Chapter 12 in Wife School is called How to Correct Your Husband. Another title could be The Art of Telling Your Husband What He Needs to Hear without Offending Him. This chapter is crucial to read and reread until you learn how to discuss negative things with your husband in a wise fashion. Next week’s chapter is about word pictures, which is a continuation of this week’s lesson. I suggest you take as much time as needed to learn these tremendously important wife skills.
I almost named Wife School, The Art of Being A Wife, because that is what this course really is, a study in the rare and magnificent art of being a fantastic wife! You are well on your way to being that Marriage Champion!
Week Twelve, Day One
If You Struggle With Regrets
At a family meal in a restaurant over the holidays, our adult children were gathered and my husband, David, asked their advice on what would be a good ice-breaker question to a group of people that didn’t know each other. Of course, before the group gave serious answers, they all gave their funny answers. Our son-in-law was especially funny. His suggestions for ice-breaker questions were, “If you were going to take a medication to overcome one of your personality issues, what medication would it be?” He also offered, “What is your biggest lifelong regret? Tell us all about it in detail.”
We all hooted over those questions, because the thought of asking such incredibly invasive questions to a group of people who didn’t know each other was so absurd. Sharing your greatest personal regrets in life strikes at the very core of your privacy and pain. We don’t want others to know our greatest regrets and mistakes. But sadly, many of us continue to let regrets ravage our own personal peace.
The healthy approach is, of course, “let bygones be bygones.” But few of us do that.
Years ago, one friend told me that before she came to Christ, she had had three abortions. I’m not sure what you regret, but I can’t imagine that it’s more painful than realizing that you chose to take the life of your own child. Now this woman has three lovely children, but the pain of ridding her body of those earlier fetuses continued to vehemently attack her. Eventually, she joined a healing group of other mothers who had had abortions. This group had a candlelight service in which they honored their aborted children and received forgiveness from God for their mistake. This woman continues to be occasionally harassed by the devil for her past sin, but every time, she goes to God and is reminded that she is forgiven. Then, she purposely decides to think about something else. This is how we must approach regrets. Regrets can eat you alive, if you don’t know the healing balm of the forgiveness of Jesus.
An example with less intensity is my grandmother, who was a farmer’s wife, and lived through the Depression. When some inexpensive neighboring land became available to purchase, she and her husband declined. Then, the farmland rose astronomically in price. For years—and I mean thirty years!—I heard, “If only we had bought that land!” The regret of not taking advantage of the opportunity to obtain financial independence—when she could have—continued to haunt her.
Another older female relative used to bemoan, “If only I had gone to college” and another woman lamented, “If only I had decided to have more children.” The list goes on and on with regrets in which plague women.
The Apostle Paul had some regrets. He killed Christians before he was converted. What a horrible memory to endure. But Paul says something that I have to say over and over to myself, and that is, “forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead” (Philippians 3:13).
For sure, we must learn from our regrets, but there is a time when we must receive forgiveness, put the regret behind us, and not let it continue to wash over our brains. Sometimes the fact that we are forgiven is too much for our small minds to absorb. However, it is true that what you think about determines your mood (you know that, right?), so repeatedly pondering regrets (not counting, of course, mining them for their learning experience) is a tool of the Enemy.
God takes all of your and my mistakes and regrets and weaves them into this awesome, beautiful tapestry for good because “…we know that for those who love God all things work together for good” (Romans 8:28). I think of the train wrecks of my earlier relationships, and how God used that to motivate me to learn about relationships. Some of my earlier relationship skills are comical to think about. David was warned by one of his friends before we got married that I was going to be a handful. One girl in elementary school was not allowed to hang out with me because her Christian mother said I was a bad influence on her. Just because you had a prior failure doesn’t mean you are a failure. God takes our weaknesses, and gives us beauty for ashes. “… His compassions never fail. They are new every morning.” (Lamentations 3:22-23). Who can believe that? We are such wretches, yet His compassions never fail. Just the best news ever! Although we don’t deserve it, we are forgiven and now, God has plans to bless us in spite of our failures!
