I have not had a fight with my husband for four days. Not a single argument. That is monumentous. So much so, in fact, that I had to make up a word just to describe it.
Naturally, we are the type that bickers. We are both stubborn, neither of us are ever wrong (funny how that works, right?) and we love a good challenge. Pretty much anything out of the other person's mouth is fair game to be debated.
Recently though, our bickering has turned into full blown arguing. Before he even opens his mouth, I am irritated with him. I'm irritated at him for obvious reasons; he didn't help with the kids when he got home, he wanted to sit down instead of [whatever else] and he made himself a meal right before dinner and didn't clean up after himself.
I am pretty sure every wife in the history of the world has been angry at her husband over these or similar things.
Now I am going to backtrack, like that movie that starts out with someone getting run over by a car and everyone is standing around gasping, and you are like "What the heck?? The movie just started and someone gets hit by a car five minutes in??" and then the words pop up and it's like "One hundred and fifty hours ago....."
Don't be fooled by this backtracking though, because it probably isn't going to fuel that "aha" moment at the end. I don't have this whole thing figured out yet, so it is sort of a work in progress. Maybe this will end up being a two-part post, I'm not sure. Just don't get your hopes up that you will have closure by the end, okay? Oh, and I may jump around quite a bit.
Anyways, wayyy more than one hundred and fifty hours ago - more like six years ago - Josh and I were totally infatuated with each other. I don't remember ever arguing, because I pretty much went along with whatever he said. He was a natural leader-type, and I, while not submissive by nature, found it fairly easy to be agreeable. I was attracted to the fact that he wanted to take care of me and had confidence in his ability to do so.
I also highly disliked his mother's behavior. She is an introvert, and extremely meek. She is quiet and balanced. The part that annoyed me was the way she interacted with Josh's dad. It seemed like he would say "jump" and she would ask "how high?" I felt sorry for her, like she just allowed herself to be walked all over. She would clean up after him and he rarely helped lift a finger in return. He didn't even have to ask for something and she would be right there, serving him as though he was some nobleman. Gross.
The feminist part of me saw this and lectured myself about how I was a strong woman and didn't need a man telling me what to do. Josh and I are equals, and I am not his servant or his waiter. Also, he can make his own damn food.
Over the first few years of our marriage, and a couple children being born, we started changing. It is frustrating feeling like the person you fawned over in the beginning went from spending time with you and giving you his last cookie to saying "can you just stop bitching at me for five minutes? I said I would change the baby as soon as I finish this quest..." and mouse-clicks ensue.
How did this even happen?
I searched for answers as to why I no longer wanted to even be in the same room with him. I would be running from one task to another trying to accomplish all - the meals must be cooked, the dishes must be done, the laundry washed and folded, the children bathed and clothed, and everything in between. I am working 24 hours, but he comes home after only eight and wants his "break."
More strong woman surfaced.
How much of this crap should I have to take? It's not fair for him to sit around while I do everything. Being the wife does not mean that it is in my job description to change all diapers and wash all dishes. He needs to do some of it himself. If he wants his laundry washed, he is going to have to wash it cause I don't have time. I'm not even wearing clean clothes myself. And I am still not a waiter.
Meanwhile, his strange mom continued to be a doormat. Which I will never be.
Well, after six years, I reached my boiling point. We were sitting at the dinner table and started arguing. We were screaming at each other, in front of our kids. Something we swore to never do.
And here we are.
I can spend the rest of my life playing the naive game and trying to *guess* how Josh has changed and why. I can sit there and say, every day while I nag him, that I wouldn't do it if he just did this or that right or treated me nicer or helped out more.
I guess you have to grow up sometime though, and I'm bigger than the "powerful woman that stands her ground against every man." I'm big enough to admit that I've been wrong, and that I have more power than Josh to fix our marriage.
Think about the beginning, when God created Adam and Eve, and then set them in the garden. Adam could not help himself but obey Eve's conniving. As much as it will bruise the feminist to hear this, womankind was given the power of tongue and used it for wicked. I've actually spent time thinking about how pissed off I am that Eve screwed us like that, but now I realize that it is something we, as women, are inclined to. Our words are so powerful, and yet most of the time, we use them for ill. Are you guilty if "bitching" or "nagging" at your husband? When he uses that word, how do you excuse yourself? Because you need to tell him to do something, or if you don't keep telling him he won't get it, or maybe if I keep on and on enough...
