Chapter 21 in Wife School is entitled How To Be Attractive To Your Husband. What a struggle this area is for most of us, either that we pay too much attention to it, or not enough.
Week Twenty-One, Day One
Thoughts on Ex-Wives and Stepchildren
Even if you don’t have to deal with ex-wives and stepchildren, please read this section as it applies to people who are difficult for you to love. Also, this is not a Biblical treatise on divorce and re-marriage. Please read John Piper or someone of his caliber to learn about remarriage. This is merely advice for wives who are already now married to someone who was previously married with children.
I run into marriages all the time where wives are involved with ex-wives and children from their husband’s first marriage. I want to lay down a few foundational truths for any of you that are married to men with ex-wives or children from another marriage. Beware: icy water ahead.
Life is messy, as you know, and ex-wives and stepchildren are about as messy as it gets.
Repeatedly, women complain to me about ex-wives and stepchildren. The chorus is shockingly the same and it is this: “They are trouble and I’d rather not deal with them.” I get that. I understand that. That is the natural way to feel.
I will discuss a few anchors as far as how to think about ex-wives and stepchildren.
One foundational truth is that your husband loves the stepchildren as much as he loves your own children. It is horrible (!) horrible (!) for you to treat your kids better than his kids. I heard of a couple—a woman married to a man with kids from a previous marriage—that doesn’t include the children of his first marriage when they go on vacation. Of course, you’d rather not take those kids. They belong to another woman and you just want your sweet blood kids to go. But look at the situation from the perspective of the kids from the first marriage. They think, “Dad is going on vacation and I’m not invited. He loves his new family more.” Friend, that is plain mean and selfish of you to not consider those children. You married the whole man and his kids from his first marriage are now to be treated like yours. You must love them, help them, care for them, and include them. I know a teenage girl who was devastated because her dad and new wife took the “new kids” to the beach. How she wish she had been invited. The pain that this young girl felt burned a deep hole in her.
Again, when you marry a man, you marry his past. And if his past includes children, then you are to treat them as yours as far as being kind to them. The children from the first marriage didn’t ask to come from a broken home. You, as a Christ-follower, must understand that those children are due your love and acceptance. They need access to their dad and you are the gatekeeper. You know that. You know that what you say affects your husband. You know that you control a lot of your husband’s relationship with his first set of kids. Men don’t like to go against the wishes of the person from whom they are counting on to get sex!
I understand the first wife might be a psycho (she is always accused of that, for sure). However, Jesus said, “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you” Luke 6:27. (See also Matthew 5:44 and Romans 12:14, 19-21 on how to respond to your enemies.)
Another woman told me her husband was still dealing with the grief and pain of his divorce and first marriage, and also the difficult relationships that have evolved with the children of that marriage. The new wife told him, “You should be over this by now! Why don’t you just go to our hunting cabin until you figure it out!” Wives, when you marry a man, again, you marry the whole package. If he needs healing, then you are to help him find healing. Just because you are sick of something doesn’t mean beans. You are crucified with Christ and now, it’s about how you can represent Christ to others, not about you being comfortable all the time.
Yes, you might have to set boundaries with a crazy ex-wife, but there is never a place for yelling, slander, malice, rudeness, or meanness. You always deal with everyone by returning a blessing. That is what you signed up for when you said Jesus was Lord in your life. I know it’s hard. I know it’s next to impossible to love those who mistreat you. But that’s why we are grafted into the Vine, so that God’s sap, the Holy Spirit, runs in our souls. That’s why we linger in prayer, so that His will can be downloaded to us. This is merely the Christian life, my Friend.
So, figure out how to bless the children of his first marriage. They are from his loins and they are equal with your darlings. The children have been wounded and now, even though that was not your fault, you are part of the solution.
I am sorry this is such hard information. But let God change your heart. Let God break the anger and resentment you have toward his first family. Don’t be normal. Be Christ-like.
Week Twenty-One, Day Two
When Your Husband’s Ideas are Not-So-Great
A husband calls his wife. “Honey,” he says. “I have a great idea!”
Then the husband begins. “I was thinking about x, and y, and z. Then I thought we could a, then b, and then c. What do you think?”
The wife is speechless. It’s not that it is a terrible idea, but it certainly needs to be tweaked. Why, he had forgotten the most important things: M, N, O, and P!
