Photo by Layna Hendrich of PhotographyLayn

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Being a Wheeling Wife (Part 2)

I asked Russ to go down to the basement for me to find some pictures for an upcoming presentation. He came back up with the pictures and something else. When we were married, we asked our guests to fill out a set of questions about how they knew us, their favorite memories, their funniest memories, and words of wisdom. Russ had found the stack of papers, and we had a lot of fun reading through them.

We saw the expected responses in the advice section. Here were the top answers:
  • Keep God first in your relationship
  • Never go to bed angry
  • Always say "I'm sorry"
Obviously, these statements are incredibly true, helpful, and biblical. They are the building blocks of any healthy relationship. But the more I looked through the pages, the more I realized that people aren't comfortable talking about the tough stuff, at least not at a wedding reception in such a public way. So I started thinking about some of the things that I have learned over the last seven years, that I wish someone had told me. Fortunately, I have a Mom who is easy to talk to and prepared me very well for being married, but there are some things that just have to be learned the hard way I suppose. Unless you read this post and believe the truths I am about to share with you. Disabled and able-bodied single women- write this stuff down...

  • Boys are gross
When Russ and I were dating, I thought he was the most thoughtful, well-mannered, clean man I had ever known. The first time I did his laundry after the wedding, my girlish notions died a quick, painful death.  Boys are hairy, smelly, and the cooties our Mothers warned us about do not fade with age. Be prepared to clean out bathroom sinks crusted with old toothpaste, nose hair trimmings, and the occassional dried loogey. And don't even get me started on what they do to toilets. Your Prince Charming will one day come to you with a bottle of Gold Bond Medicated Powder and ask you to apply it to a chafed area only doctors should visit. Be forewarned- they are gorgeous and we love them- but boys are gross.
  • Boys don't listen
This was a hard one for me, because until I figured it out, I took it personally.  I thought Russ didn't listen to me because he didn't care about what I was saying. As if my thoughts, plans, and suggestions weren't worth listening to. I would get mad and lash out when he didn't remember something I had discussed with him, or worse, if he totally forgot plans I had made. Now I understand that God made boys this way to teach women patience to prepare us for raising children. They need constant reminders passed along in a loving, gracious manner. And they need lots of them. Programmed into their phones. With reminders every fifteen minutes until the event. And lists. Lots of lists. This should really be in our wedding vows.
  • Sometimes, in order to get enough sleep to function, you are going to go to bed a little angry
I am a communicator. I like to talk things out until a consensus is reached, and by consensus, I mean that Russ now realizes the error of his ways and has come over to the side of My Truth.  Just kidding. Kind of. One thing I have learned, however, is that bed time is not always the best time to start an argument/discussion/debate over an important topic. When Russ is tired, he will agree to anything in order to be allowed to sleep. That doesn't mean I "win," it just means that his sleep is more important than talking out an issue that usually means more to me than him anyway.

So it plays out like this. We discuss. He tells me what he thinks I want to hear in order to sleep. He falls asleep. I sit up in bed for another hour rehashing the conversation and getting more angry by the minute. I seriously consider waking him up to continue the conversation that has been going on in my head for the past hour. I refrain. I get myself worked up for another hour before falling in to a fitful sleep. He wakes up the next morning having totally forgotten that we even spoke the night before, let alone what the main topic of the conversation was. He rolls over to kiss me good morning and quickly sees by my face that not only have I not forgotten about our little fight, but I've been up half the night struggling with it, and no, everything is not "all right."

Please tell me I'm not the only woman that does this...

Bottom line- men are much better forgivers and forgetters than women. And being a good communicator does not mean you "win" every conversation. And although some topics are worth staying up late to hash out until you reach reconciliation, sometimes, you just have to go to sleep a little angry and reconvene the discussion the next day.
  • Boys change after the honeymoon
This is something that we MUST explain to recently engaged couples. It would save a lot of heartache in those first few months if it was better understood.

Russ and I dated long-distance throughout our entire relationship. Which meant that every time we were together, it was for a short 1-2 week period before we would be apart for weeks on end. This meant that our time together was incredibly precious and every day was the best date ever all day long.

So after we got married, I assumed this romantic, snuggly, worship the ground I wheel on environment would continue. Wrong. Marriage is hard work- every day. When you take two, independent lives and smush them together, it's going to rock the boat a little. From schedules, to preferences, to simple, seemingly routine habits, combining two into one is sometimes a beautiful disaster. And oftentimes, it doesn't look anything like the relationship you had while you were dating.

Take the snuggling, for example. Russ was so affectionate with me while we were dating and engaged. And while this continued for a short while after we were married, it was like I eventually contracted the bubonic plague and nobody had thought to let me know.  We started in a full bed, which I loved, because you snuggled in order to not fall off of the  bed. But once we moved to a king, it was like we were living in different time zones. Once, Russ actually told me to roll over the other way away from him because I was "breathing his air." Seriously? I quickly realized that the romantic, affectionate boy I dated was not the man I married. He wasn't being deceitful- he was just caught up in the starry-eyed wonder of it all, and was putting his best foot forward in order to impress and win the girl. Once he had me, he didn't feel the need to impress me every second of every day. AND THAT'S OKAY. Because you know what? I'm his best friend, and he can be completely himself with me. And I know that when he does snuggle and buy me flowers and write me a sweet card, it is outside of his comfort zone, and it means so much more.

