This is an email I received from a sweet wife that I think really showcases a classic misunderstanding between husbands and wives. So, with her permission, I’m going to share her email and then think about some possible respectful and husband-honoring, Christ-honoring ways to tackle this issue. I’m REALLY thankful that she brought up this topic. It’s actually the 2nd wife in one week who has had this dilemma who has emailed me. I hope the ladies might pay close attention to the little red flags in her email. See if you notice the areas where she ventured into disrespect (and also into some other possible pitfalls – like judgment, condemnation, pride) before you read what I wrote. My perspective is certainly not the only respectful way to handle things – but it may give wives a starting place to begin praying and thinking about how God might want them to change.
Little bit of background: my husband has kinda forgotten about special days in the past. He usually doesn’t plan my birthday gifts and holiday gifts very well. If he does, it is usually last minute. I have gotten very upset about this in the past and hurt because my birthdays and our anniversaries are dates that I want to feel loved and special (like most girls) but like most guys, he doesn’t put much thought or planning into these days. He has an hour commute to and from work and I’ve suggested in the past that he takes at least 1 minute of his commute time to think or plan for us, but he hasn’t taken my suggestion.
So present day problem: Today is our 3 year anniversary. The past few days I have been worried he hasn’t thought much about it. This morning, I woke up and tell myself to not be too upset if he has forgot. I don’t want to set him up and pretend I forgot too, so I lean over and say “Happy anniversary” then I ask him if he remembered (probably this is where I first went wrong???) Or maybe I shouldn’t have said happy anniversary at all (this is where I’m getting stuck)
He said, “Yes,” he forgot but he told me that he told a customer yesterday about our anniversary so he really didn’t completely forget. I said, “It’s ok” and got up to start getting ready. (He could tell I was upset even though I was trying to hide it – maybe I went wrong there too and should not have tried to hide my feelings but I did not want to put him down and make him feel like a failure). He asked, “What’s wrong?” I said I was ok. Then he asked why I got up out of bed like that and I said, “Sorry I got up like that, but I needed to get ready.”
He then started saying that is was first thing in the morning and of course he’s not thinking about that when he’s half asleep. Then the argument broke out
(I heard him as making excuses and started to defend my point)!!!!
He brought up how hard he works and how burnt out he is. I said, “I wanted to feel special” by having him make plans for us and I always worry he will forget since he has in past. Things got blown up and I started crying. I tried to tell him I was hurt and didn’t intend for things to go down like that but it took him a few minutes to stop being angry before he could comfort me. We apologized and are ok now but I have no clue how to handle this when it happens again. Which it will – he is human and it is kinda his nature.
This situation got really out of hand – and it didn’t have to. This precious wife did what most wives would do – but it’s not working for any of us!
Let’s talk about where she went right and where she may have been able to prevent this entire argument and tense situation that might well ruin the entire day. I will offer some suggestions that wives can think and pray about and consider. I’m sure there are other ways to handle it that would honor God, too. And if some godly Titus 2 women would like to share their perspectives, you are welcome to! Husbands are also welcome to share their perspectives on this issue. I’m sure many of you have faced something exactly like this. In fact, I have a hunch that something very similar has happened at least once or twice in almost every marriage.
THE RIGHT THINGS:
- I’m proud of her for telling herself not to be too upset if her husband forgot their anniversary. Good job! I think it is a great idea to not let our expectations of another human become unreasonable.
- I’m glad she didn’t ignore their anniversary, but said, “Happy Anniversary!”
- I’m glad she apologized. GOOD idea!
- I’m glad she is expecting him to be human and wants to be prepared to extend grace.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT:
WHAT IS THE GOAL?
It’s FINE to plan something for him and do something for him to make HIM feel special and cared for and loved if you want to. Be sure you are doing something HE would like. And be flexible enough to be gracious if he doesn’t get as excited about what you did for him as you want him to.
But, if you expect your anniversary (or birthday or Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day or Christmas) to be about him planning a party/a romantic evening/a surprise for YOU to make YOU feel loved and special – then you are setting yourself up for huge disappointment.
If YOU feeling loved is your goal in marriage – you will almost always be profoundly disappointed.
You can’t control your husband. You can’t make him do things. You can ask for things, you an appreciate what he does for you. But you can only control yourself – and even then, as one husband pointed out to me – only by the power of God’s Spirit can we even control ourselves! If you want your anniversary to be about making HIM feel special and honored – you can certainly do that.
I think we have to be very conscious of the temptation to have idols. In this case, many wives make “feeling loved” an idol, or we make our husbands an idol - especially on special days. Sometimes our expectations are so high that there is no way our husbands could ever satisfy us. If you are thinking, “I HAVE TO HAVE X TO BE HAPPY. If my husband doesn’t do what I want – I will be devastated.” “If he doesn’t do Y, I will not be ok.” -these are huge red flags that you are probably holding something as an idol.
