imply that we approve of it?
Let’s start here: Our culture has normalized the image of women talking negatively about their husbands – gathered together in gossip circles and even publicly scolding them. Sadly, not only have women bought into this image, but many men have as well. Many men have been emasculated to the point where they will accept this from their wives – even if it happens right in front of them.
If we look carefully, we’ll often see our men exchange knowing glances when one’s wife starts in. It’s that “sorry, buddy, but I’m glad it’s not me” look. Or the “you know how it is” look. Or the “thank goodness she’s not my wife” look. Is that really what we want to be? More to the point: Do you want people to feel bad for your husband because he’s married to you? Do you want to be the reason other men pity him? If so, scold, nag, and degrade him in front of others. If not, don’t.
Because our culture normalizes this sort of public chastisement – nearly encourages it, really – it’s very easy to do. However, “don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God?” (James 4:4)? We shouldn’t look like the world. Our marriages shouldn’t look like the world’s marriages.
So: what if we didn’t “conform any longer to the pattern of this world”? What if instead we were “transformed by the renewing of [our] mind[s]” (Romans 12:2)? This world and its prince (the devil: John 12:31, 14:30, & 16:11) want to sabotage Christian marriages. The devil wants to make our Christian marriages look just like every other marriage. And you know what? For the most part, he’s doing a great job.
If we can change this culture of scolding and nagging and griping, if women and men can see that we don’t have to accept “normal” for our marriages, our marriages can be transformed.
But we have to make a choice. A conscious, repeated choice to change this culture of complaining by choosing something better. In the Bible we have the illustration of serving two masters – they will eventually conflict, and we will have to choose a side. We can’t serve God and money, for instance (Matthew 6:24). We also can’t serve God and our sinful desires (such as complaining about our husbands to others). In the Bible we’re told our sin nature and God’s Spirit in us are always conflicting (Galatians 5:17). We have to, in God’s power, deny our sin nature and choose instead to follow His Spirit. And to be clear, choosing God is not a natural choice; it is a supernatural one, a choice for something (and Someone) better than normal.
One reason it’s so difficult not to engage in this sort of behavior is that it seems like everyone else is complaining about her husband. As women, it’s so tempting to jump into that conversation. We like to relate verbally. But remember: To have the marriages God wants for us, we must give up this fake intimacy with these women for true intimacy with our husbands. This is a choice we have to make.
Remember: We can be different. We can be the light.
Being the light, of course, looks different depending on the audience. I’m not suggesting that you start lecturing your non-Christian friends about their attitudes towards their husbands (1 Corinthians 5:12). But I am suggesting that you steer conversations towards positive aspects of our husbands. If a friend is having real problems (and some of my friends have), obviously you need to listen and help; but if he won’t fix the garbage disposal, the topic can be changed. And, above all, do NOT join in the griping. This is the biggest thing: Don’t join in. Let her see that your marriage is different. Let her see that there is a way for marriages to be happy. You don’t have to say it directly (unless you feel led to); instead, let your life, your attitude toward your husband speak for itself.
Among Christian women, however, I think we need to be more intentional. Steering conversations away from complaints about our husbands is a good start – but also prayerfully consider asking questions that get more to the heart of the matter, such as “This sounds like a long-term problem. Have you and Bob sought counseling? How has God spoken to you about this during your quiet time with Him?” Etc. Again, I’m not saying you need to lecture her – in fact, this is rarely the best approach – but I would prayerfully consider trying to help her turn to the right resources, whatever those might be in her situation: a pastor, a Christian counselor, her husband (often real communication between husband and wife can fix these issues), and especially God (He should be her source of strength and wisdom). Again, above all, do NOT join in the griping!
I’m not saying we all have to suppress our problems and pretend everything is perfect. In fact, I think that sort of fake happiness is really damaging to the church. I think it prevents people from openly addressing their struggles, and I think it makes many of those struggles worse. But there are ways we can help. For those of you who are in happy, Christian marriages, you might consider talking to your husband about how much he’s comfortable with you sharing with women who are struggling in their marriages. If the two of you have overcome certain struggles, you may have opportunities to be invaluable resources to couples who are currently struggling. It can help those couples to know that people have faced similar problems and made it through. Spend some time talking to your husband and thinking about how God led you through your difficult time. Consider what you might be able to share with a woman whose marriage is struggling. Remember: The idea here is to keep the focus on the real solution (God) and to build our husbands up in the process.