On the flip side, you should be warned that this comfort level will also bring out their, shall I say, locker room behavior, complete with sounds and odors no woman should ever have to endure. You want them to be comfortable with you. But save yourself some trouble and put some "comfort level" boundaries in place early on...
  • Sex is not a four-letter word 
Here's a good one. As I mentioned before, my Mom is one of my best friends, and I know I can talk to her about anything. So before my wedding, we had several discussions about what to expect on that first night together, and in the weeks and months to come. I am surprised and saddened to learn that this is not a common occurrence, especially in Christian households. It's almost like we have gone so far the other way from those who take sex lightly, that it has become a taboo topic.

I am in no way saying that every little detail has to be explained, and I'm not advocating parents sitting down with their soon-to-be-married children and sketching out stick figures, but you can talk about the act of sex in a beautiful, respectful way and take away a lot of the fear and anxiety of the unknown without spilling all the beans. A little mystery and intrigue is a good thing, and I'm a firm believer of remaining a virgin until you are married, but there are so many young couples who spend the first few months of their marriage in stoic silence enduring something that was always meant to be thoroughly enjoyed between a husband and his wife. 

Now, I know that sex can be an awkward conversation topic at times between a parent and child, so if you don't have the type of relationship with your parents that allows you to do this, find someone married who you love and respect, and talk to them. Seek out someone that will answer your questions and alleviate your anxiety. But you know what the best advice is that I would give a newly-married couple? Communicate with each other like your life depends on it, because your sex life does. Your spouse loves you, and wants to make you happy, so make it easier on both of you and be open to talking about anything and everything. I'm trying to be careful and remain age-appropriate with this blog post, so I won't go into any further detail, but just remember that open and honest communication, no matter how awkward or uncomfortable at first, can make all the difference in the world.
  • He needs your RESPECT 
I saved this one for last because I think it is one of the most important, and sadly, missing pieces of advice that is shared with young brides. In a world of feminism, civil rights, and equality, the last thing anyone wants to hear is the word "submissive." "Honor and obey" are being left out of wedding vows and women are feeling empowered to run roughshod over their husbands in a battle to run their homes and relationships as they see fit.  I always knew I would struggle with this. I am a stubborn, independent, strong willed woman, and with the struggles I have faced in my life, these character traits have served me well. Until I got married.

Russ and I did a Bible study a few years ago dealing with the topics of love and respect. One of the questions it asked in the beginning was, "If you were stranded on a desert island, and you could only have one thing for the rest of your life, would it be love or respect?" An overwhelming amount of wives answered, "love," and the same majority of husbands stated, "respect." Both sides were flabbergasted by the others response. But it was just another reminder of God's perfect plan in creating two beings who are perfectly suited to meet each others needs because of their differences.

It has taken me several years, and I am still learning how to better myself in this area, but I have discovered how much my husband needs my respect and encouragement. If you've read anything about love languages, you know that we usually give people what we think they need, which ends up being what we need. So, as a woman, if I want to be loved, I try to show my husband how much I love him. I do his laundry, prepare his favorite meals, leave him cute little notes. Does he appreciate these things? Absolutely. But do they make him feel fulfilled and successful as a husband? That's a negative. You see, these are sweet, romantic gestures that I am craving, but they are not what Russ needs. He needs for me to be his biggest cheerleader. To support his leadership. To always have his back, be his confidant, and respect his position in our relationship. Because being a husband is tough. Russ will have a lot to answer for as the leader of our home when he one day stands before the Lord, and although I think I want this position at times, I know that it was never intended for me to fill that role, or attempt to take that responsibility.

If I had known how much harm could be done with a sharp word, a silent glare, or a few moments of sulking, I would have cut out my tongue and plucked out my eyes years ago. We see our husbands as these tough, invincible men. But I wonder how many wives today would be found guilty in a court of law for verbal abuse towards their husbands? I cringe when I hear women degrading their husbands in public, but is it any better if we do it in the privacy of our own homes?

I've heard women ask, "How can I respect a man who hasn't earned my respect?" But beware, because the flip side of that could be asked, "How can I love my wife when she hasn't earned my love?" Put into that perspective, in my mind, drives home the reasons why God commands men to love their wives and women to respect their husbands. He never has to tell women to love their husbands, because that is our natural inclination. Oppositely, God never commands husbands to respect their wives.  We do what comes easily for us. It's the unnatural responses that require the greater effort. (And He never inserts the phrase, "Only when they deserve it," or we'd all be in trouble...)

We must share with young women the importance of respecting their husbands. And you know what? When we do, all of those nice, romantic gestures we were so desperately seeking will suddenly pour out of a husband who feels secure and encouraged by a wife who respects him and his authority and position in their marriage.

As always, I am in no way writing this as if I have mastered any of it. I fail daily, and it's only by the forgiveness, love, and patience of a God and a husband who love me unconditionally that I am given so many undeserved second chances. I have attempted to be transparent without seeming like a total shrew, but this topic requires complete honesty if it is to be of any real help to others attempting to manage this crazy thing called love. Please feel free to leave your comments, your own struggles, and pieces of honest advice you wish you had known early on in your relationship.

And if you are reading this post, and none of the above statements are in any way descriptive of your husband and/or your marriage, then feel free to keep your comments to yourself, because no one wants to hear about your blissful perfection without wanting to punch you in the face. That is all.   :o)

Obviously, these points are directed towards able-bodied and disabled people alike, but next week, I will focus on topics directly related to relationships involving a disability and how that effects the  grand scheme of things.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go and put all of my words into better practice...

1 comment:

  1. I loved this Article and you are truly an inspiration!!!! Please write more about marriage and kids.