The words of women can cut through a man in ways most women don't understand. That's why men often retreat - they can't handle our verbal onslaught. That's something you can't help but nod at while saying "yeah, that's true."
It almost seems like an unfair characteristic. Why would the Lord curse women with this viral ability to engage such powerful negativity?
I believe that women are given a double-edged sword. We can use our power over men for good if we choose. If we have such great control over a man that we can tempt him to eat forbidden fruit and even make him shut down with one carefully placed statement, imagine the force behind encouraging words showered over him!
There is a secret, however, to successfully wielding it. This is comparable to that part in the movie where the main character is given this magical item but can't use it because they aren't worthy but then they do a lot of self-discovery and when they become a decent person, the item works for them.
Yeah, I watch a lot of movies. The secret of using your lady-sword-words is that in order to use them correctly, you first have to learn to SHUT YOUR FREAKING MOUTH.
I know, it's insane. But for most of us, this is our greatest downfall. What do you usually do when your husband angrily storms off to his bedroom? You follow him so you can beat him down with more words!! I, personally, don't think of it that way while it's happening. Rather, I feel like I still need to drive home that stupid point I'm trying to make - and yes, it's worth us still being angry at each other tomorrow for me to get in that last bitter word!
In my spiritual search for an answer to our greatest problem, I discovered that I am an unruly wife. Yep. More feminist poison. I am unruly to my husband. I know how ridiculous that sounds - I am not a child that needs to be taught how to obey, which makes that word sound insulting. But when it comes down to it, it is the perfect word. Unruly means unmanageable, stubborn, riotous. I am unmanageable. When Josh wants to collaborate on something, he is unable to manage our partnership. I am stubborn. I feel like I have some sort of right to never give in, even if it's what is best for us. I am riotous. I argue out of emotions that I have brought on myself until I infect Josh with it.
When I came to the conclusion that I am an unruly wife, I instantly flashed back to Josh's parents and how badly their interactions irritated me early in our marriage. Josh's mom does not argue with her husband. Is she a doormat? Well, they certainly don't have loud screaming matches like Josh and I do which get us absolutely nowhere. Josh's mom kindly and happily serves her husband. Is she his slave? He is constantly praising her and acknowledging her abilities. I remember how angry I used to get when his parents would drop hints at how he needed to control me....how he shouldn't let me do this or that. I realize now that I wish he had kept better control of me. Oops, there's that feminist poison again! No man shall control me... I am a sassy, independent.... blah blah blah. Ultimately, I lack self-control. I wish Josh would have helped me to see what was acceptable and not acceptable earlier in our marriage, because I was young and immature and could have used the leadership. I'm not saying that Josh should run around shouting out orders and I should salute him or anything. But if, five years ago, Josh would have said "you are being very disrespectful to me," that infatuated, bright-eyed seventeen-year-old probably would have felt so bad she would have cried. On occasion though, recently, if he had said the same thing, I would probably have thought "good. you deserve it." Now if anyone can point out which circumstance is more OBVIOUSLY WRONG, go ahead.
My first step was admitting that while he could be doing some damage himself, I needed to change before it got any worse. But, like most women, I don't know how to be submissive. Submissive is Josh's mom... how did she learn it? And is that what I should be doing? Serving him, respecting him... all that? And if so, why?? And on that note, what is my motivation??
21 And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
22 For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23 For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of his body, the church. 24 As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything.
Peter, like most men, had an awesome ability to piss women off. There is no shortage today of women who think this whole passage is ludicrous. It is not one-sided though. It goes on to say:
25 For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her 26 to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word.[b] 27 He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. 28 In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself. 29 No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church. 30 And we are members of his body. 31 As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.”[c] 32 This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one. 33 So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
This scripture is amazingly beautiful. It does not say that a wife should be a doormat. It does not say that the husband is superior and therefore the "ruler" of the wife. It teaches a balance that is wise and logical. Wives, submit to your husbands. Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church. All this time, Josh's mom was submitting and Josh's dad was loving her in return. Don't get me wrong - neither of us want their exact marriage. We are different people raised in a different time. But the principles are flawless and are necessary.
