by Susie Davis
My family was all packed up, ready to head to Telluride, Colorado, for a fabulous ski vacation. The car was loaded with both luggage and kids, and I had just made a final quick bathroom stop. I settled in the car, buckled my seat belt and looked forward to catching up on some meaningful conversations with my husband, who was driving the car.
We hadn’t been on the road more than a few minutes when I realized a problem was brewing. The problem? Although I was obviously bending over backward to be thoughtful—no drive-thru Starbucks, no unscheduled potty stop, and so on—he didn’t seem to be thinking about my needs and feelings at all. He didn’t ask if the air conditioner was too cold (it was actually fine). He didn’t offer me a look at the map (it was tucked under his sun visor). But worst of all, he didn’t ask me what music I wanted to listen to in the car. And here is where the problem really started. It was clear that the only music we were listening to on the 18-hour road trip was his music. That might not sound like such a bad thing, but let me offer a little bit of history.
Will loves old tunes. Doobie Brothers. Kenny Loggins. Toto. You get the idea. And while I really enjoyed those tunes in the 1980s, I would say that my taste has grown (or rather grown up) as I have matured. I enjoy some contemporary rock. Some folk and blues. A little country. Christian music. Classical. Jazz. But the main point here is that as I have grown, my taste in music has changed—meanwhile as Will has grown, his taste in music has pretty much stayed the same. Not to say I dislike the Doobies and Kenny, but I don’t love them enough to listen to them all the way to Telluride and that was exactly what was happening.
To get ready for our big car trip, Will had purchased one of those iPod contraptions that hooks up to the car radio. As a result, I was subjected to his ‘80s oldies for two whole days in the car. My goal was to be a team player, so for the first 400 miles I just tried to talk over the Doobies or sit quietly and listen to Will sing to the Doobies. But when I realized there was absolutely nothing on that iPod besides the ‘80s music, I just about went out of my mind! He did offer to let me choose one of his CDs, but you must be able to guess what every CD in his holder looked like … more ‘80s music, of course.
I don’t know if it was dehydration from trying not to drink and ask for a potty stop or maybe demonic backmasking on those Doobie songs, but at the end of day one, I was a super-sulking mess. I barely talked at all. I was near tears. I felt ignored and alone and misunderstood. And the only think I kept thinking to myself was, Will is stuck in the past. He’s stalled out. He can’t grow and learn to like other music. My husband is musically retarded. This is wrecking our relationship!
A stalled-out perspective
While some of you might be thinking that I’m being overdramatic, I’ll bet many of you can relate. Maybe your husband isn’t stuck in the 1980s, but there’s probably something he does—or doesn’t do—that has threatened to put you over the edge.
Maybe he is stuck in the past because he insists on wearing the same unstylish clothes. You might buy him new clothes and secretly steal Hawaiian shirts out of his closet, but still he won’t make the fashion transition. Maybe it’s about how he handles the finances—or his lack of handling them.
Or could it be that he seems stalled out spiritually? He sees you reading your Bible and going to Bible study and he, on the other hand, is quite content to sit on the couch and watch TV. He has no desire to go to church at all. Or maybe he’s not growing in the area of leading your family. The kids are in need of discipline and guidance, and he’s not taking the lead. His absence is leaving a hole of fatherly leadership in your ailing family.
All these situations can lead to friction in the marriage. And while you might have a good attitude or be a team player for a while, at some point it all seems like too much and suddenly you break. You fall into a super-sulk, unable to handle this problem of stunted growth in your husband. He should be growing. He needs to be growing. The lack of growth is killing you and stifling your relationship. And yet, nothing seems to be happening.
So what do you do? You ask him to grow. You plead with him to grow. Finally, you hound him to grow and then there’s arguing and dissonance. You’re upset. He’s livid. And the marriage seems a mess.
But there is hope, my married friend, and it does have to do with growing. It has to do with growing to a new place, a better place, a loving place. But the growing has to do with you. Now don’t stiffen up—I’ve got a confession to make first.
Stuck in selfishness
If you re-read the first several paragraphs of this article, you might see something “brewing” between Will and me—something besides the music issue. You might just see that in that particular situation, I made a decision to give to Will, but I was expecting something in return. First, I wanted some reward for being so amiable. I silently expected that Will would attend to my needs and wants. And second, I wanted to be entertained by interesting conversation, while Will was counting on the music to get him through the long drive.
As the hours and miles passed, I remained silent. And I grew more and more angry. I felt mistreated and entitled. My sulking turned into a stew of sympathy—for me! Poor me, I said to myself. Will is not thinking of me. Will is selfishly playing his old music, thinking only of himself. I am sitting here enduring this and thinking only of him. I am quiet and passive, letting him have his way and what good does it do me? I am doing the right thing, while he does the wrong thing and he doesn’t even notice. As I stared out the window watching the scenery speed by, I talked myself right into believing that since I was right—Will must be wrong. And then I started the “What’s Wrong with Will List” right there in the car.
Now, of course, you can see that my problem was me. Although I was sure I was extremely spiritual and “other-centered,” the real truth is, it was all about me. Me as the thoughtful one. Me as the great sacrificer. Me as the sufferer. Me, me, me, Wah.
Okay, let’s look at the situation again: Who needs to experience growth? Me or Will? Oh, yes, you see it clearly in my life, but do you see it clearly in yours? Hounding your husband and trying to change him because you perceive he is stalled out is a game for women who feel smug and superior—unable to see their own faults. (I wonder if when Will was driving he was thinking I needed to grow out of my super-sulking mess!)
Starting with self-evaluation
In Matthew 7:1-5, there is a telling passage for people who are overly critical. And in this case, let’s apply it to wives who harp on and criticize their husbands. Eugene Peterson’s The Message paraphrases the verses in an eye-opening way. He writes:
Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults—unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, “Let me wash your face for you,” when your own face is distorted by contempt? It’s this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor.
Ouch. But certainly true in my situation.
How about you? Is there a chance that you have criticized your husband unfairly? Are there some areas in your marriage that trigger fault-finding? If so, it can change. Ask God to help you see.
The truth is that I was going crazy because of my own thinking—it really wasn’t anything Will was doing at all. The same might be true for you, too. Try to look logically at your situation, and ask God to help you see clearly, to reveal any smug superiority that might be negatively impacting your attitude toward your husband. Stunted growth is quite subjective in many cases and unless it is literally causing you or your children physical or mental harm, it is likely that it’s more your problem than your husband’s.
So consider moving past your husband’s litany of stunted growth, and instead pray for forgiveness for any contempt you might have for him. And you can pray for me, too—that I’ll start to love Will more as I “listen to the music.”