Sunday, August 31, 2008

Marriage has no room for selfishness

Lately, my friends (online and "in real life") and I have been talking about the changes God has made in our lives over the last few years, and I realize that, while I've shared some of those things here, I haven't really gone into detail on all of it.

Some people know me from "way back" and know the person I once was, while others are new readers and don't really know my "story". I feel it's important for us to share our testimonies of God's grace and mercy in our lives, even if they reveal a side of us we don't care for, so I'm going to start doing that more often, and will focus on that a lot this month.

The person I use to be is not one I care for much. Back then, I would have told you that I was a good person, but upon further examination, I would have had to admit that I was not. Of course, I allowed my friends to convince me that whatever made me happy was good and great, even though, deep in my heart, I knew I was disappointing my family and God. Of course, I didn't have a good understanding of God then. I grew up reading the bible, but was trying to follow Him with my own will and energy. Guilt led me, not the freedom of Christ's salvation, not love of God. Fear of hell drove me to avoid the things I did (or at least feel very guilty if I did indulge).

I didn't realize it until several years ago, but I was blindly driven by selfishness. Deep down, my heart and mind were always surveying what I could get out of any situation or deal. I was blind to the fact that I was living my life with that sort of attitude, but I can clearly see it now.

Let me tell you, selfishness has no place in a marriage, but I walked into my marriage with buckets full. It became painfully obvious as my relationship with my husband began to collapse for what would likely have been the final time had God not intervened.

My husband will tell you that he wasn't a perfect spouse. He had a lot of "issues", but I see now that my attitude toward him magnified those problems and made his behaviors worse.

For example, when he did something I felt was rude or disrespectful (whether that was his intention or not), I would call him out on it using some unsavory words. I was constantly picking apart his actions. He stopped doing nice things for me and stopped spending time with me. Of course, this only made me more furious, so I lashed out at him more.

Then, after things began to shatter, I realize....... why would my husband want to spend time with his wife who calls him disgusting names or flies off the handle, instead of approaching him with love and patience?

I saw this confirmed in my brother-in-law's relationship with his (now-ex) girlfriend. She couldn't figure out why he wouldn't spend more time with her and why he always seemed so angry with him. I asked her, "Why would he approach you with love, when your words are so hateful? Why would he want to spend time with a person who degrades him and makes him feel worthless?" Of course, this was after my marriage had been mended, so I was able to point this out to her with love and the "I've been there" standpoint.

Sometimes we are blind to the obvious? Why do we think nagging and name-calling will compel our husbands to "do our bidding"? Would that work on us? No! It makes a person go on the defensive, to resist the request or demand. It doesn't compel! It's REPELS! Seems like common sense, yet.... most couples do not learn this until later in life, if ever.

Like I said, I was very selfish. Unless I was feeling especially loving, I didn't want to go out of my way to make my husband feel adored. I was too caught up in my own expectations for him, big or small. Afterall, good husbands should take out the trash on time, keep the cars' maintenance up-to-date, put the toilet seat down, financially provide for the family, help with the dishes, do a little laundry, give lengthy back massages, allow me to go shopping regularly.....

I never really thought about what a good wife should do. Subconsciously, I knew what would make my husband happy, but I wasn't worried about doing those things. I had better things to do, like.. make sure he was making ME happy!

There was a turning point. It was the night that all things probably could have come to a complete end. My husband stormed out late at night, and I begged him not to go. I was furious, and I found myself angrily discussing the situation with God as I paced around our apartment. I couldn't wait until he got home so I could chew him into pieces. He deserved it.

But God touched my heart and said, "Shh. Be quiet. When your husband gets home, welcome him with loving arms. Leave your anger, and approach him with care."

This was SO difficult for me to do at that time. I wanted to curse at him and maybe even take a swing at him. I was spitting mad! However, when he returned home in the wee hours of the morning, fully expecting to be verbally torn to shreds, I swallowed my pride and met him in the livingroom with a hug. I told him I was glad he was back, and didn't even mention that I was fearful, frustrated, or fuming. I asked if I could pour him a glass of cola or water, or if he needed something. I gathered his clothes as he tossed them aside and took them to the wash. I pulled back his sheets, turned off the lights, climbed into bed, and whispered, "I love you."


My husband admits that this totally threw him off. Of course, things didn't get better all of the sudden. He resisted, but I persisted.... but, eventually, both of our hearts were turned in the right direction- towards the Lord, and we came to know the Lord together as we kneeled before our loveseat in the livingroom, tearfully praying and asking God to take the reigns of our relationship and lives.

