Chapter 16 in Wife School is called What to Do When Your Husband Has a Bad Idea. I love this chapter as women often get so bent out of shape over their husband’s impractical ideas. There is a better way to handle husbands than to jump down their throats when you disagree, right? You, Ms. Advanced-Wife-School-Student, now know this.
Week Sixteen, Day One
More on Difficult In-Laws
Years ago, a 19-year-old woman married a 21-year old man. Because they were both very young, the parents of the bride (who were Christians and very good parents) were exceptionally protective. In fact, at one time, the girl’s parents jumped on the young man for something they did not find appropriate about him. Obviously, this is not exactly the best way to start a relationship with the new husband of your daughter.
However, something strange occurred. Because of this young man’s high emotional intelligence, he did the unusual. He pursued his wife’s parents. He took them out to dinner. He brought his mother-in-law flowers. He forgave their offensive comment and moved toward them. He won them. Now, thirty years later (this is a true story) those in-laws adore this son-in-law. Instead of getting offended and starting down a course of “we don’t get along,” the wise husband decided that he would make huge, bold deposits and win his in-laws.
This is brilliant, I tell you. Spectacular. It’s rare and lovely to the max. What if we lived like that in our extended families? What if we loved the difficult in-laws instead of getting offended and pulling back? What if we forgave, overlooked, pursued, and moved toward them with love?
This is why this family is now one of the top families that I respect in the world. This is how they live, with humility, letting the offenses of others “pass through.” Of course your in-laws are going to do things differently, say the wrong things, and have different values. But they are now your family and it’s up to you, the wise woman, to smooth out the bumps and try to learn to get along.
A friend recently told me that her mother-in-law still makes derogatory cracks toward her (after 20 years of marriage!). I asked her how she handled that, as this situation seems very unpleasant to me. She said, “I hear the remarks, but I let them go. My mother-in-law’s not going to change and if I get bitter, that would only tarnish my soul. My husband loves his mother (even though she drives him crazy sometimes, too). We set appropriate boundaries with how much we see her and talk to her, but we are careful to be very dutiful to her and honor her. I know what a blessing it is to my husband for me to get along with his cantankerous mom. When she criticizes me and I let it go instead of confronting it, my husband is very appreciative.”
Some of you are thinking, “What about speaking the truth in love and confronting that mother-in-law for her inappropriate behavior?” Yes, maybe sometimes this is necessary. And sometimes it is wise for your husband to talk with her. But often, confronting mothers-in-law about their inappropriate behavior does not work. If you have a humble mother-in-law that will receive your thoughts and opinions, then greatly rejoice. However, it is common for older women to have trouble taking correction from their daughters-in-law. (This is a wake-up notice to all of us who are now in this second stage of life!) Therefore, if your mother-in-law always thinks she knows how to best live life, then your “speaking the truth in love” will fall on deaf ears. You and your husband will have to pray about this and ask God for wisdom to know if you should confront or to continue to overlook and forgive.
Wise women know that the in-law situation can be filled with tension, but they also know that it is a gift to their husbands to not only try to get along, but to demonstrate love toward his family. You do not have to feel a certain way to respond with goodness to others. Responding to your husband’s family with goodness is about the virtue in you, about returning good for evil, about you being a Christ-follower. The norm is to complain and stomp your foot; the godly response is to forgive and overlook.
I want to say again that establishing appropriate boundaries is necessary if an in-law is repeatedly verbally abusive and unpleasant. Nevertheless, if you can, forgiving and moving toward difficult in-laws is a “higher response. This is about you and your desire to honor God with a humble life. It’s fabulous, but it’s rare. It is though, how the woman whose worth is far above rubies, lives.
Week Sixteen, Day Two, Part A
How to Discuss Conflict and Areas of Incompatibility in Your Marriage
A few lessons ago, we discussed incompatibility in marriage. For example, some of us are cleanies and married to messies. Some of us are spenders and are married to savers. Some spouses like practical jokes and funny jabs while others want home to be a safe place. Spouses differ in how much time they think they should invest in hobbies, in work, and in the family. These are values and areas of incompatibility, not necessarily sinful areas (although women often think these areas are sinful on their husband’s part).
