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Entries in Marriage/Family (43)


Don't give my husband romance lessons, thank you

My closest friend and I had a chuckle yeserterday about something she'd read regarding how men can keep the romance alive in their marriages. It was written from a Christian perspective, so there wasn't anything nasty in there.

I am not an overly romantic person, and that's good, because my husband isn't the type, either. And that's okay with us. If he was to sit down, at candlelight, look into my eyes, and recite poetry, we'd both end up laughing. We love candlelight, but we have never been what I would call romance lovers.

That isn't to say that he hasn't done things that are romantic. When we'd been married twenty years, between him and a friend of mine, a plan was hatched for me to visit her in California. He did all of the arranging himself. That was romantic. For him, having Rice Pudding for dessert fosters romance. Maybe we're weird.

Last night, after my husand read what I had read, he took up one of the author's suggestions to sing to me, and he began to belt out "Unchained Melody," and in a strange twist of irony, "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling." After the pets ran away and hid, he stopped. Most of the time when my husband sings to me, he does it to generate laughter.

After the furor died down, my husband looked at me and asked me seriously, "Would you ever want me to do any of those things?"

I told him without hesitation, no. And I told him that what is the most romantic thing to me is twofold: consistency and follow-through. My husband is one of the most consistent people I know. Relationships with moody people are hard. I don't do those kind well. He is not moody. And when he isn't juggling forty things at work, his follow-through is great. I have a husband who calls me almost every night shortly after 5:00 to ask me if I need anything before he leaves the office. How romantic is that?

In talking to my adult children about matters of the heart, I point them regularly to those two qualities. It is essential for both husband and wife. I dated someone who was unpredictable and moody. Those things were what made me look closely and realize that we were not compatible. Romance may take work, but the effects are often fleeting and need to be conjured up again tomorrow. Romance is subjective. Consistency fosters security and trust. When a man stands before God and his family and vows to love his wife as himself, and as Christ loved the church, he'd better know a thing or two about being consistent, because "until we are parted by death," can be a long time. A lot longer than it might take to scratch out a few lines of poetry. If a woman really wants the poetry, then, yes, her husband might want to give it a try. But not every woman wants a poem.

The suggestion to keep the romance alive in a marriage is a good one. But the best piece of advice a man could give another man, in my opinion is this: know who your wife is. If a man knows his wife well, talks to her, listens to her, and watches her, he'll know what is romantic to her and what isn't.


Twenty-seven years, one husband, one lesson

In March, it will be my husband's 50th birthday. In 2015, it will be mine. In April of this year, we will celebrate our 27th wedding anniversary. We have been married more than half of our lives. 

You could say we know each other pretty well.

Over the years, I have read my share of marriage help books, books on communication, and books about relationships. Advice, counsel, and suggestions galore for married women is abundant, even at our fingertips, and on our cellphones. I would imagine that if I was a younger married woman looking for some advice, I would feel my head spinning at where to go and whom to ask.

I figure since I've been married as long as I have, I actually have a wee bit of credibility when it comes to having marriage advice.  For example there is this: ladies, when you say "no" to his question "Are you mad?" he's going to take you at your word, so be honest. Or, there is this: if you approach him with your emotions raining down, he's not going to hear the words, he's only going to hear drama. I have learned this the hard way, of course.

Little bits and pieces of advice are good, but sometimes, looking at the bigger picture is much more helpful; at least to me it has been. By far the greatest lesson I've learned in almost 27 years of marriage is this: I need to humble myself. Sounds too simple to believe, doesn't it? 

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Phil. 2:4-8)

Methods for better communication abound. Strategies for being more intentional about our marriages there are plenty. People waiting to tell you how to do it are everywhere, and no matter how well-meaning they are, none of those things will amount to a hill of beans if you can't humble yourself.

In our 26+ years together, we have had some conflict. Resolution has only ever come because God gave me the grace and ability to humble myself, whether it was in submission to my husband or in submission to God's will with regard to my attitude and actions. Now, don't get me wrong here. I am not saying I am the only one who has done this. My husband has had to humble himself, too.

