by | Sep 20, 2022 | husband, Marriage, Men specific

The hard work of loving my wife

by | Sep 20, 2022 | husband, Marriage, Men specific

I love the title image for this blog post.

In case you can’t see it for some mysterious reason of the interwebs… it’s a silhouette of a man, kneeling, with his hands clasped in prayer. He’s at the edge of an open space that is covered in fog.

I love it because it represents both a weighty responsibility and an unnerving reality of every husband’s life.

1) He’s responsible to care for his wife as Christ loves His church (Ephesians 5:25).

2) He’s also called to understand her (1 Peter 3:7) and live with her in light of that understanding.

3) But to make any attempt at loving and understanding her in a way that matters (to her), he has to do his best to step into the realm of what it is to be a woman.

Like a thick fog bank, that can seem like a mysterious, daunting, even scary task.

But he’s to do it all the same.

In the face of such God-ordained and mysterious mysteries, what’s a husband to do?

The smart ones will learn to pray for themselves.

They’ll pray for awareness of her needs, insight into her heart and mind, and the ability to lead and love her with intentionality.

Praying for himself, as the one who is required to do the loving and understanding, is pretty clear cut. We all know how to pray for ourselves. We may struggle to put it into practice consistently or routinely, but we know how to do it, nonetheless.

But doing something deliberate after we pray… there is where I find most men don’t get after it, which is ironic. We’re good at getting after it on the job, on the sports field, or at the BBQ grill. But when it comes to relational stuff (like loving and understanding our wives), it’s a bit less intuitive and more like doing needlepoint. Our big hands and pudgy fingers simply can’t naturally manipulate those tiny needly things.

At least not naturally. Thus, the need for intention. 

I hope you can learn the easy way from my lessons learned the hard way.

Since 1989, when I was wed to my bride, Mindi, I’ve had my share of failure in this realm.

Mindi would say that she wanted me to lead her spiritually and I wasn’t sure what that meant. She’d say that I was “floating” through life instead of being purposeful and I didn’t know what she was talking about.

Somewhere along the line the Holy Spirit did some loving but gentle pummeling of my sin-saturated soul and knocked some sense into me and some sin out of me. He provided a much needed realization of the responsibility of spiritual leadership I would one day answer for, in His presence at the judgment seat.

More than being afraid of judgment one day in the by and by (which is going to be very real and very fearsome), I was afraid of ending my life with someone saying over my coffin one day, “He was a nice guy and had a decent marriage.” I wanted to be more than that.

God worked a gracious repentance in me that stuck. Not that I’ve pulled off the right things perfectly or in any way as consistently as I should have, but I’m on a different path now. I’m headed in a direction I can feel good about when the day of my death comes.

So, if I may dear brothers, I’d like to give you a peek into my reminder list… the one I use to set my mind toward intentionality for the sake of my wife. It try to make it an every day review, but it turns out being 4 to 5 times per week.

I’m just being honest. So use it, if it’s helpful, to set a new course for yourself.

I think what I’ll do is list all the items on my “Mindi” list, then go back and dissect each one a bit so you understand both the mindset and purpose behind each of them.

My pretty-much-daily “Mindi” intentionality list.

  1. Don’t forget MINERVA IS INVOLVED.
  2. You are filled with Jesus toward Mindi today.
  3. DELIGHT in the GIFT of Mindi.
  4. No DEFENSIVENESS, ever.
  5. HUMILITY is your M.O.
  6. Quick to listen – Slow to speak.
  7. KINDNESS and ENCOURAGMENT.
  8. Point Mindi to Jesus today.
  9. INITIATE in leadership.
  10. You are Mindi’s protector, comforter, friend, lover, and greatest fan.
  11. Minister TO Mindi’s hurts.
  12. Pray for Mindi in the moment of difficult interactions.
  13. No promises > PROVE yourself first.
  14. Look Mindi in the eye.
  15. Smile at Mindi today.
  16. When Mindi returns home, everything stops so I can greet her warmly.

This list, as you see it, is copied exactly from the app I use to manage my days (Notion). The bold, italics, and ALL CAPS you see are just as they appear for me.

Over time, I modify it, adjust the emphasis, etc. based on what we are going through in life and what I feel is relevant or needed. I will add things to the list as time progresses, remove things, and tweak others. I’ve even abbreviated or combined some of them at times.

I tell you all that to tell you this…

…it’s not the specifics of my list that will help you as much as understanding the mindset behind the things on my list.

Let’s walk through each line and I’ll uncover what you see…

Don’t forget MINERVA IS INVOLVED.

My wife and I have long used funny names to refer to not-so-funny things in life.

I guess we do it to remind ourselves not to take the difficulties of life so seriously in light of the incredible riches God has promised us one day (Romans 8:18).