Being incompatible in your marriage in many areas is not a deal breaker. Yes, it’s easier if you share the same values and interests, but spouses can learn to have compassion and understanding in areas of incompatibility.
Let’s discuss what happens if you and your husband have a disagreement over an area where you don’t share the same value or opinion. This area continually pricks and upsets you. Let’s take the example of spending verses saving, as this area is a major source of conflict in many marriages. Pretend the husband in this example is the saver and the wife is the spender. You can start the conversation with something like this, “As you know, Honey, we feel differently about money. Let me see if I understand your perspective correctly.” Then you attempt to explain to him how he feels. He will correct you if you say something that is not right. That’s fine. Be humble and teachable. Listen well until you demonstrate that you understand his perspective perfectly.
For example, you might say something like, “Honey, because you know we will have some heavy expenses with education and orthodontics in the near future, you feel that spending money on anything which is not absolutely necessary is wrong. Am I correct? Having large expenditures looming in the future puts a lot of stress on you, too. Is this how you feel?”
After your husband feels completely heard and says, “Yes, that is how I feel”, then you say, “Now, would you please listen to how I feel?” How amazing it is that after others feel heard and understood, they will then be willing to listen to your perspective. Stephen Covey calls this principle, “Seek first to understand.” This is not a new thought, though. James 1:19 says,“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak…”
Now that you have accurately articulated your husband’s perspective, give your perspective. For an illustration, let’s assume that you want to spend a little money on a vacation to make family memories. If he responds to your perspective with, “Well, that’s stupid and wrong,” don’t get offended. You simply have more teaching to do. You can say, “Honey, this is an area of preference about money and I want to see if we can negotiate and come to an agreement.” He can bark all he wants but stay sweet and say, “I hope that you will consider my perspective”. If you stay sweet, and are always depositing the magic 8 A’s, this man’s bark will soften, I promise. It’s okay for you to say, “I want you to understand and consider my opinion just because you love me.” Most husbands will soften to that in time (maybe not today). They know they shouldn’t demand that you feel exactly like them about everything. And when their tanks are full, they are usually willing to hear your perspective (and of course, this is assuming that you have thrown emotional turmoil out of your house and into the deepest part of the Pacific Ocean). Having a godly, giving, and loving wife (you!) tears down the brick wall that husbands have constructed over their hearts.
It is a magnificent thing, indeed, to be the wise and godly power behind the throne, who can speak and influence with kindness, goodness, and self-control!
Week Sixteen, Day Two, Part B
Yes, Kids Are a Lot of Work (Research That Documents Season 1 and Season 2)
Waiting in a doctor’s office once, I picked up a magazine called Outside. In the magazine was an article on happiness. It gave a study that compared the happiness of couples with children to the happiness of those without children. The first study said that a couples’ happiness diminishes when they have a child, and that each additional child lowers the happiness rating. (Our sixth child was with me when I read that. He joked about how sad we must have been when he arrived.) The article said that childless couples at this stage are happier than couples with children.
I thought about that. And I understood it. In the short run, a farmer is happier in May if he is watching TV in his air-conditioned home rather than being outside in the hot sun, plowing the fields. And likewise, I am happier in the moment when I am surfing the net versus when I am pushing this stiff body to work out. But let me continue with the study in that magazine.
The next study compared couples that never had children with couples who experienced empty nest. The couples with grown children were happier. This is a perfect example of Season 1 and Season 2. Kids can be exhausting and can rock your world. And multiple kids doubly rock your world. But the joy of having mature grown children is quite fulfilling. (I am certainly not setting my children up on any pedestals as examples. They are normal young people with many normal struggles. Nevertheless, they are quite the delight to their father and me.) If you are currently in Season 1, I realize your children are wearing you out. You are scraping just to get through the day. Boy, do I remember those days. But Friends, children are God’s gift of hope to us. They are worth every ounce of your effort. Children indeed are a blessing from the Lord (Psalm 127: 3-5). In my opinion, friendship with adult children is one of the supreme blessings on this side of heaven (along with, of course, a happy marriage!)