Keep in mind that there is no worse sin than idolatry. That is a SERIOUS offense in the sight of God – it is infidelity to Christ – we are committing adultery against Him when we do this.
HUSBANDS ARE NOT MIND READERS
It’s FINE to say, “Happy Anniversary!” And give him a kiss and maybe even initiate physical intimacy if there is time that morning and he is interested.
It would have been fine earlier in the week to say, “I would LOVE to go to X restaurant for our anniversary this week!” With a big smile on your face. But then leave him alone about it and allow HIM to decide what he wants to do – or he may ask you about making reservations. That’s ok, too. And if he forgets or makes other plans – you can say something that night like, “You know what? I really just want to enjoy being with you tonight for our anniversary. I’m SO glad I get to be your wife! You are the biggest gift from God to me.” And enjoy grilled cheese sandwiches at home, or take out or going to a restaurant if he wants to. If you can extend GRACE to him – you will salvage all the things that matter most! You can still have a great time together. He will feel so relieved that you aren’t torturing him for forgetting something he really didn’t mean to forget. And you can make wonderful memories!
I enjoy my husband on Friday nights when the children are at their grandparents’ house. Sometimes my husband takes me out to a nice restaurant. I love that. And sometimes we have take out. I love that, too. And sometimes we have leftover chicken bog from the night before. (I know… you are asking yourself, “What on earth is chicken bog?” Well – it is a South Carolina thing with chicken and rice. It’s my husband’s favorite so I try to make it 2-3 times per month). The point is:
I savor THE RELATIONSHIP more than where we go or what we are doing now. I am content just to be with him.
I personally would like to see wives not get quite so caught up about their husbands making the plans. If your husband isn’t a big planner – it might be a gift to him if you do the planning – as long as you ask him and he’s ok with that.
Whether he plans ahead for special days or not and whether he remembers the date or not are truly not indications of a man’s genuine love for you!
HUSBANDS OFTEN DON’T THINK ABOUT DATES NEARLY AS MUCH AS WOMEN DO
A lot of guys just don’t think about “special days” as much as women do. It doesn’t mean they don’t love their wives! It means they are men, not women. Dates are not on a guy’s mind that much. Women have those kinds of dates in their heads all the time. For a woman to forget a birthday or anniversary would mean that she would probably purposely not recognize the event – because it is almost impossible for her to forget such important dates. But just because men don’t remember a certain date on the calendar – DOES NOT mean they are unloving! It doesn’t mean he doesn’t care. It doesn’t mean he hates you. And it might mean that just a little friendly, non-condescending reminder could be helpful. Like, earlier in the week, letting him know what you’d like to do, for instance!
Dr. Emerson Eggerichs relates a story where his wife hid all her birthday cards years ago and didn’t mention her birthday at all. That night, she made supper for him. And he told her how he had taken a friend out to lunch and she asked if they had a good time celebrating her birthday. She had not reminded him as an experiment to see if “he really loved her” as much as she knew she loved him.
He felt completely sabotaged and ambushed. He felt humiliated and disrespected. Let’s not try to test our husbands about dates. We are assuming the worst and that is really hurtful to our men when we make big assumptions that something means they don’t love us – when that is not at all what they meant.
HOW TO CELEBRATE AND ASK FOR WHAT YOU WANT
If you had just said, “Happy Anniversary!” And hugged and kissed him and smiled at him with that adoring look in your eye… you would have given him time to think of something to do for you while he was at work during the day. He could have salvaged the situation. He could have delighted you and been your hero. That is exactly what the other wife who wrote to me this week did – and her husband realized he forgot and he felt AWFUL!!! She didn’t have to say anything or ask if he remembered or not. He really tried hard to make it up to her. Give him the opportunity to be your hero!!!
THAT EXTRA LITTLE QUESTION DID A LOT OF DAMAGE
To wake up and say, “Happy Anniversary!” and then to ask, “Did you remember?” – was probably pretty disrespectful to your man. Now he can’t win. He feels ambushed. If he did remember – you assumed the worst and he’s not going to be praised – and if he did forget – he can’t honorably extract himself from this situation.
When you disrespect him – it is unreasonable to expect him to comfort you. First, you will have to apologize for your disrespect. In this case, I believe you owe your husband an apology for the unintentional ambush this morning. And for the sky high expectations, and for making your wedding anniversary all about you instead of about “us.” And for setting him up to fail by not talking about what you wanted to do and expecting him to read your mind and have his focus all on what you want without giving him any indications about what you want.
In my mind, an anniversary is not an occasion to spend days worrying about if he’ll remember. It’s a time to be thankful he is in your life. Whether he wakes up remembering the date or not is WAY secondary to the fact that HE IS HERE. HE LOVES YOU. HE IS MARRIED TO YOU. He belongs to you and you belong to him. What an incredible blessing!