While it’s important for Christian women to help other Christian women, it’s also important for churches to be brave enough to speak up when there’s a problem. Women complaining about their husbands is a problem. The church shouldn’t be afraid to call it a problem just because some women might not like to hear that. Yes, that message might make some women uncomfortable or angry. But honestly, the sermons and Sunday school lessons that make me the most uncomfortable and irritated are usually the very ones I need to hear.
I think the reason some of us are hesitant to face problems head on is that, as Christians, we’re to love one another – and too often we translate “love one another” into “don’t cause anyone to be uncomfortable.” But truly loving a friend doesn’t mean overlooking serious problems and destructive tendencies in her marriage so she doesn’t get mad at us. Allowing a marriage to be unhappy (and potentially fail) because we’re afraid we might upset someone is cruel. And let’s face it: It’s usually our own comfort we’re looking out for. I like talking to my friend. I don’t want to jeopardize that friendship. Trying to truly help her might (at least initially) make her mad at me. We don’t want to feel uncomfortable. So we just watch the show.
Most of us have heard some variation on this: To not share Christ with others is like holding a life raft on the shore and not throwing it to them – choosing to watch them drown while holding the very thing that could save them. Watching a friend’s marriage fail is similar. You see her going down a destructive path. You know she needs to turn around. But you let her go. You choose to watch your friend’s marriage fail while holding the very thing that could save it.
These are touchy subjects, and anything we say to others about these topics requires prayerful consideration. But we must remember: Women complaining about their husbands to others is a problem. We can’t stay neutral on this topic. The default position on this in our society (and sadly, in most churches) is that it’s okay. If we don’t share that opinion, there may be a time when we have to speak up. In Scripture we’re told:
Proverbs 17:4: A wicked man listens to evil lips; a liar pays attention to a malicious tongue. [When we listen to this type of talk, we’re complicit in the behavior. We’re giving our approval.]
Proverbs 18:8: The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man’s inmost parts. [We will internalize what’s being said. And while, if our marriages are strong, listening to other women degrade their husbands isn’t likely to make our marriages fall apart, listening to this type of talk is still unhealthy for us and our marriages.]
The other thing we have to remember is that there is a solution to this problem of women complaining about their husbands to others. The marriages around us can be happier. We just have to be careful to learn what our role in that may be. In Scripture we’re told:
Proverbs 15:23: A man finds joy in giving an apt reply — and how good is a timely word! [A good reply to a situation is good for everyone involved!]
Proverbs 26:20: Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down. [Don’t be the wood on this fire. By standing and listening, we’re fueling the fire.]
Proverbs 31:26: She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. [The Proverbs 31 woman is wise when she speaks. She instructs others faithfully. Notice this does not say she silently disapproves of sinful behavior. It also doesn’t say that she stands in the town square and randomly decries various sins. Instead, we’re given a much more intimate picture: That of a woman wisely, faithfully instructing others.]
So, the challenge this week is not to confront the next woman you hear talking negatively about her husband. The challenge this week is to ask God how He might use you to help His vision for Christian marriages be realized. And remember, this starts with your own marriage. We’ve got to get the planks out of our eyes before addressing the specks in others’ (Matthew 7:3-5). But if, by God’s grace, you’ve made some progress in this regard, it may time to consider: Does He want you to broach this subject with a close friend who is always negative about her husband? Does He want you to bring it up in a women’s class you attend or lead at church? Maybe you lead a small group of high school girls and He wants you to discuss this topic with them, to help them prevent the problem in their own future marriages? Maybe He wants you to begin thinking about this topic to prepare you for a time when a daughter or friend or co-worker asks you a question about it? I don’t know what His task for you will be. But He knows. Ask Him!
Next week: (remaining) Thankful
Want to read more?
Start of the wife series: (becoming) a godly wife
Start of the fully submitted series: (becoming) fully submitted
Start of the stewardship series: (becoming) a good steward
Start of the role model series: (becoming) a role model, part one
Start of the wisdom series: (becoming) wise, part one
Start of the Proverbs 6 series: (becoming) closer to God through Proverbs 6
Start of the Christmas series: (becoming) peaceful
Are you a worrier? Try this post: (becoming) less of a worrier
Last Monday we talked about nagging and the damage it does. One of the biggest problems with nagging is what it often leads to: complaining to others about our husbands.
Do you want to usher satan into your marriage, roll out the red carpet, offer him a warm beverage, ask him to make himself at home? Complain about your husband to other people.