In this case, “Minerva” is the name we’ve given to Menopause, which is a current reality for her (and therefore, us).

When you understand that, you can see that this bullet point is a reminder… I can’t forget that she’s experiencing a daily barrage of hormones and unexplainable phenomenon that color everything in her life, in some way.

She has her good days. She has her not-so-good days. It’s not her fault, and it’s not within her control at times. It simply is.

It’s my responsibility to remember this fact and live with her accordingly (1 Peter 3:7)

If somebody was jumping up and down on my emotions all day every day, I’d appreciate a little mercy and help along the way (Matthew 7:12). She deserves at least that level of consideration from me.

    You are filled with Jesus toward Mindi today.

    This one points me to who I’m supposed to be in every aspect, not just my relationship with my wife.

    What this reminder does for me is this: it puts me in a frame of mind to remember that I’m the main vessel through whom Jesus desires to live, through blessing my wife.

    I’m the one to love her like He does (Ephesians 5:25).

    I’m the one to care for her when nobody else is.

    I’m the one to lead her, help her manage her personal and particular challenges, and come alongside her in understanding, not criticism (more on that one in a minute).

    To sum up, imagine what my wife’s life would be like if Jesus were her husband. Wow. And that’s what I’m called to facilitate in a round about way… His life, through me, to her.

    Just wow.

     

      DELIGHT in the GIFT of Mindi.

      In the midst of budgets and laundry, work schedules and the various responsibilities of life, it’s easy to forget to be thankful for your spouse.

      God gave me a GIFT when He gave me my wife. I don’t have to think very long or hard to know where this kid from the Texas Panhandle would have wound up if I hadn’t married the woman I did. Sure, I might have accomplished a few notable things. I might have been successful at a career like my brothers were.

      But I surely wouldn’t have had the drive, sensitivity, and desire to pursue my Savior as I have. Her role in stoking that fire in my life is undeniable. She saw what was there in embryo form and was used of the Lord to birth it in me.

      All that to say, when I’m able to look at her as gift, as a blessing, as the beneficial partner and friend that she is, I’m able to return that favor with intentionality. She becomes a target of my love and care.

      So, as a part of this almost-daily list, I pray for myself to remember the gift she is, to be grateful, and to demonstrably show my appreciation to her.

      Afterall, she doesn’t HAVE to love me like she does. But she does.

        No DEFENSIVENESS, ever.

        Here you get a peek into my particular version of sinful pride, as it manifests itself to many people, but mainly to my wife. She gets the front row, center seat to my sin.

        I grew up in a defensive home. My siblings may disagree but that’s the label I’ve come to place on it.

        My Dad was defensive when confronted with a belief or particularly emotional situation (raised voice and all) and I have picked up the same tendencies. My family of origin as a whole can be argumentative. They’d say it’s all in the spirit of a good-natured debate, and surely it is to some degree. But in my experience, it often devolves into bruised egos, hurt feelings, and a bit of emotional distance from each other over time.

        But my tendencies toward defensiveness are not reserved for those settings. Mine seem to rise to the surface any time I feel criticized (justly or unjustly), questioned (what?), or just about anything else that pings my insecurities.

        This tendency has been one of the WORST things my wife has had to deal with. It strikes at the heart of some of HER insecurities, making situations far worse than they would be in a normal interaction.

        So I have to remind myself daily that defensiveness is from the pit of hell. It destroys my relationship with my wife.

        When I read this reminder, I pray again, for her to be shielded from my defensive blasts when they come, and for the devil of defensiveness to be eradicated from my heart and mind.

        She deserves better than my defensiveness. She needs the one charged to care for her (me) to respond without bristling and barbed wire.

          HUMILITY is your M.O. (Mode of Operation)

          Perhaps this is the opposite side of the coin of defensiveness. It’s my “instead of” statement, reminding me of who I am in Christ.

          He was humble beyond belief (Philippians 2) and is my role model for life. As Paul instructs, I’m to have that same mind of humility that He had.

          I believe that because He lives in me, it IS mine. I DO have it.

          I just need to be reminded to pull out that identity, put it on, and place one foot in front of the other in acting it out.

          This enables me to interact with sweet Mindi in a way that kills my flesh with the power of Jesus’ life in  me.

          As a result, she is loved, served, and built up, not battered about by my insufferable pride.

          So when I read this one, I pray again, that she’ll be served by Jesus through me… that humility will be the software installed on my operating system each day.

            Quick to listen – Slow to speak

            This one is straight from the pages of a New Testament epistle (James 1:19). It’s also a principle and behavior that I’ve been working to apply to my life for years.

