Ever had one of those moments where things that you think might not go together suddenly do? Kinda like the time you were ten and your mom was out of peanut butter and you discovered mayonnaise and vanilla wafers actually do taste pretty good together?
No? Just me?
This weekend I finally had a chance to clean our house and I had a moment of discovery. It’s been a while. (Not the discovery part, the house cleaning part.) I’d had no time this past week while I worked on finishing up a big project, and as usual, as I got into the chores Saturday morning, my brain started whirring.
For some reason, I seem to think better when I’m scrubbing toilets. I think it’s God’s sneaky way of getting me to clean more. (I also intended to clean the oven… and I just remembered it still has oven cleaner “soaking” in it, with a note on the oven door… two days after the fact… whoops! Now you know how much cooking I’ve done recently.)
So as I was cleaning and trying to corral/guide my husband and son as they were helping, I thought about the book I finished reading during our trip to West Virginia to visit my dad for a little summer vacation a couple of weeks ago.
Our family has enjoyed watching Duck Dynasty, and my husband had a chance to visit their headquarters in north Louisiana a few months ago while he was traveling for his job. He brought home a couple of souvenirs for us that included Willie and Korie Robertson’s book, The Duck Commander Family and Ms. Kay’s cooking video. (I haven’t watched that yet and I honestly can’t see me cooking up any squirrel um, EVER, but I’m sure it’ll still be fun to check out.)
The biggest takeaway I got from the book, besides appreciating their story of hard work and determination growing a dream into a successful business, was Phil and Kay’s philosophy with their kids. They didn’t coddle to them. They didn’t put them first over everything else. They left a lot up to them to do and not just chores, but life.
They expected a lot, but they did it in a way that didn’t control or make their children little memes or robots of themselves, they left a lot for their kids to figure out on their own. The children were part of the family and the family unit was the most important part. Everyone worked together for the common good and success of the family.
There were no pedestals, no prima donnas, just hard work, hard play, and a devoted faith to God. And here’s the amazing part – their kids didn’t die! Their kids turned out well, with committed spouses and good families and good family philosophies of their own.
If I Was Your Man…
Then I started thinking about this song by Bruno Mars that’s been getting a lot of play lately, If I Was Your Man, a song that we heard over and over in the car on our trip to West Virginia (did I mention the trip took 16 hours?), when I was driving and the guys were sleeping. The first time I heard this song was a few months ago… ya’ll, seriously, I don’t get too carried away by music, but this one did it for me. If I knew how to swoon, I just might have for this song.
What’s not to love about a guy on a piano belting out how exactly everything a girl wants to hear? Buying her flowers, holding hands, giving me all his hours, and even taking me to dance! It’s like he hit every major group in the Woman’s Guide to Romance Pyramid… except chocolate. He forgot the chocolate. I actually loved this song so much, my husband was sweet enough to download it for me so we could dance to it after we were back in our hotel room the night of his Seabee Ball back in March… which you must know, my husband is not real comfortable when it comes to dancing so this was a rare and beautiful moment until we got to the part about “now you’re with another man.” Then it was just awkward. And silly. And, yeah, let’s just put that song away now, honey…
SERIOUSLY, though, what woman doesn’t want to be treasured the way Bruno Mars sings about it in his song? Missed like that? Adored like that? It’s why romance novels have never gone away. It’s why love songs will always be on the radio. And the handful of emails I get each week from women coming to me with their marriage frustrations and problems also tell me why a lot of women wish they could be treasured but feel very much the opposite most of the time.
So I’m wiping down my kitchen counters and mopping the floor and thinking about Duck Dynasty and Bruno Mars and then I start thinking about my “experiments” God’s walked me through these last two to three years, and how much God has changed my heart on a lot of things.
Like mopping, for instance. Used to hate it, didn’t want to do it, and complained from start to finish. Same with laundry. Same with picking up clothes in the bedroom that usually weren’t mine. There are so many more important things I want to do. But since walking through Proverbs 31, and more recently, the scriptures in Ephesians, and other places in the Bible that deal with biblical submission, God’s changed my heart on this. The changes didn’t happen overnight, but they have happened. And I’ve seen amazing blessings that have come from it. Yes, we’re talking good stuff here. My home is happy. My husband and my son and I communicate great. And no, I do not resemble in any way, shape or form, a door mat.
Right now, there are two younger wives taking my Proverbs 31 Challenge together, and they’re blogging about it. I’m so glad that they are because they’re sharing the ups and downs of all of it, and so much of what they’re noticing is what I’ve learned too. Because something changes in our marriages and in our families when our attitudes change, and when our attitudes change, our actions do.
Put another way…
Here is where God started breaking it down for me, unpacking what a man with a long beard, a crooner with crazy hair and Bible passages with words like strength, and honor, and submission all have to do with each other…
Ladies, I am going to say this in love, and I am saying it to myself as much as to anyone else…
This life does not revolve around us as women.
But a lot of us have convinced ourselves that it does.
