I watched an interesting exchange between a husband and wife this weekend, and it has made me ponder some things that I want to share here.
Picture this: Our family is sitting in the children's Primary room of our local church building watching our semi-annual stake conference meetings over closed-circuit television. We usually sit in one of these rooms because 1) We're never there early enough to snag a pew in the crowded chapel, and 2) I don't expect our children to all sit calmly and quietly through two full hours of speakers, and I don't want to disturb others who are trying to listen-- unless they're in one of the extra rooms, too, I guess. (Most of the other families in those rooms have kids the same age as our small "noise offenders", so we're all pretty much in the same boat, anyway...)
So, we were getting our own kids settled when another couple with their three small children filed into the chairs a couple of rows in front of us. They had two cute little boys and an adorable little girl who waved to our youngest. (Who just stared at this strange child-her-size in wonder.)
As the meeting started, the wife started in on the husband with pure vitriol in her expression and her voice:
"No, I want to sit over there, so she doesn't go down the center aisle."
"So we shouldn't sit here?"
"I don't know. Whatever, it's fine. You're the boss,"she snipped.
He chuckled without mirth, "Oh, no. You're the boss. I'm fine."
The tension from both of them oozed into the room, and stayed throughout the meeting.
When their baby started crying, the wife hissed, "Take her!"
The husband was frozen throughout it all. He seemed to want to help, but when he tried to, his wife gave him such a scathing look, that he backed off, only to have her then berate him for not helping.
This exchange went on and on. Sometimes she would go walk the hall with the baby, and then when he'd offer to take the little one, his wife would snap at him again. You could practically hear her thoughts: "Only I can do it right," "Why doesn't he just help me?!" "I'm the only one who does anything in this family!" (NOTE: I can recognize what she was thinking because I've had similar thoughts at times...)
It was so sad to see the two little boys reacting to the tension, when they didn't seem to quite know what to do. It was almost tragic to hear the speakers talk in the background about love between spouses, love in the home, conversion and Christ-like forgiveness, and then see how this family was so bound by contention and anger, right before our eyes.
Now, I don't presume to know what this family's home is like. I don't know their circumstances, I don't know anything about their marriage. In fact, they are complete strangers to me! But, their obvious behavior in that room yesterday has made me evaluate my own feelings toward my spouse and family over and over again.
My thoughts have run the gambit:
- Is it better for a wife to berate her husband, than for a man to scold his wife?
- What do we teach our sons when we disrespect our husbands?
- What do we teach our daughters?
- Do we recognize mother-martyrdom for what it really is: Passive-aggressive punishment?
- Are we acting like devoted, loving spouses when we snap at each other?
- Do we continue to act in anger toward one another for hours or days at a time without resolving the real issues at hand?
- Where is the love in this kind of marriage?
This is not about placing blame on others. This is about taking an honest look at ourselves and how we treat our husbands. Do we appreciate and acknowledge all they do to support our family? Do we recognize their sacrifices, their efforts, and the many ways they show love to us every day?
Of course, we are all grateful when our husbands step in to take a screaming baby, or change a stinky diaper, or wash a sink full of dishes. BUT we should also show our appreciation and love to him, in ways that he understands loud and clear. (And I'd like to say that showing love does not include throwing more children/diapers/dishes his way as a token of our gratitude and esteem-- you know what I mean?)
Saturday evening, my husband and I attended the scheduled meeting for adults with a talk given by Elder Wright, our new Area Seventy. He told a story about his wife that had happened earlier that afternoon. He told us that he recently bought a new car, at his wife's request, so that his daughter could have the use of his older vehicle. It was parked out on the street while he was inside, studying to give us this talk. At the same time, his wife was helping their son with a service project, that involved painting some cabinets, in the driveway. His son came in chuckling, laughing about how Mom was using the paint sprayer on the cabinets to make the work go faster, and Elder Wright thought he'd go out and see their progress. As he watched his wife use the sprayer, he could see a cloud of paint float over and settle on his brand new car.
He said time seemed to stand still, and in that instant some marital advice came into his mind.
"Do I want to be RIGHT, or do I want to be HAPPY?"
He kindly approached his wife, and pointed out what was happening to the new car. She gasped, and then started to laugh. And then he joined her in having a good chuckle over the accidental paint job.
So is it so very difficult to greet him when he comes home with a smile and a kiss? Is it so hard to dress up and put make-up on every now and then, just for HIM? (And not because we have someplace to go.) What about putting the kids to bed early every now and then for a back rub and some "alone time"?
Lovely ladies, NONE of us feel better when we enter "the martyr zone"! None of us feel more loved when we spew forth nagging words and dirty looks. No one ever could-- especially not the men in our lives. It is those who choose to serve their spouses unselfishly that will have the kinds of blissful marriages we all long for.
Of course there are exceptions in every thing, but I'm not talking about the "exception" here. I'm talking to all of you out there who KNOW you are married to a good man, even if you may not be feeling the marriage-bliss right now. You have days of overwhelm and frustration-- I know that! (Me, too!) But adding more contention and anger to our lives will not solve our problems in the least NOR make us happy.
UNSELFISH LOVE WILL.
Is there something we can do for our husbands today? Just a thought to ponder...