Wives, we have to remember that it is our nature to want to improve everything. Even though his idea is good, women always want to tweak it a little more. This is how we are. Most wives respond with, “Well, maybe, but I really think the best way to do it is M, N, O, and P.”
Guess how a husband hears that? “She’s certainly a Debbie Downer. It always has to be her idea. It always has to be her way. I tried to come up with a good idea, and as usual, she shot it down. The women at the office don’t treat me like that. When I have an idea there, they think I’m brilliant.”
So, WSO friend, what’s a wife to do?
Seriously, I’m asking you. You’re in week 21. What would you tell someone to do?
The answer is you praise what is good about his idea and then you let it rest. And unless this is a very important issue at stake, let him do as he wants. You don’t get unlimited appeals. If you fuss about the way the yard is mowed and if you fuss about how he wears the same shirt to breakfast every Saturday morning, you are using up your appeal points. If you can let things go, let them go.
But sometimes, you need to give him your input. However, the point at which he gives you the initial idea is not the time to tell him how you could improve on it. You praise everything you can about the idea. Examples might be, “I love how you’re investing your time thinking about matters like this that affect our family. That means so much to me.” Or, “You are the right person to think of that, as you model it with your life. I love being married to that sort of person!” Or, “I can’t tell you how much this means to me that you are concerned about our family and you are working to solve problems. How wonderful to have a husband like that!”
Do you see that Death and Life are in the power of the tongue? Death and Life, Friend. The wise woman builds her house with the self-control of her tongue because she knows Death and Life are there.
Later, if absolutely necessary, you might have to say, “I was so excited about your idea. Again, thank you for thinking about our family’s issues. I’m not sure if this is something you want to add or not, but it’s something I’ve been thinking, and I just want to give it to you to stir in your pot so you’ll have this idea when you’re making final decisions.”
Most men can receive input like that. They hear your praise, they hear your respect, and then they hear your input that is finger-tip dropped. There was no Commander-mode going on, did you notice?
Yes, this is Advanced Wife School and this is definitely an art that you will learn by practice. But men’s egos are always on their shoulders, ready to get knocked off at a moment’s notice. Don’t knock your husband’s ego off and let it crash to the floor. No, pick it up tenderly, cradle it, kiss it, massage it, and put it back gently on his shoulder. Did you know men adore women who treat them like this? Do you know men are ravenous for women like this? You can learn to be the Wife of the World in your husband’s mind, but it takes a lot of care and effort to treat a man like this. But men ridiculously appreciate it. Men absolutely cherish these wives.
Take the time and do the extras to take care of your husband’s ego when he gives you a not-so-great idea. It means the world to him.
Remember, you’re on a fifty year plan. You get to say everything you want; just not all at once.
Week Twenty-One, Day Three
When You Don’t Like Your Circumstances
Back in my self-pity days, when I was blaming others for my hardships, I read this sentence: “If you want to know what you’ve been sowing, look around and see what you are currently reaping.” This was a hard, unwanted, and unpleasant truth. I was faced with accepting that my circumstances (my reaping) were largely because of my sowing! Dang! I hated that. It’s so much easier to just blame someone else.
One of the most important days of your life is the day you quit blaming others for your unpleasant circumstances and take responsibility for your life. When you look at what you’re now reaping and accept responsibility that it was you who sowed and that’s why you’re reaping such-and-such, then you can begin to change things.
We blame, blame, blame. When I hear a woman start blaming, I know I am listening to someone who still hasn’t gotten out of the self-pity ditch. We blame our childhood (our parents), we blame our husbands (for not leading or loving better), we blame our churches and pastors (for not giving us the teaching we need), we blame our kids (for being difficult), we blame our friends (for not being more loyal), we blame our finances (on the economy), we blame our health (on our genes versus our junk eating and refusal to exercise), and on and on. Friend, stop it. Today say, “I am fully responsible for my life. I will lean hard on the Lord and I will get my necessary food from Him.” (“’Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Matthew 4:4). It’s you and the Lord. That’s it. He’s your portion (Lamentations 3:24). He is enough. (“My grace is sufficient for you.” 2 Corinthians 12:9). Get your needs met in the Lord and get full in Him. Then sow extravagantly from your overflow.
One marker of emotional maturity is to take responsibility for your life and to bloom where you are planted. Do that. Quit blaming. Your mess is most likely your fault. Take it like a grown-up. Change how you sow and you’ll eventually change how you reap.