So give up letting your regrets beat you up and give up wasting time thinking about them. God is using them, even though you wish you had done differently. Isaiah 55:8 says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.
When you give up your unproductive and untrue thought patterns, such as regret, you begin to enjoy your freedom in the Lord. Enjoy that He has plans to prosper you. Enjoy that the hairs on your head are counted. Enjoy this day, because the grass withers and the flowers fade and your days are numbered. Quit wasting your life with negative emotional thought patterns such as regret. Instead, focus on the delightful surprise around the river bend. (“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11)
We all have regrets. We all make mistakes. Learn from them. Confess and repent of any sin. Then receive forgiveness and move on. God has much more to you to do.
Week Twelve, Day Two
Your Husband Wants a Womanly Woman
I know a young single woman who is extremely gifted in her profession. She has degrees from here to China. She’s pretty, charming, bright, and godly. In fact, she’s absolutely adorable. But she has had trouble finding Mr. Right. Although she is a rock star in her career, she has not quite learned the art of being a womanly woman. Men still want a womanly woman in their romantic relationship, one in which he feels manly. Let’s discuss what this means.
It is wonderful for women to be amazing at their jobs. One example is a young wife who I know that can outwork and out-produce all the men at her office. However, she has had to learn to leave her combat boots at the door. When she gets home, she turns into a Cinderella, and puts her tiger personality in its cage.
This isn’t phony. You can have different aspects to your personality. You just have to remember that men like womenly women. Even if you are the CEO at work, bossing everyone around, you are to have a gentle and quiet spirit at home.
God made men to desire womenly women. You aren’t going to change that, just like you are not going to change what time the sun comes up. And being mad about this doesn’t change it from being true. So be smart. Be a soft and sweet woman around your husband. Yes, be a dynamo at giving direction and orders on your job, at running your house, at your home business, at running the events in which you are in charge, etc. But your husband doesn’t want you being a dynamo in running him. He wants you to hand him the scepter and follow. This is difficult for all women, but especially difficult for you dynamos.
I think it’s a great time to be alive for women. We can enjoy using our gifts as well as enjoy having our heart’s desire, which is a wonderful marriage and home. But in marriage, we will always have to watch our powerful and controlling natures. Men don’t like it. They never have, they never will. Use your intelligence and energy for good. Don’t check your brains at the door when you get home; just check your combat boots.
Cinderella, not G.I. Joe, is who your husband wants to be married to.
Week Twelve, Day Three
Are You Causing Turmoil in Your Husband’s Family?
A while back, we met a missionary couple who have four married sons. The husband told us that the oldest two boys are fourteen months apart and were inseparable growing up, the best of best friends. However, after they got married, their wives developed a personality clash.The two boys that were best friends hardly speak anymore.
Having five sons, this story grieved me. But knowing how wives influence husbands, I can easily see how this happened. Another friend of mine was very close to her only son. When he got engaged, somehow my friend ruffled the feathers of the new daughter-in-law and now the son barely communicates with his mom.
Women, it is incredibly selfish of us to steal our husband’s heart from his family of origin, just because we don’t like something about them. I see it all the time! The new bride realizes the power she now wields over her new husband so she drops hints and discusses his family’s dysfunction (as if hers didn’t have any!) Since husbands are ridiculously influenced by wives, they often cut ties or radically change their prior relationship with their family of origin.
If your husband loved his family before you arrived, then your job is to find a way to fit in. I didn’t say “they need to find a way to fit in with you.” I said, you need to find a way to fit in with them. How dreadful for you to be a stir stick in his family. Even if they are weird, are lazy, are too outspoken, are shallow, are greedy, are not Christians, are Christians, or are anything else. This is the man you were given to love and he loves his family of origin. Fit in.
