Humility is defined as “a modest or low view of one’s own importance.”
Most wives who write to me are interested in growing a wholesome marriage. Where communication is the problem, they want to know how to break down the barriers and connect with their husbands.
I just did a survey, and a good percentage of the respondents confirmed better communication as the top need in their marriage/relationships.
Today I want to talk about the one thing that had the greatest influence in bettering communication in my marriage.
Let me emphasize “our marriage” because while your issue might be the same (communication), the solution might be different. So I am not saying that the only way to resolve communication concerns is via our way.
But I do know that when a marriage is hurting or when we want to better our good, sometimes we need a little inspiration to motivate us to take the next step. Simply reading our story might inspire you to seek God for your own answers.
As newlyweds, my husband and I struggled to connect at a heart-mind-emotional level. We were crazy in love but we drove each other nuts. (Funny how love is)
Specifically, I had an intense desire to create a perfect marriage, and in my mind, “perfect” included the absence of conflict. Or the next better thing; the ability to resolve conflicts quickly and effortlessly.
My husband, on the other hand, had a deep desire to be left alone. He wasn’t in a big hurry to straighten every crook and cover every crevice of our little marriage.
He mostly wished to be accepted and loved as-is, as a path to the marriage of our dreams.
Because of our different approaches to resolving and connecting, I quickly became talker; quick to show my disapproval and quick to correct him/urge him to change.
And he became the retreater and stonewaller, an instinctive reaction to the harping and judgment.
An ally, refuge, someone he could open up to about his struggles, I was not. Instead I was the administrator of justice. And he couldn’t trust me with his deepest rawest fears.
(Writing this section cuts my heart because it brings back many sad memories. But more than sadness from my memories is the grief of seeing my mistakes repeated in other young marriages. Wives desiring change in marriage but sabotaging their very efforts through impatience, pride, fear, ignorance. My prayer is that as you read through this post, God will show you how to be a salve and refuge for your husband.)
From altar to trouble
Like most men, Tommy did not know what he was signing up for when he said yes to this girl on a bright Saturday morning.
In his own words (paraphrased)
Most men don’t understand the depths of their disadvantage when they are getting married. They are marrying a woman who is fluent in what she wants, who has very high expectations (that she even doesn’t know of yet)
To thrive and get fluent as a couple, he has to learn how to ascend to her level, meet the reasonable expectations she has while everything within him is screaming “Protect yourself! Flee! Failure!”.
And she has to learn how to give him grace – throw him a bone, notice the efforts he’s making, even if they are minuscule. (and they will be, compared to the size her expectations.)
If you had asked me back in then, I would have said my husband needed to change for our marriage to hit a 10.
I was (still I’m) a hard worker, so it wasn’t long before our mentors were looped in.
Save the more we hung out and talked about our challenges; the more my husband felt the blasting of his shortcomings. And the more I grew frustrated with his pace (the lack of it)
And here’s something I learned; it doesn’t matter how great the advice you receive, you still have to go back home and work/walk it out.
Often we think that counseling marks the end of hard work, but it actually marks the start of hard work. And when going through counseling, our spouse needs to feel like we are for them, that they are not getting thrown under the bus.
A few months married, hanging out with mentors, trying to do my thing to change my husband and nothing was working. At least not as quickly as I wanted.
A girl can only beat the air for so long before she figures there must be something better. My brilliant next step was giving up.
Because obviously, leaving wasn’t an option: I loved my husband anyway and leaving would have been too embarrassing, not to mention my mother would have brought me right back!
So I went with the only option left; decided to stop caring (which was a lie because I cared.)
But God in His mercies and various ways brought to my attention that good marriage, the one I deeply desired, does not have a neutral gear.
Giving up was the same as putting the relationship car on neutral. And neutral in marriage is the same as engaging “reverse.” There is no neutrality with hope.
God asked me to quit being neutral and engage “drive.”
