Tuesday, April 8, 2014

10 Ways To Be a Terrible Wife


Our wedding anniversary is coming up on Saturday.  Three years!  I know it's not a lot, but we've actually been together for several years now and it's a miracle we're even still here to celebrate this anniversary!  I'm so thankful my marriage is what it is today.  But it's been a long, hard road to get here and we still have a ways to go.

So when I was trying to figure out a way to bring this message on marriage, I certainly didn't want it to sound like I have it all figured out--because I don't!  And I didn't want you to assume that I think I'm the best wife ever--because I'm so not!  The only platform I even have for writing about this topic is experience.  The truth is this is my second marriage, and I almost messed this one up!  Know what that makes me?  An expert on what NOT to do!  So here it is...my (not even exhausted) list of some of the ways I've been a terrible wife.  All tried and true.  
      • Refuse to tell him when something's wrong--make him guess instead. Oh boy.  I still struggle with this one.  I don't know what it is, but my knee-jerk reaction to conflict is usually to take the passive-aggressive road.  Where my preferred forms of communication are the slamming of doors and/or cupboards, "heavy walking", avoiding eye contact and, when asked that question- "What's wrong?" my signature flat "Nothing."  Certainly I can't be the only one who does this, yet I cringe to think about how ridiculous it must look.  After many escalated incidents, I've come to realize that most of them could've been avoided by just telling my husband what was on my mind in the first place.  Men are simple creatures (no offense intended!) and "fixers" by nature.  They like you to be direct.  Translation:  Problem identified...problem solved.  It's been a huge relief to find out that, generally, all I have to do is to tell him what's bothering me (even if it's him!) and we've already got a big head start on the process of fixing it.  Which is a much shorter path from A to B than that dangerous, windy one I usually default to.
      •  When you do finally tell him, yell it at him instead of talking to him respectfully.  I'm a recovering yeller.  It's in my blood.  I come from a long line of yellers.  We yell when we're happy, we yell when we're excited, we yell when we talk to our kids, we yell when we talk to our friends, and when we're mad?  We REALLY yell.  My husband used to say I have a "short-girl complex".  His take on my need to yell about everything is that I try to make up for being so small by getting loud.  Which may be true.  Who knows.  I've claimed for years that I'm just a passionate person.  Whatever the reason, I'm happy to report that I've gotten good at taking it down a notch or two (or ten!) when it comes to raising my voice.  And I know we all get excited and do this at times.  But as a chronic yeller, I had to dig deep and think about how it affects those around me.  I hated being yelled at as a child.  And I hate it even more as an adult.  I realize that yelling at another person--especially my husband--is a sure-fire way to let them know that they are not worthy of being talked to with respect and dignity.  This is certainly not what I want to communicate, and is reason enough for me to turn down the decibels.
      • Use your words to tear him down.  Especially in front of others.  Scripture is riddled with warnings about how the tongue can be used to bring life or death.  I had no idea how powerful my words were.  I had no idea that I could tear him down or build him up just with what I said to him--or didn't say!  Add an audience to the mix and I might as well have ran a dagger straight into his heart.  I don't care what they say; sticks and stones may break your bones, and words always DO hurt you!  Me tearing him down alone is enough to break him, but when he watches the woman he loves entertain an audience with jokes at his expense?  It does something to him.  And not a good something either.  I'm so ashamed that I've done this.  But the good news about learning how powerful my words can be is knowing they have the opposite effect when I use them in the right way.  
      • Position yourself in the role of his Holy Spirit and take it VERY seriously.  You know what I'm talking about.  Asking him questions I already knew the answers to (Honey, did you get the garbage out? or So how's that book going?), giving him the disapproving stink-eye over anything and everything (as if to say...you're playing that video game AGAIN?!), etc etc.  I chuckle to think about the many ways I've done this, though the results are anything but comical.  I guess I thought I was being "helpful" to remind him of the things he should be doing and hint at the fact that he wasn't doing them.  Just because I thought I was being subtle doesn't mean it came off that way.  Instead I just looked like a nag.  (And I don't think any of us got married saying, "I'm gonna nag the crap out of this man until he shapes up!"  I know I didn't.) This truth became crystal clear to me when I started to look around at the ways I fall short--and the way he gives me grace.  I'd be crushed (and peeved, and a little resentful) if he came home and said, "Oh...I see you were blogging again.  Hey, did you happen to get to the dishes?" or "Did you wash me some socks?" as he stood in front of the empty drawer.  So why would I think he'd feel any different about it when I do it?
      • Put the kids first.  I always knew I wanted to be a great mom, and I thought it was noble to decide to do this at all costs.  So I threw myself into it, giving it all I had.  Like seriously...everything.  Unfortunately this type of thinking is wrong on so many levels.  What I didn't know was that I could do that and still be a great wife.  In fact, when my marriage is being prioritized and is going well the whole being a mom thing gets smoother too.  Indeed, kids who see their parents nurturing their marriage tend to feel more secure.  Bottom line here?  I didn't want to be sending my youngest child off to college only to turn to Scott and think, Who are you?  Sadly this is what happens to so many couples whose lives are completely wrapped up in their kids for so long.  I want to teach my children what a good, healthy marriage looks like, and I want to show my girls how to be a godly wife...how can I do that if they never see me prioritizing my marriage and being a wife?
