As a starry-eyed young woman, I was well aware of the difficulties marriage presented because of the high divorce rate. But I also knew I’d be different. Once I met my husband, I was willing to concede that we might possibly disagree, but this feeling of L.O.V.E. we had wasn’t going to fade like those other couples. We were going to be different.
I read tons of marriage books, listened to FamilyLife Today, and knew all the techniques. I was ready to face the challenges and ace the tests life would throw at us during our marriage.
I was such an ignorant snot.
Move forward 13 years, two children, five moves, job changes, severe illnesses, and top it off with a child with special needs. Our days haven’t flown by. They’ve been pureed in a blender.
And you know what? Sometimes I’m angry. Sometimes things don’t go my way. Sometimes you-know-who doesn’t measure up to my expectations. I have not only lost that loving feeling, I think it’s under the couch along with the dust bunnies and stale Cheerios.
In a conversation with a counselor friend, I discovered something huge. The problem isn’t always … the other person. Sadly, the problem is often inside me. Its name is Pride. And it is U.G.L.Y.
As I search my memory banks for marriage-bettering tips and techniques, I realize many boil down to a similar core: a willing and forgiving heart. A decision to burn away my own pride, my own desire to have things my way or to hold on to anger (because he deserves it, right?) And to be humble enough to offer love freely, the way Jesus did to us.
Still unwilling to admit I’d written a long-term lease to pride, I resisted my friends’ words. “Well, I’m not the only one with issues here. He’s not exactly doing cartwheels to be in my presence, either.”
My wise counselor friend nodded. Her husband, also with a counseling background, told her, basically, guys have feelings too. Am I the only one who forgets that? Men might express their feelings differently, but it’s difficult to be attracted to a disrespectful, nagging, or resentful wife. It doesn’t matter how pretty she is or what she wears, if she has an underlying attitude of resentment toward him, he’s not going to be doing cartwheels or anything else around her.
Author Shaunti Feldhahn speaks often on men’s desire to have respect from the women they love. Author and speaker Tim Shoemaker takes it a step further and says, “A man will walk barefoot over broken glass from here to Canada for a wife who adores him.” The way he explains adoration is respect plus love.
What does that even mean? Disrespect might mean something different to each man. One of the ways Shaunti says you can tell if your husband is feeling disrespected is if he reacts in anger. For me, disrespect is often in the form of looks I give my husband when I don’t like something he did. Or the little comments I make.
Disrespect can dress in all sorts of outfits, but the core, I think, is making a husband feel he does not measure up and might never measure up to be the man his wife wants.
But how do I get myself in check, especially when I have these seeds of discontent in my heart?
For me, the key is giving up my right to be irritated about _____.
Yeah, _____ is a pretty big category, isn’t it?
In talking with my friend, I realized it all came down to pride for me. I didn’t want to let go, to give him love freely, because it was almost frightening. If I didn’t let him know he’d done ______ wrong, then wouldn’t he keep doing it? If I didn’t set him straight about _____ then it would always irritate me. And, furthermore, I shouldn’t have to be the one who keeps making changes. Right?
Yes, there is a time for loving confrontation. Communication is very important. But communication is not the same as communicating an underlying message that my husband never measures up. And at the core, the problem is still my pride. The person who needs to be willing to change and have the courage to change is me.
Love isn’t about making another person into something I want. It’s about accepting them where they are and holding their hand as they become what God has called them to be.
Will this fix every marriage and every situation? No. But living what Jesus told us to do in John 13:34-35: “Love others as I have loved you,” will go a long way on the road to peace and getting the “me” out of my marriage.