This past weekend my husband and I celebrated our one year anniversary. It is hard to believe that a whole year has passed, and yet, with the constantly changing events in our life that have taken place over the past year, it also feels as though we've always been together. Strange, huh? I had thought that I would do some lovey dovey stuff on here again about how much I love and appreciate my husband, but I got to thinking a little deeper this time (plus I know you all are probably still gagging from the "Valentine's Day" entries). You see, I've learned a few things about marriage. Unfortunately, I learned them the hard way, and as my son gets old enough to read what I have written there are a few things that I want him to know so that he can say that he learned them the easy way.
1. Marriage is about two people. Many girls spend their whole lives envisioning this fairy tale romance about the perfect guy coming in and sweeping her off her feet. He meets all of her needs and does everything just perfectly. He makes her so happy. That's a lovely dream, and it can become a reality, but there is one glaring flaw in the presentation. It's all about her. Her dreams. This one-sided marriage is truly perfect, but only in her mind. Because marriage is about two people. Ephesians 2:3 says, "Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves." The success of the marriage does not hinge on whether or not my spouse is meeting my needs, but rather that I am meeting the needs of my spouse. It may look a lot the same, but there is a huge difference in focus. In my marriage the only thing that I need to be concentrating on is whether or not I am meeting Jeff's needs. (And I might point out that he should be doing the same regarding me). Boy, that's a far cry for the fairy tale romance isn't it? Yet it's biblical, and since God created marriage, He of all people should know the key to making it work.
2. In order to meet your spouse's needs, you must learn what those needs are. The idea here is that you learn your spouse. You become a student of him. You learn what gets him excited. This is not that hard to do. For instance, I know that my husband loves tools. It's not hard to see--he goes positively ape over tools. Over the course of this year I have tried to learn as much about his tools as I can, and I've tried to remember the names and the uses for the tools that he has pointed out to me. I have also learned that he likes to be touched. Jeff's primary love language is physical touch, and it doesn't really matter how I touch him, as long as I do. He particularly likes back rubs and head rubs. More subtly though, I've learned that he likes for me to read to him. We are currently reading one of my Zane Grey novels. Now, I don't really think that Jeff is enjoying the writing style of Zane Grey as much as he is listening to the sound of my voice as I read to him. Through this experience I've learned that his mother used to read to him all the time, and it was something that he equated with being loved, secure and totally in the center of his mother's attention. The things that your spouse is passionate about are there, but you need to learn what they are. I will say that I believe that this is an easier task for the wife than for the husband. By our very nature we are nurturers. We observe our children and assess what their needs are before they are even able to voice them. It makes us a little more intuitive, but it is not impossible for the husband to learn about his wife. It may take a little help, but the best thing a husband can do is sit down with his wife and say, "Honey, I want to know everything about you. I want to learn the ways that I can show love to you. Please tell me some ways that I can show you how much you mean to me." Get ready, guys, because you may be surprised at the answer. It may be as simple as telling her that you love her before you leave the house in the morning. It may mean giving of your time by helping with the dishes. It may be that she simply desires to be freed up for some time for herself--like taking the kids out of the house for a few hours so that she can either spend time in the bathtub or get caught up on some chores that have been hanging over her head for days. It may not make sense to you, but is that the point? Whatever she tells you, do it. And do it without being asked. Wives, if your husband is harder to read, then by all means sit down with him and discuss it. I truly believe that when you are busy meeting the needs of your spouse, you will have a lot less time to be worried about yourself.
3. This third one is really more for the wife. Girls--newsflash--your husband wants to have sex. Yes, I said sex on my publicly read blog. Sex to your husband is like sleeping and eating. It is a physical need that he has that is motivated by his love for you. He needs you. You would never purposely go for days and weeks without feeding him or letting him sleep, yet women all over America go for weeks, even months without having sex with their husbands. I confess that I was one of those wives. Instead of seeing what my husband needed from me, I made it all about what I wanted for myself. And if I thought that I wasn't getting what I wanted, then I withheld myself from him, telling myself that when he got up the gumption to figure out what made me happy, then I would have sex with him. It told myself that I wasn't able to have sex with him because he wasn't meeting my emotional needs. I have learned that excuse is really from the pit of hell. I don't say this lightly. I say it from the bottom of a heart that has been truly broken by the man I loved. Meeting the sexual needs of my spouse is a choice. Is it an easier choice when he has pushed all the right "buttons" for me emotionally? Sure. But it's still a choice. What is the choice? Well, you can either willingly and eagerly meet your husband's sexual needs and enjoy a tremendously fulfilling, close relationship with him, or you can leave him open to the enticement and allurement of a world that is only too happy to fill your shoes for you. In your defense I will say that most men could learn a thing or two about meeting the emotional needs of their wives before they hit the bedroom, but women just need to get over it. Or they need to start communicating to their husbands exactly what will help them "get in the mood". I am blessed to have a husband who will go out of his way to make our relationship be the best that it can be, but even on those rare occasions when I just think that I can't do it, I remember what he faces every day while he is away from me and it motivates me to make sure that when he leaves the house that morning, he is watching the clock until he can get back home to me. It is a way to protect him. I will go one step further and say, to withhold yourself physically from your spouse at any time, unless mutually agreed upon, is just plain old WRONG. To use sex to get your husband to take out the trash is wrong. To manipulate him into meeting a need in your life is wrong. And to make him go without it for long periods of time when you haven't openly discussed it and mutually agreed to it is wrong. Please, please hear me when I say that your husband will only try to get your attention for so long. One day he will stop asking. And on a day not too far distant from that one you may find yourself watching your husband coldly divide your life into "his" and "hers" and back a moving van up to your house. I am not saying that if that happens it is all your fault. He has choices to make as well. He can choose to love you and honor the committment that he has made to you no matter what your response is (Eph. 2:3 again). He can do all that he can to communicate with you and guard himself from the world. But why make his job that hard? You love him already, show him that you love him by reverencing him.
I hope one day that Jack's fiance and I will be able to sit down and have this little chat and more. It's only three points, but they are huge. I by no means profess to be perfect in any of these areas, but I think that at least knowing that these things exist and are very real in my marriage has given Jeff and I a much deeper understanding and a bond that I never dreamed was possible. My only goal in sharing this publicly is that it might somehow help someone else like me to truly have the love of my life beside me, sharing in the joy of raising our sons and daughter, and looking forward to the years ahead, not with despair, but with anticipation.
Additional Note: I do not in any way mean to minimize the pain and rejection that many women go through when their husbands do not take the time to meet their emotional needs. I know only too well that the hurt stemming from a husband who does not make his wife a priority in his life can greatly impact the desire to make the right choices. But you can still reverence your husband and pray diligently and communicate, communicate, communicate with him. Some men need the proverbial "2 x 4" over the head. Oh, don't get offended, guys. You know it's true.