            It’s a reminder to me that in my day to day interactions with Mindi, I’m not to be focused on any of the following…

            • Getting my point across
            • Being understood
            • Defending my position
            • Winning an argument
            • Being the one in control
            • Bending her to my will

            Surely, lots more similarly ugly attitudes and motivations belong on this list, but you get the idea.

            When I am quick to listen and slow to speak, I can focus on understanding Mindi. I’ve learned that it’s hard to love what/who you don’t understand.

            Listening allows me to get into her shoes, hear her words, dig for their meaning, and let my emotion rise to a level of empathy rather than cold, analytical evaluation (which I can be prone to, and which in excess, is harmful in almost every case. And I’m good at the excess part.).

              KINDNESS and ENCOURAGMENT

              Over the years, Mindi has has often said that my words and tone come across as “unkind.”

              When she says this I’m thrown off at first because I don’t feel I’m being unkind, just factual, or plain-spoken, or direct, or… whatever.

              In the end, I’m usually being defensive (again).

              In that mode (and a few others, I’m sure) I’m not very aware of my tone or the way I’m coming across. It’s more than possible that I am actually being unkind.

              And if I’m not mindful of being encouraging, I don’t default to that position naturally.

              So I have to reminde myself to BE kind and encouraging toward her.

              That too, turns into a prayer — that she’ll BE encouraged by my kindness as Jesus lives through me, that I’ll be able to encourage her in that way.

              Apart from Jesus, she’s my greatest blessing in life and I want her to be confident of that fact in every interaction we have.

              Reminding myself to orient my thinking around kindness and encouragement enables me to do that more consistently.

                Point Mindi to Jesus today

                I have no doubt my wife’s heart is oriented toward dependence on Jesus. It’s been true of her for as long as I’ve known her.

                Even so, we can all get into a funk when the problems, pressures, emotions, and expectations of life come down on us.

                Mindi is no different, so in obedience to scripture it’s my role to encourage her in Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:11, and others).

                I try to do this in alignment with what I already know about the work He’s done in her life and is doing in her life. Tying encouragement to personal recollection and experience can be powerfully recalibrating.

                So I ask Jesus to help me do this, to help me see the opportunities where I can help her refocus on the Savior.

                 

                  Initiate in leadership

                  I didn’t enter marriage with much initiative. I was happy, and we were generally OK as a couple, but I didn’t have much vision for our relationship beyond that.

                  Over the years I’ve learned that Mindi expects and needs more than that. The simple reason is because if I don’t recognize the ways we could be moving forward in our life together, and pick up the ball to move it down the field, she WILL recognize the lack… and that lack will become an emotional burden to her.

                  I’m not saying she’s fragile or incapable. Not at all. It’s just that as the man in the relationship I am the one tasked with taking initiative in our relationship, not her.

                  She’s got enough important stuff that’s legitimately on her plate without her being weighed down with stuff that I should be handling for the both of us.

                  So I’ve had to learn to initiate in all kinds of things.

                  • Our fitness
                  • Our social life
                  • Our intellectual pursuits
                  • Our conversations together
                  • Our times of rest
                  • Our connection with friends and family
                  • Our discussion of issues and concerns

                  None of this means that she is not allowed to initiate in those areas. She can and she does. It just means that I can’t let her initiation in any area make me feel like “Cool, she’ll handle it.”

                  I’ve got to stay on top of things so she doesn’t have to.

                  It’s a relief to her to know that she’s not the only one thinking about issues like these, that she’s truly got a leader/partner alongside her, not a free-floating couch potato who expects her to pick up the slack on everything.

                  I guess that what I’ve learned, in short, is that leadership IS initiation.

                  So I ask the Lord to give me eyes to see the areas of need I can take action in that will unburden her.

                    You are Mindi’s protector, comforter, friend, lover, and greatest fan

                    It’s needful at times for all of us to be reminded who we are. I’m no different.

                    This point does that for me in clear, biblical, unapologetic terms of who I’m to be as Mindi’s husband.

                    I’m to be her protector (not CWO – Chief Wounding Officer).

                    It’s painful to realize how many times I’ve wounded her through inconsiderate or thoughtless actions. I’m constantly reminding myself that whatever petty things I feel that make me want to argue with her, or criticize her, or put us on opposing sides, are antithetical to my role as protector.

                    No matter our differences (and we do have them at times), I’m to be on her side and for her in all things.

                    When life bites and there’s nothing I can do about it, I’m to be her comforter.

                    I comfort through listening, letting her tears stain my shirt, by assuring her that her faith has not been misplaced and that her heavenly Father is still for her. It’s a job I love and find challenging at the same time.

                    Mindi and I have truly become friends over the years, but I sometimes have to remind myself that’s what I am to her.

                    She depends on me. She expects me to help her and support her. She relies on me the same way I rely on her.

                    Being married, we are lovers.

