This is a special edition because today is my wedding anniversary, 34 years, no one has tried to bury anyone else in the backyard, or behaved anything like what this husband has described here that sounds like twenty plus years of hell. We were only miserable in our marriage the few years we tried to do it complementary style. Cut, dried, prescribed, boxed roles do not work well in real life.
Last week’s part of this series is here.
My advice to you after all these years boils down to just one thing. Talk to each other about your thoughts and feelings. I think where Evangelicals fall down at this is that they allow animosity to build so that when they are finally honest about their thoughts and feelings it’s like a dam blowing out or a volcano exploding. Overwhelming and harming the other partner.
So part two of my marriage advice is – consider your approach. You don’t rush in and start shouting at your partner over something annoying, and trust me, there will be annoying annoyed moments.
Example: We are in ‘fly’ season, the yearly appearance of stinging biting flies. I keep gently reminding someone to keep the doors closed, and the glass walls of the living room shut, but yesterday I walked out mid afternoon and the wall was pushed back and tons of flies in the house. I wanted to scream and yell, but I closed the wall and reminded him again, and the why. He had a legitimate reason the wall was open for a half hour, but it did let in those biting flies.
Later I handed him the tennis racket shaped bug zapper and said, “Hey, can you go to town on these flies?” He was happy to do it, fun comes in the strangest ways. Shouting and pouting would have been counter productive and quite silly.
Last week we were out shopping and I managed to find some seeds for the garden I’d been looking for. After we paid my husband handed me the bag and said, “Happy Anniversary, here.” and we both laughed. Imagine how badly that type of relationship would go over in tightly controlled fundigelical circles. Not well.
This couple would have taken the shouting approach during their twenty years, followed by a joyfully smiling wife repressing her rage while putting up with biting flies now instead of handling it like a boss by delegating.
“When we failed we called each other on it, but no longer with anger, because each one of us wanted to know how they could please the other spouse more. Lots of grace was given me by Wife as she would let the first unkind, or stressful remark go right by as she just smiled at me. Then a second one, and a smile. It is amazing how you can feel like such a jerk when your wife responds to your sins with kindness and a joyful smile. She says she had to bite her tongue often for a month, but she learned to stay out of her box, and out of the mud of payback and anger.”
Stating the obvious yet again. A spouse that continually makes unkind and cutting remarks is verbally abusing you. This is not normal behavior in happy healthy couples. The reason he felt like a jerk is because he actually was a jerk.
Learning not to react to a jerk is a skill set, and goes along with what I was saying about approach. It’s also a learned skill that gets easier with time.
“I too learned to be far more accepting of Wife, and came to realize that much of the angst she was still causing me was my old sunburn. You know how you can have a bad sunburn and someone gently touches you on your back and you pull away and yell, “You hurt me!” Well, she didn’t really hurt me, she just asked, “Do you want salad tonight?” and I was thinking, “There she is trying to force her salads on me again.” So I challenged her on it and she looked at me with a smile and said, “No Husband, I really don’t care anymore if you don’t want a salad. I just want to know if I should make one for you?” Okay… I quickly found many moments where I could clearly see I was being a jerk because my wife was living outside her box and I needed to crawl out with her and give her an apology.”
Sunburns fade, but his pettiness in the food situation surely does not. It’s genuinely okay to have food preferences, and to express them in a non-hostile way to your partner. My husband loves that canned corned beef hash. I don’t, too salty and greasy for my tastes. But I serve it sometimes. He requests it sometimes. I eat something else. No ones feelings are hurt and we all live happily, if not saltier and greasier than before.
“Wife was so self-protective and unwilling to explore new things in intimacy and in bed, that I couldn’t show her how much I loved her.”
“There have been requests I have made of her and she has been uncomfortable fulfilling them. Some just silly requests, some things to spice up our sex lives, and some maybe even wrong, but each time she has passed the test and we have laughed about it as we have grown closer and closer together. True intimacy blossoms in loving vulnerability and without it, is their really love?”
Whoa, whoa, whoa, love is not like dog training, or a constant series of challenges to win a prize like on “Fear Factor” The Bible says love is patient, love is kind and forgiving. None of this sounds remotely like love, more like toxic control issues yet again.
“Someone has to be leader and the other follower, and by God’s design, husband is to lead and wife is to willingly and joyfully follow. A leader will not always lead correctly or even well at first, so I told Wife that if she disagrees with anything I ask her to do, to tell me once, maybe tell me twice and let me make the final decision. Sure I have made some mistakes, but in all honesty, Wife gets 95% of what she wants in the relationship precisely because I have to make the final decision. When two people are trying to please each other and husband has to make the final decision, if he is outside his box and wanting to please his wife, she gets the decision in her favor. But she also knows that on some things she does not see herself clearly so she must allow a small percentage of decisions to go against what she thinks is best.”
First of all, natural leaders, true leaders, are not so obsessed with being in control and feel quite comfortable delegating to others, trusting that those they turn to have their backs without all these childish games.
In marriage both partners have differing and same roles, and even in these so-called Complementarian Evangelical marriages the leadership tends to swing back and forth. Husband here has made it clear he has zero interest in what Wife does to the home, so she is leading there in caring for the home and making those decisions, no matter what she might claim. That is leadership.
We all do that, and it’s okay. The person with the skill set, knowledge and desire is the person in the marriage in charge of that thing or sphere. You don’t even have to agree on these things for there to be a division of leadership, even if you do like this couple and refuse to acknowledge the sliding leadership scale.
This is all about control.
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