If his mother or sisters are hard, then give extra. If your new sister-in-law gossips about you, then model Christ! Be the example of Christ to her: overlooking, forgiving, foregoing, and returning good for evil. All in-law situations are laced with dynamite. Suddenly, these weird and different people are your family. Of course that’s difficult. But you have all the power. You are the one who influences their son. Why, he’s not going to cross the only person in the world from whom he gets legitimate sex.
But you’re not a brat, right? You’re not ugly like that, right? You love and give to his cracked-up family because that is what love looks like (see 1 Corinthians 13 for a definition of love). Yes, they are dysfunctional wretches. But so are you. And so am I.
And guess what? Even though your husband’s family drives him bonkers, he loves them. And it honors him when you love them, forgive them, overlook their idiotic idiosyncrasies and hang-ups.
Your husband’s family may be rude to you and then, yes, ask your husband to defend you and stick up for you. But don’t withdraw from them. Don’t hold a grudge against them. Set some good boundaries in your life (see Week Seven, Day Five in Volume 1 for more on in-laws) but be a peacemaker. That’s your calling.
I read a story once about some soldiers who were in the bunkhouse and were making fun of a Christian soldier. One particularly mean soldier said some really ugly things to the Christian soldier and then threw his boot at him and hit him in the head. The soldiers all went to bed and the next morning, the mean soldier woke up to see his boots at the side of his bed, polished. With tears, he went to the Christian soldier, and said, “What is it in you that makes you able to act like this when you are mistreated?”
Friend, it is Christ in us who can love others when we are mistreated. Love your husband by forgiving his crazy relatives, his selfish relatives, his rude relatives, his stupid and mean relatives, his relatives who don’t get it and think they are always right. This is when we are most like Jesus, when we forego and forgive others.
I didn’t say it was easy. I said it was Christ-like.
If you are one of the lucky and rare women who married into a family that respects you and is semi-normal, then…(do what?)…write it in your Turquoise Journal and rejoice!
Week Twelve, Day Four
Helping Your Husband Grow Spiritually
Today we will discuss several ideas to help your husband grow spiritually. The first idea is to remember that we all become like the people we hang around, so, naturally, spouses have more influence on each other than anyone else.
We don’t fool the ones we live with. You may fool your friends or the folks at church, but your husband knows the real you. He knows what you read before you go to bed; he knows what you watch on TV. He knows what excites you and what upsets you. So the number one piece of advice to help your husband grow spiritually is to be the person you want him to be (spiritually). If you want him to be a man of prayer, first be a woman of prayer. If you want him to be honest, be incredibly honest yourself. Often women want a quality or attribute from a man and then they are not like that. Being the person (spiritually) you want him to be, however, doesn’t mean hitting him over the head about being a spiritual leader. Study 1 Peter 3 and learn to influence your husband with your pure and reverent behavior. Your behavior is louder than your words.
Secondly to help your husband grow spiritually, find godly things about your husband and praise them. Is he honest? Is he faithful? Is he responsible? Loyal? Women fuss about the towels not being hung up and then ignore the fact that their husbands are the kind of men who if they were in a foxhole, would sacrifice themselves to protect others. Think about his virtue. If he makes an insightful comment about the sermon, tell him how much it pleases you that he thinks hard about Scriptural truths. If he stands up to a wrong, tell him how protected you feel by his character. If you look for character, you will find it. His weaknesses have had your focus and now that you are concentrating on something different (his virtue), it will appear.
Thirdly, encourage your husband to form friendships with other godly men. The church has tried many ideas to form community and still, the basic Sunday School class seems to work extremely well. Small groups and other ideas are awesome, but many men with jobs and families can’t add one more night a week to be out, so the traditional Sunday School class (when a nursery is available) works for many couples.