[As has become my habit, I’ll give a caveat here: if you need professional help in your marriage, by all means, seek it from your pastor or from a Christian counselor. That’s not complaining. That’s trying to strengthen your marriage. If you need advice or a safe place to express your feelings (and you aren’t using “advice” or “expressing your feelings” as a cover for complaining), then I don’t think it’s necessarily wrong to seek it from another Christian woman. (A group of women becomes more problematic because it’s unlikely all of them will be strong Christians). And this should be a strong Christian woman. One who won’t let your advice-seeking turn into a husband-bashing session. And we know the difference when we think about it for a minute. And remember: “All a man’s ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the Lord” (Proverbs 16:2). God knows what our motive is. He knows if we’re truly seeking godly counsel or if we’re using that as a cover for gossip. He cannot be fooled (Galatians 6:7).]
But the type of communication covered in the caveat above isn’t most of what we see. What we see are wives complaining about their husbands to other women. Because he can’t wrangle the kid correctly. Because he still hasn’t gotten the oil changed. Because he acts like a child. Because he’s just so clueless. These are throwaway comments to so many women. They aren’t thought about; they’re just said. There’s no moment of reflection: Will this build my husband up or tear him down? Will this honor God’s plan for marriage or dishonor it?
We laugh about how hapless our husbands are. We top each other with stories of the ridiculous things our husbands have done. Ways they’ve failed us. As with nagging, we focus on the negative. And then we wonder why we’re dissatisfied in our marriages.
A few things I think we need to think about:
1. Why would we want other women to think our husbands are incompetent morons? Why would we want other women to think our husbands are children, incapable of leading? (What is motivating us when we complain?)
2. What the Bible says about this:
a. Proverbs 11:12: A man who lacks judgment derides his neighbor, but a man of understanding holds his tongue. [And our relationship with our husband should be far closer than our relationship with our neighbor.]
b. Proverbs 12:18: Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. [Our husbands are pierced by this badmouthing, even if they never say anything. It’s painful to see the woman who is supposed to be your closest companion belittle you to others. We need to be the tongue of the wise. Our words need to heal, not pierce. If our tongues aren’t the ones healing our husbands, they may drive them to others for that healing.]
c. Proverbs 14:1: The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down. [Why are we trying to destroy our own homes?]
d. Proverbs 15:28: The heart of the righteous weighs its answers, but the mouth of the wicked gushes folly. [This one is hard for me. Not regarding complaining about my husband, but regarding almost anything else. In so many situations, I know what I want to say, and I know the tone in which I want to say it. I don’t want to weigh my answer because I know that God will often change my words, my tone, or keep me silent altogether. I’d much rather gush than weigh when it comes to words. Ultimately, though, I know I have to learn how to keep a reign on my tongue. The Bible is full of verses that tell me that. (Such as James 1:26: If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight reign on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.) This takes an act of will, though. This isn’t something that’s going to magically (or even easily) happen.]
e. 1 Peter 4:11: If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. [Is what you’re about to say going to bring praise and glory to God? Does what you’re about to say line up with the Word of God? Sometimes I don’t like answering these questions, but this is what we’re called to.]
3. If the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, then what we are doing is akin to the Church walking around telling people: listen to how Jesus failed me. Listen to how He keeps messing up. Listen to how incompetent He is. We wouldn’t think this was okay. And I understand the difference: Jesus is perfect, our husbands aren’t. But we aren’t told that the perfect husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church — just that the husband is. We aren’t let off the hook because our husbands aren’t perfect.
4. Why do we think talking negatively about our husbands will make anything better? Honestly, has anyone ever talked about her husband behind his back, gotten it off her chest, and never done it again because that one session of complaining met her needs? Nope. Because those sessions of complaining can’t meet our needs. They may make us feel better short-term, but we’ll find that we have to keep coming back to them to get that short-term feeling. Complaining about our husbands doesn’t fix anything. It’s an empty “solution” that has to always be repeated. It’s similar to the sacrifices that had to be offered year after year in the Old Testament. Those sacrifices were not a permanent solution. They “fixed” the problem for a time, but had to be repeated because the same problem kept coming back. Similarly, complaining “fixes” our problem temporarily (because we’ve vented), but we haven’t actually SOLVED the problem. We’ve just put a band-aid on it. And this wound will reopen.
The only solution to the yearly sacrifices was Jesus. He was the only way those sacrifices could stop because He was the only thing that actually FIXED the problem of our sinfulness. In the same way, He is the only solution to problems in our marriage. He is the only thing that can FIX our marriages. He is the solution that never runs out. He is the only One who can heal our wounds.
