“15 Years of Marriage” Lesson #2: The Wife’s Job Description

Image

When Aaron and I first got married Stormie Omartian’s The Power of a Praying Wife was very popular. As you already learned, we had plenty of resources at our disposal, so I read through that book within weeks of saying, “I do.” As a dedicated newlywed, I was determined to not just be A praying wife. I was going to be THE praying wife! Sure, there were things Aaron did that frustrated me, but I was going to *insert gentle, gracious voice here* lovingly bring these things before the throne of grace and trust God to work on Aaron Himself. After all, my engagement counselor taught me that I needed to accept Aaron as he was and trust God with the rest, and danggit, I was going to be my counselor’s dream student.

I think that lasted a month. Maybe a week, if I’m realistic.

I mean, *insert annoyed, impatient, whiny voice here* did Mrs. Omartian have nothing better to do all day than to just pray for her husband for hours and hours? And, sure, I trusted God to work on Aaron’s rough edges, but isn’t that why He gave ME to Aaron? I feel like there’s a scripture in the Bible somewhere about what a great gift I am to my husband….

Welp, 15 years later, I’m not much better, but I hope I am a bit wiser. I totally missed the point of sweet Stormie’s book and much of my engagement counseling. Accepting Aaron as he was and is isn’t about keeping a list of all of the faults and failures I’m enduring for his sake. God just wants me to love Aaron as God loves me- in the middle of my mess, seeing the beauty through the brokenness.

SO- what’s a wife to do?? Well, I don’t think this is a comprehensive list, but I think it’s a start:

1. Be His cheerleader.

Let’s be honest- your husband will have enough critics in his life. Do you REALLY want your name at the top of that list? I spent way too much time keeping track of Aaron’s faults, and I am so grateful that he did not return the favor. We have all been around wives who are “the dripping faucets” the Bible talks about- nagging and nitpicking, belittling their husbands in front of others, bossing their husbands around like he is one of the kids. These women exhaust ME! I never want to be part of that crowd. Loving someone means seeing the best in them and helping to draw that out. Cheer your husband on! I joke with Aaron about getting a real set of pom poms so that he’ll know I’m enthusiastically behind him. 

2. Be his biggest fan.

Cheering is about how we talk to our husbands. Being a raving fan is how we talk about our husbands. Wives, we get the distinct honor of being our husbands’ biggest fans. Think of that new lipstick you love or that restaurant you tell everyone about. THAT is what being a fan is all about. Brag on your husband! Tell people how awesome he is. When he gets a promotion or excels at work or just does something great at home, broadcast it to the world!! If you can brag more about your favorite TV show or clothing store than your husband, you’ve stopped studying him. Remember the layers- there will ALWAYS be more to learn about your best friend. Dedicate yourself to being his greatest student and biggest fan. It’s important to remember, that if you are not your husband’s biggest fan, another woman will be. This isn’t something to live in fear of, but it should serve as motivation to not let anyone shout louder, hold higher or talk more positively about our husbands than we do.

3. Be his girlfriend.

Do you remember why you fell in love with your husband? Do you recall those first moments you spent together, the first time you held hands, the first kiss? When you’re dating you treasure every moment you get together, and the air is filled with electricity! It’s a common misconception that the reason marriages fail is because that initial flame just cannot last. The spark that causes the flame does seem brighter, but we’re not after fleeting sparks are we? We want a healthy, long-burning fire.  Flirt with your husband. Act like a silly teenage girl sometimes. Find an activity that your husband loves and do it with him! Who cares if you totally stink at it. Let him teach you (another opportunity to flirt shamelessly). 🙂 Leave him love notes. Wear sexy clothing to bed and, for heaven’s sake, throw away those sweat pants! If you had to win your husband over every day, how differently would you treat him?
 
4. Be his confidant.
 
It is estimated that women speak 13,000 words MORE every day than men do.  There is no argument that we can monopolize the conversation.  Be sure to give your husband a safe place to talk about his day, too.  Don’t share private things with your girlfriends.  As females we not only talk a lot, but we tend to need more nurturing than our male counterparts.  This doesn’t mean that your husband doesn’t need a place to vent or time to lay his head on your shoulder, though.  Be a comfort to your husband.
 
