Thursday, April 29, 2010

Becoming the wife I really want to be

I have spent a lot of time lately pondering on several related themes. Happiness and unhappiness (in life, and specifically in marriage), selfishness/selflessness, dominance and submission (not in any kinky or sexual meaning*).

And how many of the commandments our loving Heavenly Father gives us feel wrong and backwards to us (in our mortal state).

“I don’t feel loving”
Do it anyway.

“He isn’t serving me—in fact, he is completely unworthy of my love”
Love him and honor him anyway.

“Nobody will know what websites I look at”
Be pure anyway.

“They started it!”
Pray for them anyway.

We as wives have to realize that while we may be “right”—the battle is not actually worth the price we will pay to “win”. It is NOT better to be right and alone than to set aside the issue and show your love to someone else. The opposite of “being right” is NOT always “being wrong”.

A prime analogy could be my friends’ fence. My good friends “Tim” and “Jane” live in a house with a shared driveway. The people they share it with (whom we will call “Bubba Joe” and “Loretta Sue” haven’t made many wise decisions in their lives. They frequently make choices that drive Tim and Jane CRAZY. (Actually I am waiting for them to show up on Jerry Springer—that is the level of wrong choices I am talking about!) These aren’t the next door neighbors you want.

A few years ago Bubba Joe and Loretta Sue decided they wanted to put up a fence and--without discussing it with Tim and Jane--sunk the fence posts. Unfortunately, they put them up on Tim & Jane’s property.

My first thought was to “accidentally” back the big 4 wheel drive pickup into the front fencepost, then make sure a loop of fence wire was firmly “caught” around the pickups hitch, and pull forward quickly, (incidentally yanking out the whole fence). Problem Solved!

Until Bubba Joe, (in his now fully justified wrath) retaliated. Then, in a matter of weeks we could go straight to the Hatfields and the McCoys.

Fortunately for everyone, cooler heads than mine prevailed, and Tim and Jane decided it was “just a fence” and not worth the battle. It isn’t a very good fence, and I am guessing (now that a few years have gone by)—that it won’t last for much longer.

Wives especially are bad about “scorekeeping”:—“well, HE didn’t take out the trash, so I am not going to do the dishes”. What a great way to make sure everybody LOSES. She is hostile and grouchy, and he is unloved and put upon. It is a choice that we make every day—do we focus on the good or the bad?

My sweet husband leaves for work at 4:00am on Monday morning. He is usually very good about hauling the dumpster out to the road for it’s Monday morning pickup, but he isn’t around to haul the (now empty) dumpster back in. I can choose to:

A) leave it out by the curb until “he does his job”—which will be Thursday evening at the very earliest—meaning I have been without it all week.

B) Put on my best martyr attitude and haul it in, muttering the whole time about how “I have to do EVERYTHING around here” (completely ignoring the fact that he just left for work—to support ME, at 4 freakin’ o’clock in the morning—and that he will continue to work his cute little butt off FOR ME.)

C) Cheerfully bring the dumpster back in, feeling grateful that I only have to bring it in when it is empty and light, and that I HAVE a nice, rolling trash dumpster (which I actually LOVE!), and feeling his love for me that he expressed by taking it out in the first place.

In the last little while I have watched several seemingly strong marriages (of good people) dissolve into seething messes of throbbing pain, recriminations and vitriolic spite. The one thing that all of them had in common was that one (or both) of them got caught up in the “selfishness vortex”. They cannot see how each selfish choice feeds the selfishness beast, and that instead of pacifying it, they make it stronger. Each choice of “me first”,"my wants", “my needs”, “but what about ME?” blinds them to the love they have been freely given, and the pain they cause to those around them.

I have been reading “Created to Be His Help Meet: Discover How God Can Make Your Marriage Glorious” by Debi Pearl. She is a fundamentalist Christian, and, while I don't agree with all of her theology, and I really disagree with the way she phrases some of her points, I think the principles she teaches are sound, and I know for myself that they work.

This is not an easy book. It is easy to feel attacked and defensive while you read it. I think that means it is hitting home, and we need to carefully focus on doing the things we are most defensive about.

When I look around at our society, I see LOTS of unhappy people, in less than ideal relationships. Broken, dysfunctional families. Women who are hostile and nasty to their husbands, and who feel lonely and taken for granted. Men who feel disrespected and unloved. Children who don’t know the comfort of knowing that their parents love them and each other.

One of the best things my wise mother taught me about making decisions is to look at the end result. Ask yourself “ What would happen if everyone made this choice?” “ What would happen to them, to their relationships, to society as a whole?”

Maybe the things society teaches are wrong. Maybe, doing exactly the opposite of that we are told really is the way to happiness.

When my sweet LargeBoy was still a small boy, he went through a phase of not wanting to go to bed, and of waking up in the night, and not being able to go back to sleep. (He has always been a very light sleeper and easily awakened). Unfortunately, I was horrifically sleep deprived and exhausted, and having him come get me to put him back to bed did not go down well. The nightly battles escalated to included shrieking and kicking walls (him), threats and spankings (me) and crying and screaming (both of us).

When my pride finally allowed me to pray and ask for help, the simple answer was "a soft answer turneth away wrath". The more I nagged, bossed and bullied, the more stubbornly he dug in. When I finally gave up on "winning" and instead focused on talking to him about how I loved him, what he had done that day, and interesting things he had seen, sleep came quickly and he learned how to put himself back to sleep.

A true example of "surrendering to win".

Maybe, just maybe, the promises the Lord made is true and “So the last shall be first, and the first last," and that the real way to win and find true happiness is in loving surrender and putting other people’s happiness before your own.

He hasn’t lied yet.

*You DO NOT want to get me started on my rant about words that have been hijacked—besides “dominance” and “submission”, I really miss the old meaning of the word “gay”—“happy” and “cheerful” ARE NOT the same.

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