Monday 26 September 2011

On fathers and husbands

It was late when we pulled up to the house last night, the boys and I, after nearly 11 hours of driving home from their Oma's house.

Please, God, just let the house be clean this time. I'm tired. He's had all week to himself, no little hands to undo his work, no outings to take up his time, no one other than himself making messes or dirtying dishes or creating laundry. Please, just let it be clean.

It wasn't clean.

An hour later I had the sheets on the bed, the laundry folded and put away, the counters cleaned off, the other messes tidied. I went to bed without a word. You think I want to spend time with you now? Dream on.

Oh, grace. I can offer it to everyone else - my children, friends, strangers, even myself - but where is it when I need it for my husband? I punish him with my silence even as I speak out against punishment. My relationships with my children seem to come so instinctively to me. Oh, we have our bad days, don't ever think otherwise, but for the most part we flow peacefully through our time together. But this wife thing? I just can't seem to figure it out.

I am a sucky wife married to a sucky husband.


I am a human wife married to a human husband.

He is a mess and I am a mess. He is inconsiderate and I am uncompassionate. He cannot see what needs to be done around him and I have the communication skills of a tree. If that.

But every time it gets really bad, I remember my dad.

I asked him once how he did it. How did he put up her cruelty? How did he endure the low blows she dealt, nothing off-limits, nothing sacred? How did he not take it all personally? Why did he stay? I wanted to understand.

He looked at me and answered my string of questions with one simple line: "Because I made a vow."

Because he made a vow. It was as simple as that to him. He endured the abuse* and continued to love her with a steadfast patience I could not comprehend, all because he had made a vow.

And I! What have I to deal with? Some laundry in a basket? Some clean sheets in the dryer instead of on the bed? Dirty dishes in the sink? A husband who yes, can be thoughtless, yes, can be black-and-white in his thinking, yes, can be lazy, but who has never even once given me reason to think he didn't absolutely love and adore me? Who has never treated me poorly or tossed cruel words in my direction or given me reason to fear for myself or my children?

In short?
  1. My dad is my hero.
  2. My husband loves me.
  3. And I love my husband.
  4. Flaws and all.

* I want to be clear that I don't advocate for people staying with an abusive spouse. Unfortunately much of the Christian church, in valuing the marital vows, has swung into the opposite dangerous extreme of encouraging women to stay with abusive husbands, or mocking men who try to seek help when living with an abusive wife. This is often coupled with a misguided understanding of "suffering for Christ" or "turning the other cheek". I believe it is not loving to allow a spouse to continue in his or her sin, nor to leave children in danger for the sake of the marriage. Some time apart while the spouse receives the help s/he needs may be best for all parties involved. However, every situation is unique and requires a unique response. Because my father is not in physical danger and because he has compassion for the pain my mother has endured in her life that has caused her to become the person she is, he has chosen to honour his vows in this way. There are other equally valid ways of honouring one's vows that don't involve just living with the abuse.


  1. I like that you mention that men are not the only abusers. That women can be too.

  2. I think we are married to the same man. Thank you for this. You have no idea how nice it is to hear that someone else has the same thoughts as me. I'm in constant need of the reminder to look at the good in my husband and correct the bad in myself, while finding my fulfillment in the Lord.

  3. I've certainly had my share of fights over this kind of thing and I've come to the conclusion that it's mostly a case of inaccurate expectations.

    Early in my relationship I'd think things like, "if he really loved me he would (fill in the blank here)." Or, even trickier, "if he really loved me he'd know how to make me feel better."

    Over the years (and many disappointments later) I came to realize that he is who he is, and that his idea of cleaning is to pick up most of the stuff. The floor, bathroom and surfaces will most likely be crusty.

    I know now that he's not a mind reader and that it's my own responsibility to help myself get over whatever I'm upset about. And the longer we are together the easier it is to laugh about our foibles together instead of letting them drive us crazy.

    Did I ever tell you about the time he tried to tell me I "wasn't stirring the soup right"? That's a great one. :)

  4. Oh, it's so true. So often, I give grace to everyone except my husband. And he's the one who loves me and has never given me a reason to think he feels differently. He's the one who is kind when I'm irritable. He's the one that deserves my grace more than any other.

  5. I have such unrealistic expectations of my husband and of myself. It's good for us step back and remember that we are in this together for better and for worse. But that doesn't stop those moments of wondering why they couldn't have done what we'd hoped. :(

  6. This is a beautiful post. Thank for sharing this.

  7. Thank you for this. I used to absolutely seethe at how slowly my spouse "got to" tasks. It seemed he had to motivate himself molecule by molecule. Baby needs a diaper change? "I'll get the next one." Which felt to me like "I'll change the next baby." Because I didn't want my children to absorb my bitterness, I chose to tend to their needs and the house with a loving heart. It hasn't speeded up my husband, who is a wonderfully loving and ever-smiling (but slow to get going) man. But it has changed the atmosphere in our home from tense to joyous.

  8. I really enjoyed reading this. It is amazing how easy it is to let these types of things bring us down.

  9. I JUST posted something along these lines like, two seconds ago! My Husband is the same way, and I kind of thought more about the way I act, which is like you and your, getting a weeks worth of chores done in one hour, and how that is related to feeling like you just HAVE to control everything or it just won't get done! I ended up with the same conclusion, or kind of the same. My husband balances me out, we both have our lack of talents, but thank GOD he has a lack of organization and "getting things done" attitude, because I would go crazy if he wasn't there to slow me down sometimes. Love him.

  10. It's so encouraging to hear others' experiences. Thank you all for sharing your thoughts. <3

    Kristal, what a perfect way to sum it up: Look for the good in our husbands, correcting the bad in ourselves, and finding our fulfillment in the Lord. Amen.

    Michelle, I'm glad to hear it gets easier to laugh about these things as the years go on! I try to tell myself he's not a mind-reader, but then another part of me starts yelling, "BUT IT'S JUST COMMON SENSE!!!" Ah well. And I must hear this story about how you supposedly weren't stirring the soup right!!

    Beth, Melissa, yes to every word you wrote.

    Laura, what a beautiful reminder. Thank you. <3

    Eden, that's a great perspective. Thanks for sharing that!

  11. I have a bookmark that says something along the lines of "A successful marriage is the union of two great forgivers." Your lovely post reminds me of the sentiment on that bookmark--both of which I forget more than I should! I am grateful for your generosity with your experience, and your reminder to extend grace to our spouses.

  12. Patricia, what a lovely thought. Thank you for sharing!