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The First Few Months (or More) of This Process is HARD!

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I share a lot of success stories and light bulb moments that wives have.  Those are really inspiring.  I love seeing what God is doing and when things seem to start to go well.

But you know what?  I get WAY more emails that are full of pain, frustration, angst and struggle.  But I don’t share those.  I guess, primarily, because I don’t want to ask a wife to put that up in public – her lowest moments and biggest struggles put on display.  Sometimes wives do talk about their struggles in past tense in the emails I post.

I believe that for a woman to learn to respect her husband and honor his God-given leadership in the marriage is THE BIGGEST TEST OF FAITH IN CHRIST a Christian wife will probably ever face!

In learning to respect my husband – I really learn to respect God.  In learning to submit to my husband, I first learn to submit to Christ.  What an incredible road we are on!

But I want to be sure you know…

STRUGGLE IS NORMAL ON THIS JOURNEY OF BECOMING A GODLY WIFE AND IN BECOMING CHRISTLIKE:

  • Most wives make a LOT of mistakes – especially at first.  Since we are human – we will always make some mistakes and sin sometimes.  Until we get to heaven!
  • The first month or two is often the hardest, sometimes the difficult time lasts longer than that – it just depends on a lot of circumstances and the attitude of each woman and her husband how long the different phases last.  For Nina Roesner’s (author of The Respect Dare) explanation of the usual stages of this process, please read here)
  • Most wives want to just flip a switch and suddenly be the most godly wives ever.  It does NOT work like that!
  • Most wives that write to me say, “I must be your ‘worst student ever’!”  When they tell me about a disagreement that day that didn’t go well and recount the ways they were disrespectful or controlling.
  • This takes TIME.  A lot of time.  MANY months and most likely many years before it really feels “normal” and “natural”.
  • We will stumble.  Then we get up and apologize to our husbands and repent to God and keep going.
  • We are actually talking about the process of sanctification – where God makes us more and more like Jesus.  It is a life time of learning and growing.
  • Things go more smoothly when we have an attitude of humility before God, and a willingness to learn.
  • We will NOT make progress if we hold on to sin – unforgiveness, bitterness, pride, putting other things ahead of God in our hearts, rebellion against God and His Word.
  • Some wives embrace God’s design and try to learn it all at once and change everything right away.  That can be REALLY overwhelming and is actually impossible to do.  This is a long journey of many thousands of miles, not a sprint.
  • Some wives hate God’s design and feel angry about it and rebel against Him and turn and go their own way.  For some, they have to really hit rock bottom before returning to Christ.
  • EVERY wife will need to apologize A LOT when she sins against her husband and God.  But eventually, the taste of humble pie will grow on you!
  • Most of us will have husbands who don’t respond for awhile.  Their reactions can range from seeming indifference, anger, sadness, gratitude, joy… and our husbands’ reactions may change along the way.  They may feel confused.  They may not understand what is going on.  They may get angry when we mess up – thinking it means we haven’t really changed – when, in fact, we HAVE made a lot of progress, but they don’t understand the process.

WHAT I SAY TO A LOT OF WIVES

When things are not going well, and a wife messed up again, and she is feeling overwhelmed and inadequate and like she will “never get this right…”

I tell wives things like:

  • None of us can do this in our own strength!!!!  We need Jesus and His Spirit EVERY SECOND of EVERY DAY! 
  • You aren’t going to be perfect.  That is ok!  You will need to give grace to yourself.
  • Your husband is not going to be perfect.  He needs a lot of grace from you.
  • This is like learning a foreign language – it takes time, study, practice and also a lot of prayer and dependence and trust in God.
  • Other women and extended family and friends will probably NOT be very supportive.  God’s ways appear like foolishness to the world, even to many believers in our culture, unfortunately.
  • Find a godly mentor wife if you can who you can meet with once a week or so and learn from her example.  Be sure she lives out respect and biblical submission and has a very intimate relationship with Christ herself!
  • Don’t look to carnal women and disrespectful women for advice or counsel!
  • Thank God – we have Jesus’ blood to cover our sins!  WOOHOO!  PRAISE GOD there is forgiveness, mercy and grace for us in abundance, if we will just tap into it.

A Wife's Learning Curve

 Winding Country Road through autumnal Landscape

Here is a comment from a deeply wounded husband that I posted on FB this week.  And then there is a wife’s email to me after that about what the husband said.

FROM A HUSBAND

 
Enlightened by your messages. I really question myself when dealing with my wife, which nearly always resulted in very harsh very mean words from me to her for years. I have cried my woes to several in utter frustration, that the meanness is reactive, that this was not the wife or life I desired. What was I doing wrong?? I really questioned myself, was I really this monster with such a mean streak. I was convincing myself that I was mean, which is in total conflict of where my heart is for my wife (my relationship with the lord has codified that). I have lived in total conflict internally and externally. 
 
