During a recent presentation to a group of couples, one of the participants questioned my assertion that we could love our spouse “no matter what”. Admittedly, it is a bold statement. His concern was that “no matter what” sets a spouse up for abuse. While I agree with the possibility of this extreme, I countered that my concern is that we have watered down this “no matter what” extreme to something more akin to “if I’m not happy”.
If we’re not happy then we have a difficult time believing that God could be. But, what if God isn’t wedded to our personal standard of happiness?
My belief is that God is more into the development within us when we have an unconditional commitment to him and to our spouse. In fact, God models this notion for us in his unwillingness to love and commit to us less than He does.
Consider two people – a priest who has devoted himself to the Lord for the last fifty years, and an evolutionary biologist who has dedicated himself to proving God does not exist. To which of these people is God most committed?
Our refrigerators and cupboards are full of products with stamped expiration dates. Except for infant formula, dating these products is not a federal regulation. But, it is useful for stores and consumers to assess whether a given product is safe or unsafe for consumption. So, the ardent shopper checks that “sell by” date, especially on the perishable items like milk and eggs. This morning I checked the expiration date on one of my purchases only to learn that it had indeed expired. Should I eat it or throw it away? As I carefully inspected it to see if I was indeed edible, I began to think of the connection to marriage. How many couples are living in outdated marriages—going through the motions with freshness that has long expired?
The answer is “way too many”. It shows in the data. According to Dana Adam Shapiro’s research for his book You Can Be Right (or You Can Be Married),very few married people are happy — he says about 17 percent. Another study reveals that a large percentage of married couples (~40%) say that they are not very happy in their marriage. It’s sad. For many of these couples, the relationship that started out with a sense of bliss and hopeful optimism has deteriorated into a functional partnership at best.
One study of 3000 couples identifies five top problems reported by these frustrated couples.
- Lack of spontaneity
- Lack of romance
- Terrible sex life
- No time to give each other attention
- Lack of time to talk
One-third of couples suggest things like the loss of romantic trips away, cooking of favorite meals, and the surprise bouquet of flowers as examples of their outdated marriages. These couples have allowed the proverbial “shelf life” of their marriage to diminish. It feels stale and distasteful.
This disappointing state of marriage reminds me of the biblical account of the Hebrew people during their wilderness experience after escaping the slavery of Egypt.
We husbands are a funny bunch. In some ways we are paragons of contradiction. Some of us have a tough exterior but are soft in the middle. Others say few words but no shortage of opinions. Still others never talk about feelings but wear them on our sleeves. It is no surprise then that our wives often wonder what in the world is going through our minds. But, since many of us don’t really share what is going through our mind, our wives are often left in bewilderment. They feel like outsiders yearning to get closer to us but not knowing how to do it. This post is for those wives who wish for a little glimpse into their husbands’ head. Here are ten things that your husband probably wishes you would do. But, here’s the kicker. He probably will never ask.
I admit. For many of us, it is hard to get in our heads because sometimes we don’t even understand what we’re thinking. Until we figure it out, we may not talk too much about it. And, even then, only in bite size pieces. Even then, only if we feel it is safe to do so. Yes, we husbands are funny like that sometimes.
Why is it so hard for us husbands to ask for what we want? That’s a tricky question. But, it is usually one of five reasons:
- We’ve been socialized to believe that real men don’t ask for such things.
- We don’t feel safe enough in the relationship.
- Makes us too vulnerable
- It seems too trivial
- Fear of rejection
So, to help out both us husbands and our bewildered wives, I’d like to propose 10 things that we husbands wish our wives would do—even though we may never actually ask for them.
One of the life lessons that we learn as early as kindergarten is the importance of sharing and compromise. While most young children have a very self-centered perspective, the process of teaching them to be more considerate of others around them is understandably seen as a key developmental task. The adage goes that having good interpersonal relationships is about 50-50, meeting others “halfway”. Your responsibility is to do your part and expect the other party to reciprocate in kind. Makes perfect sense—until you grow up.
Relationships are a struggle—especially intimate ones. While they can elevate our feelings to mountaintop experiences they can also plummet them into undesirable lows. There are many reasons for the ups and downs in intimate relationships. But, clearly one is what I call the 50-50 trap.
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