The story of the Prodigal Son illustrates this principle perfectly. The younger brother sees himself in a pigpen, hungry, lonely, and a loser. He realizes he has been sowing to the wind. He realizes (here’s the money) it is his fault. He devises a pro-active plan to apologize and turn his life around. WSO wife, if you’re in a pigpen, apologize (confess, repent, etc.) and make a proactive plan to turn your life around. No human is coming on a white horse to rescue you.
I know this is not a perfect truth. Car accidents happen. Robbers and muggers sin against us. However, the sowing and reaping law still stands largely true. Accepting that your current circumstances are mainly because of your sowing takes a lot of humility. However, transitioning from a blamer to a responsibility-taker can change your life.
When women begin to take responsibility for the harmony of the marriage and take responsibility for the beauty of the home (instead of blaming her husband for his lack of contribution), I see miracles abound. One woman who was in one of my groups many years ago initially came to the group and said, “My husband is such a pig. I tell him that, too.” In fact, this husband disgusted her in many ways. Now, 25 years later, she is the epitome of service, kindness, encouragement, and submission. Their grown children have turned out terrific. She decided to quit blaming her husband and to take responsibility for the marriage by serving and loving her husband. A few years ago, her husband told me this about his wife: “She used to be madder than a hornet; now she purrs like a kitten.”Then he proceeded to tell me how he adored her.
A wise woman builds her house by learning not to blame others for her unpleasant circumstances, but she takes responsibility for changing things and for changing herself.
Quit blaming your husband. So many wives say, “If he loved me better, then I would be happy.” Hogwash. Get your tank full of the Lord. Nuns don’t have husbands and they are some of the happiest people on the face of the earth. This is about expectations, don’t you see? Nuns don’t expect anything from husbands so they take responsibility for every aspect of their life. Get rid of expectations from your husband (except a living and faithfulness) and take responsibility for your happiness and good mood. Quit blaming anyone or anything at all. Your mood and happy heart is all about your thoughts and nothing else. I am a failure if I don’t teach you the huge, colossal, ginormous truth of the importance of taking responsibility for your own happy heart. God feeds the birds, but doesn’t put the worms in the nest. Get your mind right. Control your thoughts. You can’t be a delightful mother or wife or friend or anything until you do. Be an energy giver. Be a sunrise in the lives of others. Just as Peter Lord said, Get your heart happy in the Lord as your first business every day.
Nothing replaces a happy heart in a woman. Walk with the Lord and learn to be a happy song in the secret places of your heart. No self-pity. No woe-is-me. No whining. Zilch. None. Zero.
Week Twenty-one, Day Four
For Those of You with a Non-Cinderella Disposition
One thing we love about Cinderella is her lovely disposition. Even living with the tyrannical step-mother and step-sisters, Cinderella had a gentle and quiet spirit. Our Disney princess never allowed any annoyance, anger, or self-pity to appear on her flawless animated face.
That is why Cinderella is a fairy tale. Real women have emotions and moods that are very un-Cinderella-like. You have them; I have them. We need help with them.
Almost every day I talk to a woman who is emotionally distraught (sometimes, it’s me). Just as men desire sexual release, women want emotional release. Remember, most men don’t get as much sexual release as they would like. And you know what is coming next: most women don’t get as much emotional release as they would like.
It is easy for women to think, “Men need to zip it up and get control of themselves” as far as corralling their sexual natures. In fact, we’re often weary with their abundant desire and lack of self-control. But alas, men feel the same way about our emotional natures.
Yesterday I met with a girl who had a miscarriage. Nothing is more painful for a woman than to be infertile for years, conceive, then miscarry. My heart went out to her. And now her marriage is having issues. It’s so classic. This woman is even more in need of emotional release and at the same time, her neediness is annoying her husband. If only we could understand how our spouses feel! This young wife was mad at her husband for not being there for her during this traumatic time and simultaneously, he felt pulled on because she couldn’t talk about anything else.
Another precious girl was talking to me in church and her husband came up. She turned to him and said, “I am sharing my prayer requests with Julie.” The husband laughed and said, “Well, she’d better get a legal pad.” It was harmless, but still, the husband was communicating that her emotional nature was extensive.
Men don’t get our desire to have emotional release. What can we do, WSO wife? Try to answer before you read on. It’s week 21. You should have some pretty good ideas!
