My Dear, Dear Patient and Wonderful Siestas,
I am so sorry it’s taken me so long to post my impressions of the surveys I took among participating husbands! AJ may have already explained by now that my window of opportunity was suddenly eaten alive by a dear old soldier’s homegoing and, to tell you the truth, the next month was eaten up by my own unexpected grief. It zapped the energy right out of me and what little I had, I spent on the absolute musts. You’ve been very patient and I am so grateful. For you new Siestas, about 5 months ago I took a survey of 7 questions directed not just at men but at husbands for the purpose of added insight into the two-part series I was teaching out of Proverbs about being wives. The comments were not posted so that husbands would feel free to speak. They were asked to be honest but respectful and not one of them broke that code. As I share the insights I gathered from these great guys, I will quote some of them but anonymously, of course. I’m not kidding when I tell you these guys were terrific. They were warm, funny, heartwarming, and concerned. Some of them made the tears roll down my cheeks. Others caused me to laugh like crazy.
Gentlemen, months ago I tried to convey my thanks but let me say again that you changed the whole complexion of the series I taught and you taught me (and AJ) more than I could possibly have taught my class. You get an A+ from this student. Keep following hard after Jesus and prioritizing the woman God entrusted to your care more than anything else on this planet. And never minimize the power of flowers. And dinners out. (Be sure and notice her the second she walks into the den, decked and ready and tell her she’s gorgeous…and mean it.) The power of movies. And shopping sprees. And dishes in the dishwasher. And a jillion “I love you”s. Then pitch the pride and throw in a handful of well-timed “I’m sorry”s in the mix and you’re good to go.
You blessed me so.
Siestas, here are the seven questions I asked:
1. How long have you been married?
2. Accepting that no marriage is perfect, would you say that, generally speaking, you are happily married?
3. Would your answer to the previous question surprise your wife?
4. What do you wish your wife knew about you but you are afraid to tell her?
5. What is the best part of having her as a wife?
6. What do you wish she’d do differently?
7. What one thing do you wish I’d share with wives from a husband’s point of view?
Here are a few of my impressions organized under each question:
1. We had everything from newly weds to husbands who’d been married for 40+ years. I couldn’t believe it! The husbands were surprising exact in their answers to the length of their marriages. For instance, one said, “11 years, 8 months, 21 days.” Very few of them answered without some kind of extra specification. They really do remember their anniversaries…and I got the feeling that, for these guys, it was a good thing and not the birthday of their Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.
2. These husbands were surprisingly – no, shockingly – happy in their marriages. I came to the conclusion that the kind of men who were willing to complete a survey on a ministry blog simply were some of the cream of the crop. They really did care about their wives and their marriages. Most of them were men of at least saving faith and all of them reflected a high regard for the covenant of marriage even if they admittedly didn’t know what to do with it. I became convinced of two things as I read their answers to this question:
*****I believe men tend to be happier in a decent marriage than women. I am convinced that, if I’d taken this survey of the wives of these same husbands, they would not have answered as overwhelmingly positively. A couple of reasons kept creeping into my mind: The men are either more easily satisfied with their marriages…or they are more clueless. Because I’m a woman, I can rag on us a second. I do think we as a gender tend to be harder to make happier but, to be fair, we also tend to be feelers (i.e., it doesn’t matter if it’s a good marriage if it doesn’t feel like it is all the time. Sometimes we’re right. Sometimes we’re too hard on it.) and our idea of good, solid relationship is usually harder to attain than theirs. Don’t get me wrong, Girls. I love us. I just think, based on the kind of guys most of us are married to, they probably tend to be happier than we do with the relationship. Food for thought but don’t choke on it. Just pray about it.