So, what does this mean in practical terms? It means we turn to Jesus (and our husbands), not to others, when we’ve run out of patience with our husbands.
Jesus is the only permanent solution. This doesn’t mean, though, that you can use Him once and be done with Him. The exact opposite in fact. [He told us to take up our crosses daily (Luke 9:23).] He commanded us to remain in Him, and said that we could do nothing apart from Him (John 15:4-5). It does mean, however, that in Christ, you’re on “the Way” to permanently improving your marriage.
What I said last week about nagging holds true here as well: Like any bad habit, this one will take time (and God’s help) to break. It’s a process of being intentional about trying, leaning on God’s power, and apologizing when we mess up – to our husbands, to the women we complained to (or whoever else who may have heard it, children, etc.), to God.
Start now. Tell God you’re sorry. Ask Him to draw you closer to Him. Tell Him you know He is sufficient for you — and that His way is sufficient for you.
Start today. Tell your husband you’re sorry. Tell him that keeping a rein on your tongue is hard for you – women just are verbal; we process things by talking about them – and ask if he’ll help by being more willing to talk through things when they come up. This does not mean we nag our husbands more when problems come up. This means we talk kindly (in ways that honor our husbands and our God) and calmly (prayerfully weighing our words). And that we stay more focused on how we can improve in the situation than how he can.
Under conviction from God, I made the decision before we were married that I would not complain about my husband to other people. (As I said last week, it’s easier to not start a habit than it is to break one, so I’m grateful that God was so firm with me about this early on.) This is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. And let me be clear: I don’t feel isolated. I don’t feel like I have to bottle up my emotions. In fact, I feel far closer to my husband because of it. We solve our skirmishes. We work through our issues. [More about conflict resolution in future posts.] And it draws me closer to God – because let’s be honest: HE solves our skirmishes. HE enables us to work through whatever the issue is.
If I have sacrificed anything in this decision, it is the false intimacy women feel with one another when they complain about their husbands. I’m willing, however, to trade false intimacy with a friend for true intimacy with my husband. I’ll make that trade every time.
And please understand: I’ve made plenty of bad decisions. I’ve had to unlearn LOTS of bad habits. I know how hard it is to give up something that you’ve always done. Something you’re comfortable with. Something you feel nervous without. So, even though this isn’t my struggle, I do know what it’s like to have similar struggles.
So, here’s the challenge: Stop complaining about your husband to other people. Start stopping today. (As always, I’d love to hear your insights below!)
Next Week: Okay, I’m willing to stop complaining, but do I have to stop listening to other women complain? (aka: being the light, but not fueling the fire)
To read the wife series from the beginning, click here: wife, part 1
To read the fully submitted series, click here: fully submitted, part 1
Our culture has accepted that wives nag. We see it on commercials, TV shows (think Debra from Everybody Loves Raymond, Carrie from King of Queens), many of us heard our mothers do it, many of us do it ourselves.
Nagging is one of the most culturally embedded problems in our marriages. And the tragedy of it is that nagging has become expected, accepted as “the way marriage works” – and nagging paves the way for huge problems in marriages.
Think about the cliché for a minute: “paves the way.” Nagging smoothes out the road for other problems, welcomes other problems, makes it easy for other problems to enter our marriages – and the marriages of millions of Americans. Once we get into a habit of nagging, we’re more likely to be unsatisfied in our marriages. And why wouldn’t we be? If our focus is constantly on what our husbands are doing wrong, what they aren’t doing, why they aren’t doing it, etc., how do we expect to feel satisfied in our marriages? And if we aren’t satisfied, that can lead to many, many problems: seeking male attention outside of marriage, griping to our friends, etc.
So, here’s my advice: Don’t let a TV show or even the dominant cultural norms define who you are in your marriage. Yes, nagging is normal in this world. Yes, short term, it feels kinda good to “get it off our chests.” But, no, it’s not God’s Will for our marriages. It is not God’s best for our lives.
Like any bad habit this one will take time (and God’s help) to break. It’s a process of being intentional about trying, leaning on God’s power, and apologizing when we mess up (to our husbands and to God).
The fact is, nagging is not just seen as something women do, but it’s often seen as actually part of a woman’s nature. And while it certainly wasn’t part of our nature in the paradise God created, it does seem to be part of the corruption of femininity – a temptation common to fallen daughters of Eve. And God, in His infinite wisdom, knew this was an issue we’d struggle with. He knew this aspect of our sin nature would conflict with His Spirit Who lives in us.