And “drive” was all about surrender. Surrender to Him, specifically. Giving up the illusion of a perfect marriage and bump-free relationship.
Nothing wrong with hope, He said, but you have to put your faith in the right place.
My surrender included learning what the word Love meant. Ahh, wedding day vows. As newlywed wives, love means doing things my way – meeting my needs and expectations and exceeding all of them.
It is rarely the 1 Corinthians 13 kind of love. But God took me back to these great verses and began to ask me to walk them out. Not to consult my feelings or mind. Simply do love.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13: 4 – 8
Instead of waiting to feel patient or to feel kind, I was to be patient, and to be kind. Instead of waiting to feel like honoring my husband, I was to honor him.
I was impressed to check anger at the door and wipe out the list of wrongs I nursed in my heart. I was do all of love, not pick and choose, depending on how deserving my husband was.
Doing love meant I concentrated more on my responsibility than my husbands responsibilities. Doing love made me realize that love is not love until you are willing to give everything in return for nothing.
Doing love forced me to get on my knees in prayer (or pillow in tears, or bathroom in frustration, or a long walk in contemplation) because I could not agape-love-him without God’s enabling.
Mark you, it wasn’t that my husband was terribly hard to love. It was just terribly hard to let go of this perfect image I had in my head and die to myself.
Christlike love is not something we create in our human power. God has to change you and deposit this thing in you.
But it doesn’t happen as you play house with your emotions, entertain your past, host prideful expectations or consult your fears. God’s love fills you as you wrap your arms around the cross and embrace all of Jesus.
The pain of the cross and joy of resurrection
The other day I was thinking about the cross and how we sing about it, wear it as jewelry, hang it on the walls of our houses as deco.
Often times the horror, agony, unfairness, injustice of the cross are completely lost to us. We ten to love the Jesus of miracles and happily-ever-afters. We like His “lighter side” – the mercy, provision, and comfort.
But we hurry past the lonely, misunderstood, crying, sorrowful, angry, hungry, weeping, bleeding, tortured Savior. (See Isaiah 53:3, Matthew 4:2, 11:2-3, 27:46, 21:12-13, Luke 19:4)
But here’s the truth friend, and I hope you get this if you glean anything I’ve said in this post – you can’t embrace the Lord of life without embracing the agony of His cross.
You can’t claim to love Jesus and not allow His death to sear your whole heart, soul, and body; completely changing the way you live your life.
The joys of marriage are real and beautiful, but they don’t come by way of ease. They come by way of death to your flesh. You can’t be into Jesus, into His commands, only when your husband plays nice and makes all your dreams come true.
A true disciple of Christ does marriage for His glory, even when it hurts. Our heavenly love story was forged in a dark difficult place and our human love story will be no different.
If you want the good times, you have to be willing to work (not quit) through the storm. And this is my one thing to help improve communication with your husband: surrender to God.
Surrender doesn’t mean your husband doesn’t need to change. Surrender doesn’t mean you are the problem. Surrender is acknowledging that God knows what He’s doing and you are going trust to Him.
So ask Him to change you inside out because you cannot change yourself.
Ask Him to help you love Him so much that if he calls you to die (to self), you will die. If he calls you to serve a husband who refuses to serve you back, you will do it.
If he calls you put aside your desire to be right and go along with what your husband needs, (not talking about sin or abuse) you will do it.
Ultimately a great marriage is made up of two spouses who are willing to die to themselves but guess what, God calls us to take care of our own business first. It’s His job to change your husband. He will use you but that’s His call, not yours.
When I stopped trying to base my love on my husband’s ability to speak my love language fluently, everything changed.
It was a slow journey, and I am still learning. But I can look back and see this season as the time when everything began to change. And I hope you can go to God today and ask Him to show you what needs to change, so your future can be as bright as He meant it.
Your turn – what one thing has made the biggest difference in your marriage? What are you willing to give up for your marriage to flourish?