Thursday, February 2, 2012

Should we try to change our husbands?

God has blessed me with an atypically amazing husband.  Or has He?  I say this because, no matter how “in love” we were when we got married, no matter how “perfect” he was at that moment when he asked me to marry him, he is still human, and fallen in his nature (just as I am). 

The man I married has his flaws, his hang-ups, his quirks, and the little imperfections that make him James.  This is not to say that I don’t love him dearly.  I just mean to say that as our relationship has moved from the “in-love” stage to the “everyday life” stage, I have had to adjust my view of him as the perfect guy, to, the perfect guy FOR ME. 

I have no doubts in my mind that God brought us together.  James and I are opposites in so many ways, and the Lord has used those areas to help us realize the places in which each of us needs to grow.  For instance, one of his strengths is stability, where I am easily swayed and love change.  I am naturally outgoing, where he likes to keep to himself and those he loves dearly.  He is very intellectual, I am very creative.  I tend to speak before I think, he is very calculated and articulate in expressing his mind. 

It is easy to love our husbands SO much when things are rosy and life is grand, and particularly when the relationship is new.  We love everything about them -- the way they talk and the things they say; the way they look and the way their scent has an intoxicating effect; how their bachelor pads are endearing, as is the way they do laundry and cook; their habits and activities are things we adore.  So, my question is, as time goes by and we get used to one another, WHY DO WE SEEK TO CHANGE THEM?

I think it must be in women’s nature.  Something in us sees areas in which they could grow or be different, and then those thoughts turn to thoughts that they SHOULD be different in these things.  Can’t they see that?  Don’t they WANT to be better?  Don’t they WANT to be more of a spiritual leader?  Why can’t they see that THIS is my love language and quit trying to express love to me in THAT way?  Why does he always want to talk about THAT?  Why can’t he talk about ME?  Can’t he see that I hate it when he acts this way?  And the endless critical eye and ear take up a place in our day-to-day lives, and the awful, evil cycle of dissatisfaction has begun. 

Men are typically more realistic than we are, not having been wooed by tales of knights-in-shining-armor, cruelly-treated princesses, perfect weddings, and the like.  The movies women love are called “chick flicks” for a reason – they cater to the female need of needing to be rescued, causing us to live in a dream world where we think that “movie love” is how it REALLY happens.  We’re taught to think, if I just meet the perfect guy, we’ll fall in love, get married, and live happily ever after.  Unfortunately, we live in a fallen world, with fallen men, and we are fallen women, and ALL of us are imperfect in our sin. 

So life happens.  One disappointment after the next builds up, gathering like stones around our hearts until a complete barricade is formed.  We tell ourselves that it’s for his own good that we’re giving him the silent treatment, that we’ll quietly punish him for the wrong he’s committed. 

I was thinking about it, and when I ask James to change or tell him that he should be better in this area or that area, I’m telling him that he’s inadequate.  He’s not enough.  I want someone different.  Someone better. 

When I do that, I’m also telling GOD that the person that he gave me to be my lifelong mate isn’t good enough!  How could we ever dare to think that our Creator made a mistake?!  (Be aware that I am not judging here.  I believe that the Lord takes the things the enemy uses as tools, and like Romans 8:28 says, works them to the good of those who love Him – EVEN divorce.  My husband was married once before me, and he learned much from the duration and end of that relationship that has benefitted OUR marriage greatly.)

So I want to suggest a different tactic.  Why don’t we leave the change up to The Maker?  Why don’t we, when we see something that is not satisfactory, pray about it?  Why don’t we ask God, if it’s in His will, to change what we aren’t so crazy about in our husbands?  And when we ask that, why don’t we also say something like “and if it’s not your will, Lord, change ME.  Make ME content.  Make it not a big deal in MY heart.”  And He will answer our prayers, one way or the other, making the situation, trait, habit, or whatever, more tolerable, change, or disappear completely.  (Now when it comes to silly quirks of my own, the little things, I do still ask him.  Like the toilet paper being loaded onto the dispenser a certain way, the toothpaste being squeezed from the bottom, or wrapping his gum in something before he tosses it in the bathroom trash.  He could care less about that kind of stuff -- he is very accomodating in that respect.) 

I can suggest this because I know it works.  I long ago (within the first three months I was married) decided to give up trying to change James myself.  Whenever I’d suggest that something be done differently, I’d get an opposite result.  I’d get a closed-off, cold, detached husband.  I like my husband to be reachable, warm, and loving.  So, what I started doing, in things that I really cared about, is PRAY.  Fervently.  Urgently.  Frequently.  I’d go to God with my issues with James, ask Him what to do, to change James or change me, and tell Him how thankful I am for my husband.  Often, the answer would be a change in my OWN attitude. 

James has become much softer, sweeter, more interested in me and what I have to say, and MUCH less self-conscious around me.  Our marriage has become stronger.  We are closer to God and to one another.  I thank the Lord every day for my man.  My husband who provides a good, stable life for his family, who values time with his wife and also with his daughter, who causes me to be better, not only as a wife, but as a human being. 

I think that CHOOSING to be thankful and CHOOSING to see his good traits has made it much easier to be married and co-habitate.  In giving the Lord a thankful attitude regarding my husband, God makes James’ good traits more visible and more important, while removing the emphasis from the things that I might be driven crazy by.  He has made it easier for me to love my man for who he truly is – not how I want him to be. 

My pastor’s wife said once that she used to think that she was helping her husband by reminding him when he would forget things, for instance to call a certain person.  When she would remind him and remind him and remind him, she noticed that he became withdrawn and somewhat depressed.  So she changed her approach.  She began saying, “So-and-so is so blessed when you call them”, and he began to be uplifted, and things began to get done!! 

There is also a book that reiterates this point, and though it is a difficult book to read, especially in our society where women are so empowered, it has made all the difference in my marriage.  It is called Created to be His Help Meet, and it is written by Debi Pearl.  I recommend that any wife read it and implement what the author has to say.  You will notice a HUGE difference in your husband, and I bet it will come sooner than you expect.  It certainly can't hurt to try.  It talks about how women were created with a purpose, and that purpose is to be our husbands’ helper. 

I’ll close with one of my favorite quotes.  It applies to EVERY aspect of our daily lives.  It’s about attitude.  Think of your spouse when you read it:

“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than success, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company … a church … a home.

“The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for the day. We cannot change our past … we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude.

“I am convinced that life is ten percent what happens to me and ninety percent how I react to it. And so it is with you. We are in charge of our attitudes.” – Chuck Swindoll

Blessings to you and your marriage. 

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