5. Be his prayer covering.
 
Stormie Omartian was onto something.  It has been said that the best way to reach the heart of another person is to ask God to do it. Only He can deal with matters that go beyond the surface of our lives.  Remember those 13,000 extra words you use every day? Guard yourself against the gossip some women feel comfortable with and start investing those words into something meaningful. Ask God to bless your husband and lead him. Ask God to help you to love him the way God does. Pray for favor over his life. Ask God to make you the wife your husband needs. If you are angry with your husband, pray. If you’re hurt by him, pray. If you’re confused, pray. A wise person once challenged me to pray daily for the individual I was most angry with or hurt by, and it is remarkable how differently you feel about someone when you are dedicated to talking to God about them. 
 
An insightful minister once described my relationship to Aaron as though Aaron were a kite, and I was the one holding the string. He told us that Aaron loved to fly high with these wild and crazy ideas, and I had enough sense to keep him connected to the ground (aka reality). “But,” the man told me, “you have to let him fly sometimes, Sara, because he’ll go crazy if he is too tied down.” This has served as one of the most powerful challenges to me.  Aaron stretches me. I am details and systems and practicality. He is visions and dreams and stretching reality.  We are at our best when we are allowing these differences to complement one another. 
 
“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17
 
Next Time: The Husband’s Job Description
Advertisements

“15 Years of Marriage” Lesson #1: Trash the Myths

Image

In the beginning… we tend to think of marriage as blissful.  Sure, many of us have a bad taste left in our mouths about eternal union by parents who divorced, an unfaithful parent or just society in general.  Still, the moment a ring is accepted is usually joyous and full of hope.  Sometimes, though, we can allow that hope of a life of bliss blind us from some common myths we believe in order to avoid the honesty of how tough marriage will truly be.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m no grinch trying to steal away the sparkle in the eyes of the newly engaged couple.  I’m just speaking from experience with many couples: believing these myths has the potential to harm or even destroy your marriage.

Myth #1: “We know everything about each other.”

Whether you’ve been dating or courting (or whatever) your future spouse for 6 years or 6 months, you will NEVER know everything about them.  People are like onions, and no matter how transparent the outer skin may be, we all have things about ourselves that we don’t even know!  Aaron and I have been married for 15 years, and we are still learning about ourselves and each other.  This isn’t a bad thing.  Your job as an engaged or married couple is not to memorize every tiny detail about the other person.  Discovery is one of the central, most joyful things in marriage!  In addition, if you are growing daily (which you should be) you’ll always be changing. 

So, engagement counseling? A MUST. Non-negotiable, people.  The more seminars you can attend and books you can read, the better, but you also need at least 4-6 sessions of true counseling with a professional counselor or experienced pastor.  Maybe you have lots of great mentors in your life already, but the value of having a 3rd party evaluate your relationship and walk through some general marriage topics is invaluable.  Don’t trust me? Go to your fiance or spouse and do the following exercise in entirety in separate locations and then meet to share your answers:

  • Each of you make your own list of all of the household responsibilities (chores, finances, etc.) you can think of and assign them as either to be completed by husband, wife or as a shared responsibility.
  • Write down the amount of money you think either of you should be able to spend without consulting the other person.
  • Describe the atmosphere in your home growing up. How did your parents handle disagreements? How were you disciplined as a child? What was meal time like? What was your family schedule like on a daily basis? How would you describe your parents’ parenting style? Then do the same for your better half- what were these things like in their home?
  • Write out a monthly budget that you feel is reasonable.  Estimate your married income as best as you can, and plan out every number- rent/mortgage, utilities, shopping, savings, etc.

Share your answers with each other and have an honest discussion about how these answers affect your relationship now or in the future.  Even if your answers are very similar, there is something to be learned about the love of your life.  Don’t miss this and other opportunities by assuming you already know all there is to know.

Myth #2: “The One”

Only God knows how many great relationships or marriages have been sabotaged by this myth.  You might believe that God has one plan for your life and when you make mistakes he is standing at the very spot you went off track, tapping his foot, waiting for you to return so you guys can get back to what He was doing.  However, even IF this were true (which I don’t believe it is), God doesn’t give us a “do-over” for marriage.  LOVE IS A CHOICE.  Just kill that touchy-feeling romantic comedy crap you’ve been fed and take a look at Scripture.  Take a look at life! Some parents do not love their children.  Is that because the kids are the wrong ones? Hardly. 

