Every Tuesday we’ll be posting an article about restoring and strengthening marriages that have been damaged by sexual sin. Hope it’s helpful.
Seven Habits of Highly Effective Husbands
Renee and I celebrated the big 25 last week, a milestone to any couple. I like to see our marriage as its own entity, commenting on its development as it grows, so on our first anniversary I said, “Our marriage should be walking any day now.” On our tenth, I noted it would go through puberty soon; on the sixteenth I moaned it could drive; on the eighteenth I wondered which party it would vote for; and on the 21st I hoped out loud that it would drink responsibly. Renee hates those jokes, so my gift on the 25th was to refrain. But I will note, after 2.5 decades of the husband thing, I’ve learned, and am trying to practice, seven critical points I’d emphasize for any man wanting not only longevity, but quality, in his union.
1. Don’t let her forget she’s interesting.
Shame on you if you let her think she’s a bore, just because to you she’s business as usual. She’s still an unexplored treasure, so keep the eye contact going when she’s talking to you, ask her opinion frequently, and don’t type, text, glance at the tv or check your watch when you’re supposed to be conversing with her. Send verbal and non-verbal messages, preferably daily, that she’s an interesting woman worth your time and attention.
2. Sex still matters, a lot.
Neglect physical bonding at your own peril, because you’re sure to drift apart, suffer more temptations, and generally miss out on the mystery glue that’s the privilege and passion of married life. I know the motor gets a bit slower with time, but I’m stubbornly immune to the Viagra ads (nothing wrong with the stuff; I’m just fightin’ for an older guy’s pride) preferring, instead, to recognize that bonding and performance aren’t necessarily the same. So don’t shy away from the boudoir just because you’re not the stud of days gone by. Keep doing it, even when it’s less gymnastic and more affectionate. You both need the benefits of what God called good, so plan the time for it, and protect it. It matters.
3. “I love you” never gets old.
Saying it often doesn’t make it a vain repetition. It’s a reminder, a minute verbal celebration, a way of acknowledging and fueling the bond. Your lady should be touched often, complimented routinely, and told that she’s loved many times daily.
4. Don’t let her forget she’s a woman.
I need to pay better attention to this one. Renee has me and two sons to contend with; no feminine company, no girl to commiserate. So when the boys and I plop down in front of the tv watching Scarface in our boxers while we shovel pizza down, we’re acting like there’s no female within miles. No wonder the poor woman screams “Open the windows, there’s too much testosterone in this place!” So I have to ask myself what I’ve done today to remind her that I know she’s a woman. Opening doors for her, complimenting her appearance, grooming myself as if I’m almost civilized, making her coffee, and showing her deference are all ways of declaring that her femininity still, after 25 years, doesn’t go unnoticed. Eliza Doolittle’s observation in Pygmalion comes to mind: “The difference between a lady and a flower girl isn’t how she walks or speaks, but how she is treated.” There’s a Lady in my house. I want her to know that I know it.
5. Absorb what isn’t worth fighting over, which is just about everything.
Most arguments we have aren’t even worth having, much less winning. The object of debate is almost always secondary to the larger question of who’s in charge, who has the upper hand, who’s winning. But power plays are for Junior High and marriage is for adults. You can win the argument by out-shouting her, proving your case, shutting her down. You’ll also lose her respect, her trust, her willingness to be close. Congratulations on winning, you loser. All of us, I believe, could try absorbing more. Every tit doesn’t require a tat; every minor error doesn’t need to be pointed out and corrected. I hope I’m learning that the preservation of our bond, not my victory in silly quarrels, is what’s worth fighting for.
Besides, she always wins, so why bother?
6. When fighting is called for, then if you’re right, don’t cave. If you’re wrong, admit it. And don’t get the two confused.
Not every fight is an unwarranted power play. Some arguments need to be had, and that’s where men make two common mistakes.
First, they cave when they should stand. Modern humor is usually at the guy’s expense, like my “she always wins so why bother?” remark above. The Everybody Loves Raymond, Family Guy, Homer Simpson mentality teaches that husbands are basically goofballs whose insights and opinions aren’t worth more than a chuckle, and plenty of guys have bought into it. So when they feel strongly about something they back down, fearing their wife’s disapproval and anxious to keep a false peace. A truce is declared, but resentment sets in, poisoning the relationship and ultimately doing more harm than a good fight would ever have done. That’s the high price of passivity.
Second, they stand when they should cave. That is, in the midst of an intense argument the facts testify against them, which is when they should reconsider, correct themselves and apologize. Instead, fearing a concession will somehow diminish their status in the home, they stand their ground no matter how shaky it is. Big mistake. A wife usually knows when her husband is refusing to admit he’s wrong, even when he knows that’s the case. And her respect for him can’t help but diminish. A wife won’t trust a man who appeases when he should oppose, but neither will she feel secure with a man who’s too weak to apologize.
7. Don’t let her forget you’re glad she said yes.
“Happy Anniversary You Lucky Gal!” isn’t an anniversary greeting that’ll get you far. “Thank You” means more, as in:
Thank you for walking with me, partnering with me, comforting me, hearing me, believing the best of me when I could only see the worst, adding to my life richness I’d never have had on my own, forgiving, holding and reassuring me. Thank you for the years, and thank you for the ‘yes’”
Happy Anniversary to my beautiful, brilliant and indescribably patient Lady.