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I am a 40 year old Christian wife (married 19 years), part-time pharmacist and mother of 2 children. I accepted Christ as a child and grew up to be very involved in church, I had my Bible study and prayer time almost every day from high school and thereafter. I wanted to please God. I was a straight A student in high school and most of the time in college, too. I got customer service awards as a pharmacist. I cared about people. I was super friendly. I never let anyone feel left out or ignored around me. I went to church 3 times a week most of my life. I believed I was the best Christian wife and woman ever for the first 14+ years of my marriage.
But my husband – well – he was not the Christian husband I had expected him to be. VERY early in our marriage, my husband began to stonewall and shut me out. Sometimes he would barely look at me, barely speak to me and barely touch me. I hurt so much! I prayed and prayed for God to change him. I wanted him to be a strong, godly leader. But he wouldn’t answer when I asked him important questions. I thought he wouldn’t lead. So very early in our marriage, I felt I had to take over. I didn’t think I had a choice. I had been the dominant twin in a set of identical twins, and I just took over the dominant role in our marriage, too. I was stressed, anxious, worried, afraid and very lonely most of the time.
My husband NEVER said what he needed from me. He seemed to want me to just be quiet and smile. But how could I do that when he was hurting me and ignoring me so much? So I continued to tell him how upset I was and how he needed to change and how he wasn’t being a godly husband. There were times that were fairly “ok” but I knew we were missing out on so much intimacy emotionally and spiritually – even physically. I didn’t understand why. I would beg him to tell me what he needed from me. He wouldn’t say anything. I became convinced that my husband had no feelings and begged God to make him be more loving to me. I thought I was obeying all of God’s commands for me as a wife. I mean, I didn’t cuss at my husband, scream or throw things or threaten divorce.
In December 2008, I opened the book, Love and Respect, by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs. I read the first chapter in the book store and asked Greg, “This can’t be right, can it? It says that men need respect as much as women need love?” Greg said, “Yeah, I’d say that’s right.” Suddenly, our 14.5 years of marriage flashed before my eyes in a new light. Suddenly, I realized that I did not have an A+ on my “wife report card” – it was maybe more like a D-. I was mortified! I read the book and tearfully apologized to Greg over and over again. He immediately forgave me – it took all of 2 seconds. Wow. I knew I could never have forgiven him that quickly. Maybe I wasn’t the spiritual giant I thought I was.
I told him, “I don’t really understand this whole respect thing. It is like a new world that I never even knew existed. But when I figure all of this respect stuff out, you are going to feel like the most respected husband on the planet!”
God showed me a MOUNTAIN of my own sin that I had been completely blind to (here are just a few):
- PRIDE PRIDE PRIDE – thinking I knew better than Greg all the time, that I was always right, that my way was the only correct way of looking at anything, and, honestly – I thought I knew better than God, even though I doubt I would have said that.
- Idolatry – I put feeling loved by my husband above Christ in my heart. And I also trusted myself much more than I trusted God. I didn’t consciously say these things, but that is exactly how I lived, as if I was sovereign and in charge of everything and everyone and as if God was a small, little wimp.
- Disrespect – I had NO idea all the things that are disrespectful to men. I had tried to verbally force my husband closer to God by criticizing, lecturing, arguing, insisting, nagging, complaining and bossing him around. I had actually pushed my husband away with my disrespect – and I never knew I had hurt him. He didn’t say a word about how wounded he was, or about my disrespect. He just shut down.
- Unforgiveness, resentment and bitterness – I held on to all of these things. They were a toxic poison. Jesus says God won’t forgive me if I won’t forgive others.
God helped me repent of all of my sin, and then He filled me with His Spirit as He taught me to die to myself and submit completely to Jesus, living in total obedience to Him. It took a good 2 years before I felt like I had a clue what it meant to respect my husband. At first, I tried to just be respectful, but not to actually respect my husband. That didn’t work! I had to actually find good things in him to admire. As I focused on Philippians 4:8 kinds of things, and stopped the negativity, and began to look for ways to build up my husband with my words, to encourage him, to appreciate him, to admire him and to cooperate with His God-given leadership, God radically changed me first. Then He radically changed our marriage, and eventually, He began to radically change my husband, too.
My motive HAD to be only to please Jesus – not to change my husband. God made sure of that!
Now, we BOTH have the marriage of our dreams. Funny how doing things God’s way brings real peace, joy, fulfillment and blessings.