Galatians 5:16-18: 16 So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. 17 For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.
And consider this: 5 times in Proverbs a “quarrelsome wife” is referred to. While this can certainly be seen as a warning for men (Don’t marry this type of woman!), I think this can also be seen as a reminder for women (Don’t be this type of woman!).
Proverbs 19:13b — a quarrelsome wife is like a constant dripping. [Think about that: Drip, drip, drip, drip……same sound over and over and over……gets annoying after awhile.]
Proverbs 21:9 — Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.
Proverbs 21:19 — Better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and ill-tempered wife.
Proverbs 25:24 — Better to live on the corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife. [Identical to Proverbs 21:9]
Proverbs 27:15 — A quarrelsome wife is like a constant dripping on a rainy day. [This calls to mind “adding insult to injury.” It’s already raining, and a quarrelsome wife makes things worse for her husband, instead of making them better.]
Consider what these verses are telling us: Terrible living conditions are better than living with a quarrelsome wife. We make our homes less welcoming than a desert, when they should be sanctuaries for our husbands. We make even embarrassment and exposure to the elements preferable to being in a house with us, when our homes should welcome our husbands with open arms.
I think the “living on a corner of the roof” imagery is interesting. The typical Israelite house at this time would likely have a flat roof made of mud and twigs (which required a lot of upkeep). Even living on that would be better than living with a quarrelsome wife.
I wonder – and I can’t prove this, but I wonder – if there was also an element of embarrassment to this image. Bear with me here: Patriarchs were incredibly important in this society, and housing arrangements were often designed around this familial structure. For instance, a father (and his wife), his sons (and their wives and children) would often all live in a closely networked series of structures. If you were living on your roof, it seems like everyone in the family would know. And if the head of the household was living on the roof, it would seem pretty obvious that something was wrong in the husband-wife relationship. That, I imagine, would be embarrassing for a man. BUT, from these verses, it sounds like that embarrassment of living on your roof would be better than having to live in the house with your quarrelsome wife. Again, this interpretation in not explicitly stated in Scripture. I think it follows, though, from what we know about the time period and the family structure.
And make no mistake, quarrelsome wives are still embarrassing today; even if their husbands don’t end up on the roof, often their husbands end up trying to avoid them in other ways. They may not retreat to the roof or the desert, but usually they’ll try to retreat to somewhere else. I’m not saying this is the correct response from the man; on the contrary, I think men retreating instead of leading the household is one of the biggest problems in modern marriages. But I’m also saying that as women, this retreating is partly our fault. We often make it harder for our men to lead, and we make it easier (and more tempting) to retreat.
We nag. We degrade. We embarrass. They feel disrespected. So they retreat. They close us out.
They retreat. They close us out. We feel unloved. So we nag. We degrade. We embarrass.
You get the picture.
The cycle has to stop somewhere. Why not with us? Why not today? I know a lot of you have heard this song, but give this video a listen. Anytime he says “city,” substitute “marriage.” There’s no reason to wait — start here. Start now.
So, what’s the challenge today? Stop nagging. Why wait? Start here. Start now. (And if you’re a younger woman reading this — maybe just married or not married yet — please remember, it’s hard to break these habits. It’s much easier not to form them in the first place.)
Comments? Questions? Suggestions? Strategies? Failures? Successes? Leave a comment below!
Next Monday: Want to make your husband resent you? Want to make his friends pity him? Want to swing the door to your marriage wide open for Satan? Find out how next Monday!
Click here to start reading the wife series from the beginning.
Click here to read the fully submitted series.
Last time we talked about some things we might need to let go of as wives. Today, I’d like to spend a little time on some things we might need to start doing — or at least ways we might need to refocus our efforts.
So let’s start here: In what three areas do you least like serving your husband? Or, put another way, what three specific things do you know he likes/wants/appreciates/needs, but you just don’t like to do?
By doing the things we like to do to serve our husbands, we’re really serving ourselves, not our husbands. These things might still be helpful to our husbands, but as long as they’re things we also want, they are service to ourselves primarily. That doesn’t mean they’re all bad things. If my husband and I both want the laundry done, and I do the laundry, that’s good — it’s just not selfless service.
By intentionally ignoring the aspects of serving our husbands that we don’t like, we’re ultimately saying “I’ll ‘serve’ you as long as I like it, as long as I want to, as long as I’m getting something out of it, too.” Consider what terrible marriage vows that would make: “I promise to love and serve you as long as I like what that entails. When I don’t like what it entails, however, I will choose to not serve you. You’re not that important.” Yikes!