*****I am more CONVINCED than ever that Christian marriages (not perfect marriages) where couples go to church together (particularly if they attend couples classes or groups together) and pray together when they have problems are IMPRESSIVELY HAPPIER AND MORE FULFILLING than those that don’t. Our divorce rates may be an embarrassment to American Christianity but I am convinced that those who stick it out – and are willing to devote their marriages to Christ – laugh together more, talk together more, parent together better and “get” the whole idea of a life partner a whole lot more those without Jesus.
I am more convinced than ever that Jesus is the enduring common denominator of all the great marriages I’ve witnessed. (And, be encouraged! I’ve yet to see a perfect marriage but I’ve seen many a good one!) But, Siestas, our men don’t have to be like us in their expressions of faith and spirituality. They are not girls and, for that reason, they are by and large NOT as overtly mushy about Christ as we are. We’ve got to let our men be men. Trust me when I tell you that after 28 years of marriage, I have never made an iota of progress in changing my husband by trying to shame or nag him into spiritual leadership. (And goodness knows, I’ve tried) The only success I have ever had is by fighting the battle in the heavenlies through prayer and through throwing my own self before the Throne of Grace for change. I say this with great affection for our husbands: the only sustained success I’ve ever had is in bowing down before the Throne and behaving myself and leaving the way clear for God to smack my man. It really does work.
3. I asked the third question because I’ve seen a strange phenomenon over and over. I’ve seen passive men of overbearing women go on for years as if it didn’t bother them…then one day without warning, they are finished. They refuse counseling. They refuse to try again. They’ve had enough. But they never even gave a warning. I am a big advocate of finding a caring but truthful way of telling a spouse if you are (legitimately) unhappy or unsatisfied. Even the most dysfunctional people deserve a warning from spouses who are quickly approaching the end of the rope. Even a legitimate ultimatum (yes, there really are some) at least offers a chance. The question I most often ask a woman confiding her feelings about her marriage to me is, “Have you told him this?” Sometimes both women and men really are clueless and need to know how serious things are before it’s too late. But, whatever you do, don’t make idle threats! They have an uncanny way of back firing.
4. I was as moved by the answer to this question as any of them. Many of the men told me that their wives knew virtually everything about them. Others got really vulnerable in their answers. The most common responses were, “How scared I am that I will fail her (or her and the kids),” “How much I need to know I’m a man in her eyes,” “How afraid I am of not being successful,” “How terrified I am that she’ll figure out that she married beneath her.” Over and over they said, “I work as hard as I do because I want to give our family as much as I can.” I was deeply moved by the pressure many of them are under and how much stress and fear haunts them. This one said volumes: “at times I feel like a frightened little boy in a man’s world.” I loved this one, too: “that I need her more.”
5. Now I get to brag on you wives and as I glance back over my notebook of survey answers, the tears are stinging in my eyes. When I asked them the best part of having you for a wife, you should have heard them. So many of you have genuinely shown your men the love of Christ. You have loved them, graced them, encouraged them, forgiven them, and prayed for them. As I assess their answers, Girls, I’m proudest of you for proving your faith GENUINE. They’ve seen you in the Word and they know you are different because of it. Overwhelmingly the husbands who participated in the survey respected the faith of their wives even if they didn’t share it. Keep it up, Ladies, even when it doesn’t look like it’s working. Christ should never appear to be a competitor to our husbands. Jesus ought to be the best thing that ever happened to our husbands because of the impact He’s had on us as wives.