Back to the farming example. Guess who is happier when the harvest has come in? The guy who has a full barn or the guy who was watching TV in the air conditioning during planting season? And guess who is happier, the person who surfed the web for hours or the person who lost fifteen pounds working out? Sowing is hard. Sowing is no fun. But reaping is a blast.
Everything worthwhile takes effort. And nothing is worth more effort than your sweet (but ornery) children. Don’t begrudge all the work they are. They are definitely worth it. Sow in Season 1, reap in Season 2. (But btw, Love and Logic (LoveAndLogic.com) sure makes Season 1 easier so be sure to devour their resources.)
Week Sixteen, Day Three, Part A
The Spiritual Leadership of Your Husband…Revisited
Women are always looking for emotional closeness in their marriage. And the latest ploy of women is to bash their husbands for not being spiritual leaders.
Let me give you the spiritual leadership fantasy of many women. Ready? The fantasy is of a husband who gathers his wife and little chickens under his wing, and with a great servant-spirit, he prays, “Oh God, may I decrease and may my family increase. May I understand how to meet my wife’s every need and be a perfect father. God, help me learn to love to help with the dishes. Oh God, help me bind up all the myriad wounds and hurts of my family. Put their trials on me and protect them from any harm or discomfort. May I instead, be uncomfortable, not them. May I meet my wife’s need for emotional intimacy with great fervor. Help me listen to her and compliment her so that she feels safe, adored, and treasured. May I lead my children with the utmost of gentleness and be the world’s greatest dad, as well as the most fun dad in town. And now, use Your Word in my life so that I may royally bless my family. Amen.”
That nailed your spiritual leadership fantasy, didn’t it?
Do you know how many men that I know that do that perfectly? Zero. Right, zero. Do you know what real spiritual leadership is? Real spiritual leadership is when your husband makes time to read his Bible. Spiritual leadership is when he finds time to pray. Spiritual leadership is demonstrated in a man when he is faithful, honest, hard-working, and full of integrity. Men demonstrate spiritual leadership when they coral their sexual craziness. They demonstrate their spiritual leadership when they get hold of their anger, and surrender to the portion that God has given them today—all the while peacefully and proactively seeking to improve their situation. Men who are spiritual leaders hold their little girls in their laps and throw baseballs with their sons.
That’s a spiritual leader. If your husband gathers the family together to teach them the Word and pray, then that is a bonus. Yes, the husband is commanded to wash his wife with the Word (Ephesians 5:26), but the wife is also commanded to respond to his disobedient behavior without a word and instead, with a gentle and quiet spirit (1 Peter 3). How well are you doing with that? When you get your part right, then maybe you can ask your husband to lead the family in Bible study and prayer. But not until…
We humans tend to see our own goodness and other people’s failings. Reverse that. Talk to the Lord in prayer about your sin and then look for virtue in your husband. This is a great picture of extreme maturity in a woman.
There is a nice song out now about spiritual leadership in marriage that says, “Lead me with strong hands…” That’s a good song to convict men to do better, but honestly, it makes women discontent. If your husband makes a living and is faithful, be thankful. Those are the only two expectations you can have in marriage. Yes, of course you want more. So figure out the next biggest thing you want and ask for that. But you know by now, you can’t ask for everything at once. Spiritual leadership is not a right that you can demand from your husband. It’s a bonus. Give your faithful, hard-working, honest husband a break. You need to quit expecting him to be Jesus.
Week Sixteen, Day Three, Part B
Something Husbands Like
Regularly, a group of friends and I have lunch. While two of us were waiting on a couple of the others to arrive, I asked the wise woman with me (who mentors women) what she thought were the most important principles to communicate to young wives about what is important in growing a great marriage.
She said two things that you regularly hear in Wife School Online. One was get rid of the emotional turmoil (she put this in her own words, of course) and two, was to make the physical intimacy part of marriage fun for him. Then, she added a new phrase that I like. She said, “Husbands want you to ‘tend’ to him.” I like that word. Let’s talk about what “tending” looks like.
