I was talking with a young woman one day about the relationship she had with her boyfriend.
“Is he the one?” I asked.
“Oh, please,” she shuddered, “don’t bring up the ‘M’ word!”
“Marriage?” I asked, somewhat puzzled by her reaction.
She shuddered again, “Ugh.”
“What’s wrong with marriage?” I asked her.
“What wrong with marriage?” she asked me, looking for all the world as if I was an idiot. “Are you freaking kidding me? I don’t want to be tied down. As long as I’m his girlfriend I don’t have to cook and clean and shop and do someone’s laundry.
Right now, we’re even-steven as people. An equal partnership.As soon as I become a wife though, it’s all over.I have to slip into this role I just am not ready to slip into yet.I have my own dreams and goals and I’m not going to let them go just so I can serve a husband.”
“Maybe when I’m your age,” she added, making me feel old for my 32 years, “I’ll be bored with my life and ready to become a wife and do all that being a wife requires — but not yet. Definitely not yet. I want to live life first.” We talked long into the evening, and I sought to understand where her mentality came from.
Having gotten married just two months shy of thirty, I had always longed for marriage and had never dreaded it with the dread this young woman was experiencing. I was aware of other women my age (and younger) having this dismal view of what it meant to be a wife, but I was a bit clueless as to how strong these opinions really were. I was also naïve as to the literal panic this mindset was instilling in young women.
My friend assured me that day that “most of her friends felt the same exact way. They liked romance but they didn’t want to be tied down with marriage.” Not only did I seek to understand how she had arrived to this conclusion of marriage equaling servanthood, I also attempted to encourage her that marriage is awesome and that being a wife doesn’t mean losing yourself.
I think she left that day unconvinced, however — images of the ideal wife as portrayed by the 1950’s shows like “Leave it to Beaver” and “Father Knows Best” still bigger than life in her mind.
What I tried to tell my young friend that day is that being a wife is not about serving your husband, foregoing your own hopes and dreams, being available to him all hours of the day, and never having a day that you can’t bum around the house in flannel pants and a T-shirt.
It isn’t being on demand for sex whenever he wants it, never being able to voice your opinion in the decision-making process, and being the one to do all the household duties while he sits and watches TV all day long.
What it is, I encouraged her, is being a helper to your husband, a person who helps make his life better, but not at the cost of losing who are you as a person. I tried to explain using my marriage as an example (not that I have the perfect marriage, but I do have an incredible husband who gives me the freedom to be his helper and not his slave). I think I take the approach that marriage is a partnership in living life.
Instead of walking the journey alone, now I have someone to walk on the road with me. It isn’t a burden to have a walking companion. Instead, it makes the journey easier and even more enjoyable. I don’t see marriage as having to serve a man.
I see it as an opportunity to help make someone’s life better — namely that of my husband. There is a joy that comes in doing for others. My joy comes from doing for my husband.
I don’t have to make and serve him meals; I do it because giving him a healthy breakfast every morning, packing his lunch, and having a warm meal waiting for him at night, makes his life easier. He works hard to support us and if I can do my part in that, by giving him great-tasting meals, then it is a pleasure, not a duty. In one way, although I am making meals for him, I’m helping myself in the long run.
I’m helping him put in a more productive day of work by providing fuel for his body to keep running. This, in turn, helps him bring in an income with which I buy groceries and clothing for us. Cooking my husband meals and serving them doesn’t just benefit my husband; the long term affects benefit me as well.
I am my husband’s helper by giving input into decisions that need to be made. As opposed to my friend’s viewpoint that marriage would result in her having to become a silent woman with no thoughts of her own, marriage has empowered me to be more vocal. My silence hinders my husband; voicing alternative points of view actually helps him.
Now, I do want to clarify that how I voice my opinions makes all the difference in the world as to whether I am helping or hindering him. If I voice my thoughts in a way that belittles and criticizes him, I’m not being his helper. But if I tell him what I think in a way that supports and respects him as a man, and if I present a view point he may never have seen on his own, then I have helped him. Knowing my husband’s life goals is another way I help him.
First of all, I know them. As simplistic as this sounds, this is the first step in being his helper in this area. I know them and I accept them. I don’t downplay them and I don’t tell him why they are stupid goals to have. I ask questions, I get clarifying answers, and then I keep his goals as much in the front of my mind as my own.
I seek to ask myself on a regular basis, “Am I helping my husband achieve his dreams?” For example, my husband has the dream of reaching out to husbands and dads and ministering to them. In order to do this, he wants to join a men’s group at our church one night a week. Not only does he want to join this group, he wants to open up our home for it.
This is where being a helper to my husband comes in. Though I am shy and quiet and enjoy my evenings in our little apartment as times of solitude and winding down, I want him to realize his dream of influencing men in a positive way.
So I will seek to have our apartment clean and refreshments available for his men’s group. This is not being his slave. This is simply finding the simple joy of watching my husband thrive on doing what he is passionate about.
I help my husband by being his friend. I am his confidant and his biggest fan. Being this to him gives him the confidence and emotional energy to go out and work every day. He knows I believe in him, and as I believe in him, he has more of a desire to be the best husband and father he can be.
Another way I help my husband is by being my own person. I am there for him, I seek to cook meals for him and keep his clothes and home clean, but I also have my own goals and dreams. I do not seek my confidence and well-being from my husband.
Do I want his approval and his heart? Absolutely.
Do I need him to be my everything at all times? No.
I don’t get angry when he wants to spend time with other men because I have my own hobbies and things that I enjoy. I don’t need him to be my entire world because I have my own personal goals and dreams.
This is hard to meld together sometimes, because I can be all or nothing. Sometimes I rely on my husband to be everything for me emotionally. At other times I swing the other way and become totally caught up in what I want to do with my life and neglect him. However, the more time passes, the more I am learning the balance between sharing my heart with him and being OK when he is busy and doesn’t have time to talk that day.
I am learning how to run to Lowe’s with him to keep him company at the last minute on an errand, and I am learning how to be self-sufficient and use one of his late nights at work to watch a movie I’ve been meaning to watch. I take care of my husband, but I don’t feel like a servant. Instead, I feel more fulfilled as a woman. I have a purpose every day that I get up for, knowing I have someone whose life I can help make better.
I have made my husband’s goals and dreams my own, yet I have not lost mine. Instead, mine have taken on new purpose as I can see how they line up with his and how the dreams together can make an incredible life for us and our family.
Contrary to what my friend thinks, marriage has not kept me from living life — it has instead brought life to me.
Pic of the Day: A dog is the only one that loves you more than himself