I don’t have to love my husband?

This post is the first of a series about our experience in pre-marital counseling. We’ve learned that you need to plan for the marriage at least as much as you plan for the wedding, and in this series we will explore what that means. You can read the introduction here.

The Bible never tells me to love my husband.

This was shocking the first time I discovered it in my counseling homework. I’m not commanded to LOVE him– how does that make sense? He’s commanded to love me.

Well, what am I commanded to do? Respect him. Respect him? That’s dumb. I do that all the time… Wait. Don’t I?

The Bible doesn’t command me to love my husband, because I already do that naturally. In the same way, Brian is never commanded to respect me, as he already does that naturally. These are the languages through which we instinctively speak to one another. We’re made that way. Thus, we are commanded to do that thing that isn’t the most natural for us, but speaks more effectively to the other.

Turns out, I didn’t respect Brian all the time. I thought respect and love went hand-in-hand and that I must already be doing that. I was wrong.

I read several chapters about how men speak a language of respect to each other. It begins when they’re very young. And there are ways that women speak to men that men would NEVER try with each other– it would break that respect. I also learned that women who work with children all the time are a tad more prone to this disrespect.

For example, I tell children what to do all day long. It’s my job. Raise your hand. Stop running. Turn in your homework. Do this. Don’t do that. I would hang out with Brian and keep spouting orders. I didn’t think anything of it and I definitely didn’t mean to be ordering my fiance (at the time) around.

During the counseling, Brian and I were able to talk about this and he brought it to light for me. I am not the boss of him– if I want him to do something, I need to ask him, respecting that he has a life and a job and things to do as well. When I leave a TO DO post-it note, I’m ordering. When I take the time to say, “Hey babe. If you have a chance today, could you please take care of this for me? I’d really appreciate it…” I’m asking. And as you’ve read, my man loves to take care of me– so, of course he’ll respond to the latter.

There are lots of ways to demonstrate respect to my husband: supporting him as the leader in our marriage, submitting when needed, treating him as my partner and not as a child, encouraging him in his ventures (like the boat trip), taking an active interest in his activities, understanding the importance of our sexual relationship. But simply asking for assistance when needed as opposed to ordering it has made the biggest impact so far. Stuff gets done. And it gets done without nagging, strife, or conflict (for the most part).

I’m still struggling with it and I’ve messed up a bunch. Saturday’s post was all about my struggles with communication with Brian. I thought I was respecting, but in reality, I was just not communicating effectively at all. It’s a work in progress. I am still learning. But God was the one that told me to respect Brian, and He knows what that truly means. If I seek His meaning, and receive wise counsel from women that do it well– I’m pretty sure I’ll be headed in the right direction.

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The mess

“Clutter and mess show us that life is being lived…Tidiness makes me think of held breath, of suspended animation… Perfectionism is a mean, frozen form of idealism, while messes are the artist’s true friend. What people somehow forgot to mention when we were children was that we need to make messes in order to find out who we are and why we are here.”
―Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

I know Brian is not a huge Anne Lamott fan, so he is probably cringing right now that I’ve used her here on the blog 😉 This is a quote from her book on writing, but with Lamott, you always get a message or two about life thrown in. She was huge for me in college, second only to Donald Miller.

I quote her today because I’m trying to hear her words and let them sink in, as I am living in a mess.

Brian would tell you that we are not living in a mess– but I know better. I see boxes and gifts and piles of things we don’t have a place for yet. I see things that need to be organized, dusted, sorted, thrown out, and simply dealt with. And since I don’t get home until 6:30 or 7:00 and then leave again at 6:40am, there simply isn’t time after the grading, thank you cards, dinner, and a couple hours of sleep. And my incredible husband with a heart to love on people keeps inviting those dang people over to come sit in our mess! Sigh.

So, what’s it going to take to change my eyes to see “that life is being lived” instead of chaos and dirt? How do I get past my “frozen form of idealism”? I just want to be that 1950’s picture of a wife so badly– the tidy home, the apron tied around the waist, the perfect hair, and dinner on the table when my husband gets home. But none of that is a reality. With my commute, Brian is having to cook dinner (which he is happy to do and spoils me with), and I look like someone who has been dealing with eleven year olds all day when I finally trudge through the door.

Life IS being lived. Why can’t I accept that? Our friends know what our schedules have been like– am I afraid of the judgment? Knowing that I theoretically have the ability to be an amazing hostess with a pristine house– is it that I need the compliments and approval?

Or maybe Lamott is right. Maybe I need this mess right now to find out who I really am and why I am here.

And if so, it’s a tough lesson.