Welcome to this week's edition of Motivate Me Monday! With Valentine's Day just around the corner, I thought it might be nice to dedicate this week's posts to the holiday of love. A few of my readers have asked me to write about how to find much needed time for your spouse in the midst of the busy-ness of life and motherhood.
This isn't an easy topic to tackle, so I'm going to take in on in a two part series. Today's post is one that I wrote last year for my friend, Cynthia at Finding Great Joy, which is focused on marriage and loving our spouses with a heavenly vision. Tomorrow's post will feature how to balance life with the kiddos, and the importance of keeping your spouse first in the order of priority and charity, which can be quite a challenge when you have little ones (and big ones) to care for!
I hope you will feel free to comment, to debate, to share your thoughts and to highlight points I may have missed or forgotten. These posts are meant to challenge us (myself included!) to become better people, and to embrace our purpose in life with greater conviction and joy! Thank you for joining me here!
"You know, Susan, a man and wife are like two rugged rocks in the box of life. Marriage will shake them around a lot over time. But, in the end, if they stay together, they will emerged polished and beautiful."
Marriage is a journey of endurance. Not in the sense that you endure the bad, but in the sense that for something wonderful to endure over time, it must possess a strength that is focused and conditioned for the race. In the case of marriage, the race is for heaven. Heaven is the supreme goal of marriage, and when the couple desires heaven for each other, and seeks it for the other, they are committed to helping each other get there, no matter how challenging that committment may be. That being said, it is the will that must seek out the most vigorous training. Because, on those not-so-lovable-feeling-days, when we exercise the will to love, to be generous, to be cheerful and supportive of our husbands, great fruit will come....for both of us.
Here are a few very specific examples of opportunities where we, as women, might exercise our will to love sacrificially, along with a few practical, prudent ways to offer ourselves as a gift to our spouses, even in the midst of a lack of feeling:
1. More important than anything, please remember that a husband's greatest fear is failure.
At the top of their list of fears (even over failure at work or losing at something competitive) husbands fear being seen as a failure in the eyes of their family, especially their spouse. The following points, therefore, all relate to how we can support, affirm and love our husbands well, alleviating some of that fear.
2. Let's just get the awkwardly obvious one out of the way. Yes, I'm talking' about sex. Over the course of our marriage, I have struggled with the side effects of Fibromyalgia, low adrenals and hormone imbalance. Do I even have to tell you what that does to a libido?? I'm crazy about my husband, but there have been days where a high-five was the best affection I could offer! The mercy of my struggles for good health is that it has opened the doors of communication between Steve and I with this issue.
Within this topic, what he as taught me is this: Men simply desire to feel wanted and needed in a sincere and pure way. When we initiate a communication with our spouses that let's them know that we are thinking about being together intimately, and even looking forward to it, it is a great boost to their confidence and even their attentiveness toward us. For example, if I call Steve and tell him that we have the green light (that's natural family planning code for "there will be no Sports Center tonight!"), and that I'm looking forward to being together, he almost always comes home from work more cheerful, helpful with the kids and usually initiates taking over dish duties so that I can go unwind with a bath or a quiet walk. All because of a phone call! On the "red-light days," I try to be mindful of how important it is to be more affectionate often telling him that I miss being together. He always hugs me and tells me how much it means to him to hear those words.
3. The sneaky separation... If you're feeling a bit distant from your husband in any way, perhaps you need to take some time to consider the reason for this distance. Is it an unresolved quarrel? Something he said or didn't say that upset you? A mutual preoccupation with "more important" things? A lack of social time with others, or too little time for exercise let alone the basics of a nice hot shower or bath? Taking a moment to be honest with yourself, and then honest with him about your feelings and your needs is really crucial for closeness.
The little things that we fail to share, discuss or even fight about add up over time creating an uncomfortable space between our souls. The devil loves this....a great divide of pride is the perfect place for him to jump in and wreak havoc on marital unity.
4. In light of caring for ourselves... Taking care of ourselves primarily out of love for our spouses is often one priority that easily be sidelined once children enter the marriage. It is NOT vain to place a little importance on caring for ourselves for love of our husbands. Our beauty is a gift to our husbands, and should not be overlooked or slighted. That being said, it's not easy to find even a spare moment during the day to dress ourselves thoughtfully, let alone put on make up and fix our hair. But, I do believe that a little extra personal attentiveness can be achieved, perhaps with some help from others:
Consider asking a good friend if she would be interested in taking turns with you watching each other's children for a few hours per week. During that time, you can rest, catch up on housework, get a hair cut or exercise. Discuss hiring a baby sitter to come once a week so that you can catch a break and come home more refreshed. On this note, I have experienced within our marriage that when I take the time to fix my hair, put on a little make-up and wear something besides sweats, I feel better about myself, and in turn more positive and "flirty" with my husband!