Let’s discuss what to do if your husband is engaged in something you think is unwholesome. If your husband watches some trash TV (or trash internet comedy), do not criticize him. You simply say “I’d rather not watch that show” and go find something else to do in another room. He will know how you feel. You don’t want to be a judgmental Pharisee but you also don’t want to endorse something you feel is sinful. If you are walking with the Lord and meeting his 8 A’s, he will be drawn to you and slowly, your ability to influence him will increase. Many men have been plucked from sinful activities by the example of a godly, humble, reverent wife (again see 1 Peter 3) who meets his needs rather than from a nagging Pharisaical wife. Let your godliness call him up. (This advice is not for women whose husbands are abusive or addicted to porn, alcohol, or drugs. Please find a godly counselor to help you if this is your unfortunate situation.)
Many women forget the most obvious and important strategy: prayer. Daily, cover every aspect of your husband in prayer. One book that I recommend on prayer is called Secrets of the Secret Place by Bob Sorge. Learn how to storm the gates of heaven with prayer. I am currently again reading The Soul Winner by Charles Spurgeon. In a chapter entitled, How to Raise the Dead, Spurgeon is speaking to young preachers about how to help others become born again. The part on prayer in this chapter makes me want to carve out hours each day to wrestle with the God who hears, who cares, and who is able. If you are not a praying wife, then you are not a godly wife. Don’t ignore your first duty in life!
Although your husband is not where you want him to be right now, there is much hope for tremendous change in a man when a woman gives the 8 A’s, gets rid of her emotional turmoil, develops a gentle and quiet spirit, and walks with the Lord! You are on the fifty year plan!
Week Twelve, Day Five, Part A
Beginning Thoughts on Acquiring Contentment
In Week Ten, Day Three, we discussed some ideas to improve your mood. Hopefully, by now, you are taking responsibility for the thoughts that float across the screen of your mind, knowing that thoughts about circumstances—not circumstances—cause emotions. It is a continual battle to gird up the loins of your mind, and you must fight diligently.
The mind, as you know, tends to be like gravity, which means it has a downhill, negative bias. I mean, we notice the red ink on exam papers, and we notice what’s wrong with ourselves as well as others. We have to make a huge effort to reverse this trend. If you can train your mind to cast off negative thought patterns and to substitute Philippians 4:8 thoughts (whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, etc.), then you can actually change the emotional climate you live in. Navy Seals, as well as elite athletes, engage in mental training. There is much you can do to overcome a scattered, emotional, negative mind.
We’ve discussed worry and leaving your issues on the shelf in heaven after they have been thoroughly prayed through. We’ve discussed regrets (Week Twelve, Day One). Today I want to begin a discussion on contentment.
Many years ago, David had an associate named Alvin. One day Alvin came to work and said, “I may have some problems, but the Lord gave me a contented wife.” When David repeated that remark to me later that night, I remember thinking, “How is that possible? How could she be content?” She didn’t have the wealth, the lifestyle, or many of the other things that I thought were absolutely crucial for happiness and contentment. But she had that rare jewel of contentment, something I was still light years away from understanding at the time.
I find that women are in two ditches as far as contentment. Let’s discuss both and then hopefully, find something positive in-between.
Ditch one, and the most common ditch, is the woman who complains, complains, and complains, without much prayer. She manipulates, moves, corrals, and re-orders. Then complains some more. Whether it’s her children’s lives, her church, her friends, or her own life, this woman is disappointed with the scenery and lets everyone around know.
Ditch two seems very spiritual, but this woman just says, “Well, I want it to be all of the Lord.” Therefore, she takes no action to improve her life. Women, God feeds the birds, but He doesn’t put the worms in the nests! To be honest, this woman is lazy. We are to pray with gusto, listen for His still, quiet voice, and then we are to proactively move forward. The New Testament is full of Spirit-driven effort. Paul says in 1 Timothy 4:10, “That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God…”
So, what is the balance? The balance is to be a prayer warrior, asking God all the time, all the time, what to do, what to do, and then waiting in prayer to hear His marching orders. Yes, we are to search for wise answers as if they were silver. But after you have prayed like the persistent widow, and exhausted hunting for wise answers, put your problems on the shelf in heaven. You can’t let your mind continually think about your problems. Put the yappy puppies in the basement.Thinking about what is missing and disappointing all the time is a surefire recipe for depression because feelings always follow thoughts. At some point, you have to surrender to what is while pleading with God to change things.