That’s why we really do deep down wish our guys would give us all their hours (or all of their attention, or at the very least all of their decisions for us to decide for them) and we get upset when they don’t and we tell them that they should. We overlook the times they do, the things they do, because maybe they’re not presented with a bow or a card or at a baby grand singing their heart out just for us, and eventually we become convinced that there is someone somewhere out there who will treat us exactly as we deserve and we leave or our men get tired of hearing our whining and tears and woe and so they leave.
We listen to culture tell us we deserve better, we listen to our friends tell us we deserve better, and we tell ourselves that if our men would just appreciate us more, or do more for us or show us love the way we want to be shown love, in fact, if they would just act a lot more like ourselves, then life would just be a whole lot better!
But here’s the thing – at that point, if they went through all of those changes, all of those fixes that we have a list for happening in our heads – ya’ll, our guys wouldn’t be guys. They’d be girls. But God designed them to be guys. It’s why we fell in love with them in the first place. God created them to be men. And He created them to be paired with women because when we get together, male and female, it’s supposed to be good.
I bring things to our marriage that my husband can’t. (And yes, that includes organizational skills.) My husband brings things to our marriage that I don’t. (An incredible sense of humor, for one thing. Other type-A women who stress out like I do over the stupidest things know how needed this is in our men, don’t we ladies?)
A lot of us (ok, maybe everyone who doesn’t ascribe to attachment parenting – please don’t send me emails – I am not knocking your parenting decisions) might agree that it isn’t healthy to make your little human think they are the center of the universe because then they grow up to be big humans who think they are the center of the universe, and have a tough time playing nicely with others. But, I gotta say, sometimes we act like our husbands should make US the centers of their universes. And when they don’t, we become the victims. The ones who miss out, who are ignored, who aren’t understood, who aren’t appreciated.
We believe we’re victims and so we start acting like victims. We stop acting like wives and we start forgetting that we are enormous influences to our husbands. HUGE influences. And we stop trying to influence (by the way, manipulation and guilt-inducing is NOT the same as influence). I have seen it in my own marriage and I have heard it from other wives – an act of kindness from you, yes, even when it’s undeserved, goes a hundred times farther than you’ll ever think it will, and you will see it reflected back from your husband at some point in time (some husbands are slower than others, that’s my disclaimer for the day).
“I don’t buy it.”
A friend on FB shared a link to a story the other day about a wife whose husband told her he wanted out of the marriage. Her response wasn’t to cry, to run home to her parents, to freak out and go all Crazy Woman on him. Her response was to calmly keep doing what she was doing and say, “I don’t buy it.” The article is a few years old now but still, the principle behind what she did blows my mind. She refused to see herself as a victim. She realized her husband was going through something he needed to work out for himself. She gave him the time to do it, and in that act, I think she was absolutely selfless.
She wasn’t thinking about herself. She was thinking about her husband. She was thinking about her kids. She allowed her husband to be human and to work through his emotional crisis without making it her own and making herself the victim and looking at it as all about her (side note – there’s no mention of adultery or any other kind of similar issue in this case. There are different approaches that are required depending on the circumstances).
Almost more interesting than what this woman did, is what people said in the comments about her. A lot of people think this woman was crazy. Mean, even. Insensitive. Her husband wanted out. How dare she not acknowledge that and just accept it and move on?
If marriage’s whole purpose was just to have happy moments and quit when the hard parts started, we would just call marriages honeymoons. Marriages include the tough stuff.
Cliff and I celebrated 15 years during our trip to West Virginia – and I am so grateful for this man God has allowed to be in my life. We got married early compared to a lot of other couples today, I was 21, he was 22, but we have grown up together, and we have grown together. We have had our share of struggles, of arguments, of fights, of short seasons where we weren’t really sure we liked the other one, of financial shortages and income windfalls. But all of those struggles and arguments and everything else pass. And what’s left is love. Real, pick-it-up-and-eat-it-with-a-spoon, sweet but not so sweet to rot out your teeth, love.
(Aren’t we cute?)
So here is what I want to say.
If you want change in your marriage, it has to start with you first. Don’t be the victim – be the encourager! Don’t be a microwave, insisting on results in 30 seconds or less. Be the slow burner, and realize that to cook a beautiful sauce to tasty perfection, it takes time, patience, seasoning and the ability to step back and let things simmer. (And now I’m thinking I really need to make that spaghetti sauce I enjoy making…)
You CAN influence your husband for good. You cannot change him, though. Only God can work in a man’s heart and life – just as He works in yours.
So please, don’t give up. Don’t be the victim. Don’t fight for attention, fight for your marriage! Don’t fight for your expectations, fight for your family! Don’t fight for your rights, but fight for your relationship! Fight by, for once, stepping out of the ring, and taking the gloves off.
Yes, I know, that feels and sounds ridiculous. But it works. And in July, we’ll be talking a lot more about it.
Want to know what’s possessed me and why in the world I am suggesting “step back” to fight for your marriage? Pre-order My So-Called Life as a Submissive Wife for only $9 and find out why. Or check out the sample chapter here.