First, we give husbands a break for not understanding us. They come into the marriage untrained and it is our job to gently, over time, teach them how we feel and what we want. We are not mad at his mother (she tried!) but realize that God gave the wife the ability to break down the shield that is over a man’s heart. We accept the responsibility that it is the wife that is responsible for this training.
Second, we use—ta dah— word pictures! They are amazing and forceful (this is how Jesus taught!). Explaining to a man that your desire for emotional release is comparable to his desire for sexual release will open up his closed mind. Analogies are powerful things, friends. (For review with word pictures, reread chapter 13 in Wife School, How to Explain Anything to Your Husband).
Third, we accept that men can’t see the color Pateen in the rainbow. So we know it will take 50 to 100 times to explain this to them. We submit to perseverance without anger.
Fourth, we use other acceptable means to handle our emotional turmoil. Physical exercise is remarkable. Talking and praying with friends is healing and releasing. Music is powerful to help release emotional tension. And for a double whammy, combine two of those. Walk/run with friends. Walk/run with great music/podcasts. Walk and pray. Legitimate means to help us with our emotional release abound.
I was in a mild funk yesterday morning but got myself to the gym. I cranked up a Christian station that I love on Pandora and thirty heart-pounding minutes later, I left with 75% less turmoil.
Women, you will have emotional drama. Yes, I know you want your husband to absorb your emotional turmoil, but get a hold of yourself. Husbands do not like absorbing emotional turmoil and therefore, you have to corral your craziness.
If you struggle with being easily upset, then it is imperative for you to keep yourself in a straight and narrow lane. By that, I mean get regular sleep, eat healthy (non-sugary, not refined) food, exercise daily, get a huge intake of Scripture, much prayer, time to debrief and connect with other Christ-following women, reading and adding to your Turquoise Journal lists, and reading inspirational literature. You are not powerless. God has given you many avenues to help you control your high-strung emotional nature.
One more tip: Make a list of all the people that you would not want to trade places with, i.e., people who have it worse than you. I saw a precious woman in the gym that I know has a serious disease; I had dinner with a woman who is addicted to prescription drugs; I chatted with a woman whose needy husband would be extremely difficult to live with. I am not saying that you are happy these people have problems. Of course, pray for them. But I am saying that their hard circumstances should make you grateful you don’t have to deal with those problems. This list can make you grateful very fast. Gratefulness is the key to happiness.
To summarize, you are responsible for growing a heart that is filled with the Lord and that thinks Philippians 4:8 thoughts. I have seen God change even the whiniest, most critical, headstrong women (like me!) so I’m pretty sure He can change you.
Week Twenty-One, Day Five
If You Are Still Often Getting Upset With Your Husband
It’s pretty normal to get upset with your husband. We women have a ridiculously high standard for what we want and expect from our husbands. Even something small, such as a husband with bad breath, can send us into Crazytown.
One woman recently told me that her husband was complaining to her that their sex life was not exciting enough. Another woman told me that her husband was still not healed from his first marriage which was twenty years ago. A third woman told me that her husband just doesn’t understand her and the kids. The list of reasons that women are upset with their husbands goes on and on.
When you hear yourself say, “Wow, that annoys me about him,” just remember that this is a plague of women, to be annoyed with their husbands and their imperfections. Somehow, someway, most men are usually able to overlook our weaknesses somewhat. But their weaknesses hit us right between the eyes.
It’s the plight of women, WSO wife, to be unhappy with the husband. Contentiousness is in our DNA. I keep writing about it because until we see this in ourselves, we will keep thinking that our husbands are losers instead of seeing that we are the ones who are hard to live with.
Men have a crazy problem with their sex drive but we have a crazy problem with our contentiousness which causes our constant disappointment with our husbands. Examples of women being disappointed are when your husband doesn’t understand your love for your family of origin, when your husband doesn’t praise or appreciate you, when your husband complains about your provisions (such as the food), when your husband does not pour enough into the family, or when your husband perks up for sex but then is a bump on a log the rest of the time. Yes, all of these things upset us, but WSA wife, this is normal marriage. Your husband has many areas you want to change and that upsets you. Yes, you get to address one thing at a time, but slowly, slowly, slowly.