Paul says he is content with food and clothing. Ha, that’s a joke right? He means great food, awesome clothes, good schools, a beautiful house, lots of free time, and a great social network. Surely that’s what he meant to say. That’s certainly the standard I see. (I forgot to mention skinniness and youthfulness. Those are necessary, too, right?)
One man told me that his wife gets up singing every morning, like a little bird. The smile on his face told me how much pleasure he derives from her happy heart. If you think about it, you know that one person’s mood affects everyone else in the house. So if you are happy and content, trusting God to do you good, you pull others up. If you are discontent and sullen, discouraged and doubting God, you do the opposite. Your contented and peaceful heart is one of the most important gifts you give to your family. What a blessing to your family for you to have tranquility and an inner happiness. I’m talking about a deep peace because the Lord of the universe is carrying your burdens. He knows, He cares, and when He thinks the time is right, He is able.
I would like to mention the sullen, downcast woman who nevertheless, endures. This is not a woman that blesses anyone. No, the woman that blesses others “laughs at the days to come” because she has spent time in the presence of the Almighty. This woman has godly energy and a loveliness that is youthful, no matter what her age.
If you have ever been in one of my groups, I talk repeatedly about Deruchette, the heroine of the novel, Toilers of the Sea, by Victor Hugo. He writes of Deruchette, “Her presence lights the home; her approach is like a cheerful warmth; she passes by and we are content; she stays awhile and we are happy. Is it not a thing of divine to have a smile which, none know how, has the power to lighten the weight of that enormous chain that all the living in common drag behind them? Deruchette possessed this smile; we may say that this smile was Deruchette herself.”
Hugo continues, “There is in this world no function more important than that of being charming—to shed joy around, to cast light upon dark days, to be the golden thread of our destiny and the very spirit of grace and harmony. Is this not to render a service?”
On a heavenly resume, can you put that you have the “power to cast light on dark days?” Do you ever read in the current women magazines that to be beautiful, you need to have the “power to lighten the weight of that enormous chain that all the living in common drag behind them?” No, but these are the descriptions of the truly beautiful women in our lives, the contented ones, the ones who live close to the heart of Jesus, know Him, trust Him, and obey Him.
David and I know a young woman like this. She walks into the room and her energy radiates, fills, and lightens the spirits of all present. We have a sentence we have said to her for years when she leaves, and it also is a quote from Victor Hugo: “She stays awhile and we are happy.”
Contentment is a rare jewel, a rare commodity. What marvelous beauty!
There is not a formula for contentment, but the best balanced advice I can come up with is to be content with what is (knowing that God hears, cares, and is working all things for good) while all the time, prayerfully pursuing how to fix what isn’t right.
Paul says he learned contentment. You can’t get this in a day, any more than you can learn Japanese in a day. But start. Work in your Turquoise Journal. Make a list of your areas of discontent. Learn to persevere in prayer so that God carries your burdens. List ways you may solve your problems and pray over the list. Rest and leave your burdens on the shelf in heaven, even as you are taking proactive, Spirit-led actions toward solving your issues. Psalm 121:4 says, “… He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” God is aware of your issues. Rest and wait on Him to give you peace and direction. Then rise up and be wildly proactive in the direction He leads in solving your problems.
Contentment is accepting what is right now but it is does not prohibit you from looking for answers.
Week Twelve, Day Five, Part B
When Husbands Let Down Their Guard
Eating sushi with a rather high-strung young married man, I asked him if his wife soothed him. He looked at me as if he had never thought about that question. But the answer that came forth was yes, she greatly soothed him. Men are drawn to women who are able to make them feel calm.
