This is my second entry for Marriage Monday over at Chrysalis. First, let me welcome e-Mom back from her spring break, hope you had a wonderful time! Nothing like a little time away from the routine to rekindle the fires and recharge the batteries. I'm a little jealous.. could use some of that myself ;
This week's topic, Leadership in Christian Marriage, is a bit more challenging for me, but I'll be giving it my best shot.
I've had to ask my husband's permission to write this because it is really about him after all.. and a very sensitive subject. As a young bride.. in fact way into my marriage.. I didn't understand how a man thinks and I couldnt understand how his ego and pride work, I didn't know what my role as his wife was. For me 'ego' was a dirty word that meant 'selfish', 'prideful', 'vain'.
I grew up in a house full of girls, my father ruled the roost... (no hen-pecking here!) We girls had very limited contact with males.,, there was virtually no example but my father's. My parent's marriage did not give me any clues into what to expect myself. That's a whole other story though... and if you use your imagination you'll figure out how many problems it led to in my marriage. (Thank God for Grace!)
Though I am sure there were many times in his life that my husband had personal crises, he kept these things from me. Our relationship didn't evolve for almost 20 years to the point where I was being given a glimpse into his emotions and the secret world of a man's mind. I have learned that there are two areas that can completely shatter a man's ego. The first is his sexual prowess and the second his ability to provide for his family.
About 9 years ago, my husband lost his job. It wasn't a down-sizing..it was more of a vendetta. He was now dealing with a double dose of male pride-busting. Not only was he out of a job, but this person had basically tried to tear his credibility apart. I didn't realise until later on how this must have affected him. Back then, however, he held on to those feelings and didn't share them with me.
As the months stretched on and the little money we had accumulated dwindled further and further, it was faith that took us through. I'm sure that his own faith was stretched to the max and it didn't help that family members kept badgering him about not yet having a job. Their own anxiety for us must have made him flustered and pressed a little panic button inside his mind. I believe that my own faith boosted my husband's and the calm that I was able to maintain helped to keep him calm as well. Eight months later he had another job.
This was the start of a very long trial for us. This job was demanding, exhausting, his health began to fail him. He was battling with bureaucracy and trying to live out his faith in a place that was slowly killing him. Five years later he would also lose this job, under very similar circumstances. After a short stint in a privately-owned company where he had to do battle with the owners for every thing he wanted to get done and where his spirit was disturbed by the many immoral practices he witnessed there, they agreed to part ways.
God then provided a job for him in a place where he is finally comfortable.. it is not without its challenges but I know that he enjoys this job for the most part. A far cry from what he has experienced for the previous 6 years, perhaps even more. This job, however, has a smaller salary than his previous jobs and it means a constant struggle to make ends meet. I know that, when things are particularly bad, he gets a little depressed about it.
As you can see my husband has had good reason to be broken. What have I learned from all this? All that I have learned has come with a high price.. it took too many years for me to learn what my husband's needs are.. it didn't help that he never communicated them to me. Here's what experience has taught me:
- A strong and unshakable faith is the first necessary thing to helping a husband through his own personal crises. Pray for your husband constantly, pray with him if he'll let you and maintain your own faith and trust in God to see you both through whatever your present circumstance is. Pray for God to give you the guidance, the wisdom and knowledge, the strength and courage to do what is right for your husband.
- Unconditional love.. he has to see that you love him and that you don't see him as a failure.
- Support him. Don't let anyone else.. family member or otherwise.. break him down or try to make him feel less than a man because of his present circumstances. Of course I don't mean fight his battles for him.. that would probably emasculate him. He just needs to know that you've got his back. Every time he would face the badgering of others I would remind him of our faith and belief and that, if nobody else believed in him, I did.
- Guard your tongue and do not be tempted to point out the areas he has failed in your arguments. We, as women, sometimes fail to realise just how fragile the male ego is. I discovered 19 years into the marriage how many scars my tongue had left on my husband.. all without my realising it. We can break them down with a very small, careless word.
- Maintain a positive attitude. Any hint of sadness, depression or anxiety is going to drag at him. He is going to blame himself and his situation for causing you anxiety or stress.
- Show him that you need him. Whatever area in his life is dragging him down in the present moment, is not ALL of who he is.. he is still the head of the home, still your lover and friend, still a father. Find the area that he can use his skills and talents or time and energy to boost his sagging self-image aka ego.
- Men are not wired to share their innermost thoughts and feelings. I have learned to my detriment that you cannot nag them to tell you what is going on in their heart or mind. Respect his need for space sometimes and try not to feel rejected, as I have, when he just wants to be alone with his thoughts. I have learned that men use this time to process and plan and sometimes just to get in touch with what they really are thinking and feeling.
- Try to discover what his particular needs are.. ask him if necessary. No man is created the same. What would work in my marriage, may not work in yours.
- For me this is VERY important... what goes on in your marriage is YOUR business.. do not be tempted to share with others.. especially if it is of a sensitive nature to your husband. Your loyalty is to him first. He needs to be able to trust you. Perhaps one reason men don't share their intimate feelings easily with us is because of our tendency to 'tongue-wag' when we get together with the girls.
- Let him be a man. There are times when we have to 'baby' our men.. usually it is in times of sickness (anybody with me on this one?). Personally, I love when my husband melts like a marshmallow into my arms and shows me that he NEEDS me, but I know that those are rare times and shouldn't be the norm. Don't be tempted to treat him like a fragile piece of fluff because he's going through a hard time. Support him, yes, but don't subconsciously, or otherwise, try to take over his role for him. Of course, there must be instances where this is necessary on a temporary basis (serious illness or clinical depression etc.) but I think this is a good rule of thumb to follow.
Most importantly, we are our men's biggest cheerleaders. We are the ones who can make them feel 10 feet tall, or small and insignificant. We can give them the incentive to get on those white chargers with their lances and go after the opponent just because we're there waving our little hankies at them. We can make them feel like the handsomest, sexiest, strongest, the best-est because we believe in them. They need to know how much we love them, but they also need to know that we think they're piping hot in every way.. flaws and all.
Trust me on this... the flame that you can light in them is awesome when they see how you believe they're 'the man'..and you won't mind getting burnt by it either! ;-)
So, go girl.. get your cheer on and give that man of yours a boost whether you think he needs it or not ..you never know what he may be secretly battling!