                    It’s a great grace from our Father and there’s not much about it I can say here, except to point out that reminding myself of this helps me to see the depth of commitment I have to such an amazing woman. It reminds me that there is a deep and intimate history between us that I’m called to celebrate and cultivate on an ongoing basis.

                    And to say that I’m her greatest fan isn’t to say that I’m nothing more than a fan-boy.

                    It’s just to remind me that I need to celebrate her wins, the contributions she makes to our family, the love she shares with others, and the little and big ways she expresses the life of Jesus day after day after day after day after…

                    And so once again, I pray — for her and for me along all these pathways of reminder.

                      Minister TO Mindi’s hurts

                      There was a point in my husbandly journey where I was more bothered by my wife’s insecurities than anything else.

                      I saw them more as regrettable things that I had to put up with.

                      Of course, I never said those things to her, but I felt an inner frustration that was somewhere on that spectrum.

                      Yessss… I was that shallow and unfeeling.

                      But at some point Jesus showed me that He had every right to feel the very same thing about MY version of those things, but He didn’t.

                      What He felt instead was love, compassion, and mercy.

                      That changed my perspective. It enabled me to see the places where Mindi was/is most wounded as the very places that I can and should have the biggest impact.

                      That’s ESPECIALLY true as I become intentional about loving her in ways that offset her insecurities, fears, and hurts. In my mind it’s like putting the proper salve on a wound to speed its healing. 

                      So now, when I see one of her long-standing hurts or wounds, I pray for her and go to work. I trust Jesus to use me to bring healing to that place.

                        Pray for Mindi in the moment of difficult interactions (with me)

                        We still have disagreements. Now and again, tension will arise between us.

                        Whereas my prior response was defensiveness, now I’m moving toward immediate cries to the Lord… for me, for her, for the situation.

                        I especially pray for her because I know that I’m a tough one to deal with sometimes. My view of things can be pretty singular until I’ve had time to digest the nuance and wisdom of what she’s saying.

                        So I ask God to make her long-suffering, patient, and merciful.

                        I ask Him to prevent me from hurting her and to bring quick healing when I do.

                        I ask Him to give her the strength she needs and for her eyes to be opened to the things He wants her to see that need changing, adjustment, or repentance.

                        Even when we’re in an argument, we’re in this marriage thing together.

                          No promises. Prove yourself first.

                          With the best of intentions I often assure Mindi that my hurtful behavior (whatever it was) is something I’ll change, with God’s help.

                          But I often fail in ensuring that things actually DO change.

                          When such is the case, it hurts her, it makes it difficult for her to feel any comfort or hope when we hit a similar patch in the road in the future (and I make yet ANOTHER promise).

                          I’m exacerbating the problem rather than making it better.

                          So it’s become apparent that I shouldn’t make promises. Instead, I prayerfully put myself in God’s hands to make the changes I would otherwise promise.

                          And I pray for her, that she’ll be able to endure my process, that she’ll be able to pray for me as I seek to grow in my ability to love her rightly, and that God will show her His love through me eventually.

                            Look Mindi in the eye.

                            This may be a quirk that’s unique to me, so take it for what it’s worth, but I find that when I feel in any way out of sorts, I tend not to look people in the eye.

                            When I’m not looking Mindi in the eye (for any unrelated reason), she notices. And it communicates negatively to her.

                            She wonders if something is wrong between us, if I’m upset with her, if there’s something she should know that I’m not telling her.

                            In sort, the lack of eye contact disrupts trust… and it’s all because I am not feeling up to my A-game in some way.

                            It’s silly, I know. But it is what it is and I’m working to improve it.

                            So I pray for Mindi to be blessed by my consistent eye contact, to see the love of Jesus in my eyes as I gaze into hers, and for the two of us to be knit together in love more deeply as a result.

                              Smile at Mindi today.

                              There is not much to say about this one that’s significantly different than the previous point about eye contact.

                              Smiles go a long way to encourage and build up.

                              A genuine smile also dispells the natural inclination we all have to think that someone may be upset or displeased with us.

                              It’s like the smile is the eraser that rubs curiosity of that kind away.

                              So I pray that I’ll remember to smile at her, because I am pleased with her, I do love her, and I want her to know it.

                              And I pray that Mindi will see my smiles, love them, and be blessed by them.

                                When Mindi returns home, everything stops so I can greet her warmly.

                                Nothing complicated here… when Mindi (my favorite person in the world) comes home from any sort of outing, I try to treat her special.

                                She needs to be reminded that she’s my favorite and to know that I missed her.

                                So I get up from whatever I’m doing (most of the time) and give her a hug, welcome her home, and take a moment or two to hear about what happened while she was out.

                                That simple gesture goes a long way to making her feel loved and secure.

                                 

                                 

                                 

                                 

                                 

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