One of the ten things Sean learned in his first year of marriage is that he's usually wrong. Many men feel this way once they get married. Ken made the following comment on my post about it. Here are his thoughts on the topic ~
I know in my case, and I think in the case of many men, we are inadvertently sold wrong thinking by our church when we are taught that "as the leader" of our home our job is to make our wife happy. We are told that any husband who leads well, his Christian wife will naturally follow, so a husband's job is to figure out what makes his wife happy and try to please her. Is that not what pre-marriage 101 taught us; all about how to please our wife’s womanly “needs” by learning better communications skills, paying more compliments, being nice when she is upset or moody, and how to get in touch with who she is deep inside so as to understand her?
On the surface, all this sounds like Christian living and Christian love, and we are not opposed to these important marriage tools. But just as a focus on submission without a husband's love leaves a relationship lacking, so too a husband's love can't really shine without wifely submission. In reality, it puts the husband under an impossible burden of often trying to make a wife happy who within herself is not happy. He chases her needs, while she is sure that once her demands are met it will lead to her happiness, but it's all backwards.
Happiness and joy stem from something that we each must generate internally by feeling good about the values we establish and going about fulfilling those values. A wife has to first learn what she should be valuing and that is not one more, "Wow, you look pretty" or "I love you so much," but instead it is learning how to herself love, so that she makes herself even more lovable to her husband.
Christian husbands quickly find themselves on a treadmill that they cannot get off. What seems to be a never ending list of things they are doing wrong in the marriage because there are no real standards, just the "feelings" of a young wife based on how we treated her that day, or how understanding we were to her. Most of us know the once a month fighting and crying that often takes place only for the husband to apologize, heap praises and love upon his wife to build her up, and then apologize for being a jerk. Then the return apology a couple days later, after she recognizes that much of it was hormones talking, instead of reality. This crazy cycle only to be repeated over and over again until a true Biblical marriage is discovered where a wife is willing to place her seeming "needs" secondary to her love, respect and submission to the man she knows God wants to be her leader.
I think we know what is happening, but we have no way to move beyond it to a safe place where the feelings and sensitivities of our young bride do not trump the discussion or movement towards a real relationship based on mutual respect. At least in my case, and the case of so many husbands I have spoken with, the only way off the treadmill is God's ways.
God's ways are simple. A husband is to lead and his wife is to follow. A wife has to trust that when her husband tells her she is overreacting or that she should not feel that way, that he is indeed telling her the truth and his lens on reality is far more credible than her emotions. Certainly a young husband has growing up to do of his own, as marriage grows up both spouses, but if a husband tries to continually chase down his wife's perceived needs, he will never measure up. He can't, because she often does not know exactly what will make her happy. None of us do, but unlike many a wife, few husband's expect a wife to create our happiness.
If one goes to a Christian pastor, or counselor, they will tell the young husband to try harder to be understanding which is tantamount to asking him to "submit to his wife's desires." I am all for a husband trying to meet his wife's desires, but at some point he has to go back to God's Word and trust it. He is to lead and she is to respect his leadership. Within that framework, the husband is not off the hook to just go do as he pleases, but he is now free to speak truth and love into the marriage. He is free to make mistakes without being in the dog house and he can relax and feel comfortable "in his own skin," and home, knowing that God says he does not need to submit to his wife’s controlling desires.
Where are the Christian pastors and psychologists who understand this? Why does it often take 5-7 years of "honey do's" and dog house days before a husband finally wakes up and realizes "a guy like me can be wrong, but I can’t be wrong or in trouble all the time!"
For the men out there, if you feel that you are always walking on eggshells, never quite getting things right for your wife's likes and dislikes, or constantly hearing a drone of wifey dissatisfactions and disillusionment…, Man up! Go to your wife and tell her that your love for her is strong, and that you intend to continue to try and please her, but that she must learn to become a godly wife who loves and respects her husband God’s way; one who is willing to listen and to follow your leadership instead of trying to control you by her displeasures, moods and snide remarks. The conversation does not have to last long, but it should result in a changed approach where a wife is quickly learning that the old emotional control games are no longer going to work on you. Instead, you are going to be a true leader who loves his wife as Christ loves the church. Christ is not running around trying to please His Church’s desires all day, but instead sets spiritual standards to which He holds His church accountable.
I am sure our detractors will find fault with what I say here, so let me repeat loudly and clearly that I want all Christian husbands everywhere to truly love your wife and be understanding towards her, but don't fall in the trap of feeling like you must understand her. If you can honestly say that she understands herself, and her friends and family understand her, then you may have some work to do to catch up, so you can truly "know her," mind, body and soul. But to know her may lead you to the conclusion that leading from behind by chasing after her next need and desire is not enjoyable for either of you, and not relationship building.
Respect your spouse and love her in such a way that you begin to talk truth to her when you see the fleshly desires of "needs" coming from an emotional and perhaps controlling nature. Remind her who she is in Christ Jesus, as a saint and a child of God, and that in Christ Jesus all of our real needs will be met. Such demands or behaviors that do not match with what is clearly taught in God's Word must go.
Be Christians to each other, and, if you, the husband, are prone to emotional outbursts, unkindness of any sort, or control, repent to your wife and ask her to help hold you accountable so that your One flesh marriage can be all that God wants it to become. A great leader looks in the mirror and holds himself accuntable for any standard he sets.
Likewise, you husbands, live with your wives according to knowledge, giving honor to the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.
I Peter 3:7