The books we read about marriage are good and helpful, but the principles they suggest, as good as they are, won't be as meaningful (or maybe totally ineffective) if we don't first humble ourselves. Before you spend your money on a marriage book or partake of the massive number of marriage blogs, first ask yourself if you're humbling yourself. It's a hard thing, but it's the necessary thing.


When the mashed potato pot is getting even smaller

My husband loves mashed potatoes.  I make good mashed potatoes.  

The problem with mashed potatoes is that as we get over 45, we may find ourselves with a little extra weight if we eat too much of them. I have heard a lot of women under thirty who swear that when they are older, they will never gain weight. I don't usually respond. I said the same thing, too. Unfortunately, my willpower is not strong enough to combat what God has designed with fluctuating estrogen levels. Translation: don't say "never."

We don't have children at home. This means that when I make mashed potatoes, I don't use the big pot anymore.  However, the pot is getting even smaller now as I realize that controlling our portion sizes is a good idea. We're not looking to be models, but we want to be healthy, and contrary to promotion of diet programs (both "Christian" and otherwise) the best way to keep weight off is to eat less and do more.

My husband has looked at me with a rather sad face recently when he sees the small mashed potato offering. He grumbles, but accepets it. However, I occasionally find those empty bags of Lay's chips in the car, so clearly, he's getting his potatoes from another source.

The good thing about this situation, as my husband and I adjust to approaching fifty, and battling the bulge, is that we know each other well. You don't get that kind of knowledge and understanding just because you said "I do." It takes years. To be sure, when we were first married, I thought I knew my husband. I know him so much better now, and he knows me. We have raised children together, rejoiced together, disagreed together, faced hard times together, served together, prayed together, worshiped together. He's seen the worst of me, and the best, and he still finds me beautiful. He often talks to me with the words of a smitten boy.

When the kids were at home, our attention was often divided. Now, at this point in our lives, we have ourselves to ourselves. That means we can sit on the couch with fried dumplings and watch "Doc Martin" , or decide at the drop of a hat to go to a movie or out for a walk. My husband's job necessitates working at home often, so I will take a book into the family room while he sits with his computer, working. There is something different about this time alone that wasn't there in the early years without kids. There is less pressure, and more peace. We don't have a perfect marriage, but we're still best friends after all these years.  

Women often fear the empty nest, and it really can be a difficult time. I miss my kids. I feel like it's a young woman's world out there, so I wonder if there is a place for me. I'm not young enough to be cool anymore, and not old enough to be an "older saint." I push aside longings to be young again when I realize that being a size 5 again, or being among the young and hip might demand that I forsake what I've learned, whether it's about God, my husband, or myself. It's not a trade I think I'd like to make -- to have a smaller waist -- if it meant I had to give up the little bit of wisdom I've been given.

There are trade-offs as we get older, and yes, that includes not being able to eat as many mashed potatoes as we could when we were thirty. But there are advantages. We're not so concerned with pleasing those whose opinions don't really matter, or obsessing about what others think of us. We care less for jumping on the latest bandwagon. We've learned that we change as we get older, and that what we thought were such huge issues at 35 are really not the stuff of a good marriage. We've learned that things such as love, sacrifice, and submission to God are far more important than what we obsessed about even fifteen years ago. If figuring that out means a few inches on my waistline, I guess I'll take it.


Can I vent?

Have you ever asked someone that? Or been asked that? I remember when I had small children, my girlfriends and I would do that; talk about how frustrating it was to repeat something over and over again to no avail; bemoan the always increasing pile of laundry; mourn over the never ending cycle of colds shared throughout the house. We weren't really looking for advice, we were just venting. Venting is not looking for counsel. It's mostly just complaining.

I knew from the beginning of my relationship with my husband that he is a private person. I learned very quickly not to vent to anyone about him. I have, however, sat among a group of women where that happened frequently. And I left those situations wishing I'd had the courage to say, "stop!"

Venting about our husbands is a bad idea. Please, please don't misunderstand me. I am not talking about women who have serious sin issues with a husband, like verbal, emotional, and physical abuse, gambling, or alcoholism. Those things are serious, and demand help. A woman needs to have someone to counsel her in those situations. But as I mentioned, I don't think venting wants counsel; it just wants to complain, and usually about fairly insignificant things. If we want to work through those annoyances, we need to pray and then go to our husbands and discuss it with them, not the world at large. 