But essentially that’s what we’re telling our husbands when we don’t seek to meet the needs they want met. We put ourselves first by only meeting his needs if we’re not being too inconvenienced, as long as it’s not too much extra effort for us. This is incredibly hurtful. Imagine if your husband only loved you when it was convenient for him — if, when you were difficult to love (and for some of us, this is much of the time!), he stopped bothering. And I know some of you don’t have to imagine this at all; you live it. But you know how hurtful this is, and how harmful it is to a marriage. And this is exactly what we do to our husbands oftentimes. We “love” them (read: put their needs first) when their wants and needs don’t interfere with our own – so we’re not really putting their wants needs ahead of ours at all.
Okay, so consider again those three ways that your husband would like to be served that you don’t like. These might be mundane. For instance, while my husband isn’t a fan of piles lying about the house, I don’t really like putting laundry away:
(This photo is from about 5 years ago. Generally my piles aren’t quite as bad now…..)
One (or more) of the three might be of a more adult nature. (I will not be inserting a picture here.)
Some of the three might be things he’s been asking you to do for a long time. This summer I made an extensive chart of things I wanted to get done and things my husband wanted me to do. Some of these things had been on my to-do list for years. Let me tell you – it felt REALLY good to get them all done!
Now, once you’ve thought of your three things, ask yourself: why do you dislike them?
First, are they illegal? Are they physically dangerous or otherwise harmful to you or others? If so, obviously I’m not advocating that you do them. I am suggesting that you seek help outside yourself, however. Here’s a resource that may help: http://referrals-loc.custhelp.com/cgi-bin/referrals_loc.cfg/php/loc/enduser/loc.php.
If none of this is true, consider: Is it because these three things are boring to you? Or time-consuming for you? Or uninteresting for you? See the pattern? All of these have to do with our preferences — not his needs.
God has so much more in store for our marriages than we ever allow Him to do! The sorts of blessings He can give us in our relationship with our husbands are unmatched in any other human relationship. But He will not flood our marriages with these blessings if we are serving ourselves instead of one another.
Do we always feel like serving (again, read: loving) our husbands in selfless ways? No! (Well, if you do, then you’re a much better woman than I am!)
Why don’t we always feel like serving our husbands? Plenty of reasons, I believe. Sometimes the fault is theirs: they act in hard-to-love ways sometimes; they don’t always love us like they should. Sometimes the fault is ours: we’re too busy with our own needs or the needs of others (unless you are clearly led to do this by God, don’t replace service to your husband with service to someone (anyone!) else); we’re tired; whatever he’s asking for doesn’t seem important to us.
But the main reason we don’t meet our husbands’ needs is that we aren’t loving God the way we should. Once we are continually (daily, minute-by-minute) being filled with God’s love, loving our husbands becomes possible. It becomes fulfilling. Even enjoyable. . . . usually.
And what does it mean to continually be filled with God’s love? (See the previous post about abiding in Him.) Ultimately, the main thing in our lives has to be our relationship with God — He is our Source of strength, our best friend, our Father, the Lover of our souls.
And He has an amazing design for our marriages! Not all good marriages will look the same – and that’s good – our walks with God don’t all look the same either. My prayer is that we’ll all find God’s best for our marriages – and this takes time. Time with God. Time serving our husbands. All of this, though, is time well spent.
Here’s my challenge to you today: Look at your list of three ways your husband would like to be served that you don’t like. (Again, as long as they’re not harmful, etc.,) prayerfully consider doing all three of these sometime this week. I know that might seem ambitious, but we put a lot of effort into lots of far-less-important things.
Think about this: If someone from church called and needed you to do three things that would take some rearranging of your schedule and some extra time from your week, would you do them? What if your child’s teacher needed you to do something for the classroom? What if your boss needed you to pick up some work, maybe for a co-worker who got sick? What if a friend needed some extra attention? We rearrange and reallocate our time for lots of different reasons. Reasons that, ultimately, should come AFTER our service to our husbands.
So, rearrange and reallocate what you have to. Show your husband that next to God, he’s the most important thing in your life. And, remember, he’s not going to believe he’s important if these things are done grudgingly. This has to be done with a cheerful, servant’s heart.
I’d love hear about successes or roadblocks, either in the comments here or in an email (firstname.lastname@example.org). Trust me, ladies. Our husbands will notice this!