6. OK, Girls. Don’t get defensive on this one. Imagine the kinds of answers we might have offered if asked what we wish our men would do differently! The surveys were tremendously complimentary. Many of them said, “Can’t think of anything” but those don’t lend the insight some of us may need today. The ones that got specific said things like, “I wish she wouldn’t be so hard on herself.” “I wish she still had some of that confidence she had when we dated.” (Needless to say, I know many of the things you’d say to that. I’ve been there, too. Life is hard. Working full time is hard. Keeping a home is hard and so is raising children and, at times, the roles within the home – or out, at times – are not very edifying. I simply want you to know that they like us when we have, for lack of a better word, a little sass. The healthy ones like a woman who knows she’s competent…even if she knows she’s a long way from perfect. If life is beating you down, don’t just accept that posture. Get some support. Maybe even some counseling. You are competent in the Spirit of Christ, Sweet Siestas. 2 Cor. 3)
And, now, let’s just go ahead and get it over with. You knew to expect it. They want more intimacy. You know what I’m talking about. Don’t make me say it. And don’t act like they’re making you do it either. God agrees with them on this one. He’s the very one who inspired the Apostle Paul to tell us not to withhold ourselves from one another except for brief seasons of prayer. (Apparently, some of you have been in prayer a LONG TIME.) My beloved Sisters, take it from a woman who’s been married a long time and seen a whole lot of marriages go down the drain. PHYSICAL INTIMACY IS PROFOUNDLY IMPORTANT TO A DECENT MARRIAGE. With tremendous love and compassion, I will tell you what I told the women in the resulting session. You can say “no” or act miserable and disinterested so many times that you teach your man not to want you. But you can’t teach him not to want. My man is going to want. That’s the way he’s wired. SO, I want him to want ME. Want yours to want you, too. I know this is complicated, Ladies, and that some of our men have serious issues. That’s what good counselors are for. And I’m not one of them. We will never settle all these issues on this blog. With tremendous love, I simply offer a report on the survey hundreds of your men agreed to take. Very few of them were ugly. The bottom line was, they’ve got a lot of temptations out there but they really do want their wives.
And I know you want a few things from your husband, too, like real conversation and some emotional needs met. Talk to him about it! And in the meantime, pray to desire your man then respond by faith and really try to meet his needs. See if, in time, God won’t move upon him to start meeting some of your heart-needs. And if he doesn’t, God is going to get him. You won’t have to.
7. What one thing do they wish we knew? Overwhelmingly: “How special they are,” “How much we need them,” “How much we care about what they think,” and over and over, “We need their respect.” I heard this one in varying words many times: “That we are a very simple animal and it doesn’t take a lot to please us: a little food, a little [intimacy], and a lot of support.” Often: “It isn’t easy to be a man in this culture. We need some help.” This one provides a fitting final statement: “Wives, you will lead us more quickly to repentance with your love than you ever will your rebuke.”
The bottom line of the survey of this particular group of men was this: they love their wives and overwhelmingly esteemed them in their answers more highly than themselves. It was a pretty special group of guys. And I realize they were the cream of the crop and on their best behavior. Still, I wanted you to know they did you RIGHT.
In closing, my darling Siestas, I wanted to share something with you that I heard a comedian say on television a few years ago because I thought how funny and true it was. He said, “I took a survey of what women want most in their men. And here’s what I found out. They want another woman.” He didn’t mean it in the alternative sense. He meant that they want their men to act, feel, and communicate like a woman…and yet somehow be a man they can respect. Praise God, Siestas, that are guys are not girls. I want a real man. Don’t you? I like for Keith to get in touch with his sticky sensitive, metro side for about ten minutes at a time, then I want those cowboy boots back. If I can’t have a perfect man – and I can’t – then I want my own. How about you? Then let’s let them be men. And if they’re the kind of men God doesn’t appreciate, fight that war in the heavenlies and on your knees. God is faithful and He will handle it.
COMMENTS: I know this report is going to open a can of worms and I wish we were set up to handle the long comments something like this invites. I can’t wait to hear from you but please try to choose one thing to comment on and keep it pretty succinct so I can read all of them. And, please, please, please, get counseling just like Keith and I did (more than once) if you have serious issues. If by any chance you are being physically abused or you in any way suspect one of your children is being physically or sexually abused, get yourself and your children into a safe place immediately then get solid counseling. You will not do an abusive man any favors with your co-dependence and you could very well get hurt. I love you so much. Be smart, Girls. Be smart. May God show Himself mighty and miraculous to you! NOTHING IS TOO DIFFICULT FOR HIM!