Venting about husbands is disrespectful. It's often a violation of privacy. Not every intimate detail of our lives needs to be shared with everyone. I don't want to know the faults of my friend's husband.  I just want her to have a good marriage, and I want to support her with my friendship. I want to like my friend's husband, not have my opinion coloured by her nitpicking complaints.

One way we can show love to our husbands is to speak well of them everywhere. To regularly vent about my husband means I'm not speaking well of him. When a friend continually vents to me, I need to have the courage to suggest she not do it. She needs my support and love, not me nodding my head and agreeing. And if we are silent during such times, will our friend assume our agreement?

Venting in groups is especially problematic, because when one begins, it's often motivation for others to start. It begins to escalate out of control. You know what? I know other people's husbands have faults. Just like you know my husband does. But how is group venting about those faults glorifying God or encouraging anyone? When Paul exhorts women to "respect" their husbands (Eph. 5:33) does that include publicly tearing him down? Would we feel loved by our husbands if they sat among a group of men and tore us down, complaining that we needed to lose a few pounds or take a few cooking lessons?

If you have a friend who comes to you and vents about her husband, criticizing him, do you not think she would do the same about you? Maybe she vents to her husband about you.

We need to overlook petty differences, determine what is a serious issue, and prayerfully consider how to cope with them. When we have serious problems we should be careful about whom we allow into those situations and limit it to a very few trusted individuals. My suggestion would be a pastor, older woman, or relative.

Speak well of your husband in public. Having women friends is nice, and they can be supportive. But close female friendships can exists without telling them every detail of our lives. Honesty can be overdone.


A case of not seeing the forest for the trees

Yesterday, I was given the privilege of sharing with Catherine Parks about my mother-in-law. Catherine is doing a series about mothers and daughters-in-law.

I was not a Christian when I met my mother-in-law, but my husband was. That was an uneasy situation, although I was ignorant of it at the time. My post is about the fact that my mother-in-law chose to show grace to me. Here is a snippet:

She had no idea that this unbelieving girl who had been brought into her life longed to understand who God was, who Jesus Christ was.  All she knew was that here was a young woman in need of a Savior.  Despite the fact that she was probably not entirely happy with her son, she treated me with love and grace. I was always treated with kindness every time I saw her from the very first occasion meeting her. She could have been cold toward me, mistrustful, wondering what kind of awful influence I was going to be, but she did not do that. She chose grace.

You can read the rest here.

I have shared this story with many people over the years. It is a story worth sharing because it demonstrates beautifully an example of God's mercy. He took a situation that was not ideal, and that did not surprise him, and brought it a conclusion that brought glory to Himself and worked for my good and my husband's good as well. Does every situation like ours have a happy ending? No; but that does not mean that we cannot rejoice in what God did.

Not long ago, I shared this story with some ladies, and was taken aback when some of the hearers, rather than seeing this as a demonstration of God's grace, immediately focused on two things: first, that my husband, a Christian (and an immature 20 year old one at that) erred by dating me. The second, why did his mother tolerate this? This is what caught their attenion; the error, not the grace.

I couldn't help but be amused at the reactions, because those who objected most vehemently had small children. They could not fathom how despite being taught the truth all of his life my husband, as a grown up, made a decision contrary to what he knew to be right. After having raised my own children to adults,  that my husband did this does not surprise me. How often did God tell Isreal to obey, and told them what the consequences were, only to see them do exactly what He said not to do?

I was very surprised at how hard some of them were on my mother-in-law. It seems that some of them thought she should have done something; perhaps tar and feathers? Would a cold shoulder and a few hard words to me have been the right decision? I'm glad my mother-in-law didn't think so.

I'm thankful that my mother-in-law didn't condemn me, and relegate me to a category of  "those girls" whom she didn't want anywhere near her son. I'm thankful she was patient, and trusted God. I hope I can be like that when situations arise that I may feel less than ideal. In a perfect world, our children will do everything we want, agree with everything we ask them to do, and never have a moment's struggle with their faith.

And then there is reality.