Understanding Your Spouse
In Jo Berry’s book, Beloved Unbeliever, she shares,
“Diane confessed…she mentally put down her husband. She mocked his ideas and his reactions or responses and secretly made fun of his opinions…
“One day, when she visited him at his office, she was struck by the tremendous respect his co-workers, his secretary, and his boss showed him. She shared how she got a knot in her stomach when she heard a man who is older and more experienced than her husband say, ‘Yes, sir’, to him. And she was both frightened and ashamed when she saw how his young secretary looked up to and admired him…
“When I got to the car, I started crying… The thing that disturbed me most is that I was judging him not because of his actions or because he isn’t a good husband, but because he wasn’t what I wanted him to be…” (p.48).
As she recognizes the good qualities and actions of her husband in the context of his work environment, she deciphers her unwarranted judgmentalism.
What was the basis of her judgment? “He wasn’t what I wanted him to be.”
She confesses that it was her perspective not his person, her expectations not his execution, and her attitude not his attitude.
In her defense, expecting another person to be better is not a bad thing. All of us need to improve. In thinking of a wife toward her husband, it is the nature of a woman to nurture. She wishes to help.
For example, she possesses a maternal perspective that fills her with an idealism, which in turn drives her to help her children improve. “Brush your teeth, comb your hair, say ’please and thank you’, be kind, be truthful, be a good listener, help those less fortunate, work hard” and the list goes on and on.
In marriage, she turns that nurturing bent toward her husband. “Why don’t you talk to me more, did you see your insensitivity, did you call your mother, why did you speak harshly to our daughter, do you love me, am I special to you, why don’t we go on more dates, did you think of me today…?” and the list goes on and on.
None of these questions are necessarily bad. Her concerns can be most appropriate, but eventually it can be too much for a husband. She wears him out because it is negative.
As the years roll by, her list of negatives about her husband increases.
Sadly, she subconsciously pushes the good things about her husband into the shadows. She no longer sees them, just as Diane failed to see her husband’s good qualities.
A wife can come to a point, like Diane did, where she only focuses on what her husband fails to be to her. She expends her energy on helping him change where she expects him to be what she wants. After all, when he is who she wants him to be, she is happy and gives of herself to him. He should know that when he improves, those changes trigger in her a desire to serve him.
To her this is win-win, and he should applaud her for wanting him to change! But for some reason, he reacts to this with moodiness and not a word of thanks.
Though she would never say, “I want my husband to be perfect,” she would agree that she does not want him to be imperfect on any particular day. Consequently, when he displays imperfection on a particular day, she feels that he needs her critique and help.
Yes, she may refrain from criticism by biting her tongue, but in her soul she expects more, so much more. She expects him to be better and wiser than he is.
Having said this, she can remain quiet about his negatives only so long before she must honestly complain. She cannot keep it in, lest she become ill. After all, helping him be better and wiser is a good thing.
She finds his resistance baffling. He fails to appreciate her, which she adds to her list of negatives compiled to help him.
Few wives see themselves as judgmental. Instead, most see their husbands as in need of help from his helper suitable. After all, this is what God calls her to be in the book of Genesis (2:18).
She thinks to herself, “Does he not recognize that God made me his helper suitable? Does he not appreciate the virtue and idealism that I bring to this relationship? How can he be satisfied with ‘us’ when he fails to be what I want him to be? Do I not matter?”
He is not as teachable as she expects, so she feels justified in her criticism and complaint.
But here is the crucial question: is her dissatisfaction with the marriage his fault?
Few wives get in tune with what many refer to as the “insatiability of the female.”
In other words, some wives are never satisfied. This is the wife’s shortcoming, not the husband’s.
I have a friend who does marriage conferences with his wife. He asked her once, “Can’t we just have one day when everything is okay?”
In her favor, many wives express their burdens to their husbands due to their deep care about a plethora of people for whom they pray and serve. A wife may talk about the problems encountered by her mother, sisters, neighbors, people at the church, co-workers, children and on and on. Daily she vents the anxieties of her heart. She expects her husband to be the burden-bearer of her worries.
Included in that abundance of concerns is her husband. He needs to see his faults. These faults burden her.
Interestingly, the husband stands in a category all his own. She expects more from him. He not only needs to carry her burdens as a good Christ-figure, he needs to make her laugh, surprise her and romance her. He needs to listen to her, be open with her, not get angry at her, tell her he is sorry, reassure her of his loyalty and love and treasure her above all else.
When he fails on one of these on any certain day, it leaves her emotionally raw and she must give voice to her hurt feelings. He needs to hear her heart and make some changes. He needs to work more on “us.”
This is why my friend who does marriage conferences wanted just one day when all was okay, and he was okay. She wore him out.
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