Next week: part 3 of the wife series: the biggest and most culturally-encouraged saboteur of marriages….
Click here to read part 1 of the wife series: “why won’t he________?”
Click here to read the “(becoming) fully submitted” series.
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Thanks to all of you who are praying for the anonymous girls in this week’s (prayer) warrior wednesday post!
Ephesians 5:22 reads: Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.
And I’ve been wondering:
Do we struggle to submit to our husbands as unto the Lord because we aren’t submitted to the Lord in the way we should be?
If our relationships with God are out-of-whack, it shouldn’t surprise us that our relationships with our husbands have problems. If we’re having trouble putting God (who is all-wise, all-good, has our best interests at heart all the time) first, of course we’ll have trouble putting our husbands (who are, as humans, flawed) before ourselves.
And, while those of us who are “good wives” often pay lip service to submitting, to putting our husbands’ needs in front of our own, when it comes down to it, we often want to hold our husbands to a standard that we don’t want to hold ourselves to — we expect his selfless service to us, and we feel like anything less than that lets us off the hook. We find ourselves thinking things like: “He didn’t seem interested in my day, so I’m not going to have sex with him tonight.” OR “He doesn’t seem to be handling this problem correctly/fast enough, so I’m going to take over.
This is not an option we’re given in Scripture — it doesn’t say “wives submit to your husbands when you feel they’re living for you.” Nope. It just says to submit. Well, submit as to the LORD. Which brings us back to our original question: Are we having trouble submitting to our husbands because we’re not fully submitted to God?
Hopefully, we’ve begun working on fully submitting to God. That, in and of itself, will do wonders for our marriage, because it is God’s Will that we honor and respect our husbands. If we’re in God’s Will at all times, respect for our husbands will naturally flow from that. This post, though, is about what respecting our husbands looks like a little more specifically.
TWO NOTES BEFORE I BEGIN:
ONE: While this post is specifically about marriage, I think it’s important for unmarried women as well. First, many of you will eventually marry, and being aware of some of these common problems beforehand might help you and your husband avoid some of them. Second, those whom God never calls to marry will, very likely, have married friends who face struggles in the husband-wife relationship. Perhaps something here could help you as you minister to them. Plus, much of what we’re going to talk about affects all of our relationships, not just the husband/wife relationship. (Mark 9:35: Sitting down Jesus called the Twelve and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.”)
TWO: I’d like to note here that it might seem like these next couple of posts are unfairly hard on wives. That I don’t say enough about what our husbands should be doing. Here’s why: We can’t control what our husbands do. We can only control what we do. What we’d like to do is change our husbands so they’ll do what we’d like them to. Or we’d like to use their shortcomings as an excuse to not improve ourselves as wives. All of this is selfishness (sin) and all of this is very natural. We like easy fixes. We like comfortable things. We like getting what we want. But, as Christians, we’re called to something better.
In addition, these posts are about the Biblical role of the wife, not the husband. I’m not going to handle the husband part because I feel like that will tempt us to focus on his shortcomings, instead of our own. What follows is meant to help us become better wives — no matter what kinds of husbands we have. I can almost guarantee you, though, that allowing God to make you a better wife will help make your husband a better husband. But that can’t be our goal. Our goal is to honor God and our husbands. Period.
Without further ado…….
This post is going to pose several questions. These are NOT rhetorical. I think it’s helpful if you stop and answer them. They also don’t always have a right or wrong answer. Sometimes, it just a matter of taking stock of where you are so you know how to move forward.
First, what three things do you feel like you’ve told your husband over and over or asked him to do over and over?
Second, why can’t you let go of these things? This isn’t meant to imply that you should have to, but I think trying to articulate why something is so important to you can help you plan how to handle the issue in the future.
For example, if you’re constantly telling your husband to drink less because he’s had a DUI, is spending too much money on the habit, and frightens the kids when he’s drunk, I’m not telling you that you have to stop being so selfish and leave him alone. Quite the opposite in this case: your concern is stemming from actual safety and relational concerns. I would recommend, though, getting help other than just yourself. (A great resource is Focus on the Family’s website. They offer solid advice on a wide variety of issues: www.family.org. You can also call to talk to family care specialist or look up Christian counselors in your area: http://family.custhelp.com/app/home.)
However, for many of us, what we nag our husbands about is not nearly so important. So, once you have your list, consider why you can’t let go of those issues. WHY is this so important to you? What need of yours would he be meeting if he did these three things?