Romance is no different.  We fairy-tale and fantasize this up, but loving another person for the rest of your life is purely decision, not feeling.  Is chemistry involved in relationships? Absolutely.  Is it important to be attracted physically to your spouse? Heck, yeah. But love is a different thing entirely. 

Aaron understood this before I did.  The night before we got married, one of his friends asked him how he KNEW he was supposed to marry me. His answer? “I don’t! But I know I love Sara.  I know we both love God and want to be in ministry together, so why WOULDN’T I want to marry her?”  He chose me. Was I predestined since the beginning of time to marry Aaron?  Who cares?! We said, “I do,” and now it’s all about effort and decision and hard work.  There is no greener grass, folks.  That guy you dated in high school? He has his OWN set of issues, so don’t even let your mind go there.

Myth #3: “Real love” comes naturally.

This offshoot of the myth of “the one” is just as damaging to relationships.  There truly IS a difference between REAL love and the kind of love sold by Nicholas Sparks and beer commercials.  Want to know how you can tell which is which?  REAL LOVE IS HARD WORK.  I know. Now that you wanted to hear, but all of the married couples said a hearty, “Amen!”  Feelings are fickle and emotions are like the weather.  Your spouse is never going to be able to read your mind.  Ladies, your future-husband is not always going to know when you want to be held or when you want time alone.  Guys, your wife may never know that her asking you to take out the trash every day makes you feel like a 12-year-old.  We’ll talk later about the importance of proper communication, but let’s note that communication is a vital vehicle for creating real love in your relationship.  

This is a great opportunity to bring up The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman.  Go through this book together, and discuss how you can better communicate your love to one another.  It might not feel magical, but these things are what real love is built upon. Forget the perfect dialogues from “The Notebook” and be real with each other.  Laugh at yourself (and one another).  Talk about what really makes you feel loved.  Then stop expecting perfection.  Work at it! This is where marriage gets really powerful.  Iron sharpens iron, and when you’re committed to studying and serving someone forever and ever, great things happen.  It has been said that it takes 9 years of marriage before you start thinking of the other person FIRST.  Nine years of practice.  Nine years of forming new habits.  Nine years of building real love together. Sounds like a great adventure…

NEXT LESSON: Job Descriptions- His & Hers

What 15 years of marriage has taught me

Image

This is Aaron and me about 6 weeks after we were married.  A church friend uncovered this photo last year, and when I saw it my first thought was, “Holy cow….we were sooooo young.” And we were! In this picture I am 19 and Aaron is 20. We were beginning our junior years at SAGU, and we had NO idea what we were doing!  We had fantastic preparation for marriage- probably better than anyone I knew at the time.  I worked for a professional Marriage and Family Therapist, so she gave us free engagement counseling.  Aaron’s parents were pastors, and Aaron’s dad stuck to his rule of not performing our marriage ceremony until we had completed counseling with him and my mother-in-law.  We had lots of wonderful mentors in our lives who invested and poured into us as a young couple. 

But when you’re two strong-willed people in the middle of an argument, those lessons on using positive “I” statements and communicating calmly just fly out the window.  We had our share of loud arguments and disagreements those first months and years of marriage.  We had so much to learn!  Still, there were certain standards we’d set in place prior to our marriage that ensured we weren’t allowing the tension between us to ruin the bond we had.

  Image

Here we are….15 years later, and I can’t imagine how differently our marriage would look were it not for the investments by so many caring, thoughtful people.  Because of the incredible mentors we had, Aaron and I feel a burden for families and married couples- young and old- who are struggling to make it work.  So, although we’re no “experts” by any means, I thought we could take a few weeks to walk through some of the lessons we’ve learned over 15 years of marriage.  If you are in a place where it takes every ounce of your effort to continue to love your spouse, or you feel you have the healthiest marriage you’ve ever had, these lessons are for you.  We all need each other. We aren’t meant to do this thing alone.  If you need advice or a listening ear, please let me know, and check back over the next week or two.  Maybe something will jump out at you. 🙂