I first “met” a Fellow Wife in October, 2012. I can’t begin to count all the discussions we shared together. This has been a difficult, painful and challenging journey at times – as it is for all of us who seek to know, obey and please Jesus. We must die to self, go against the wisdom of our culture, deny our sinful nature, let go of the things we cherish most and seek to trust God rather than self. Now, as I see where she is today spiritually compared to where she was two years ago, I have to thank and praise God for His goodness and power! I believe that the more wives’ stories we can hear, the better. I know her story will bless you:
It was 2 years ago next month that I first began pursuing becoming a more godly wife. It was 1 year ago this August that I really got it–what this journey was all about and how it could work for me. At first I thought it was all about putting all these little behaviors into practice by memory and it was all about memorizing a new way of being and being someone different than I really was…. 1 year ago this month, it REALLY clicked for me and I saw that this was not about changing who I am and following a bunch of rules that would make me a plastic Stepford wife. It was about letting go of so many things I was trying to hold onto and manipulate. It was about learning boundaries and what and who I am and am not responsible for.
It has been a very interesting year. It has been a year filled with learning, changes and challenges. Sometimes I have passed with flying colors. Sometimes I have failed miserably and fell flat on my face. I thought I would take a look back at THEN (being the time period before I really *got it* or surrendered- and NOW (being 1 year into this new way of living and being married.) I will be very real with you about the good, the bad and the ugly. But it is my hope to reflect back for myself and share a bit of my story that it might help some of you relate or be encouraged. Let’s begin.
THEN: We had big arguments any time there was conflict. I fought tooth and nail, determined if I just hung in there and talked long enough, my husband would eventually get it.
NOW: Arguments are rare. I approach them differently… making it my goal to speak my thoughts and feelings and exit the discussion giving my husband time to process. Sometimes a few sentences is all I say because it is all I need to say. I have found that when I don’t act ugly, my husband is thinking about how I feel vs how I acted. He is more likely to apologize now. MUCH more likely.
THEN: I was an endless pit of need. My husband could not do enough to make me happy in the way of affection, attention or time. I griped and fussed about this often. He was very tuned out.
NOW: While I still want affection, attention and time from my husband, it is not my entire focus. I give my husband much more space to decide to give or not to give me those things. I am much more secure within myself. I don’t depend on him as deeply.
THEN: He never noticed me.
NOW: He compliments me on occasion…. maybe 1-2 times a month. This is huge considering in the past, years would go by without him complimenting me.
THEN: I thought I could control his feelings for me and his actions toward me.
NOW: I have had HUGE lightbulb moments that have taught me there is no way you can control another person’s feelings or make someone show they love you. At best, all you have is manipulation. You may manipulate your husband into making a gesture of love but neither of you are satisfied with this because you both know it isn’t from his heart, it is from your pushing.
THEN: I sit home and cried when my husband went out a few times a month. I whined. I pouted. We argued.
NOW: While I can’t deny I still feel a twinge of wishing he wanted to spend more time with me from time to time, I don’t sit home and feel sorry for myself. I go out with my girlfriends and have fun on my own. I arrive home happy and refreshed which makes me a wife he is happy to come home to.
THEN: I begged for time together. It was probably our biggest point of contention.
NOW: I no longer beg for time together. I will, on occasion, mention something I would like to do together. I still want to spend more quality time together. But I am okay without it and find other things to occupy myself. I hope someday that we spend more time together. But I can be okay either way.
THEN: There was no inner happiness in me. I kept myself in a constant state of worry over our marriage and worked hard at forcing changes I wanted.
NOW: I understand boundaries better. I realize I am responsible for myself and my own emotions. I realize he has the right to make his own decisions.
THEN: I was clingy and needy. Embarrassingly so. I thought the harder I tried to cling, the more pressure it would put on him to be affectionate and loving toward me. It never worked. In fact, it smothered him and repelled him. It also left me feeling desperate and altogether yucky. Not pleasant.
