Editor’s note: In the January 28, 2013 issue of Marriage Memo, James Lepine wrote of what he had learned as a new husband. After that his wife, EA, decided to write on the same topic from her perspective.
What I’ve learned in my first six months as a wife:
1. Be a wife, not a girlfriend.
What it means: In the dating stage, girls expect to be wooed and swept off our feet. While I hope your husband continues to do his best to keep you swept off your feet, it’s time to stop smelling the dozen roses he got you and start serving and loving him the best you can.
What it looks like: For me, the most practical example I can think of is when James gets home from work. Although I’m really excited to see him after a long day, I’ve learned that he prefers a little time to himself when he gets home before we begin our night together.
At first, I was tempted to feel sorry for myself and inwardly pout because he didn’t run through the door ready to talk to me. But I realized I would much rather create a welcoming, relaxing context for him to come home to than exhaust him by indulging my own desire to talk and connect as soon as he walks in the door. Now I cook dinner later so I still have another 20-30 minutes of prep left to do while he relaxes.
2. Be a wife, not a mom.
What it means: If your husband wanted someone to point fingers at his dirty socks on the floor, plan out each night of his week, and try to turn him into the ideal man, he would never have moved out of his mom’s house.
It’s your job to do life alongside your husband, not decide what’s best for him or dictate what he can and cannot do. (Hint: Just because a man gets married doesn’t mean he suddenly stops caring about video games.)
What it looks like: After we got married, I was (ignorantly) surprised to realize James still wanted to have a “guys night” on a regular basis. We kept finding ourselves in the same argument each time he wanted to hang out with friends. I felt abandoned and threatened and James felt frustrated. Just like a mom, I wanted to put limits in place: He could hang out with his friends for X number of hours, X number of times a week.
One afternoon I was thinking through a disagreement we’d had the night before and l realized that I had never once considered what was best for James in the situation. I asked God to give me the humility to admit that James needed “guy time.” I also prayed for the desire to make sure he got the time with his friends he needed. God was gracious to open my heart to a deep desire for James to feel free to have fun.
Although we both eventually made some adjustments, when I was able to approach James and say, “Hey, I’m on your team now. I want you to feel free to enjoy your friends,” our arguments turned into conversations and we were able to work things out.
3. Ask, don’t assume.
What it means: You’re a woman, your husband is not. Therefore, you’re not going to think about things the same way. If you don’t talk through different perspectives, expectations and personality styles, communication will suffer.
What it looks like: I think I felt at first that if I had to ask James how I could best support him, that I was a bad wife. If I were really a good wife, I would just instinctively know what to do. We can’t help that, as both women and individuals, we’re wired differently than our husbands. When I finally realized that, I stopped worrying about how to respond when something was bothering James and just started asking, “How can I serve you best right now? What do you need from me?” It takes the pressure off you and it gets your husband what he actually needs.
4. Be submissive, not overbearing or silent.
What it means: Give your husband the space and the authority to lead, but also be helpful.
What it looks like: I’m still learning in this area. Sometimes I’m afraid of not being submissive and I overcompensate by being silent.
A recent example is a discussion James and I had about whether to take on a volunteer opportunity at church. He shared his thoughts and then asked me for mine. I had a different perspective than he did.
At this point, I had three options:
- Turn the discussion into a debate and begin trying to convince him that I was right;
- Keep my opinions to myself and tell him I agreed with him in an effort to be “submissive;”
- Understand his perspective, lovingly explain mine, and trust God to equip James to lead us.
The first option is overbearing, the second is silent, the third is submissive.
5. Be self-aware, not self-righteous.
What it means: Although it’s an old and overused stereotype, the notion that women tend to think they’re right is pretty true. What’s even truer, though, is that as long as you live you will struggle with sin. As a woman, your ability to effectively manage yourself, your home, your job, and possibly your kids can give you a false sense of “rightness” or entitlement. Be aware of the subtle ways your sin can creep into your marriage, and have the humility to see where you might be wrong.
What it looks like: One late afternoon I was scrubbing our toilet around the time James usually gets home. As I bent over the toilet bowl I found myself thinking, I hope James gets home while I’m cleaning this toilet so that he’ll see me and think I’m such a great wife. I realized what I was thinking and quickly reminded myself that the purpose of being diligent with chores is not recognition.
Although this is a silly example, it shows just how quickly sin can creep in and plant seeds that grow into attitudes of self-righteousness or entitlement, which are poisonous to a marriage. If sin can creep in while you’re cleaning the toilet, imagine what can happen during an argument! It’s important to monitor your motives and responses and be on the lookout for sin and selfishness.
Copyright © 2013 by EA Lepine. All rights reserved. Used by permission.