I’ve been asking my husband for something for about three years. Not three months, not three weeks, but three years. This week, he came to me and told me that God has given him a plan for the thing I’ve been asking for (!!). But right on the heels of my husband giving me such a great gift, he did a couple of small things that I didn’t like and I got annoyed. I thought to myself, I’m like EVERY WOMAN in that it’s never quite enough. I want perfection from him. That’s the contentiousness in my sin nature. Prayer is the only answer for this. Prayer is where the Holy Spirit convicts us of our contentious nature and we offer it up to God.
David and I are normal in that we still confront issues in which we disagree. At dinner in a restaurant last night, he gave me his perspective on something in our family and I disagreed. On the way home though, I said, “I want you to know that I realize that ultimately, you will make the final decision in this area and I will not fight you on it. I appreciate you listening to my input, though.” After watching the destruction of many marriages because the wife insists on leading instead of following, I am still learning to hand my husband the scepter. Knowing that it is God’s will for your husband to be the head of the home will help your family more than most anything.
Here’s one tip to help you when your contentiousness rises up or when his BSA (behavior/speech/attitude) upsets you. Ready? Remember the 2 day rule? (Week Fifteen, Day Five). If you can be quiet, pray over it for 2 days, get some rest, pray again, the heavens will open up and you will see that you are EVERY WOMAN. “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” so hold yours until you can get God’s perspective. This action alone changes marriages.
I know your husband has weaknesses. I know he is a sinner. He’s breathing, isn’t he? Well, you have weaknesses, too. If you can see that this thinking is normal for women—this thing with our husbands never measuring up—and if you can lay down your contentious, condescending, critical spirit…and take up a gentle and quiet spirit…then your marriage and home will skyrocket in harmony. It is not his weakness set that is as much the problem as it is your contentiousness.
I’ve been living and breathing Wife School principles for around 35 years. And I still mess up. I still want perfection from my husband. I still have to stay in prayer, in the Word, and have community with godly, prayerful women so I can get back on the narrow path. The sin nature will always live in us while we are on Earth.
I remember reading once that life can never be solved or conquered, it can only be managed. And the same is true for marriage. It will never be easy, smooth, and perfect. We learn to understand marriage, learn skills for managing it, and then work on the real problem: our contentious, rebellious hearts.
Proverbs 21:9 and Proverbs 25:24 are identical: “Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.” And Proverbs 21:19 restates this thought, too: “Better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and nagging wife.”
Okay, Solomon. We hear you.
There are so many weaknesses and sins in my life. But at the foundation of all my sins is the sin of neglect in praying and in spending time with You in Your Word.
If I neglect Your word, how can I know what You want me to do? If I neglect prayer, I won’t be convicted of sin. If I neglect these disciplines, I won’t understand how You want me to think and act.
Trying to live spiritually without Your Word and prayer is analogous to trying to live physically without food. You, the Creator of the Universe, have given me an opportunity to know You. How ridiculous to try to live life well and not schedule precious time where I can linger.
So many of my problems are from my lack of discipline in spending time with You. My worry and fretting is because I don’t allow You to give me the Peace that passes understanding. My annoyance and discouragement are because I don’t allow You to give me Your perspective on how trials have silver linings. My influence with others is limited—and even negative—because I am filled with myself instead of You.
Help me form the daily habit of spending time getting to know Your Word and time listening to Your still small voice. May this habit be as important to me as my daily food.
In Jesus name,
- If you are married to a man who has an ex-wife or children from a prior marriage, what were your thoughts about this section?_____________________________________________________________
- How well do you handle your husband’s not-so-great ideas? Explain.
- Do you take personal responsibility for your life or are you a blamer? Explain.
- Would you say you are a woman with a non-Cinderella-deposition? How are you growing in the area of overcoming contentiousness? _____________________________________________________________
- Do you still regularly and easily get upset with your husband? How has your thinking been changed toward your husband in the last six months? What skills do you still need to work on? Explain. _____________________________________________________________
WSO friends, there are so many pleasures in life: the pleasure of seeing, the pleasure of hearing, the pleasure of smelling, the pleasure of laughter, the pleasure of thinking, of enjoying people we love, of sunlight, of a brisk walk, of a great conversation with a friend, of a hot bath, an apple, an interesting book, a nap, a good cup of coffee, your baby’s face…so many joys abound. Find places of joy and savor them. God has dropped many pleasures and delights into your lap. Enjoy them and be thankful. Focus on all you do have, not on what you don’t have.