Tending to a husband could be that we notice his glass is empty and we refill it. It could be that we know we will be gone for the afternoon, so we make sure there is a sandwich prepared for him in the fridge. It could be that we notice that he has had a busy week, so we make plans where he can relax and regroup, instead of scheduling an event that we want to do. Tending to your husband is nothing more than noticing him, thinking about what he is going through, demonstrating concern, and giving him attention.
The common projectile in marriage is for the wife to be consumed with the children/her events/her goals and to take the husband for granted. The normal thinking is that “he can fend for himself since I’m so busy and overloaded.” But a little tending is huge to men. Bringing him a treat to eat, getting his briefcase out of the car for him, being on time when you are going places together, remembering that he likes to play golf on Saturday mornings so you don’t schedule a meeting then, standing up and going over to kiss him hello when he comes home, asking him about his day, then deeply listening…there are endless situations where we can be mindful of what attention and tending he would like.
So many women ignore these little acts of kindness after the newness wears off. Wise wives tend to their husbands until death do them part. They show their concern and respect through thousands of little daily gestures.
Men love their wives to tend to them and give them attention. This never changes. Never.
Week Sixteen, Day Four
Handling Your “Disappointing Thing”
I like to go to bed early and get up early. This morning at 4:30 a.m., I was in the kitchen, starting the coffee. Morning is a happy time for me, when the rest of the world is asleep and I am getting started on my day.
The thoughts start their usual parade across the screen of my mind. “Where is the cat?” “I need to start my son’s laundry.” “How much time do I have to write before I have to leave today?” And slam, out of nowhere, the “deep hurt in my heart that I have wrestled with for years” pops up. Just out of nowhere, “thoughts of what was missing and what was disappointing” are right there, in the quiet of the kitchen, marching with force across my mind. It’s almost as if I can feel the energy drain from my heart when these thoughts enter. It’s as if someone squeezes my heart, and then harshly slaps my wrist with a ruler. The thoughts of Disappointing Thing were unannounced, and didn’t even knock. He just let himself into the rooms of my mind, wanting attention.
So, there I am, waiting for the coffee to brew, thinking about how many years Disappointing Thing has cut me. And honestly, I realized that I see little hope for things to change in this area in the future. Just like so many times before, there I am in my jammies with Disappointing Thing, all cozy together in the kitchen at 4:30 a.m.
However, I am not my old self. I have now learned that when I see Disappointing Thing enter the room of my mind, he is immediately escorted right back out the door, since this is not a good time for him to visit. My response to Disappointing Thing is “You’re not welcome to come and make me sad.” I immediately find another thought to think about. I only talk about and think about Disappointing Thing when I am with God in prayer, talking about “proactive ways to fix this” with someone who cares about me (or who could have answers), or when I am proactively researching answers.
What is so interesting to me is that I have the power to make Disappointing Thing leave. He is not in charge of my thoughts; I am. The coffee was now ready so I go to my office (ha, my office—which is an undecorated spare bedroom) and begin my day, back with a happy heart.
Whatever your Disappointing Thing is, corral it. Quarantine it. Don’t let it consume your thoughts. Decide you will only think about it in the three situations that I just stated: in prayer, when you are legitimately discussing proactive solutions with someone who cares about you (or has access to answers), or when you are proactively researching answers (awww, thank You, God, for the internet). Otherwise, put Disappointing Thing back in a box on a shelf in heaven.
Whether your hurt and disappointment is infertility, a lack of intimacy in the marriage, a child that has repeated struggles, loneliness, health issues, financial problems that won’t resolve, relationship issues, weight trials, dreams that are not happening…address these issues in your mind only in the above three situations. Don’t let Disappointing Thing burst in unannounced and unwanted into the sacredness of your mind. He’s not welcome. He’s not wanted. And you get him to leave by thinking about something else.
There’s a whole new science about the plasticity of the brain (how the brain can change) that is truly amazing. You can change your brain by what you think about. You can change your life by what you think about. And you have control in this area.
1 Peter 5:8 says, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” I don’t think that the random and sudden appearance of Disappointing Thing on the landscape of my mind is an accident. I think Someone very devious and very intentional is trying to keep me from joy. Don’t let your Enemy suggest upsetting thoughts to you, but instead, have a strategy to fight back.