For instance, let’s say you always tell him to get projects, etc., done faster. Just totally pulling this example out of the sky. Have no real experience with it or anything…. J
And this speed is important to you because, well, you want these projects done. The house would look better. Or he could then move on to a new project. Etc. He should want to do this for you because you want it done. In this case, though, if it doesn’t get done, there’s no real harm.
Consider, too, why he might be taking so long. Does he even know how to do the project? Does he have other things that are more pressing priorities? Is he just a slow person? Is the project not important to him?
1. If he doesn’t know how to do the project, there’s a good chance this is causing him quite a bit of anxiety. As we’ll talk about in a later post, there’s a lot of pressure on men to know how to do stuff. More than there is on women. Maybe easing up on him would relieve some of that pressure. And really, is the project so important that it’s worth causing him anxiety over?
2. If he has other, more pressing concerns, then he probably needs to be cut some slack. If he actually has more to do than he can get done in a day/week/month, then asking him how you can help with the load might be a good idea.
3. Is he just a slow person? Honestly, this was probably something you knew about him before you married him. But maybe he’s gotten worse. Or maybe you thought you could “fix” him. But, if this is a trait you knew he had when you married him, you’re probably going to have to let your timetable go in a lot of cases.
If you’re pretty sure he’s just a slow mover, I’d ask him about this. My husband is notoriously slow at almost everything — and I knew this going in. The positive side of this is that almost everything he does is done to an incredibly high standard and he makes very few mistakes. The negative side of this is that he’s SLOW! And I’m NOT!
We’ve found lots of ways to cope with our different styles (and I’m happy to talk about them, if anyone finds themselves in a similar situation) — and for the most part, we work very well together. That doesn’t mean, however, that the slowness never gets on my nerves. However, this is usually a personal preference thing, not an actual issue. (Even if I sometimes feel like my preference is the correct one!) If this is the case for you and your husband, I would recommend talking about it. Our discussions have taken us some time (time I don’t always feel like we have to spare), but they’ve allowed us to utilize our strengths really well — and spending the time talking about it when we’re both level-headed has led to far fewer disagreements.
4. Is the project not important to him? Sure, he should want to do it because it’s important to you, but the fact is, he’s not perfect at this putting-others-first thing either. Again, you might find out why it’s not important to him. Was he not consulted about the decisions regarding the project? Is it a project he doesn’t see the need for? It is outside his area of interest? Talking about this might help you handle projects better in the future.
Overall, though, I’d recommend prayerfully considering letting go of the top three things that you feel you tell your husband over and over or ask your husband to do over and over. Unless, as discussed above, this is an actual issue (drinking problem, violence, etc.), it’s probably a matter of preference. And, as we’ve discussed, his needs should be put ahead of your own.
I’ll grant here that this is much easier if you’re both trying to do this the right way. If both of you are trying to put the other first, you won’t bother him so much with projects, etc., and he’ll get done what is important to you. Both of you will make some sacrifices and both of you will have needs met. And if, like me, you’re blessed enough to have a husband who leads and puts you first, take some time to thank him today. I think sometimes those of us with husbands who do this well underestimate how much easier that makes our roles as Biblical wives. If, however, this is a one way street, it becomes much harder. The truth is, though, that it’s still what we’re called to as Christian wives. If your husband isn’t a Christian (or claims to be one, but doesn’t show much evidence of it), remember that you are not alone! God is with you through this journey – and other women who have been in the same situation can offer solid advice. Here are some resources that can help you:
Focus on the Family Advice: http://family.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/25920.
Book Recommended by Focus on the Family: http://family.christianbook.com/spiritually-single-raising-godly-doesnt-believe/nancy-meyer/9781576838747/pd/38747?event=CF
Another Book Recommended by Focus on the Family: http://family.christianbook.com/doesnt-believe-encouragement-alone-their-faith/nancy-kennedy/9781578564347/pd/64344?event=CF
So, Challenge One on the road to becoming a more godly wife: Prayerfully consider letting go of some things that you most nag your husband about. Realize that “why won’t he . . . . ?” isn’t the only question to ask. The right question to ask might be “why won’t I . . . .?” Remember that this is a sacrifice you’re making for the good of your marriage. Remember also that it doesn’t even begin to compare to the sacrifice God made for the good of your relationship with him.
I’d love to hear about successes, questions, concerns, etc., as you work on loving your husband more and more. Please comment below!
Want to read more? Check out the start of the (becoming) fully submitted series.
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