It's great to have a wonderful marriage, but most marriages are not wonderful all day, every day. In fact, a lot of us have experienced some rough waters along the way. People who see "The Taylors" at this stage could falsely assume that we've always had it so good. Not so. We've had to work hard at learning how to love each other and care for each other as God designed it. After all, marriage is really two selfish people saying "I do" without having a clue! Today I'm sharing some of the dumb things that I did as a newlywed. People may learn from success, but failure is educational, too. Grab a beverage and settle into a comfy chair before reading this "NOT TO DO" list:
Jumbo Dumbo #1: I complained about my husband's schedule.
Ah, the early days, when we had dual incomes and no kids. I hardly noticed my husband's schedule, as we were both gone all day. I was so busy with my job of selling cars; I just looked forward to coming home and making dinner or making reservations! Maybe you're wondering about that job description: selling cars? Well, we didn't have enough money to buy a second car, so I went and applied for a job at the local car dealership and they hired this friendly girl on the spot! I was a top saleswoman, and a demo car came with the deal! I liked the job so much that when my husband was transferred from Illinois to Minnesota, I went to work for another car dealership right away. And then one day, I felt sick to my stomach...
A positive pregnancy test led to a dinner discussion: "Francie, only one of us is going to work after we have children. I want you at home." Woo Hoo! I thought he was giving me time off for good behavior! And then we had Austen, followed two years later by Hillary; and 13 months later by Collin. The highlight of my day was folding pastel-colored miniature undershirts. Norman was entering the peak phase of his career, which meant longer hours, travel, and less family time.
I became Mrs. Grumpalot.
"You're hardly ever home, and I'm with the kids all day and doing laundry and cleaning up after them and wahh wahh wahhhhhh." Norman got tired of my complaining, so he made this memorable threat: "I could quit my job and take another one where I'd be home more and we could lower our standard of living, OR you could be content and we could work with things as they are."
I had that coming to me. We were already living modestly, but I wanted to have more of my husband's time when he simply couldn't give it. Why do we focus on what we don't have rather than being thankful for all that we do have? It's a character flaw. "Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others." (Phil. 2:4) I needed to see this from Norman's side, too. He was working as hard as he could to provide for his family on one income. I learned that day to drop the subject and never to bring it up again. Moral of Jumbo Dumbo #1: Don't count what's missing; count your blessings.
Jumbo Dumbo #2: I fussed at my husband about trivial matters.
What do I mean by "trivial matters"? I'll demonstrate by asking you this question: Should a man have to take off his shoes when he comes in the house (his house)? I wish I could hear your responses, because I know there would be some screaming YES out there. And maybe even a few crying "Death to the infidel if he doesn't"! It's really crazy how territorial we can become about our homes. I had to learn this: If Norman H. Taylor wants to walk leaves, motor oil, Minnesota-snow and anything else into this house, so be it. I have provided a perfect place for grimy shoes, but I'm not my husband's mom, so if he chooses to bypass it and leave size-12 foot prints announcing his arrival, so...be...it!
What?! But what about the carpet? Well guess what I did? I complained one too many times about the carpet stains, and that earned me the Christmas gift I'll never forget. When I first saw the great big box taking up the living room, I imagined that it had something spectacular in it! As I removed the roll of wrapping paper that it took to cover this mega-package, I realized that I was receiving a rebuke, wrapped with love, of course: It was a deluxe (gargantuan) carpet cleaning machine. It screamed, "Merry Christmas, Mrs. Naggy!" "It is better to dwell in the corner of the housetop, than with a brawling woman and in a wide house." (Prov. 25:24) I have since learned that true reverence and respect for my husband includes leaving him and his shoes alone, among other things. Moral of Jumbo Dumbo #2: Nagging is disrespectful and it could earn you a prize you don't want. (Carpet cleaner for sale: Cheap!)
Jumbo Dumbo #3: I came into marriage expecting him to make my life complete.
I blame the wedding traditions for helping so many of us to get this backwards. The bridal shower is about the bride, the gift registry is often decided by the bride, the colors for the home are usually determined by the bride, the plans for the wedding are made almost entirely by the bride (and don't try that token "I asked him for his opinion" stuff)! If you married a man that helped plan most of your wedding, join the 0.0000000003% of the population who did the same.
Even the clothing for the wedding day is all about the bride. The groom may get to select his preference in a tuxedo, if he's granted permission or if his bride is too busy dress-shopping to care! But often, even his suit for the big day has been selected by the bride! And let's not forget the wedding gown: no other garment gets so much attention to be worn for so little time. Is it any wonder that we come into the marriage singing "Me Me Me ME Me Me Me"? And yet the Lord said early in Scripture that woman was made for man, not the other way around. "And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him." (Gen. 2:18) It took some time, but I finally learned that I am here to make Norman's world go round. As God increased my understanding of this important role, He also increased my love for my beloved. Just think: the man that you've married was once a tiny baby long ago, and now you get to care for him as an adult. Moral of Jumbo Dumbo #3: Drop the wedding mentality at the door. The marriage is about the couple.
Jumbo Dumbo #4: I gave my husband the silent treatment.
Now this was really dumb, but I'm just delivering as promised. Norman and I would have a disagreement over something, and I would be miffed, I mean cooking with all four burners lock-jaw miffed. I know better now, but in our early years, silence was meant to be a punishment for whatever I perceived to be a transgression. What it really came down to was this: he didn't see something my way. "He that is first in his own cause seemeth just; but his neighbor cometh and searcheth him." (Prov. 18:17) Arguments are often a matter of not seeing eye to eye, but failure to communicate doesn't improve the situation; it just forces you to take the long way to a solution.
What women need to know is this: the silent treatment is a rotten form of communication. It's also worth mentioning that if a man has a choice between a woman harping at him and a woman not speaking to him, he'll choose the silent model every time. But eventually, couples have to talk things out, so I had to learn how to answer Norman when he would ask, "Sweetheart, what's wrong?" I had to grow up past the old answer of "nothing" and carefully tell the truth. Now when my Norman asks "Honey, what's bothering you," I answer him, being mindful to state the problem rather than accusing him of being the problem. Conflict resolution is part of married life. The longer you're married, the more conflicts you'll need to learn to resolve without resorting to punishment tactics.
I've given up the silent treatment, but I'm still careful with how I file my complaints: "A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger." (Prov. 15:4) When a man doesn't feel like you're attacking him, he doesn't have to put up his defense shields! The "soft answer" works! Moral of Jumbo Dumbo #4: Don't employ failed methods; use methods that work.
There's not enough space for me to list the rest of my transgressions, but I think you get the picture. As the Lord continues to polish off my rough edges (even after 30 years), I work hard to make my husband's life better than it was before he added me to his world. It's not unusual to make more than a few unwise mistakes in the early years, but as we grow in the Lord, we should also improve at being married. If someone were to ask your husband about you, would he say that God did him a favor by bringing you into his life?
I saw something on the carpet on my way to the kitchen for a glass of water. It was fresh mud mixed with garden mulch in size 12. If that isn't love...
"Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favor of the Lord." (Prov. 18:22)