The Lord began to show me how a godly wife behaves. I was so strongly convicted, but, of couse, I'm still a work in progress. I finally understood what God desired from me in our marriage. My husband finally saw that a wife and children were not merely accessories to his life. We began working TOGETHER. I found that I was much happier in approaching him with a servants heart.

It's strange how that works. Who would ever think that willfully submitting to someone else and setting aside your own desires would actually make you happier and more at peace than if you were chasing your desires?

I have found myself desiring to wake-up early (and I am not a morning person) to make him coffee and breakfast, then see him off to work. My chores around the home have truly become "home blessings" as I do them "as unto the Lord", as well as for my husband. I don't see it as such a big "ugh, harumph, sigh" to have dinner ready (or nearly ready) when he gets home from work, and, I really like to tidy myself up before he gets home (sometimes this means taking a shower, because I've become quite sweaty from playing with the kids or doing things around the house). I use to think women who did this kind of stuff were SO old fashioned.

Now I see that it is SO worth it. When I kindly ask my husband to do something, it usually gets done in a timely manner. And, he does a LOAD of things that I don't ask him to do (and sometimes have to request that he NOT do because I know he's tired, but he does it anyway out of love).

For example, just the other day he came home from a short trip to Louisiana to gather the last few things we had left behind. I knew he was exhausted, and, truthfully, I was pretty exhausted as well. On top of my regular home blessings, I had added a half dozen extra things to do in preparation for our guests (who are now here, safe from the hurricane). I had really hoped to have it all completed before he got home, and I nearly did, except I had yet to finish the dishes in the sink and mop the kitchen. Everything else was sparkling clean (which, if you know me, cleaning is not my best skill, and I do not have the mind for "home maintenance", so it takes a lot of effort to not become distracted and to do a complete job), except for this one area.

I sighed. I didn't want to be doing these things while he was home, because I really wanted to spend time with him. Still, it bugged me to have the house ALMOST clean, especially since the kitchen is one of the main rooms in our home. We spend a lot of time in there, not just cooking and eating, but also reading our bibles, doing projects, having meaningful conversations, and learning around the kitchen table. I expressed my disappointment, and apologized that I hadn't finished it before he arrived home. I went off to put away laundry, then returned to see, to my surprise, that my husband was cleaning up the kitchen. I joined him at the kitchen sink to wash dishes, and the sweet fella took over the part I hate the most... the washing! Then, I cleaned the table and swept the floors before he mopped.

AND I DIDN'T EVEN HAVE TO ASK!

This is the husband I had desired in the first few years of marriage, yet didn't have because I DEMANDED IT, and here I wasn't even asking him to do these things (and would have gladly done them myself), but he did it anyway!

Isn't that just amazing?

God has shown me SO much about what it means to be a biblical wife.

Proverbs 27:15 says, "A continual dropping in a very rainy day and a contentious wife are alike." (KJV). God's Word Translation reads, "Constantly dripping water on a rainy day is like a quarreling woman."

When I read this verse, I think of the drip-drip-drip of a leaky facet. A while back, the bathroom facet leaked, and as I laid in bed at night, I was annoyed by the constant dop-dip-dop. This is what nagging feels like to our husbands!

Proverbs 12:4 says, "A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband: but she that maketh ashamed is as rottenness in his bones." (KJV)

Wouldn't it be wonderful to be a CROWN to your husband? Let me put it this way. Would you rather be the "rottenness in his bones" or the "crown" to his head?

When Brandon and I were going through our marriage transformation, we made a promise to no longer (EVER) speak poorly of each other in front of each other or (ESPECIALLY) behind each other's backs. I remember feeling like he was going to blast me to pieces and just rag on how BAD of a wife he had when he was with his friends when things were really bad in our relationship. Now it is such a relief to know that he will speak highly of me, whether things are good or bad, whether he is frustrated with me or not. I know he feels the same.

I think what we say about our spouses when they are not present says A LOT about what kind of spouse WE are. I use to call my mom just to tell her what horrible thing my husband had done or said. I rarely, if ever, called to tell her the sweet things he did. When we got in a fight, I would pull out all of the mean things he had done. Our fights never resolved anything, but we did manage to stir up a lot of old hurts!