By now, I hope you have some pages in your Turquoise Journal called “Recurring Problems.” On the left side of the page, write down your problems. On the right side of the page, write “encouragement from the Lord on this issue, proactive ideas that might solve the problem, and how you are to ‘frame’ this issue in your mind while you work on it and wait on the Lord.” After you pray through this, you put it on the shelf in heaven, not letting it slap you around. Instead, substitute Philippians 4:8 thoughts for Disappointing Thing.
We have to fight discouragement, Friends. We fight it in our minds, on our knees (with Scripture), and in one more place, which I will now discuss.
One more very important piece of information about fighting the hurt of Disappointing Thing is that burdens are to be shared in life. When we lived in Virginia, a certain lady was new to the area and went through some very hard trials in her life. Not being well-connected to a community, she shouldered the burden alone with her husband. Later, after she got connected to an intimate group of friends in her church, she again went through another painful trial. This time, she said, the burden was halved, because she was able to share the burden with others who cared about her.
There is a video that has gone viral called This Might Be the World’s Most Romantic Proposal (you can find it on YouTube). What I loved about this video was of course, the effort of the man to propose like this. But what really made this video was the community of the couple. (Get your Kleenexes out before you watch it.)
Who is this community for you? You may need to proactively seek some new relationships because living alone stinks. We were created for community and you will never find great joy living by yourself.
Don’t try to make it alone. You won’t.
The Disappointing Thing in your life is probably not going to go away anytime soon. “In this world, you will have tribulation” (John 16:33). But having a strategy to battle Disappointing Thing will help you tremendously.
Week Sixteen, Day Five, Part A
A Difficult but Necessary Discipline to Master
This morning, I got tickled as I read about our girlfriend, Eve, in Genesis 3. Did you know that Eve is ridiculously just like you and me? She is thinking about whether she should eat the apple or not and here is her reasoning (everything in parentheses I added): “When Eve saw that the fruit was good for food (pleasure, yum yum), pleasing to the eye (yes, like, pretty clothes, makeup, fixing up our house, creating beauty), and desirable for gaining wisdom (thinking that with wisdom, she could make everything turn out okay for herself and those she loved), she took some and ate it.”
Right there you have woman. Isn’t that hilarious? This passage describes every woman I know: wanting pleasure, wanting beauty, and wanting wisdom so she can know how to make everything turn out okay for herself and those she loves. Much of a woman’s natural motivation is described in one sentence. It blows my mind.
And the next sentence is even funnier. She wanted her husband to understand her. So, “she also gave some to her husband who was with her.” Can you believe how identical Eve is to you and me?
What this again tells me is that this Book is divinely written. God has all sorts of hidden gems for you and me, if we will just open up the Treasure Box. The Bible has the power to change my heart because the Person who wrote it created my heart. Dr. Adrian Rogers used to say, “You read most books. This Book reads you.”
Henry Ward Beecher said, “The Bible is God’s chart for you to steer by, to keep you from the bottom of the sea, and to show you where the harbor is, and how to reach it without running on rocks and bars.” It’s hard to hear from God when you’re not reading the main method that He gave humans to communicate with Him.
I hope you are systematically studying your Bible. Jack Hayford said, “The Bible is…as necessary to spiritual life as breath is to natural life. There is nothing more essential to our lives than the Word of God.”
This Book changes you and this Book changes me, because this Book is living! Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” No woman can spiritually grow unless she has a huge intake of Scripture. This is non-negotiable for a Christ-follower.
I’m not a creature of routine. So I frequently change what I do for a Quiet Time. Currently, I am reading out of a Bible called The Case for Christ Study Bible by Lee Stroebel. But in a few weeks, that will change. (This is similar to how I switch from going to the gym, doing exercise DVD’s at home, using weights at home, etc. as I get bored easily and like to mix things up.) You may be a creature of habit and that is fine. Get a plan so that you are having time every day with the Lord in His Word.
Romans 10:17 says, “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.” If you are having doubts, or are struggling with letting God rule your life, maybe you are eating junk food for a spiritual diet (like some of those trashy TV shows). And on that note…
Week Sixteen, Day Five, Part B
Are You Having Difficulty with Your Faith and Subsequently, Your Role as a Woman?
