If you had asked me to write this list in my first year of marriage, it probably would have looked like the following: (1) keep a date night, (2) write notes to tell him you love him, (3) surprise him often, (4) don’t go to bed angry, (5) never be afraid to wear something fun that only he will see. While I would still recommend each of these, I have learned that often, supporting my husband and loving each other well involves more complex depths of sacrifice.
Years of mistakes, saying things I longed to take back, and reacting in ways that pushed us further apart have widened my perspective. We are far from perfect and we fail each other daily, but we continue to work towards a better understanding of each other’s needs. Here are five of the lessons I've learned about supporting my husband that have been both the most challenging and also life-giving in our relationship:
1. Spend more time talking about what he does do and less on what he doesn’t do.
It seems simple, but when I stopped to really listen, I heard how unbalanced my feedback was. I asked for changes, he willingly met me there, but then I skimmed past his efforts in order to explain how it could have been better or what else was missing. My lack of acknowledgement left him feeling unappreciated and insufficient. Do you verbally recognize the things your husband is doing? Or do you spend more time talking about the opposite? How might he receive your critical feedback if it was outnumbered by your praise?
2. Choose words that encourage and build him up, especially in front of other people.
When you sing his praises in front of friends, you show him how much you admire and respect him. Depending on the dynamics of your relationship, you may have to do some digging if a compliment doesn’t immediately present itself, but find something. Pick one accomplishment, attribute, or gesture and lift him up. “I’m really proud of him for…” “Did you guys hear about…” Be his biggest cheerleader, in front of friends and behind closed doors.
3. Remember that his job is his, not yours.
As a micromanager, I wanted to believe I was helping him by offering unsolicited advice related to his work. I questioned his hours, second-guessed his decisions and inserted myself into situations where I wasn’t invited. His job is his job. If he asks for my help, I will gladly give it. If he doesn’t, my role as his wife is to simply support him - to rub his head at the end of a long day, ask questions that convey genuine interest, and trust him that he knows what he is doing. My confidence in his ability to perform his job with excellence pours over into how he feels not only at work, but also at home. And when I stopped asserting my voice inappropriately, both of those environments became noticeably more peaceful.
4. Stay open.
Harboring resentment, rolling our eyes, turning a cold shoulder and dispensing the always painful “silent treatment,” – each of these represents a passive-aggressive fight. It is neither productive nor Christ-like and yet we love to run to it. Instead, choose grace. When you’re tempted to stop sharing with him, push through it and stay vulnerable. When you’re tempted to roll over and fall asleep angry, lay your head on his chest and speak softly. Stay open and stay honest.
5. Be willing to have a conversation about lust and porn.
With very few exceptions, this dark subject represents an on-going struggle for most men and many women. The approaches for addressing it vary and are determined by personalities and relationship dynamics. Some couples set-up safe guards on the computer, others discuss it openly with each other, still others choose to keep the work of accountability solely between the man and his friends. My encouragement is simply to have a conversation about how you can best support him. Are there shows you watch together that make this more difficult? Do you leave magazines lying around the house that would trigger thoughts or old habits? Create a safe place for conversation, allowing him the opportunity to explain more specifically how you can support him.
As for our own struggle as women with the ugly infection of lust, be aware of what I would call “emotional porn.” Do certain TV shows, movies, books or magazines give you heightened, unrealistic expectations that cause your mind to wander and leave your husband failing to meet the standard of “romance” you developed through fantasies? Take stock of these potential pitfalls and walk away where necessary.
What are the unique needs of your husband, and your marriage, that you can support through loving sacrifice? What would it look like to bring renewed grace and vulnerability into the places where we most want to shut-up, turn off, or control?
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
Laying down our lives, let us love and support our husbands in a way that requires sacrifice and draws us not only closer to them, but ultimately closer to Christ and His love for us as displayed on the cross.
Cara Joyner spends her days chasing a toddler, nursing an infant, starting cups of coffee she rarely has time to finish and thinking about how much she needs to clean her house. Years of working in ministry and a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology have led her to graduate school, where she is working towards a Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. While waiting to finish grad school, she is working as a professional birth doula and freelance writer. Cara writes about family, health, faith and intentional living at www.carajoyner.com. She can also be found on Twitter and Facebook.