NOW: I understand how to give my husband space. While I am occasionally affectionate with him just because I love him and want to reach out to him, I give him a good amount of space. AND, I am thrilled to say that after some time had passed…. maybe 3 months?… he started searching me out. He now puts his arm around me sometimes. He will kiss or hug me when he passes me in the kitchen. He is overall more affectionate and loving. This was a wonderful gift! I learned that men need space to give you the things you long for.
THEN: I pursued him. Totally. And I did not like that feeling.
NOW: I give him room to pursue me… and he does. It isn’t as aggressively as I might hope but it is definite pursual.
THEN: I did not understand him or the ways he was trying to show me love.
NOW: I understand men MUCH better, although not perfectly. This is because I have studied and read several books on the subject. I have also learned to ask my husband questions. A lot of times I think he meant one thing when he really meant another. I ask him what he meant. I ask him how he feels. I don’t take for granted that I automatically understand him.
THEN: I called the shots and did things my way. This also weighed on me heavily.
NOW: I am perfectly happy with him being in charge. It makes me happy to submit to him. (most times). I trust his judgment. I feel much lighter without so much on my shoulders. I know that I can offer my perspective and ideas and then allow him to decide what is best.
THEN: I saw us as totally intertwined and as if we owned each other.
NOW: I have learned about interdependence and that I do not own him. He has to give his love freely to me and cannot do so if I am trying to force it out of him. He is defeated before he even begins.
THEN: I thought this was something I would do and then be done with- mark off my to-do list and move on.
NOW: I realize this is a journey. It is a lifetime thing. It is something I will always be learning. It is something that I will mess up on at times but will continue to improve on overall, with time.
THEN: He did not care about my feelings and was not interested in hearing about them.
NOW: He does care about my feelings, especially when I can express them in a clear, feminine, softly spoken manner.
THEN: I thought being a respectful wife was about following all these hundreds of rules that I could never remember all of them and felt very panicked at trying! I had true anxiety attacks for days after trying to implement all of them.
NOW: For me, this was all about releasing my husband and letting go of any attempt to control him. All other respectful behavior will grow naturally from that action. There are no rules to memorize. There are things you will realize and learn and click in place.
Overall, my husband is more of a leader because I vacated that spot. He is a bit more assertive now. He is comfortable correcting me through a gentle rebuke when I am disrespectful whereas before he had just given up and wouldn’t try to tell me because it did no good. I am more comfortable listening to him and truly hearing him and his feelings. If there is an argument, order is restored much more easily between us. He is more affectionate, more observant and overall more loving toward me. He has even done some very surprising, bold things to show that in the last year which I treasure.
There are still some changes I would like to see come to pass in our marriage. But even if they never, ever do, our marriage is much, MUCH better for my surrendering to him. It is healthier. I am healthier within our marriage.
This is a God thing. I could not have done this without God’s help. And every change I have made is backed up by God’s instructions on how to be a godly wife. God KNOWS how men work and how wives can best live with their man in a happy, healthy way. I cannot tell you the moments of amazement that I have experienced in the last year when I discovered how spot on April was about men or how spot on Shaunti Feldhahn was in her books “For Women Only” and “The Surprising Secrets Of Highly Happy Marriages”. My husband would verify almost 100% of the time that these were correct about how men think and feel- or at least how he thinks and feels.
But in addition to it being a God thing, it was a decision I had to make for myself, because being a controlling, aggressive wife that acted very masculine was not healthy for me or my marriage. That did not fit. It felt comfortable because it was all I knew but it wasn’t the way a wife should be. Making the decision to let go of my husband and give up my attempts to control him- which did not work anyways- and to find my own joy and contentment was a very healthy decision. I love this way of living.
Yes, I have had some times of hurt and frustration since I began my journey. But the times of true peace within myself and the peace that I have at not trying to control everything is so much greater. There are also many wonderful, sweet and joyful moments such as when my husband does decide to show his love for me in his own unique way.
I hope this offers you a word of encouragement to stay the course.