A young girl in our neighborhood who is in grade school was fighting with her brother in her front yard. I asked her what was wrong. She told me that she looked out the window of her fifth grade classroom and saw her brother playing sissy games with the girls at recess, instead of playing sports with the boys. She said her brother embarrassed her. Of course, we know that siblings care about how their siblings act, because they feel it is a reflection on them.
You and I understand this about siblings. And Jesus understood this. In John 7:5, the Bible says, “For even His own brothers did not believe in Him.” In another passage in Matthew 12: 46, the Bible says, “While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him.” Jesus’ brothers did not believe in Him and were embarrassed by his claims.
Josepheus, the secular Jewish historian, later wrote that James, the half-brother of Jesus was stoned to death (from The Case for Christ Study Bible by Lee Stroebel). Think about that. A half-brother, who was earlier embarrassed by Jesus’s actions, now gets himself stoned defending his brother’s claims of being the Messiah.
Why did James change from being embarrassed to putting himself in leadership where he is stoned?What happened to James?
1 Corinthians 15 says that Jesus “appeared to James” after the resurrection. This half-brother who was earlier embarrassed by Jesus, saw Him after the resurrection. Saw Him. Not only is James not embarrassed anymore, he becomes the leader of the church in Jerusalem, the most hostile place toward Jesus on earth! James saw his half-brother, Jesus, risen from the dead!
Friends, the story of James reminds me, once again, that the story of Jesus is true. Everything in the Bible hinges on the fact that the resurrection is true. And since it is true, we can believe God has a plan to bless us when we live in a Biblical mode. The whole book of Proverbs is about two things: the path of the righteous leads to blessings and the path of the wicked leads to curses. God made rules and paths so that we might be blessed!
If you feel your Biblical role and life are difficult to embrace, realize that the One who created the universe created you to live the role of a Biblical woman. There is much blessing for women when they embrace their role. Quit fighting your role. Study it. (Titus 2, 1 Peter 3, Proverbs 31, 1 Timothy 5, etc. are good places to start.) Delight in the beauty of it. God wants you to learn this role. It is indeed a garden full of peace and blessing.
Sometimes, I get a little weary, God, with working, cleaning, handling arguments with the kids, doing my job at church, shouldering my girlfriends’ problems, and being on to Bump. It. Up. with my husband. It seems that I give and love and then do it all again. The workload is heavier than I want. The life I dreamed about as a little girl certainly didn’t turn out like I thought it was going to.
Yes, I have some nice moments in life. I do love my husband and children. But still, there is a lot of heartache here in my life. A lot of disappointment seems to come my way (and yes, I know I am supposed to be fighting that but it is so hard to fight!). Help me be a woman of joy, Lord. Help me get rid of this self-pity that just doesn’t seem to want to go away!
And another thing, Lord: I’m tired! Help me figure out what to let go of…and what to do so that I’m not so exhausted all the time.
I want to be close to you, God. You know that. Help remind me to pray more. Help me get organized so I will have a daily time where I get my soul happy in You. You never designed me to figure it out myself. Your design was that You are going to live through me and that is where the joy and power is. Help me learn this. I’m still such a child as far as my faith.
Forgive me, God, for trying to live in my own strength. Of course, that’s why I’ve been failing. You want to fill me with the Holy Spirit and He wants to run my life. Will I ever get that?
In Jesus name,
- How could you improve your relationship with your husband’s family? Describe. __________________________________________________________________
- Do you seek first to understand or seek first to explain your opinion? Explain.
- Is Season 1 a lot of work for you? Do you ever resent your children for all the workload they represent? Do you now accept that Season 1 is sowing and Season 2 is reaping?__________________________________________________________________
- What are your thoughts about your husband and spiritual leadership? Do you accept what he gives or are you disappointed? Explain. __________________________________________________________________
- How good are you at tending or giving attention to your husband? Explain.
- Does your Disappointing Thing slap you around a lot? If so, what are your plans to corral that beast?
- What are you doing for a daily Quiet Time? Is this a struggle or not? Explain. __________________________________________________________________
- Do you struggle with your faith? If so, do you also struggle with your role as a woman?