Getting myself together in the morning, or before Steve comes home sometimes means that I have little ones in the bathroom with me, digging their fingers into my lipstick and painting themselves silly, or throwing Legos in the toilet while I'm struggling to tame my tangles, but again, I see beauty as a gift to my husband, and the sacrifice to present myself in more than sweats and a ponytail is an expression of love for him (even if it only happens a couple of times a week).
With regards to emotional care, it is unfair for us, as women, to expect our husbands to be the perfect husband and friend, to meet our every emotional need or to understand exactly how we're feeling at any given moment (only God is capable of that!). Nurturing friendships with other women is very important, and can help provide a much needed emotional balance in your marriage. Translation: Call your girlfriends and go out for a glass of wine!
5. Bite your tongue (or have a glass of wine before he comes home). The simplest way to support our husbands is with words of encouragement and praise. It's the counter-encouraging words that we have to get a hold of. We women can have a tendency to whine, nit-pick and complain about things in excess. Remember, when we are joyful, our husbands feel successful. Likewise, when we are crabby and full of complaints, they may feel like a failure, because their deep down earnest desire is to make us happy!
Many days I am overwhelmed with the feeling of frustration toward how small our home is. It takes a good deal of self-control not to complain about all of the inconveniences to Steve, who works so hard to provide for our family, so that I can stay home with the boys. If possible, withhold complaints or worries from your husband (within reason), especially if you know that he is overly stressed. Try to manage your anxiety with prayer, by talking to a trusted friend or through exercise. When you are tempted to complain or to criticize, try instead to praise your spouse or to thank him for something. Be specific. For example, "I truly appreciate the way you keep our yard looking so beautiful. It makes me proud of the home you have provided for us!
6. Spend time doing guy stuff. Most men feel affirmed when their wives take a genuine interest in the things that they enjoy. Sit and watch football with him, go fishing, camping, figure out why he likes to hunt, why he loves to study the latest in farm equipment etc., etc. It is a great act of sacrificial love to extend ourselves to learn about and appreciate the interests of others. He won't complain so much the next time you drag him around the mall!
7. Debbie Downer... if you are truly feeling sad or depressed, either from the events of the day or something more serious, believe that your husband truly wants to be there to share your burdens with you. However, if you are like me, often times, I know deep down, that there are some things within me that just can't be articulated well enough to be understood by my sweet spouse. Those things are best pondered in the heart during prayer. When I choose not to discuss those "deep down things", not wanting to burden him unnecessarily, I often pray for supernatural cheerfulness. Grace always comes in those moments. Our joy is a great gift to our husbands, even more so when it's a sacrificial one.
7. Support your husband by letting him lead. Uuggghhh, this is a toughy for all of you control freaks out there (oh yes, in some categories of life, I am tops on that list!!). Remember in the movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, when Tula wants to go to college, but fears that her father will not grant her his permission? Her mother encourages her, "Remember, Tula, the man may be the head, but the woman is the neck, and she can turn the head any way she wants!" This is so true in the sense that our husbands were created to lead.
*Please know that I'm not suggesting you take a purely passive, "woe is me" role in your marriage. I am, however, cautioning you against being overbearing with your opinions to the point that your husband feels as though you have no faith in him to make any decisions at all. A mutual respect for each-other's talents and strengths should foster peace and agreement in who should lead in what areas of family life. BUT, if push comes to shove, humble yourelf, and let him lead.*
We have a strong supportive and influential role to play along side of our husbands. Even if you know your spouse may not succeed at every mission or goal in life, even in the simplest arenas - you fear that the diaper may fall off if he doesn't do it your way, the pancakes will burn without your secret recipe, the car won't start or the vacation may flop - let him lead anyway!
8. Finally, and most importantly, devote some time every day to praying for your husband. In the morning before Steve heads out the door, I always ask him, "How can I pray for you today?" This sometimes leads to, how can I help you reach your goals today, or what can I make you for supper tonight? No matter the question, it all leads back to prayer. I have known many women whose devotion to prayer have helped their husbands overcome addictions, temptations and very specific weaknesses. No matter where your husband is at in life, he can always, and will always need your prayers.
Also, if you have children, please encourage them to pray for their daddy. Each day offers opportunities for you to praise your husband in front of your children, to speak of him in positive ways (he's their hero!), and to teach the children to serve him by picking up the home, taking good care of their belongings or helping with meal preparation. It's beautiful gift to a mother's heart to see her children honor and admire their father with love, affection and gratitude!
Need a little more encouragement?? May I suggest:~ For the passionate/emotional: A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken (read it with your spouse!)
~ For the research oriented: A Series of Lectures by Dr. Phillip Mango (these are amazing!)
~ For all of us: 31 Days of Praying for Your Husband (specific, scripture-based prayers)
Meet me back here for tomorrow's post as I dive into the topic of how to keep our husbands from coming in last on our list of priorities while balancing marriage, kiddos, and our own personal activities!