I’m reading Jim Burns’ book, Creating an Intimate Marriage. (Yes, that is an affiliate link. Go ahead and click on it. While working on your marriage, you’ll be helping mine.) I’d like to share a paragraph from chapter 5, “Becoming a Better Communicator with Your Spouse.”
It took me a very long time in my marriage to understand that Cathy didn’t need me to fix her problems. All she wanted was for me to care. My natural tendency is to be a fix-it person. I would get fully engaged with whatever her problem was and immediately start looking for the cure. What Cathy would rather have had was a sympathetic hug and a sense that I understood and cared about her. After I became comfortable in not always trying to be her fix-it man, I realized it was much easier on our relationship to simply let her know I value her feelings.
I’m sure, husbands, this isn’t the first time you’ve heard this. It wasn’t for me either. But even though I’ve heard this over and over and over again, I keep missing it. Somehow, I think it is my job to fix her or her problems. I want to be her knight in shining armor who rides in to sweep her away from all that troubles her, destroying her would-be attackers with my cleverness. But my job is not to fix her. That is God’s job. My job is nourish and cherish her (Ephesians 5:28-29).
When my wife is stressed about about something, even if it causes her to blow up at me, what is my job? Is my job to point out all the things she did wrong that caused this? That may be my natural reaction, but that is not my job. My job is to let her know that she is really doing a great job as a wife and mother, to let her know that what she feels is valid and acceptable, and to let her know that I love her anyway. I can do that through my words or my actions or, preferably, both.
When I come home and she’s had a bad day with the kids (imagine that, having a tough day because you’re dealing with a 13-year-old, a 10-year-old, an 8-year-old, and a 2-year-old) and she starts unloading her frustrations, my natural reaction is to get defensive and start unloading back or to try to calmly explain what she did wrong all day to cause all this frustration. Guess what I’ve learned. Neither of those options ever work. First, it doesn’t relieve her frustration. Second, it doesn’t bring us closer. Third, it usually ruins the whole evening. Fourth, even on the rare occassion when I’m right about why she is frustrated, it doesn’t help her at all. Yet, over and over again, that is the way I respond. Has anyone read that definition about insanity lately?
So, here’s what I’m going to start trying to do. Hold me accountable on this one fellows (and ladies). When that happens, I want to give my wife a big hug. I want to let her cry on my shoulder if that is what she’s feeling. I want to let her know that I can tell things have been tough for her and I’m sorry about that. I want to let her know that I love her and I really do think she is a great wife and mother (I do think that). I want to see if I can take something off of her plate so the rest of her day can be easier. And I’m going to do all of that without expecting anything* in return.
What do you think? Do you think that might have a better impact on our marriage? I’m guessing it will. The fact is, my wife is pretty smart. She doesn’t generally need me to fix her problems. She can usually come up with pretty good solutions on her own. She just needs someone to let her know that having a bad day doesn’t mean she’s a bad wife and mother. It means she’s pretty normal and I love her anyway.
Alright guys, who will take on this challenge with me? Let’s quit trying to fix our wives and start turn our great ability to fix things on to fixing how we treat our wives even when they don’t act exactly the way we want.
Have a great day and remember God’s way really does work for your family.
*When I say anything, I really mean sex.