Then I saw your posts and lists, and I saw my life with my wife in print. WOW. I feel disgusted by my words, no justification, but having read your lists and posts I could clearly see what extracted such a relationship. My story sadly is ending in divorce, BUT to the wives who read your posts give them credence. We husbands are a delicate breed, though very rough and rugged on the outside, not so on the inside. As a husband I can only wish my wife had seen this list, and gave it credence, I truly would have laid my life for her, as any husband would do. The power and destruction of the list is very real, and any God-loving husband given the respect outlined in this post, will return it in kind to an unimaginable degree. Ephesians 5:21
(the post the husband was talking about was a list of things husbands find to be disrespectful here)
 

A COMMENT FROM A WIFE

Hi April,

As I read the post from the husband who (commented on the) list of disrespectful attitudes and behaviors, I’m struck yet again at how foolish I have been in the past.  I find that I’m doing better with recognizing things as I’m doing them, but sometimes it’s not until after I’ve done it “wrong.”  (FROM PEACEFULWIFE – this is REALLY normal in the first few months of trying to learn respect/biblical submission!  It is a long process, not an instant light switch flip. It is more of learning a brand new language, or learning to walk after being paralyzed and bedridden for many years.)
For instance, yesterday I allowed my fear of something to interfere with agreeing with what my husband thought was best.  I wasn’t argumentative, but I voiced my concern in a way that didn’t allow for his way to be right.  After church, I briefly apologized for allowing my paranoia and fear to challenge his suggestion and that I knew that whatever he chose to do would be good because I know he desires to keep us safe.  I have found that I am apologizing for particular things individually as they come to my mind instead of rehashing a widespread apology again (after the initial time he shared his heart with me).
What blows my mind is that the lists the you have composed as well as others’ contributions are verbatim what I have done (and 99% of other wives, I would imagine at some point). It’s frightening and comforting at the same time. I am not unique in my struggle, but it’s so sad that it’s so common.  It’s scary to think what could happen to my marriage if the Lord had not opened my eyes…or if I didn’t seek Him now that I see my sin.  I just pray that there will be continued growth and change for the better and that we never see the cliff of a crumbling relationship as some sadly have.

I can’t wait for my good reactions and responses to outweigh my disrespectful knee-jerk responses.  I just pray that as I am learning, that my husband will continue to give me grace through my apologetic missteps along the way.  I’m thinking about telling him what I’ve been learning, but can’t decide if it’s right, yet.  I’m mainly thinking that I want him to know that I’m trying to change, so he can have “knowing” patience.  It might not be time…I’ll be praying about it, though.  At some point, I would like for this topic to be open with him, so I can approach him about items on these lists to find out even more about how he is wired.
FROM PEACEFULWIFE:
I like what this wife is doing!
  • After the initial apology for her disrespect and controlling behavior – she then just apologizes BRIEFLY (that’s good!) for specific things.  GREAT JOB!
  • She sometimes doesn’t see her disrespect or lack of trust until after she does something disrespectful.  That is NORMAL!   When you’ve been disrespectful and controlling for decades, it takes some time to learn what is respectful and what isn’t and it take time to learn to stop yourself BEFORE you do and say things.  You will need to have plenty of grace for yourself.  You are human.  And you are a sinner.  And this stuff is all brand new information.  I pray your husband will be able to give you grace as you learn, too.
  • Only God can open our eyes to our sin.  And once our eyes are opened to our disrespect and controlling behavior – YIKES!  Then we wonder, “How on earth did I not see that all those years!?!?”  But most of us didn’t see it.  Most of us didn’t do this stuff intentionally.  We were reacting in our pain to feeling unloved – and unknowingly deeply wounded our husbands.
  • Over time, learning to trust God, seeking Him above everything else, dying to self, being aware of sin, repenting, being humble, understanding what disrespect and respect are, understanding our particular husband’s needs, and committing to submit first to God and then to our husbands – eventually becomes “normal.”   At first, it takes severe emotional and spiritual contortion.  But, in time, with prayer, with God’s Spirit’s power and with practice – our faith and trust “muscles” grow stronger.  And eventually, God changes our hearts and minds.  Eventually, we don’t even think the disrespectful and controlling stuff anymore.  And that is a VERY PEACEFUL and JOYFUL place to be!
  • Some wives don’t talk with their husbands about what they are doing.  Laura Doyle, “The Surrendered Wife” (not necessarily a Christian perspective), talks about giving up unnecessary control and learning to respect our husbands and the good things that result from that.  But she suggest wives NOT tell their husbands what they are doing for 6 months.  Why?  Because when you are first learning, you still don’t have a good grasp on what is disrespectful, and some wives will actually say things like, “I’m not going to tell you how stupid your ideas are anymore.  This book says I need to be quiet about that.”  YIKES!  She says that after the 6 months, most wives have changed a lot and most husbands are very happy and don’t really ask about what exactly their wives are doing differently, they are just glad things are so wonderful!
  • Some Christian wives DO talk to their husbands about learning to biblically submit and respect their men.  IF your husband is a believer in Christ, and he is fairly strong in his walk with God, he may be able to help coach you through some of these things.  And it may help him to know what you are doing.  So some Christian wives will apologize at first by saying:

I have sinned against God and against you by disrespecting your God-given leadership and by trying to control and be in charge in the marriage.  I realize now that I was so wrong.  I want to learn to respect you and to cooperate with your leadership.  I pray that you might be able to forgive me.  I know it is going to take me some time to learn how to do things right.  You are always welcome to tell me when I am disrespectful or controlling.”  (and whatever you do – keep it BRIEF and DO NOT EXPLAIN OR JUSTIFY YOUR DISRESPECT AND CONTROL FROM THE PAST!!!!  Just these few sentences is probably adequate)

Each wife will need to decide what the best approach might be for her marriage.  But I will say this – husbands value ACTIONS and BEHAVIOR much more than words.  They will be watching your behavior in the coming weeks and months to see if you are for real.  And it may take many weeks or months before they feel safe enough to open their hearts up to you again.  That will have to be ok.  This is primarily about us obeying God.  The results and timing of what happens in the marriage and in our husbands are up to Him.

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