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I wrote the following words about my husband and my marriage in a private message to two close friends of mine.
“He has been getting on my nerves all day…”
Around the New Year the three of us decided that we would gather together daily on Facebook to talk to each other, reach out to each other, and hold each other accountable to the goals we had set for the year. Goals like healthy eating, weight loss, doing better on housework, reading books, and being better wives and moms.
But it has become so much more than that. It has become a safe place for all of us to share “the good, the bad, and the ugly” of our marriage. It’s where we go when we just need to hear a “ugh…me too!” or an “Oh that happened to me last week! I feel your pain!” It’s become the place where we share the joys, the happy days, the exciting things going on.
It’s been friendship…community.
Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another:
“What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”
Tonight when we got home from Life Group, I briefly checked my phone and noticed that one of my friends had asked about our days. As I sat in the glider in the nursery rocking Ezra to sleep, composing my message back in my head, this phrase of irritability worked its way into the message I would end up sending later. Today has been a long day. I didn’t sleep well last night, and I have been very irritable and frustrated all day long. And yes, I have even been frustrated with Russ.
But that’s not the point of this post.
It occurred to me tonight that five years ago I wouldn’t have dared to utter such a phrase to a friend: because to talk about my husband in that manner would be disrespectful.
On some of the darkest days of our marriage – days when I honestly didn’t think our marriage would make it – I refused to turn to anyone for comfort, help, or advice. All in the name of respecting my husband. I suffered alone, not knowing what to do, how to work through the pain in my heart, how to find forgiveness and grace to carry on in the marriage. Not even my closest friends knew the burdens I carried.
I didn’t want anyone to think badly of him. I didn’t want people to see the ugly in our marriage. I didn’t want to bring shame to his name.
And I still don’t…
A wife giving respect and honor to her husband is definitely a Biblical concept and one that I try to follow. But what I have realized over the last five years is that there is value in community, friendship, and exposing the darker aspects of our marriage to others.
I have sat in the pew with a chaplain’s wife, spilling my guts about the struggles my husband and I were facing. And I’ve had her grab my hands, encourage me to fight the devil, and give me advice about what to do. And then we bowed right there to pray for my husband and for my marriage. There was no shame. There was no disrespect toward the man I love. Only encouragement, grace, forgiveness. Only “I’ve been there too.”
I’ve sat in a PWOC Bible study with tears in my eyes of frustration over this or that issue that’s affecting our marriage, only to see other women nodding, even laughing at the normalcy of this thing called marriage.
The issue with over-emphasizing the respect of your husband, especially when you are struggling, is that it’s so easy to lose perspective on your husband’s humanity. You convince yourself that your husband is this horrible guy and you must be the only hurt wife who is suffering with feeling unloved, mistreated, disrespected, or simply frustrated over the petty things that we wives get worked up about–and then stay silent because you don’t want to shame him. But when you let down your guard for that moment, let out a little bit of frustration with sisters in Christ that you trust, and they share their stories about their husbands and their marital issues…you realize that there is an aspect where all guys are the same. And that sometimes the very thing that you are struggling with is the same struggle that women across the ages have had…simply because of sin and humanity. And it makes it so much easier to walk across the room and greet your husband with a smile and a hug, shrug off the issue as “eh, that’s just what guys do…and yes it drives women nuts, but that’s the beauty of marriage…” and go about your business.
The biggest lie I have ever believed is the lie that I am alone in my struggles.
Vulnerability breaks that lie to pieces. Over and over again, as I have let my guard down and shared some of the ugly, I have been embraced with others who have been there too. Sisters have been there to offer perspective and loving advice.
Fear of disrespecting my husband to the point of never seeking advice or a listening ear didn’t make me a better wife…it left my heart a lonely and empty ground where seeds of bitterness grew that sometimes I am still endeavoring to unroot.
Dear friends and sisters…are you struggling today in your marriage? Is there an issue pressing on your heart? Are you suffering alone thinking that you must be the only one trying to keep a hurting marriage alive? And are you scared to share because you are afraid that people will think badly of your or your husband? Is the fear of disrespecting your husband keeping you silent when you need help?
Let me encourage you this way: You don’t have to go through this struggle alone. Seek out friends, especially older women whose marriages you respect and desire to emulate. Share your struggles, your issues…from the silliest of frustrations like those darn socks on the floor to the biggest issues like affairs and sexual temptations. Ask for advice. Ask for prayer. Cry with them. Lay some of those burdens down at the feet of your friends and mentors and let them help you carry them. I think that you will be a better wife for it.
Sometimes, marriage takes more than two…it needs community.
“The aged women likewise…that they may teach the young women…to love their husbands.”