Finding Encouragement for Your Marriage
Woman to Woman
Our Prenuptial Agreement
Before Dave and I got married, we had a pre-nuptial agreement. It wasn’t a written contract, but we agreed on two things. One pertained to him and the other to me.
“If I ever send you to the store to buy graham crackers,” I told him one day standing in the cracker aisle in Winn Dixie, “there is only one brand to get: Honey Maid Graham crackers. Nothing generic and no other brands will do. Just Honey Maid Graham crackers. Promise me?” He promised. For 31 years, he’s kept that promise in providing the brand of my choice with no complaint about the additional cost over a generic brand.
“I think it’s unfair for women to talk to other people about their husbands when they’ve never spoken to their husbands about their frustration,” Dave told me one evening a few months before we were married. “I’m asking you to promise me that, when you are hurt or frustrated, you will tell me first. Let me hear it from you, and give me a chance to make it right. After you tell me, I don’t care if you tell the world.” I promised.
One day several years after we were married, I failed to keep that promise. I can’t remember what the infraction was, but I mentioned it to a friend. It had been gnawing at me, and in a moment of you-think-this-is-bad-wait-‘til-you-hear-what-my-husband-did! moment I mentioned my frustration. As soon as the words came out of my mouth, I remembered. Although I wasn’t guilty of spite or revenge, when I got home I told Dave that I had failed to honor his request.
There were occasions (especially early in our marriage) when I told Dave what was bugging me only so I could then spout off to someone else. I preceded my explanation with, “I’m only telling you this because I promised I’d tell you before I talk to somebody else.”
You know what? By the time I had decided that what bugged me was so important that I wanted to tell someone else and therefore was important enough to first share with him, I usually didn’t need to tell anyone else because we were able to talk it out.
Sharing and Encouraging
As women, we are called to encourage, challenge, and affirm each other. How can we do that if we never share our struggles, challenges, and the lessons we are learning? Yet, how can we share those struggles without being disrespectful to our spouse? There is a way, and it’s biblical.
It doesn’t mean that I can’t share what I have learned or my own struggles with other women as a way of providing encouragement or receiving counsel. When a gal is struggling, she tends to assume that everyone else’s marriage is great and she is the only one with these problems. How encouraging it is to have others share their struggles – not to tear down their spouse – but to be able to say, “I have walked this path, and this is what worked for me. You can do this, too.”
Most Husbands put Respect above Their Need for Love
There are biblical commands for wives.
- We are to submit. (I. Peter 3:1; Ephesians 5:22) [Don’t quake on this word. It’s a wonderful protection.]
- We are to be respectful. (I Peter 3:3; Ephesians 5:33)
- We (including all Christians) are to be harmonious . . . humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead. (I Peter 3:8,9)
It’s true that a woman likes to have another female who can identify with and/or understand what she is feeling and going through. It’s true that women understand each other better than men understand women. It is also true that no husband can ever be all things to his wife, and she does need female friends.
However, women tend to use the above reasons as allowance to spill anything and everything, to do it disrespectfully, and to judge him guilty as charged without considering their own humanness. Some women never allow their spouse the opportunity to explain his point of view, simply telling the story from their own perspective – often embellishing the details to further prove his guilt and lessen theirs. Most times it’s done disrespectfully.
One of the greatest disservices we can do to our relationship with our spouse is to be disrespectful of him in the way we speak – whether in public or in private. Abraham’s wife Sarah is heralded as a woman of God – because she submitted to her husband and because she “called him lord”. That means “placed him in high esteem”.
Sarah admired, affirmed, and respected her man. You want to be lauded as a woman of God? Do what Sarah did.
Misery Loves Company
Satan has a counterfeit for everything good God has created. It is God’s idea that younger women should learn from older women. It is His idea that we should bear each other’s burdens and that we are to encourage and exhort each other.
Satan provides the temptation
to share gossip rather than concern;
to choose someone who will commiserate rather than encourage;
to choose a friend who will add to our negative words about our spouse rather than admonish;
to choose someone who allows us to always be right instead of asking us the hard questions.
Before we know it, our time of sharing becomes a “misery loves company” session. Instead of receiving encouragement, we end up feeling that all husbands are jerks and we must just learn to endure.
How and Why of Sharing about Your Spouse
How then can a wife find a way to receive encouragement without gossiping and without being disrespectful?
Here are some things to consider:
- When you find yourself wanting to talk about your spouse instead of to him, ask yourself why you feel this way. Is it your intent to receive help, or to find someone to agree with you about his wrongdoings and your perfectness?
- Do you verbalize and show respect to your spouse? It’s not an option for Christian wives; it’s a command. If a man is not respected, he does not feel appreciated, admired, and loved. He may give the appearance that he doesn’t care about your respect for him, but the actions of a disrespected husband will very soon manifest his hurt.
- Surround yourself with women whose desire is to build a good marriage into something even better. Share with those women instead of with others who will end up making you feel worse instead of better. Be sure to surround yourself with others who will sow seeds of positive thoughts that can encourage you rather than seeds of destructive thinking that can tear down your relationship. By all means, be an open door for women who need the help you can give.
When should you share things about your spouse?
When you can help other women who need to hear your story so that they can grow
When you can help other women learn how to speak respectfully of their spouses
When you need to find help in areas you are struggling and to admit your own failures and not just frustrations with your spouse
Ask the Experts
When someone loses 50 pounds in a year, we all want to know how she did it. Was it her diet?! Exercise?! Prayer?!
When someone’s marriage is flourishing, instead of feeling sorry for yourself go to that person with a happy marriage and ask her how she did it. Don’t seek help from someone else whose ship is adrift or sinking. Find someone whose marriage spells success and ask her to help you. Tell her you want what she has, and ask her how she got to where she is in her marriage. Don’t say “Well, if I had a husband like yours . . .”
Turn your Heart toward your Spouse
If your spouse is not abusive to you, then go to him. Plan your words carefully and ask him to help you in your struggle.
Presenting the problem or frustration as something that you need help with will get your man on board if you are sincere. (Ask me how I know!)
What to do before you Share
When there is a conflict and you have a true need to share with someone else, consider these things first.
Admit your own shortcoming and how that could be playing into the problem.
Recognize that your spouse is your head and that you can respect his position as head of your home even if you disagree with some decisions he makes or the way he does things.
Even if you feel he is wrong, you are responsible to respect and honor him.
Are Marriages really made in Heaven?!
The idea, blueprint, and pattern for marriage and friendships are from God Himself. The problem is that our Garden isn’t perfect and neither are we. Sharing with others can give us courage and make us stronger if we follow the Master Plan.
|Are You in an Abusive Marriage?
If you are in a marriage with a man who is abusive to you (whether it is physically or emotionally), then please consider your need for physical and emotional safety and do not share your pain with him. Your spouse will make you feel that you alone are the problem. There are people who will believe you and help you. You need to find those people. God’s desire for marriage is for healing and restoration. That, after all, is His specialty! Ask God for wisdom, and then seek the right kind of help. You need to find someone you can trust to help you find your way through that maze. It doesn’t need to be someone in your community, but it can be. Ask God to help you find the right people so that you can find healing for not only yourself, but for your spouse.