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 anyone!
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 have a hunch that something very similar has happened at least once or twice in almost every marriage.
THE RIGHT THINGS – IN MY VIEW:
- I’m proud of her for telling herself not to be too upset if her husband forgot their anniversary. Good job! Especially since she knows he isn’t really strong with remembering dates.
- I’m so glad she woke up and smiled and said, “Happy Anniversary!”
- I’m glad she apologized – even though she was feeling unloved and hurt.
- I’m glad she is trying to accept that he is 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 to do 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 would if he did something for you.
But, if you expect your anniversary (or birthday, Valentine’s Day, 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 – ESPECIALLY IF YOU DON’T TELL HIM WHAT YOU DESIRE.
- Your husband is probably a horrible mind reader.
- Your husband thinks like a man. He is not a woman. Remembering dates and anticipating what you want without any input from you – may be unrealistic – some men seriously have trouble remembering things like that.
- You can’t control your husband.
- You can’t make him do things.
- You can ask for things pleasantly and politely and tell him what you would like.
- You can appreciate what he does for you.
- You can do things for him.
One of my readers told me, “Expectations are pre-meditated resentment.” (For more on healthy boundaries and what you actually can control vs. what you can’t control, click here.)
I think we have to be very conscious of the temptation to have idols – something we set our hearts on more than Christ.
If I am 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 to me that I am probably holding something as an idol, or, at the very best, that I am setting myself up for major disappointment. It’s time to do a heart check and make sure I am looking only to Christ for my fulfillment and contentment – not to my husband.
The human heart is an idol factory. All of us must constantly ask God to check our motives, and make sure we don’t allow anything to creep in there and take God’s precious place in our hearts.
SOME HEALTHY WAYS TO HANDLE THE ANNIVERSARY ISSUE
1. It’s FINE to say, “Happy Anniversary!” smile, give him a kiss and maybe even initiate physical intimacy if there is time that morning and he is interested.
2. 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 with him and allow HIM to decide what he wants to do – or he may ask you about making reservations. That’s ok, too.
3. If he forgets – 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. (Of course, if you had smiled at him brightly and said, “Happy Anniversary, Honey!” that morning, it would make it really hard for him to forget. :))
If you can extend GRACE to him – you can probably salvage all the things that matter most! You can still have a great time together.
He will be so relieved that you aren’t making him feel like a failure for forgetting something he really didn’t mean to forget. And then you can make wonderful memories!
FRIDAY NIGHTS FOR US
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, or two nights 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 joyful and content to be with him – no matter what we do.
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.
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!” is awesome – but then to ask, “Did you remember?” – was a problem – he may have even felt disrespected. Now he can’t win. He may even feel ambushed. If he did remember – she assumed the worst about him and he’s not going to be praised – and if he did forget – he can’t honorably extract himself from this situation.
When I disrespect my husband – it is unreasonable to expect him to comfort me. First, I must apologize for my disrespect – even if it was totally unintentional.
Let’s assume the best, not the worst, about our men! I think there is something about that in I Corinthians 13:4-8!
A HEALTHY FOCUS
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 my life. Whether he wakes up remembering the date or not is WAY secondary to the fact that HE IS HERE. HE LOVES ME. HE IS MARRIED TO ME. He belongs to me and I belong to him. What an incredible blessing and gift!