As you become a better listener, more empathetic, and more encouraging, your husband will let down his guard to you. You will hear him say, “I have so much stress. I have my job, the money, my responsibilities at church, and da-da-da.” At this point, so many wives erroneously rush in with answers: “All men have that, Joe. If you remember, I have the kids, the house, your mother….”
When men let down their guard, be ready to throw pillows around them. Let them unwind to you. For a man to be vulnerable and let you see his internal stress and pain, you are winning a highway into his heart. One man said he came home each night and then “his wife put him back together.” That’s a good thing. Don’t begrudge the work of putting your husband back together with listening, soothing, and encouragement. It is one of the most beautiful gifts we humans give to each other. When men are having hard times, or just a stressful day, be there to say, “I’m sorry you have to handle that. It’s impressive how you handle so much responsibility.” If you have a brilliant idea how to fix his issue, don’t rush in and tell him now. What he needs is reassurance that he is man enough, smart enough, and strong enough to handle his problems.
Of course, later, at the right time, you can finger-tip drop, “Maybe you already thought of this, but I was wondering if…” And then remember, if he takes your suggestion, never claim rights to the idea. It is now his idea. Woman was created for the man, and when you make your husband successful, you ride on his coat tails. You do not need praise for being the source of his brilliant ideas. Honestly, he will forget you gave him the idea so you need to forget it, too. If you focus on making your husband happy and successful (sowing), then when you are not expecting it, the little buds will burst forth from the soil and before you know it, you will enter the harvest (reaping). Women waste so much time and energy being offended and wanting admiration/appreciation/credit themselves. That’s how small people live. Be a person with a big heart and focus on how you are blessing others.
Women are eventually rewarded for all their efforts by something that is ridiculously satisfying. Before too long, a woman with a gentle and quiet spirit who makes mega-deposits of the 8 A’s into her husband’s tank will notice her husband’s desire to please her, her husband’s true concern about her well-being, and her husband’s willingness to be influenced by her. No diamond necklace comes close to that reward. Learn this art of being a woman. When he lets his guard down, that is an opportunity for you to tie strings around your hearts.
Truly, I want to be a contented Christian. I admire others who walk in You, with joy and peace. I just seem to have difficulty doing that.
I admit I often whine and fuss when things don’t go my way, instead of looking to You for answers and resting in You. Help me learn that delicate art of resting in You, searching passionately for answers, and waiting on You to direct me.
God, I admit that if I do not always guard my thoughts. Therefore, I can sometimes let in negative thoughts filled with regrets and self-pity. Remind me to insist on not letting regrets and self-pity have any place in my life! Strengthen me to find rest in You and then to be a fruitful garden where others may come and find nourishment.
Help me know how to love my husband. Help me know what he specifically wants and needs. And then help me not focus on how he loves me, but to focus on how I love him.
And God, as far as my husband’s family, they are…well…difficult! Actually, maybe they are normal, but they are certainly difficult for me to handle. May I forgive, forgo, and overlook as much as possible, and then if necessary, set appropriate boundaries. Help me in this. Give me the ability to love these strange people that are now, my family. Help me understand them and then give me love for these unruly creatures that are called in-laws. May I be a woman that others can’t explain without understanding how Jesus changes lives.
In His name,
- What is your previous pattern when you needed to correct your husband? Are you now able to tell him difficult things without offending him? Explain. __________________________________________________________________
- How would you describe your struggle with regrets? Explain. __________________________________________________________________
- Do you struggle with the concept that men want “womenly women?” What are your thoughts?
- Are you causing turmoil in your husband’s family? What are your thoughts on that section in this lesson? What is God saying to you? __________________________________________________________________
- How have you attempted to help your husband grow spiritually in the past? What are your current thoughts on how you should help your husband in this area?__________________________________________________________________
- How would you describe yourself as far as being a contented woman? In what ways do you need to grow/improve? __________________________________________________________________
- Does your husband let down his guard with you? What are your thoughts on how you should respond when he does? Explain. __________________________________________________________________