So, in conclusion, if there were ten pieces of marital advice I could pass down to you from what I have shared it would be this:

1. Stop focusing on yourself. It's not all about you.
2. Don't be demeaning or degrading. (Don't call your spouse names or curse at him.)
3. Don't nag.
4. Don't talk poorly about your spouse behind his back or when you are together with others. AND, CERTAINLY don't make a habit of making negative reports to your mother or father. Your marriage is PERSONAL, and your parents are NOT getting both sides of the story so it is NOT fair to your spouse.
5. Seek marital advice from those who have successful, loving, godly marriages.
6. Read the bible daily and ask God to show you where you can improve in your role as wife.
7. Put forth extra effort for your husband, above and beyond.. to show that you love and care for him. Even little things like looking nice and fresh when he gets home make an impact.
8. Sometimes we treat strangers better than we do our own family members. Try to always speak with love and kindness (even when you are tired, frustrated, or angry) towards your spouse. A gentle word turns away wrath! (Prov 15:1)

9. Remember, your husband is a sinner, and so are you. Neither of your are perfect. Sometimes we have such high expectations for our spouses, but not for ourselves.
10. PRAY TOGETHER as husband and wife. We are so vulnerable when we pray to God alone, and when we pray to God with our spouse, we share that intimacy with our loved one. This builds trust, strengthens communication, and promotes spiritual intimacy. The couple that prays together, stays together. Make it a daily habit... even if you don't feel like it. Our walk with God started when we both kneeled together in prayer and submitted our lives and marriage to Christ.

I thank GOD that He has revealed so much to me in the youth of my marriage. I am truly blessed!

11 comments:

Victoria said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kristin@HomemakerAtHeart said...

you know I love when you post things like this. Dh and I have had our fair share of problems, but we always work it out. It's just really nice to read "the good things", very inspirational.

I miss our chats. Hope all is well with you.

Nikowa said...

This is a great post. Thank you for your honesty.

Shannon C said...

Great post. I see a lot of my old self in your old self. When did you move to TX? I haven't been on the blogs much this summer so I'm way behind on things. We're up by Dallas, but moving further south in a few months to Ft. Hood. Just curious as to where you moved.

Blessings,
Shannon C

Arlene said...

Praise the Lord God Almighty that your marriage was saved. It's so sad to hear about marriages falling apart, and so inspirational when we let God into our lives to repair the damages we bring on ourselves. Thank you for posting your testimony. I'm sure it will be a blessing to many; it certainly is to me.

mamarissa.com said...

This is good. I'm glad you wrote on this topic because I've been gathering little bits of info for a new post I'm going to write on being a godly wife, submission, etc. I got quite an interesting response on the previous post I wrote, "Wife, then Mother!" I think these things are SO worthy of discussion. There is great power in realizing our biblical role, practicing loving servanthood (for both husband and wife) and the classic "do unto others...etc" attitude. I really appreciate you taking the time to share some of your personal story!

In relation to your comment about the book on couples praying together, I'm definitely going to check that book out! My husband and I just recently started getting up at 6 to pray and read the Bible together. What a difference it has made. I didn't realize how much we were missing until we started this daily routine! I'm so thankful.

Anyway, keep up the good writing! :)

countrybumpkins said...

Amen! I could have written part of this. I completely understand the old ugly self. Driven by guilt etc. Praise God for changes HE makes!

Girly said...

Mandy,

This is an excellent post and very similar to my own story. I enjoyed reading it and am so happy that we both have found God's blessing in our marriages before it was too late.

Praise the Lord!

Julie said...

Mandy, great post. I think the turning point in my marriage was when I was complaining to God one time about all that was wrong with my dh. God used that to change me and improve me. Now when I get mad I go straight to God for a heart check. I say the things I would like to say to my DH to God. He usually calms me and changes my attitude. Then I don't have any words floating between DH and I that I should not have said!
Thanks your thoughts. Plenty for me to chew on!

Sarah (from OD) said...

This is awesome. As a newlywed myself (almost married 4 months) I see a lot of myself in the "what not to do to your husband" part. Our relationship is not perfect (as with anyone else) but we try the best we can. We can both be a little selfish sometimes and think that it's only about ourselves. I remember from OD when you and your hubby were having problems and I was so relieved when everything worked out. God does amazing things for us and Ben and I just need to remember that without Him, our marriage would not be possible. Why, I think you have inspired me! =) Again, very refreshing. You're right, it's better to "talk" to someone that has a stable marriage. I know that you have been through a lot and you are a much better and stronger person for it. As is your husband.
I think it is time for Ben and I to sit down and talk about all of this. You are amazing. Thank you!!

Waterdreamer said...

I want to thank you for posting this entry. I'm not sure if you know how inspiration it is. I often come back to this entry when things are tough with my hubby.
Right now I need to make some major changes in my own attitude. I'm reading over your blog because it's very inspirational. I love how open and honest you are.
Thank you