I want to be submissive, but I really don't know how.I do know one thing though; if I argue with everything he says, I am going to be too resentful to submit.
So my first goal was to SHUT MY MOUTH.
Like I said, we haven't had an argument since. I am unusually quiet when he comes home. It's not because I think that there is any correlation between being submissive and not being allowed to speak; I just know that for me, personally, I am not going to learn to train my tongue unless I just pretty much stop talking altogether. In the last three days, I have learned to somewhat "catch" myself before I say something disagreeable. I am learning to think about what I say before I say it, which is a quality that everyone should possess but I just never have.
I have actually read a lot of material about being submissive, and a lot of them go a little beyond what we (Josh and I) consider necessary submission. One woman said that she serves her husband dinner and will not sit down until he is served. I don't think that is crazy or anything, especially for older couples that learned that as a sign of respect, but neither of us lean towards that type of submission. Another woman said that she asked her husband to write a list of things she should get done that day, with chores and errands, etc. Again, Josh doesn't desire that for us. I wouldn't mind him giving me a chore list, since he seems to value getting his laundry washed whereas I value getting the dishes washed, but honestly, he doesn't care enough about my housecleaning to even bother. Overall, I've had to piece together the things that I think Josh values in my submission. I know that his "love language" is acts of service, so when he gets home, I don't nag him about wanting to sit down and rest. I ask him if he needs anything, and how his day went. I do this because I genuinely care about him and how his day has been, and I have a desire to please him. I know that bringing him a glass of tea makes him happy, so that's what I try to do. I have not been asked to be a waiter, but I am volunteering that service because I know it makes him feel loved. If he brought me chocolate and coffee while I sat at the computer, no one would think to call him a doormat. It is strange that acts of service on a man's behalf will label a woman as such.
One thing that has really helped is this; And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone: I will make him a help meet for him. (gen. 2:18)
Some people (feminist poison!!) will think that this is offensive. So woman was created to serve man? This little post is probably the best explanation I have ever read for explaining, quickly, why I am proud to have been created for the purpose of serving, with my own meaning, my husband.
I was created to help Josh, not hinder him. I have that female power, remember?
1 Peter 3:1
Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives.
We can win our husbands over to Christ just with our actions! So why would we want our actions to show disdain for these men that promised to stick with us through thick and thin (even though they know about our angry sharp mouth-swords)? The last thing I want for Josh is to hinder him or cause him to stumble.
I've also had to pray a lot that the Lord will change my heart. I have a hard time staying respectful if, at that exact moment, Josh is not feeding my innermost need - constant physical affection. I won't lie, I expect it much more than anyone could ever give it. I'm insecure... it's understandable. I feel myself slipping back into old habits though if I am carrying Josh's dishes away, or putting his shoes in the shoe basket, or chasing down all three kids at once while he is resting. All I want is to yell at him with a snarky tone "don't worry Josh, I'll take care of this all myself!" but then we would be back at square one. I try to pray for patience, and a servant's heart. I pray for the Lord to get me through that bitter moment, and before I know it, Josh is standing up and saying "do you want me to grab the baby for you?" or "I really need to sweep.." It's a far cry from last week. He also took a bath with me (not in a personal marital way..don't be vulgar! I wouldn't post that on my blog! It was just a fun thing, we had the baby in there too - it was hilarious) which he has not willingly done in a long, long time. He shoveled the driveway just to go out in the 25 degree weather and get me Dr. Pepper and M&Ms. The affection he has turned away from due to my lack of respect is slowly coming back, and I'm not crazy - I'm going to encourage it by being as kind, respectful, and helpful as possible.
~ On a side note, Josh's mom, Cathy, is a fabulous christian woman who has taught me more in these six years than I could have ever imagined I would learn from a mother-in-law. I am so thankful that marrying Josh meant gaining a faithful Godly mentor as well. I feel ashamed and embarrassed at how immaturely I viewed this blessing when I was young, but now I lovingly embrace the mother-figure I have in her.
Sorry, that got really serious really fast. Here is my humorous redemption - Josh thinks it is hilarious now to call me "doormat." I retaliate by telling him I am going to call him "Sir" in front of the women he works with. We both agree that would be mortifying for him. :P