      • Wear the pants in the relationship, and don't let him forget it.  Ok, so this is where proponents of the feminist movement tend to get their skirts in a bunch.  It involves that big ol' hairy cuss word that always gets so much attention:  submission.  <gasp!>  I joke, but seriously.  This is a subject that so many people are passionate about opposing and yet most don't understand what it actually looks like in a healthy marriage.  We used to tell our girls that mommy's the "big boss".  Meaning all decisions came through me with only optional input from Scott.  Today we can say the opposite.  Daddy's the "big boss" these days.  And this is where some get upset...but let's be clear about something:  I'm a strong woman, with opinions and thoughts of my own.  I'm also the manager, so-to-speak, of my household.  On any given day you can find me working, paying bills, scheduling appointments, organizing activities, scheduling maintenance services, cleaning, fixing, planning, doing...all the while attempting to maintain a peaceful, loving atmosphere for the people within these four walls.  Except now?  All decisions flow through Scott.  So instead of telling him I went ahead and signed our daughter up for dance classes, I'd say, "Hey.  We talked about maybe putting Katie in a dance class.  I narrowed it down to a couple different studios if you want to check them out and let me know what you think."  It's not about asking permission...it's about maintaining a partnership.  It's about letting him know he's still the head of our family no matter what falls under my realm of control. 
      • Talk to family members and friends about your marriage problems.  BIG no-no.  Not only did I damage others' opinions of Scott, but I became a gossip.  Because there's a difference between having a close relationship with someone who you can share things with (and also be held accountable to), and "venting" to everyone who happens to call during that moment.  And man, I did a lot of the latter.  Not cool. 
      • Ignore his need for intimacy.  Yeah, it's a need.  It's how your man experiences closeness to you, much the same as having a deep, meaningful conversation leaves you feeling closer to him.  I used to think Scott was being selfish when he'd express his desire for me at the end of the day when--as a mom of two working a full-time job and taking care of the household--I was exhausted!  I just didn't get it.  It looked to me like he was refusing to "embrace" the season of life we were in.  But let's look at it from a different angle:  Suppose Scott had said to me, "Honey.  I know you love it when we talk with each other.  I can see how much it means to you when I really listen to you.  But, I've gotta say...I'm exhausted when I come home from work!  I've been listening to people talk all day long and--quite frankly--I can't stand to hear another word!  I really wish you would just stop being so selfish and realize that, in this season of our life, we're not going to be doing much talking any more.  Better just get used to it."  Hmm...
      • Find your fulfillment in him alone.  This is such a difficult one, but the solution was simple.  We started out as a lot of other couples do...being madly in love and believing the notion that this person was going to be a never-ending source of happiness till death parted us.  <sigh>  Then reality set in, and we realized that the person who seemed so infallible at the beginning could be darn near impossible to stand at times.  I love the graphic I see floating around social media that captures this point so well.  It says:  I married a sinner.  And so did my spouse.  And it's true for all couples.  So the worst thing you can possibly do is expect your mate to be in control of your emotional well-being.  It's way too much pressure.  I don't think it's a secret that I find my ultimate joy and fulfillment in Jesus Christ.  And when I started living my life this way, suddenly the pressure was off for Scott.  (And vice-versa!)   
      • Adopt an overall attitude of discontentment.  And make sure he sees how unhappy you are.  The truth is, no matter what season of life we've been in, Scott has had the same deep-seated desire:  my happiness and contentment.  It's pretty much at the root of everything he does.  I'd be willing to bet most other men have that same desire for their ladies.  Yet, I could always find discontentment in something.  A bad day at work would translate into a bad night at home (for everyone!)  A bad hair day or trouble with something else silly was enough to cause misery for, well, however long I felt like it.  When he brought me home from my job, my first order of business was to somehow show him that it's not all roses and BonBons here at the Strouth home while he's away all day.  So I'd adopt my best frazzled-mom look when he walked in the door and prepare my most pitiful do-you-know-what-I'VE-been-through-today speech just so that he knew that I had to face difficult things too, despite his efforts to shield me and the kids from that stuff.  And there is room for that occasionally.  But really, having a happy, content heart enables my family to also be happy and content.  And there's really no better way to say 'Thank You' to Scott...for loving me, for providing for us, and all the other things he does daily because my happiness matters that much to him.  And for being the type of husband that makes me want to be a better wife.    
      So there you have it.  Like I said, this list is nowhere near exhausted.  (Which is somewhat embarrassing.)  But my prayer is that someone was able to find hope in this.  Because if I can do it...anyone can.

      Photo // Death to Stock

      While we're being transparent, what's your biggest marriage "oops?" How are you turning it around?